From 3h ago

Odesa death toll rises to 19

At least 19 people, including two children, have been confirmed dead after Russian missile strikes on an apartment building and resort in Odesa in southern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

A further 38 people, including six children and a pregnant woman, were hospitalised with injuries, Ukraine’s security service said.

Nearly all of the victims were in a nine-storey building hit by one missile in the village of Serhiyivka at 1am local time on Friday. At least two people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed in a separate strike on a holiday resort in the village.

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Yevhenii Yenin, said there were no military targets or infrastructure in the vicinity of the areas struck by missiles.

Speaking at the scene, Yenin said rescue operations were ongoing but “we don’t expect to find anyone alive”.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia was hitting civilian targets. “I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the Russian armed forces do not work with civilian targets,” Peskov told reporters.

Graphic

Updated at 13.21 BST

Today so far…

It is 6pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Eight people have now been confirmed dead after a Russian missile strike on a residential building in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday, according to local officials. Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych had previously said eight missiles had hit the city, adding that the residential building appeared to have been hit by a Russian X-55 cruise missile.
  • Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s path to EU membership should “not take years or decades” and vowed to make Ukraine’s part of the process “perfect”. In a Telegram post, Ukraine’s president said: “We have to overcome this path quickly. Make our part of the job perfect. To enable our friends in the European Union to make another historic decision for us just as quickly and in a consolidated way.”
  • Ukrainian forces said Thursday they have pushed Russian forces from Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost off the southern coast. Russia portrayed the pullout from the island as a “goodwill gesture”. Ukraine’s military said the Russians fled the island in two speedboats after a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and missile strikes.
  • Ukraine’s agriculture ministry has said grain exports have fallen 43% year-on-year to 1.41m tonnes in June. Grain exports have slumped since the start of the war as its Black Sea ports – the key route for shipments – have been largely closed off. The government has previously said Ukraine could harvest up to 65m tonnes of grain and oilseeds this year, compared with 106m in 2021.
  • Moscow has told Ukrainian teachers in occupied territories to sign a document within weeks certifying their willingness to switch to teaching the Russian school curriculum. The Guardian spoke with teachers in Russian-occupied parts of south-east Ukraine who said newly appointed local authorities told them they had until 21 July either to sign a document certifying their readiness to follow the Russian school curriculum or resign.
  • Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine will begin using the death penalty in 2025, according to an updated criminal code of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). A Russian proxy court in the DPR sentenced two Britons, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun to death on charges of “terrorism”. It is unclear what the new rules would mean for the men.
  • Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has claimed pressure from the west has pushed Russia to accelerate its integration with neighbouring Belarus. Putin’s remarks at a Russia-Belarus on Friday follow comments last week by Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, who said Russia and Belarus must take urgent joint measures to improve their defence capabilities and troops’ combat readiness.

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here to bring you all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Feel free to drop me a message if you have anything to flag, you can reach me on Twitter or via email.

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said he has been forced to take part in “educational activities” including being made to sit for hours under a portrait of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Navalny was transferred last month to a strict-regime penal colony near the town of Vladimir east of Moscow, described by his allies as “one of Russia’s scariest prisons”.

In a post on Facebook, he described his life in the new prison where he said he had to sew for seven hours, five days a week.

Navalny said:

After work, you continue to sit. For several hours on a wooden bench under a portrait of Putin. This is called ‘educational activities’.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a video link from prison provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service in a courtroom in Vladimir, Russia.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a video link from prison provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service in a courtroom in Vladimir, Russia. Photograph: Kirill Zarubin/AP

Even on Sundays, his official day off, he said he was made to sit on a wooden bench in a room for 10 years. He added:

I don’t know who such activities can ‘educate’, except for a crooked invalid with a bad back. But maybe that’s the purpose.

Navalny has described his new jail as a “prison within a prison” and said he was serving time with convicted murderers.

In a Twitter thread, he compared his prison life to Putin and Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvdev, and said there was a loudspeaker in his barrack that plays songs like “Glory to the FSB”.

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1/12 I live like Putin and Medvedev.

At least I think so when I look at the fence around my barrack. Everyone has the usual fence, and inside there are rods to dry the laundry on.

