Ukraine has fired British Storm Shadow missiles at an occupied port used by the Kremlin to export stolen grain, according to Russian officials, writes James Kilner.
Video posted on the Telegram social messaging app showed at least one large explosion consistent with a missile strike on the port area of occupied Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov, 65 miles behind the front line.
“Information on the fatalities is being clarified,” Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-installed official in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
He shared the footage of a large plume of smoke rising from the port.
“Three to six Storm Shadow missiles hit the city. According to some reports, four people were injured as a result of the strike,” the Rybar Telegram channel told its 1.3 million subscribers.
Ukraine has only been able to hit Berdyansk since last month when the British government handed over Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have a range of up to 200 miles.
— ukraine_defence (@ukrdefence) June 2, 2023
The Storm Shadow missiles are fired by Ukraine’s warplanes and have already been used to hit supply depots and command posts in Luhansk, as well as at least one previous strike on Berdyansk.
Military analysts have said that strikes on Berdyansk were part of Ukraine’s “shaping strategy” ahead of its heavily-trailed counteroffensive. The Kremlin has exported tonnes of stolen Ukrainian grain through Berdyansk to allied countries, such as Syria.
A Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports last year threaten to trigger a famine in Africa until the UN stepped in to negotiate a deal but this appears to be unravelling.
On Thursday, Ukraine accused Russia of undermining the deal because of its “unjustified refusal to register the incoming fleet” into three Ukrainian ports.
Russian officials instead said that Ukraine’s refusal to reopen a pipeline pumping ammonia, a fertiliser, from central Russia to the Black Sea coast, had caused the grain deal to falter.
In southern Russia, Russian media reported that thousands of people were fleeing sustained shelling of the town of Shebekino and outlying villages along the Ukrainian border.
Russians allied to Ukraine had attacked the area on Thursday, triggering a battle with Russian forces and destroying several buildings.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, said that there were now 2,500 people who had fled Shebekino and villages along the border with Ukraine living in temporary accommodation in Belgorod City. Hundreds of people are also being sent to neighbouring cities and regions.
“Of course, conditions are difficult,” Mr Gladkov said. “These are huge sports facilities with hundreds of beds where both adults, children, the elderly, and the young sleep.”
Two women were killed when a shell hit the car they were travelling in to escape from Shebekino and shops damaged by shelling have been looted, Russian media also reported.
Video uploaded onto the Telegram social messaging system showed burning buildings which commentators said had been hit by shells today and hundreds of cars queuing along country roads. Many people were angry at what they viewed as the Russian military’s failure to defend the Russian border and officials’ failure to organise a proper evacuation.
“A shell fell not far from our house, all the windows flew, it was very scary,” said one woman who had escaped to Belgorod City with her cat, Felix.
There were also reports that order had broken down in Shebekino. A local Telegram channel posted a video of the smashed-up glass door of an abandoned supermarket in the centre of the town.
“We have previously received reports of possible looting but we are writing about it only now,” club_shebekino reported.
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Chechen special forces deployed to eastern Ukraine
Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Friday that the “Akhmat” group of Chechen special forces were waging an offensive near the town of Mariinka, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk.
Together with the Wagner mercenary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, troops from Russia’s Chechen Republic have been one of the main driving forces behind Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.
Akhmat commander Apti Alaudinov said on Thursday that his forces were being moved to “another area” in preparation for a counter-offensive, but did not say where the troops were or where they were going.
Unlike Mr Prigozhin, who has repeatedly lambasted Russia’s military leadership, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has recently refrained from echoing criticism of the defence ministry.
Members of the two groups have since openly sparred, with one of Mr Kadyrov’s close allies on Thursday casting Mr Prigozhin as a blogger who yells all the time about problems.
Zelensky welcomes Estonian President to Kyiv
I welcome President of Estonia @AlarKaris to Kyiv.
Estonia is among those whose assistance to our defense is the fastest and the largest, if you look at the ratio of aid to the country's GDP. Thank you for all your support!
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 2, 2023
Zelensky says Kyiv knows it won't join Nato until Russia war ends
President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he understood that Ukraine would not join the Nato military alliance while the war with Russia was still going.
“We are adequate people and understand that we will not pull any Nato country into a war,” he said during a joint briefing in Kyiv with Estonian President Alar Karis.
“And that’s why we understand that we won’t be a member of Nato while this war is ongoing. Not because we don’t want to, because it’s impossible.”
Russian shelling reportedly kills two in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region
Two people were killed and four others were wounded in Russian shelling of the village of Komyshevaha in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, the regional governor has claimed.
Yuriy Malashko said on the Telegram messaging app that Russian forces had hit a multi-storey residential building in the small village close to the front line in southeastern Ukraine.
Pictured: Graves of fallen Ukrainian servicemen in Lviv
'Path is open' for Ukraine to join Nato, says Ben Wallace
Britain supports adding Ukraine to Nato and “that path is open” to them, although political realities may slow the process, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security meetings in Singapore.
He noted that it is not possible to add members in the middle of a war, and that the way forward was to continue aiding and arming Ukraine for both short- and long-term security.
“The best thing we can do to help Ukraine is now to help them defeat Russia,” Mr Wallace said in an interview. “After that is to make sure they’re ready and capable and resilient.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Kyiv wanted “a clear decision” on its accession at the summit.
Zelensky orders audit of all bomb shelters in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had ordered a complete audit of bomb shelters in the capital Kyiv and across the country.
