Ukraine’s counteroffensive has failed, says Putin

Putin and Mr Lukashenko have met in Russia for two-day talks

Putin and Mr Lukashenko have met in Russia for two-day talks – AFP

Ukraine’s counter-offensive has “failed”, Vladimir Putin said on Sunday.

The Russian president made the claim at the start of two-day talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko as the leaders toured St Petersburg on a walkabout.

Mr Lukashenko said “there is no counteroffensive” before being interrupted by Putin who claimed “there is one, but it has failed”.

After their talks, Putin and Lukashenko greeted crowds in the naval town and base of Kronstadt on Kotlin Island which was a rare public display for Putin who has kept strict quarantine rules since the pandemic.

In a sign of the importance of the meeting, Putin said on Sunday he had “changed some of my plans” to facilitate the meeting.

It is the first time the pair have met since Mr Lukashenko helped to end the Wagner Mutiny last month.

04:59 PM BST

Table of Contents

Today’s top stories

  • A Russian missile attack on the port city of Odesa overnight on Sunday has damaged 25 cultural buildings

  • Russia and China have ended their joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan, the Russian defence ministry announced on Sunday, as the two allies seek to deepen their military ties

  • An Orthodox church in the Black Sea port of Odesa was destroyed in a Russian missile attack at dawn on Sunday

  • Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said Ukraine has taken back about 50 per cent of the territory that Russia seized, although Kyiv’s counteroffensive will extend several months

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin has accused foreign mercenaries of suffering a high number of casualties owing “to their stupidity”

  • The US has no plans to send long-range missiles to Ukraine despite mounting pressure from Kyiv, The Washington Post reported

  • Russian forces destroyed the Palace of Culture in the city of Chasiv Yar using the widely banned cluster munitions early on Sunday morning just hours after firing missiles at the cathedral in Odesa

  • Belarus is having to constrain Wagner mercenaries from attacking Poland, Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian leader, has said

04:43 PM BST

Russian strikes damage 25 historical buildings in Odesa

A Russian missile attack on the port city of Odesa overnight on Sunday has damaged 25 cultural buildings.

Ukrainian authorities said the attack left two architectural landmarks destroyed or badly damaged including the Transfiguration Cathedral.

Oleksiy Kuleba, deputy head of the president’s office, said on Sunday that Russians were targeting cultural sites to “erase” Ukrainian identity.

“This is another attempt to kill peaceful Ukrainians, erase our history, and destroy our heritage of global significance,” Ms Kuleba wrote on Telegram.

04:08 PM BST

Russia and China end military exercises in Sea of Japan

Russia and China have ended their joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan, the Russian defence ministry announced on Sunday, as the two allies seek to deepen their military ties.

The two massive countries, which share a common desire to counter what they see as American hegemony, have grown closer in the military sphere since Russia launched its Ukraine offensive last year, a move China has not condemned.

The Russian defence ministry previously said the main goal of the latest exercises, which began on Thursday, was to “strengthen naval cooperation” between the two countries and “maintain stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region”.

“The joint Russian-Chinese naval exercises… have ended in the Sea of Japan,” the Russian military confirmed in a statement on Sunday.

“Some twenty combat exercises were carried out… including joint artillery fire on maritime, coastal and air targets”, the army said.

03:57 PM BST

Russian missile destroys Odesa cathedral

An Orthodox church in the Black Sea port of Odesa was destroyed in a Russian missile attack at dawn on Sunday.

One missile tore through the roof of the building and ripped down to the basement, collapsing many of the cathedral’s internal walls.

Two people inside were wounded. Two people were killed and 18 more injured in the overall bombardment.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday vowed to retaliate against Russian forces. “Missiles against peaceful cities, against residential buildings, a cathedral,” he said.

“There will definitely be a retaliation against Russian terrorists for Odesa. They will feel this retaliation.”

A social media video of the shows a distressed man walking around a burning, rubble-strewn church and repeating, “The church is no longer.”

03:06 PM BST

Ukraine has seized 50 per cent of occupied territory, says Blinken

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said Ukraine has taken back about 50 per cent of the territory that Russia seized, although Kyiv’s counteroffensive will extend several months.

“It’s already taken back about 50 per cent of what was initially seized,” Mr Blinken said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

“These are still relatively early days of the counteroffensive. It is tough,” he said, adding: “It will not play out over the next week or two. We’re still looking I think at several months.”

