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June 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Shopping market seen on fire after airstrike in Kremenchuk
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What we covered here

  • Turkey has agreed to support Finnish and Swedish NATO membership bids, the Turkish government confirmed Tuesday.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the UN Security Council on Tuesday, the day after a deadly attack on a shopping mall in Ukraine, to call for Russia to be expunged as a permanent member of the group. 
  • The attack in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, sparked international outrage. Zelensky called it “one of the most defiant terrorist acts in European history.”
  • Russia has defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time in more than a century. While Moscow denies being in default, the US says it showed the power of Western sanctions against Moscow.
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Zelensky asks for Russia to be expunged as permanent member of UN Security Council  

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the UN Security Council on Tuesday, the day after a deadly attack on a shopping mall in central Ukraine, to call for Russia to be expunged as a permanent member of the group. 

Zelensky opened the speech by saying that whereas the UN did not yet have a legal definition of the term “terrorist state” agreed on by all UN members, that Russia’s war on Ukraine “demonstrates not only the meaning of the concept, but also the urgent necessity to enshrine it legally at the level of the United Nations, and punish any terrorist state,” he said.  

He then went through a list of attacks on Ukraine since last Saturday, including the strike on a residential building in Kyiv, a rocket in the yard of a kindergarten on Sunday, and a missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, the president said. “Those who carried out the strike could not have been unaware it was on a shopping mall,” Zelensky added.  

Zelensky continued with a list of additional strikes in Ukraine this week, and named the victims, including children, elderly and women. “I want you to hear the names,” he said.  

He then asked the body, “who of you does not agree that this is terrorism? If in any other part of the world, any organization acted just like Russia who is killing Ukrainians, if a country killed any peaceful people, that would definitely be recognized as terrorism. Such an organization would become an enemy for all of humankind.”  

“Therefore what is punished at the level of concrete criminals and criminal organizations must not go unchecked at the level of the state,” he added.

Zelensky then called on the UNSC to expel Russia from that body.   

“The UN charter confers on the UN Security Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Article 6 of chapter 2 of the UN charter clearly states that a member of the UN which has persistently violated the principles contained in the present charter may be expelled from the organization by the General Assembly by the UN Security Council. Although Russia is violating fundamental principles of the UN and the international legal order, it is still not held to account at the global level. It still remains in UN agencies and even enjoys the privileges of the seat it occupies. The seat of the permanent member of the UNSC, which Russia occupies solely due to the short-sightedness of politicians at the end of the Cold War. Russia does not have the right to take part in discussing a voting in regards to the war in Ukraine, which is unprovoked and simply colonialist on the part of Russia. I urge you to deprive the delegation of the terrorist state of its powers at the UN General Assembly. That is possible. That is necessary. That is fair. Russia does not have the right to remain in the UNSC,” Zelensky said. 

President Biden congratulates Finland, Sweden and Turkey on NATO trilateral memorandum

In Spain to attend this week’s NATO summit, President Biden congratulated Finland, Sweden and Turkey for reaching an agreement which will pave the way for the Nordic countries to join the NATO alliance.

Turkey had initially objected to the two nations becoming part of the alliance, over counterterrorism concerns.

On Twitter, Biden said, “Congratulations to Finland, Sweden, and Turkey on signing a trilateral memorandum – a crucial step towards a NATO invite to Finland and Sweden, which will strengthen our Alliance and bolster our collective security – and a great way to begin the Summit.”

Germany and Netherlands to supply six additional howitzers to Ukraine

Germany and the Netherlands will deliver six additional self-propelled armored howitzers to Ukraine, the defense ministers of both countries said in the Spanish capital of Madrid on Tuesday.

The German Foreign Ministry said each country will provide three of the artillery weapons on top of 12 howitzers the countries have already sent to Ukraine.

“The self-propelled howitzer 2000 is one of the most advanced artillery pieces in the world,” the ministry added.

Ukraine targets arms depot within Moscow-controlled Luhansk, Russian backed forces say HIMARS was used

Ukrainian forces were able to strike an arms depot well within Moscow-controlled territory in the Luhansk region, with Russian-backed separatist forces in Luhansk saying Kyiv used the US-donated HIMARS Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to do it.

