Russia is currently occupying about 20 per cent of Ukraine’s territory, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky told Luxembourg’s parliament in a video address on Thursday.

“We have to defend ourselves against almost the entire Russian army. All combat-ready Russian military formations are involved in this aggression,” he said, adding that the front lines of battle stretched across more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).

Yesterday Mr Zelensky said Russia has forcibly abducted 200,000 Ukrainian children since the start of the war, including some from orphanages and those separated from their families.

“During the 98 days of the Russian invasion, 689 children were injured as a result of the occupiers’ attacks. And these are only those we know about. We do not yet have all the information from the territory that is currently occupied,” Mr Zelensky said last night in comments marking International Children’s day.

“The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return,” he said.

Key Points

  • Zelensky says Putin’s troops now occupy 20% of country

  • About 80 per cent of Sievierodonetsk captured by Russia – official

  • UK to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine, to train troops

  • Zelensky says 200,000 children forcefully taken to Russia

  • Russian air strike hits chemical factory

  • UK faces prospect of naval conflict with Russia, Tory MP claims

European parliament bars Russian lobbyists

14:43 , Matt Mathers

Russian lobbyists are barred from the European Parliament, the head of the chamber said on Thursday, adding that Europe had to protect themselves from the Kremlin’s influence and propaganda over the war in Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine more than three months ago, attacking cities and civilian infrastructure, and triggering consecutive rounds of EU sanctions on Moscow.

“Effective immediately, Russian company representatives are no longer allowed to enter,” Roberta Metsola said on Twitter. “We must not allow them any space to spread their propaganda & false, toxic narratives about the invasion of Ukraine.”

The parliament’s liberal Renew faction welcomed the move as “a blow to the Russian state propaganda machine” that would “reduce the capacity of Russia’s warmongering lobbyists to influence EU politicians and policies.”

UK pledges to send Ukraine mid-range missiles

14:23 , Matt Mathers

The UK has pledged to send sophisticated medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, joining the United States and Germany in equipping the embattled nation with advanced weapons for shooting down aircraft and knocking out artillery.

Western arms have been critical to Ukraine’s success in countering Russia’s much larger and better-equipped military during the war, now in its 99th day.

But as Russian forces closed in on a key city in recent days, the Ukrainian government said its fighters needed better rocket launchers to prevail.

A Kremlin spokesman again warned of “absolutely undesirable and rather unpleasant scenarios” if the latest Western-supplied weapons were fired into Russia.

“This pumping of Ukraine with weapons … will bring more suffering to Ukraine, which is merely a tool in the hands of those countries that supply it with weapons,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Watch: Russian soldier abandons tank as it is hit by a missile

14:02 , Matt Mathers

A video appears to show the moment a Russian soldier abandons his tank after as it is struck by a missile.

The incident reportedly took place in the Marinka area of the Donbas region, where intense fighting continues.

Earlier today Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said Russia now controls about 20 per cent of his country’s territory.

‘You just can’t concede’

13:20 , Matt Mathers

Ukraine will not concede territory to Russia, the country’s first lady has said.

“You just can’t concede … parts of your territory. It’s like conceding a freedom,” Olena Zelenska told ABC News.

“Even if we would consider territories, the aggressor would not stop at that,” she sadded.

“He would continue pressing, he would continue launching more and more steps forward, more and more attacks against our territory.”

Some countries and international relations experts, including the US’s controversial former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, have suggested that Kyiv could end the war by giving up some land.

Ukraine seeks UN-backed mission to export grain shipments through Black Sea

13:00 , Matt Mathers

Ukraine is working with international partners to create a United Nations-backed mission to restore Black Sea shipping routes and export Ukrainian farm produce, foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Thursday.

Russia has captured some of Ukraine’s biggest seaports and its navy controls major transport routes in the Black Sea, blocking Ukrainian shipments and deepening a global food crisis.

“We call on countries whose food security may suffer more from Russian aggression against Ukraine to use their contacts with Moscow to force it to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports and end the war,” Nikolenko wrote on Facebook.

Kremlin confirms report that Yeltsin son-in-law quit as Putin advisor

12:40 , Matt Mathers

The Kremlin on Thursday confirmed a Reuters report that Valentin Yumashev, the son-in-law of former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, had quit his role as an unpaid advisor to President Vladimir Putin.

“I can confirm that about a month ago he stopped being an advisor on a voluntary basis”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Yumashev did not play a major role in decision-making as a Putin advisor, but he represented one of the few remaining links in Putin’s administration to Yeltsin’s rule, a period of liberal reforms and an opening-up of Russia towards the West.

Russia trying to capture key Donetsk cities – governor

12:20 , Matt Mathers

Russian forces in Ukraine’s east are attempting to advance south towards the key Ukrainian-held cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the local region’s governor said on Thursday.

“The Lyman and Izyum fronts are the main directions in which the enemy is trying to advance in order to capture the territories of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, (their) key aims in the north of the region,” Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a briefing.

Kramatorsk has been the de-facto capital of the Donetsk region since 2014, after the city of Donetsk was captured by Russia-backed separatists.

Kyrylenko also said 340,000 residents remained in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the region, out of a pre-war population of 1.67 million.

Russia does not plan to ‘close window to Europe’, Kremlin says

12:00 , Matt Mathers

Russia does not plan to “close the window” to Europe, the Kremlin said on Thursday, as its relations with t
he West linger at new lows over the conflict in Ukraine.

Asked whether difficult relations with Europe were turning the clock back on Peter the Great’s efforts to open Russia up to Europe, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We are not planning to close anything.”

Peter the Great, a tsar who ruled the Russian Empire from 1682 to 1725, oversaw Russia’s transition to a major European power and founded the city of Saint Petersburg, dubbed Russia’s “window to Europe”.

Russia occupies 20% of Ukraine’s territory- Zelenskiy

11:45 , Matt Mathers

Russia is currently occupying about 20 per cent of Ukraine’s territory, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky told Luxembourg’s parliament in a video address on Thursday.

“We have to defend ourselves against almost the entire Russian army. All combat-ready Russian military formations are involved in this aggression,” he said, adding that the front lines of battle stretched across more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).

Kremlin: US plan to sell armed drones to Ukraine does not affect military operation

11:23 , Matt Mathers

The Kremlin said on Thursday that US plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia would not change the parameters of what Moscow calls its military operation.

“Pumping (Western) weapons into Ukraine does not change all the parameters of the special operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “Its goals will be achieved, but this will bring more suffering to Ukraine…”

ICYMI: Don’t use Ukraine wheat as a ‘weapon of war’, Pope pleads

10:25 , Matt Mathers

Pope Francis has pleaded with Vladimir Putin’s troops to lift a block on exports of wheat from Ukraine, saying grain cannot be used as a “weapon of war”.

My colleague Maryam Zakir-Hussain has the story:

Don’t use Ukraine wheat as a ‘weapon of war’, Pope pleads

Appeasement could see Russia remain in Ukraine until 2036, ex military adviser warns

09:44 , Matt Mathers

Appeasement by the West towards Vladimir Putin could result in Russia remaining in Ukraine until 2036, a former British military adviser major general has warned.

John Pienaar said the Russian president could relaunch further attacks in the north and west of Ukraine if he takes full control of the Donbas region, where fierce fighting continues and Kremlin troops are making gains.

More comments from Mr Pienaar below:

ICYMI: Russia says US rocket supplies to Ukraine risks drawing ‘third country’ into war

09:25 , Matt Mathers

Russia’s foreign minister has claimed a decision by the US to supply advanced rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine, could widen the war and increase the risk of direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

My colleague Maryam Zakir-Hussain reports:

Russia says US rocket supplies to Ukraine risks drawing ‘third country’ into war

OPEC+ working on making up for lower Russian oil output

09:06 , Matt Mathers

OPEC+ is working on compensating for a drop in Russian oil output, two OPEC+ sources said on Thursday, as Russia’s production has fallen by around 1 million barrels per day in recent months as a result of Western sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine.

One OPEC+ source familiar with the Russian position said Moscow could agree to other producers compensating for its lower output but it may not happen at a Thursday meeting and might not be in full.

A Gulf OPEC+ source said a decision on the matter was “highly possible” at a meeting on Thursday.