&mdash; Alexey Navalny (@navalny) July 1, 2022

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1/12 I live like Putin and Medvedev.

At least I think so when I look at the fence around my barrack. Everyone has the usual fence, and inside there are rods to dry the laundry on.

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) July 1, 2022

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6/12 6:00 – Wake up. Ten minutes to make bed, wash, shave, etc.

6:10 – Exercise.

6:20 – Escort to breakfast.

6:40 – Search and escort to work.

At work, you sit for 7 hours at the sewing machine on a stool below knee height.

10:20- 15-minute lunch break.

&mdash; Alexey Navalny (@navalny) July 1, 2022

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6/12 6:00 – Wake up. Ten minutes to make bed, wash, shave, etc.

6:10 – Exercise.

6:20 – Escort to breakfast.

6:40 – Search and escort to work.

At work, you sit for 7 hours at the sewing machine on a stool below knee height.

10:20- 15-minute lunch break.

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) July 1, 2022

<gu-island name="TweetBlockComponent" deferuntil="visible" props="{"element":{"_type":"model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TweetBlockElement","html":"

10/12 But you know me, I'm an optimist and look for the bright side even in my dark existence. I have as much fun as I can. While sewing, I've memorised Hamlet's monologue in English.

&mdash; Alexey Navalny (@navalny) July 1, 2022

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10/12 But you know me, I’m an optimist and look for the bright side even in my dark existence. I have as much fun as I can. While sewing, I’ve memorised Hamlet’s monologue in English.

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) July 1, 2022

Ukraine’s agriculture ministry has said grain exports have fallen 43% year-on-year to 1.41m tonnes in June, having slumped since the start of the war as its Black Sea ports – the key route for shipments – have been largely closed off.

Reuters reports the ministry said farmers in southern and eastern Ukraine had already started the 2022 harvest, threshing 293,800 tonnes of grain from around 1% of the sown area.

The government has previously said Ukraine could harvest up to 65m tonnes of grain and oilseeds this year, compared with 106m in 2021, due to the loss of land to Russian forces and lower grain yields.

Updated at 14.58 BST

Finland says it did not discuss the extradition of any specific individuals to Turkey in Madrid

The process of Sweden and Finland joining Nato appears to have some difficulty ahead of it yet. The invitation must be ratified in parliament by all 30 allies, and there still seems to be some conflict between the Nordic countries and Turkey over what was agreed earlier in the week in Madrid. Turkey had threatened to veto their membership bids.

Reuters reports that this morning Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said Finland and Turkey did not discuss the extradition of any specific individuals or groups of people during negotiations at the Nato summit.

“We agreed that now we have a signed a text and everything that we have signed is in the text,” Haavisto told a news conference in Helsinki. “We did not, in Madrid, discuss about any individuals.”

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday that Finland and Sweden must keep promises of extraditions made during the talks, or ratification of the Nordic nations’ Nato memberships will not be sent to the Turkish parliament.

After four hours of talks in Madrid on Tuesday, Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed a joint memorandum on security measures in exchange for Turkey lifting its veto on their Nato memberships, imposed by Ankara in May due to its concerns about terrorism. The signed memorandum did not list any individuals for extradition.

Schools in Kyiv will reopen for classes for the start of the school year on 1 September, the city’s authorities said.

Schools in the Ukrainian capital are now on summer holiday after going online when Russia launched its invasion of the country on 24 February.

The head of Kyiv’s education and science department, Olena Fidanyan, was cited by AFP as saying that the most important task for the new school year “is the safety of students and teachers”.

Territories adjacent to the schools will be checked for explosives and bomb shelters in schools will be restocked with water, medicine and other necessities, she said.

All schools will hold “the necessary training with teachers and children on actions during an air-raid alert”, she added.

Those children who have not been able to return to Kyiv will be able to study remotely, Fidanyan said.

Updated at 14.59 BST

Russia has threatened to close its embassy in Bulgaria after Sofia announced that it would expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff.

Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, said the closure of the Russian embassy would inevitably lead to the closure of Bulgaria’s embassy in Moscow.

Earlier this week, Bulgaria’s prime minister, Kiril Petkov, said his country would expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff on espionage concerns. The move was the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats by Sofia in recent years and more than halved the size of Moscow’s diplomatic footprint in Bulgaria.

The main entrance of the Russian embassy in Sofia.
The main entrance of the Russian embassy in Sofia. Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images

Mitrofanova called the expulsions an “unprecedented hostile” step and on Thursday told Sofia to reverse its decision by midday on Friday.

In a statement released by the embassy today, Mitrofanova said:

Unfortunately, our appeal to the Bulgarian foreign ministry has been ignored.

She added:

I intend to quickly put the question of the closure of Russia’s embassy in Bulgaria before my country’s leadership, which will inevitably mean the closure of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Moscow.

Responsibility for the “grave consequences of this step” will rest with Petkov’s government, Mitrofanova said.

Updated at 13.48 BST

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Moscow has told Ukrainian teachers in occupied territories to sign a document within weeks certifying their willingness to switch to teaching the Russian school curriculum.

The move puts many of them in a difficult position. If they do not sign, they will lose their jobs and be at risk of retaliation from Russian forces. If they sign, there is the risk of charges from Ukrainian authorities, which view teaching the Russian curriculum as a form of collaboration with the enemy.

The Guardian spoke with teachers in Russian-occupied parts of south-east Ukraine whose identities, for safety reasons, cannot be revealed. They said that around mid-June newly appointed local authorities told them they had until 21 July either to sign a document certifying their readiness to follow the Russian school curriculum or resign, with many of them being threatened with eviction from their homes.

Damage at a school in Kharkiv hit by a Russian missile.
Damage at a school in Kharkiv hit by a Russian missile. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Russian education minister, Sergey Kravtsov, announced in June that when the new school year began in September all schools in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine were to work according to Russian standards.

“We will do our best to open schools on 1 September so that they are as ready as possible to function according to Russian standards,” Kravtsov said. “Integration will take place. We are already taking some steps in this direction: teacher training and the supply of textbooks.”

One teacher living in a village in the occupied area of Kharkiv said: “At the moment, only history, geography, language and primary schoolteachers were asked to sign the document.”

“Math, physics, biology and chemistry curriculum in Russia don’t carry propaganda, so they are left alone, at least for now,” he added.

Read the full article by Lorenzo Tondo: Moscow forcing teachers in Ukraine to sign up to Russian curriculum

Death toll rises to eight in Russian strike on Mykolaiv residential building

Eight people have now been confirmed dead after a Russian missile strike on a residential building in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday, according to local officials.

Ukraine’s state emergency service reported late last night that the body of a man was discovered under a collapsed staircase, bringing the total death toll to eight and six wounded.

A residential building hit by a Russian military strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine on Wednesday.
A residential building hit by a Russian military strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Photograph: State Emergency Service Of Ukraine/Reuters

On Wednesday, mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said eight missiles had hit the city, adding that the residential building appeared to have been hit by a Russian X-55 cruise missile. Photographs from the scene showed smoke billowing from a four-storey building with its upper floor partly destroyed.

Updated at 13.39 BST

Zelenskiy hails new chapter for Ukraine after formal candidacy starts

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said a new chapter had started for his country and the EU after Brussels formally accepted Ukraine’s candidacy to join the bloc.

Zelenskiy said it was a “big honour and big responsibility” to work towards realising the “aspirations of our country” in a speech to Ukraine’s parliament, adding:

Now we’re not close. Now we are together.

He added:

We made a journey of 115 days to candidate status and our journey to membership shouldn’t take decades. We should make it down this road quickly.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a parliament session in Kyiv on Friday.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a parliament session in Kyiv on Friday. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Updated at 13.20 BST

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has claimed pressure from the west has pushed Russia to accelerate its integration with neighbouring Belarus.

“Russia and Belarus continue to grow in their cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres,” Putin said in a video message at a Russia-Belarus forum. He continued:

The unprecedented political and social pressure from the so-called collective west is pushing us to speed up the unification process.

Together it is easier to minimise the damage from the illegal sanctions, it is easier to set up the production of demanded products, develop new competencies and expand cooperation with friendly countries.

