Russia steps up attacks on Ukraine as world leaders gather in Europe to discuss further sanctions against Moscow while the conflict moves into its 124th day.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says "over a thousand civilians" were in the mall at the time. (AFP)

Monday, June 27, 2022

Missile strike hits crowded mall in Ukraine

A Russian missile strike on a crowded mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk killed at least 10 people and injured more than 40, a regional governor said.

"Ten dead and more than 40 people have been injured. This is currently the situation in Kremenchuk due to the missile strike," said Dmytro Lunin, the governor of the Poltava region where Kremenchuk is located.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said "over a thousand civilians" were in the mall when the missiles struck the city, which had a pre-war population of 220,000 people. "The mall is on fire, rescuers are fighting the fire. The number of victims is impossible to imagine," Zelenskyy wrote on Facebook.

Russia expelling eight Greek diplomats 

Russia declared eight Greek diplomats "personae non gratae" and gave them eight days to leave the country, the Russian foreign ministry has said.

The foreign ministry said it had summoned the Greek ambassador to protest over what it called "the confrontational course of the Greek authorities towards Russia, including the supply of weapons and military equipment to the Kiev regime".

The ministry said it had also protested against a Greek decision to declare a group of Russian diplomats "personae non gratae".

US to send Ukraine air-defence missiles

The United States is planning to send Ukraine sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to defend against Russian onslaught, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said.

"I can confirm that we are in fact, in the process of finalising a package that includes advanced air defence capabilities," Sullivan told reporters in Germany, where President Joe Biden was attending the G7 summit.

Sullivan said Biden had told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy - who joined the G7 talks by video link - that the United States was preparing shipment of "advanced medium- and long-range air defence capabilities." Sullivan said additional aid being prepared due to "urgent need" also included artillery ammunition and counter-battery radar systems, which are used to pinpoint the source of enemy artillery firing.

Moldova is also vulnerable: President Maia Sandu 

Moldova's president said during a visit to Ukraine that her country was "fragile and vulnerable" and needed help to remain "part of the free world".

Four days after European Union leaders decided to accept Ukraine and Moldova as membership candidates, President Maia Sandu visited three towns where Ukraine alleges Russian forces committed atrocities.

"This shouldn't happen. And, you know, it is heartbreaking to see what we see here and to hear the stories," she said in Bucha out side Kiev, calling for anyone found guilty of atrocities to be punished.

Ukraine at fault for missile 'falling' on Kiev residential building: Russia 

Russia's defence ministry has denied responsibility for a missile that hit a Kiev residential building over the weekend, saying it was likely caused by a failure of Ukraine's air defence system.

Missiles struck the Ukrainian capital Kiev for the first time in weeks on Sunday. Ukraine said an apartment block and a site close to a kindergarten were hit, with US President Joe Biden saying the attacks were more evidence of Russia's "barbarism" in its offensive against Ukraine.

In a statement, the Russian defence ministry said it had fired four missiles that hit their target, an arms factory in Kiev.

Putin to make first visits abroad since start of Ukraine conflict 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe in a first foreign trip since the start of the Ukraine conflict.

The visit was announced by his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov at a press briefing in Moscow on Monday. "A working visit of President Putin to Tajikistan is scheduled for tomorrow. He will meet (Tajikistan’s President Emomali ) Rahmon for talks," Peskov said.

After Tajikistan, the Russian leader will go to Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat where he will attend the 2022 summit of the Caspian states, Peskov said.

Zelenskyy told G7 'now's not the time for negotiations': French presidency

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told G7 leaders on that the time has not yet come to open negotiations with Russia, as Kiev is still seeking to consolidate its positions, the French presidency has said.

"President Zelenskyy gave a very clear response that now is not the time for negotiations. Ukraine will negotiate when it is in a position to do so, that is, when it has basically re-established a position of strength," the French presidency said after the Ukrainian leader joined the G7 summit via video-link.

G7 to up pressure on Putin, vows solidarity

The G7 has vowed solidarity with Ukraine "for as long as it takes", in a statement issued after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy video address.

The host of the group's summit in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said the G7 will "increase pressure" on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"This war has to come to an end," Scholz tweeted. The G7 also told Russia it must allow grain shipments to leave Ukraine to avoid exacerbating a global food crisis. It said Moscow must allow Ukrainians taken to Russia against their will to return home at once.

Zelenskyy presses G7 for more help

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for anti-aircraft defence systems, more sanctions on Russia and security guarantees as he has addressed leaders of the Group of Seven summit, a European official has said.

