Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, gave an interview with the BBC on Thursday.
“We didn’t invade Ukraine,” he claimed. “We declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the west that dragging Ukraine into Nato was a criminal act.”
Responding to an official UN report detailing alleged war crimes against civilians committed by Russian forces in the Ukrainian village of Yahidne, in Chernihiv region, Lavrov was asked if that was “fighting Nazis”.
“It’s a great pity,” Lavrov said, “but international diplomats, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN secretary general and other UN representatives, are being put under pressure by the west. And very often they’re being used to amplify fake news spread by the west.
Russia is not squeaky clean. Russia is what it is. And we are not ashamed of showing who we are.”
Addressing Moscow’s relations with the UK, Lavrov maintained he no longer believed there was any “room for manoeuvre”.
“Because both [Boris] Johnson and [Liz] Truss say openly that we should defeat Russia, we should force Russia to its knees. Go on, then, do it!”
The head of the UK’s armed forces has said Russia has already “strategically lost” the war in Ukraine and is now a “more diminished power”.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said Russia was suffering heavy losses, running out of troops and advanced missiles and would never be able to take over all of Ukraine.
“This is a dreadful mistake by Russia. Russia will never take control of Ukraine,” Tony Radakin told PA Media in an interview published on Friday.
The country’s highest-ranking military officer said the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had lost 25% of Russia’s land power for only “tiny” gains and it would emerge a “more diminished power” while strengthening Nato.
Russia has strategically lost already. Nato is stronger, Finland and Sweden are looking to join,” he said.
Radakin said that while Putin may achieve “tactical successes” in the weeks to come, it had come at the expense of a quarter of his country’s army power for “tiny” gains and was running out of troops and hi-tech missiles.
The Russian machine is grinding away, and it’s gaining a couple of – two, three, five – kilometres every day.
And Russia has vulnerabilities because it’s running out of people, it’s running out of hi-tech missiles.
President Putin has used about 25% of his army’s power to gain a tiny amount of territory and 50,000 people either dead or injured. Russia is failing.”
The European Commission will meet today to give its fast-tracked opinion on Ukraine’s bid for EU candidacy, a step closer to membership for the country a day after the bloc’s most powerful leaders visited Kyiv in a show of support.
Never before has an opinion been given so quickly on EU candidacy, which must be approved by all 27 member states.
The opinion will serve as a basis for discussion at next week’s EU summit, where leaders are expected to approve Ukraine’s candidate status, but with stern conditions attached, and membership may take years or even decades.
France, Germany, Italy and Romania are all in favour of Ukraine receiving “immediate” candidate status, French President Emmanuel Macron said in Kyiv on Thursday.
“The most important message of our visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the EU,” Draghi said at a joint press conference.
Scholz said Ukraine “belongs in the European family” and that Berlin would continue to send Kyiv weapons “for as long as it is needed.”
Zelenskiy promised Ukraine was ready to put in the work to become an EU member.
“Ukraine has gotten the closest to EU it has ever been in the history of its independence,” he said in his nightly address.
The Jacques Delors Institute think tank director said he expects a positive opinion on Ukraine’s EU status, but with conditions and a deadline, according to a rpeort from Agence France Presse.
“This is a very delicate exercise for the Commission because it cannot be less demanding for Ukraine than for other countries for which it has given a favourable opinion in the past. Its credibility requires the maintenance of high standards,” Sebastien Maillard said.
Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said he will consider whether to accept President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s invitation to visit Ukraine during an upcoming European trip.
Albanese said he only became aware of the invitation to visit Ukraine when he read a newspaper report.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, he said:
I’ll take appropriate advice, and obviously there are security issues as well in terms of such a visit.
I appreciate the spirit in which it’s been offered and one of the reasons why Australia has been invited to Nato is that Australia is the largest non-Nato contributor to give support to Ukraine in its defence of its national sovereignty against Russia’s illegal, immoral invasion. And we’ll continue to stand with the people of Ukraine.”
Zelenskiy reportedly gave the invitation when he wrote to congratulate Albanese on his election win on 21 May, said Ukraine Embassy in Australia’s deputy head of mission Volodymyr Shalkivski.
The invitation was for Albanese to “visit Ukraine at his convenience,” Shalkivski said, and the embassy handed the invitation over to the new administration 7 June.
Albanese also confirmed he will attend a Nato meeting in Spain at the end of this month.
Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you to deliver all the latest developments from Ukraine.
The leaders of the European Union are due to give their fast-tracked opinion on Ukraine’s membership bid later today after the leaders of France, Germany and Italy vowed to support Ukraine in its application to join on a visit to Kyiv on Thursday.
Here are all the other major developments:
- Hundreds of civilians sheltering at the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk are no longer able to evacuate because of the sustained Russian artillery barrages, officials say. Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai told CNN 568 people, including 38 children, are taking refuge in the Azot plant. A pro-Russian separatist leader claimed Russian-backed forces would reopen a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the plant, the Interfax news agency reported.
- Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia is “not ashamed of showing who we are” in an interview with the BBC. “We didn’t invade Ukraine, we declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the west that dragging Ukraine into Nato was a criminal act,” he said.
- Nato says it is committed to providing equipment to maintain Ukraine’s right to self-defence, and will be making more troop deployments on its eastern flank. Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, condemned “a relentless war of attrition against Ukraine” being waged by Russia, and said Nato continued to offer “unprecedented support so it can defend itself against Moscow’s aggression”.
- The head of the UK’s armed forces says Russia has already “strategically lost” the war in Ukraine and is now a “more diminished power”. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said Vladimir Putin had lost 25% of Russia’s land power for only “tiny” gains. In an interview with PA Media, he said Russia was running out of troops and advanced missiles and would never be able to take over all of Ukraine.
- Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, appeared as a hologram while referencing Star Wars in an attempt to secure more aid from big tech firms. Zelenskiy told a crowd of hundreds at the VivaTech trade show in Paris on Thursday that Ukraine was offering technology firms a unique chance to rebuild the country as a fully digital democracy.
- At least three civilians were killed and seven injured by a Russian airstrike in the eastern city of Lysychansk, according to local officials. The strike hit a building where civilians were sheltering, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said.
- An overnight Russian air-launched rocket strike hit a suburb of the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy, killing four and wounding six, according to officials. Regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said another rocket strike hit the Dobropillia district, which lies next to the Russian border, at 5am on Thursday, followed by 26 mortar rounds fired from across the border.
- A Russian spy tried and failed to secure an internship at the international criminal court (ICC) using the false identity as a Brazilian citizen that he had built up for as long as a decade, according to Dutch intelligence. Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, 36, accused of being an agent of Russia’s GRU military intelligence, was detained when he arrived and sent back to Brazil the following day.
- The UK announced a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia aimed at people involved with the “barbaric treatment of children in Ukraine”. Those targeted by sanctions include the Russian children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, military commanders, Vladimir Mikhailovich and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church.
- The UK has purchased and refurbished more than 20 long-range guns – M109s – from a Belgian arms company which it is sending to Ukraine, Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said. Russia outnumbers Ukraine in artillery fire by 20 to 1 in some areas but allies are beginning to give Ukraine the long-range artillery and rocket systems that will enable its forces to win, he told Sky News.
- Russia warned that gas flows to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline could be suspended, blaming problems with turbine repairs. Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the state-owned news agency Ria that a complete halt in gas flows in the pipeline, which supplies gas from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea, would be a “catastrophe” for Germany. Canada says it is in active discussions with Germany about a Siemens-made turbine equipment undergoing maintenance in Canada and unable to return due to sanctions.
- Temporary silos on Ukraine’s border would prevent Russia from stealing Ukrainian grain and ensure the winter harvest is not lost due to a lack of storage, US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said on Thursday. It follows comments from US President Joe Biden that temporary silos would be built along the border with Ukraine.
- Zelenskiy accused Russia of being unwilling to look for a way to peace, claiming it will “decide for himself that the war must end”. Ukrainian peace talks negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak also dismissed Russia’s most recent comments about being willing to continue negotiations as “an attempt to deceive the world”. Russia, he said, wanted to give the impression of being ready to talk while planning to stab Ukraine in the back.
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