Russia abandons Snake Island in strategic victory for Ukraine

Moscow's forces occupied Snake Island on the first day of Russia's invasion in late February [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]


  • Russia’s defence ministry says its troops have withdrawn from Snake Island, in the Black Sea, as a “gesture of goodwill” aimed at demonstrating Moscow supports efforts to restart food exports from Ukraine’s ports.
  • Russian forces continue to pound the key eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk, regional officials say, as they press ahead with their offensive in the Donbas after capturing nearby Severodonetsk.
  • NATO leaders are convening for the final day of the transatlantic security alliance’s summit in Madrid, during which they have declared Russia a major threat and pledged to modernise Ukraine’s military.
  • The European Court of Human Rights orders Moscow to ensure that two Britons who were captured while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces will not face the death penalty in a Russia-backed breakaway region of eastern Ukraine.


Here are the latest updates:

Pope implicitly accuses Russia of “imperialism” over invasion

Pope Francis has implicitly accused Russia of “armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism” in Ukraine, calling the conflict a “cruel and senseless war of aggression”.

The head of the Catholic Church said during an address to a delegation of Orthodox leaders who had come to Rome for a religious celebration on Wednesday that the war was pitting Christians against one another.

Both Russia and Ukraine are predominantly Orthodox Christian but there is a sizeable Catholic minority in Ukraine.

The pope also told his Orthodox visitors, in a clear reference to Russia, that all needed “to recognise that armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism have nothing to do with the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed”.

An unexpected friendship: The gravediggers of Bucha

In the early days of Russia’s occupation, a trio tasked with burying Ukrainian victims quickly became like “brothers”.

Read more here.

A photo of two men in a graveyard, the one on the right is holding two spades and the one on the right is holding a spade in the ground.
More than 10 mass graves and more than 1,000 bodies have been uncovered in the Kyiv region since the war began [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]

Russia claims to have destroyed command centre near Dnipro

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces destroyed a Ukrainian military control centre near the central city of Dnipro in a missile strike on Tuesday.

Alongside other regions of Ukraine, Dnipro and the surrounding Dnipropetrovsk region has seen an uptick in Russian shelling in recent days.

Kyiv made no immediate comment on the defence ministry’s claims. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the ministry’s claims.

Norway denies blocking Russian access to Arctic islands

Norway is not blocking Russian access to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, only applying international sanctions, the Nordic country’s foreign minister has told the Reuters news agency.

Anniken Huitfeldt’s remarks came after Russia on Wednesday accused Norway of disrupting the delivery of critical supplies and threatened retaliation against Oslo over access to Svalbard, citing unspecified “retaliatory measures” unless it resolved the issue.

Svalbard, midway between Norway’s north coast and the North Pole, is part of Norway, but Russia has the right to exploit the archipelago’s natural resources under a 1920 treaty, and some settlements there are populated mainly by Russians.

NATO member Norway, which is not in the European Union but applies EU sanctions against Russia, has said sanctions would not affect the transport of goods by sea to Svalbard.

Much of the freight for the archipelago’s Russian settlements, however, passes first by road through the border point between Russia and Norway on the mainland, which is closed to sanctioned goods.

Putin rejects Johnson’s claim a woman wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s charge that if he were a woman he would not have invaded Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference in the early hours of Thursday during a visit to Turkmenistan, Putin pointed to former British leader Margaret Thatcher’s decision to send troops into the Falklands as a rebuttal of Johnson’s theory.

Johnson on Wednesday dubbed Putin’s decision to launch what Moscow calls a “special military operation” against Ukraine a “perfect example of toxic masculinity” and mocked Putin’s macho posturing.

Hitting back, Putin told reporters: “It’s not an entirely accurate reference from the British Prime Minister to what is happening today.”

‘Significant action’ at NATO summit: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the NATO summit in Madrid, says there has been “significant action” at the meeting.

“The United States is going to set up a new headquarters in Poland and are bolstering their defences across the countries of the NATO alliance that are closest to Russia,” Bays said.

“And it looks pretty certain now … that there will be 32, not 30 NATO members with Sweden and Finland joining,” he added, citing the US-led alliance’s move to formally invite the two Nordic nations to become members.

