Severodonetsk under ‘full occupation of Russia’: Mayor

  • Severodonetsk’s mayor says the city is now under the “full occupation of Russia”.
  • Dozens of Russian missiles have simultaneously hit military facilities in western and northern Ukraine, local officials say.
  • Ukraine’s military says attacks on the border region of Chernihiv were launched from the territory of Russia’s ally Belarus.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Ukraine could face pressure to agree to a peace deal with Russia that may not be in its interests due to the economic consequences of the war in Europe.
(Al Jazeera)

This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. These were the updates on Saturday, June 25:

German official says G7 on course to agree Russian oil price caps

Leaders of the Group of Seven rich democracies are having “very constructive” discussions on a possible cap on Russian oil imports, a German government source said has said shortly before the start of the G7 summit, according to Reuters.

“We are on a good path to reach an agreement,” the official said, Reuters reported.


Ukraine will win back Severodonetsk: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine would win back all the cities it had lost to Russia, including Severodonetsk.

In a late-night video address, he also said Ukraine had been hit by 45 Russian missiles and rockets over the previous 24 hours, which he described as a cynical attempt to break his people’s spirits.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy [File: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP Photo]

Next stages of Russian offensive could be difficult: Analyst

Geopolitical security analyst and an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute Samuel Ramani says that while Russia is succeeding with its offensive in eastern Ukraine, the next stages might be more difficult.

“I think once Luhansk falls to Russia, it’s gonna be harder for them in the next few stages,” he said from London, UK via Skype.

“They’ve not been able to prove to be able to bombard a major city into submission … they repeatedly failed to cross the Siverskyi Donets river – which is important for the Donbas campaign. Severodonetsk gives them a hold over that river but moving armoured personnel … and other equipment across has been very difficult for them.”


Civilians leaving Azot plant: Mayor

Severodonetsk Mayor Striuk has said civilians had started to evacuate the Azot chemical plant, where several hundred people had been hiding from Russian shelling.

“These people have spent almost three months of their lives in basements, shelters. That’s tough emotionally and physically,” he noted, adding they would now need medical and psychological support.

Azot plant
A Ukrainian serviceman shoots at a position in the city of Severodonetsk [File: Oleksandr Ratushniak/EPA]

Fall of Severodonetsk called ‘biggest defeat’ since Mariupol: AJ correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reporting from Kyiv said Russia’s takeover of Severodonetsk was a significant development in the war, being described by some as the “biggest defeat” for Ukraine since Mariupol.

“They [Ukraine military] say they are moving to safe position, in order to be able to consolidate those positions, to put up some kind of defensive fight. According to Ukrainian military intelligence they are talking about moving back to the [twin] city of Lysychansk which is just across the river to the south of Severodonetsk,” he added.

“Lysychansk is a city that is basically situated on higher ground than Severodonetsk. But what we understand is that there is a scramble to move further south.”


Russia says it has full control over Severodonetsk: Interfax

Russian forces have established full control over the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, Russia’s Interfax new agency cited the defence ministry as saying.

Ukrainian officials said earlier in the day that their troops had withdrawn from the city after a prolonged battle.

A Ukrainian servicemen attend to a wounded fellow soldier during a medical evacuation
A Ukrainian servicemen attend to a wounded fellow soldier during a medical evacuation on a road in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas [File: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]

Biden, G7 leaders to agree on import ban on Russian gold: Reuters

US President Biden and his G7 counterparts will agree on an import ban on new gold from Russia as they broaden sanctions against Moscow for its war against Ukraine, a source familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency.

The United States has rallied the world in imposing swift and significant economic costs on Russia to deny President Vladimir Putin the revenue he needs to fund his war in Ukraine.

According to the source, the US Department of the Treasury will issue a determination to prohibit the import of new gold into the US on Tuesday, in a move aimed at further isolating Russia from the global economy by preventing its participation in the gold market.


THE LISTENING POST: Ukraine-Russia: A prolonged propaganda war

Four months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we look at how Russian media is spinning a new war narrative. Plus, misogyny in Greek media.

Ukraine – and the Kremlin’s special media operation that has Russian journalists under control.


Russia to send Belarus nuclear-capable missiles within months: Putin

Moscow will deliver missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to Belarus in the coming months, President Vladimir Putin has said.

“In the coming months, we will transfer to Belarus Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use ballistic or cruise missiles, in their conventional and nuclear versions,” Putin said in a broadcast on Russian television.

Read more here.


Will fight from higher ground in Lysychansk: Ukraine military intelligence chief

Ukraine is regrouping its forces from the rubble of the city of Severodonetsk to higher ground in neighbouring Lysychansk to gain a tactical advantage over Russia, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency has said.

In an interview in Kyiv, Kyrylo Budanov, told the Reuters news agency that Ukrainian forces would continue their defence of that front from Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine and that it was no longer possible to hold the line in Severodonetsk.

“The activities happening in the area of Severodonetsk are a tactical regrouping of our troops. This is a withdrawal to advantageous positions to obtain a tactical advantage,” said, Budanov, head of the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.

