July 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Andrew Raine, Amy Woodyatt, Hafsa Khalil and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 8:45 a.m. ET, July 5, 2022
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1:43 p.m. ET, July 4, 2022

Russian cosmonauts photograph with flags of occupied Donbas regions at International Space Station

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova, Yulia Kesaieva and Chris Liakos

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov pose with a flag of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic at the International Space Station (ISS), in this picture released on July 4.
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov pose with a flag of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic at the International Space Station (ISS), in this picture released on July 4. (Roscosmos/Reuters)

Three Russian cosmonauts have been pictured holding the flags of the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) at the International Space Station on Monday. 

“Roscosmos and our cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, working on the International Space Station today joined LPR head Leonid Pasechnik in congratulating on the 'new Great Victory Day,’" the Russian space agency said in a message posted on its official Telegram channel.

On July 3, the leader of the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic declared that the breakaway region in eastern Ukraine has been “liberated” with the help of the Russian forces. The Ukrainian military said on Sunday it was forced to withdraw from Lysychansk — their last holdout in the region.

“This is the long-awaited day that the residents of the occupied districts of the Luhansk region have been waiting for eight years,” Roscosmos message added.

In March, the trio of Russian cosmonauts sparked speculation after arriving at the International Space Station wearing bright yellow flight suits trimmed with blue, which some interpreted as a symbolic sign of solidarity with Ukraine. 

The head of Roscosmos denied the speculation back then saying that the crew were not representing Ukraine but wearing colors from their alma mater: Bauman Moscow State Technical University.

1:00 p.m. ET, July 4, 2022

German chancellor calls high inflation caused by Russia's aggression a "historic challenge"

From CNN’s Inke Kappeler in Berlin

People in Germany must stand together to cope with the “historic challenge“ of soaring costs of living caused by Russia's aggression on Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Monday after meeting trade union and employer association leaders. 

“The current crisis will not pass in a few months,“ Scholz told reporters. “We need to be prepared for this situation not to change in the foreseeable future."

“Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine has changed everything, and at the same time, supply chains are still disrupted since the pandemic and general uncertainty is growing," he added. “We will only get through the crisis if we agree jointly on solutions.”

Scholz kicked off a series of meetings on Monday to spur “the spirit of togetherness“ in a so-called “concerted action“ with unions, employers, the Federal Bank, scientists and the government in order to cope with the challenges of inflation caused by skyrocketing energy costs.  

Germany will spend 30 billion euros (USD $31.3 billion) to help households with the rising costs, the chancellor said.

1:43 p.m. ET, July 4, 2022

Captured British fighter appeals against death sentence by DPR court, Russian state media reports

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Chris Liakos

British citizen Aiden Aslin stands behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) on June 9.
British citizen Aiden Aslin stands behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) on June 9. (Associated Press)

The defense team of British citizen, Aiden Aslin, who was sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) last month, has filed an appeal, asking to exclude several articles from the DPR criminal code, Russian state news agency TASS reported Monday citing lawyer Pavel Kosovan.

Aslin’s defense has asked for the case to be dismissed “due to the absence of corpus delicti in the actions of the defendant,” TASS quoted his lawyer Pavel Kosovan as saying.

On June 9, Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, along with Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune, were sentenced to death after they were found guilty of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine by a court in DPR, Russian state media reported at the time.

According to RIA, the three foreigners were captured in Mariupol in mid-April, while “training in order to carry out terrorist activities.”

Last week, appeals were also lodged on behalf of Shaun Pinner and Brahim Saadoune, according to Russian state media.

11:19 a.m. ET, July 4, 2022

UK announces further Belarus sanctions

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

The United Kingdom has announced a new sanctions package against Belarus, including a trade block of around 60 million pounds ($73 million) of goods, over its role in supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Announced by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Monday, the new economic, trade and transport sanctions are to ban the import of Belarusian iron and steel, while prohibiting the export of oil refining goods, advanced technological components and luxury products.

The sanctions will come into effect Tuesday and also ban Belarusian companies from issuing debt and securities in London, according to the FCDO.