Russia says its forces have withdrawn from Snake Island as a ‘gesture of goodwill’

Russian forces have withdrawn from Snake Island off Ukraine’s coast in the Black Sea as a “gesture of goodwill”, the country’s defence ministry says.

The ministry said the move showed Russia is not impeding United Nations efforts to organise a humanitarian corridor to export agricultural products out of Ukraine.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of blockading Ukrainian ports to prevent the export of the country’s grain, contributing to a mounting global food crisis.

Snake Island, which Russia occupied on the first day of its invasion, achieved worldwide fame when Ukrainian border guards stationed there rejected a Russian warship’s demand for their surrender.

Sweden to bolster weapons support for Ukraine

Sweden’s defence ministry has said the country will send more anti-tank weapons and machine guns to Ukraine.

The arms package, which also includes equipment for mine clearing, is valued at around 500 million Swedish crowns ($49m), the ministry said.

INTERACTIVE -Types of weapons Ukraine is receiving

UK moves to counter Russian influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The United Kingdom has said it will deploy military specialists to Bosnia and Herzegovina to counter Russian influence and to “reinforce the NATO Mission and promote stability and security” in the country.

“We cannot allow the Western Balkans to become another playground for Putin’s pernicious pursuits. By fanning the flames of secessionism and sectarianism Russia seeks to reverse the gains of the last three decades in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

“That is why we are stepping up support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, answering the call from our friends to help protect the peace they so rightfully deserve to enjoy.”

European court tells Russia to ensure two Britons do not face death penalty

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) says it has issued an order to Russia to ensure that the death penalty is not carried out against two Britons who were captured while fighting for Ukraine.

Earlier this month, a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine sentenced British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner to death, accusing them of “mercenary activities”.

The ECHR said it had issued an order for interim measures, telling Russia it “should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicants was not carried out; ensure appropriate conditions of their detention; and provide them with any necessary medical assistance and medication”.

The men’s families deny that the two, who were contracted to the Ukrainian armed forces, were mercenaries.

This month, the Russian parliament passed legislation to end the jurisdiction of Europe’s top human rights court in Russia, and two weeks ago a Kremlin spokesman, in reference to another ECHR ruling, said Moscow no longer implemented its decisions.

Germany says technical problem with gas pipeline a Russian pretext

A technical problem with the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline reported by Russia is merely a pretext, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said.

“We are in a gas trade dispute with Putin and this won’t stop,” Habeck said at an event organised by Germany’s Sueddeutsche newspaper. “All agree, the technicians, Russian technicians, that Nord Stream 1 could now supply 100 percent gas. There is an excuse, a technical pretext that is taken,” he added.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which supplies gas from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea, has seen reduced flows that could be suspended due what Moscow described as delays in technical repairs.

INTERACTIVE - Russian gas imports into the EU - Europe's reliance on Russian gas

US disburses $1.3bn of promised aid to Ukraine

The US Treasury Department has announced the transfer of $1.3bn in economic aid to Ukraine as part of the initial $7.5bn promised to Kyiv by the White House in May.

“With this delivery of economic assistance, we reaffirm our resolute commitment to the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Putin’s war of aggression and work to sustain their economy,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

Washington already disbursed two payments of $500m of that through the World Bank in April and May to help cover Ukraine’s immediate costs as it dealt with “Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion,” the Treasury said.

Ship with 7,000 tonnes of grain leaves Ukraine port: Pro-Russia officials

A ship carrying 7,000 tonnes of grain has sailed from Ukraine’s port of Berdyansk, currently controlled by Russian forces, the region’s Moscow-appointed official said on Thursday.

“After numerous months of delay, the first merchant ship has left the Berdyansk commercial port, 7,000 tonnes of grain are heading toward friendly countries,” Evgeny Balitski, the head of the pro-Russia administration, said on Telegram.

Ukraine officials have accused Russia of stealing “several hundred thousand tonnes” of grain in Ukrainian areas under Russian occupation and selling it, while Russia has denied the claims.

Death toll in Mykolaiv climbs to six

Rescue workers have found another body in the rubble from an air attack in Mykolaiv on Wednesday, taking the death toll to six with another six wounded, emergency services say.

