Senior Russian general fired after accusing defence ministry of ‘treachery’

A senior Russian general who was fighting in Ukraine has said he was suddenly dismissed from his position after he accused the military’s leadership of betraying his troops with a lack of support.

General Ivan Popov, who was leading the Russian assault in the Zaporizhzhia region, says Vladimir Putin’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu signed the order to “get rid of me”.

In a Telegram post published late last night, Popov said he had raised questions about “the lack of counter-battery combat, the absence of artillery reconnaissance stations and the mass deaths and injuries of our brothers from enemy artillery”.

“I also raised a number of other problems and expressed it all at the highest level frankly and extremely harshly,” he said in the audio message.

It comes after another senior Russian general was killed by a Ukrainian airstrike using British-supplied Storm Shadow missiles, according to reports from both sides of the conflict.

Russia struck Kyiv with an overnight bombardment for the third night in a row, with Ukraine saying its air defences shot down all 20 Shahed drones and two Kalibr missiles.

Key Points

  • ‘We’re not Amazon’: Ben Wallace cautions Kyiv over weapons demands

  • No membership but Ukraine to get security package from G7 allies

  • Putin’s forces rain drones on Kyiv and nearby region for second night in a row

  • War won’t end until West drops plans to defeat Moscow, say Lavrov

  • Why Ukraine’s plea for Nato membership is such a challenge for the West

  • Zelensky hits out at ‘absurd’ Nato for Ukraine membership delays

Ukraine downs 20 drones, 2 missiles overnight

06:57 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine’s air defence has shot down all 20 Shahed-136/131 drones launched by Russian forces overnight, the country’s air force said.

It added two Kalibr missiles were also downed by the active air defences. The Russian forces also used one Iskander-M ballistic missile to attack Ukraine, according to the air force.

Russian forces unleashed a barrage of self-exploding Iranian-made Shahed drones in early hours today, according to the Kyiv City Administration.

Explosions were heard in different parts of the city, and debris from intercepted drones fell on five districts of the Ukrainian capital.

Some buildings were damaged, and two people hospitalized with shrapnel wounds.

Senior Russian general killed in airstrike with British Storm Shadow missile

06:40 , Arpan Rai

A high-ranking Russian general has been killed in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia in an airstrike carried out using British-supplied Storm Shadow missiles, according to multiple reports from both sides.

Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov was among the Russian military commanders present in the Dune hotel when a barrage of cruise missiles struck the southern region.

Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately confirm the death but it has been reported by the country’s tightly-controlled state media.

An aid to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andriushchenko, wrote on his Telegram channel: “It is reported that today in the Berdiansk area, the Russian Lieutenant General Oleg Yuriyovych Tsokov was liquidated.”

In September last year the same general was gravely wounded on the battlefield but survived, the mayor said.

A member of Ukraine’s parliament, Yurii Mysyagin, said that the “the British ‘Storm Shadow’ came to visit accurately”.

Senior Russian general says he was fired after accusing defence ministry of treachery

05:37 , Arpan Rai

A senior Russian general who was fighting in Ukraine has said he was suddenly dismissed from his position after he accused the Moscow defence ministry’s leadership of betraying his troops over lack of sufficient support.

In a Telegram post published late last night, General Ivan Popov said he had raised questions about “the lack of counter-battery combat, the absence of artillery reconnaissance stations and the mass deaths and injuries of our brothers from enemy artillery.”

He was the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army, leading the Russian assault in the Zaporizhzhia region.

“I also raised a number of other problems and expressed it all at the highest level frankly and extremely harshly,” he said in the audio message.

“I had no right to lie, therefore, I outlined all the problematic issues that exist today in the army in terms of combat work and support.”

He added that the Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu “got rid of me” by signing the order.

Popov accused the senior Russian commander of hitting the battalion from the rear “treacherously and vilely decapitating the army at the most difficult and tense moment” while claiming Ukraine could not break through the Russian army from the front.

Russian spy chief spoke to CIA boss about ‘what to do with Ukraine’

05:11 , Arpan Rai

Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin has said he and CIA counterpart William Burns had discussed “what to do with Ukraine“ in a phone call late last month, reported Russia’s TASS news agency.

Mr Naryshkin confirmed that his counterpart had raised “the events of 24 June”, when the Wagner mercenaries took control of a southern Russian city and advanced towards Moscow before reaching a deal with the Kremlin to end the revolt.

This comes after The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on 30 June that the CIA director had called the Russian foreign intelligence chief to assure the Kremlin that the US had no role in a brief mutiny a week earlier by Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters.