Sievierodonetsk: Russian offensive kills 4, injures 10 in Ukraine’s east and northeast

08:19 , Arpan Rai

At least four civilians were killed and another 10 were injured in Ukraine’s east and northeast, officials said, as they gave an update on the ongoing Russian offensive in the region.

Ukraine’s armed forces general staff said that the “enemy [Russia] is conducting assault operations in the settlement of Sievierodonetsk”. He added that the Russian fighters have been attacking other parts of the east and northeast as well.

As of Thursday, Russian troops have made more territorial gains in Sievierodonetsk after days of heavy fighting and attacks on critical civilian infrastructure. Ukrainian officials have confirmed the inroads being made by Russian soldiers further into the city streets.

About 70 per cent of the key city of Sievierodonetsk has now been captured by Russia with its troops stationed in the city centre, officials said.

Slovakia to send eight Zuzana 2 howitzers to Ukraine

07:46 , Arpan Rai

The Slovakian defence ministry has confirmed it will deliver eight self-propelled Zuzana 2 howitzers to Ukraine as the battle in the besieged country’s east rages on.

The artillery will be sent under a commercial contract which a state-controlled producer signed, the ministry said.

With an effective range of 40-50km plus depending on ammunition type, the Zuzana 2 howitzer is a modernised version of an older model using 155-mm rounds.

Russia making local gains in Sievierodonetsk with heavy concentration of artillery, claims UK

07:10 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry confirmed Russia’s significant gains in its efforts
to capture the key Luhansk city of Sievierodonetsk, and warned that Russian soldiers will likely next switch focus to the Donetsk region.

“Russia has taken control of most of Sievierodonetsk. The main road into the Sievierodonetsk pocket likely remains under Ukrainian control but Russia continues to make steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery,” the MoD said in its latest intelligence update on Thursday.

It added that the territorial gain “has not been without cost, and Russian forces have sustained losses in the process”.

“Crossing the Siverskyy Donets River – which is a natural barrier to its axes of advance – is vital for Russian forces as they secure Luhansk Oblast and prepare to switch focus to Donetsk Oblast,” the ministry said.

It added: “Potential crossing sites include between Sievierodonetsk and the neighbouring town of Lysychansk; and near recently-captured Lyman. In both locations, the river line likely still remains controlled by Ukrainian forces, who have destroyed existing bridges.”

The defence ministry has said that it is likely “Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian armed forces have prepared defensive positions.”

To do so risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week, the ministry said.

99 days of Ukraine invasion: 50 photos capture Russian barbarity

06:33 , Arpan Rai

In a war that was supposed to only last days, the terror and killings have spanned close to 100 days now.

The grim visuals since 24 February show people diving to the floor of a Mariupol hospital as bombs fall around them, a mob of refugees, huddle for safety under a bridge.

 (AP)

(AP)

 (AP)

(AP)

 (AP)

(AP)

REP-GEN UCRANIA-GUERRA-100 DÍAS FOTOS (AP)

REP-GEN UCRANIA-GUERRA-100 DÍAS FOTOS (AP)

PHOTO GALLERY: 100 days of extraordinary images from Ukraine

UK to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine, to train troops

06:13 , Arpan Rai

British defence secretary Ben Wallace has said the UK will send long-range rocket systems including M270 launchers to Ukraine and train Ukrainian soldiers to use them.

“The UK stands with Ukraine and has taken a leading role in supplying its heroic troops with the vital weapons they need to defend their country,” Mr Wallace said, reported CNN.

The UK foreign office said that the M270 launchers can strike targets up to 80 kilometers away and give a “significant boost in capability for the Ukrainian forces”.

This move has been “closely coordinated” with the US provision of HIMARS to Ukraine.

Mr Wallace added that the support for Ukraine must change in response to Russian’s tactics.

“These highly capable multiple-launch rocket systems will enable our Ukrainian friends to better protect themselves against Russia’s brutal use of long-range artillery, which Putin’s forces have used indiscriminately to flatten cities,” he said.