Earlier authorities said 10 missiles had fallen on the port city, with one hitting a multi-storey residential building.

Ukraine’s troops holding positions in Lysychansk: UK

Ukrainian forces continue to hold their positions in Lysychansk while ground combat is focused around the oil refinery, 10km southwest of the city centre, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

“Russian forces continue to pursue an approach of creeping envelopment from the Popasna direction, removing the need to force a major new crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River in this sector,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing on Twitter.

“At the operational level, Russian forces continue to make limited progress as they attempt to encircle Ukrainian defenders in northern Donetsk Oblast via advances from Izium,” it added.

The ministry said that Ukraine’s ability to fight “delaying battles” and withdraw troops ” in good order before they are encircled,” as they did in Severodonetsk, “will continue to be a key factor in the outcome of the campaign”.

Russia shelling Lysychansk relentlessly, storming the oil refinery: Governor

“Constant airstrikes” in Lysychansk destroyed the police department and damaged part of the oil refinery on Wednesday, the governor of Luhansk has said.

“It is difficult to find a safe place in the city. People dream of at least half an hour of silence, but the occupiers do not stop firing from all available weapons,” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram.

The Russians on Thursday morning were conducting an offensive near Verkhnokamyanka and storming the Lysychansk refinery, he said without addressing Russia’s claims that it had taken control of the refinery.

Shelling was continuing along the territory of the Seversky Donets river, from both the Severodonetsk and Lysychansk side, Haidai said, adding that Russian forces were still attempting to block Lysychansk and take control of a section of the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway.

Russian forces in control of Lysychansk oil refinery: Separatist leader

The Russian-installed ambassador to Moscow from the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic has said that Russian forces with local separatists have taken full control of the Lysychansk oil refinery, RIA news reports.

“The territory of the largest oil refinery in Ukraine … has completely come under the control of allied troops,” Rodion Miroshnik said.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that its forces had defeated a battalion of Ukrainian troops near the Lysychansk oil refinery, according to RIA.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify these claims.

EU nears compromise deal to defuse standoff with Russia over Kaliningrad: Reuters

Trade through Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad could return to normal within days, two sources familiar with the matter have said, as European officials edge towards a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow, Reuters reports.

Kaliningrad, which is bordered by EU states and relies on railways and roads through Lithuania for most goods, has been cut off from some freight transport from mainland Russia since June 17 under sanctions imposed by Brussels. But many in Europe fear an escalation after other restrictions pushed Russia to default on its debt.

European officials are in talks about exempting the territory from sanctions, which have hit industrial goods such as steel so far, paving the way for a deal in early July if EU member Lithuania drops its reservations, said the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions are private.

If the traditional route for Russian goods to Kaliningrad, first via its ally Belarus and then Lithuania, is not restored, the Baltic state fears Moscow could use military force to plough a land corridor through its territory, the person said.

Russian forces destroyed Dnipropetrovsk grain warehouse: Governor

Russian forces are continuing to attack communities in and around the Kryvyi Rih district of Dnipropetrovsk, the regional governor has said.

An attack destroyed a warehouse in the town of Zelenodolsk, containing 40 tonnes of grain, causing a fire, Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

Another hit the centre of the village Velyka Kostromka, he said, adding that there were so far no casualties.

Reznichenko said Russian forces fired from “different weapons” but didn’t specify which types.

A Ukrainian woman passes in front of a billboard reading "We str Ukrainians, this is our land", in the town of Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine April 25, 2022

A Ukrainian woman passes in front of a billboard reading ‘We are Ukrainians, this is our land’, in the town of Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine on April 25, 2022 [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

South Korea’s Yoon warns NATO of threat to ‘universal values’

South Korea’s president has warned NATO leaders of the threat to universal values at a time of new conflict and competition, a reference to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and China’s engagement with Russia, a South Korean official told Reuters.

President Yoon Suk-yeol became the first South Korean leader to attend a NATO summit, joining national NATO leaders as an observer at a meeting in Spain as Russian forces intensified attacks in Ukraine.