Mr Naryshkin said that for most of the call, lasting about an hour, “we considered and discussed what to do with Ukraine“.

There were no immediate remarks from the CIA on TASS’s report.

The two leading intelligence officials have maintained a line of communication since the start of the Ukraine war at a time when other direct contacts between Moscow and Washington are at a minimum, with relations at their lowest point since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Zelensky welcomes G7 security pledges: ‘For our children’

04:55 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has welcomed fresh pledges of weapons and ammunition to fight Russia’s invasion along with longer-term security commitments from the West even as he expressed disappointment over the lack of a clear path for his country to join Nato as the alliance wrapped up its annual summit.“The Ukrainian delegation is bringing home a significant security victory for the Ukraine, for our country, for our people, for our children,” he said while flanked by US president Joe Biden and other leaders from the Group of Seven most powerful democratic nations.A joint declaration issued by the G7 lays the groundwork for each nation to negotiate agreements to help Ukraine bolster its military over the long term. Mr Zelensky described the initiative as a bridge toward eventual Nato membership and a deterrent against Russia.“We will not waver,” Mr Biden vowed after the summit in Lithuania ended. “I mean that. Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken. We will stand for freedom today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.”

Biden hails ‘unbroken’ Ukrainian people in Nato speech

04:25 , Arpan Rai

President Joe Biden hailed the “unbroken” people of Ukraine and the “incredible dignity” with which they’ve acted to repel Russia’s invading forces as he pledged on behalf of the Western world to maintain support for Kyiv’s defence for as long as necessary.

Mr Biden delivered his remarks to a boisterous crowd who’d gathered hours ahead of time to hear him speak in the Great Court at Vilnius University, following the conclusion of this year’s Nato leaders’ summit, at which leaders of the 31-member defence alliance agreed to expedite Ukraine’s bid for membership in the bloc once the war with Russia has been brought to a close.

Biden hails ‘unbroken’ Ukrainian people and says Nato’s commitment ‘will not waver’

Overnight drone attack on Kyiv kills one, says mayor

03:51 , Arpan Rai

At least one person has been killed after explosive debris from a drone fired by Russia fell on a district in Kyiv, officials said.

Ukraine deployed anti-aircraft units to down Iranian-made Shahed drones fired by Russian forces for a third consecutive night, in and around Kyiv.

The body of one resident was recovered when emergency services put out a fire in the capital’s historic Podil district, mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

He also reported a fire in an apartment building in Kyiv’s Podil district where two people were injured.

Two more people were injured in Shevchenkivskyi district further west, where a balcony caught fire in an apartment building. Debris also struck the central Solomyanskyi district.

The head of Kyiv’s military administration, Serhiy Popko, described the assault as a “mass attack” by Shahed drones that had approached from different directions.

“Anti-aircraft forces identified and destroyed about 10 foreign targets,” he wrote on Telegram.

Pictures on the military administration’s website showed buildings with burnt out areas or damaged facades.

Nato in numbers: Which members have the biggest armies and how has the military alliance grown?

03:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), which is currently holding its latest summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, is a political and military alliance of North American and European countries forged in the aftermath of the Second World War – in the hope of avoiding future hostilities between nations.

It sought to achieve this through the realisation of three specific goals: deterring Soviet expansionism, preventing the revival of militant nationalism and encouraging European political integration.

While that first obligation lost its relevance following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the gradual disintegration of the USSR, Nato has been forced to constantly evolve and adapt in response to global geopolitical tensions over the last half century as the nature of the threats and challenges nations faced changed, from fascism and totalitarianism to Islamist terror factions and cyber-warfare.

Read more:

Which Nato members have the biggest armies and how has the military alliance grown?

Ben Wallace accused of ‘scolding’ Ukraine over demands for weapons: ‘We’re not Amazon’

02:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has been accused of “scolding” the Ukrainians after revealing that he told them Britain was not retail giant Amazon when presented with a list of weapons demands.

In a summit that has revealed cracks between Western leaders and Kyiv, Mr Wallace also said he had advised Ukraine that the international community wanted to see “gratitude” for its support in the war with Russia.

Asked about the row, Rishi Sunak distanced himself from the comments, saying the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had repeatedly expressed his gratitude. “I think everyone can see that’s how he feels,“ he said.

Read more:

Ben Wallace accused of ‘scolding’ Ukraine over weapons demands: ‘We’re not Amazon’

Ukraine’s greatest weapon isn’t on the battlefield

01:00 , Eleanor Noyce

In welcoming fresh pledges of more weapons, ammunition and the long-term security commitments made by members of the G7, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared – at least publicly – a happier figure on the second day of Nato’s summit in Lithuania than he did on the first.

On Tuesday, he had angrily denounced the “absurd” delays to his nation being given a timetable for the Nato membership it craves and then was left frustrated when the communique from the alliance said that Kyiv could join “when allies agree and conditions are met” – without laying out what those conditions were.

A flash of anger over delays to Nato membership gave way to a more conciliatory tone from Volodymyr Zelensky at the summit in Lithuania, writes Chris Stevenson. But don’t expect him to back down on pushing Western allies for more help – his nation’s survival depends on it:

Ukraine’s greatest weapon isn’t on the battlefield

Why Ukraine’s plea for Nato membership is such a challenge for the West

Thursday 13 July 2023 00:01 , Eleanor Noyce

For Ukraine, what it is asking for has been simple – a pathway to membership of Nato to protect its future in the wake of Russia‘s invasion. For its Western allies however, making that a reality is not so straightforward.

The advantages of membership for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky are obvious. Article 5 of the alliance treaty is a cast-iron mutual defence clause that has US, UK and French nuclear weapons at its core. Given the vast swathes of destruction that Moscow’s aggression has wrought, being given a seat at the Nato table would also give Kyiv the extra layer of security needed during what will be a long period of reconstruction (whenever that comes).

Chris Stevenson reports:

Analysis: Why Ukraine’s plea for Nato membership is such a challenge for the West

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

Wednesday 12 July 2023 23:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has been raging for one year now as the conflict continues to record devastating casualties and force the mass displacement of millions of blameless Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin began the war by claiming Russia’s neighbour needed to be “demilitarised and de-Nazified”, a baseless pretext on which to launch a landgrab against an independent state that happens to have a Jewish president in Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine has fought back courageously against Mr Putin’s warped bid to restore territory lost to Moscow with the collapse of the Soviet Union and has continued to defy the odds by defending itself against Russian onslaughts with the help of Western military aid.

Thomas Kingsley and Joe Sommerlad report:

Here’s why Putin really invaded Ukraine

Russia’s Defense Ministry says Wagner mercenaries are surrendering their weapons to the military

Wednesday 12 July 2023 22:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Mercenaries of the Wagner Group are completing the handover of their weapons to the Russian military, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday, a move that follows the private army’s brief rebellion last month that challenged the Kremlin‘s authority.

The disarming of Wagner reflects efforts by authorities to defuse the threat it posed and also appears to herald an end to the mercenary group’s operations on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The actions come amid continued uncertainty about the fate of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and the terms of a deal that ended the armed rebellion by offering amnesty for him and his mercenaries along with permission to move to Belarus.

Read more:

Russia’s Defense Ministry says Wagner mercenaries are surrendering their weapons to the military

Russia: as NATO returns to Cold War ‘schemes,’ we are ready to respond

Wednesday 12 July 2023 21:46 , Eleanor Noyce

The latest NATO summit showed that the Western alliance was returning to “Cold War schemes,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, adding that the Kremlin was ready to respond to threats by using “all means.”

The NATO summit in Lithuania ended with the United States and its allies giving Ukraine new security assurances for its defence against Moscow more than 500 days into Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

The summit was also buoyed by the prospect of Sweden joining the military alliance as its newest member after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday abruptly dropped his prior objections.

The Russian ministry said in a statement late Wednesday: “The results of the Vilnius Summit will be carefully analysed. Taking into account the challenges and threats to Russia’s security and interests that have been identified, we will respond in a timely and appropriate manner, using all means and methods at our disposal.”

The summit showed NATO’s “inability to adapt to the new geopolitical situation in the world,” the ministry said.

It said NATO was continually lowering the threshold for the use of force, escalating political and military tensions.

“Taking the course of escalation, they issued a new batch of promises to supply the Kyiv regime with more and more modern and long-range weapons in order to prolong the conflict as long as possible – to exhaustion,” the ministry said.

“In addition to the decisions already taken, we will continue to strengthen the country’s military organisation and defence system.”

Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of a “craven lust for land and power” and praised NATO’s unity and support for Ukraine.

Biden hails ‘unbroken’ Ukrainian people in Nato speech to spirited crowd of 10,000 – and one Trump fan

Wednesday 12 July 2023 21:30 , Eleanor Noyce

President Joe Biden on Wednesday hailed the “unbroken” people of Ukraine and the “incredible dignity” with which they’ve acted to repel Russia’s invading forces as he pledged on behalf of the Western world to maintain support for Kyiv’s defence for as long as necessary.

Mr Biden delivered his remarks to a boisterous crowd who’d gathered hours ahead of time to hear him speak in the Great Court at Vilnius University, following the conclusion of this year’s Nato leaders’ summit, at which leaders of the 31-member defence alliance agreed to expedite Ukraine’s bid for membership in the bloc once the war with Russia has been brought to a close.

Andrew Feinberg reports:

Biden hails ‘unbroken’ Ukrainian people and says Nato’s commitment ‘will not waver’

Biden and Ukraine’s Zelensky discuss readiness for security talks – White House

Wednesday 12 July 2023 21:01 , Eleanor Noyce

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine‘s President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed during a meeting on Wednesday “US readiness to begin negotiations with Ukraine on bilateral security commitments,” according to a White House readout.

The pair also discussed continued U.S. assistance to help Ukraine‘s “ongoing counteroffensive” against Russia during the meeting held as NATO concluded a summit in Lithuania, the statement said.

UN asks Putin to extend Black Sea grain deal in return for linking Russian bank to SWIFT – sources

Wednesday 12 July 2023 20:38 , Eleanor Noyce

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he extend a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of grain from Ukraine in return for connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s agricultural bank to the SWIFT international payment system, sources told Reuters.

Russia has threatened to ditch the grain deal, which expires on Monday, because several demands to dispatch its own grain and fertilizer abroad have not been met. The last two ships traveling under the Black Sea agreement are currently loading cargoes at the Ukrainian port of Odesa ahead of the deadline.

A key demand by Moscow is the reconnection of the Russian agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank to the SWIFT international payment network. It was cut off by the European Union in June 2022 over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. An EU spokesperson said in May the EU was not considering reinstating Russian banks.

However, the EU is considering connecting to SWIFT a subsidiary of Rosselkhozbank to allow specifically for grain and fertilizer transactions, three sources familiar with discussions told Reuters on Wednesday. The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Guterres has proposed to Putin that Russia allow the Black Sea grain deal to continue for several months, giving the EU time to connect a Rosselkhozbank subsidiary to SWIFT, two of those sources familiar with discussions told Reuters.

Guterres sent a letter to Putin on Tuesday proposing a way forward to further facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports and ensure the continued Black Sea shipments of Ukrainian grain, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.

“The objective is to remove hurdles affecting financial transactions through the Russian Agricultural Bank, a major concern expressed by the Russian Federation, and simultaneously allow for the continued flow of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

He gave no further details on the proposal, but added that Guterres was engaged with all relevant parties on the issue and was willing to further discuss his proposal with Russia.

 (AP)

(AP)

NATO summit results in brief: Mixed news for Ukraine, hope for Sweden and a response to Russia

Wednesday 12 July 2023 20:01 , Eleanor Noyce

U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts wrapped up a two-day summit Wednesday with pledges of long-term support for Ukraine but no offer of the country’s protection under the alliance’s security umbrella.

Results from the meeting in Lithuania, a nation on NATO’s eastern flank that borders Russia, were mixed. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky was grateful for the pledges of more arms and ammunition but disappointed that his country has no clear time frame for joining the world’s biggest security alliance.

After an evening of pre-summit intrigue, Sweden took a big step toward becoming NATO’s 32nd member country when Turkey signaled it would give its approval but not before October.

Lorne Cook reports:

NATO summit results in brief: Mixed news for Ukraine, hope for Sweden and a response to Russia

Nato in numbers: Which members have the biggest armies and how has the military alliance grown?

Wednesday 12 July 2023 19:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), which is currently holding its latest summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, is a political and military alliance of North American and European countries forged in the aftermath of the Second World War – in the hope of avoiding future hostilities between nations.

It sought to achieve this through the realisation of three specific goals: deterring Soviet expansionism, preventing the revival of militant nationalism and encouraging European political integration.

Joe Sommerlad reports:

Which Nato members have the biggest armies and how has the military alliance grown?

Who is likely to be the next secretary general of Nato?

Wednesday 12 July 2023 19:00 , Eleanor Noyce

There was rightly much talk at the Nato summit about Sweden acceding to Nato membership, a new partnership with Japan, and help with post-war construction in Ukraine, as well as discussion of continuing military support for the war-torn country, cluster bombs, and Ukraine’s path to becoming a full ally. But there was also much speculation about who the next secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is going to be.

As Jens Stoltenberg’s term is extended for a further year, Sean O’Grady looks at some of the candidates mooted to replace him in 2024:

Who is likely to be the next secretary general of Nato?

Ukraine would benefit from ATACM missiles – US army general

Wednesday 12 July 2023 18:50 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine would benefit from the U.S. provision of ATACM long-range missiles, President Joe Biden’s nominee to become the Army’s chief of staff, General Randy George, told a Senate committee on Wednesday.

“The ATACMS obviously are great. That missile is a great system, adds range. So that’s basically what it would be providing is the ability to attack deeper targets,” George, currently the Army’s vice chief of staff, said at his confirmation hearing.

Asked if they would be helpful to Ukraine, George responded: “Yes.” He stopped short of saying whether he would recommend sending them if confirmed for the job.

Kyiv has long sought the U.S. Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, arguing the missiles would help it strike Russian invasion forces far behind the front lines.

But ATACMs are limited in supply and have not been among the weapons systems that the Pentagon has suggested are nearing approval for delivery – even as it approves other weapons, like cluster bombs and Abrams tanks, for Ukraine.

The Pentagon said on June 29 that it did not expect any imminent decision to send ATACMs to Ukraine.

Washington has committed more than $41.3 billion in military assistance to Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbour on 24 February 2022.

Biden vows NATO unity in face of Putin’s ‘craven lust’ for power in Ukraine

Wednesday 12 July 2023 18:40 , Eleanor Noyce

President Joe Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having a “craven lust for land and power” on Wednesday and pledged that the U.S.-led NATO alliance would not falter in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression.

Speaking in Lithuania at the end of a two-day meeting of NATO leaders on Russia’s doorstep, Biden praised the people of the formerly Soviet-occupied country and heralded the addition of Finland to the alliance and the admission soon of its neighbour Sweden.

Biden, who has made unifying NATO one of his top foreign policy priorities, said Putin had badly underestimated the resolve of the military alliance.

“NATO is stronger, more energized and yes, more united than ever in its history. Indeed, more vital to our shared future. It didn’t happen by accident. It wasn’t inevitable,” Biden said to thousands of people at Vilnius University, many of them cheering him on with Lithuanian and American flags.

“When Putin, and his craven lust for land and power, unleashed his brutal war on Ukraine, he was betting NATO would break apart. He thought NATO would break. He thought our unity would shatter at the first testing. He thought democratic leaders would be weak. But he thought wrong.”

Biden’s speech aimed to rally allies and showcase his role on the world stage ahead of a 2024 re-election campaign focused on healing divisions at home and abroad.

Despite the positive message, U.S. officials privately struggled with their counterparts in Vilnius to forge a consensus on where the war was headed, how to bring it to a close and what assurances to give Ukraine about its future in the Atlantic military alliance, according to four NATO diplomats involved in those conversations.

Ukraine, seeking an invitation to join NATO or at least a specific timetable for accession, received neither. NATO allies, instead, agreed that Ukraine would join eventually, when “allies agree and conditions are met,” their statement said but offered no details on when, if ever, Kyiv would meet such conditions.

Before leaving the United States to attend the summit, Biden bypassed allies’ concerns about approving cluster munitions for Ukraine to battle Russia.

Suspect arrested in killing of a former Russian submarine captain who reportedly attacked Ukraine

Wednesday 12 July 2023 18:28 , Eleanor Noyce

A 64-year-old man has been arrested in southern Russia for the shooting death of a former submarine commander who is alleged by some in Ukraine to have killed more than 20 civilians in a long-range missile strike last year.

Sergei Denisenko was detained on suspicion of shooting former 2nd Capt. Stanislav Rzhitsky, reportedly during a morning jog in the city of Krasnodar on July 10.

Denisenko was found in possession of a pistol and silencer, officials said. Some Russian media outlets identified him as a native of Sumy, a city in Ukraine.

Read more:

Suspect arrested in killing of a former Russian submarine captain who reportedly attacked Ukraine

Zelensky fires back at Wallace: ‘Maybe the minister wants something special’

Wednesday 12 July 2023 18:00 , Eleanor Noyce

President Volodymyr Zelensky – told about Ben Wallace’s remarks about Amazon and wanting to see “gratitude” – fired back by saying he “didn’t know what [Mr Wallace] meant” and asked whether he “wants something special”.

“I believe we were always grateful to the United Kingdom,” Mr Zelensky told a press conference. “We were always grateful to prime ministers and to the minister for defence, because the people in the United Kingdom have always supportive – we are grateful for this.”

“I didn’t know what he meant and how else we should be grateful,” he added. “We could get up in the morning and express our gratitude personally to the minister … Maybe the minister wants something special, but I think we have wonderful relations [with the UK].”

