Russia-Ukraine war: Ukrainian special ops rescue five from Russian-occupied Kherson in daring raid

Five Ukrainian troops have been rescued in a special operation in the southern Kherson region, occupied by pro-Russian forces.

Authorities said "five Ukraine citizens held by the Russian occupiers were released," during a "special operation" by forces of the Ukrainian military intelligence.

A military serviceman, a former police officer and three civilians had been freed and one of those released has a "serious combat wound", Ukraine's armed forces said in a statement.

A Russian-installed official in Kherson gave a different version of events, claiming that at least seven people had been killed and that civilians and civilian infrastructure had been hit.

The area Ukraine struck is one of strategic importance with Black Sea access, a once thriving agricultural industry, and a location just north of Russian-annexed Crimea.

Follow the latest updates below.

05:29 PM

Separatists in Ukraine unveil Moscow 'embassy'

Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine inaugurated their "embassy" in Moscow on Tuesday as the Kremlin presses ahead with its offensive in the pro-Western country.

President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of Ukraine's breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk just days before he ordered the start of Moscow's intervention on February 24.

On Tuesday, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic unveiled its "embassy" in central Moscow, next to diplomatic missions of several Western countries.

Top Russian officials did not attend the ceremony amid a beefed-up police presence.

The head of the breakaway region's foreign ministry, Natalya Nikanorova, said the situation on the ground had worsened in recent days so they opted for a modest ceremony.

Separatist officials have long said they want their regions to eventually join Russia, but Nikanorova said on Tuesday the main goal was "to liberate the republic" and that "after that there will be a referendum".

04:50 PM

Death toll from collapsed Donbas apartment block rises to 43

The death toll under a collapsed apartment block in the Donetsk region town of Chasiv Yar has climbed to 43, with rescue work still not over four days after the building was hit by Russian rocket fire, emergency services said.

More than 420 tonnes of rubble had been cleared and nine people rescued from under the ruins, the regional emergency services directorate wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Sunday the strike was "another terrorist attack," and that Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism as a result.

Russia, which denies deliberately targeting civilians, said on Monday it had "destroyed the temporary deployment point" of a Ukrainian territorial defence unit in Chasiv Yar.

04:28 PM

Ukraine says grain talks must be resolved under UN auspices

Ahead of scheduled four-way talks in Turkey to unblock Ukraine's grain exports, Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Tuesday the grain issue must be resolved under the auspices of the United Nations.

"Ukraine advocates that the issue of unblocking Ukrainian grain be resolved under the auspices of the U.N.," foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko told Reuters.

"In this context, we are grateful to Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his active efforts to find a solution that will guarantee the security of the southern regions of our country," he said.

04:03 PM

Podcast: On the ground in the grinding battle for the Donbas

03:47 PM

UN chief on Ukraine grain export talks: 'still a way to go'

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that "there is still a way to go" in talks to try and resume Ukraine Black Sea exports of grain.

Military delegations from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will meet with UN officials on Wednesday to discuss the issue, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday.

"We are working hard indeed, but there is still a way to go," Guterres told reporters. "Many people are talking about it, we prefer to try and do it."

03:39 PM

Civilian toll in Ukraine conflict passes 5,000 mark, UN says

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Tuesday that more than 5,000 civilians had been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, adding that the real toll was likely much higher.

OHCHR, which has dozens of human rights monitors in the country, said in its weekly update that 5,024 people had been killed and 6,520 injured.

03:07 PM

Ukraine reports striking Russian ammunition depot in south

Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday that their forces targeted a Russian ammunition depot in southern Ukraine overnight, resulting in a massive explosion captured on social media.

The Ukrainian military's southern command said a rocket strike targeted the depot in Russian-held Nova Kakhovka, about 35 miles (55km) east of the Black Sea port city of Kherson, controlled by Russian forces.

The precision of the strike suggested Ukrainian forces used US-supplied multiple-launch High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, to hit the area.

