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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 30

Ukrainian rescuers search for and retrieve the remains of Russian shells on the roof of a high-rise building damaged by Russian shelling in one of the residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 30, 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:

9:02 p.m.: Russia is using inaccurate missiles from old Soviet stocks for more than 50% of its strikes in Ukraine and the rate of the strikes has more than doubled in the last two weeks, a brigadier general in Ukraine's armed forces said Thursday.

Russian missiles have hit an array of targets in Ukraine in recent days, Reuters reported, killing one civilian at an apartment block in Kyiv on Saturday and at least 18 more at a shopping center in the central city of Kremenchuk on Monday.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, denies targeting civilians and says it only hits military infrastructure.

Brigadier General Oleksii Hromov told a news conference on Thursday that Russia was trying to hit military and critical infrastructure, but that the use of old, less accurate Soviet missiles was leading to significant loss of civilian life.

His analysis diverged from that of some Ukrainian politicians who accuse Russia of deliberately striking civilians to sow panic.

8 p.m.: The situation in Lysychansk, a city in eastern Ukraine under Russian attack, is "extremely difficult" with relentless shelling making it impossible to evacuate civilians, the regional governor of Lugansk said Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.

"There is a lot of shelling and from multiple directions. The Russian army is approaching from different directions towards Lysychansk," Serhiy Haidai said in a video posted on Telegram.

Russia's forces remain at the outskirts of the city where there is currently no street fighting, he said.

Haidai dismissed claims by pro-Russian separatists fighting alongside Moscow's forces who claim to control half of the city situated across the river from Sievierodonetsk, which was captured by the Russian army last week.

7:02 p.m.: The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday it has blocked a $1 billion Delaware-based trust connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Abusaidovich Kerimov, The Associated Press reported.

The move comes after the U.S. seized a $325 million superyacht — the 348-foot-long Amadea — tied to Kerimov earlier this month.

The size of the trust and the complexity of the investigation made this a unique case, according to the department.

"Even as Russian elites hide behind proxies and complex legal arrangements, Treasury will use our broad enforcement authorities, as well as our partnerships through the REPO Task Force, to actively implement the multilaterally coordinated sanctions imposed on those who fund and benefit from Russia's war against Ukraine," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

6 p.m.: At least 20 people have been confirmed dead in Russia’s missile strike on the Kremenchuk mall, with many missing and likely killed and dozens wounded in the mid-afternoon strike by a Russian guided AS-4 anti-ship missile. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Current Time has the story of the survivors.

4:45 p.m.: Amos Hochstein, President Joe Biden’s point man for global energy problems, says he knows that transitioning away from the climate-wrecking pollution of fossil fuels is the only way to go. He advocates urgently for renewable energy, for energy-smart thermostats and heat pumps.

But when it comes to tackling the pressing energy challenges presented by Russia’s war on Ukraine, Hochstein also can sound like nothing as much as the West’s oilfield roustabout, taking a giant pipe wrench to the world’s near-crisis-level energy shortfalls.

“We have to face the reality that today Europe’s system is dependent on gas,” Hochstein told The Associated Press. It was a relatively rare public account from an envoy whose work normally is behind the scenes. “And I need to make sure that people in the winter have heating, and they have electricity.”

4 p.m.: Kyiv says about 2,000 orphans have been forcibly taken to Russia following its February 24 invasion of Ukraine. The government says it wants these children back. But Moscow is introducing new laws that will fast-track Russian citizenship for Ukrainian children and ease adoption procedures for Russian families. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

3:15 p.m.: Western fashion brands are conspicuous by their absence at a gleaming new shopping center on the outskirts of Moscow — and customers say they scarcely miss them, Reuters reported.

Following Moscow's decision to send thousands of troops into Ukraine at the end of February, international fashion brands from Adidas (ADSGn.DE) to Zara (ITX.MC) have paused operations in Russia, while Nike (NKE.N) is one of the handful to commit to a definitive exit from the market.

"I am neutral on this, whether we have them or not," shopper Alexandra Moskunova told Reuters at the mall in Khovrino. "I can happily do without them."

2:30 p.m.: At a press briefing Thursday, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was asked about a Russian ship taking grain from Berdyansk, an occupied area of Ukraine, and whether it had anything to do with U.N. efforts to negotiate grain exports from the war-torn country, VOA’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reported. Dujarric responded, “No. This is not part... as far as I know, part of the Secretary-General's efforts.” He continued, “The discussions on that effort to bring Ukrainian grain and Russian grain and fertilizer out to the global markets are continuing at a rather intense clip, and I have nothing else to add…No, I do not have any information about that grain.”

2:16 p.m.:

2:04 p.m.: Russia summoned Britain's ambassador to Moscow to protest Prime Minister Boris Johnson's remarks about President Vladimir Putin and the remarks of another British official about top Russian government figures. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Russia told Ambassador Deborah Bronnert that it "firmly" opposed the “boorish statements” of the British leadership regarding Russia, its leader, official representatives of the authorities, as well as the Russian people, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

"In polite society, it is customary to apologize for remarks of this kind," it said, scolding Britain for the "unacceptable insulting rhetoric."

Johnson said on June 29 in comments to German broadcaster ZDF that Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine was "a perfect example of toxic masculinity." He said that, if Putin were a woman, “I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has.

1:37 p.m.:

1:08 p.m.: Early on in Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, many, like Chernihiv resident Valentyna, believed civilian areas should be relatively safe even in cities under fire. She learned the opposite on March 16, while standing in line for bread alongside dozens of hungry neighbors. Artillery fire hit the crowd, badly injuring her and killing her husband and 13 others. “It’s not that I’m scared to go there now," she told Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA. "It just gives me the shudders, so I can't go there,” she said.

12.31 p.m.: Turkey’s president is hailing his country’s joint memorandum with Sweden and Finland over their NATO accession as a victory, The Associated Press reported. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that all of Turkey’s “sensitivities” had been included in the 10-article agreement.

The deal signed Tuesday removed Turkey’s objection to the Nordic countries’ NATO membership. But Erdogan added that if Sweden and Finland did not fulfill their promises, Turkey could still block their membership by not ratifying the deal in the Turkish parliament.

Erdogan claimed after the NATO summit ended that Sweden had promised to extradite 73 “terrorists” to Turkey and crack down on the financing and recruitment activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its extensions.

However, the Nordic countries only said they would “address” those requests in accordance with the European Convention on Extradition and gave no firm number in the written agreement.

12:00 p.m.: NATO leaders promised more military aid to Ukraine and declared Russia a "direct threat" at their June 29-30 summit in Madrid. The leaders of the 30-member Western military alliance were gathering amid Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Editor Rikard Jozwiak was in the Spanish capital for the meeting and has these four takeaways at the end of the NATO Summit.

11:48 a.m.: Russia’s top prosecutor will be empowered to shut down media from countries that ban or restrict Russian news organizations under a law passed by the lower house of parliament on Thursday.

The bill - following bans by some Western governments on Russian media they regard as mouthpieces for President Vladimir Putin and cheerleaders for his war in Ukraine - creates a legal basis for Moscow to retaliate against the media of any country that restricts the activity of Russian journalists, according to Reuters.

Under the bill, such media will lose their accreditation and be banned from operating in Russia or distributing content there. These measures would only be lifted when the country in question allows Russian media to work without restrictions.

11:30 a.m.:

10:56 a.m.: A multinational task force created in March as part of Western efforts to press Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine says it has blocked or seized more than $30 billion worth of assets owned by Russian oligarchs, VOA’s Masood Farivar reported.

In addition to confiscating luxury yachts, jets, mansions and other assets belonging to allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the task force, known as REPO, says it has frozen about $300 billion in Russian Central Bank reserves.

10:24 a.m.: French President Emmanuel Macron says France is ready to send more troops to Romania if needed as part of the NATO mission to bolster forces on its eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

France already has around 500 soldiers and an air defense system deployed in Romania. Macron said the assets can be reinforced “at very short notice.”

