Thu, 18 Aug 2022

Group of Seven leaders have branded the Russian air strike that hit a crowded shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk in central Ukraine as a war crime. G7 leaders have promised to support Ukraine "for as long as it takes" while the US said it was close to finalising a weapons package for Kyiv.

06:43am: G7 denounces Russian strike on mall as 'war crime'

The Group of Seven leaders have branded the Russian air strike which hit a crowded shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk in central Ukraine as a war crime.

"Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime," they said in a statement condemning Monday's "abominable attack", which killed at least 16 people.

The leaders also vowed that Russian President Vladimir Putin and those responsible would be held accountable.

02:07am: Russian opposition politician detained

Prominent Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin was detained in Moscow on Monday, a lawyer for opposition figures and a Russian journalist said on their social media accounts.

Irina Babloyan, a journalist and a host at the now defunct Ekho Moskvy radio station, said Yashin was detained while the two were walking together.

"I was walking with my friend, Ilya Yashin, in the park ... The police came and took Ilya away," Babloyan said on the Telegram messaging app.

Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, who has represented many Russian opposition figures, also said Yashin was in police custody for the alleged administrative violation of disobeying a police officer

01:40am: Putin promises Bolsonaro to maintain supply of fertilizers

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday promised his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro that Russia "is committed" to maintaining its delivery of much-needed fertilizers to the South American agricultural giant.

Speaking in Brasilia, Bolsonaro said the two leaders had discussed by telephone "food security" and "energy insecurity," without giving more details.

In its own statement on the conversation, the Kremlin said Putin "stressed that Russia is committed to carry out its obligations to guarantee the uninterrupted delivery of Russian fertilizers to Brazilian farmers."

The statement added that Putin asked for "the restoration of the architecture of free commerce of food products and fertilizers that have collapsed due to Western sanctions" against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

01:14am: Russian strike death toll rises to 16

The Russian missile strike on a crowded mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk killed at least 16 people, the head of emergency services said early Tuesday, sparking international outrage.

"As of now, we know of 16 dead and 59 wounded, 25 of them hospitalised. The information is being updated," Kruk said on Telegram.

11:47pm: Macron condemns Russian strike, calls it 'abomination'

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday denounced Russia's deadly strike on a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, as an "abomination", amid growing international outrage at the attack.

"Russia's bombing of a shopping centre in Kremenchuk is an abomination," he tweeted. "We share the pain of the victims' families, and the anger in the face of such an atrocity. The Russian people have to see the truth."

10:16pm: Zelensky calls missile strike on Kremenchuk a 'brazen terrorist act'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced Monday's missile strike on a shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk as a "brazen terrorist act", as the death toll rose to 13.

Zelensky was speaking after reports of two other strikes in the east of the country Monday that killed at least 12 civilians in all, as officials there accused Moscow of deliberately targeting civilians.

"The Russian strike today on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk is one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history," Zelensky said in his evening broadcast posted on Telegram.

"A peaceful town, an ordinary shopping centre - women, children, ordinary civilians inside."

Earlier, Ukraine's defence ministry said the Kremenchuk strike had been deliberately timed to coincide with the mall's busiest hours and cause the maximum number of victims.

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9:31pm: Rocket strike kills civilians in Lysychansk, regional governor says

A Russian strike killed at least eight civilians in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk on Monday, said the governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai.

It followed deadly strikes earlier in the day on a shopping centre in the central city of Kremenchuk and in the eastern city of Kharkiv.

"Today in Lysychansk, the Russians fired on a crowd of people with Uragan multiple rocket-launchers, as civilians were collecting water from a cistern," Gaidai posted on Telegram.

"Eight residents are dead, 21 have been taken to hospital," he said.

7:46pm: UN secretary-general's office slams 'deplorable' missile strike on Kremenchuk

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' office condemned as "totally deplorable" Russia's deadly attack Monday on a crowded mall in central Ukraine.

Kremenchuk, the town where the missile strike occurred, had so far been spared direct hits in the conflict, Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily press briefing.

"Any attack that hits a shopping mall is totally deplorable," Dujarric said.

"We once again stress that the parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure," he added.

7:16pm: EU states should prepare for 'serious disruptions' to Russian gas supplies

A "serious disruption" to the European Union's gas supplies from Russia is likely, the bloc's energy chief said on Monday, as she urged countries to update contingency plans to cope with supply shocks and switch to other fuels wherever possible to conserve gas.

"Since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine we have known that a very serious disruption is possible, and now it seems likely. We have done much important work to be prepared for this. But now is the time to step it up," EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said after a meeting of energy ministers from EU countries.

Under new legislation, 18 EU member states with underground gas storage facilities are required to fill 80 percent of storage capacity by November 1, the European Commission said in a statement Monday.

Russia has already cut or reduced supplies to 12 of the bloc's 27 member states.

6:51pm: Death toll rises in missile strike on mall in Kremenchuk

A Russian missile strike killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 40 at a mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Monday, a regional governor said.

"Ten dead and more than 40 people have been injured. This is currently the situation in Kremenchuk as a result of the missile strike," said Dmytro Lunin, head of the administration of Poltava.

6:37pm: Shelling on city of Kharkiv kills several people, regional governor says

Russian shelling of the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine killed four people and wounded 19 on Monday, the regional governor said.

"Doctors are providing all the necessary assistance. Information on the number of victims is being updated," Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said on the Telegram messaging app.

There was no immediate comment from Russia, which denies targeting civilians in its war in Ukraine.

6:25pm: Russian hacker group claims responsibility for cyber attacks on Lithuania

State and private websites in Lithuania were targeted on Monday by Russian hackers who claimed the attack was retaliation for Vilnius's decision to cease the transit of some EU-sanctioned goods to Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.

Lithuania's tax authority said in a statement it had halted all activities due to an unusually large number of attempts to connect to its systems, although all data was safe.

"The main targets are state institutions, transport institutions, media websites," Deputy Defence Minister Margiris Abukevicius said, in another sign of deteriorating relations between EU and NATO member Lithuania and neighbouring Russia.

Russian hacker group Killnet claimed responsibility for what is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS).

"The attack will continue until Lithuania lifts the blockade," a Killnet spokesperson said. "We have demolished 1,652 web resources. And that's just so far."

Kaliningrad is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania and supplied by rail via Lithuanian territory.

6:01pm: Odesa region sees missile strike, displaced Ukrainians in transit

The Odesa region saw a missile strike on Sunday night that injured eight people, including a child, following a weekend in which dozens of missiles from Russian forces hit targets in Ukraine, FRANCE 24's Luke Shrago reports.

There aren't as many displaced Ukrainians in the city of Odesa as there were a month and a half ago, Shrago reports, but city authorities say 85,000 people are in transit in the greater Odesa region, most of them coming from Russian-occupied Kherson and the city of Mykolaiv.

4:47pm: Russian missiles hit crowded mall in central Ukraine, Zelensky says

A Russian missile strike hit a crowded shopping centre in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

More than 1,000 people were in the shopping centre at the time of the attack, Zelensky wrote on Telegram. He gave no details of casualties but said: "It is impossible to even imagine the number of victims.

Minutes later, Zelensky's deputy chief of staff, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Telegram that there were around 20 wounded so far, with nine in "serious condition".

"Two people died. The rescue operation continues," Tymoshenko added.

Kremenchuk, an industrial city of 217,000 before Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, is the site of Ukraine's biggest oil refinery.

4:28pm: Moldova wants to 'stay part of the free world', president says during Ukraine visit

Moldovan President Maia Sandu said during a visit to Ukraine on Monday that her country was "fragile and vulnerable" and needed help to remain "part of the free world".