Ukraine indicated in recent days that it might launch a counteroffensive to reclaim territory in the country's south as Russia devotes resources to capturing all of the eastern Donbas region.

A satellite photo taken on Tuesday and analysed by The Associated Press showed significant damage. A massive crater stood in the place of where a large warehouse-like structure once stood in the city,

02:34 PM

Russia gives exiting firms time by pausing asset seizure law

Moscow's plan to implement a new law enabling authorities to seize the assets of Western firms leaving the country failed to get through parliament before the summer recess, giving companies more time to negotiate exits.

Russia's parliamentary session ended last week without the bill being passed. That makes any progress unlikely until at least mid-September, when the lower house of parliament, the Duma, begins reviewing proposed laws in its autumn session.

Some experts now doubt whether the proposed law will be implemented at all.

The delay may ease concerns that Moscow is taking a more aggressive approach to remaining Western firms, heightened by President Vladimir Putin's decision last month to seize full control of the Sakhalin-2 gas and oil project by decree.

02:15 PM

Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and UN meeting on grain

Military delegations from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will meet with a United Nations delegation to discuss the safe export of Ukrainian grain amid worsening food supply shortages.

The summit will take place on July 13, the Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.

“Military delegations from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine and a United Nations delegation will be conducting talks in Istanbul tomorrow regarding safe transfer of grain waiting in Ukrainian ports to international markets via sea route,” he said.

The talks comes at a time of record high food prices globally, as conflict in Ukraine, the world's largest grain supplier, has fuelled concerns about food security.

Turkey has played a key role in talks between the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine on a potential Black Sea corridor to export grain from Ukraine.

01:44 PM

Could Ukraine legalise same-sex marriage?

Same-sex marriage could be legalised in Ukraine, after a petition gained enough signatures for the president to consider the proposal.

The country's president Volodymyr Zelensky has ten days to respond to the petition demanding the change, signed nearly 28,000 times.

Same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are not formally recognised in Ukraine, though homosexuality is not outlawed.

This has created obstacles for LGBT people fighting against Russia's invasion. Under Ukrainian law, if a soldier in a same-sex relationship dies, their partner cannot collect their body or bury them.

Mr Zelensky has not indicated how he will respond.

01:32 PM

In maps: The defence of Donetsk

12:58 PM

Iran to supply Russians with UAVs for Ukraine, says White House

Iran is planning to supply hundreds of drones with combat weapon capabilities to Russia for use in Ukraine, a top US official has said.

Jake Sullivan, the White House national security advisor, said the information received by the US supported views that the Russian military is facing challenges sustaining its weaponry after significant losses in Ukraine.

"The Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), including weapons-capable UAVs, on an expedited timeline," Sullivan told reporters.

"Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs, with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July," he said.

Iran responded by saying that "no special development" had taken place and cooperation with Russia "in the field of some modern technologies predates the war in Ukraine".

12:38 PM

West plotting to attack Russia, claims Belarus president

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has claimed that the West is preparing to attack Russia via the country.

Speaking to military graduates and officers, Lukashenko said he discussed the alleged Western plot with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

"Strategic plans for an attack against Russia are being developed," Lukashenko alleged, saying the West would seek to target Russia "through Ukraine and through Belarus".

"History is repeating itself," he said, in an apparent reference to the invasion of Russia by Napoleon's troops in 1812 and by Nazi Germany in 1941.

Belarus, the Kremlin's main ally, has served as a staging ground for the Russian army in its offensive on neighbouring Ukraine. Western countries have never publicly said they are planning to attack Russia.

But Lukashenko pointed to the expansion of the Nato military alliance, saying the "newly-minted crusaders" were "forming an armoured fist" to attack Russia.

12:27 PM

Himars rockets strike fear into Russians

Read more here on how it works.  

