Drone footage shows car ‘filled with explosives’ on Kakhova dam

Drone footage has emerged allegedly showing a car filled with explosives on the Kakhovka dam when it collapsed earlier in the month.

Two Ukrainian military officials told the Associated Press that Russian troops were in the same area inside the dam where Ukraine claims that the explosion took place.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The Russia-controlled Kakhovka dam collapsed earlier this month, causing flooding that has killed at least 52 people.

Ukraine has blamed Russia for the collapse of the dam, with the Ukrainian military claiming it was Russia’s attempt to prevent Ukrainian troops from crossing the Dnipro to attack the occupying forces.

Meanwhile, Russia has blamed Kyiv for sabotaging the dam by cutting off water supplies to Crimea and to distract attention from its alleged faltering counteroffensive.

Key Points

  • Putin’s casualties at highest level since battle for Bakhmut, UK says

  • Ukrainian troops moving forward, says Zelensky

  • Wagner’s 32,000 prison fighters return to Russia from Ukraine

  • Britain says Russia has likely started redeploying its Dnipro troops

  • Multiple investigations point to Russia blowing up Kakhovka dam

Russian military warns of risk of mosquito-borne diseases after Ukraine flooding

09:33 , Martha Mchardy

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday that flooding in the Kherson region after the breach of Ukraine’s huge Kakhovka Dam could lead to mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Fever breaking out in the area.

Russian forces partially control part of the southern Kherson region, which Ukraine has vowed to retake by force.

The Russia-controlled Kakhovka dam collapsed earlier this month, causing flooding that has killed at least 52 people.

Water flows over the collapsed Kakhovka Dam in Nova Kakhovka, in Russian-occupied Ukraine (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Water flows over the collapsed Kakhovka Dam in Nova Kakhovka, in Russian-occupied Ukraine (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Ukraine has blamed Russia for the collapse of the dam, with the Ukrainian military claiming it was Russia’s attempt to prevent Ukrainian troops from crossing the Dnipro to attack the occupying forces.

Meanwhile, Russia has blamed Kyiv for sabotaging the dam by cutting off water supplies to Crimea and to distract attention from its alleged faltering counteroffensive.

Russia’s Lavrov: West trying to undermine Russia’s stability ahead of 2024 election

09:31 , Martha Mchardy

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday accused the West of trying to undermine the stability of the Russian domestic political scene ahead of a planned presidential election next year.

Ukraine reports new retaken village in southern counterattack

09:06 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine said on Monday its forces had recaptured Piatykhatky, a village on the road to one of the most heavily defended areas of the Russian-occupied south, and that they had retaken 113 square km (44 square miles) of land in the last two weeks.

Ukrainian soldiers held up yellow-and-blue national flags in a video circulated on social media, in which they said they were inside Piatykhatky, the eighth southeastern village that Kyiv says it has liberated.

“Today, June 18, the forces of 128 assault brigade chased out the Russians from the village of Piatykhatky. The Russians ran away leaving equipment and ammunition. Glory to Ukraine!” an unidentified soldier said.

A Russian-installed official in the partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region had said on Sunday that Kyiv’s troops had retaken Piatykhatky, but that they had then been pushed out and that the settlement was now located in a “grey” area of control.

Deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces had not only retaken Piatykhatky but had advanced by up to seven km (4.3 miles) into Russian lines in two weeks.

“In the course of two weeks of offensive operations in the Berdiansk and Melitopol directions, eight settlements were liberated,” Maliar wrote on the Telegram messenger.

Drone footage shows car filled with explosives on Kakhovka dam

08:52 , Martha Mchardy

Drone footage has emerged allegedly showing a car filled with explosives on the Kakhovka dam when it collapsed earlier in the month.

Two Ukrainian military officials told the Associated Press that Russian troops were in the same area inside the dam where Ukraine claims that the explosion took place.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

A car on the Kakhovka Dam that appears to be laden with explosives (AP)

A car on the Kakhovka Dam that appears to be laden with explosives (AP)

The dam collapsed June 6, while it was under Russian control (AP)

The dam collapsed June 6, while it was under Russian control (AP)

The Russia-controlled Kakhovka dam collapsed earlier this month, causing flooding that has killed at least 52 people.

Ukraine has blamed Russia for the collapse of the dam, with the Ukrainian military claiming it was Russia’s attempt to prevent Ukrainian troops from crossing the Dnipro to attack the occupying forces.

Meanwhile, Russia has blamed Kyiv for sabotaging the dam by cutting off water supplies to Crimea and to distract attention from its alleged faltering counteroffensive.

Russia says it repelled Ukrainian attack on Novodonetske village in counteroffensive zone

08:21 , Martha Mchardy

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Monday its forces had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to take the village of Novodonetske in the eastern Donetsk region, one of the areas where Kyiv’s counteroffensive has been focused.