"The Belarus regime has actively facilitated Putin's invasion, letting Russia use its territory to pincer Ukraine — launching troops and missiles from their border and flying Russian jets through their airspace," an FCDO statement read. "[Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko has also openly supported the Kremlin's narrative, claiming that Kyiv was ‘provoking Russia’ in order to justify Putin's bloody invasion," it added.

The UK had previously introduced tariffs on a range of Belarusian goods and sanctioned several Belarusian citizens and companies.

11:04 a.m. ET, July 4, 2022

Criminal investigation into Russian grain theft in Zaporizhzhia underway, regional prosecutor says 

From Julia Presniskova in Lviv and Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

The Zaporizhzhia regional prosecutor’s office has launched a criminal investigation into the theft of more than 400 tonnes of grain and sunflower seeds from a Ukrainian agribusiness in the southeastern region on Monday, according to the statement posted on the regional prosecutor’s website.                                                                                                                                

The investigation deals with the theft of assets from a company with storage facilities in Russian occupied Polohivsky district at the end of June, according to the statement.

“According to the investigation, military forces of the aggressor country using the pretence of war and violating international law, entered the storage premises and stole almost 200 tonnes of wheat and 210 tonnes of sunflower seeds,” the statement reads.

Zaporizhzhia regional security services are conducting the pre-trial investigation, according to the statement.

 

10:24 a.m. ET, July 4, 2022

Reconstruction of Ukraine is a "common task" of the democratic world, Zelensky says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite, Shama Masinde and Chris Liakos

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a giant screen as he delivers a statement at the start of a two-day International conference on reconstruction of Ukraine, in Lugano, Switzerland, on July 4.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a giant screen as he delivers a statement at the start of a two-day International conference on reconstruction of Ukraine, in Lugano, Switzerland, on July 4. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

The reconstruction of Ukraine is a "common task" of the democratic world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday during the opening statement at the "Ukraine Recovery Conference" in Lugano, Switzerland – a two-day conference looking to set a roadmap for the reconstruction of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

"The reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local project. It's not a project of one nation, but a common task of the entire democratic world, all countries who can say that they are civilized," Zelensky said in the virtual address.

The Ukrainian president also said that restoring his country means restoring the principle of life, "restoring the space of life, restoring everything that makes humans human."

This reconstruction also implies "an opportunity for our countries and our companies and our specialists to show why freedom is mightier than any tyranny," he added.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen announced on Monday that the European Union has proposed setting up a reconstruction platform to help the Ukrainian government rebuild the country after the war with Russia. 

“The European Commission has proposed to the government of Ukraine to set up a reconstruction platform to map investment needs, to coordinate action, to channel resources and, of course, in support of an ambitious reform agenda," Von der Leyen said during the opening ceremony of the Ukraine recovery conference.

"This platform will be the place to shape strategic orientations and priorities for our common work,” she added. 

Von der Leyen also said the platform will “focus on future-proof reconstruction, moving towards climate neutrality, embracing the digital decade [and] building a social market economy that leaves no one behind.”

She went on to say that the Kremlin's aim is to “undermine Ukraine’s very existence as a state,” the "the military, political and economic destruction" of the country and that the European Union “will never let that happen."

Von der Leyen added that the EU has already mobilized 6.2 billion euros in financial support and that “more has to come and more will come.”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal reiterated the need for financial assistance in his speech at the conference, saying that the country’s recovery plan will cost an estimated $750 billion. Shmyhal said confiscated Russian assets should be a key source of funding.

“Who should pay for the recovery plan which is already estimated at $750 billion? We believe that the key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs. The Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction and they should be held accountable for it,” Shmyhal said during the conference, adding that “Russia’s frozen assets, according to various estimates, range from $300 billion to $500 billion.”

According to the Ukrainian prime minister, other sources of funding for the recovery plan should include grants and soft loans from international financial organizations and partner countries, private sector investments and off-budget contributions from individuals and corporations as well as Ukraine’s own budget funds.

The prime minister also said that Ukraine’s direct infrastructure losses amount to more than $100 billion.