“As a new structure of competitions and conflicts is taking shape, there is also a movement that denies the universal values that we have been protecting,” Yoon said in a speech on Wednesday, according to a South Korean official.

“He was referring to the Ukraine war, and as most other participating countries did, he raised concern about Russia’s responsibility for the war and China’s responsibility in the international community,” the official, who declined to be identified, said on Thursday. Yoon’s speech was not made public.

What Putin did in Ukraine is ‘evil’: UK’s Johnson

What Putin has done in Ukraine is “evil”, the UK’s prime minister has said.

Asked during an interview with GB News at the NATO summit in Madrid whether Putin was evil, Johnson said: “I think that what he has done is evil. And I think it probably follows that if you are what you do, then certainly.”

“It’s been an appalling act of unwarranted aggression against an innocent population,” he added.

Billionaire Branson visits Zelenskyy in Kyiv

British entrepreneur Richard Branson visited Zelenskyy in Ukraine’s capital on Wednesday.

“My main purpose in going to Kyiv was to meet and listen to Ukrainians, to understand their fears and concerns and also to learn what business, in partnership with civil society and governments, can do to support Ukraine most effectively,” Branson said in a statement on social media.

“We talked about maintaining global attention to the war in Ukraine, as well as prospects for cooperation in the postwar reconstruction of Ukraine”, Zelenskyy said in a statement on social media on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian presidency released video of the visit by Branson, the British billionaire and founder of Virgin Group. Branson also visited Hostomel Airport in the Kyiv region, and other sites of Russian attacks, he said, in a series of tweets following his visit.

New Zealand’s PM condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

New Zealand’s prime minister has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, highlighted the importance of international rules and warned against a new arms race.

“We must stand firm on the rules-based order, call for diplomatic engagement and speak out against human rights abuses at all times when and where we see them,” Jacinda Ardern said in a speech at the NATO summit in Madrid.

She also said that China has become “more assertive and more willing to challenge international rules and norms”, and urged the use of diplomacy and economic links to build ties in the Indo-Pacific region.

New Zealand is not a member of NATO, but it is a partner of the Western defence alliance and on occasion New Zealand troops have supported NATO-led operations. In recent months it has contributed to the NATO Trust Fund for operations in Ukraine.

‘I didn’t fire a shot’, says American held by separatists in eastern Ukraine

A former US soldier captured in eastern Ukraine has said he did not fire a single shot while fighting for the Ukrainian side, in a plea for leniency from Russian-backed separatist authorities who will determine his fate.

In a video interview with Russia’s RIA state news agency released on Wednesday, Alexander Drueke said his fighting experience in Ukraine was limited to the day he was captured outside Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

“My combat experience here was that one mission on that one day,” said Drueke, looking haggard. “I didn’t fire a shot. I would hope that would play a factor in whatever sentence I do or don’t receive.”

Drueke, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was captured by the separatists with fellow American Andy Huynh, from Hartselle, Alabama. The Kremlin has said it cannot rule out that the two men would be sentenced to death if put on trial in a region held by Russian proxies who have held large swaths of territory since 2014.

NATO agrees to modernise Ukraine’s military

NATO has agreed to a long-term financial and military aid package to modernise Ukraine’s largely Soviet-era military.

The alliance’s new Strategic Concept document, its first since 2010, said that a “strong independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area”.

To that end, “We stand in full solidarity with the government and the people of Ukraine in the heroic defence of their country,” the document said.

It also called Russia the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security”, having previously classified it as a “strategic partner”.

Rescuers attempting to evacuate residents from Lysychansk

Attempts to evacuate residents from the front-line eastern city of Lysychansk are continuing, Ukrainian authorities say.

About 15,000 people remain in the city, which is the focus of Russia’s attacks.

“Fighting is going on all the time. The Russians are constantly on the offensive. There is no let-up,” regional Governor Serhiy Haidai told Ukrainian television.

“Absolutely everything is being shelled,” he said.

People walk past part of a rocket that sits wedged in the ground in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, Friday, May 13, 2022

People walk past part of a rocket that sits wedged in the ground in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on Friday, May 13, 2022 [AP Photo/Leo Correa]

Russia’s Duma moves forward on proposed law banning foreign media

The lower house of Russia’s parliament has approved the critical second reading of a proposed law that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking actions against Russian news outlets.

The proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house’s approval before going to the president to be signed into law. But the Duma’s approval on second reading, when a proposal still can undergo substantial changes, almost always prefigures a law’s enactment.

Russia has repeatedly complained in recent months that Western countries were improperly restricting Russian media by banning their operation or denying visas to their journalists. In early June, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called in representatives of American media, including The Associated Press, to warn that they could be denied renewal of their visas and accreditation.

The draft law also calls for allowing Russia’s prosecutor general to cancel the registration of media outlets for disseminating “illegal, dangerous, unreliable publicly significant information or information expressing clear disrespect for society, the state, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as aimed at discrediting the Russian armed forces,” state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

Putin denies Russia’s responsibility for Kremenchuk strike

Russia’s President Putin has denied that Moscow’s forces were responsible for the missile attack on a crowded shopping centre in the Ukrainian town of Kremenchuk earlier this week, in which at least 18 people were killed and many remain missing in the rubble.

“Our army does not attack any civilian infrastructure sites. We have every capability of knowing what is situated where,” Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat.

“I am convinced that this time, everything was done in this exact manner,” Putin said.

Ukraine accuses Russia of targeting the shopping centre and civilian shoppers. Western leaders have condemned the attack calling it “sickening” and “abominable”. On Wednesday, Pope Francis said the attack was “barbarous.”

NATO leaders give standing ovation for Kyiv orchestra during summit performance

The Kyiv Symphony Orchestra performed at Madrid’s Prado museum during a dinner hosted by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday.

NATO leaders and officials stood and listened to the orchestra, then gave them a standing ovation.

Some orchestra members paid homage to their homeland by wearing emblems featuring Ukraine’s national colours – blue and yellow – and donning Ukrainian flags on their instruments.

Twin Russian strikes ‘deliberately targeted’ Mariupol theatre: Amnesty

Evidence suggests twin Russian air strikes deliberately targeted a theatre being used as a shelter in the city of Mariupol, rights group Amnesty International has said in a report.

The report condemned the attack as a war crime. Amnesty said there was no evidence that the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre was a base of operations for Ukrainian soldiers and every indication that it was a haven for civilians seeking protection from weeks of relentless shellings and airstrikes. Using satellite imagery from that morning, Amnesty determined the sky was consistently clear enough for any pilot to see the word “CHILDREN” written in giant Cyrillic letters in the building’s front and back.

The March 16 airstrike devastated the building. City officials initially estimated around 300 dead. An Associated Press investigation found the attack may have killed closer to 600 people inside and outside the building. Most of the two dozen survivors and witnesses AP interviewed put the number even higher. Researchers for Amnesty International identified 12 of the dead.

Those who bore witness “saw bodies, remains of bodies. And that’s how we can try to reconstruct. But the truth is that we will never know the truth. We will never get the final figure. And what is more or horrifying for me is that we will never know the whole names,” said Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty’s director general for Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops train in UK to use advanced rocket systems

Hundreds of Ukrainian troops have completed military training in the UK, including on the Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) the UK government is supplying to help counter Russian artillery tactics.

Ukrainian troops were filmed earlier this week loading and firing 105mm light guns during exercises in Salisbury, England – one part of a British-led programme that has been undertaken by more than 450 Ukrainian armed forces with support from New Zealand. MLRS systems were also shown in use.

“It’s a force multiplier,” Captain James Oliphant of the Royal Artillery, who was involved in the three-week MLRS training element, told reporters.

“Because it’s a tracked vehicle – their rockets systems are wheeled – it is going to give them more manoeuvrability which is going to going to aid in their survivability.”

Five killed in Mykolaiv raids Wednesday: Zelenskyy

Russia continued to shell cities and settlements across Ukraine Wednesday, stepping up its attacks beyond the Donbas region.

Zelenskyy said Russian forces struck the town of Ochakiv in the Dnipropetrovsk region, the port city of Mykolaiv, and across the Kharkiv and Sumy regions.

He said 10 missiles fell on Mykolaiv on Wednesday, “all of them were aimed at civilian targets”.