12:12 PM

US and Japan agree to tackle economic hit of Ukraine war

The US Treasury Secretary and Japan's finance minister have joined forces to tackle rising prices of food and energy, as well as volatility in currency markets, exacerbated by Russia's war in Ukraine.

Janet Yellen and  Shunichi Suzuki said the war had raised exchange rate volatility, which could pose adverse implications for economic and financial stability, and pledged to cooperate "as appropriate" on currency issues.

"We will continue to consult closely on exchange markets and cooperate as appropriate on currency issues, in line with our G7 and G20 commitments," the two sides said in a joint statement after the meeting, referring to the Group of Seven and Group of 20 economies.

Yellen also acknowledged the yen's substantial depreciation in recent weeks, but said the US view remained that currency intervention was warranted only in "rare and exceptional circumstances".

12:04 PM

Ukraine receives $1.7 billion in new global financial assistance

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal thanked the United States on Tuesday for its "incredible support" after Ukraine received a further $1.7-billion (£1.4bn) in international financial assistance.

Shmyhal confirmed receipt of a grant which he said on Saturday would come from a Single-Donor Trust Fund created by the World Bank's International Bank for Reconstruction, the International Development Association and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

"Grateful to US & @POTUS (US President Joe Biden) for incredible support," he wrote on Twitter.

He said on Saturday the non-refundable grant had been agreed "due to Russia's large-scale aggression against Ukraine" and would go towards state budget costs for medical services.

11:20 AM

Scotland will send Ukrainian refugees to disused high-rises and block new applications

Nicola Sturgeon’s government has said that Scotland will refuse to accept new applications to house Ukrainian refugees and that it plans to send those fleeing the Russian invasion to live in disused high-rises and on a ferry.

Earlier this year, the government said it would become a “super sponsor” for the resettlement scheme, and the First Minister insisted there would be no cap on the number of refugees welcomed.

However, it announced on Monday morning that there would be a three-month “pause” to the scheme because of a lack of safe accommodation available.

As part of emergency measures, the Scottish government has chartered a ferry, the MS Victoria, which will be docked in Leith and have 739 rooms in which people can be temporarily accommodated.

10:56 AM

EU approves one billion euros in financial aid

EU finance ministers have approved one billion euros (£846m) in financial aid to Ukraine, a first instalment of a promised nine billion euro (£7.6bn)  budget for Kyiv agreed by European leaders in May.

"This will give Ukraine the necessary funds to cover urgent needs and ensure the operation of critical infrastructure," said Zbynek Stanjura, Minister of Finance from the Czech Republic, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.

10:44 AM

Vladimir Putin to travel to Tehran

Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Tehran on July 19 for a Syria summit with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin has announced.

"The president's visit to Tehran is being planned for July 19," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He said the trio would meet for peace talks on Syria.

10:21 AM

EU freezes Russian assets worth $13.8 billion

The European Union has frozen Russian assets worth $13.8 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has said.

"For the moment, we have frozen - coming from oligarchs and other entities - 13.8 billion euros (£11.7 billion), so it's quite huge," Reynders told reporters in Prague.

"But I must say that a very large part of it is more than 12 billion... coming from five member states," he added ahead of an informal meeting of EU justice ministers held by the Czech presidency of the EU.

He refused to name the five countries, but added he expected the other countries in the 27-member bloc to step up their efforts soon.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner put the value of assets frozen by Germany alone at 4.48 billion euros (£3.79 bn) in mid-June.

09:58 AM

Man pulled from rubble after Russia strikes residential building in Donetsk

09:41 AM

Himars rockets strike fear into Russians: ‘This is just the beginning’

US-supplied Himars rocket strikes are so accurate they can “land on a single penny” and Russian forces should be prepared for a “hammering” over the coming weeks, a blogger who witnessed a strike reported.

“Yesterday I happened to witness a Himars strike on Chernobayevka in Kherson, practically in front of my eyes,” Roman Saponkov, a Russian military blogger embedded with frontline Russian forces wrote on Telegram on Monday.