“Russia is using the tactic … it used in Mariupol: wiping the city from the face of the earth. Given the conditions, holding the defence in the ruins and open fields is no longer possible. So the Ukrainian forces are leaving for higher ground to continue the defence operations,” he said.

Asked if he meant Lysychansk, he said, “Yes, this is the only higher ground.”


Azot plant now under control of Russian forces: Separatists

Russian and pro-Russia forces have taken control of the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk and “evacuated” more than 800 civilians sheltering there, pro-Moscow separatists have said.

The forces have “taken full control of the Azot plant industrial zone,” a separatist representative Andrei Marochko said on Telegram, a day after Ukraine announced it would withdraw its troops from the key city.

Another separatist spokesman, Ivan Filiponenko, said that around 800 civilians who had taken refuge in the plant during weeks of fighting had been “evacuated”.

Smoke and flame rise after a military strike on a compound of Sievierodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine June 18, 2022.
Smoke and flame rise after a military attack on a compound of Severodonetsk’s Azot Chemical Plant [File: Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

Putin, Lukashenko meet to discuss global fertiliser supply

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have discussed the global fertiliser supply situation at a meeting.

“I would like to talk to you in terms of meeting global market needs,” Putin said in footage from the meeting posted on social media by a reporter from state broadcaster Russia 1.


Russian forces occupy all of Ukraine’s Severodonetsk: Mayor

The mayor of Severodonetsk has said Russian forces had fully occupied the city.

“The city is now under the full occupation of Russia. They are trying to establish their own order, as far as I know, they have appointed some kind of commandant,” Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on national television.


Street clashes in Lysychansk: Pro-Russian separatists

Russian troops and allies entered Lysychansk and street fighting is underway in the eastern Ukrainian city which neighbours its strategic twin Severodonetsk, pro-Moscow separatists said.

“The people’s militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic and the Russian army have entered the city of Lysychansk,” a representative for pro-Russian separatists, Andrei Marochko, said on Telegram. “Street fighting is currently taking place,” he added.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the claims of the separatists.

Troops ride on a military vehicle on June 16, 2022 near Lysychansk,
Troops ride on a military vehicle near Lysychansk, Ukraine [File: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Biden leaves for G7, NATO summits focused on Ukraine

President Joe Biden has left the White House for a week of diplomacy in which he hopes to reinforce the Western alliance against Russia and look to challenges from China.

Biden was headed first to a luxurious castle in Germany’s Alps for a G7 summit with leaders of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Next week he flies to Madrid for a NATO summit.

Both sessions will take place in the shadow of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, but also a global surge in inflation, fears of recession, and the ever-growing challenge of containing China while avoiding open conflict.


Kyiv mayor demands investigation into deep fake videos

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has issued a demand for clarification after a slew of deep fake videos fooled mayors in European capitals into thinking they were talking with him.

“This is criminal energy. It must be urgently investigated who is behind it,” Klitschko said in a video shared by Germany’s Bild newspaper.

“Several mayors in Europe have been contacted by a fake Klitschko who has said absurd things,” Klitschko said, adding that official talks would be organised only through official channels in Kyiv.


Mayor says Ukrainian troops have ‘almost left’ Severodonetsk

The mayor of Ukraine’s Severodonetsk says Ukrainian troops have “almost left” the strategic front-line city after holding out for weeks against advancing Russian forces.

Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk did not confirm whether a full withdrawal was under way. On Friday, regional authorities said Ukraine was set to pull back its troops there.

“Unfortunately, they have almost left the city,” Stryuk said on national television.


Kuleba says Ukraine stands with Moldova against threats from Russia

Ukraine stands with Moldova in response to renewed threats from Russia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after Moscow warned of negative consequences over the two countries becoming candidates for European Union membership.

“We stand with the people and the government of friendly Moldova amid renewed threats coming from Moscow,” Kuleba said on Twitter.


Ukraine using US-supplied rocket systems: Top general

US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems are already working and hitting targets in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, the country’s top general has said.

“Artillerymen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine skilfully hit certain targets – military targets of the enemy on our, Ukrainian, territory,” chief of Ukraine’s General Staff, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, wrote on Telegram.


Ukraine says Russia aiming to drag Belarus into war

Ukraine’s intelligence service says Russia is aiming to drag Belarus into the war after missiles were fired from Belarusian territory into the border region of Chernihiv.

“Today’s strike is directly linked to Kremlin efforts to pull Belarus as a co-belligerent into the war in Ukraine,” the intelligence service, which is part of the defence ministry, said on Telegram.


Russian troops killed ‘up to 80’ Polish fighters in Ukraine: Kremlin

Russia says its troops have killed “up to 80” Polish fighters in “precision strikes” in eastern Ukraine.

“Up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armoured combat vehicles and eight Grad multiple rocket launchers were destroyed in precision strikes on the Megatex zinc factory in Konstantinovka” in the Donetsk region, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.


Russia pushes to block second city in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces are attempting to blockade the city of Lysychansk from the south, Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, has said on Facebook.