He made the remark during a high-level government security meeting, a day after three people were killed in the capital after being unable to access a shelter during a Russian air strike.
Pictured: Aftermath of Kyiv strike
Sanctions on Russia over Ukraine must be maintained, Japan says
Japan and like-minded countries must be united and maintain sanctions on Russia until it ends its aggression in Ukraine, Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said.
“Judging from the situation and especially what Russia is saying and doing, I think it’s important that the G7 and like-minded countries still remain united and continue severe sanctions against Russia,” Hayashi told a press conference.
He said he hoped sanctions would encourage Russia to put an “end its aggression as soon as possible so that we can reach the phase that we can use the dialogue and peace talks”.
Russian city woken by overnight drone attack
Russia shot down several “Ukrainian drones” during an overnight attack on the western city of Kursk, its governor has claimed.
Footage shared on social media showed Russian air defences firing missiles into the night sky, with other videos showing loud explosions in the city, which is more than 50 miles from the Ukrainian border.
“We ask the residents of Kursk to remain calm, the city is under the reliable protection of our army,” said Roman Starovoyt, the governor of the Kursk region,.
Baza, a Russian news channel, reported that eight drones were shot down.
Blinken: US seeks 'just and lasting peace' for Ukraine
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was working with Ukraine and other allies to build consensus around the core elements of a “just and lasting peace” to end the war with Russia.
Washington would also encourage initiatives by other countries to bring about an end to the conflict, as long as they uphold the United Nations Charter and Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
“We will support efforts – whether by Brazil, China, or any other nation – if they help find a way to a just and lasting peace,” Mr Blinken said in a speech.
Germany says its reluctant to send long-range missiles to Ukraine
.@Bundeskanzler Scholz: Germany will support #Ukraine with military aid “for as long as necessary”
Defense Minister #Pistorius: “We are very reluctant” to fulfill 🇺🇦’s request for Taurus cruise missiles
‘As long as necessary’ will last much longer if 🇩🇪 refuses to send #Taurus pic.twitter.com/sKMeZEtU0r
— Jessica Berlin (@berlin_bridge) June 2, 2023
China's Ukraine envoy urges governments to 'stop sending weapons to the battlefield'
China’s Ukraine envoy appealed to other governments to “stop sending weapons to the battlefield” and hold peace talks but gave no indication that his trip to the region made any progress toward a settlement.
Li Hui’s appeal came as Washington and its European allies are ramping up supplies of missiles, tanks and other weapons to Ukrainian forces that are trying to take back Russian-occupied territory.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government says it is neutral and wants to serve as a mediator but has supported Moscow politically.
“China believes that if we really want to put an end to war, to save lives and realize peace, it is important for us to stop sending weapons to the battlefield, or else the tensions will only spiral up,” Li told reporters.
Pictured: People shelter in a subway station in Kyiv
Ukraine says it downed 36 missiles and drones in new attacks
Ukraine said it destroyed all 15 missiles and 21 drones from a new wave of overnight attacks that left two people wounded in Kyiv.
“The occupiers don’t stop trying to terrorise the capital of Ukraine with attack drones and missiles,” the air force said.
“All 15 cruise missiles and 21 attack drones were destroyed,” it added.
War criminal Wagner chief has written children's book
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has written a children’s book that features a king who grows too big for the land he rules.
The brutal leader of the mercenary group that has carried out war crimes in Ukraine wrote the illustrated book more than twenty years ago, the Moscow Times revealed.
In recent months Prigozhin, who spent nine years in prison for theft, has criticised the war effort led by Vladimir Putin, prompting speculation that he may have his own political ambitions.
Read more from James Kilner here
Two injured in Kyiv attacks
An 11-year-old child was wounded and a 68-year-old man was hospitalised in the aftermath of the attack on Kyiv on Friday morning, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said,
“As a result of the shelling, civilian objects - private houses, farm buildings and cars of civilians were damaged,” it said.
'Chloe the cat in Kyiv subway'
Instead of a thousand words.
Chloe the cat in Kyiv subway last night during the Russian attack on Kyiv. Her face says it all.
📷: Vadym Okhrymenko pic.twitter.com/XCuVBsmySD
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) June 2, 2023
Pictured: A Ukrainian serviceman looks on in a trench at a position near the frontline town of Bakhmut
Two long-range drones hit west Russian towns overnight
Two long-range drones attacked fuel and energy infrastructure in Russia’s western Smolensk region overnight on Friday, but no injuries or fires were reported, the region’s acting governor said.
He said the attacks hit the towns of Divasy and Peresna near the region’s capital Smolensk, some 168 miles from the Ukrainian border, but did not say who was responsible.
There were no reports of any injuries.
The incident comes a day after the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said Ukraine’s armed forces shelled the border town of Shebekino, setting alight a dormitory and damaging an administrative building.
Ukraine denies it is responsible for attacks within Russian territory.
Ukraine says it downed more than 30 missiles and drones
Ukrainian forces in the capital, Kyiv, said they shot down more than 30 Russian missiles and drones overnight and two people were injured by falling debris, before authorities lifted air raid alerts across most of the country.
Russia has launched about 20 separate missiles and drone strikes against Ukrainian cities since the beginning of May.
Kyiv military authorities, writing on Telegram, said Russia had launched drones and cruise missiles at the same time.
“According to preliminary information, more than 30 air targets of various types were detected and destroyed in the airspace over and around Kyiv by air defence forces,” they said in a statement.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who earlier reported two separate waves of attacks, wrote on Telegram that there had been no calls for rescue services.
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