Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow to summon EU ambassador over ‘openly hostile’ Kaliningrad cargo transit ban – live news | World news

Two Americans captured in Ukraine being held in occupied Donetsk – reports

Two Americans captured in Ukraine are currently in the Russian-backed separatist region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency has reported, citing an unidentified source.

The arrival of US citizens Andy Huynh and Alexander Drueke in the separatist region will raise fears that the pair, both from Alabama, could face charges there. Britons Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin and Morroccan citizen Brahim Saadoun were sentenced to death by a Donetsk separatist court earlier this month. Russia does not carry out the death penalty, but its proxies in the self-styled Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics do.

The Kremlin has said the two US men were mercenaries, not covered by the Geneva convention, and that they should face responsibility for their actions.

Reuters reports it could not immediately verify the Interfax report on the location of the Americans, and that a spokesperson in Donetsk declined immediate comment.

Here are some of the latest images sent to us from Ukraine and beyond over the newswires depicting the impact of Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February.

Internally displaced children attend a holiday on World Refugee Day, Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine.
Internally displaced children attend a holiday on World Refugee Day, Zaporizhzhia, south-eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Future Publishing/Ukrinform/Getty Images
Flames rise from a structure after it was hit by a projectile on 20 June in Druzhkivka,
Flames rise from a structure after it was hit by a projectile on 20 June in Druzhkivka. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Volodymyr Zelenskiy (L) with the US actor Ben Stiller (R), a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, during a meeting in Kyiv on Monday.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy (L) with the US actor Ben Stiller (R), a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, during a meeting in Kyiv on Monday. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service Handout/EPA
Servicemen fire a salvo in tribute to Ukrainian servicemen Vladislav Andreev killed in Donetsk region, during his funeral ceremony at Bucha’s cemetery.
Soldiers fire a salvo in tribute to Ukrainian servicemen Vladislav Andreev killed in Donetsk region, during his funeral ceremony at Bucha’s cemetery. Photograph: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images
Mayor of Kramatorsk Oleksandr Goncharenko speaks during an interview in the city.
Mayor of Kramatorsk Oleksandr Goncharenko speaks during an interview in the city. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images
The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize that has been auctioned to raise funds for Ukraine.
The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize that has been auctioned to raise funds for Ukraine. Photograph: Jason Szenes/EPA

European countries are united in their support for granting Ukraine the status of European Union member candidate, Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister has said.

Reuters reports Jean Asselborn told reporters before a meeting with other EU ministers: “We are working towards the point where we tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends.”

Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth

The sister of Brahim Saadoun, the Moroccan man who was captured while serving in the Ukrainian military, has said she feared he has been abandoned by his own government and has called on the international community to “claim my brother”.

“I just want any authority, anybody who is willing to help, to come and help,” Iman Saadoun said in an interview with the Guardian, describing being left in limbo while seeking government support for him.

Saadoun was one of three men sentenced to death by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine in a show trial designed to mimic the convictions of Russian soldiers for war crimes. The other two were the Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner. The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has said she will do “whatever is necessary” to secure their release.

Morocco has sought not to criticise Russia, a member of the UN security council, over its invasion of Ukraine. While European countries have largely condemned the war, pro-Russian views are more mainstream in the Middle East and Africa.

Iman said the local press and many people on social media had celebrated her brother’s sentence.

Read more of Andrew Roth’s report here: ‘He’s been betrayed’: sister of Moroccan man captured in Ukraine pleads for help

The Russian security council secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, has arrived in the Kaliningrad region, where he will chair a meeting on national security.

A dispute has erupted with Lithuania refusing to allow embargoed goods to be shipped to the Kaliningrad enclave via its territory.

Reuters reports that the European Union ambassador to Russia, Markus Ederer, has arrived at the Russian foreign ministry, where he has been summoned over the issue.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported that Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, has launched integration projects with the occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Georgy Muradov, deputy chairman of the council of ministers of Crimea, is quoted as saying that close trade and economic ties have been established, and that they are seeking to improve transport links.

The agency quotes him saying: “The creation of transport routes will ensure the uninterrupted supply of food, medicine and humanitarian aid to the liberated territories. It will also strengthen interregional ties in various fields.”

Russia: ‘western regimes’ and ‘illegitimate sanctions’ to blame for any global grain shortage

The Russian foreign ministry has issued an opinion by the press secretary, Maria Zakharova, about the global grain situation. She cites statistics claiming that grain production and trade levels are higher than previous years, stating that “there will be more grain in the world”. Zakharova goes on to write:

Representatives of the west are using every platform, including the UN, to accuse Russia of reducing the amount of grain available on the market through its actions, allegedly throwing a wrench in grain operations which, according to the West, has sent prices for wheat and other grains up. In reality, though, there’s more grain on the market than in previous years, and trade is up as well.

She claims that the causes of rising prices and shortages are

  • “Systematic errors made by the west when making forecasts for its agricultural policy.”
  • “Global inflation caused by short-sighted financial and monetary mechanisms that the west used during the pandemic.”
  • “The ill-conceived transition of Europe and North America to green energy based on the forced introduction of bio fuel technologies.”
  • “Illegitimate sanctions that have disrupted the established commodity-money chains.”

She goes on to say: “With regard to whether famine is a realistic scenario, experts increasingly foresee a pessimistic outcome. They believe that many nations will be impacted and even more will become destitute. The western regimes that instigate and cause destruction should be blamed for that.”

Yesterday, the European Union’s senior diplomat, Josep Borrell, described the Russian blockade of grain exports from Ukraine as “a real war crime”.

Reuters reports the Georgian prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has said at an economic conference in Qatar that his country is committed to joining Nato, but must solve its territorial problems with Russia first.

Georgia is sandwiched between Russia in the north, with Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan to its south. The breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are internationally recognised as part of Georgia’s territory, although a handful of states, including Russia, officially recognise them.

Three people were killed and seven people were injured by Russian shelling on the Kharkiv region in the last 24 hours, according to a post on Telegram by the governor of the area, Oleh Synyehubov.

He claimed that a fire at a gas processing plant in Izium is being fought after the strikes, and that an educational building in the Kyiv district of Kharkiv was 40% destroyed after the attacks.

He said that fighting continues in the Izium area, but that Ukrainian forces “repel enemy attacks and hold their positions securely.”

The claims have not been independently verified.

Serhai Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk, has confirmed that the regular free evacuation train from Pokrovsk in eastern Ukraine will run to Lviv via Dnipro this afternoon.

Russian journalist auctions Nobel peace prize, sells for $103.5m

The Nobel Peace Prize that Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov was auctioning off to raise money for Ukrainian child refugees has sold for $103.5m (£84.5m), shattering the record for a Nobel.

Muratov, who was awarded the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor-in-chief when it shut down in March amid the Kremlin’s clampdown on journalists and public dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It was Muratov’s idea to auction off his prize, having already announced he was donating the accompanying $500,000 cash award to charity. The idea of the donation, he said, “is to give the children refugees a chance for a future”.

Muratov has said the proceeds will go directly to Unicef in its efforts to help children displaced by the war in Ukraine. Melted down, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold contained in Muratov’s medal would be worth about $10,000.

Ukraine claims first success with western-donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles: UK MoD

Ukrainian forces claimed their first successful use of western-donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles to engage Russian maritime forces, British intelligence says.

The target of the attack on 17 June was almost certainly the Russian naval tug Spasatel Vasily Bekh, which was delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island in the north-western Black Sea, according to the latest UK ministry of defence report.

The destruction of the Russian vessel on a resupply mission “demonstrates the difficulty Russia faces when attempting to support their forces occupying Snake Island” the report adds.

This is the latest in a series of Russian vessels, including the cruiser Moskva, to be damaged or destroyed by Ukraine during the conflict.

Ukrainian coastal defence capability has largely neutralised Russia’s ability to establish sea control and project maritime force in the north-western Black Sea.

This has undermined the viability of Russia’s original operational design for the invasion, which involved holding the Odesa region at risk from the sea.”

Denmark declares ‘early warning’ over Russia gas supply worries

Denmark’s energy agency declared a first level “early warning” alert over worries of its gas supply, due to uncertainty on energy imports from Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

The European Union has established a system to allow member states to flag up impending energy supply difficulties using three ascending levels of alerts – beginning with “early warning”, followed by “alert”, then “emergency”.

The system allows for mutual assistance from other EU countries, but could also mean a start to rationing supplies.

On Monday, the deputy director of the Danish Energy Agency, Martin Hansen, issued the first level warning.

“This is a serious situation we are facing and it has been exacerbated by the reduction in supplies,” Hansen said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.

Currently Denmark’s gas stocks are about 75% full, “and gas has been added in recent days”, the agency added.

The declaration comes after Danish energy company Orsted announced at the end of May that delivery of Russian gas to the Scandinavian country would be suspended from June 1, after Orsted refused to settle the payment in rubles.

Russia is one of the main sources of natural gas imports in Denmark, according to the Danish Energy Agency.

The Netherlands also announced Monday it will lift restrictions on coal-fired power generation, a day after Germany and Austria took similar steps to alleviate their reliance on Russian gas supplies.

Russia is holding more than 1,500 Ukrainian civilians in prisons, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, has alleged.

More than 1,500 civilians are being held in Russian prisons – they are in Rostov, Kursk, they are in jail, they are being held as prisoners of war, although they should not be prisoners of war… They should be released,” Vereshchuk said during a televised briefing on Monday.

Moscow to summon EU ambassador later today

The Russian foreign ministry is set to summon European Union ambassador to Moscow, Markus Ederer, later today over Lithuania’s ban of the transit of goods under EU sanctions through Kaliningrad.

Vilnius banned the transit of goods under European Union sanctions through Lithuanian territory to and from the Russian exclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, citing EU sanction rules.

Anton Alikhanov, Kaliningrad’s governor, told Russian television late on Sunday.

This is, of course, a situation, that can be resolved by diplomatic means,

As far as I know, tomorrow Marcus Ederer, the European Union ambassador to Russia, will be summoned to the foreign ministry …. and he will be told of the appropriate conditions involved here.”

Russia stated that if the transit of goods to and from #Kaliningrad through #Lithuania is not restored in the near future Moscow reserves the right to take countermeasures. Very mild reaction at this stage despite the fact that Vilnius violated 2002 #EU-Russia agreement.

— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) June 20, 2022

Russia threatens retaliation over goods transit ban

Russia has threatened to retaliate over Lithuania’s ban on the transit of some goods across its territory to the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad.

The move by the government in Vilnius was described as “unprecedented” in Moscow, where the Russian foreign office said they reserved the right to respond to protect their national interest.

Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, further escalated tensions on Monday by threatening a response to what he said was an “illegal move”.

This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything. We consider this illegal. The situation is more than serious … We need a serious in-depth analysis in order to work out our response.”

Wedged between Lithuania to its north and east, and Poland to its south, Kaliningrad is about 800 miles (1,300km) from Moscow and relies on much of its supplies coming in by rail.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Vilnius must reverse the “openly hostile” move.

If cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests,” it said.

Kaliningrad is about 800 miles (1,300km) from Moscow and relies on much of its supplies coming in by rail.
Kaliningrad is about 800 miles (1,300km) from Moscow and relies on much of its supplies coming in by rail.

Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said Moscow was spreading false information and that the state railway service was acting lawfully by merely implementing the EU’s sanctions regime prohibiting the supply of steel or goods made from iron ore to Russia.

Landsbergis said that under half of the goods usually supplied by transiting across Lithuania would be covered by the sanctions regime over time, with the ban on steel coming into force on 17 June.

“I think there was some false information, not for the first time, announced by the Russian authorities, but I’m glad that we have a chance to explain this,” he said. “At this point, about slightly less than half of goods that transit Lithuania are on the sanctions list, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are under sanctions right now.

“Because there are different wind-down periods, and some of it, for example oil, will be sanctioned just at the end of the year, starting from December, even though the authorities have announced it is sanctioned already, which is not true actually.”

Summary and welcome

Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you as we continue to report all the latest news from Ukraine.

The Russian foreign ministry is set to summon European Union ambassador to Moscow, Markus Ederer, later today over Lithuania’s ban of the transit of goods under EU sanctions through Kaliningrad.

Here are all the other major developments as of 8am in Kyiv.

  • Russian officials have accused Ukraine of launching missile strikes against three gas rigs in the Black Sea south of Odesa, in an apparent escalation of Kyiv’s attempts to weaken Russia’s maritime dominance. Seven people were reported missing and three injured after the strikes on Monday, according to the head of occupied Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov.
  • Turkey said it does not consider next week’s Nato summit as a final deadline for resolving its objections to Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance. Turkish presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, reported no breakthrough in talks in Brussels but said discussions between Ankara, Stockholm and Helsinki will continue.
  • Americans captured in Ukraine have been described by Moscow as “mercenaries” engaged in illegal activities and should take responsibility for their “crimes”. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the detained men were not covered by the Geneva conventions as they were not regular troops, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.
  • The United States is in talks with Canada and other allies to further restrict Moscow’s energy revenue by imposing a price cap on Russian oil, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters on Monday. “We are talking about price caps or a price exception … that would push down the price of Russian oil and depress Putin’s revenues, while allowing more oil supply to reach the global market,” she said.
  • The former director of the British special forces said the UK must “prepare for war” as a deterrent against Russia. The comment by Gen Sir Adrian Bradshaw came after the new head of the British army, Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, told troops they must prepare “to fight in Europe once again”.
  • Putin fears the “spark of democracy” spreading to Russia, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who said the Russian president was trying to divide Europe and return to a world dominated by spheres of influence. “The Russian President must accept that there is a community of law-based democracies in his neighbourhood that is growing ever closer together. He clearly fears the spark of democracy spreading to his country,” Scholz told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper.
  • The upcoming decision whether to grant Ukraine candidacy for membership to the EU is making Russia “very nervous”, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his latest nightly address on Monday night. “We are moving towards the main decision of the European Council, which will be adopted on Friday. As I predicted, Russia is very nervous about our activity.”

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