Royal Navy may have to battle Russia, warns UK’s Nato envoy

05:47 , Arpan Rai

British warships could be forced to fight against Russia as part of an international delegation to break Moscow’s Black Sea blockade in Ukraine, a Tory MP who leads the UK’s parliamentary delegation to Nato has said.

The warships could be required to use “lethal defensive force” against Russia in the mission of escorting vital grain supplies from Ukraine’
s ports, Alec Shelbrooke said.

This would carry the “high risk” of deaths of UK personnel and the escalation of war in Europe, Mr Shelbrooke said, in a letter to his constituents that framed this as a reason not to oust PM Boris Johnson right now.

The Independent’s political editor Andrew Woodcock reports on this here:

UK’s Nato envoy warns Royal Navy may have to battle Russia

About 80 per cent of Sievierodonetsk captured by Russia – official

05:06 , Arpan Rai

Russian fighters have captured about 80 per cent of territory in Sievierodonetsk as they continue to seize the key city by military force, said Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai.

The Russian soldiders were advancing as they fought fierce street battles with Ukrainian defenders in the city.

In some districts, the Russian troops were pushed back by Ukrainian defenders, the governor said.

Two monks, nun killed after monastery shelled

04:59 , Arpan Rai

Officials from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said two monks and a nun were killed after the historic Sviatohirsk monastery in Donetsk was shelled.

Another three monks were injured in the shelling on Monday, the church said.

The monastery, which was sheltering civilians, has been heavily damaged in the attack, the church officials said without providing more details.

Sviatohirsk monastery is among Ukraine’s most important orthodox monasteries.

Zelensky says 200,000 children forcefully taken to Russia

04:58 , Arpan Rai

At least 200,000 children, including from orphanages and those separated from their families, are among the Ukrainians who have been forcibly taken to Russia and scattered across the country, Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday.

Marking International Children’s Day, Mr Zelensky accused Russia of abducting children to make them forget about Ukraine.

“The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return,” he said.

Ukraine will punish those responsible, Mr Zelensky said, but first it will show Russia on the battlefield that “Ukraine cannot be conquered, that our people will not surrender and our children will not become the property of the occupiers”.

Ukraine has seen the killing of 243 children in the war, and 446 have been injured with another 139 are missing, Mr Zelensky said.

He added that the complete picture of Russian brutality is not immediately clear in the areas still held by the occupying forces.

Russian missile hits rail lines in Lviv, five injured

04:29 , Arpan Rai

At least five people were injured after a Russian missile struck Lviv in western Ukraine, officials said on Thursday.

The missile hit the Beskidy railway lines in the Carpathian mountains, in what appears to be a Russian effort to cut Ukraine’s key railway link and stop shipments of western weapons, fuel and other supplies, an adviser to the country’s interior minister Anton Gerashchenko said.

The damage to the key railroad link is not immediately clear and is being assessment, but the chief of Ukrainian railways said that the main tunnel was unaffected.

Three passenger trains were delayed after the missile strike but the services were resumed shortly after, officials said.

US plans to sell Hellfire missile-carrying drones to Kyiv

03:10 , Jane Dalton

The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia, sources say.

The sale could still be blocked by Congress, the sources told Reuters, adding that there was also a risk of a last-minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan, which has been under review at the Pentagon for several weeks.

Ukraine has been using several types of smaller shorter-range unmanned aerial systems against Russian forces.

But the Gray Eagle represents a leap in technology because it can fly up to 30 or more hours depending on its mission and can gather huge amounts of data for intelligence purposes.

Gray Eagles, the army’s version of the more widely known Predator drone, can also carry up to eight powerful Hellfire missiles.

The sale is significant because it puts an advanced reusable US system capable of multiple deep strikes on the battlefield against Russia for the first time.

The Biden administration intends to notify Congress of the potential sale in the coming days with a public announcement expected after that, an official said.

UK ‘wants to send Kyiv rocket systems’

02:40 , Jane Dalton

Boris Johnson is asking the US to agree a plan for the UK to send advanced, medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine within a few weeks, according to website Politico.

The prime minister spoke to Joe Biden about the transfer of the US-made M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems on Wednesday morning, it was reported.

This would be followed by a discussion between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday morning, the person familiar with the schedule said. The US must officially approve the move due to export regulations.

It follows President Biden’s announcement that he is sending similar weapons.

US risks drawing ‘third country’ into war, Russia warns

01:50 , Jane Dalton

Russia’s foreign minister has claimed a decision by the US to supply advanced rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine could widen the war and increase the risk of direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

It came after Joe Biden announced that the US would supply Kyiv with four multiple rocket launcher systems. Maryam Zakir-Hussain reports:

Russia says US rocket supplies to Ukraine risks drawing ‘third country’ into war

Germany promises to send modern air defence missiles

01:00 , Jane Dalton

Germany has joined the US in pledging to equip Ukraine with some of the advanced weapons it has long requested for shooting down aircraft and knocking out artillery.Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the surface-to-air IRIS-T SLM missiles it will send are the most modern air defence system the country has.

They can operate at longer ranges than the Cold War-era anti-aircraft equipment it previously provided.

Germany’s promise would mark the first delivery of long-range air defence weapons to Ukraine since the start of the war.

Earlier deliveries of portable, shoulder-fired air defence missiles have bolstered the Ukrainian military’s ability to take down helicopters and other low-flying aircraft but did not give it enough range to challenge Russia’s air superiority.

“With this, we will enable Ukraine to defend an entire city from Russian air attacks,” Mr Scholz said.

The radar systems will help locate enemy artillery.

Germany has come in for criticism, both at home and from allies abroad, that it isn’t doing enough.

Hungary delays EU sanctions on Russia

Thursday 2 June 2022 00:10 , Jane Dalton

Hungary is holding up the finalisation of the European Union’s sanctions package against Russia, insisting on the removal of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church from the list of sanctioned individuals, three diplomats say.

EU leaders agreed in principle earlier this week on a sixth sanctions package against Russia and government envoys were to turn that political agreement into a legal text today so it can enter into force.

Crucially, the package includes a decision to ban purchases of all sea-borne Russian oil and refined products six to eight months from the moment the package become law.

“Agreement is held up because Hungary is objecting to sanctions on Patriarch Kirill,” one EU diplomat said. Two others confirmed this.

Zelensky rejects claim Trump could have stopped invasion

Wednesday 1 June 2022 23:20 , Jane Dalton

Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed the suggestion that Donald Trump could have stopped Russia from invading his country, saying “anybody could become the [US] president”, including those who did not like Ukraine and those who were empathetic to Vladimir Putin, writes Gino Spocchia:

Zelensky shuts down interviewer’s claim Trump would have stopped Russian invasion

Civilians sheltering under chemical plant

Wednesday 1 June 2022 22:30 , Jane Dalton

Civilians are sheltering from Russian shelling under a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where attacks caused an acid cloud to erupt, the regional governor says.

And it is possible there are still stocks of dangerous chemicals there, according to Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai.

“There are civilians there in bomb shelters, there are quite a few of them, but it will not be a second Azovstal as that (plant) had a huge underground city, which isn’t there at Azot,” he told Reuters, referring to the prolonged siege of a steel plant in Mariupol.

Himars: the advanced rocket systems the US is sending

Wednesday 1 June 2022 21:40 , Jane Dalton

The shipment of US weapons to Kyiv will also include M142 Himars, a type of multiple launch rocket system that represents the most powerful artillery dispatched to Volodymyr Zelensky’s resistance since the M777 Howitzers Washington provided in April.

Joe Sommerlad examines what they are:

What are the advanced rocket systems the US is sending to Ukraine?

EU pays Poland to improve transport for grain exports

Wednesday 1 June 2022 20:50 , Jane Dalton

Poland’s Prime Minister says his country is improving its transport infrastructure to ease the export of grain and other key products from neighbouring Ukraine, which has been severely restricted by the war.

Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland was working on expanding its transport infrastructure and the flow capacity to facilitate the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products to the world.

Poland is receiving EU funds for the purpose, Mr Morawiecki said.North African and Middle Eastern countries rely heavily on Ukraine grain and could face problems feeding their populations without it, he added.

He was in the town of Borodyanka, near Kyiv, that was heavily damaged by Russian shelling, to inaugurate container houses, provided by Poland, for people left homeless by the fighting.

Poland and Ukraine are also discussing Poland’s assistance in rebuilding Ukraine after the war, as well as stronger cooperation in defence, security and infrastructure.

 (REUTERS)

(REUTERS)

US carrie
s out cyberhacking in support of Ukraine, says security general

Wednesday 1 June 2022 20:00 , Jane Dalton

American military hackers have “conducted offensive operations” in support of Ukraine, the head of US Cyber Command claims.

General Paul Nakasone confirmed for the first time that the US was conducting offensive hacking operations in support of Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion.

He told Sky News that he was concerned “every single day” about the risk of a Russian cyberattack targeting the US.

Speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, the general, who is also director of the National Security Agency, also said that separate “hunt forward” operations were allowing the US to search out foreign hackers and identify their tools before they were used against America.

General Nakasone said: “We’ve conducted a series of operations across the full spectrum; offensive, defensive, [and] information operations.”

The four-star general did not detail the activities, but explained how they were lawful, conducted with complete civilian oversight of the military and through policy decided at the Department of Defence.

“My job is to provide a series of options to the secretary of defence and the president, and so that’s what I do,” he said. He declined to describe those options.

We’ll keep giving Kyiv weapons, pledges Biden

Wednesday 1 June 2022 19:05 , Jane Dalton

The US will continue to lead the world in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom, president Joe Biden said as he announcing a much-trailed military package to Kyiv.

“The people of Ukraine continue to inspire the world with their courage and resolve as they fight bravely to defend their country and their democracy against Russian aggression,” Mr Biden said.

“The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself.

“Today, I am announcing a significant new security assistance package to provide timely and critical aid to the Ukrainian military.

“Thanks to the additional funding for Ukraine, passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the US Congress, the United States will be able to keep providing Ukraine with more of the weapons that they are using so effectively to repel Russian attacks.

“This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances.

“We will continue to lead the world in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”

Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy adviser, said the United States ha received assurances from Volodymyr Zelensky and others throughout his government that these new systems would not be fired into Russian territory.

Netherlands unveils record military investment

Wednesday 1 June 2022 18:32 , Jane Dalton

The Dutch government has announced what it is calling the biggest boost in its military spending since the end of the Cold War.

Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said “threats in the world and the war in Ukraine show that peace and security cannot be taken for granted”.

Ms Ollongren unveiled 5 billion euros a year in increased military spending, which will fund military hardware purchases, including six new F-35 fighter jets and a doubling of the military’s fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones from four to eight.

The Defence Ministry said the investment means the Netherlands will meet the Nato agreed defence spending of 2 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2024 and 2025.

Russia attacks chemical plant, causing nitric acid cloud

Wednesday 1 June 2022 18:01 , Jane Dalton

A Russian air strike on a chemical plant in Ukraine sent a huge cloud of orange acid into the sky.

Volodymyr Zelensky slammed the air strikes in the city of Sievierodonetsk as “madness”.

“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Sievierodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just crazy,” Mr Zelensky said in a video message.

The cloud is thought to be nitric acid, which causes irritation to the eyes and skin when people come into contact with it, writes Holly Bancroft:

Russian attack on Ukraine chemical plant sends huge orange nitric acid cloud into sky

Ukraine promises US it won’t use rockets on Russia

Wednesday 1 June 2022 17:50 , Jane Dalton

Ukraine has promised the United States it will not use US-provided advanced rocket systems to hit targets inside Russian territory, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” Blinken said at an appearance with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States, as well as with our allies and partners.”

Joe Biden has agreed to provide Ukraine with rocket systems that can strike with precision at long-range Russian targets as part of a $700 million weapons package.

Russia blames UK for ‘fuelling conflict’

Wednesday 1 June 2022 17:28 , Jane Dalton

Russia has blamed the UK for allegedly fuelling the conflict – hours after blaming the US for the same.

The country’s UK embassy claims the British government’s “belligerent stance and rhetoric” are blocking negotiations – but has not explained how.