“The first case of the use of the American MLRS M142HIMARS, which was so advertised, was detected in the LPR today [Tuesday],” the spokesman for the People’s Militia of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), Lieutenant Colonel Andrey Marochko said in an interview with state broadcaster Russia 1.

“At 7:20 a.m., from the direction of the settlement of Artemovsk [the Ukrainian side calls the city Bakhmut], there was as strike on Perevalsk.”

“This is the deep rear,” he added. “I also think this shows a lot right now, about what Ukraine is doing, because, firstly, we confirmed that these systems are in the Donbas.”

Pictures of the aftermath of the strike, posted by Russian affiliated accounts, showed the remains of what looked like a Western-made missile.

Commenting on the reports Ukrainian forces had used the HIMARS to target Russian forces far from the front lines, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, Serhiy Hayday said: “There is good news in this regard, because warehouses and barracks with personnel explode and burn.”

“This may slow down their advance towards Lysychansk,” Hayday added without providing additional details on the strike.

CNN has been unable to independently verify the claims the HIMARS was used to target Russian or Russian-backed forces in the Luhansk region, but Ukrainian and US officials have acknowledged the US-made MLRS has been deployed and used near the front lines.

Turkey signs trilateral memorandum with Finland and Sweden

Turkey confirmed it signed a trilateral memorandum with Finland and Sweden Tuesday supporting their NATO membership bids, agreeing Helsinki and Stockholm will not provide support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, also known as YPG, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization, according to the Turkish presidency.

Turkey said it extends its full support to Finland and Sweden against threats to their national security.

The Turkish statement said Finland and Sweden also confirmed the separatist militant Kurdistan’s Workers Party, also known as PKK, which Turkey, the US and EU consider a terrorist organization, is a “proscribed terrorist organization” and commit to prevent activities” of the PKK and all other terrorist organizations and their extensions”

Turkey added the three countries agreed on not having national arms embargoes between them.

Turkey, Finland and Sweden committed to establishing an intelligence sharing mechanism to scale up counterterrorism operations and to combat organized crime. The countries agreed Finland and Sweden will address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects “expeditiously and thoroughly.”

Finland and Sweden agreed to investigate and interdict any financing and recruitment activities of the PKK -considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

“Turkey confirms its long-standing support for NATO’s Open Door policy, and agrees to support at the 2022 Madrid Summit the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO,” the memorandum signed by Turkey read.

Turkey has agreed to support Finnish and Swedish NATO membership bids. Here's what happens next

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, thirdf left, shakes hands with Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, next to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, and Finland's President Sauli Niinisto, second right, after signing a memorandum in which Turkey agrees to Finland and Sweden's membership of the defense alliance in Madrid, Spain on June 28.

Finland and Sweden are poised to end decades of neutrality by joining NATO, a dramatic evolution in European security and geopolitics sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The two Nordic nations had long kept the military alliance at an arm’s length, even while eying Russia to their east with caution.

But Moscow’s assault on Ukraine has sparked renewed security concern across the region, and the leaders of each country have signaled their desire to join the bloc after more than 75 years of military nonalignment.

Here’s what you need to know about how the war in Ukraine caused the shift, and what comes next.

NATO has what it calls an “open door policy” on new members — any European country can request to join, so long as they meet certain criteria and all existing members agree.

A country does not technically “apply” to join; Article 10 of its founding treaty states once a nation has expressed interest, the existing member states “may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty … to accede.”

NATO diplomats told Reuters ratification of new members could take a year, as the legislatures of all 30 current members must approve new applicants.

Both Finland and Sweden already meet many of the requirements for membership, which include having a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; treating minority populations fairly; committing to resolve conflicts peacefully; the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations; and committing to democratic civil-military relations and institutions.

The process was not without hurdles; Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he was not looking at both countries joining NATO “positively,” accusing them of housing Kurdish “terrorist organizations.” But on Tuesday, he threw his support behind the nations’ bids at the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

The United States and the United Kingdom have both expressed their support for their membership bid.

What does NATO membership entail?

