Volodymyr Zelenskiy has conceded that Ukraine’s counteroffensive may be going “slower than desired” but insisted he will not needlessly risk soldiers’ lives to meet international expectations. The comments from Ukraine’s president, made in a BBC interview, came as the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, suggested there appeared to have been a break in the intensity of Kyiv’s long-anticipated counteroffensive.
The EU pledged a further €50bn in loans and grants, while the UK and the US promised $3bn and $1.3bn respectively in financial support at a conference in London focusing on the reconstruction of Ukraine. The World Bank, in conjunction with the government of Ukraine, the European Commission and the UN, has put the cost of reconstruction and recovery at $411bn (£323bn) after a year of war.
Delegates at the summit, from Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, to the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the Kremlin would ultimately foot the bill. “Let’s be clear: Russia is causing Ukraine’s destruction and Russia will eventually bear the cost of Ukraine’s reconstruction,” Blinken said.
All Nato allies were backing a plan to give Ukraine a fast track to Nato membership of the kind offered to Sweden and Finland earlier this year, the UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said on the sidelines of the conference. Cleverly said the UK was “very, very supportive” of Ukraine being able to join without the usual need for it to meet the conditions set out in a Nato membership action plan (Map).
Ukraine expects to be invited to join Nato with an “open date” at the military alliance’s summit in Vilnius next month, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff has told a webinar held by the Atlantic Council thinktank. Andriy Yermak said the failure of the alliance to deliver a “strong” decision at the 11-12 July summit would demoralise Ukrainians and that Ukraine had demonstrated it was ready to join Nato with its fighting on the battlefield.
The chief of mercenary group Wagner has accused the Russian defence ministry of deceiving Russians about the course of Ukraine’s offensive, pointing to Kyiv’s progress on the battlefield. “They are misleading the Russian people,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message released by his spokespeople. “Huge chunks [of territory] have been handed over to the enemy.”
Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, has accused opponents of waging a campaign to discredit him and force him out of office after a rift with Zelenskiy. The former boxing champion had been criticised after a public outcry over the deaths of three people locked out of an air raid shelter during a Russian attack on Kyiv this month.
Russia’s constitutional court has rejected an attempt by rights groups to seek the repeal of a law that bans people from speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Campaigners including legal defence group OVD-Info and the banned human rights organisation Memorial had filed the case in April, saying it violated articles of Russia’s constitution including on free speech and freedom of conscience.
EU governments agreed to an 11th package of sanctions against Russia, aimed at stopping other countries and companies from circumventing existing measures. The new package forbids transit via Russia of an expanded list of goods and technology which might aid Russia’s military or security sector.
Putin announced that new Sarmat nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles would soon enter service. The missiles are designed to carry out nuclear strikes on targets thousands of miles away and can be launched from land, sea or air but their deployment has proceeded slower than planned.
Russia’s top investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, told state-owned Tass news that more than 30 Ukrainians had been given long jail terms in Russian-held Ukraine for “crimes against peace and human security, including the killing of civilians”.
Russian air defences downed three drones in the Moscow region on Wednesday, the defence ministry said, in what it called an attempted “terrorist attack” by Ukraine. Officials said the drones had targeted a military base near Russia’s capital.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse