Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 138

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

6 dead and 31 injured in Kharkiv bombardment: Ukraine’s prosecutor general

At least six people have died due to rocket attacks against Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office.

“As a result of mass shelling by the occupiers of Kharkiv, 6 people died and 31 were injured,” the office said on its Telegram channel.

A shopping center was damaged, as well as houses and vehicles, stated Serhii Bolvinov, head of the Investigation Department of the National Police in Kharkiv.

Fragments of a rocket from a Uragan multi-launch rocket system have been found at the scene of the damage, he added.

Two of the dead were a father and his 17-year-old son whose car took a direct hit, he continued. They were on their way to pick up a certificate for the teenager’s university entrance.

Kyiv condemns Russian plans to fast-track citizenship for Ukrainians

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has condemned a decree from President Vladimir Putin that simplified the Russian citizenship procedure for all Ukrainians.

“The mentioned decree is another encroachment on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, incompatible with the norms and principles of international law,” the ministry said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated “Ukrainians do not need Putin’s citizenship and attempts to impose it by force are doomed to failure”.

Kuleba called Monday’s decree “worthless” and proof of “Putin’s aggressive appetites”.

Death toll from Russian rocket attack on housing block rises to 30: Ukrainian official

The death toll from a Russian rocket attack that hit an apartment block in eastern Ukraine over the weekend has risen while rescuers search for survivors in the ruins, an official from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office has said.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Zelensky’s office, also stated rescuers had now cleared 65 percent of the rubble that remained of a collapsed five-storey block struck late on Saturday in the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians as part of its offensive. The country’s defence ministry said on Monday that “high-precision ground-based weapons … have destroyed the temporary deployment point” of a Ukrainian territorial defence unit in Chasiv Yar.

Russia and Turkey plan summit talks soon: Kremlin

President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan plan to meet in the near future after a phone conversation in which they discussed efforts to facilitate grain exports from Ukraine, Moscow has announced.

“An exchange of views on the situation around Ukraine continued, including in the context of coordinating efforts to ensure the safety of navigation in the Black Sea and grain exports to global markets,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency meanwhile reported that Erdogan had told Putin on Monday that it was time to act on a United Nations plan to set up a sea corridor for Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea.

Turkey has been mediating between Moscow and Kyiv since Russia began its offensive in late February. The last talks between representatives of Russia and Ukraine were held in Istanbul at the end of March.

Erdogan, Zelenskyy discuss grain exports, Ukrainian ports

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky has revealed he held talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the need to unblock Ukraine’s ports and resume its grain exports.

“We appreciate (Turkish) support. Discussed the importance of unblocking (Ukrainian) ports and resuming grain exports. We must also prevent Russia from taking our grain from (occupied territories),” he tweeted.

Impose sanctions on Russia for new citizenship decree: Kyiv tells allies

Ukraine has called on its allies to impose new sanctions on Moscow and step up new supplies of heavy weapons to Kyiv to punish President Vladimir Putin’s government for simplifying their naturalisation procedure for Ukrainian citizens.

Ukrainians to be offered fast track Russian citizenship

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday issued a decree to fast track citizenship for all Ukrainians.

The decree ordered that “all citizens of Ukraine” be given “the right to apply for admission to the citizenship of the Russian Federation in a simplified manner”.

It comes more than four months into Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine.

29 people killed in Chasiv Yar residential building strike, 9 people found alive

Ukraine’s Emergency Services say 24 bodies have now been recovered from the wreckage in Chasiv Yar after Russian rockets hit a residential building over the weekend.

Five other bodies have been found but not yet retrieved, taking the total number of dead in the attack to 29.

The Emergency Services said on Telegram that nine survivors had been rescued from the rubble and that work to try and find more people was ongoing.

Chasiv Yar is one of several towns in Donetsk that have seen an uptick in rocket and missile attacks in recent days as Russian forces try to grind down Ukrainian resistance in the region.

Putin and Lukashenko discuss joint response to Lithuania’s ban on goods shipments to Kaliningrad

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have discussed possible joint measures in response to Lithuania’s ban on goods shipments to Kaliningrad, according to a Kremlin readout published Monday.

“Emphasis was placed on the situation in connection with the illegal restrictions imposed by Lithuania on the transit of goods to the Kaliningrad region,” the readout said.

“In this context, some possible joint steps were discussed,” it added.

In June, Lithuanian officials banned the passage of goods subject to EU sanctions across its territory into Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave in Europe.

Moscow denounced the decision and warned that retaliatory steps might follow.

Russia trying to export wheat from occupied region: Ukraine

Moscow is trying to export grain from occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia region, according to the Ukrainian Intelligence Services.

Russia is continuing to “steal Ukrainian grain,” said the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine on Telegram on Monday.

A company called “GUK” has been created to facilitate the process, it added, headed up by former Ukrainian opposition politician Yevhen Balytskyi, who is now head of the Regional Occupation Administration of Zaporizhzhia.

According to Ukrainian intelligence, “GUK” is setting the following grain prices: coarse wheat is 6,000RUB/ton ($98), food wheat is 9,000RUB/ton ($147) and barley is 7,000/ton ($114).

However farmers are unsatisfied with the price and are storing grain in warehouses, converted buildings and even out in the open, according to the Telegram post.

On Sunday a ship arrived to export grain, noted Ukrainian intelligence, with another expected to arrive on July 17.

One of the ships in question is the “Zhibek Zhloy,” which has already been used to export wheat from the port of Berdiansk.

Zaporizhzia region remains partly under Russian control and partly under Ukrainian control.

Russian shelling kills three, wounds dozens in Kharkiv: Official

Russian shelling in Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv has killed three people and wounded 28 others, according to the region’s governor.

Synehubov stated in a Telegram post that Russian forces had launched three missile strikes on the city, hitting only civilian targets.

“All [three were launched] exclusively on civilian objects, this is absolute terrorism!” he added.

One of the missiles destroyed a school, another a residential building while the third landed near warehouse facilities, Synehubov continued.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians during its invasion.

Ukraine: Chasiv Yar death toll has risen to 19

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine says the death toll from Russian missile strikes in the eastern Ukrainian town of Chasiv Yar has now risen to 19 people.

The department said in a Telegram post that eight people had so far been removed from the rubble of a five-storey building destroyed in Saturday’s attack, with rescue efforts continuing.

Russia says its forces struck ammunition depots in Dnipro region

Russia’s defence ministry says that its forces have struck ammunition depots in Ukraine’s central Dnipro region used to supply rocket launchers and artillery weapons.

The ministry also claimed that Moscow’s troops had hit deployment points for Ukrainian forces and foreign fighters in the Kharkiv region.

Kyiv made no immediate comment on the report.

Russia suspends operation of major gas pipeline to Europe

The flow of Russian gas to Germany through the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline has been suspended.

Operator Nord Stream AG said that routine maintenance work would shut down the pipeline for 10 days, starting Monday. During that time, all gas flows via the pipeline will stop.

The operator highlighted that the stoppage had previously been agreed with all partners.

Last month, the Russian energy giant slashed the volumes of gas delivered to Germany via the pipe by 60% due to operational challenges, caused by the failure to return a serviced turbine on time from Canada. However, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck argued that it was “a political decision.”

In recent years, the maintenance-related shortfall in supplies via Nord Stream was compensated by increased flows through Ukraine or Poland.

However, various officials and industry representatives told the FT that they feared Russia may not do that this time, leaving the continent to face gas shortages.

“Based on the pattern we’ve seen, it would not be very surprising now if some small, technical detail is found and then they could say ‘Now we can’t turn it on any more,’” Habeck stated in late June.

Nord Stream AG, which is majority-owned by Gazprom, insists that maintenance information was appropriately disclosed in compliance with the EU Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency.

“The schedule for the maintenance activities has been closely coordinated with Nord Stream’s upstream and downstream partners,” it added.

Russian forces control “almost all” of Luhansk region, 300k displaced: Ukrainian official

“Almost all of the territory” of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine is now occupied by Russian forces and 300,000 people from the region have been internally displaced, according to the Ukrainian head of the regional military administration.

Serhiy Hayday said in a telegram post that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to provide housing for everyone forced to leave their homes.

Hayday added work is underway “on the formation of housing funds intended for temporary residence, registration and provision of such housing” to internally displaced people.

Top diplomat: EU not winning in global battle of narratives on Ukraine

EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali showed to him the different perspectives around the world on the situation in Ukraine and its consequences.

“In the March vote at the UN General Assembly, 140 states condemned the Russian aggression and no member of the G20, apart from the aggressor, opposed this resolution. But on how to move forward and on the consequences of the war, views differ sharply,” Borrell said in a statement published on the EU’s website.

“The G7 and like-minded countries are united in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in trying to hold the regime accountable. But other countries, and we can speak here of the majority of the `Global South’, often take a different perspective,” he concluded.

“The global battle of narratives is in full swing and, for now, we are not winning,” Borrell emphasized.

The G20 foreign ministerial sessions held in Bali on July 7-8 were attended by Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov. The Russian foreign minister held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

No ‘pause’ in Russian attacks: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said there was not let-up in Russian air attacks on his country, after officials said at least 15 people were killed, and two dozen more were feared trapped after Russian Uragan rockets hit a five-storey apartment block in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Speaking during his nightly video address, Zelensky stated the death toll from the attack in the Donetsk town of Chasiv Yar was likely to rise.

“Two residential high-rise buildings were destroyed. Dozens of people are under the rubble. Six were saved. There are 15 names in the list of the dead and, unfortunately, this is not the final number,” he added, refuting claims that Russian air raids had been “paused”.

“34 airstrikes by Russian aviation in the past 24 hours, in one past day, is an answer to all those who invented this ‘pause’,” he said, adding: “The Ukrainian army is holding on, holding firm … But, of course, a lot still needs to be done so that Russian losses become such that there will really be a pause.”

Western rocket systems making difference on battlefield: Ukraine DM

Ukraine’s defence minister has said that Western-donated high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) were making a “huge” difference on the battlefield after a senior United States official announced the Joe Biden administration would be sending four more HIMARS as part of a $400m weapons package.

“HIMARS have already made a HUUUGE difference on the battlefield,” Oleksii Reznikov wrote on Twitter.

“More of them as well as ammo & equipment will increase our strength and help to demilitarise the terrorist state. I highly appreciate the efforts of the POTUS & SecDef to support Ukraine’s struggle for freedom!” he added.

The US official told reporters on Friday that the new arms package would include four additional HIMARS and more ammunition, bringing the total number of these systems sent to Ukraine to 12.

Ukraine plans to use Western weapons to retake southern territory: Report

Ukraine is massing a million-strong fighting force equipped with Western weapons to recover its southern territory from Russia, the nation’s defence minister told The Times newspaper.

In his first interview with a UK daily since the invasion began, Oleksii Reznikov said President Volodymyr Zelensky had ordered Ukraine’s military to retake occupied coastal areas which are vital to the country’s economy.

“We understand that, politically, it’s very necessary for our country. So the president has given the order to the supreme military chief to draw up plans. After that the general staff are doing their homework and say to achieve this goal we need XYZ,” he stated.

“This is my job. I’m writing letters to counterparts in partner countries, the generals talk about why we need this kind of weaponry and then we get the political decisions,” he added.

Reznikov told The Times the intensity of the war was rapidly depleting Soviet-era stockpiles.

“It was a long process, a month and a half, but we got a result. Ukraine had a Soviet-era armed forces with thirty-year-old weapons. We changed this in three months,” he continued.

Chasiv Yar attack a ‘terrorist’ act: Zelensky adviser

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff has called the attack on the town of Chasiv Yar a terrorist act, and has again called for Russia to be officially considered a state sponsor of terrorism.

“The Russians hit a high-rise apartment building with civilians again. Another terrorist attack by a terrorist country,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter.

“The Russian Federation should be on the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” he added.

Ukraine urges civilians in Kherson to evacuate

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister on Sunday urged civilians in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson to urgently evacuate as Ukraine’s armed forces were preparing a counterattack there.

Ukraine lost control of most of the Black Sea region of Kherson, including its eponymous capital, in the first weeks after Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“It’s clear there will be fighting, there will be artillery shelling … and we therefore urge [people] to evacuate urgently,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television.

She added she could not say when exactly the counteroffensive would happen.

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