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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 29

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, June 28, 2022.
Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, June 28, 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:

11:05 p.m.:

9:20 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would respond in kind if NATO deployed troops and infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance, Reuters reported.

"With Sweden and Finland, we don't have the problems that we have with Ukraine. They want to join NATO, go ahead," Putin told Russian state television.

"But they must understand there was no threat before, while now, if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in kind and create the same threats for the territories from which threats towards us are created."

He said it was inevitable that Moscow's relations with Helsinki and Stockholm would sour over their NATO membership.

8:25 p.m.: Russia said it's ready to work with the United Nations to combat the risks of a global food crisis and was willing to meet its obligations to export food and fertilizers, Reuters reported.

The commitments were made Wednesday in a conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Lavrov's ministry said in a statement.

However, the statement stopped short of announcing any new concrete steps, and repeated earlier Russian charges that Ukrainian actions and Western sanctions were to blame for the crisis.

7:41 p.m.: Britain on Wednesday announced sanctions on oligarch Vladimir Potanin, described by London as Russia's second-richest man and who has been buying assets from firms exiting Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Potanin, known as Russia's "Nickel King," was included in the latest wave of sanctions listings by Britain, which included business figures, financial firms and other entities, Reuters reported.

Britain, along with Western allies, has been imposing sanctions against Russian elites, banks and strategic industries since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Russia says it is conducting a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

6:51 p.m.: Global exports of semiconductors to Russia have plummeted by 90% since the United States and allies placed export controls on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Raimondo, speaking at an annual Commerce Department conference, also said that controls placed on Russia's aerospace sector were hammering its ability to generate revenue and support military aviation.

The shortage of chips prompted Russia's automobile industry to suffer a record slump in output in May, when is produced 3,720 cars compared with about 112,000 in May 2021, the state statistics service said on Wednesday.

6:17 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Wednesday unveiled the organization's Strategic Concept that featured China for the first time.

5:40 p.m.: Syria said Wednesday it will recognize the "independence and sovereignty" of Ukraine's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions and contacts will be established to set up diplomatic relations, The Associated Press reported.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry announcement came days after President Bashar Assad met with a joint delegation from both regions in Damascus.

Earlier this month, Russia claimed to have taken control of 97% of one of the two provinces that make up Ukraine's Donbas, bringing the Kremlin closer to its goal of fully capturing the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.

Syria is a strong ally of Russia, which joined Syria's conflict in September 2015 helping tip the balance of power in favor of Assad's favor.

5:05 p.m.: The lower house of Russia's parliament on Wednesday approved the critical second reading of a proposed law that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking actions against Russian news outlets, The Associated Press reported.

The proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house's approval before going to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law. But the Duma's approval on second reading, when a proposal still can undergo substantial changes, almost always prefigures a law's enactment.

The draft law also calls for allowing Russia's prosecutor general to cancel the registration of media outlets for disseminating "illegal, dangerous, unreliable publicly significant information or information expressing clear disrespect for society, the state, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as aimed at discrediting the Russian armed forces," state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

4:33 p.m.: Sergii Marchenko is the minister of Finance of Ukraine.

4:03 p.m.: Trade through Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad could return to normal within days, two sources familiar with the matter said, as European officials edge toward a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow, Reuters reported.

Kaliningrad, which is bordered by European Union states and relies on railways and roads through Lithuania for most goods, has been cut off from some freight transport from mainland Russia since June 17 under sanctions imposed by Brussels.

3:15 p.m.: Russia said on Wednesday that restrictions imposed by Norway were blocking goods for Russian-populated settlements on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and threatened unspecified "retaliatory measures" unless Oslo resolves the issue, Reuters reported.

Svalbard, midway between Norway's north coast and the North Pole, is part of Norway, but Russia has the right to exploit the archipelago's natural resources under a treaty signed in 1920, and some settlements there are populated mainly by Russians.

Norway, which is not in the EU but applies EU sanctions against Russia, has said sanctions would not affect the transport of goods by ship to Svalbard. But much of the freight for the archipelago's Russian settlements passes first through a checkpoint into mainland Norway, which is closed to sanctioned goods.

2:30 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked about a diplomatic resolution to the war in Ukraine on Wednesday but gave no specifics on the way forward for negotiations, VOA’s State Department bureau chief Nike Ching reported.

2:18 p.m.: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expressing optimism that humanitarian corridors could be opened to enable the export of Ukrainian grain to the rest of the world amid Russia’s war, The Associated Press reported.

Tens of millions of people across the world are at risk of hunger as the four-month war has disrupted shipments of grain from Ukraine.