The ministry said in a statement that marines from Russia’s Pacific Fleet had pushed back the overnight attack and destroyed Ukrainian armoured vehicles.

It released a video of what it said was the aftermath of the battle showing what one soldier heard talking in it said was a captured French-made tank.

The reports could not be independently verified.

Deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said on Monday that Kyiv’s forces had liberated eight settlements in the past two weeks of their offensive operations.

Russia says it thwarted ‘Ukrainian terrorist plots’ against Russian-backed officials

08:04 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s FSB security service said on Monday it had thwarted a series of Ukrainian “sabotage and terrorist plots” targeting Russian-backed officials on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine and had arrested one woman as part of its investigation.

The FSB said in a statement that the attacks had targeted Russian law enforcement officials and Russian-installed government officials in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, one of four areas in Ukraine that Moscow says it has annexed since the start of what it calls its “special military operation.”

Kyiv is currently mounting a counteroffensive to retake what it and the West say was illegally seized territory. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine on the Russian allegations.

The FSB said it had opened criminal cases against an unnamed woman it described as “an accomplice” on charges related to terrorism and the illegal possession of explosives.

 (Reuters)

(Reuters)

Putin’s casualties at highest level since battle for Bakhmut, UK says

07:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has suffered its highest losses since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, British officials have said.

The UK military said both sides are suffering high numbers of military casualties as Ukraine fights to dislodge the Kremlin‘s forces from occupied areas in the early stages of its counter-offensive.

According to British intelligence, the most intense fighting has centred on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut and further west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province.

While the update reported that Ukraine was on the offensive in these areas and had “made small advances,” it said that Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.

The Ukrainian military said in a regular update Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours, Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

 (AP)

(AP)

Britain says Russia has likely started redeploying its Dnipro troops

07:18 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Monday that over the last 10 days, Russia has likely started relocating elements of its Dnipro Group of Forces (DGF) from the eastern bank of the Dnipro river to reinforce the Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut sectors.

The DGF redeployment likely reflects Russia‘s perception that a major Ukrainian attack across the Dnipro river is now less likely following the collapse of Kakhovka Dam and the resulting flooding, the ministry said in an update.

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Ukrainian troops moving forward, says Zelensky

06:10 , Arpan Rai

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukrainian troops are advancing in the war and now Russia’s primary focus should now be to prepare its society for the consequences of destroying its own future as Moscow will lose the war.

“Their only concern now should be how to prepare their society, Russian society, to the fact that they will lose everything they are destroying the future of their state for. Russia will lose the occupied territories. There is no and will be no alternative to our steps for de-occupation,” Mr Zelensky said, without referencing to counter-offensive action in the battlefield.

Our troops are advancing, position by position, step by step, we are moving forward, he said.

Russia rejects UN help as death toll from breached Kakhovka dam rises

04:34 , Arpan Rai

Russia has rejected an offer from the United Nations to help affected residents in the flooding after the Nova Kakhovka dam breach, officials said.

The UN urged Russia to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law. “Aid cannot be denied to people who need it,” Denise Brown, UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said in a statement.

Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the Soviet-era dam, under Russian control since early days of its invasion in 2022.

The death toll from flooding in the region has risen to 52, with Russian officials saying 35 people had died in Moscow-controlled areas and Ukraine‘s interior ministry saying 17 had died and 31 were missing. More than 11,000 have been evacuated on both sides.

A team of international legal experts assisting Ukraine‘s prosecutors in their investigation said it was “highly likely” the dam’s collapse was caused by explosives planted by Russians.

Wagner’s 32,000 prison fighters return to Russia from Ukraine

03:57 , Arpan Rai

Around 32,000 prisoners recruited by Russian mercenary group Wagner have returned to Russia.

These thousands of prisoners have returned to Russia after their contracts with the mercenary group expired, said its chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Prigozhin added that the prisoners whose Wagner contracts expired had committed 83 crimes after they returned to Russia. He claimed that this crime rate is less than for other former convicts.

In pictures: Rally in support of Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Kyiv

03:00 , Martha Mchardy

Relatives, friends and members of the public attend a rally in support of Ukrainian prisoners of war and military medics captured during the Russian invasion, at Independence Square in Kyiv on June 18 (Getty Images)

Relatives, friends and members of the public attend a rally in support of Ukrainian prisoners of war and military medics captured during the Russian invasion, at Independence Square in Kyiv on June 18 (Getty Images)

Relatives, friends and members of the public attend a rally in support of Ukrainian prisoners of war (Getty Images)

Relatives, friends and members of the public attend a rally in support of Ukrainian prisoners of war (Getty Images)

Relatives, friends and members of the public hold Ukrainian flags and placards reading

Relatives, friends and members of the public hold Ukrainian flags and placards reading

Putin and South African president meet for talks

02:00 , Martha Mchardy

At talks in St Petersburg on Saturday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa presented Putin with a 10-point peace initiative from seven African countries and told him the time had come for Russia and Ukraine to start negotiations to end the war.