03:03 PM BST

Putin: Mercenaries in Ukraine suffer heavy losses ‘due to stupidity’

Russian president Vladimir Putin has accused foreign mercenaries of suffering a high number of casualties owing “to their stupidity”.

Putin made the claim during a meeting with Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, in their first face to face meeting on Sunday since the Wagner mutiny last month.

“As for foreign mercenaries, they also suffer significant losses,” the Russian leader said.

“Big [losses] because of their tactics,”Mr  Lukashenko added. “Yes,” Putin nodded, “because of their stupidity.”.

02:43 PM BST

Wagner mercenaries ‘train Belarusian forces’

02:27 PM BST

US has ‘no plans to send missiles to Ukraine’

The US has no plans to send long-range missiles to Ukraine despite mounting pressure from Kyiv, The Washington Post reported.

Officials have reportedly said “the Biden administration is holding firm, for now at least, on its refusal to send long-range Army missiles to Ukraine despite mounting pressure from US lawmakers and pleas from the government” in Kyiv.

The newspaper added that “disappointment at the slow pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against entrenched Russian forces and a newly equivocal tone by President Biden have led to widespread speculation that the missiles will soon follow the path taken by other US weapons systems.”

According to the officials, the US government believes that Ukraine “has other, more urgent needs than ATACMS.”

01:38 PM BST

Russians destroy Palace of Culture with cluster munitions

Russian forces destroyed the Palace of Culture in the city of Chasiv Yar using the widely banned cluster munitions early on Sunday morning just hours after firing missiles at the cathedral in Odesa.

Footage of the hall in the Donetsk region, used as a humanitarian and medical aid hub, show sections of the building’s roof on fire and shelling debris.

Russians reportedly opened fire in the city with cassette ammunition. The fire has been put out.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the regional head of Donetsk military, wrote on the Telegram messaging app: “The occupiers attacked the town at dawn, with cluster munitions. A fire broke out.”

Russians reportedly opened fire in the city with cassette ammunition. The fire has been put out.

Emergency workers were forced to flee the scene because the Russians “did not stop firing”.

At least 25 architectural monuments have reportedly been damaged in Odesa by Russia’s missiles overnight, according to Oleh Kiper, head of the Regional Military Administration.

Palace of Culture was set alight with cluster munitions

Palace of Culture was set alight with cluster munitions – Facebook

01:06 PM BST

In Pictures: Putin meets residents with Lukashenko

Putin shakes hands with a resident in front of the Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Kronstadt

Putin shakes hands with a resident in front of the Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Kronstadt – AFP/ALEXANDR DEMYANCHUK

Putin and Mr Lukashenko are in talks for two days

Putin and Mr Lukashenko are in talks for two days – Reuters/Sputnik/Alexander Demyanchuk

01:00 PM BST

Moscow denies striking Odesa cathedral

Russia has denied it fired a missile at the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa, claiming it targeted buildings at a “safe distance” from the site.

The Russian defence ministry said Kyiv’s statement that a high-precision missile hit the building “does not respond to reality”.

In a separate statement the ministry accused Ukraine of causing the damage with missiles it places in residential areas.

They said the damage was caused by “incompetent actions of the operators of air defence systems, which the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] deliberately places in residential areas, including Odesa”.

12:47 PM BST

In Pictures: Mass held in Odesa next to ruined cathedral

People attend a mass outside Odesa cathedral destroyed in missile attacks

People attend a mass outside Odesa cathedral destroyed in missile attacks – AP/Jae C Hong

12:35 PM BST

Putin and Lukashenko greet crowds in St Petersburg

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko met a crowd of people in Russia’s Kronstadt town on Kotlin Island, in a rare walkabout after a deal to end a Wagner mutiny.

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper posted a video of Putin and Mr Lukashenko posing for photographs with people, with bodyguards standing nearby. Asked about quarantine rules which the Russian leader has been keeping up since the pandemic, Putin replied: “People are more important than quarantine.”

12:17 PM BST

Russia shells Nikopol residents overnight

Russian forces fired at a residential area in Nikopol overnight on Sunday.

Serhii Lysak, the governor of the region, said three homes were destroyed in heavy shelling, including a power line and a car.

There were no casualties.

The nearby Marhanets community was reportedly under attack last night but it is unclear if there were any fatalities.

11:23 AM BST

Lukashenko claims he is holding back Wagner from attacking Poland

Belarus is having to constrain Wagner mercenaries from attacking Poland, Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian leader, has said.