Last week, Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said Russia and Belarus must take urgent joint measures to improve their defence capabilities and troops’ combat readiness.

Updated at 13.20 BST

Odesa death toll rises to 19

At least 19 people, including two children, have been confirmed dead after Russian missile strikes on an apartment building and resort in Odesa in southern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

A further 38 people, including six children and a pregnant woman, were hospitalised with injuries, Ukraine’s security service said.

Nearly all of the victims were in a nine-storey building hit by one missile in the village of Serhiyivka at 1am local time on Friday. At least two people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed in a separate strike on a holiday resort in the village.

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Yevhenii Yenin, said there were no military targets or infrastructure in the vicinity of the areas struck by missiles.

Speaking at the scene, Yenin said rescue operations were ongoing but “we don’t expect to find anyone alive”.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia was hitting civilian targets. “I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the Russian armed forces do not work with civilian targets,” Peskov told reporters.

Graphic

Updated at 13.21 BST

Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine will begin using the death penalty in 2025, according to an updated criminal code of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

A Russian proxy court in the DPR sentenced two Britons, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun to death on charges of “terrorism”. The ruling has been condemned as a “sham judgment” in Britain.

The new criminal code, in effect from Friday, states that the death penalty should be carried out by firing squad and that the head of the Russian-controlled DPR has the final say on issuing pardons to anybody sentenced to death.

It is unclear what the new rules would mean for the captured men, Reuters reports.

On Thursday, the European court of human rights (ECHR) said it had issued an order to Russia to ensure that the men do not face the death penalty.

In response, the Kremlin said it was not bound by rulings from the ECHR, from which Russia pulled out after its troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

Updated at 13.21 BST

The EU’s flag was hoisted in the plenary hall of Ukraine’s parliament after an address by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

EU flag hoisted in Ukraine’s parliament – video

During her speech, Von der Leyen congratulated Ukraine on becoming an EU candidate state.

“You have gained the endorsement and respect of all EU member states,” she said.

Ukraine now has a very clear European perspective, it is a candidate country for the EU.

Updated at 11.49 BST

US basketball star Brittney Griner has arrived at a courtroom on the outskirts of Moscow for the beginning of her criminal trial, more than four months after she was arrested at an airport for cannabis possession.

Griner, 31, was seen wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt as she arrived at Khimki city court in handcuffs, with US embassy staff in attendance.

The Phoenix Mercury star and two-time US Olympic gold medalist could spend 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs.

The trial will be partially closed and with a limited media presence, which a court spokesperson said was “on the request of the defence, the request of Griner herself”.

US basketball player Brittney Griner is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia.
US basketball player Brittney Griner is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

During his press briefing today, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied Griner’s case was politically motivated.

Peskov told reporters:

I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes. Only the court can pass a verdict.

At a closed-door preliminary hearing on Monday, the court in Khimki extended Griner’s detention for a further six months after she appeared for a preliminary hearing held behind closed doors. Griner had previously been ordered to remain in pretrial detention until 2 July.

Updated at 11.48 BST

People near a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike in the village of Serhiivka, Odesa.
People near a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike in the village of Serhiivka, Odesa. Photograph: Reuters