Putin responded by rattling off a string of familiar accusations denied by Ukraine and the West and saying it was Kyiv, not Moscow, that was refusing to talk. He thanked Ramaphosa for his “noble mission”.

Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Putin had shown interest in the plan but it would be “difficult to realise”.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa walks upon his arrival at the international airport outside St. Petersburg (AP)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa walks upon his arrival at the international airport outside St. Petersburg (AP)

In Kyiv the previous day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had told the African delegation – the first since the start of the war to hold separate face-to-face talks with both leaders on their peace initiative – that allowing negotiations now would just “freeze the war” and the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

The vast gulf between the two sides was further underlined when Putin used a flagship economic forum on Friday to slur Zelenskiy personally and to restate the objectives of “demilitarising” and “denazifying” Ukraine that he set out on day one of the war, and which Kyiv and the West reject as a false pretext for invasion.

However, Ramaphosa sought to cast the trip to Ukraine and Russia in a positive light, tweeting on Sunday that the “Africa Peace Initiative has been impactful and its ultimate success will be measured on the objective, which is stopping the war”.

He said the Africans would keep talking to both Putin and Zelenskiy and would brief U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on their efforts so far.

ICYMI: Ukrainians rescued from Russian-held flood zones in Kherson

01:00 , Martha Mchardy

ICYMI: Death toll rises from flooding after Ukraine dam breach

Monday 19 June 2023 00:00 , Martha Mchardy

The death toll from flooding following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam has risen to 16 in Ukraine, Kyiv officials said, while Russian officials said 29 people have died in territories that Moscow controls.

The breaching of the Kakhovka Dam on June 6 unleashed floodwaters across a large swath of land in southern Ukraine and in Russia-occupied parts of Ukraine, destroying farmland and cutting off supplies to civilians.

More than 3,600 people have been evacuated from the flooded areas in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, while 31 people were still missing and some 1,300 houses remained flooded, Ukraine’s interior ministry said on its Telegram channel late on Saturday.

Houses are seen underwater in the flooded town of Oleshky, Ukraine, (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Houses are seen underwater in the flooded town of Oleshky, Ukraine, (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Andrei Alekseyenko, chairman of the Russian-installed administration in the Moscow-occupied parts of the Kherson region, said on the Telegram messaging app the death toll had risen to 29 people.

Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the Soviet-era dam, under Russian control since early days of its invasion in 2022.

A team of international legal experts assisting Ukraine’s prosecutors in their investigation said in preliminary findings on Friday it was “highly likely” the collapse in Ukraine’s Kherson region was caused by explosives planted by Russians. The Kremlin accuses Kyiv of sabotaging the hydroelectric dam, which held a reservoir the size of the U.S. Great Salt Lake, to cut off a key source of water for Crimea and distract attention from a “faltering” counter-offensive against Russian forces.

Russia had means, motive and opportunity to destroy Ukraine dam, drone photos and information show

Sunday 18 June 2023 23:19 , William Mata

Russia had the means, motive and opportunity to bring down a Ukrainian dam that collapsed earlier this month while under Russian control, according to exclusive drone photos and information obtained by The Associated Press.

Images taken from above the Kakhovka Dam and shared with the AP appear to show an explosive-laden car atop the structure, and two officials said Russian troops were stationed in a crucial area inside the dam where the Ukrainians say the explosion that destroyed it was centered.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The dam’s destruction led to deadly flooding, endangered crops in the world’s breadbasket, threatened drinking water supplies for thousands and unleashed an environmental catastrophe.

Ukrainian commanders say it also scuppered some of their plans to take Russian positions in a counteroffensive that is now in its early stages.

Putin shows off what he claims is ‘draft peace agreement’ with Ukraine – that they ‘refused to sign’

Sunday 18 June 2023 23:00 , Martha Mchardy

A new clip has emerged of Vladimir Putin showing African leaders what he claims to be a ‘draft peace agreement’ with Ukraine.

The Russian president claimed that Ukraine had allegedly ‘refused to sign it’ so it was ‘thrown into the rubbish heap of history’.

“This draft of the treaty was initialed by the leader of the negotiation group from Kyiv. He put his signature. There it exists,” he told the room, holding up the document.

“Where are the guarantees that they will not renounce any other agreements in the future?”

Kyiv has not commented on the footage.

