Ukraine news – live: Putin ‘to switch focus to Donetsk’ after capturing key Luhansk city

·15 min read

Russia will “almost certainly” shift its focus to capturing Donetsk Oblast now that Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from Luhansk, the UK Ministry of Defence has said.

The Ministry added that the fight for the Donbas “has been grinding and attritional and this is highly unlikely to change in the coming weeks”.

Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed Ukrainian fighters left the last major city in Luhansk but said his troops will return and regain the control of territory with the help of modern weapons.

Mr Zelensky said in an address last night: “If the command of our army withdraws people from certain points of the front where the enemy has the greatest fire superiority, in particular this applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing: we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.

“And when someone over there in Moscow reports something about the Luhansk region - let them remember their reports and promises before February 24, in the first days of this invasion, in the spring and now.”

Key Points

  • Zelensky confirms withdrawal from Lysychansk, vows to return

  • Australian PM announces new measures to aid Ukraine

  • ‘Grinding’ fight for Donbas highly unlikely to change in coming weeks - British MoD

  • At least 345 children killed, 644 injured in Ukraine war - officials

  • Focus in Ukraine war moves to next separatist territory Donetsk

Western ambassadors in China sound off over Russia in rare forum

09:48 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Western envoys in China criticised Russia on Monday for its invasion of Ukraine, with the U.S. ambassador saying China should not spread Russian “propaganda”, in an unusual public forum in a country that has declined to condemn Moscow’s attack.

Speaking at the World Peace Forum, organised by the Tsinghua University, U.S. ambassador Nicholas Burns called the Russian war against Ukraine “the greatest threat to global world order”.

Burns said he hoped China’s foreign ministry spokespeople would stop repeating “Russian propaganda” blaming NATO for the war.

“I hope foreign ministry spokespersons would also stop telling lies about American bioweapons labs, which do not exist in Ukraine,” he said.

Burns was flanked by the British and French ambassadors to his left and a Chinese government adviser and the Russian ambassador to his right. The forum organiser had billed the session as a discussion among representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

While the session was on the broad topic of “The United Nations and Global Order”, all three Western ambassadors criticised Russia for what they called its illegal aggression against Ukraine, a characterisation rejected by Russian ambassador Andrey Denisov.

British ambassador Caroline Wilson told the audience, made up of foreign diplomats, Chinese students and academics: “If Russia has its way, we would have global anarchy”.

Australia’s PM visits Ukraine

09:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Australia’s prime minister has shown his support for Ukraine after visiting president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Anthony Albanese wrote in a Twitter post today: “My visit to Ukraine sends a clear message that democratic nations like Australia will stand with the Ukrainian people in their time of need.”

Ukraine claims Russian military base has been hit

09:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine said its air force had flown some 15 sorties “in virtually all directions of hostilities”, destroying equipment and two ammunition depots.

In the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ukrainian forces hit a military logistics base with more than 30 strikes on Sunday, the city’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said. A Russian-installed official confirmed that strikes had hit the city.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

Luhansk governor says Russia will shift main focus to Donetsk region

09:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia will shift the main focus of its war in Ukraine to trying to seize all of the Donetsk region after capturing neighbouring Luhansk, the Luhansk region’s governor said on Monday.

Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Reuters in an interview that he expected the city of Sloviansk and the town of Bakhmut in particular to come under attack as Russia tries to take full control of what is known as the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Russia says it has established full control over the Luhansk region following a withdrawal by Ukrainian forces from the bombed-out city of Lysychansk.

“In terms of the military, it is bad to leave positions, but there is nothing critical (in the loss of Lysychansk). We need to win the war, not the battle for Lysychansk,” Gaidai said.

“It hurts a lot, but it’s not losing the war.”

He said the withdrawal from Lysychansk had been “centralised”, indicating that it had been planned and orderly, but that Ukrainian forces had risked being surrounded.

“Still, for them (Russian forces) goal number 1 is the Donetsk region. Sloviansk and Bakhmut will come under attack - Bakhmut has already started being shelled very hard,” he said.

Donetsk Oblast: 9 civilians killed, 25 injured

08:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kyiv Independent has reported that on July 3, six civilians were killed in Sloviansk, one in Avdiivka, one in Bakhmut, and one in Zaitseve, according to the Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Among those killed, two are children.

Kharviv strikes: six dead in Sloviansk

08:27 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had “brutally” struck Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk with rocket attacks, leaving six dead and 20 wounded in Sloviansk alone.

Russia‘s defence ministry also said on Sunday it had struck the military infrastructure of Kharkiv, Ukraine‘s second-largest city in the northeast, where a Reuters reporter said Ukrainian forces had been building fortifications after nightly shelling.

