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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 26

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Birds fly over a residential building following explosions in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

11:35 p.m.: The war in Ukraine could allow illegal drug production to flourish, while the opium market’s future hinges on the fate of crisis-wracked Afghanistan, the United Nations warned Monday, Agence France-Presse reported. Previous experience from the Middle East and Southeast Asia suggests conflict zones can act as a "magnet" for making synthetic drugs, which can be manufactured anywhere, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report.

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, according to AFP.

10:45 p.m.: Canada deploys two warships to the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic, joining a pair of frigates already in the region to reinforce NATO's eastern flank in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

Her Majesty's Canadian Ships (HMCS) Kingston and Summerside set sail for a four-month deployment as part of “deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe” launched in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea, the Canadian navy says in a statement, according to AFP.

9:30 p.m.:

8:45 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “Russia today again hit Kyiv with missiles. Early in the morning. The second army of the world triumphantly ‘defeated’ a kindergarten and an apartment building. … Missiles also hit the Mykolaiv region, the Chernihiv region, Odesa, Cherkasy. Artillery and mortar shelling did not stop in the Kharkiv region, in the Sumy region, in Donbas, in the south of our state. My condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Everyone who was injured is given all the necessary help.”

“Part of the missiles were shot down. But only part. We need a powerful air defense - 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,” Zelenskyy said.

7:25 p.m.: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will attend a round of talks with the leaders of Sweden and Finland, as well as NATO on Tuesday ahead of the summit in Madrid, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said, according to Reuters.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. But the bids have faced opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm's support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara, Reuters reported.

6:32 p.m.:

5:25 p.m.: France has become the latest country to reconsider its energy options because of the war in Ukraine, announcing Sunday it was looking into reopening a recently closed coal-fired power station, Agence France-Presse reported.

The energy transition ministry said in a statement it was considering reopening the station at Saint-Avold in eastern France this winter, "given the situation in Ukraine" and the effect it was having on the energy markets. But France would still be producing less than one percent of its electricity through coal power, and no Russian coal would be used, the statement added, according to AFP.

4:37 p.m.:

3:09 p.m.: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron met on the sidelines of a Group of Seven summit in Germany, agreeing to provide more support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, Reuters reported.

"They agreed this is a critical moment for the course of the conflict, and there is an opportunity to turn the tide in the war," a Downing Street spokesperson for Johnson’s office said in a statement.

2:30 p.m.: A Russian missile strike that hit Kyiv is an act of "symbolic aggression" in the days leading up to a NATO summit, said the city's mayor Vitali Klitschko, Agence France-Presse reported.

1:28 p.m.: The latest missile strikes by Russia on Kyiv show that international sanctions should be more aggressive said Andriy Yermak, the Ukraine president's chief of staff, Reuters reported.

“The G-7 summit should respond to Russian strikes on Kyiv,” he said on Sunday.

“An embargo on gold exports is good, but a gas embargo is needed in the new EU sanctions package," he said on Telegram.

12:52 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that despite gains on the ground in Ukraine, Russia’s invasion is a failure. Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Blinken said regarding President Vladimir Putin: “Let’s not confuse the tactical with strategic. When it comes to Putin’s strategic objectives, he’s already failed.”

Blinken continued: “His strategic objective was to end Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, to erase it from the map, to subsume it in Russia. That has failed.”

Blinken added Putin has also failed in his quest to use the invasion to sow divisions in NATO.

Blinken commented on the strikes overnight on Kyiv by Russia. “We have seen sporadically,” Blinken said, “ever since Putin lost the battle for Kyiv and had to shift his focus just to Eastern and Southern Ukraine, that they have occasionally launched missiles at a distance, basically to terrorize people.”

12:17 p.m.:

11:19 a.m.: Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitscho visited the city's historic northern neighborhoods, known as the Shevchenko district, after at least two buildings were affected by early morning explosions blamed on up to four Russian missiles. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty also reported Klitschko initially said some victims were trapped under rubble and a nine-story apartment building had caught fire.

Later, the commander of the Ukrainian Police, Ihor Klymenko, said one person was confirmed dead and four others — including a 7-year-old girl and her Russian mother pulled from the debris — were confirmed injured so far.

Klymenko accused Moscow of "killing its own citizens in apartment buildings [and] calling them military objects in its reports."

Klitschko called the attacks on Kyiv an attempt by Russia to "intimidate Ukrainians" ahead of a NATO summit slated for Madrid on June 28-30.

10:46 a.m.: Russia edged closer to default on Sunday amid little sign that investors holding its international bonds had received payment, heralding what would be the nation's first default in decades, reports Reuters.

Russia has struggled to keep up payments on $40 billion of outstanding bonds since its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, which provoked sweeping sanctions that have effectively cut the country out of 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 is unable to send money to bondholders because of sanctions, accusing the West of trying to drive it into an artificial default.

While a formal default would be largely symbolic given Russia cannot borrow internationally at the moment and doesn't need to thanks to rich oil and gas revenue, the stigma would probably raise its borrowing costs in future.

9:50 a.m.: President Biden on Sunday praised the continued unity of the global alliance confronting Russia, as he and other heads of the Group of Seven leading economies strategized on sustaining the pressure in their effort to isolate Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Biden and his counterparts were set to announce new bans on imports of Russian gold, the latest in a series of sanctions the club of democracies hopes will further isolate Russia economically over its invasion of Ukraine.

9:23 a.m.: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says attacks by Russia on residential buildings in Kyiv show the importance of international unity in supporting Ukraine, reported the Associated Press.

At the G-7 summit in Germany, Scholz emphasized the unity so far of the Group of Seven industrial powers, the European Union and NATO in organizing support for Ukraine.

“We can say for sure that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin did not reckon with this and it is still giving him a headache — the great international support for Ukraine, but of course, also the Ukrainians’ courage and bravery in defending their own country.”

8:58 a.m.: Strikes by Russian missiles in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv overnight and early this morning were another case of Russian barbarism, U.S. President Joe Biden said at the summit of the Group of Seven rich democracies in Germany on Sunday. "It's more of their barbarism," he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the West needed to maintain a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Reuters. "The price of backing down, the price of allowing Putin to succeed, to hack off huge parts of Ukraine, to continue with his program of conquest, that price will be far, far higher," he told reporters.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said G-7 countries should respond to the latest missile strikes by imposing further sanctions on Russia and providing more heavy weapons to Ukraine.

8:27 a.m.: Russian missiles struck a residential building and the compound of a kindergarten in central Kyiv on Sunday, killing one person and wounding five more, officials said, as Moscow stepped up its air strikes on Ukraine for a second day. Reuters also reported firefighters put out a fire in a badly damaged nine-story residential building. Debris was strewn over parked cars outside a smoldering building with a crater in its roof. "There are people under the rubble," Kiev’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram, and added that several people had already been hospitalized.

Servicemen work at the scene at a residential building following explosions, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022.
Servicemen work at the scene at a residential building following explosions, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022.

5:10 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry says that Russia's capture of Sieverodonetsk still leaves it with a number of obstacles to occupying the Donbas region.

Challenges include securing main supply routes and advancing to Kramatorsk.

4:19 a.m.: VOA's Myroslava Gongadze, on the ground in Kyiv:

3 a.m.: Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said explosions are rocking the city's Shevchenkivskiy district, Al Jazeera reported.

“Residents are being rescued and evacuated from two buildings," he said on Telegram.

Al Jazeera later reported that the blasts damaged a nine-story residential building and preliminary data suggest there are victims. Rescue operations are happening now.

2:01 a.m.:

1:02 a.m.: Leaders of the Group of Seven democracies are having "very constructive" discussions on a possible cap on Russian oil imports, a German government official said on Saturday shortly before the start of the annual three-day G-7 summit, Reuters reported.

The proposal is part of broader G-7 discussions on how to further crank up the pressure on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine without stoking global inflationary pressures.

With energy prices soaring though, the West fears such embargoes will not actually put a dent in Russia's war chest as the country earns more from exports even as volumes fall.

A price cap could solve that dilemma, while also avoiding further restricting oil supply and fueling inflation, officials say, but for it to work, it requires buy-in from heavy importers like India and China.

"We are on a good path to reach an agreement," the official said.

12:02 a.m.: Ukrainian shelling on Saturday forced Russian troops to suspend the evacuation of people from a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, just hours after Moscow's forces took the city, Tass news agency quoted local police as saying.

Separately, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said special forces were still in Sievierodonetsk, directing artillery fire against the Russians. The adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, spoke in a video address.

Russian officials said there could still be several hundred people in the giant Azot plant, where they took shelter as the fighting spread.

Earlier in the day both Kyiv and Moscow said Ukrainian forces had pulled out of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of fighting that destroyed 90% of the city.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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