The reason most countries join NATO is because of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which stipulates all signatories consider an attack on one an attack against all.

Article 5 has been a cornerstone of the alliance since NATO was founded in 1949 as a counterweight to the Soviet Union.

The point of the treaty, and Article 5 specifically, was to deter the Soviets from attacking liberal democracies lacking military strength. Article 5 guarantees the resources of the whole alliance — including the massive US military — can be used to protect any single member nation, such as smaller countries who would be defenseless without their allies. Iceland, for example, has no standing army.

Former Swedish leader Carl Bildt told CNN he doesn’t see new big military bases being built in either country should they join NATO. He said joining the alliance would likely mean more joint military training and planning between Finland, Sweden and NATO’s 30 current members. Swedish and Finnish forces could also participate in other NATO operations around the globe, such as those in the Baltic States, where several bases have multinational troops.

It’s worth noting Russia has lambasted the decision by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Its deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday the move would be a “mistake” with “far-reaching consequences,” according to state news agency TASS.

Russia currently shares about 755 miles of land border with five NATO members, according to the alliance. Finland’s accession would mean a nation with which Russia shares an 830-mile border would become formally militarily aligned with the United States.

The addition of Finland and Sweden would also benefit the alliance, which would frustrate Russia. Both are serious military powers, despite their small populations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday “Russia has no problems with these states,” adding the expansion of NATO “does not pose a direct threat to Russia.”

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly cause our response,” he added at the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Moscow. “We will see what it will be based on the threats that will be created for us.”

Read the full report here.

CNN’s Rob Picheta, Luke McGee, Nic Robertson, Paul LeBlanc, Per Bergfors Nyberg and Niamh Kennedy and Reuters contributed to this report

NATO chief says he is "confident" of Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO after Turkey's support 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrives at a press conference during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain on June 28.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said he is “confident” Finland and Sweden will be able to successfully join NATO after Turkey signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding with Sweden and Finland Tuesday.

“I’m pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports, and the fight against terrorism,” Stoltenberg said, speaking to journalists in Madrid following the signing of the memorandum.

On Wednesday, allied leaders will then decide whether to invite Finland and Sweden to join NATO, he said, adding after the decision, a ratification process will need to take place in all NATO capitals.

The NATO chief said following the signing of the trilateral memorandum, however, he was “confident” Sweden and Finland becoming NATO members is “something that will take place.”

Stoltenberg said the military alliance’s “open door policy” has been an “historic success,” after Turkey agreed to support Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.

NATO has what it calls an “open door policy” on new members: Any European country can request to join, so long as they meet certain criteria and all existing members agree.

“In NATO, we have always shown that whatever our differences, we can always sit down, find common ground and resolve any issues. NATO’s open door policy has been an historic success,” Stoltenberg said, speaking to journalists in Madrid.

“Welcoming Finland and Sweden into the alliance will make them safer, NATO stronger and the Euro Atlantic area more secure. This is vital as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” he added.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday welcomed Turkey’s decision to support Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids, calling it “fantastic news.”

“Fantastic news as we kick off the NATO Summit. Sweden and Finland’s membership will make our brilliant alliance stronger and safer,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Read how a country can join NATO here.

Situation in Lysychansk "very difficult" as Russian forces try to storm city, local official says

A man walks in front of damaged residential building on a street of the town of Lysychansk on June 21.

The situation in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk is “very difficult” as it suffers increased bombardments from Russia forces trying to storm the population center.

“The situation [in and] around Lysychansk is now very difficult. There is no central water supply, no gas, no electricity,” the head of the Luhansk regional military administration Serhiy Hayday said on Tuesday. “The combat action constantly goes on.”

Hayday said Russian forces in the area are putting all their efforts into storming the city.

“This whole Russian horde is aimed at storming Lysychansk,” Hayday said, accusing Russia of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure. “Schools, kindergartens, cultural facilities, hospitals, State Emergency Service bases where people gather for evacuation, humanitarian headquarters, they completely destroy everything. They have a scorched-earth policy.”

Hayday also said Russian forces have suffered significant losses and have had to rely on older equipment to continue their assault.