Today so far …

  • Two children were among 19 people killed by a missile strike in Odesa, according to the latest update from regional governor Maksym Marchenko. He said “As a result of a night missile strike by Tu-22 strategic aircraft from the Black Sea in the Belgorod-Dniester district of Odesa region, three X-22 missiles hit an apartment building and a recreation centre. 31 people were hospitalised, including 4 children and a pregnant woman. 8 people were rescued from the rubble, including 3 children. Rescue work continues.” The Kremlin has denied responsibility for the strike.
  • Ursula von der Leyen has told Ukraine that there is “a long road ahead” for its bid to become a European Union member, but that “Europe will be at your side every step of the way”. In a speech via video link to Ukraine’s parliament this morning, the president of the European Commission said: “There is a long road ahead but Europe will be at your side every step of the way, for as long as it takes, from these dark days of war until the moment you cross the door that leads into our European Union.”
  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine’s path to European Union membership should “not take years or decades” and vowed to make Ukraine’s part of the process “perfect”. He said “Our path to membership should not take years or decades. We have to overcome this path quickly. Make our part of the job perfect. To enable our friends in the European Union to make another historic decision for us just as quickly and in a consolidated way.”
  • Ukrainian forces said Thursday they have pushed Russian forces from Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost off the southern coast. Russia portrayed the pullout from the island as a “goodwill gesture”. Ukraine’s military said the Russians fled the island in two speedboats after a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and missile strikes.
  • The situation in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk is “extremely difficult as Russian forces’ continuous shelling makes it impossible for civilians to evacuate, officials say. “There is a lot of shelling and from multiple directions. The Russian army is approaching from different directions towards Lysychansk,” Luhansk’s regional governor, Serhiy Haidai said, adding that Russian forces remained on the city outskirts, where there was currently no street fighting.
  • Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, says a new “iron curtain” is descending between Russia and the west, and that Moscow would not trust Washington and Brussels “from now on”. The process “has begun”, Lavrov said after talks with his counterpart from Belarus. “As far as an iron curtain is concerned, essentially it is already descending.”
  • Russia is using inaccurate missiles from old Soviet stocks for more than 50% of its strikes in Ukraine, leading to significant loss of civilian life, a brigadier general in Ukraine’s armed forces said. The rate of Russian strikes in Ukraine has more than doubled in the past two weeks,Brig Gen Oleksii Hromov said at a news conference.
  • A cargo ship left the Russian-occupied Ukrainian port of Berdiansk for the first time since the city was seized by Moscow’s troops, according to a pro-Russia official. Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the pro-Russia administration, was cited by Russian state media as saying the first cargo ship to leave Berdiansk was carrying 7,000 tonnes of grain to “friendly countries”, without saying what cargo the ship was carrying.
  • Hungary will speed up its defence development programme, prime minister Viktor Orbán told state radio. “We must radically increase our defence capabilities,” Orbán said. He reiterated that Hungary’s interest was for the war in neighbouring Ukraine to end as soon as possible.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be back later. Léonie Chao-Fong will guide you through the next few hours of our live coverage of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Updated at 12.10 BST

Kremlin spokesperson says ‘Russian armed forces do not work with civilian targets’ after Odesa strike kills 18

The Kremlin has dismissed allegations that Russian missiles had struck an apartment building near the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa early on Friday.

Ukrainian authorities said Russian missiles had hit an apartment building and recreation centres, killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens. Regional governor Maksym Marchenko said the dead included two children.

A general view of the aftermath of a missile strike at a location given by Ukrainian authorities as Serhiivka village, Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi district, Odesa.
A general view of the aftermath of a missile strike at a location given by Ukrainian authorities as Serhiivka village, Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi district, Odesa. Photograph: State Emergency Services Of Ukraine/Reuters

“I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the Russian armed forces do not work with civilian targets,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call with reporters, according to Reuters.

Local residents in Odesa after the missile attack which left at least 18 dead.
Local residents in Odesa after the missile attack which left at least 18 dead. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Last year, Peskov described suggestions that Russia was planning to attack Ukraine as a “hollow and unfounded” invention of the western media, and prior to Russia’s latest invasion in February, he said Russian troops taking part in military exercises in Belarus would be “pulled back to their permanent bases” after their conclusion. Instead, they advanced into northern Ukraine from 24 February in an apparent attempt to capture Kyiv.

Updated at 10.59 BST

The European Union said Russia’s threat to sever diplomatic ties with Bulgaria in response to its decision to expel 70 Russian diplomats is unjustified.

Reuters reports the EU said Bulgaria’s action was “fully in line with international law”, as the diplomats of the Russian embassy were acting in violation with international treaties.

“The European Union stands in full support and solidarity with Bulgaria in these circumstances and will follow this matter closely,” the EU said in a statement.

Bulgaria’s outgoing prime minister on Thursday already called on Russia to withdraw its diplomatic ultimatum, which included a threat to close Russia’s embassy in the Balkan nation.

Updated at 10.59 BST

Source: The Guardian