Four days after EU leaders decided to accept Ukraine and Moldova as membership candidates, Sandu visited three towns where Ukraine suspects Russian forces of committing atrocities following their February 24 invasion.

"This shouldn't happen. And, you know, it is heartbreaking to see what we see here and to hear the stories," Sandu said in Bucha outside Kyiv, calling for anyone found guilty of atrocities to be punished.

Sandu said Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 2.6 million people that borders Ukraine, wanted to determine its own future.

"Moldova is a fragile and vulnerable country," she said. "Ukraine and Moldova need help. We want this war to stop, this Russian aggression against Ukraine to be stopped as soon as possible. We want to stay part of the free world."

>> Transnistria: Moldova's breakaway region in the shadow of war in Ukraine

Sandu also visited the towns of Borodyanka and Irpin, and later began talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

3:47pm: African countries facing food-supply 'emergency' amid war in Ukraine

African countries are facing a food-supply 'emergency' and need 'immediate funding' amid the war in Ukraine, said Edwin Ikhuoria, the Africa Executive Director of the ONE campaign, speaking to FRANCE 24 amid the G7 summit in southern Germany.

Ikhuoria said African countries were already experiencing a food-security crisis before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but a Russian forces' blockade in the Black Sea, which has halted the export of thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain, has made the situation worse.

2:30pm: Zelensky asks G7 leaders to cap prices of Russian oil exports

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday asked G7 leaders to further squeeze Russia over its invasion of Ukraine by capping prices of oil exported by Moscow.

"For us, a consistent position of the G7 countries on sanctions is important. They must be further strengthened, by limiting the prices of oil exported by the aggressor," Zelensky wrote on his Telegram account after addressing the G7 summit in Germany via videolink.

A senior US official told reporters Monday that negotiations were advancing on how to cap the amount of money that Russia can get for key oil exports.

The US and Canada, which are far less reliant on Russia as an energy supplier than Europe, have banned all Russian oil imports.

1:39pm: 'Now's not the time for negotiations' with Russia, Zelensky says

President Volodymyr Zelensky told G7 leaders on Monday that the time has not yet come to open negotiations with Russia, as Kyiv is still seeking to consolidate its positions, the French presidency said Monday.

"President Zelensky gave a very clear response that now is not the time for negotiations. Ukraine will negotiate when it is in a position to do so, that is, when it has basically re-established a position of strength," the French presidency said after the Ukrainian leader joined the G7 summit via videolink.

1:14pm: NATO chief calls Russia 'most significant and direct threat' to security

Speaking ahead of a NATO summit on Wednesday, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia poses "most significant and direct threat to our security". At the summit, Stoltenberg said allies "will agree a strengthened comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine", including secure communications systems and anti-drone systems.

"All of this is making a difference on the battlefield every day," the NATO chief said.

In the longer term, "we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era military equipment to modern NATO equipment".

Stoltenberg also said NATO allies will boost their high-readiness forces from the current 40,000 to "well over 300,000" as they strengthen their defences in response to Russia's war on Ukraine.

12:59pm: G7 vows to stand with Ukraine 'for as long as it takes'

Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies on Monday pledged to stand with Ukraine "for as long as it takes" by cranking up sanctions on Russia and backing security commitments for Kyiv in a post-war settlement.

"We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes," it said in a statement, which also contained ways the G7 could do so, as well as a list of demands on Russia.

It said that Moscow must "immediately" return Ukrainians who have been taken by force, and that Russia must allow grain shipments to leave Ukraine to avoid exacerbating a global food crisis.

The group also expressed "serious concern" over Russia's plans to deliver missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to Belarus in the coming months. "We urge Russia to behave responsibly and exercise restraint," the leaders of the world's top industrialised nations said in a statement.

11:59am: Russia sanctions 43 Canadians in response to Western sanctions

Russia sanctioned 43 more Canadian citizens on Monday, barring them from entering the country in a tit-for-tat response to Western sanctions on Moscow.