“Today we already see that they use old weapons. That is, not only modern equipment like the T-80, but already the T-64 and even the T-62. These are already completely outdated models of tanks,” he said. “They use everything that’s possible and impossible.”

Turkey has agreed to support Finnish and Swedish NATO membership bids, Finland president says

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said Tuesday Turkey has agreed to support Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.

A joint memorandum on the matter was signed by Turkey, Finland and Sweden Tuesday in Madrid ahead of a NATO summit, Niinistö said in a statement.

The joint memorandum underscores the commitment of Finland, Sweden and Turkey “to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security,” he added.  

“The concrete steps of our accession to NATO will be agreed by the NATO Allies during the next two days, but that decision is now imminent,” he added. 

Captors of American fighters reportedly "willing to negotiate," a captive's mother says

US citizens Alexander John-Robert Drueke, left, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, right, went missing during a battle in Ukraine on June 9.

The pro-Russian captors of two Americans captured during a battle near Kharkiv, Ukraine, earlier this month are reportedly “willing to negotiate,” one captive’s mother told CNN on Tuesday.

Bunny Drueke said her son, Alexander John-Robert Drueke, spoke in recent days – under duress – with an official from the U.S. State Department.

“What they said, they said, was that he was being held by the Donetsk People’s Republic, and that they were willing to make a deal for release,” Drueke told CNN, characterizing what was relayed to her by the State Department.

Drueke said her State Department contact told her it was clear during the phone call her son was being told what to say. She was informed of the call on Saturday, but it is unclear when it took place.

A senior State Department official told CNN they could not speak to specifics given privacy considerations, “but we have a core mission to provide support to Americans in need, and we take that obligation seriously at all times and in all circumstances.”

The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is a Russian-backed, self-declared republic which has governed a breakaway portion of Ukraine’s Donetsk region since 2014.

She said it was unclear what his captors were asking for in any negotiation with the U.S. Government: If they asked for something, “the State Department didn’t share it with me,” she said.

“He said he had food and water, he was being treated well, and he sounded good,” she said. She added he was being held separately from his fellow captive, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, but he had seen him a few days previously, and “he looked OK.”

Last week, a pro-Russian Serbian nationalist YouTube channel, HelmCast, published a more than 50-minute edited video interview of Drueke and Huynh. 

In the interview, a man can be heard behind the camera revealing the location of their interview when he says “here in Donetsk” during a question to Drueke. 

Drueke was also asked in the interview if he had any objections to how he has been treated since his capture, and he revealed he has been beaten a few times.

Previous reporting from Jonny Hallam in Atlanta.

Bulgaria expels 70 Russian embassy employees, foreign ministry says

Bulgaria said Tuesday it had asked Russia to withdraw 70 staff members from its embassy in Sofia by July 3, saying Russia should decrease the size of its embassy to match the Bulgarian diplomatic footprint in Moscow.

“[Russian] Ambassador Eleanora Mitrofanova was informed of the Bulgarian decision to reduce the number of staff of Russian delegations in the Republic of Bulgaria within borders not exceeding the number of Bulgarian delegations” in Russia, a statement from the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry read.

The ministry said its request was based on “reciprocity” and activities that are “a threat to national security,” and incompatible with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

Zelensky expected to address UN Security Council emergency meeting today

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to address the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council today, expected to be held in the 3 p.m. ET hour, two UN diplomats tell CNN.

Ukraine called for the meeting in response to a Russian missile attack on a shopping mall filled with civilians, and the recent Russian shelling across Ukraine, the diplomats said.

US announces steps to ramp up NATO security against Russian threat

US President Joe Biden and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez give a press press conference at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid on June 28.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the United States will send two new destroyers to the Rota Naval Station in Spain. This brings the total number of US destroyers based there to six.

“As I said before the war started, if Putin attacked Ukraine, the United States would enhance our force posture in Europe and respond to the reality of a new European security environment,” he said alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. “Together, the new commitments will constitute an impressive display of allied unity and resolve and NATO’s 360 degree approach to our security.”

The move comes as the US is expected to make specific announcements during this week’s NATO summit in Madrid to ramp up the American force posture as it looks to counter a “more acute and aggravated Russian threat,” according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“The United States will be making specific announcements tomorrow on land, sea and air on additional force posture commitments over the long term beyond the duration of this crisis, for however long it goes on,” Sullivan said aboard Air Force One as Biden was flying to Madrid. “Those will help increases the United States’ and NATO’s maritime presence.”

“By the end of the summit what you will see is a more robust, more effective, more combat credible, more capable and more determined force posture to take account of a more acute and aggravated Russian threat,” he added.

He said the whole of the NATO alliance was also planning to agree on specific targets for increased funding for NATO from their national budgets.

This follows after NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg announced Monday the US-led military alliance will enhance its battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance up to brigade levels, saying it would be the “biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defense since the Cold War.”

“We will increase the number of high readiness forces to well over 300,000,” he said, adding it will include “more pre-positioned equipment, and stockpiles of military supplies; more forward-deployed capabilities, like air defense; strengthened command and control; and upgraded defense plans, with forces pre-assigned to defend specific allies.”

According to the NATO website, the NATO Response Force comprises around 40,000 troops.

“These troops will exercise together with home defense forces. And they will become familiar with local terrain, facilities, and our new pre-positioned stocks so that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency,” Stoltenberg added.

With previous reporting from CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite in London

US Defense Dept. watchdog to evaluate intelligence sharing with European partners in support of Ukraine

The US Department of Defense’s watchdog announced it would begin an evaluation of the extent to which the DoD carried out intelligence sharing with European partners in support of Ukraine.

The goal of the evaluation is to look at how the DoD “developed, planned, and executed cross-domain intelligence sharing” with European partners, the DoD Inspector General wrote in a memo announcing the project.

The Inspector General will perform the evaluation at US European Command headquarters, Special Operations Command headquarters, the EUCOM Joint Analysis Center, as well as other locations. The evaluation begins this month.

The announcement comes one week after the Inspector General launched an evaluation of the DoD’s plans to restock its own stocks of weapons and equipment as it maintains an ongoing transfer of supplies to Ukraine.

The Inspector General also has a number of other projects already underway related to Ukraine, including an evaluation of plans to provide and account for security assistance and intelligence to Ukraine, examining the DoD process for tracking the use of funds to support Ukraine, and more.

Video footage shows second missile hit vicinity of Kremenchuk factory

Additional footage of strikes on Kremenchuk, which were geolocated by CNN, showed one of the two missiles that hit the city on Monday landed on the edge of a city park, close to a road machines factory.

The park is about 500 meters (about 1,640 feet) away from the mall where a missile strike killed at least 18 people.

Earlier Tuesday, the Russian defense ministry said its forces had targeted the road machines plant.

“Aerospace Forces launched a strike with high-precision air-based weapons on hangars with weapons and ammunition received from the United States and European countries,” the ministry said. “As a result of a high-precision strike, Western-made weapons and ammunition, concentrated in the storage area for further shipment to the Ukrainian group of troops in Donbas, were hit.”

Ukrainian authorities have denied the plant was housing military equipment.

“The plant provided services for asphalt laying, road repair and manufactured special equipment for this purpose,” the head of the Kremenchuk district military administration, Oleh Liednik, told CNN Tuesday. “The factory was built in 1984 and since then, there has been no manufacture or repair of military equipment; there was no technological cycle for this.”

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the missile strike on the Kremenchuk mall had been deliberate, and rejected the notion it had been an accident.

“This is not a mistaken hit of missiles,” Zelensky said. “This is a planned Russian strike at this shopping center.”

US unveils new Russian sanctions, including a ban on Russian gold imports

An employee displays a gold bar at a gold refining workshop of the Uralelektromed Joint Stock Company plant in Verkhnyaya Pyshma, Russia, on October 17, 2014.

The United States government took a slew of actions against Russia Tuesday, sanctioning those who it says support Russia’s defense industrial base, designating Russian military units for human rights abuses in Ukraine, and implementing a ban on the import of Russian gold.

The moves are the latest in response to Russia’s monthslong war in Ukraine and were taken after G7 leaders in Germany agreed to steps, including the gold import ban, meant to weaken Moscow.

In a statement, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on 70 entities, including State Corporation Rostec — “a massive Russian state-owned enterprise formed to consolidate Russia’s technological, aerospace, and military-industrial expertise” — and its key holdings and affiliates, as well as 29 Russian individuals.

The Treasury Department redesignated the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) — two pro-Russian separatist regions of Ukraine recognized as independent by Moscow — and sanctioned Vitaliy Pavlovich Khotsenko, who is “the newly appointed chairperson of the so-called government of the DNR,” and six individuals who “are or have been high level officials in the so-called DNR and LNR governments.”

According to the Treasury’s statement, the US State Department is imposing sanctions on 45 entities and 29 individuals.

“Included in the State Department’s action is the designation of Russian Federation military units and the redesignation of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which have been credibly implicated in human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine,” the Treasury statement said.

The State Department will also move “to impose visa restrictions on officials believed to have threatened or violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence, including on more than 500 Russian Federation military officers and on Russian Federation officials involved in suppressing dissent,” it said.

Russia is “using energy as a weapon of coercion,” NATO chief says

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at the NATO public forum during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, on June 28.

The war in Ukraine shows the “danger” of being too dependent on commodities from authoritarian regimes, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Tuesday, during a press briefing in Madrid.

“The way Russia is using energy as a weapon of coercion highlights the need to quickly wean off of Russian oil and gas,” Stoltenberg said.

The NATO chief warned “we must not swap one dependency for another.”

“Lots of new green technologies come from China,” he said, stressing the need to “diversify our energy sources and our suppliers.”

Remember: Stoltenberg’s comments come even as the US and some European countries weigh other options for sourcing oil and gas, which include authoritarian regimes like Venezuela and Iran.

The NATO chief also said sanctions against Russia are a price worth paying for freedom.

“Of course, I recognize that our economic sanctions, for instance on parts of [the] Russian industry, on the financial sector, also have global ramifications, also for the energy markets, and therefore, Europeans, NATO allies, the United States … They pay a price. There’s no way to deny that,” he said, adding that the price is much lower than the price the countries would pay if “Putin gets his way by using military force against an independent nation.” 

“It is the price we have to pay for freedom,” he added.

"No one is considering an end of the war in the next weeks or months," French president says

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference, following the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau castle, Germany, on June 28.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday “Russia cannot and should not win the war.” 

“Our support for Ukraine and our sanctions against Russia will be maintained as long as needed and with the intensity needed in the upcoming weeks and months,” Macron told a news conference at the G7 summit in Bavaria.

When asked about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to end the war in Ukraine before the year is out, Macron responded, “No one is considering an end of the war in the next weeks or months.”

He expressed hope an “exit could be obtained at the end of the year,” but “only with the certainty that Russia cannot and should not win.”

The French leader refused to use language previously used by Zelensky, describing Russia as a “state sponsoring terrorism.”

Macron also called the Russian missile strike on a Ukrainian shopping center a “war crime.”

Political and economic price for Russian war in Ukraine must be kept high, German chancellor says

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses a media conference during the G7 summit at Castle Elmau in Kruen, Germany, on June 28.

The G7 leaders will continue to ensure Russia pays a high political and economic price for its war against Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in the concluding press conference after the G7 summit in Germany on Tuesday.

No end to the war was foreseeable, and it was “important that we keep up the pressure and continue the support, so that an end becomes possible at all and Russia realizes that it cannot enforce a dictatorial peace,” Scholz said.

“Without a fair agreement with Ukraine, the sanctions will continue to exist,” Scholz added.

The final communiqué of the G7 leaders published Tuesday said sanctions against Russia would be maintained for as long as necessary.

While the G7 leaders reemphasized their condemnation of “Russia’s unjustifiable, unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine,” they called on China to press Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

Scholz said he also expected China not to undermine sanctions against Russia.

Cooperation with China was ambivalent, he said, adding the country was “struggling with the consequences of its own Covid strategy, which also has consequences for world trade.”

The G7 vowed to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” with financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support. Financial means for Ukraine will amount to over USD 2.8 billion in humanitarian aid in 2022 as well as USD 29.5 billion in budget aid, according to the communiqué.

The German Chancellor meanwhile called for a Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war.

While the G7 is considering capping energy prices to secure supply, price caps for oil imports were an ambitious goal and needed a lot of work beforehand, Scholz said. The G7 leaders had previously vowed to “phase out our dependency on Russian energy.”

Russia adds US first lady and other American politicians to "stop list"

US First Lady Jill Biden, center, pictured with Spain's Queen Letizia, speak with members of a family from Ukraine during a visit of a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees in Pozuelo de Alarcon, near Madrid, on the sidelines of a NATO summit, on June 28.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has added 25 US citizens, including first lady Jill Biden, to a “stop list,” as Moscow retaliates against expanding sanctions from the US and European nations.

“As a response to the ever-expanding US sanctions against Russian political and public figures, 25 American citizens will be added to the stop-list,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.

The US citizens on the list, which also includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are barred from entering Russia on an indefinite basis, the statement read.

The West has pushed Russia into its first foreign debt default since 1918

Russia has defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution more than a century ago.

Following reports Moscow had failed to pay about $100 million in interest on two bonds during a 30-day grace period which expired Sunday, the White House said the default showed the power of Western sanctions imposed on Russia since it invaded Ukraine.

“This morning’s news around the finding of Russia’s default, for the first time in more than a century, situates just how strong the reactions are that the US, along with allies and partners, have taken, as well as how dramatic the impact has been on Russia’s economy,” a senior administration official said on the sidelines of a G7 summit in Germany.

Russia denied it was in default, saying the payments due Sunday had been made, in dollars and euros, on May 27 and the money was stuck with Euroclear, a clearinghouse based in Belgium.

In a statement posted late Monday, Moody’s credit ratings agency said the “missed coupon payment constitutes a default.”

“On 27 June, holders of Russia’s sovereign debt had not received coupon payments on two eurobonds worth $100 million by the time the 30-calendar-day grace period expired, which we consider an event of default under our definition,” it said.

Moody’s also predicted Russia would default on more payments in the future, given a decree on June 22 by the Kremlin it would service its foreign debt in rubles, rather than the currencies the bonds were issued in.

The historic default — the first time Russia has defaulted since 1918 — had been widely anticipated after half the country’s foreign reserves were frozen and the US Treasury ended a carve-out from sanctions allowing US bondholders to be repaid by Russia.

Read the full report here.

Prominent Kremlin critic who opposes the war in Ukraine has been jailed for 15 days for “police disobedience”

Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin in Moscow, Russia, on February 27.

A Moscow court found Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin guilty of disobeying police, giving him 15 days of jail time, the press service of the court said in a statement Tuesday.

“Upon considering [the case], the court has appointed Yashin I.V. an administrative punishment in the form of administrative arrest for 15 days,” the court said.

Yashin pleaded not guilty, the statement said.

Yashin gave a statement during the hearing and published it on his Telegram channel, saying it was an attempt to persecute him for his political views and force him to escape the country. He had previously repeatedly said he was not inclined to do so.

“I am an opposition politician, an independent MP, a critic of President Putin, and an opponent of the war with Ukraine. This detention is a way to put pressure on me,” Yashin said. “I want to officially declare: First - the case against me is fabricated, I am innocent. Second - the war with Ukraine must be stopped immediately. Third - Putin must leave. Fourth - Russia must be free.”

Russia has stepped up strikes, using "diverse" and older missiles, say Ukrainian officials

Workers are seen clearing the rubbles of the Amstor mall, the day after it was hit by a Russian missile strike in Kremenchuk, on June 28.

Over the past few days, Russia has stepped up the use of a variety of missiles against targets across Ukraine – attacks that have resulted in civilian casualties in several places, most notably in Kremenchuk on Monday.

Ukraine’s armed forces chief, Valeriy Zaluzhniy, said Tuesday: “Four days ago, the enemy fired 53 cruise missiles from various platforms, three days ago – 26 missiles, two days ago – almost 40, and 12 in the last 24 hours.”