“I’ve been under fire many times, but I was struck by the fact that the whole packet, five or six rockets, landed practically on a penny,” he wrote on Telegram. “Usually MLRS lands in a wide area, and at maximum range it completely scatters like a fan. It makes an impression, I won’t dispute that.”

“It is clear this is just the beginning,” he added.

You can read our full report from Roland Oliphant here.

09:08 AM

12 wounded by shelling in Mykolaiv

At least 12 people were wounded in shelling of Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv overnight, the regional governor has said.

Rockets from multiple rocket launchers landed on two medical facilities and residential buildings, Vitaly Kim said.

"So far there are 12 wounded," Mr Kim said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

08:52 AM

Ukraine confirms strike on Russian ammunitions depot

Ukraine said it has struck Russian military units and an ammunitions depot in the Russian-controlled region of Kherson, where Moscow-backed authorities claimed seven people had been killed.

Ukrainian military officials responsible for the south of the country said Ukrainian shelling and missiles had killed 52 Russian servicemen, artillery, armoured vehicles "and a warehouse with ammunition in Nova Kakhovka".

08:19 AM

Grant Shapps vows to spend 3pc of GDP on defence

Grant Shapps has said the UK "can't afford not to" boost defence spending and wants to increase it to 3 per cent of GDP.

Writing in The Times, the Transport Secretary said: "Freedom is not free. That is why, as prime minister, I will raise defence spending to 3pc of GDP, in contrast to Nato's recommended minimum of 2pc."

Boris Johnson recently committed to increasing defence spending to 2.5pc of GDP by the end of the decade after a Cabinet row over the issue.

But this is not enough to prevent Britain from falling behind other Nato countries in the spending league table, including Poland and Lithuania, which have increased their military budgets following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, according to Mr Hunt.

Mr Shapps pointed to the kit limitations of the Navy and the RAF, adding: "The Army is shrinking in manpower, artillery and armour. Quality is vital, but quantity has a quality all of its own."

"The defence of the realm is the first duty of Her Majesty's Government. Can we afford to spend more money on this core responsibility? The answer is, we can't afford not to."

07:50 AM

Ukraine today, in pictures

Russia-Ukraine war: Death toll rises as rescuers dig for survivors in Donetsk apartment block rubble - ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock 
Russia-Ukraine war: Death toll rises as rescuers dig for survivors in Donetsk apartment block rubble - ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
Russia-Ukraine war: Death toll rises as rescuers dig for survivors in Donetsk apartment block rubble - SERGEY BOBOK /AFP
Russia-Ukraine war: Death toll rises as rescuers dig for survivors in Donetsk apartment block rubble - SERGEY BOBOK /AFP

07:18 AM

Ukrainian strike 'kills seven' in Russian-held town

At least seven people were killed in an attack by Ukrainian armed forces on Monday in the Russian-held town of Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine's southern Kherson region, Russian state news agency TASS has said.

"There are already seven dead for sure and about 60 wounded," TASS quoted Vladimir Leontyev, head of Russia-installed Kakhovka District military-civilian administration in the Kherson region.

"There are still many people under the rubble. The injured are being taken to the hospital, but many people are blocked in their apartments and houses," Mr Leontyev added.

According to TASS, in addition to damaged buildings, the attack also led to an explosion at fertiliser warehouses in the region.

Russia-Ukraine war: Death toll rises as rescuers dig for survivors in Donetsk apartment block rubble - EPN/Newscom / Avalon /Avalon 
Russia-Ukraine war: Death toll rises as rescuers dig for survivors in Donetsk apartment block rubble - EPN/Newscom / Avalon /Avalon

06:43 AM

Russia may recruit prisoners to plug holes in troop shortage

The Russian army's troop shortage may force Moscow to turn to "non-traditional recruitment" - such as recruiting prisoners - to plug holes in their military.

"If true, this move likely indicates difficulties in replacing the significant numbers of Russian casualties," the UK's Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday.

06:27 AM

Six people dead in attack by Ukrainian troops

At least six people have been confirmed dead in an attack by Ukrainian armed forces in Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

"There are six people confirmed. And many dozens injured, (with) shrapnel wounds, cuts," Vladimir Leontyev, head of the Kakhovka District military-civilian administration in Kherson, said.

"There are still many people under the rubble. The injured are being taken to the hospital, but many people are blocked in their apartments and houses."

05:45 AM

Russia says dozens injured after Ukraine strike in Nova Kakhovka

Dozens of people have been injured following a strike by Ukrainian troops in the Russian-held town of Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region.

Ukrainian officials said their forces had destroyed an ammunition depot in the town.

Vladimir Leontyev, head of the Kakhovka District military-civilian administration in the Kherson region, said the injured had been taken to a city and a military hospital, adding the attack had sparked an explosion at warehouses containing fertiliser and damaged other buildings.

"Unfortunately, there are casualties, a large number of injured, dozens of people were left homeless," Russian state news agency TASS quoted Mr Leontyev as saying.

04:29 AM

Ukraine warns Russia planning heaviest attacks yet

Russia is likely planning to launch some of its most intense attacks yet in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian army has warned.

"There are signs of enemy units preparing to intensify combat operations in the direction of Kramatorsk and Bakhmut," the army said, referring to two main cities still under Ukrainian control.

Ukraine's east has been left devastated from relentless bombardments, with deadly Russian rocket strikes on Monday slamming Kharkiv in a targeted attack on a "shopping centre and civilian residences", regional chief Oleg Synyegubov said.

Six civilians were killed, including a 17-year-old and his father, who were driving past at the time of the attack, according to reports.

Ukrainian serviceman on the front line in the south of Kharkiv - AFP
Ukrainian serviceman on the front line in the south of Kharkiv - AFP

03:38 AM

'It was chaos': Survivor shares terror as strikes ruin apartment block

A survivor, who gave her name as Venera, has spoken through tears of wanting to save her two kittens after her Chasiv Yar apartment block burst into flames following Russia's attack.

"I was thrown into the bathroom, it was all chaos, I was in shock, all covered in blood," she said, crying.

"By the time I left the bathroom, the room was full up of rubble, three floors fell down.

"I never found the kittens."

According to experts, Russia is using barrages to pave the way for a renewed push for territory by ground forces.

Firefighters conduct search and rescue operations on debris of buildings after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas in Chasiv Yar - Anadolu
Firefighters conduct search and rescue operations on debris of buildings after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas in Chasiv Yar - Anadolu

02:31 AM

Death 'count goes on' as Donetsk apartment block destroyed

01:24 AM

Iran planning to arm Russia with drones, US says

Iran is planning to supply hundreds of drones with combat weapon capabilities to Russia for use in Ukraine, a top US official said on Monday.

Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said the information received by the US supported views that the Russian military is facing challenges sustaining its weaponry after significant losses in Ukraine.

"The Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), including weapons-capable UAVs, on an expedited timeline," Mr Sullivan told reporters.

"Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs, with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July," he said.

Read the full story here

Russian missile destroys building in Kharkiv - AFP
Russian missile destroys building in Kharkiv - AFP

01:14 AM

Today's top stories

  • The US believes Iran is preparing to arm Russia with hundreds of drones

  • Ukraine warned on Monday that Russian forces were preparing to intensify their fight for key cities in the Donbas

  • At least six people were killed in Russian missile strikes on Kharkiv, the country's prosecutor general has said

  • The death toll of a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in eastern Ukraine has risen to 31

  • Ukraine's foreign ministry condemned a decree from President Vladimir Putin to offer fast track citizenship for all Ukrainians

  • Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov announced he will hand over his entire media empire to the government