Addressing the summit in the Bavarian Alps via video link, Zelenskiy also asked for help to export grain from Ukraine and for reconstruction aid, the European official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He could be seen on a television screen next to the round table where the leaders sat at the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel.

US announces new G7 sanctions targeting Russia's defence sector

The United States has announced new G7 sanctions targeting Russia's defence industry in a bid to hobble the Kremlin's ability to maintain the military machine during its offensive in Ukraine.

"G7 leaders will align and expand targeted sanctions to further restrict Russia's access" to Western technology that can support the Russian arms industry, the White House said.

And the US will also "aggressively target Russian defence supply chains...and limit Russia's ability to replace the military equipment it has already lost during its brutal war".

Authorities urge civilians to 'urgently' evacuate Ukraine's Lysychansk

Regional authorities have urged civilians to urgently evacuate the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk which is being attacked by Russian forces.

"Dear residents of Lysychansk city territorial community and their relatives! Due to the real threat to life and health, we call on you to evacuate urgently," Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

He said the situation in Lysychansk was "very difficult" but did not say how many civilians remained there. About 100,000 people lived in the city before the Russian offensive in Ukraine began on February 24.

US to send anti-air system to Ukraine

As the Group of Seven economic powers commit themselves to supporting Ukraine in the long haul, the US prepares to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile system for Kiev.

The US is purchasing NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system, to provide medium- to long-range defence, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. NASAMS is the same system used by the US to protect the sensitive airspace around the White House and US Capitol in Washington.

Additional aid includes more ammunition for Ukrainian artillery, as well as counter-battery radars, to support its efforts against the Russian assault in the Donbass, the person said.

G7 set to back pursuing Russian oil price cap, tariff hikes

The Group of Seven economic powers are set to announce an agreement to pursue a price cap on Russian oil, aiming to curb Moscow's energy revenues, a US official has said.

The move is part of a joint effort of support for Ukraine that includes raising tariffs on Russian goods and imposing new sanctions on hundreds of Russian officials and entities supporting the four month long conflict.

Leaders were finalising the deal to seek a price cap during their three-day summit in the German Alps. The details of how a price cap would work, as well as its impact on the Russian economy, were to be resolved by the G7 finance ministers in the coming weeks and months.

G7 agrees to use Russia trade tariffs to fund Ukraine: US

G7 leaders have agreed that money collected from higher trade tariffs imposed on Russian exports should be funneled as aid to Ukraine, the White House has said.

President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders "will seek authority to use revenues collected by any new tariffs on Russian goods to help Ukraine and to ensure that Russia pays for the cost of its war," a senior US official said.

New Zealand to send over $2.8M in non-lethal military support to Ukraine

New Zealand has announced $2.8 million in additional non-lethal military support for Ukraine, according to an official statement.

The support was announced just a day ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to attend.

“We are also contributing a further $4.5 million via the NATO Trust Fund for priority non-lethal military supplies . This includes items like military first aid kits, fuel, communications equipment and rations. This is on top of $4.24 million to the NATO fund announced in March,” said Ardern in a statement.

Germany's Scholz says talks on Russia gold ban still ongoing

Discussions on an import ban on Russian gold are ongoing and need to be held with European Union partners, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has told broadcaster ZDF.

The European Union gave a cautious response on Sunday to a plan from Britain, the United States, Japan and Canada to ban imports of newly mined or refined Russian gold.

EU countries to discuss options to jointly curb gas demand

European Union countries' energy ministers will discuss options for how they could jointly curb gas demand, as the bloc grapples with cuts to Russian supplies and prepares for possible further supply shocks.

"I plan to present to ministers the concrete steps that I believe we have to make, both at member states' side and the Commission's side, to be better prepared," EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said on her arrival to the meeting of energy ministers in Luxembourg.

The Commission will present an EU plan to co-ordinate preparations for further gas supply shocks in July.

UN: Ukraine conflict could boost illegal drug production

The conflict in Ukraine could allow illegal drug production to flourish, while the opium market's future hinges on the fate of crisis-wracked Afghanistan, the United Nations has warned.

Previous experience from the Middle East and Southeast Asia suggests conflict zones can act as a "magnet" for making synthetic drugs, which can be manufactured anywhere, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report on Monday.

"This effect may be greater when the conflict area is near large consumer markets."

Ukraine's capacity to produce synthetic drugs could grow as the conflict continues, it added. "You don't have police going around and stopping laboratories" in conflict zones, UNODC expert Angela Me told the AFP news agency. 

For live updates from Sunday (June 26), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies