Deadly blasts in Russia’s Belgorod as battles rage for Lysychansk

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says his country is being “provoked”, claims Ukraine fired several missiles at military targets inside Belarus.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says “colossal investments” are needed to rebuild his war-torn country.
  • Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they have “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Luhansk region.
  • Ukrainian forces hit a Russian base with more than 30 strikes in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol without causing any casualties.

Here are all the latest updates:

Lysychansk ‘completely’ encircled: Russia-backed separatists

Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they had “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Luhansk region.

“Today the Luhansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled,” Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, tells the TASS news agency.

The Ukrainian army, however, rejects the claims that Lysychansk has been surrounded, but says heavy fighting was ongoing on its edges.

“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. (But) luckily the city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, says on Ukrainian television.

“The Russians are entrenching themselves in a district of Lysychansk, the city is on fire,” Sergei Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, adds on Telegram. “They attacked the city with inexplicably brutal tactics,” he says.

‘Some of Ukrainian missiles may have hit Belgorod’s residential area’

“We are trying to piece together exactly what happened through social media reports. Al Jazeera cannot confirm anything that either side is saying at this point,” said Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Kyiv.

“What appears is that somewhere around 25 missiles were fired towards the airport which is a Russian base in Belgorod. It appears that some of those missiles may have hit a residential area. That’s certainly what the media is saying …” he said.

“This of course comes  on the back of a Russian attack last week which hit a shopping centre and then on Friday we saw 21 people killed in Odesa and the Ukrainians were accusing the Russians of deliberately targeting residential areas.”

Ukraine hits Russian base in occupied Melitopol: Exiled mayor

Ukrainian forces have hit a Russian base with more than 30 strikes in the Russian-occupied southern city of Melitopol in the region of Zaporizhia, according to the city’s exiled Ukrainian mayor, Ivan Fedorov.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine do everything to return peaceful life and Ukrainian statehood to Melitopol. All the invaders can do is flee from our city,” he said in a video address published on his Facebook page.

Russia’s RIA news agency also reported that Ukraine had hit the area of Melitopol where the city’s airport is located.

It cited local Russian-appointed official Vladimir Rogov as saying that the Ukrainian strikes partially damaged houses in the airport area, without causing any casualties.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said “about 20 units of enemy equipment and two field ammunition depots were destroyed” in Melitopol.

At least three killed in Russia’s Belgorod: Official

At least three people have been killed and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod, according to the local governor.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said at least 11 apartment buildings and 39 private residential houses were destroyed.

Al Jazeera could not verify the claims independently.

US funds software for Russians to slip past censors

A US-backed campaign is giving Russians access to anti-censor software to dodge Moscow’s crackdown on dissent against its invasion of Ukraine, reports the AFP news agency.

Groups involved in the campaign told AFP that the US-backed Open Technology Fund is paying out money to a handful of American firms providing virtual private networks (VPNs) free of charge to millions of Russians, who can then use them to visit websites blocked by censors.

“Our tool is primarily used by people trying to access independent media, so that funding by the OTF has been absolutely critical,” said a spokesman for Lantern, one of the involved companies.

Explosions reported in Russian city of Belgorod

A Russian official says blasts in the city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, resulted in a fire in a residential building.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, said three wounded people were taken to a hospital.

“Reasons for the incident are being investigated,” he said on the Telegram messaging app. “Presumably, the air defence system worked.”

Ukraine adviser concedes Lysychansk could fall

An adviser to Zelenskyy has conceded that the city of Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last big bastion in the eastern province of Luhansk, could fall to the Russians.

“This is indeed a threat. We shall see. I do not rule out any one of a number of outcomes here. Things will become much more clear within a day or two,” said Oleksiy Arestovych.

“If Lysychansk is taken, strategically it becomes more difficult for the Russians to continue their offensive. The front lines will be flatter and there will be a frontal attack rather than from the flanks.”



‘Colossal investments’ required to rebuild Ukraine, says Zelenskyy

The Ukrainian president has called for international aid to help rebuild his devastated country once the war is over, sounding a rare hopeful note after four months of brutal conflict.

“It is necessary not only to repair everything the occupiers have destroyed, but also to create a new foundation for our lives: safe, modern, comfortable, accessible,” he said in his night-time address.

This would require “colossal investments, billions, new technologies, best practices, new institutions and, of course, reforms,” he said. “No matter how difficult it is for us today, we must remember that there will be a tomorrow.”

Regulator urges Germans to prepare for possible gas shortage

Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy has called on residents to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.

Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximise their efficiency.

“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10 percent to 15 percent,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.

Lukashenko says Ukraine fired missiles on Belarus

The Belarusian president says his army has shot down missiles fired into their territory from Ukraine and promised to respond “instantly” to any enemy attack.

“We are being provoked,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying by state news agency Belta.

Read the full story here.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Read all the updates from yesterday, July 2, here.

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