Sophie Thompson reports:

Putin shows off what he claims is ‘draft peace agreement’ with Ukraine

Russia reports fierce fighting as African peace mission leaves empty-handed

Sunday 18 June 2023 22:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia reported fierce fighting on Sunday on three sections of the front line in Ukraine, a day after hosting an African peace mission that failed to spark enthusiasm from either Moscow or Kyiv.

A Russian-installed official said Ukraine had recaptured Piatykhatky, a village in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, and were entrenching themselves there while coming under fire from Russian artillery.

“The enemy’s ‘wave-like’ offensives yielded results, despite enormous losses,” the official, Vladimir Rogov, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia’s defence ministry made no mention of Piatykhatky in its daily update, in which it said its forces had repelled Ukrainian attacks in three sections of the 1,000 km (600 mile) front line. A separate statement from Russia’s Vostok group of forces said Ukraine had failed to take the settlement.

The reports could not be independently verified.

Ukraine said to have recaptured village in Zaporizhzhia

Sunday 18 June 2023 21:51 , William Mata / Mark Trevelyan

Ukraine is said to have recaptured its first village in several days – as fierce fighting continues across the frontline.

A Russian-installed official said Ukraine had recaptured Piatykhatky, a village in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, and were entrenching themselves there while coming under fire from Russian artillery.

“The enemy’s ‘wave-like’ offensives yielded results, despite enormous losses,” the official, Vladimir Rogov, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Read Mark Trevelyan’s full story here.

UN says Russia so far declining aid access after Ukraine dam burst

Sunday 18 June 2023 21:32 , Reuters

The United Nations said on Sunday that Russia has “so far declined our request to access the areas under its temporary military control” after the Kakhovka Dam burst on June 6, unleashing floodwaters and cutting off supplies to civilians.

“The UN will continue to engage to seek the necessary access. We urge the Russian authorities to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, Denise Brown, said in a statement. “Aid cannot be denied to people who need it.”

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy: ‘very effective’ repelling of assaults near Avdiivka in east

Sunday 18 June 2023 21:12 , Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday praised Ukrainian forces for their “very effective” repelling of enemy assaults near Avdiivka, one of the focal points of fighting in the east.

“The Avdiivka sector is very effective in repelling assaults,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

The head of the military administration in Avdiivka, a mining town shattered by months of fighting, told national television that Ukrainian forces had advanced about one km (two-thirds of a mile) around the town over the past two weeks.

In his remarks, Mr Zelensky also said the Tavria, or southern front, was “the most brutal” and expressed gratitude to soldiers fighting there and elsewhere. Ukrainian military officials have noted progress in advances of troops on the southern front.

 (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

Latest pictures from Donetsk front line

Sunday 18 June 2023 21:00 , Martha Mchardy

Ukrainian service members are seen on their position at a front line in Donetsk region (REUTERS)

Ukrainian service members are seen on their position at a front line in Donetsk region (REUTERS)

A Ukrainian service member amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region (REUTERS)

A Ukrainian service member amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region (REUTERS)

The Donetsk region is in eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)

The Donetsk region is in eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)

A Ukrainian service member on the front line in the Donetsk region (REUTERS)

A Ukrainian service member on the front line in the Donetsk region (REUTERS)

ICYMI: Rishi Sunak calls on private firms to step up support to boost economic recovery for Ukraine

Sunday 18 June 2023 20:00 , Martha Mchardy

Rishi Sunak will call on businesses and investors to “match Ukraine’s bravery on the battlefield” by stepping up support for the country’s economic recovery.

The prime minister will urge the private sector to “help the country rebuild and recover” in an effort to create a “financially stronger, technologically advanced Ukraine”.

Mr Sunak will address more than 1,000 foreign dignitaries from 61 states at the Ukraine Recovery Conference next week – the largest international conference to be hosted by the UK this year.

Archie Mitchell reports:

Rishi Sunak calls on private firms to step up support for Ukraine

Voices: People say Ukraine will never recover. They’re wrong

Sunday 18 June 2023 19:00 , Martha Mchardy

From Bakhmut to Mariupol entire cityscapes have been devastated. But history also tells us that a durable peace is much likelier where planning for recovery begins early, writes Patrick Watt, chief executive of Christian Aid.

People say Ukraine will never recover. This is how we prove them wrong | Patrick Watt

Both sides suffer heavy casualties as Ukraine strikes back against Russia, UK assessment says

Sunday 18 June 2023 18:36 , AP

Russia and Ukraine are suffering high numbers of military casualties as Ukraine fights to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas in the early stages of its counteroffensive, British officials said Sunday.

Russian losses are probably at their highest level since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, UK military officials said in their regular assessment.

According to British intelligence, the most intense fighting has centered on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut and further west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province.

While the update reported that Ukraine was on the offensive in these areas and had “made small advances,” it said that Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.

The Ukrainian military said in a regular update Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

According to the statement by the General Staff, Russia continues to concentrate its efforts on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing attacks around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Lyman in Donetsk province, with 26 combat clashes taking place.

Both sides suffer heavy casualties as Ukraine strikes back against Russia, UK assessment says

Sunday 18 June 2023 18:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia and Ukraine are suffering high numbers of military casualties as Ukraine fights to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas in the early stages of its counteroffensive, British officials said Sunday.

Russian losses are probably at their highest level since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, U.K. military officials said in their regular assessment.

According to British intelligence, the most intense fighting has centered on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut and further west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province. While the update reported that Ukraine was on the offensive in these areas and had “made small advances,” it said that Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.

Read the full story:

Both sides suffer heavy casualties as Ukraine strikes back against Russia, UK assessment says

Watch: Putin holds up ‘draft peace agreement’ with Ukraine

Sunday 18 June 2023 17:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia says it repels Ukrainian attacks on three sections of front line

Sunday 18 June 2023 16:00 , Tara Cobham

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its forces had repelled a series of Ukrainian attacks across three sections of the front line, where it said Ukraine was pressing most actively in the Zaporizhzhia region.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.

The statement did not mention the settlement of Piatykhatky in Zaporizhzhia region, which a Russian-installed official said earlier had been taken by Ukraine.

Watch: Putin claims to show off ‘draft peace agreement’ with Ukraine

Sunday 18 June 2023 15:00 , Tara Cobham

A new clip has emerged of Vladimir Putin showing African leaders what he claims to be a ‘draft peace agreement’ with Ukraine.

The Russian president claimed that Ukraine had allegedly ‘refused to sign it’ so it was ‘thrown into the rubbish heap of history’.

“This draft of the treaty was initialed by the leader of the negotiation group from Kyiv. He put his signature. There it exists,” he told the room, holding up the document.

“Where are the guarantees that they will not renounce any other agreements in the future?”

Kyiv has not commented on the footage.

Putin shows off what he claims is ‘draft peace agreement’ with Ukraine

Europe to accelerate arms shipments to Ukraine – EU industry chief

Sunday 18 June 2023 14:00 , Tara Cobham

The European Union is speeding up arms deliveries to Ukraine in support of the country’s counter offensive against Russian forces, EU industry chief Thierry Breton said on Sunday in an interview with the French daily Le Parisien.

“We are going to step up our efforts to deliver arms and ammunition– this is a war of high intensity in which they play a crucial role,” Breton said, citing a pledge to supply a million high-calibre weapons over the next 12 months.

“We are preparing for the war to last several more months, or even longer,” he added.

Ukraine launched a counteroffensive earlier this month to retake territory from Russian forces, and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last Thursday urged Kyiv’s allies to “dig deep” to provide more arms and ammunition.

Putin’s forces ‘abandon’ village as it’s reportedly recaptured by Kyiv

Sunday 18 June 2023 12:28 , Martha Mchardy

Vladimir Putin’s forces “have abandoned” the village of Piatykhatky on the Zaporizhzhia front after it was reportedly recaptured by Kyiv, according to Russian military blogger War Gonzo.

It is Ukraine’s first village gain for nearly a week and marks a significant escalation of Ukraine’s counter-offensive which was launched earlier this month.

The military blogger suggested Ukraine has concentrated large reserves and “heavy armoured vehicles” in the area, which is the most direct route to Crimea.

Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov claimed on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had taken the settlement of Piatykhatky and were entrenching themselves there while coming under fire from Russian artillery.

However, he said heavy fighting continues in the area. The reports have not been independently verified.

Russia claims it is inflicting heavy losses on Kyiv’s forces and president Putin said last week that Ukraine had “no chance” of success in the counter-offensive.

Meanwhile, Ukraine said last week it had regained control of about 100 square km (38 square miles) of territory in just over a week, recapturing a string of villages in Donetsk region to the east.

Death toll rises from flooding after Ukraine dam breach

Sunday 18 June 2023 12:20 , Tara Cobham

The death toll from flooding following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam has risen to 16 in Ukraine, Kyiv officials said, while Russian officials said 29 people have died in territories that Moscow controls.

The breaching of the Kakhovka Dam on June 6 unleashed floodwaters across a large swath of land in southern Ukraine and in Russia-occupied parts of Ukraine, destroying farmland and cutting off supplies to civilians.

More than 3,600 people have been evacuated from the flooded areas in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, while 31 people were still missing and some 1,300 houses remained flooded, Ukraine’s interior ministry said on its Telegram channel late on Saturday.

Andrei Alekseyenko, chairman of the Russian-installed administration in the Moscow-occupied parts of the Kherson region, said on the Telegram messaging app the death toll had risen to 29 people.

Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the Soviet-era dam, under Russian control since early days of its invasion in 2022.

A team of international legal experts assisting Ukraine’s prosecutors in their investigation said in preliminary findings on Friday it was “highly likely” the collapse in Ukraine’s Kherson region was caused by explosives planted by Russians. The Kremlin accuses Kyiv of sabotaging the hydroelectric dam, which held a reservoir the size of the U.S. Great Salt Lake, to cut off a key source of water for Crimea and distract attention from a “faltering” counter-offensive against Russian forces.

Ukrainian counteroffensive on four sections of front on Saturday – ISW

Sunday 18 June 2023 11:20 , Tara Cobham

Ukraine continued its counteroffensive on at least four sections of the front on Saturday, according to the Institute of War (ISW).

Putin lectures African leaders seeking peace in Ukraine

Sunday 18 June 2023 10:20 , Tara Cobham

Russian President Vladimir Putin interrupted opening remarks by African leaders seeking peace in the Ukraine conflict to deliver a list of reasons – including his tried-and-tested tactic of blaming the West – as to why he claims many of their proposals are misguided.

Mr Putin first welcomed the presidents of Comoros, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, as well as Egypt’s prime minister and top envoys from the Republic of Congo and Uganda to the 18th-century Konstantinovsky Palace on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. He stressed Russia’s commitment to the continent. But after presentations from the Comoran, Senegalese and South African leaders, he stepped in to challenge the assumptions of the plan before the round of comments from all the representatives could go any further.

Kevin Liffey reports:

Putin lectures African leaders seeking peace in Ukraine – as they say war must end

Prigozhin ‘disinterested in subordinating Wagner to Russian Defence Ministry’ – ISW

Sunday 18 June 2023 09:20 , Tara Cobham

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin has continued to show disinterest in formally subordinating the private military company to the Russian Defence Ministry, according to the Institute of War (ISW).

It said his behaviour suggests he is unlikely to do so unless such a move would give him more political power in Russia.

Prigozhin “sarcastically criticised” the Russian Defence Ministry’s efforts at formalisation on Saturday, added the policy research organisation, having previously signalled he was on board with the order for volunteer formations to sign formal contracts by 1 July.

Sunak calls on private firms to step up support for Ukraine economic recovery

Sunday 18 June 2023 08:20 , Tara Cobham

Rishi Sunak will call on businesses and investors to “match Ukraine’s bravery on the battlefield” by stepping up support for the country’s economic recovery.

The prime minister will urge the private sector to “help the country rebuild and recover” in an effort to create a “financially stronger, technologically advanced Ukraine”.

Mr Sunak will address more than 1,000 foreign dignitaries from 61 states at the Ukraine Recovery Conference next week – the largest international conference to be hosted by the UK this year.

The audience will also contain business chiefs and global investors.

Archie Mitchell reports:

Rishi Sunak calls on private firms to step up support for Ukraine

‘Significant’ Russian ammunition depot destroyed in Kherson

Sunday 18 June 2023 07:00 , Adam Withnall

The Ukrainian military says it has destroyed a “significant” ammunition depot near the Russian-occupied port city of Henichesk in the southern region of Kherson.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for the Odesa military administration, said on Sunday: “Our armed forces dealt a good blow in the morning – and a very loud one – in the village of Rykove, Henichesk district, in the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region.

“There was a very significant ammunition depot. It was destroyed.”

Ukrainian media posted videos showing a vast plume of smoke rising far on the horizon with sounds of blasts.

Reuters said it could not independently verify the information, and there was no immediate comment from Russia on the alleged attack.

Rykove is about 20km (12 miles) from Henichesk, a port city along the Sea of Azov in southern Ukraine, which has been occupied by Kremlin forces since the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Evidence clearly points to Russia blowing up Kahkovka dam, investigations find

Sunday 18 June 2023 06:28 , Adam Withnall

Multiple investigations published late last week added to the body of evidence suggesting Russia was responsible for the destruction of the Soviet-era New Kahkovka dam in Ukraine earlier this month.

The dam’s destruction unleashed a torrent of water flooding a large stretch of the Kherson region, with officials warning it could lead to water shortages and other long-term impacts for decades to come.

Russia has denied blowing up the dam and blamed it on Ukrainian forces, while Kyiv said it believed Moscow ordered the dam’s destruction in order to slow down its long-awaited military counteroffensive.

Now, a team of international legal experts assisting Ukraine’s prosecutors in their investigation said in preliminary findings on Friday it was “highly likely” the collapse in Ukraine’s Kherson region was caused by explosives planted by Russians.

And an investigation published by the New York Times described the destruction of the dam – which was controlled by Russia at the time – as an “inside job”.

The Times investigation cited engineers and explosive experts, analysing available videos, photographs and satellite imagery of the dam, to conclude that “the evidence clearly suggests the dam was crippled by an explosion set off by the side that controls it: Russia”.

It described the dam as virtually indestructible from external forces such as shelling, instead saying that evidence suggests an explosive charge in a passageway running through the dam’s concrete base was detonated, destroying the structure.

This image provided by Maxar Technologies, shows the Kakhovka dam and station in Ukraine after its collapse, on June 7, 2023 (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

This image provided by Maxar Technologies, shows the Kakhovka dam and station in Ukraine after its collapse, on June 7, 2023 (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

The Times cited engineers as saying only a full examination of the dam after the water drains from it could conclusively establish the sequence of events leading to its destruction.

“Erosion from water cascading through the gates could have led to a failure if the dam were poorly designed, or the concrete was substandard, but engineers called that unlikely,” the newspaper said.

Little to show for ‘peace plan’ meeting between Putin and African leaders

Sunday 18 June 2023 05:21 , Adam Withnall

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin met a group of leaders of African countries yesterday, after they travelled to Ukraine and Russia on a self-styled “peace mission”, but the meeting ended with no visible progress.

The seven African leaders – presidents of Comoros, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, as well as Egypt’s prime minister and top envoys from the Republic of Congo and Uganda – first visited Ukraine on Friday and met with president Volodymyr Zelensky as they discussed efforts to end the nearly 16-month-old war.

The African leaders then travelled to St Petersburg on Saturday to meet Mr Putin, who was attending Russia’s showpiece international economic forum.

Details about the delegation’s proposals were thin.

Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said after the three-hour meeting that the Africans’ peace plan consisted of 10 elements, but “was not formulated on paper”.

“The peace initiative proposed by African countries is very difficult to implement, difficult to compare positions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

But “President Putin has shown interest in considering it”.

“He spoke about our position. Not all provisions can be correlated with the main elements of our position, but this does not mean that we do not need to continue working,” Mr Peskov said.

Sunak to ask businesses to back Ukraine

Sunday 18 June 2023 04:51 , Stuti Mishra

British prime minister Rishi Sunak will ask entrepreneurs and businesses to step up investment in Ukraine at a conference next week to help it rebuild after Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky will make a virtual appearance at the two-day event which starts in London on Wednesday, organisers said.

“Ukraine’s bravery on the battlefield must be matched by the vision of the private sector to help the country rebuild and recover,” Mr Sunak will say, according to the text of his speech released by his office yesterday

“A financially stronger, technologically advanced Ukraine will bolster its ability to drive Russia back behind its borders,” Mr Sunak will tell dignitaries and company bosses at the Ukraine Recovery Conference, according to the statement.

Blinken arrives in China with Ukraine war on the agenda

Sunday 18 June 2023 04:30 , Stuti Mishra

US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in Beijing this morning on a high-stakes diplomatic mission to try to cool high US-China tensions that have set many around the world on edge.

The list of disagreements and potential conflict points is long: ranging from trade with Taiwan, human rights conditions in China to Hong Kong, as well as the Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Mr Blinken was to begin two days of talks with senior Chinese officials in the afternoon. He is the highest-level American official to visit China since president Joe Biden took office and the first secretary of state to make the trip in five years.

The trip comes after he postponed plans to visit in February after the shootdown of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the US.

Mr Blinken plans to meet with Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang on Sunday, top diplomat Wang Yi, and possibly president Xi Jinping on Monday, according to US officials.

Shortly before leaving, Mr Blinken emphasised the importance of the US and China establishing and maintaining better lines of communication. The US wants to make sure “that the competition we have with China doesn’t veer into conflict” due to avoidable misunderstandings, he told reporters.

Biden and Xi had made commitments to improve communications “precisely so that we can make sure we are communicating as clearly as possible to avoid possible misunderstandings and miscommunications,” Mr Blinken said Friday.

Putin lectures African leaders seeking peace in Ukraine – as they tell him war must end

Sunday 18 June 2023 04:00 , Natalie Crockett

Russian President Vladimir Putin interrupted opening remarks by African leaders seeking peace in the Ukraine conflict to deliver a list of reasons – including his tried-and-tested tactic of blaming the West – as to why he claims many of their proposals are misguided.

Mr Putin first welcomed the presidents of Comoros, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, as well as Egypt’s prime minister and top envoys from the Republic of Congo and Uganda to the 18th-century Konstantinovsky Palace on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. He stressed Russia‘s commitment to the continent. But after presentations from the Comoran, Senegalese and South African leaders, he stepped in to challenge the assumptions of the plan before the round of comments from all the representatives could go any further.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told Mr Putin: “The war cannot go on forever. All wars have to be settled and come to an end at some stage,” he said. “And we are here to communicate a very clear message that we would like this war to be ended.”

Read the full story here:

Putin lectures African leaders seeking peace in Ukraine – as they say war must end

From Friday: How significant is the reported recapture of the first Ukrainian villages from Russia?

Sunday 18 June 2023 03:00 , William Mata

Ukraine has celebrated the first territorial gains of its long-trailed counteroffensive against the invading Russian forces.

Unverified photographs and video appearing on Sunday and on Monday morning showed Ukrainian soldiers holding their country’s blue and yellow flag aloft in triumph in the eastern villages of Storozheve, Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka in Donetsk, suggesting they had been recaptured from occupying enemy troops.

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar posted one of the photos from Storozheve and thanked the 35th Separate Brigade of Marines for liberating it.

Read the full story by Joe Sommerlad here.

From Friday: Putin touts Russian economy, says Ukraine’s president is ‘shame to Jewish people’

Sunday 18 June 2023 02:00 , AP

President Vladimir Putin on Friday touted Russia’s prospects at the country’s main international economic forum despite heavy international sanctions imposed because of the war in Ukraine.

Western officials and investors steered clear of this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that for decades has been Russia’s premier event for attracting foreign capital and is sometimes likened to the Davos World Economic Forum.

Read the full story from Friday here.

Vladimir Putin (AP)

Vladimir Putin (AP)

Words of encouragement

Sunday 18 June 2023 01:00 , William Mata

Ukraine’s ministry of defence has tweeted some messages of support to its troops as the conflict rages on.

“When the sun goes down, “they” come to destroy our cities and kill our people,” read one message. “Our mission begins at each sunset. We must protect our people.”

President Zelensky earlier said: “Thanks to every soldier! To everyone who fights with the enemy, rescues our soldiers after wounds, trains our soldiers, and supplies everything necessary for the Ukrainian defence!”

‘Every position retaken from the occupiers’

Sunday 18 June 2023 00:00 , William Mata

Ukraine’s president has tweeted to say his nation has retaken every position that had been captured.

Volodymyr Zelensky thanked his soldiers in a report that could not be verified by the Independent.

“Our forces are new and new arguments for the world that Ukraine can, can win,” Mr Zelensky tweeted at 11.50am British time.

Pictures of the day – Satuday, June 17

Saturday 17 June 2023 23:00 , William Mata

Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine plays a backhand against Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine in a qualifying match during day one of the Rothesay Classic Birmingham at Edgbaston Priory Club (Getty Images for LTA)

Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine plays a backhand against Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine in a qualifying match during day one of the Rothesay Classic Birmingham at Edgbaston Priory Club (Getty Images for LTA)

A woman walks along a street after floodwaters receded following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, in the town of Hola Prystan in the Kherson region (REUTERS)

A woman walks along a street after floodwaters receded following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, in the town of Hola Prystan in the Kherson region (REUTERS)

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa walks upon his arrival at the international airport outside St Petersburg. He is set to meet Vladimir Putin along with other African leaders (AP)

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa walks upon his arrival at the international airport outside St Petersburg. He is set to meet Vladimir Putin along with other African leaders (AP)

Graduates of a local lyceum dance in front of the local Palace of Culture destroyed by a Russian military strike (REUTERS)

Graduates of a local lyceum dance in front of the local Palace of Culture destroyed by a Russian military strike (REUTERS)

Match Ukraine’s bravery in war by stepping up support, PM to tell private sector

Saturday 17 June 2023 22:30 , Nina Lloyd, PA

Rishi Sunak will use a summit in London to call on investors and businesses to match Ukraine’s “bravery on the battlefield” by stepping up support for the country’s economic recovery.

The Prime Minister is set to say the private sector must use its vision to “embrace rapid innovation” that can be used to make the nation “financially stronger” and “technologically advanced”, No 10 said.

More than 1,000 foreign dignitaries from 61 states along with business chiefs and global investors will join Mr Sunak at the Ukraine Recovery Conference next week – the largest international conference the UK will host this year.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend virtually and both European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are also expected to speak in the opening session.

Mr Sunak is expected to make the case for greater innovation targeted at the country, which was becoming a major player in the global IT industry prior to the Russian invasion.

What are Storm Shadow cruise missiles and what other weapons has the UK sent to Ukraine?

Saturday 17 June 2023 22:00 , Chris Stevenson

Britain has been a key ally of Ukraine since fighting broke out with Russia and the offer of Storm Shadow cruise missiles was the latest gifting.

A statement from the ministry of defence said: “Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, bilateral military assistance has been stepped up, with many allies for the first time supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine.”

Get up to speed here on Storm Shadow cruise missiles and what else the UK has given to Ukraine.

The Storm Shadow cruise missiles (PA Media)

The Storm Shadow cruise missiles (PA Media)

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