Speaking during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on the margins of the NATO summit, Erdogan said, “We are trying to solve the process with a balancing policy. Our hope is that this balance policy will lead to results and allow us possibility to get grain to countries that are facing shortages right now through a corridor as soon as possible.”

2:02 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke by phone Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reported. UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, "They discussed the situation in Ukraine, including efforts to get Ukrainian grain and Russian grain and fertilizer back onto the global market." Talks are ongoing and Dujarric had no breakthroughs to announce.

1:46 p.m.: Polish President Andrzej Duda and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda talked to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday.

1:29 p.m.: The Biden administration threw its support on Wednesday behind the potential sale of U.S. F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, a day after Ankara lifted a veto of NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, Reuters reports.

Celeste Wallander, Assistant Secretary for Defense for International Security Affairs at Pentagon, told reporters on a call that strong Turkish defense capabilities would reinforce NATO's defenses.

"The United States supports Turkey’s modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security," she said.

1:11 p.m.: Ukraine's Defense Ministry has announced a prisoner exchange involving 144 Ukrainian soldiers, including scores of defenders of the Azovstal steelworks in the southern port city of Mariupol, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

1:04 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin still wants to take most of Ukraine and the picture for the war there remains "pretty grim," the top U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

"We continue to be in a position where we look at President Putin and we think he has effectively the same political goals that we had previously, which is to say that he wants to take most of Ukraine," Avril Haines, the U.S, Director of National Intelligence, told a Commerce Department conference.

12:56 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he has accepted an invitation to attend the autumn G20 summit in Bali, but his participation will depend on which leaders are also attending, a thinly veiled reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

12:34 p.m.: The war in Ukraine that has stalled its wheat exports will keep global prices high into the 2022/23 season, putting millions more people at risk of undernourishment, the United Nations' food agency and the OECD said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Russia and Ukraine are the world's first and fifth largest wheat exporters accounting for 20% and 10% of global sales, respectively, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the closure of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, nearly halted exports.

Grain exports from Ukraine are only 20% of capacity as alternative channels, such as rail and road, are not as efficient as maritime routes, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said.

12:15 p.m.: The U.N. atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe's largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.

12:01 p.m.: With Coke and Pepsi having suspended sales in Russia, the makers of Cola Chernogolovka hope to slake the thirsts of Russians including at big American fast food chains.

Chernogolovka, a drinks company named for a town outside Moscow where it was founded in 1998, told Reuters on Wednesday it has more than doubled its presence in hotels, restaurants and cafes so far this year, and is now supplying Russian outlets of Burger King and KFC.

"We think this is far from the limit," the company told Reuters in response to questions.

11:46 a.m.:

11:33 a.m.: The bank connected to state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom is the third-biggest in Russia, after Sberbank and VTB. And it’s the only one of the three that has not been hit with the harshest kind of sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States -- an exception that results from the fact that EU countries pay Russia for natural gas, a major source of revenue for the assault on Ukraine, through Gazprombank.

A new report by Schemes, an investigative unit of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service, documents a wide range of evidence showing that a substantial number of the Russian soldiers and security-force members who have been deployed to Ukraine have received their regular military pay and combat bonuses via Gazprombank.

11:17 a.m.: Amid concerns about wheat shortages in Russia and Ukraine, Thai economists say demand for this year’s rice production is set to rise, driven by the war in Ukraine and its impact on rising global commodity prices. For VOA, Steve Sandford spoke to Thai experts about the expected increases, along with the added challenges for rice producers and workers.

11:06 a.m.: Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, on Twitter Wednesday welcomed the NATO summit statement declaring Russia its most significant threat and vowing to support Ukraine. Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told NATO leaders, "This is not a war being waged by Russia against only Ukraine. This is a war for the right to dictate conditions in Europe - for what the future world order will be like."

10:51 a.m.: NATO has declared Russia the "most significant and direct threat” to its members’ peace and security amid Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The Western military alliance made the declaration in a statement as its leaders met in Madrid on Wednesday to confront what NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called the biggest security crisis since World War II.

NATO's declaration underscores how dramatically Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unsettled Europe’s post-Cold War security order.

The alliance also promised to “step up political and practical support” to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion. Stoltenberg said Ukraine is fighting for its independence but also for Western values and security.

The statement also said that NATO leaders agreed on Wednesday to formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance after Turkey struck a deal with the Nordic duo to drop its objections.

10:40 a.m.: As the ruble strengthens to levels not seen in seven years, Russia’s minister of economic development warned Wednesday that the country’s businesses could suffer if the trend persists, The Associated Press reported.

“I think my colleagues will confirm that the profitability of many industries, even export-oriented, has become negative at the current exchange rate,” economic development minister Maxim Reshetnikov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

“If such a situation will last for several more months, I think many enterprises may come to the idea not only of curtailing investment processes, but also of the need to adjust current production plans and reduce production volumes,” he said.

10:31 a.m.: The U.N. Human Rights Office on Wednesday released a new report that “shows the shocking toll of the war in Ukraine.” It was presented by Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, who said, “The daily killing of civilians, the torture, disappearances and other violations must stop.”

10:17 a.m.: China is rebuking NATO for what it calls the alliance’s “Cold War mentality,” The Associated Press reported. The comments came as NATO leaders held a summit in Spain, where they are expected to identify China as a challenge for the alliance.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said NATO should “give up the cold war mentality, zero-sum game and the practice of creating enemies, and not to try to mess up Asia and the whole world after disrupting Europe.”

He accused NATO members of “creating tension and provoking conflicts” by sending warships and aircraft into areas close to the Asian mainland and the South China Sea. Zhao also criticized sanctions brought against Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine it has refused to condemn or even describe as an act of aggression.

10:04 a.m.: A senior European Union official is welcoming the chance for the bloc to strengthen its ties with NATO, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said the EU and the military alliance held common values which would be on show at the NATO summit this week.

Asked if EU members should boost their defense spending in response to the Russian threat following the invasion if Ukraine, Michel said: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

He added: “And we are doing that because we have decided to increase (defense spending) by 200 billion euros in the following years (...) But it’s not enough.”

9:52 a.m.: "They are looting toilet bowls and women's underwear," says a Ukrainian soldier in a dismissive assessment of Russian forces. Soldiers from the Ukrainian 3rd Separate Tank Brigade spoke to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Ukrainian Service about their experiences in battle in eastern Ukraine.

9:41 a.m.: Russian forces battled Wednesday to surround the Ukrainian military’s last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province, The Associated Press reported. Moscow’s battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russia forces pushing toward two Luhansk province villages south of the city of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russian forces were making “incremental advances” in their offensive to capture the city. Lysychansk is the last major area of the province under Ukrainian control following the retreat of Ukraine’s fighters from the neighboring city of Sievierodonetsk.

Russian troops and their separatist allies control 95% of Luhansk and hold about half of Donetsk region, the other province that makes up the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas.

The latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, said the Ukrainians were likely in a fighting withdrawal to seek more defensible positions while draining the Russian military forces of manpower and resources.

9:33 a.m.:

9:16 a.m.: In a phone video, a police officer in the besieged Ukrainian city of Lysychansk recorded his personal account of trying to help civilians under fire with food and support. The city is nearly surrounded and is situated near Sievierodonetsk, where Russian forces claim control. Vans evacuating people come under constant fire. Lysychansk remains the last major city in the Luhansk region controlled by Ukrainian forces. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

9:02 a.m.: Russian forces struck targets in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine on Wednesday and intensified attacks on fronts across the country as NATO members met in Madrid to plan a course of action against the challenge from Moscow, Reuters reported.

In the east, the governor of Luhansk province said there was "fighting everywhere" in the battle around the hilltop city of Lysychansk, which Russian troops were trying to encircle.

The governor of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine said Russian shelling had increased there too in the past few days. "Several villages have been wiped from the face of the earth," Kryvyi Rih governor Oleksander Vilkul said.

8:30 a.m.: Russia's space agency published the coordinates of Western defense headquarters including the U.S. Pentagon and the venue of this week's NATO summit in Madrid, saying Western satellite operators were working for Russia's enemy Ukraine, Reuters reported.

8:23 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden announced Wednesday the United States is sending additional naval destroyers to be stationed in Spain, establishing a permanent headquarters for the U.S. 5th Army Corps in Poland, adding a rotational brigade of 3,000 troops and 2,000 other personnel to be headquartered in Romania, and sending two additional F-35 fighter jets to Britain, VOA News reported.

"Today, I'm announcing the United States will enhance our force posture in Europe to respond to the changed security environment, as well as strengthening our collective security," Biden said in Madrid, where NATO leaders are gathering for a summit that will include discussion of support for Ukraine and how the alliance will adapt to face current and future challenges.

Biden said that at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin "has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very tenets of rule-based order," the United States and its allies are "proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been, and it's as important as it ever has been."

8:14 a.m.: Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastrysky said there was no hope of finding survivors under the debris of the Kremenchuk mall after a Russian missile strike earlier this week, the Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday. Monastrysky said rescuers were continuing to retrieve fragments of bodies from under the collapsed structure. During rescue operations, two emergency service workers were injured when concrete slabs shifted, the newspaper reported.

8:09 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden's administration added five companies in China to a trade blacklist on Tuesday for allegedly supporting Russia's military and defense industrial base, flexing its muscle to enforce sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The Commerce Department, which oversees the blacklist, said the targeted companies had supplied items to Russian "entities of concern" before the Feb. 24 invasion, adding that they "continue to contract to supply Russian entity listed and sanctioned parties."

7:52 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has deplored NATO’s failure to embrace his country and asked the alliance for more weapons, The Associated Press reported.

Zelenskyy addressed a NATO summit by video link on Wednesday.

He warned the leaders gathered that they either had to provide Ukraine with the help it needed to defeat Russia or “face a delayed war between Russia and yourself.”

7:37 a.m.: Poland on Wednesday hailed U.S. President Joe Biden's commitment to establish the 5th Army's Headquarters in Poland as the realization of a long-held dream that would send a clear signal of deterrence to Russia.

Biden told a NATO summit in Madrid earlier on Wednesday that the United States will ramp up its forces and equipment across Europe and set up a new permanent army headquarters in Poland in response to potential new threats from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

"It is a success which comes from long and consistent negotiations on this matter and, at the same time, a very clear sign that the Americans intend to increase, not decrease, their presence in Poland," Jakub Kumoch, the Polish president's foreign policy adviser, told Reuters when asked about Biden's announcement.

7:20 a.m.: Amid Russia's war on Ukraine, the Turkish deal with Finland and Sweden opens the door to momentous NATO enlargement, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports in this news analysis.

7:05 a.m.: Pro-government Turkish media lauded a deal to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO as a triumph for President Tayyip Erdogan, saying on Wednesday he had wrested concrete gains from the West in the country's fight against terrorism, Reuters reported.

The 11th hour agreement on Tuesday, which caught many by surprise, lifted Ankara's veto over the Nordic states' membership bids. It ended a weeks-long dispute that tested the defence alliance's unity against Russia's invasion of Ukraine ahead of this week's NATO summit in Madrid.

"President Erdogan's Madrid Victory," said a Sabah newspaper headline, above a photo of him standing next to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the centre of a group photo after the accord was signed.

"Erdogan's decisiveness and leadership vision won acceptance for all of Turkey's arguments in the fight against terrorism," the paper said.

6:46 a.m.: NATO said Wednesday it would increase support to its vulnerable partners and continue to assist Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s military incursion.

6:35 a.m.: Pope Francis on Wednesday called the bombing of a crowded shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk the latest in string of "barbarous attacks" against Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Ukraine said at least 18 people were killed and about 60 injured on Monday by a Russian missile strike. Russia's defense ministry said it had hit a legitimate military target in the city, and that the shopping center was not in use.

Pope Francis also renewed his call for an end to "senseless war."

6:16 a.m.: Britain announced sanctions on oligarch Vladimir Potanin on Wednesday, describing him as Russia's second-richest man.

"Potanin continues to amass wealth as he supports Putin’s regime, acquiring Rosbank, and shares in Tinkoff Bank in the period since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine," the government press statement accompanying the announcement said.

5:25 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russia could cut some state spending to channel funds for foreign currency interventions, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Wednesday, as Moscow looks for ways to keep a lid on the rouble's strengthening, which is making exports less competitive.

With Russia looking for ways to soften the blow of unprecedented Western sanctions on its financial sector, Siluanov said his ministry would also suggest allowing export-focused companies to receive proceeds from non-residents in cash.

4:20 a.m.: The United States is changing its force posture in Europe based on threats coming from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and other directions, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday during a NATO summit in Madrid.

He confirmed the U.S. will raise the number of destroyers in Spain to six from four and said Washington will send two additional F-35 squadrons to Britain and establish the 5th Army headquarters in Poland.

4:10 a.m.: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the host of this week's NATO summit, said on Wednesday that the alliance was delivering a strong message to President Vladimir Putin over Russia's invasion of Ukraine: 'You will not win.'

Earlier, Sanchez said that Russia would be identified as NATO's "main threat" in its new strategic concept, as opposed to a strategic partner previously.

"We are sending a strong message to Putin: 'you will not win'," Sanchez said in a speech.

4 a.m.: NATO allies will continue to supply Ukraine with weapons in its war against Russia for as long as necessary, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Madrid on Wednesday.

"It is good that the countries that are gathered here but many others, too, make their contributions so Ukraine can defend itself - by providing financial means, humanitarian aid but also by providing the weapons that Ukraine urgently needs," Scholz told reporters as he arrived for the second day of a NATO summit.

"The message is: We will continue to do so — and to do this intensively — for as long as it is necessary to enable Ukraine to defend itself," he added.

3:45 a.m.:

3:30 a.m.: Russian gas producer Gazprom said its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine through the Sudzha entry point was seen at 42.1 million cubic meters on Wednesday compared with 42.2 mcm on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

An application to supply gas via another major entry point, Sokhranovka, was again rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

3 a.m.: Dozens of people were still missing on Wednesday after a Russian missile strike on a shopping mall in central Ukraine two days ago that killed at least 18, while a regional governor said the situation was "very difficult" in Lysychansk in the east, Reuters reported.

Ukraine said Russia had killed civilians deliberately when it pounded the mall in Kremenchuk. Moscow said the mall was empty and it had struck a nearby arms depot.

"Russian missile hit this location precisely. De-li-be-ra-te-ly ... It is clear that Russian killers received those exact coordinates," Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy said in an evening video address. "They wanted to kill as many people."

Authorities said around 36 people were still missing.

2:45 a.m.: NATO leaders are gathering in Madrid, Spain, for a summit that will include discussion of support for Ukraine and how the alliance will adapt to face current and future challenges.

The leaders are expected to agree to boost support for Ukraine as it defends itself from a Russian invasion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters the gathering will be a “historic and transformative summit for our alliance,” adding that it comes amid “the most serious security crisis we have faced since the second world war.”

Russia’s attack is also influencing NATO’s own long-term plans, with a new strategic concept that includes what the alliance has called its “changed security environment.” The guiding agreement will also address other challenges, including China.

In the short term, NATO is strengthening its readiness to respond to outside threats, including boosting the number of troops under direct NATO command and pre-positioning more heavy weapons and logistical resources.

As NATO members consider the applications for Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, the summit is also set to include talks about reinforcing partnerships with non-NATO countries. Participating in the summit are leaders from Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Other areas of discussion include terrorism, cyberattacks and climate change.

2:30 a.m.: The Moscow-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine's Kherson region said it had begun preparations for a referendum on joining Russia, Reuters reported Wednesday citing Russian state news agency TASS.

2:20 a.m.: Defense minister Ben Wallace said on Wednesday that Britain will need to bolster its spending on defense if it wanted to maintain a global leadership role after 2024, when his department's current budget allocation will be reviewed.

"If Britain wants to maintain this leadership role post-2024 we're going to have to see probably greater investment," Wallace said on Sky News.

2:10 a.m.:

2 a.m.: Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska says it was a "colossal mistake" for Russia to destroy Ukraine with its military operation, a rare rebuke from a member of Russia's elite, Agence France- Presse reported.

"Is it in Russia's interest to destroy Ukraine? Of course not, that would be a colossal mistake," he tells a rare press conference in Moscow.

Deripaska, founder of the aluminium giant Rusal, also says "there's no potential for a change of regime. The opposition had withdrawn from the life of the country".

1:44 a.m.: Reuters updated its earlier report of the Russian strike on a residential building in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday increasing the death toll to three people and five were wounded. Local authorities said they have launched a rescue effort for survivors, the report added.

Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said eight missiles had hit the city and urged residents to evacuate. He said the building appeared to have been hit by a Russian X-55 cruise missile.

Photographs from the scene showed smoke billowing from a four-story building with its upper floor partly destroyed.

1:30 a.m.: Reuters reported that two people were killed and three wounded by a Russian strike on a residential building in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday morning, regional governor Vitaly Kim said.

The governor did not clarify whether it was a bomb or missile strike, artillery or mortar shelling.

1:01 a.m.: Pro-Moscow forces have detained Igor Kolykhayev, the elected mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Russian media reported, according to Agence France-Presse.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-backed Kherson administration, told state news agency RIA Novosti the Ukrainian official is a "nationalist" hero who has "very much harmed the process of denazification."

Kherson, which had 300,000 inhabitants before the start of Moscow's offensive, fell into Russian hands barely a week into the war.

12:01 a.m.: The Biden administration said on Tuesday it has added 36 companies to a trade blacklist, accusing five firms in China of supporting Russia’s military and defense industrial base, following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Targets also include companies from Russia, UAE, Lithuania, Pakistan, Singapore the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, according to the Federal Register entry.

The United States has joined with allies to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine by sanctioning a raft of Russian companies and oligarchs and adding others to a trade blacklist. Moscow has called it a special military operation.

While U.S. officials had previously affirmed that China was generally complying with the restrictions, the U.S. government has vowed to closely monitor compliance and rigorously enforce the regulations.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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