Russian moves to cut off Lysychansk will give Ukrainian troops retreating from nearby Severodonetsk little respite as Moscow focuses all efforts on capturing all of the eastern Donbas region, comprising Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.


Russia removes Polish flag from Soviet massacre memorial

Russian authorities have removed a Polish flag from a memorial commemorating the thousands of Poles killed by the Soviet Union, amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Warsaw over the Ukraine conflict.

The mayor of Smolensk city confirmed the removal of the flag from the Katyn memorial in western Russia. “There cannot be Polish flags on Russian monuments. Even less so after the frankly anti-Russian comments by Polish political leaders,” Andrei Borisov said on social media platform VKontakte.

“The culture ministry of the Russian Federation made the right decision by removing the Polish flag. Katyn is a Russian memorial.”

A Polish flag is seen on a wall inscribed with the names of Polish officers at the 1940 massacre memorial complex in Katyn.
A Polish flag is seen on a wall inscribed with the names of Polish officers at the 1940 massacre memorial complex in Katyn [File: Filip Klimaszewski/Agencja Gazeta/Reuters]

‘Massive’ bombardment on Chernihiv came from Belarus: Ukraine army

Ukraine’s northern border region of Chernihiv came under “massive bombardment” fired from the territory of Russia’s ally Belarus, the Ukrainian army has said in a statement.

“Around 5:00 o’clock in the morning (02:00 GMT) the Chernigiv region suffered a massive bombardment by missiles. Twenty rockets, fired from the territory of Belarus and from the air, targeted the village of Desna,” Ukraine’s northern military command wrote on Facebook, adding that there were no reports of victims so far.


Russian shelling hits Severodonetsk chemical plant

Russia has launched artillery and air strikes on the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, hitting a chemical plant where hundreds of civilians are trapped, a Ukrainian official has said.

“There was an air strike at Lysychansk. Severodonetsk was hit by artillery,” Serhiy Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app, adding the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk and the villages of Synetsky and Pavlograd and others were shelled on Friday.

He made no mention of casualties in the industrial zone, where about 300 civilians are sheltering.


Dozens of Russian missiles hit military facilities across Ukraine

Dozens of Russian missiles have rained down on military facilities in western and northern Ukraine, local officials said.

Six missiles were fired from the Black Sea at the Yavoriv base in the Lviv region in western Ukraine, governor Maksym Kozytskyy said in a video posted online.

Vitaliy Bunechko, governor of the Zhytomyr region in the north of the country, said strikes on a military target killed at least one soldier. “Nearly 30 missiles were launched at one military infrastructure facility very near to the city of Zhytomyr,” Bunechko said, adding that nearly 10 missiles had been intercepted and destroyed.

In the Chernihiv region, also in the north, governor Vyacheslav Chaus said the small town of Desna, which is home to a training centre for Ukraine’s infantry forces, had come under fire. Chaus did not specify what had been hit, but said there had been “infrastructure damage”. There were no casualties, he added.


Russian missiles hit Yavoriv military base near Lviv: Governor

A Russian strike on the Yavoriv military facility in western Ukraine has wounded four people, Lviv governor Maksym Kozytskyy has said in a video post.

Six missiles were fired from the Black Sea, with four hitting the base and two being intercepted and destroyed before hitting the target, according to Kozytskyy.

An attack on the military training facility in March killed 35 people and wounded at least 130, according to Ukrainian officials.

The 360sq km (140sq miles) compound, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, has long been used to train Ukrainian military personnel, often with instructors from the United States and other NATO countries.


British intelligence says Russia removed key generals from Ukraine

The British defence ministry says Russia likely withdrew several generals from key command roles in the Ukraine conflict this month.

“Since the start of June, the Russian high command has highly likely removed several generals from key operational command roles in the war in Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily Twitter update.

They include the commander of Airborne Forces, General-Colonel Andrei Serdyukov, whose 30-year-long service has been “dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality”.


UK fears Ukraine will be coerced to make a ‘bad peace’: PM

The UK prime minister has said he feared Ukraine could face pressure to agree to a peace deal with Russia that was not in its interests, due to the economic consequences of the war in Europe.

“Too many countries are saying this is a European war that is unnecessary … and so the pressure will grow to encourage – coerce, maybe – the Ukrainians to a bad peace,” Johnson told broadcasters in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where he was attending a Commonwealth summit.

He said the consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin being able to get his way in Ukraine would be dangerous to international security and “a long-term economic disaster”.


Ukrainian forces ordered to withdraw from Severodonetsk

Ukrainian forces have been ordered to withdraw from the key battleground city of Severodonetsk after weeks of fierce street fighting, in order to limit further casualties and regroup.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said, “It is now a situation where it makes no sense to hold out in battered positions.”

“That’s why our defenders who are there have already been ordered to withdraw to new positions and conduct normal, fully-fledged military operations from there,” he said.

Severodonetsk was already mostly under the control of Russian troops, even if they still met resistance. The move will be seen by Russia as a significant victory.


Read all the updates from June 24 here.

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