Russian spy chief says he spoke to CIA boss about ‘what to do with Ukraine’

Wednesday 12 July 2023 17:55 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin said on Wednesday that he and CIA counterpart William Burns had discussed “what to do with Ukraine“ in a phone call late last month, Russia’s TASS news agency said.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on 30 June that Burns had called Naryshkin to assure the Kremlin that the United States had no role in a brief mutiny a week earlier by Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters.

Naryshkin confirmed that Burns had raised “the events of 24 June”, when the mercenaries took control of a southern Russian city and advanced towards Moscow before reaching a deal with the Kremlin to end the revolt.

But he said that for most of the call, lasting about an hour, “we considered and discussed what to do with Ukraine“.

No comment was immediately available from the CIA.

Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in February 2022, says other countries should not negotiate its future on its behalf, and the United States has repeatedly backed this principle, described as “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine“.

Burns and Naryshkin have maintained a line of communication since the start of the Ukraine war at a time when other direct contacts between Moscow and Washington are at a minimum, with relations at their lowest point since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

UN chief sends Putin proposal to keep Black Sea grain deal alive

Wednesday 12 July 2023 17:45 , Eleanor Noyce

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter on Tuesday proposing a way forward to further facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports and ensure the continued Black Sea shipments of Ukrainian grain.

“The objective is to remove hurdles affecting financial transactions through the Russian Agricultural Bank, a major concern expressed by the Russian Federation, and simultaneously allow for the continued flow of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Wednesday.

A deal allowing the safe Black Sea exports of grain and fertilisers from Ukraine is due to expire on Monday.

Ukraine’s greatest weapon isn’t on the battlefield

Wednesday 12 July 2023 17:23 , Eleanor Noyce

In welcoming fresh pledges of more weapons, ammunition and the long-term security commitments made by members of the G7, Ukraine‘s President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared – at least publicly – a happier figure on the second day of Nato‘s summit in Lithuania than he did on the first.

On Tuesday, he had angrily denounced the “absurd” delays to his nation being given a timetable for the Nato membership it craves and then was left frustrated when the communique from the alliance that Kyiv could join “when allies agree and conditions are met” – without laying out what those conditions were.

My colleague Chris Stevenson reports:

Ukraine’s greatest weapon isn’t on the battlefield

Article 5: NATO’s common defense pledge that stands in the way of Ukraine’s admission while at war

Wednesday 12 July 2023 17:16 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky may have gotten support and vague assurances from NATO leaders in Vilnius this week, but he ultimately returns home without a clear commitment that his country will be joining the club any time soon.

Instead, the alliance leaders said they were removing obstacles on Ukraine’s membership path so that it can join more quickly once the war with Russia is over.

For many, that argument gives Russia’s president a pretext to prolong the war, which President Vladimir Putin ostensibly launched to keep Ukraine from joining NATO.

Read more:

Article 5: NATO’s common defense pledge that stands in the way of Ukraine’s admission while at war

Live: Zelensky speaks after Nato summit in Vilnius concludes with declaration of support for Ukraine

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:42 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is speaking after the Nato summit in Vilnius concluded with an overwhelming declaration of support for Ukraine.

Watch live:

Erdogan says Russia changed stance on Azovstal commanders’ release

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:40 , Eleanor Noyce

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Russia had changed its stance on the release of former commanders of Ukraine‘s garrison in Mariupol after an initial negative statement on the issue.

“First, there were some statements from Russia but afterwards when they learned about some circumstances, the situation entered a positive track,” Erdogan said at a press conference in Vilnius.

 (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

Kremlin: Putin has no plans to speak to Erdogan yet – TASS

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:35 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian President Vladimir Putin currently has no plans to speak to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the Kremlin spokesman.

Earlier, Erdogan, speaking at a news conference after a NATO summit in Vilnius, said Turkey could act as mediator between Moscow and Kyiv to reach a deal to end the fighting in Ukraine if the two parties made such a proposition.

Erdogan said last weekend that he had invited Putin to visit Turkey in August.

 (via REUTERS)

(via REUTERS)

Russian defence ministry says Wagner is completing handover of its weapons

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The Wagner mercenary group is completing its handover of weapons to Russia’s regular armed forces, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday, more than two weeks after the group staged a brief armed mutiny.

The ministry said Wagner had handed over more than 2,000 pieces of equipment, including tanks and rockets, and more than 2,500 tonnes of ammunition.

The handover follows a deal with the Kremlin under which Wagner and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin called off their short-lived mutiny last month.

The Wagner fighters, who took part in some of the heaviest fighting of the war in Ukraine, were given the option of joining Prigozhin in exile in Belarus, joining Russia’s regular armed forces or going home.