Outside a school in Kharkiv, some residents threw debris into a large crater created by an early morning rocket strike while others got help repairing damaged houses.

“The wife was lucky that she woke up early in the morning because the roof fell exactly where she had been sleeping,” one resident, Oleksii Mihulin, told Reuters.

About 70 km (44 miles) from Kharkiv on the Russian side of the border, Russia also reported explosions on Sunday in Belgorod, which it said killed at least three people and destroyed homes.

“The sound was so strong that I jumped up, I woke up, got very scared and started screaming,” a Belgorod resident told Reuters, adding the blasts occurred around 3 a.m. (0000 GMT).

Moscow has accused Kyiv of numerous attacks on Belgorod and other areas bordering Ukraine. Kyiv has never claimed responsibility for any of these incidents.

ICYMI- Ukrainian army announces withdrawal from last major city in Luhansk

08:12 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Ukrainian military has confirmed it has withdrawn from Lysychansk, the last major city the country’s forces held in the key eastern province of Luhansk.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu had told president Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated” – a claim Ukrainian defence officials initially denied.

But in a statement posted Sunday evening to an official Facebook page, Ukraine’s office of the general staff said after “heavy fighting” they had pulled back to protect their troops, writes Bel Trew.

Ukrainian army announces withdrawal from last major city in Luhansk

At least 345 children killed, 644 injured in Ukraine war - officials

07:50 , Arpan Rai

The Russian war on Ukraine has killed at least 345 children and injured another 64, officials from the besieged country’s prosecutor general office said.

The numbers are expected to be higher as they do not include casualties from the occupied regions and from the areas where the military warfare in underway, the officials said, reported The Kyiv Independent.

Focus in Ukraine war moves to next separatist territory Donetsk

07:30 , Arpan Rai

The Russian military warfare is set to shift targets to the neighbouring Donetsk region next, a region under Kyiv’s control in large parts.

Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian soldiers are now concentrating their firepower on the Donbas front but added that his troops will hit-back with long-range weapons such as the HIMARS rocket launchers, provided by the US.

“The fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, our people, plays an equally important role. We will rebuild the walls, we will win back the land, and people must be protected above all else,” Mr Zelensky said.

UK ‘fair’ option to host Eurovision if not Ukraine, says former Ukrainian winner

06:58 , Arpan Rai

Ukrainian Eurovision 2023’s song contest should be held in the UK if her home country is unable to host, winner Jamala has said.

The 38-year-old who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016 with her tune 1944, fled Kyiv in March following the Russian invasion.

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra went on to win this year’s contest in Turin, but the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said it was in talks with the BBC to “potentially host” the 2023 event after concluding next year’s contest cannot be held in Ukraine.

Read full story here:

UK ‘fair’ option to host Eurovision if not Ukraine, says former Ukrainian winner

‘Grinding’ fight for Donbas highly unlikely to change in coming weeks - British MoD

06:23 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry has said that it is highly unlikely that the fight in Donbas in Ukraine will change as Russia now plans to switch its focus to capturing Donetsk.

“The fight for the Donbas has been grinding and attritional and this is highly unlikely to change in the coming weeks,” the ministry said on Monday in its intelligence update.

Confirming the withdrawl of Ukrainian forces from Lysychansk, the British MoD said that these fighters are likely falling back to prepared defensive positions. “Russia’s ministry of defence had earlier claimed to have completed the encirclement of Lysychansk and secured full control of the city,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

It added that heavy fighting “in and around the city in Luhansk Oblast has intensified over the past week with Russian forces making steady progress”.

“The city was the last remaining major population centre in Luhansk Oblast under Ukrainian control. Russia’s focus will now almost certainly switch to capturing Donetsk Oblast, a large portion of which remain under the control of Ukrainian forces,” the ministry added.

On the supply of grains via Europe, the ministry said that the Russian invasion continues to have a devastating impact on Ukraine’s agricultural sector as the harvesting season gets underway.

“The war has caused major disruption to the supply chains of seed and fertiliser which Ukrainian farmers rely on,” the ministry said.

It added: “Russia’s blockade of Odesa continues to severely constrain Ukraine’s grain exports. Because of this, Ukraine’s agricultural exports in 2022 are unlikely to be more than 35% of the 2021 total”.

The British ministry also rejected the Russian claims over retreat from the Black Sea outpost of Snake Island where it has said that ‘the ball is now in Ukraine’s court’ in relation to improving grain exports.

“In reality, it is Russia’s disruption of Ukraine’s agricultural sector which continues to exacerbate the global food crisis,” the ministry said.