“One of these missiles, a hypersonic anti-ship missile ‘Onyx’, destroyed an ordinary five-story building. Dismantling of the debris continued over the day. As of now, five people are known to have been killed,” Zelenskyy said.

Rescuers evacuate a dog from a damaged residential building following a missile attack in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.
Rescuers evacuate a dog from a damaged residential building following a missile attack in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, June 29, 2022 [Still image taken from a handout video. Courtesy of State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via Reuters]

UK to provide another 1bn pounds ($1.2bn) of military support to Ukraine

The UK will provide another one billion pounds ($1.2bn) of military support to Ukraine, its government has said, as NATO branded Russia the biggest “direct threat” to Western security.

The funding will go towards boosting Ukraine’s defence capabilities, including air defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, new electronic warfare equipment and thousands of pieces of equipment for Ukrainian soldiers.

“UK weapons, equipment and training are transforming Ukraine’s defences against this onslaught. And we will continue to stand squarely behind the Ukrainian people to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine,” PM Johnson said in a statement.

The latest funding comes after the UK said in May it would provide an additional 1.3 billion pounds ($1.58bn) in military support and aid to Ukraine, and takes the UK’s total military and economic support to 3.8 billion pounds ($4.61bn) this year.

NATO vastly expands troops at high readiness for long-term Russian threat

NATO has agreed to put more than 300,000 troops at high readiness from 2023, up from 40,000 presently. The new military lineup is designed to better counter Russia, the country the alliance has designated as posing the greatest threat.

The move replaces the NATO Response Force, which was for years the first to respond to any Russian attack or other crisis. The new model resembles the way NATO forces were organised during the Cold War. At that time, specific allied countries were assigned the defence of specific sectors of the border between Western and Eastern Germany.

“Today, NATO leaders decided a fundamental shift in our defence and deterrence to respond to a new security reality,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters, adding NATO would enhance its “battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance up to brigade level.”

A brigade has some 3,000 to 5,000 troops, while a battalion – the unit that made up a battlegroup in the past – normally has between 300 to 1,000 troops.

Biden thanks Erdogan for NATO deal on Finland, Sweden

US President Joe Biden has thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for striking a deal with Finland and Sweden that has paved the way for the two Nordic countries to soon become NATO candidates.

Biden, in brief remarks before their meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, also thanked Erdogan for Ankara’s efforts to help get grain out of Ukraine. Erdogan said he hoped diplomacy would help solve the issues around Ukraine’s grain exports.

Canada to lead efforts to form ‘combat capable’ brigade in Latvia: Minister

Canada has signed an agreement to work with Latvia and NATO partners to lead efforts to form a “combat capable” brigade in Latvia, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand has said.

“This is a commitment that the Canadian government is making together with Latvia to work with our allies to move towards and surge to a brigade level force in Latvia,” Anand told reporters, adding that details about an exact number of troops had not yet been determined.

“We will commit additional troops with our allies going forward, but we need to have the conversation about how many additional troops will be committed by each of the 10 member nations of the Enhanced Forward Presence battle group,” Anand said.

Indonesian President offers to ‘deliver message’ to Putin from Ukraine

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has offered to “deliver a message” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Putin to try to boost peace hopes.

“Even though it’s very hard to achieve, I expressed the importance of a peaceful resolution. I offer to deliver a message from President Zelenskyy to President Putin that I’ll meet soon,” Widodo – known as Jokowi – said.

He also confirmed Indonesia’s contribution to medical and infrastructure aid to Kyiv.

Jokowi arrived in Kyiv from Poland by train on Wednesday morning. He also visited the town of Irpin, where Ukraine suspects Russian soldiers committed atrocities. Moscow denies the allegations.

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo greeted by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy just outside the entrance to the presidential palace in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Zelenskyy greets Jokowi at the presidential palace in Kyiv, Ukraine [Laily Rachev/Courtesy of Indonesian Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters]

IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear power plant

The United Nations atomic watchdog has said it has again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.

“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again – for the second time in the past month – only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement on Wednesday. The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems”, it added.

Read all the updates from June 29 here.



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