“More than 1,200 education institutions, more than 200 hospitals, thousands of kilometers of gas pipelines, water, and electricity network, roads and railways were destroyed or damaged,” Shmyhal said.

 

9:35 a.m. ET, July 4, 2022

Ukraine says it has dropped its flag onto Snake Island, but flag not yet raised

From Oleksandra Ochman

A satellite image shows an overview of Snake Island, Ukraine, on June 30.
A satellite image shows an overview of Snake Island, Ukraine, on June 30. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

The spokesperson for the Ukrainian Military’s Southern Command, 1st Capt. Natalia Humeniuk, said the country’s flag was dropped on Snake Island but has not yet been raised, clarifying earlier remarks regarding the status of the flag.

"The flag was delivered to the island by helicopter. It will wait for the arrival of the troops, then it will wave,” Humeniuk told CNN, when asked about her remarks earlier on Monday. 

She also explained that her remarks about the flag being raised should be “understood metaphorically.”

"No one landed on the island. So who will install it, stick it in, raise it?,” she said. “And no one will risk people for the sake of a photo for the media.”

Earlier Monday, Humeniuk had said Ukraine's flag had been raised over Snake Island, after forcing a Russian withdrawal from the strategically important territory.

Some background: Known as Zmiinyi Ostriv in Ukrainian, Snake Island lies around 30 miles (48 kilometers) off the coast of Ukraine and is close to the sea lanes leading to the Bosphorus and Mediterranean.

Russian troops left Snake Island in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said last week, after they carried out what they said was a "successful" operation.

The small but strategic territory was the scene of one of the opening salvos of the war in Ukraine, with demands from a Russian warship calling for the Ukrainian defenders to surrender, who boldly replied with "Russian warship, go f*** yourself."

8:34 a.m. ET, July 4, 2022

Putin says generals have proposed "development of offensive operations" and forces must proceed per plans

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that he received a proposal from the Russian army generals on the development of the "offensive operations" in Ukraine. 

“Col. General Alexander Pavlovich Lapin and Army General Sergey Vladimirovich Surovikin also reported to me today on the progress in fulfilling the tasks assigned to them and their proposals for the development of offensive operations,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at meeting in the Kremlin. 

The Ministry of Defense “keeps in view” all the proposals of the commanders in the field, Putin added, saying that while military units that participated in the operation in the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) should rest, other formations, including the East and West groups, must proceed with tasks according to plans.

This comes as Putin congratulated Russian troops for "achieving victory" in Ukraine's Luhansk region.

8:49 a.m. ET, July 4, 2022

Putin praises Russian forces for taking Luhansk region

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova

This image released by the People's Militia of the Luhansk People's Republic on July 3, shows their forces with Soviet and Russian national flags on a government building as they capture the city of Lysychansk, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine.
This image released by the People's Militia of the Luhansk People's Republic on July 3, shows their forces with Soviet and Russian national flags on a government building as they capture the city of Lysychansk, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. (Eyepress/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated Russian troops for "achieving victory" in Ukraine's Luhansk region.

In a meeting televised by Russian state media on Monday, defense minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin the Russian advances in the area.

“Starting June 19, [Russian] formations and military units ... in cooperation with units of the second corps of the people's militia of the [self-proclaimed] Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and with the support of the southern group of troops ... successfully carried out an offensive operation to liberate the territory of the Luhansk People's Republic,” Shoigu said.

Shoigu added that the "Gorsky cauldron" area, Lysychansk and Severodonetsk were surrounded within two weeks, and the Ukrainian army allegedly lost 5,469 soldiers in the battles. 

Putin told Shoigu that the military personnel who contributed to fighting in LPR, will be rewarded for their "bravery," and that they should now "rest."

"Other military units, including the East and West military groups, they have to fulfil their tasks, according to the previously suggested plan," Putin said. "I hope everything will be successful as it happened in the [Luhansk] area," he added.

Putin also praised the LPR's militia for showing "heroism." "My congratulations and my words of gratitude," Putin said. "I congratulate you all and wish you all the best."