UK to pledge ‘long haul’ support to help rebuild Ukraine

05:44 , Arpan Rai

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss is set to pledge Britain’s support to Ukraine for the “long haul” to resist Vladimir Putin’s invasion and to rebuild the nation at a conference in Switzerland today.

Ms Truss is set to inform a recovery conference in Switzerland that the UK will “do everything possible to ensure Ukraine wins the war and recovers”, with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky having asked Britain to champion the recovery of Kyiv and the surrounding region, according to the Foreign Office.

The top foreign official will use the Lugano conference to set out a vision to give immediate support and long-term commitments to work alongside the Ukrainians, and will announce plans to host next year’s recovery conference as the government commits to a Marshall Plan-style programme, echoing the one used to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.

“Ukraine’s recovery from Russia’s war of aggression will be a symbol of the power of democracy over autocracy. It will show Putin that his attempts to destroy Ukraine have only produced a stronger, more prosperous and more united nation,” she is expected to say.

“The UK is resolute in its support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and will remain at Ukraine’s side as it emerges as a strong, thriving and cutting-edge democracy. We have led on support for Ukraine during the war and will continue to lead in supporting the Ukrainian government’s reconstruction and development plan.”

Britain pledges ‘long haul’ support to Ukraine over war and recovery

Russia lost more than 35,000 soldiers, claims Zelensky

05:06 , Arpan Rai

Counting Moscow’s losses, Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Russia has lost thousands of soldiers and he is cetain of Ukraine’s win in the ongoing war in Europe.

“They lost more than 35 thousand soldiers, and this is a conservative estimate. What is all this for? For the sake of insane propagandists to be able to show a Russian or Soviet flag on the ruins somewhere in their broadcasts... There is simply no other answer,” Mr Zelensky said late on Sunday.

He claimed that the Russian economy has landed itself in the “biggest crisis in the last 50 years”.

“The world severs ties with Russia. The words ‘collapse’, ‘deficit’ and ‘poverty’ will be the description of Russian life as long as this state wants to be a terrorist state,” he said.

Mr Zelensky added: “It is clear to everyone in the world – and, I am sure, to all the sane people in Russia itself – that Ukraine will win. It’s only a matter of time”.

“It is a matter, unfortunately, of the losses we suffer, primarily of people. It is a matter of modern weapons, which we must get and will definitely get,” he said in his nightly address.

Exiled oligarch says what comes after Vladimir Putin ‘one of my biggest concerns’

05:01 , Arpan Rai

An oligarch-turned-dissident, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has said that the person who will eventually replace Vladimir Putin, and the type of political system that emerges around them, is “probably one of my biggest concerns”,

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Khodorkovsky – once the richest man in Russia before his persecution and imprisonment by the Kremlin – said: “Russian people would like a good tsar. And the West would like a good tsar.

“But in Russia, a good tsar is always an imperialist. The only way to destroy that imperialistic mentality of Russian power is to change the system.”

Senior news correspondent Samuel Lovett has the full report here:

Mikhail Khodorkovsky: What comes after Vladimir Putin is one of my biggest concerns

Australian PM announces new measures to aid Ukraine

04:53 , Arpan Rai

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese has said that his country will aid Ukraine with 34 additional armoured vehicles and prohibit Russian gold imports.

On his symbolic visit to Kyiv, Mr Albanese on Sunday said Australia would impose sanctions and travel bans on 16 more Russian ministers and oligarchs, bringing the total number of Russian individuals sanctioned by Australia to 843.

Australia will give Ukraine 14 more armoured personnel carriers and 20 Bushmaster vehicles, the newly elected PM said.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also thanked the Australian PM for his visit and called it a “historical moment”.

“Australia is one of the top countries in terms of its level of support. We have already received significant defense assistance from it. Today, Mr. Prime Minister announced a new support package. I am grateful to him for that,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “Australia will also increase sanctions against Russia. This is the result of our constant activity, which increases the cost of this war for Russia”.

Zelensky confirms withdrawal from Lysychansk, vows to return

04:41 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed that Ukrainian forces have exited from Lysychansk, the last major city in Luhansk still under Ukrainian control.

However, the Ukrainian president vowed to restore control over the area thanks to the army’s tactics and the prospect of new, improved weaponry.

“If the commanders of our army withdraw people from certain points at the front, where the enemy has the greatest advantage in fire power, and this also applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

“That we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.”

He added: “Ukraine does not give anything up. And when someone over there in Moscow reports something about the Luhansk region - let them remember their reports and promises before February 24, in the first days of this invasion, in the spring and now.”

04:33 , Arpan Rai

Good morning!

Hello, Arpan Rai here, I welcome you to our rolling Ukraine coverage now.

Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates!

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