Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has claimed 243 children have been killed so far in the war and 200,000 children have been forcefully taken to Russia, including children from orphanages, children taken with their parents and those separated from their families. Speaking in relation to children take to Russia, he said: “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.”
In her first public speech since leaving office about six months ago, Angela Merkel has described Russia’s war on Ukraine as a “barbaric war of aggression” which amounted to a “far-reaching turning point”. She said whilst she was reluctant to give her views from the sidelines as the former German chancellor, she could not avoid talking about the most “glaring breach of international law” in the history of Europe since the end of the second world war.
Russia has taken control of most of the key eastern Ukrainian city of Sieverodonetsk, the UK ministry of defence has said in its latest intelligence report. The report adds: “The main road into the Sieverodonetsk pocket likely remains under Ukrainian control but Russia continues to make steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery.”
The chief spokesman for Russia’s ministry of defence, Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, has claimed that the number of foreign mercenaries fighting for Ukraine has halved since the the start of the war, due to Russian high-precision strikes and their own poor training. He also had a warning for those still fighting as mercenaries in Ukraine, saying “Let me remind you that in accordance with international humanitarian law, mercenaries are not combatants and the best that awaits them is criminal liability.️”
The headquarters of the territorial defence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic claims to have 222 settlements are under their control. They claim overnight ten areas of Donetsk were shelled by Ukrainian forces, and that one person was killed and 19 more were injured.
Foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Ukraine is working with international partners to create a United Nations-backed mission to restore Black Sea shipping routes and export Ukrainian farm produce.
Slovakia will deliver eight self-propelled Zuzana 2 howitzers to Ukraine under a commercial contract which a state-controlled producer signed, the Slovak Defence Ministry has said.
Ukraine’s football victory over Scotland in their Fifa World Cup playoff semi-final last night gave the country, in the words of Zelenskiy, “two hours of happiness to which we are not accustomed.”
The US announced yesterday it will send Ukraine four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition to help try to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region. The rocket systems are part of a new $700m tranche of security assistance that also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more. It will take at least three weeks to get the precision weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, the Pentagon said.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the supply of US advanced rocket systems to Ukraine increases the risk of a “third country” being dragged into the conflict. Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, said that Moscow viewed US military aid to Ukraine “extremely negatively” and that it would increase the risk of a direct confrontation. The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov added: “We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire.”
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said Ukraine has given “assurances” that it will not use long-range weapons systems provided by Washington against targets on Russian territory.
A Russian missile hit rail lines in the western Lviv region, a key conduit for supplies of western weapons and other supplies, officials said. Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskiy said five people were wounded in the strike. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the country’s interior minister, said the Russians hit the Beskidy railway tunnel in the Carpathian Mountains in an apparent effort to cut a key railway link and disrupt shipments of weapons and fuel.
Denmark has voted overwhelmingly to join the EU’s common defence policy, becoming the last of the bloc’s members to sign up. The referendum on Wednesday, in which voters backed the government’s proposal by 66.9% to 33.1%, followed historic applications by Denmark’s previously non-aligned Nordic neighbours, Finland and Sweden, to join Nato last month.
Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said he will convene a meeting in Brussels in the coming days with senior officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey to discuss Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. Blinken said there was a “strong consensus within Nato, broadly, to support the rapid accession of Sweden and Finland” to Nato and he was confident it would happen.