Russian advance to be delayed by ‘operational pause’, West believes

Wednesday 1 June 2022 17:05 , Jane Dalton

Western officials say Russian troops face a series of perilous river crossings in the Donbas and are showing signs of “disillusionment” with the campaign, not only among rank-and-file soldiers but also senior officers. Andrew Woodcock reports:

Russian advance in eastern Ukraine to be delayed by ‘operational pause’, West expects

Russian air strike ‘hits chemical factory’

Wednesday 1 June 2022 16:45 , Jane Dalton

Russian forces are continuing to press closer to the centre of the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, reportedly hitting a chemical factory.

Ukraine‘s General Staff said Russian forces, now 98 days into their invasion, pounded infrastructure in eastern and southern regions, including the city, which they entered on Friday. The attack is the main focus of their ground offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

According to provincial governor Serhiy Gaidai, a Russian air strike hit the Azot chemical factory in the city on Tuesday, blowing up a tank of toxic nitric acid and releasing a plume of pink smoke.

He urged residents to remain inside.

Reuters has tried to independently confirm the cause of the incident but there is no confirmation yet.

Russia cuts off Denmark’s gas

Wednesday 1 June 2022 16:18 , Jane Dalton

Russia is cutting off its gas supply to Denmark, officials in Copenhagen say.

Danish energy company Orsted said the decision was because it refused to pay Moscow in roubles, writes David Harding:

Denmark becomes latest country to have gas taps turned off by Russia

Ukraine v Scotland: Football fans enjoy togetherness on Glasgow streets

Wednesday 1 June 2022 15:57 , Jane Dalton

“A game like this is a great opportunity to celebrate being Ukrainian and not necessarily forget about the war,” says a young Ukrainian Edinburgher as Scotland face a World Cup qualifier against the Ukrainians. Andrew Naughtie reports:

Fans in Glasgow look forward to emotional Ukraine v Scotland qualifier

Russia says it is facing difficulties exporting grain due to sanctions on ships

Wednesday 1 June 2022 15:07 , Matt Mathers

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow is facing difficulties exporting grain due to sanctions against its ships.

“There are also problems with the export of Russian grain… Vessels that carry Russian grain have fallen under sanctions,” Lavrov said during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is also a major grain exporter, has driven world food prices higher but Russia blames Western sanctions against it for disrupting its fertilizer and grain exports.

Mid-range missiles are not for strikes on Russian territory – White House

Wednesday 1 June 2022 14:27 , Matt Mathers

Missiles provided to Ukraine by the US are not intended for strikes on targets in Russia’s home territory, the White House has said.

Jonathan Finer, deputy White House national security adviser, said the Ukrainians have been requesting the mid-range missiles and Washington believes it will meet their needs.

“We have asked Ukrainians for assurances that they will not use these systems to strike inside Russia. This is a defensive conflict that the Ukrainians are waging. Russian forces are on their territory,” Finer said in an interview with CNN.

There are significant targets Ukrainians cannot reach with the weapons they currently have, Finer said, and the rocket system will make a big difference in the conflict in the southeastern part of the country, where Russian forces are currently focused.

UK faces prospect of naval conflict with Russia, Tory MP claims

Wednesday 1 June 2022 14:00 , Matt Mathers

A Tory MP has claimed that the UK faces the prospect of a naval confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine war.

Alec Shelbrooke, the MP for Elmet & Rothwell who is head of the UK’s delegation to Nato, made the comments in a statement on his website on Wednesday.

He warned that there was a “high risk of death to British service personnel”. For these reasons, he argued it is not the right time for the UK to change PM.

Our politics editor Andrew Woodcock reports:

UK’s Nato envoy warns Royal Navy may have to battle Russia

Russia trying to ‘extinguish civilisation’ in Donbas – Germany’s Baerbock

Wednesday 1 June 2022 13:35 , Matt Mathers

Russia has adopted a strategy of flattening settlements from a safe distance in Ukraine’s Donbas region, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said, making it all the more important for Berlin to send Kyiv defensive weapons.

In a speech to the German parliament on Wednesday, she said Russia was fighting a war to “depopulate and extinguish civilisation” in the eastern Uk
rainian region.

“City by city, village by village, Russian troops are destroying them from a safe distance,” she said. “First the missiles, then the warplanes with artillery, and then, when everything is flattened, the tanks roll in.”

Germany needed to send more artillery, drones and air defence weapons to help Ukraine defend itself from this onslaught, she added.

Don’t use Ukraine wheat as a ‘weapon of war’, Pope pleads

Wednesday 1 June 2022 13:04 , Jane Dalton

Pope Francis has pleaded to authorities to lift a block on exports of wheat from Ukraine, saying grain cannot be used as a “weapon of war”.

Speaking to thousands who gathered in St, Peter’s Square on Wednesday, the pope said: “Please! Do not use wheat, a basic foodstuff, as a weapon of war,” he said to applause from the crowd. Maryam Zakir-Hussain reports:

Don’t use Ukraine wheat as a ‘weapon of war’, Pope pleads

Russia stages nuclear missile launch exercises

Wednesday 1 June 2022 12:56 , Jane Dalton

Russia’s nuclear forces are holding drills northeast of Moscow, the Russian defence ministry has said, according to the country’s Interfax news agency.

Some 1,000 servicemen were exercising in intense manoeuvres in the Ivanovo province, using more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, it cited the ministry as saying.

Russia has also completed testing of its hypersonic Zircon cruise missile and will deploy it by the end of the year on a new frigate of its Northern Fleet, a senior military officer said.

The news came shortly after Joe Biden announced the supply of precision rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine, which could strike at long-range Russian targets.

Russia has taken nearly two-thirds of Sievierodonetsk, official says

Wednesday 1 June 2022 12:39 , Jane Dalton

Ukrainian forces are holding just one-fifth of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, but there is still hope that they can prevent Russia taking full control, according to the head of the city administration.

Russian forces control 60 per cent of the city, while the rest has become “no-man’s land”, Oleksandr Stryuk, the Ukrainian head of the city administration, told Reuters. He declined to give his location.

Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to capture the Donbas before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defence.

The city, which is 90 miles south of the Russian border, is in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region of the Donbas.

Russia says US is adding fuel to fire by supplying Ukraine with rockets

Wednesday 1 June 2022 11:49 , Matt Mathers

Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of adding fuel to the fire by supplying advanced rockets to Ukraine, and said it did not trust Kyiv not to fire them into Russia.

“We believe that the US is deliberately pouring oil on the fire. The US is obviously holding the line that it will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

US President Joe Biden has agreed to provide Ukraine with advanced rocket systems that can strike with precision at long-range Russian targets as part of a $700 million weapons package expected to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Denmark becomes latest country to have gas taps turned off by Russia

Wednesday 1 June 2022 11:06 , Matt Mathers

Russia is cutting off its gas supply to Denmark from Wednesday, officials in Copenhagen said, the latest escalation over European energy amid the war in Ukraine.

Our international editor David Harding reports:

Denmark becomes latest country to have gas taps turned off by Russia

Wheat can’t be ‘weapon of war’, Pope says as he urges lifting of Ukraine block

Wednesday 1 June 2022 10:08 , Matt Mathers

Pope Francis appealed to authorities on Wednesday to lift a block on exports of wheat from Ukraine, saying the grain could not be used as a “weapon of war”.

Many millions of people, particularly in the world’s poorest countries, depend on wheat from Ukraine, the pope told a general audience of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, calling for the block to be lifted.

The United Nations, which says a global food crisis is worsening, is trying to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports, though Western leaders have blamed Russia for holding the world to ransom by blockading Ukrainian ports.

“The blocking of exports of wheat from Ukraine is very worrying because the lives of millions of people depend on it, especially in poorer countries,” the pope said.

“I make a heartfelt appeal so that every effort is made to resolve this problem, to guarantee the universal right to nutrition. Please! Do not use wheat, a basic foodstuff, as a weapon of war,” he added, to applause from the crowd.

Germany to supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft missiles

Wednesday 1 June 2022 09:29 , Matt Mathers

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country will supply Ukraine with modern anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems.

Mr Scholz tol
d politicians the government has decided to provide Kyiv with IRIS-T missiles developed by Germany together with other Nato nations.

He said Germany will also supply Ukraine with radar systems to help locate enemy artillery.

The announcement comes amid claims at home and abroad that Germany has been slow to provide the embattled country with the weapons it needs to defend itself against Russia, which invaded on February 24.