The list, published by the foreign ministry, included the chairperson of Canada's governing Liberal Party, Suzanne Cowan, and the former governor of the Bank of England and Bank of Canada, Mark Carney.

In April, Moscow sanctioned 61 Canadian officials and journalists. It has barred dozens of other Western politicians, journalists, celebrities and business figures from entering Russia.

11:07am: Zelensky asks G7 for air defence systems, tougher Russia sanctions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday asked for anti-aircraft defence systems, more sanctions on Russia and security guarantees as he addressed leaders of the Group of Seven summit, a European official said.

Zelensky told the leaders that they needed to do their utmost to end Russia's invasion of his country before the end of the year, saying winter battle conditions would make it tougher for his troops to fight back. A war pushing past winter also risked raging further beyond, he warned.

Addressing the summit in the Bavarian Alps via video link, Zelensky also asked for help to export grain from Ukraine and for reconstruction aid, the European official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

10:04am: Luhansk governor urges civilians to evacuate Lysychansk

Regional authorities urged civilians on Monday to leave the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk which is being attacked by Russian forces.

"The situation in the city is very difficult," Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region which includes Lysychansk, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

10:02am: G7 agrees to use Russia trade tariffs to fund Ukraine

G7 leaders have agreed that money collected from higher trade tariffs imposed on Russian exports should be funnelled as aid to Ukraine, the White House said Monday.

President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders "will seek authority to use revenues collected by any new tariffs on Russian goods to help Ukraine and to ensure that Russia pays for the cost of its war," a senior US official said.

09:00am: Russia slips into default zone

Russia looked set for its first sovereign default in decades as some bondholders said they had not received overdue interest on Monday following the expiry of a key payment deadline a day earlier.

Russia has struggled to keep up payments on $40 billion of outstanding bonds since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, as sweeping sanctions have effectively cut the country off from the global financial system and rendered its assets untouchable to many investors.

The Kremlin has repeatedly said there are no grounds for Russia to default but it is unable to send money to bondholders because of sanctions, accusing the West of trying to drive it into an artificial default. If a default is confirmed, it would be the first time Russia defaults since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

08:23am: Russian forces fight for Lysychansk, the last city in Luhansk still under Ukrainian control

Russian forces were fighting on Monday to capture Lysychansk, the last major city still held by Ukrainian troops in eastern Luhansk province, after Moscow-backed separatists said they were advancing on multiple fronts. Lysychansk's twin city, Severodonetsk, fell to to pro-Russian forces on Saturday.

FRANCE 24's Luke Shrago reports on the developments from Ukraine:

06:04am: Zelensky to press G7 for more help as Russia makes headway in Donbas

President Volodymyr Zelensky will urge world powers to step up their support for Ukraine when he addresses the G7 summit on Monday, as Kyiv reels from the first Russian strikes on the capital in weeks.

Zelensky is set to join the leaders of the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Canada via video link at 10:00am (0800 GMT).

"We need a powerful air defence - modern, fully effective. Which can ensure complete protection against these missiles. We talk about this every day with our partners. There are already some agreements. And partners need to move faster if they are really partners, not observers," Zelensky said in his daily address late Sunday.

3:36am: Ukraine war could boost illegal drug production, UN warns

The war in Ukraine could allow illegal drug production to flourish, the United Nations warned Monday.

Previous experience from the Middle East and Southeast Asia suggests conflict zones can act as a "magnet" for manufacturers of synthetic drugs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report.

"This effect may be greater when the conflict area is near large consumer markets."

The UNODC said the number of dismantled amphetamine laboratories in Ukraine rose from 17 in 2019 to 79 in 2020, the highest number of seized laboratories reported in any country in 2020. Ukraine's capacity to produce synthetic drugs could grow as the war continues, it added.

"You don't have police going around and stopping laboratories" in conflict zones, UNODC expert Angela Me told AFP.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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