He made the claim on Sunday during a meeting with Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg. Wagner mercenaries moved into Belarus this month as part of a peace plan after their rebellion in Russia in June.

“The Wagnerites are beginning to stretch us,” he said, according to Russian news agencies. “I say, why do you need to go to the West? ‘We want to go on an excursion to Warsaw, to Rzeszow’.” Rzeszow is a city in southeast Poland.

Poland has strengthened its borders with Belarus and has said that it is worried about the arrival of thousands of Wagner mercenaries.

Wagner-linked Telegram channels have goaded Poland, saying that the mercenaries want to march on Warsaw. 
Mr Lukashenko also said that the mood of the Wagner mercenaries was “bad”.

11:14 AM BST

Putin to discuss ‘security in our region’ with Lukashenko

Russian leader Vladimir Putin will discuss security in eastern Europe with his Belarus counterpart and ally Alexander Lukashenko in their first face to face talks since Minsk helped to end a Wagner mutiny in Russia.

“We will of course talk about security in our region,” Putin told Mr Lukashenko in televised remarks.

Putin, right, with Alexander Lukashenko before their meeting at the Constantine Palace

Putin, right, with Alexander Lukashenko before their meeting at the Constantine Palace – SPUTNIK / AFP/ Alexandr Demyanchuk

10:55 AM BST

Ukraine hits valuable Russian military targets

Ukraine’s success in destroying Russia’s ammunition supplies in Russian-occupied territory has undermined the country’s military power, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesman for the southern operational command, said that Ukrainian troops had complicated Russia’s military operation by hitting ammunition depots in occupied territory.

“Now the Russians’ logistics are suffering,” Ms Humeniuk said in a statement on Saturday.

Ukrainian colonel Serhiy Baranov said on Saturday that Western high-precision missile and artillery systems helped counteroffensive troops form a “fire fist”.

Due to the accuracy of the strikes, “the Russians are no longer able to conduct effective counter-battery combat against us,” Mr Baranov said.

10:37 AM BST

Putin: Ukraine’s counteroffensive has failed

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, told his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday that an ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive to push back Russian forces has “failed”.

“There is no counteroffensive,” Mr Lukashenko said, according to Russian TASS news agency, before being interrupted by Putin: “There is one, but it has failed.”

10:25 AM BST

Ukrainian residents clear up cathedral

10:07 AM BST

Moscow says Odesa strike targets preparing ‘terrorist act’

Moscow said on Sunday it had hit all intended targets in Ukraine’s port city Odesa, claiming the sites were being used to prepare “terrorist acts” against Russia.

“At night the armed forces of the Russian Federation caried out a strike… on facilities where terrorist acts against the Russian Federation using unmanned boats were prepared,” the Russian army said.

“All planned targets in the strikes were destroyed.”

09:59 AM BST

In Pictures: Homes damaged in Odesa

A resident surrounded by damaged buildings in Odesa

A resident surrounded by damaged buildings in Odesa – REUTERS

09:54 AM BST

Putin meets Belarusian president for first time since Wagner mutiny

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has met the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, for the first time since he helped broker a deal to end a mutiny by Wagner fighters inside Russia last month.

A video posted on Sunday by Mr Lukashenko’s press service showed the two longtime leaders arriving at Saint Petersburg’s Konstantinovsky palace together ahead of scheduled talks.

09:51 AM BST

In Pictures: Odesa cathedral destroyed by missiles

The Odesa Transfiguration Cathedral was left without a roof

The Odesa Transfiguration Cathedral was left without a roof – AP

Two people were injured inside the building

Two people were injured inside the building – AFP

09:40 AM BST

Two killed in Russian strike on Odesa

Two people have died in the overnight strikes by Russia on Odesa and 22 people were injured including four children.

“A man born in 1974 was killed in the night time shelling,” said Igor Klymenko, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs. “Twenty-two people were injured. Among them are four children: 11, 12, and two 17-year-olds.”

Russia has been pounding Odesa and other Ukrainian food export facilities nearly daily over the past week after Moscow withdrew from a United Nations-brokered sea corridor agreement that allowed for the safe shipment of Ukrainian grain.

“Odesa: another night attack of the monsters,” said Oleh Kiper, governor of the broader southern Ukraine’s Odesa region of which the city of Odesa is an administrative centre, on the Telegram messaging app.

Ambulance medics search for injured residents

Ambulance medics search for injured residents – AFP

09:23 AM BST

Russia disinformation obscures front line news

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