During the June 23-24 mutiny, the mercenaries took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and shot down an unspecified number of military helicopters, killing their pilots, as they advanced towards Moscow.

Prigozhin said his men’s actions were intended as a protest against what he called the corruption and incompetence of Russia’s military leadership in its handling of the Ukraine war.

The mutiny is widely perceived as having posed the most serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin since he assumed Russia’s presidency on the last day of 1999.

It was defused in a deal brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Under that deal, which the Kremlin said was struck to avert bloodshed, a criminal case against Prigozhin and his fighters was dropped.

UK defence minister likens Russian military chiefs to Laurel and Hardy comedy duo

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:16 , Eleanor Noyce

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Wednesday compared two of Russia’s top military leaders to the slapstick comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

Speaking to reporters at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Wallace made the comparison to the bumbling, bowler-hatted comedians of the 1920s to 1950s when describing Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces.

Wallace noted that the pair remained in charge of Russia’s faltering war in Ukraine while Sergei Surovikin, one of Russia’s most prominent generals, had vanished from public view since a mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group last month.

“Anyone seen Surovikin recently? One of their best generals has disappeared for now,” Wallace said. “And they’ve kept Laurel and Hardy in charge of the campaign. You know, you’ve got Gerasimov and Shoigu there.”

Critics in the West and even inside Russia say Russian invasion forces in Ukraine have been naive, poorly equipped, slow to react, and dogged by muddled command structures.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept both men in their posts.

“That’s good news for Ukraine. That’s who you want in charge,” Wallace said.

Ben Wallace, left, speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a NATO summit in Vilnius (AP)

Ben Wallace, left, speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a NATO summit in Vilnius (AP)

Erdogan says Turkey could mediate between Russia and Ukraine if they propose it

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:11 , Eleanor Noyce

Turkey could act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine to reach a deal to end the war if the two parties make such a proposition, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.

Erdogan was speaking at a news conference after a NATO summit in Vilnius.

 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ben Wallace accused of ‘scolding’ Ukraine over demands for weapons: ‘We’re not Amazon’

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:05 , Eleanor Noyce

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has been accused of “scolding” the Ukrainians after revealing that he told them Britain was not retail giant Amazon when presented with a list of weapons demands.

In a summit that has revealed cracks between Western leaders and Kyiv, Mr Wallace also said he had advised Ukraine that the international community wanted to see “gratitude” for its support in the war with Russia.

Asked about the row, Rishi Sunak appeared to try to distance himself from the comments, saying the Ukrainian President Zelensky had repeatedly expressed his gratitude.

Kate Devlin reports:

Ben Wallace accused of ‘scolding’ Ukraine over weapons demands: ‘We’re not Amazon’

Nato in numbers: Which members have the biggest armies and how has the military alliance grown?

Wednesday 12 July 2023 16:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), which is currently holding its latest summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, is a political and military alliance of North American and European countries forged in the aftermath of the Second World War – in the hope of avoiding future hostilities between nations.

It sought to achieve this through the realisation of three specific goals: deterring Soviet expansionism, preventing the revival of militant nationalism and encouraging European political integration.

Joe Sommerlad reports:

Which Nato members have the biggest armies and how has the military alliance grown?

Macron: G7 declaration on security framework for Ukraine shows long-term support

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:55 , Eleanor Noyce

The G7’s declaration on a security framework for Ukraine shows its long-term support for Ukraine, said French President Emmanuel Macron at a NATO summit on Wednesday.

Macron added that he hoped Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would quickly ratify Sweden’s entry to NATO.

 (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

Russian defence ministry says Wagner is completing handover of its weapons – state media

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:48 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that the Wagner mercenary group that staged a brief armed mutiny last month was completing the handover of its weapons, state news agencies reported.

Ukraine would benefit from ATACM missiles, Army general says

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:45 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine would benefit from the U.S. provision of ATACM long-range missiles, President Joe Biden’s nominee to become the Army’s top general, General Randy George, told a Senate committee on Wednesday.

“The ATACMS are obviously are great. That missile is a great system, adds range. So that’s basically what it would be providing is the ability to attack deeper targets,” George, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said at his confirmation hearing to become chief of staff.

Asked if they would be helpful to Ukraine, George responded: “Yes.”

Kyiv has long sought the U.S. Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, arguing the missiles would help them strike Russian forces far behind the front lines.

Decisions made at summit bring Ukraine closer to NATO, says Polish president

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:35 , Eleanor Noyce

A range of decisions were made on Ukraine during a summit in Vilnius that bring it closer to NATO, Poland’s president said on Wednesday, adding that there was no comparison between what had been decided regarding Ukraine in at a 2008 summit and now.