Macron, speaking at a news conference Thursday following the NATO summit in Madrid, said France’s financial, humanitarian and military support for Ukraine will continue “as long as needed.”

10:08 a.m.:

9:54 a.m.: Closing the NATO summit in Madrid on Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden described the meeting as historic, according to The Associated Press. “The world has changed, changed a great deal since then,” Biden said told a press conference.

The three-day summit included the Biden administration announcing plans to permanently bolster the U.S. military presence in Europe, an agreement between Turkey, Finland and Sweden to pave the way for the accession of Nordic nations into NATO, and the alliance updating its strategic concept reflect that China’s “coercive policies” are a challenge to the Western bloc’s interests.

Biden said his administration will soon provide another $800 million in security assistance for Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion. He said the new aid would include advanced air defense systems, counter battery radars, and additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that the administration has already sent to Ukraine. Biden said Thursday the package will be formally detailed by his administration in the coming days.

Biden says Americans should expect to pay higher gas prices “as long as it takes so Russia cannot, in fact, defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine.” Russia’s invasion of its neighbor last February is blamed for driving up the oil price. “This is a critical, critical position for the world,” Biden said. He’s talking with U.S. allies about setting a cap on the price of Russian oil, limiting how much money that Moscow can make from its exports.

The White House provided a link to the press conference, which begin at the 1:09:52 mark on the linked video.

9:43 a.m.: NATO leaders have agreed to put over 300,000 troops on high alert from mid-2023, up from 40,000 currently, to counter Russia, the country designated by the alliance as posing the greatest threat over the next decade.

Reuters provided the details of the current force "posture" and the plans to update it to deter any future Russian attack on NATO's eastern flank, as well as to react to other crises on the alliance's southern borders.

9:30 a.m.:

9:06 a.m.: Evidence suggests twin Russian airstrikes deliberately targeted a theater being used as a shelter in the besieged city of Mariupol, the rights group Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.

The report condemned the attack as a war crime. Amnesty said there was no evidence that the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater was a base of operations for Ukrainian soldiers and every indication that it was a haven for civilians seeking protection from weeks of relentless shellings and airstrikes.

The March 16 airstrike devastated the building, collapsing its rear and side walls directly onto a field kitchen used as a community gathering space for food, water and scarce news about evacuations and the war.

City officials initially estimated around 300 dead. An Associated Press investigation found the attack may have killed closer to 600 people inside and outside the building. Most of the two dozen survivors and witnesses AP interviewed put the number even higher.

Researchers for Amnesty International identified 12 of the dead.

8:55 a.m.:

8:37 a.m.: Ukraine cut diplomatic ties with Syria after Damascus recognized the independence of the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced the decision on June 29 in a video posted on Telegram.

"There will no longer be relations between Ukraine and Syria," Zelenskiy said, adding that the sanctions pressure against Syria "will be even greater.

Donetsk and Luhansk, commonly known as the Donbas, currently are at the center of the fighting in the war Moscow launched in February shortly after recognizing their separatist-controlled districts as independent.

8:15 a.m.:

8:02 a.m.: Some captured members of Ukraine's Azov Regiment will face trial, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament said on Thursday, a day after Russia's top court postponed a decision on whether to brand the unit as a terrorist entity, according to Reuters.

Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Russia would carry out a "substantial investigation" into every member of Azov to find out "who was involved in what." Those who are determined to have "blood on their hands" will face trial, the State Duma speaker said in a post on Telegram.

The Azov Regiment, part of Ukraine's National Guard, was founded in 2014 as one of many volunteer militias to fight pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Its fighters were feted as national heroes for defying Russian forces who laid seige on the city of Mariupol for weeks.

7:51 a.m.:

7:32 a.m.: Russia's Deputy Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that in certain circumstances, sanctions against Moscow may be seen as an act of aggression and a justification for war, Reuters reported.

"I would like to point out once again that under certain circumstances such hostile measures can also qualify as an act of international aggression. And even as a casus belli (justification for war)," Medvedev said, adding that Russia has the right to defend itself.

Russia has faced a barrage of crippling economic sanctions from Western countries in response to its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a "special military operation".

Medvedev, a former Russian president who was once seen as a liberal, has emerged as one of the most hawkish proponents of the war, delivering a series of scathing denunciations of the West.

7:14 a.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg held a press conference at the NATO Summit in Madrid on Thursday.

7:07 a.m.: The West must learn from its mistakes in failing to deter Russia's invasion of Ukraine and apply those lessons to "protect peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait", British foreign minister Liz Truss said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Tensions between Taiwan and China, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its own territory, have risen in recent years as China steps up military activities near Taiwan to pressure it to accept Chinese rule.

Truss said the West, and in particular countries in the Indo-Pacific region, had to make sure Taiwan was defended. "We need to learn the lessons of Ukraine, which was that we could have ensured that Ukraine had the defensive capability earlier," Truss told LBC radio.

6:52 a.m.: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued interim measures instructing Russia to hold off on carrying out any capital punishment against two Britons who surrendered after they fought alongside Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

6:33 a.m.: A former U.S. soldier captured in eastern Ukraine said he did not fire a single shot while fighting for the Ukrainian side, in a plea for leniency from Russian-backed separatist authorities who will determine his fate.

In a video interview with Russia's RIA state news agency released on Wednesday, Alexander Drueke said his fighting experience in Ukraine was limited to the day he was captured outside Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city.

"My combat experience here was that one mission on that one day," said Drueke, Reuters reported. "I didn't fire a shot. I would hope that would play a factor in whatever sentence I do or don't receive."

Drueke, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and fellow American Andy Huynh, from Hartselle, Alabama, went missing this month. Russian state media later showed video interviews with the pair, saying they had been captured by the separatists.

Two British citizens and a Moroccan were sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine this month after being caught fighting for Ukraine.

6:24 a.m.: NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu on Thursday tweeted an information graphic explaining NATO’s new force model, which leaders adopted at the NATO Summit in Madrid this week. Lungescu said “it will provide more troops at higher readiness, pre-assigned to specific defense plans.” She added that “it will improve NATO’s ability to respond at very short notice to any contingency.”

6:13 a.m.: Russia's Defense Ministry said on Thursday its forces had destroyed a Ukrainian military control center near the city of Dnipro in a missile strike on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Alongside other regions of Ukraine, the central city of Dnipro and the surrounding Dnipropetrovsk region has seen an uptick in Russian shelling in recent days.

6:07 a.m.:

5:58 a.m.: At a signing ceremony on Thursday, NATO leaders launched a new Innovation Fund, described as the world’s first multi-sovereign venture capital fund.

"This fund is unique," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. "With a 15-year timeframe, the NATO Innovation Fund will help bring to life those nascent technologies that have the power to transform our security in the decades to come, strengthening the Alliance’s innovation ecosystem and bolstering the security of our one billion citizens."

The Fund “will invest 1 billion euros in early-stage start-ups and other venture capital funds developing dual-use emerging technologies of priority to NATO,” the statement said. “These include: artificial intelligence; big-data processing; quantum-enabled technologies; autonomy; biotechnology and human enhancement; novel materials; energy; propulsion and space,” it added.

5:49 a.m.: Pope Francis on Thursday implicitly accused Russia of "armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism" in Ukraine, calling the conflict a "cruel and senseless war of aggression," Reuters reported.

The pope, speaking to a delegation of Orthodox leaders in Rome, referred to the conflict as one pitting Christians against one another. Both Russia and Ukraine are predominantly Orthodox Christian but there is a sizeable Catholic minority in Ukraine.

"Reconciliation among separated Christians, as a means of contributing to peace between peoples in conflict, is a most timely consideration these days, as our world is disrupted by a cruel and senseless war of aggression in which many, many Christians are fighting one another," the pope said.