Separately, Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrskyi, said that more than 100 missiles had been fired at Ukraine in the last few days. 

At least 18 people were killed in the missile attack that hit a shopping center in Kremenchuk.

The Ukrainian military commented at the weekend about the variety of Russian missiles being used, some of which appear to have been taken out of storage and do not provide the precision that the Russian Defense Ministry claims.

Air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said on Sunday: “The weapons used by Russia are extremely diverse. Ukraine has become a kind of testing ground for Russia.”

Ihnat said the range of weapons included naval “Kalibr” cruise missiles and missiles such as the KH-22 that are launched from strategic bombers such as the TU-95 and TU-22M3 – and are capable of speeds of up to 3,000 kilometers per hour.

Ihnat said that Russia had previously used the TU-22M3 bombers from bases in the Rostov region and the Black Sea region of southern Russia. “Now Russia has moved these planes to the north, and flying into the airspace of Belarus, they launch strikes at the North of Ukraine.”

He described the KH-22 missile, which Ukrainian officials say was used in the Kremenchuk strike, as “one of the most destructive missiles.” It can carry an explosive payload of 1,000 kilograms and is carried by the TU-22M3. 

KH-22 missiles, he said, had been used in strikes against the Chernihiv and Cherkasy regions. Russia has also used the KH-59 in attacks on Ukraine and short-range ballistic missiles such as the land-based Soviet-era Tochka-U missile (which Ukraine also has), as well as a range of sea-launched missiles from the Black Sea. 

Some analysts believe the growing use of KH-22 missiles stems from developing shortages of more modern precision missiles.

Writing for the Jamestown Foundation on June 16, Pavel Luzin estimated that Russia had fired more than 2,100 cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles since the invasion began and was “facing a growing deficit of these types of stand-off weapons.”

“Military observers and strategists are increasingly questioning how long it will take or even if Russia will ever be able to fully restore its depleted missile arsenal,” Luzin said.

Luzin estimated that Russia’s current maximum annual production capacity of new cruise and short-range ballistic missiles “is likely no higher than 225.”

Ukrainian officials will not disclose what percentage of Russian missiles they shoot down, though they have frequently had success in destroying missiles fired at Kyiv, Odesa and Mykolaiv before they hit their targets. Ihnat said that it is a “more realistic goal for our air defenses” to shoot down slower cruise missiles.

Lysychansk is the last "outpost of Luhansk region," head of the region's military says

Lysychansk, is the “last outpost in the Luhansk region” for the Ukrainian army, and it is under attack “from different directions,” Serhiy Hayday, head of Luhansk region military administration, has said.

The aim now “is to last as long as possible,” Hayday said via Telegram, adding the city is “being destroyed everyday and is extremely dangerous for the local population to stay.”

In an attempt to put a positive spin on the situation in the beleaguered city, Hayday said the city had enough food and medicine to last for “several weeks.”

The fall of Lysychansk would practically mean Russian forces control the entire region of Luhansk, one of the two regions of Donbas.

Number missing after Kremenchuk mall strike lowered to 21

A revised figure has been given for the number of people missing following the missile attack on a mall in Kremenchuk on Monday.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrskyi, told Ukrainian television that 21 people were missing, 15 less than the previous estimate of 36 from officials.

“As of now, I can say that 60% of the rubble of this shopping mall has been dismantled. There are 59 wounded who went to the hospital yesterday, 25 of them were hospitalized.”

Monastyrskyi, who visited the site, said the security services had established “which aviation regiment committed this crime. And there are already the first names of pilots who flew on the Tu-22, which carried out fatal strikes.”

“It is difficult to say what the enemy planned. But this is not the first time it has hit civilian targets,” he said.

“This is a completely civilian object. Neither the Armed Forces nor other military formations have ever been stationed here. There are no bunkers and warehouses with weapons. There is nothing here to threaten any of the military.

“There are no military facilities around. There are no military units or military depots within a radius of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles),” he added.

Monastyrskyi said that a special forensic laboratory provided by Ukraine’s international partners to investigate war crimes would be used to help identify the victims of the missile strike. “Evidence of this crime will be collected, properly executed and transmitted, including to international institutions,” he said.