“The bar was set high…we raised this Ukrainian expectation that a formal invitation to an alliance be issued for Ukraine,” Andrzej Duda told a news conference. “Such a far-reaching decision has not been made, but a whole series of decisions have been made regarding Ukraine, undoubtedly bringing Ukraine closer to NATO.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

One killed in Russian attacks on Ukraine as Zelensky talks to NATO

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:32 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia launched a drone strike on Kyiv early on Wednesday, and an old man was killed in Russian shelling in southern Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelensky met NATO leaders in Lithuania, Ukrainian officials said.

There were no deaths in the second attack on the capital in successive days. But an 81-year-old man was killed and his 82-year-old wife wounded in shelling of the southern city of Kherson, Kherson region governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

Eighteen people, including six children, were also wounded in a Russian attack on a residential area in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia at about 1:00 p.m. (1000 GMT), Zaporizhzhia region governor Yuriy Malashko said.

The Russian shelling and heavy fighting did not stop as Zelensky was meeting NATO leaders to discuss security threats posed by Moscow, which denounced the Western military alliance’s summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Ukraine shot down 11 out of 15 Iranian-made Shahed drones fired by Russia overnight, and two people were hurt in a fire caused by the attack on Kyiv, officials said.

“A difficult night … The enemy attacked our area with ‘Shaheds’,” Ihor Taburets, the military head of the Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukraine‘s military said on Wednesday morning Russian forces had carried out 65 air strikes and fired at least 71 times from heavy weapon rocket systems at Ukrainian troop positions and populated areas along frontlines in the previous 24 hours.

On Tuesday, Russia drones also attacked Kyiv and the southern port of Odesa, and Kherson came under artillery fire.

In the latest fighting, a Ukrainian military spokesperson reported some “success” near the Russian-occupied eastern city of Bakhmut but gave few details as Kyiv’s troops pressed on with a counteroffensive launched early last month.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports and denies deliberately targeting civilians. Russia’s TASS news agency cited military groupings as saying they had repelled several Ukrainian attacks in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine over the past day.

Russia to put destroyed NATO equipment on show near Western embassies

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia plans to display NATO equipment it has destroyed in Ukraine outside the embassies of Western countries that supplied it, parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on Wednesday.

“The proposal to install burned equipment next to the embassies of those countries that send it to Ukraine is especially interesting,” said Volodin, who issued orders for such a display to be organised.

Russian officials have repeatedly criticised Western countries for supplying weapons to Ukraine, arguing they risk prolonging the conflict and causing further escalation.

Ukraine has asked for the weapons to defend itself and recapture Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces since Moscow’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Ukraine‘s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been meeting with leaders from the 31-member NATO alliance this week in a bid to secure long-term security commitments.

‘The only person who is responsible for this conflict is President Putin’, Sunak says

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:25 , Eleanor Noyce

Rishi Sunak rejected any suggestion that the security package agreed at the Nato summit could in fact raise tensions with Russia.

Mr Sunak told the press conference: “The only person who is responsible for this conflict is President (Vladimir) Putin.

“President Putin has engaged in an unprovoked and illegal invasion of another country, violating their territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

He added: “We are going to continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes to end the suffering and make sure that they can have their sovereignty and freedom back.”

UK at forefront of efforts to support Ukraine – Sunak

Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:21 , Eleanor Noyce

At the Nato summit in Vilnius, Rishi Sunak said the UK had been at the forefront of efforts to support Ukraine.

“We’ve led the way on Ukraine, moving first on tanks and long-range missiles, training their troops for the counter-offensive and, just today, I’ve announced that we are providing more ammunition, 70 more combat vehicles as well as a new rehabilitation centre for injured Ukrainian veterans,” he said.

In response to Ben Wallace’s suggestion that Volodymyr Zelensky should show more gratitude for the support, the Prime Minister said the Ukrainian president had done so repeatedly.

“President Zelensky has expressed his gratitude for what we have done on a number of occasions, not least in his incredibly moving address that he made to Parliament earlier this year and he has done so again to me, as he has done countless times when I have met him.

“So I know that he and his people are incredibly grateful for the support we have shown, the welcome that we have provided to many Ukrainian families, but also the leadership we have shown throughout this conflict.”

But Mr Sunak acknowledged “people across Ukraine are fighting for their lives and freedom every single day and paying a terrible price for it” so he understood Mr Zelensky’s “desire to do everything he can to protect his people”.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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