It was the second consecutive day that the Pope spoke on the Ukraine conflict. On Wednesday he condemned the bombing of a crowded shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk, the latest in string of "barbarous attacks" against Ukraine.

5:38 a.m.: A merchant ship with 7,000 tons of grain has left the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Berdyansk, the first such shipment from the port since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

5:28 a.m.: China opposes the blacklisting of Chinese firms by the United States and will take the necessary measures to protect them, Reuters reported Thursday, citing the commerce ministry.

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.

China hopes the United States will correct its wrongdoings immediately and stop cracking down on Chinese firms, the ministry spokesperson Shu Jueting said at a regular press conference.

5 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russian forces have withdrawn from Snake Island off Ukraine's coast in the Black Sea as a "gesture of goodwill," the defense ministry said Thursday.

The ministry said the move showed Russia is not impeding United Nations efforts to organize a humanitarian corridor to export agricultural products out of Ukraine.

Snake Island, which Russia occupied on the first day of its invasion, achieved worldwide fame when Ukrainian border guards stationed there rejected a Russian warship's demand for their surrender.

The head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy's office, Andriy Yermak, also said on Thursday that Russian forces had withdrawn from the island, a strategic Black Sea outpost.

"KABOOM! No Russian troops on the Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job," Yermak wrote on Twitter.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify Yermak's statement.

4:22 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest assessment that Russia may be preparing to annex areas of southern Ukraine and may be planning a false flag event at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

The update said Russia would use any incident at the power plant to accuse Ukraine of mishandling nuclear facilities.

Additionally, Russia is continuing attacks on Slovyansk, in and around Lysychansk and north of Kharkiv City, the update said.

3:30 a.m.: Britain should continue to build trade ties with China but it must avoid becoming strategically dependent on it, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday.

Asked whether Russia's invasion of Ukraine had prompted the British government to review its ties with China, Truss told BBC television: "We do need to be cautious in dealing with China."

"We know that China has used economic coercion against countries," she said. "Of course, we should continue to trade with China. But we need to be careful not to become strategically dependent on China."

3 a.m.: NATO leaders are meeting Thursday in Madrid for the final day of a summit that has included approving a new Strategic Concept for the alliance, naming “Russia’s aggression,” “systemic challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China” and the “deepening strategic partnership” between the two countries as its main priorities.

In this document, the Western military alliance that was formed after World War II defined Russia as the “most significant and direct threat” and for the first-time addressed challenges that Beijing poses toward NATO’s security, interests, and values.

2:34 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said current ground combat is likely focused around the Lyschansk oil refinery as Ukrainian forces hold their positions in the city and Russian forces move in from the Popasna direction.

1:45 a.m.: Many Ukrainians thought civilian areas were off limits when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. However, as the war raged for months, civilians weren’t spared. This Chernihiv resident shares her personal story with Current Time TV.

1:07 a.m.: U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines cited Russian President Vladimir Putin as a destabilizing factor in the world today, VOA's Jeff Seldin reports.

1:05 a.m.: Trade through Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad could return to normal within days, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, as European officials edge towards a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow.

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.

European officials are in talks about exempting the territory from sanctions, which have hit industrial goods such as steel so far, paving the way for a deal in early July if EU member Lithuania drops its reservations, said the people, who declined to be named because the discussions are private.

The row over the Russian exclave's isolation is testing Europe's resolve to enforce sanctions imposed following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, fueling fears of an escalation after other restrictions pushed Russia to default on its debt.

12:02 a.m.: Hundreds of Ukrainian troops have completed military training in Britain, including on the Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) the British government is supplying to help counter Russian artillery tactics, Reuters reported.

Media were invited to film Ukrainian troops loading and firing 105mm light guns during exercises in southern England, one part of a British-led program that has trained more than 450 Ukrainian armed forces with support from New Zealand.

The training is part of a wide-ranging international support package following Russia's invasion on Feb. 24, as the West seeks to help Ukraine repel Russian forces by providing increasingly advanced weapons systems and skills to use them.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.