- Scholz and other European leaders pledge solidarity in visit to Kyiv
- UN human rights chief says ‘thousands’ of civilians likely killed in Mariupol
- 10,000 civilians remaining in Sievierodonetsk, governor says
- Germany says can deliver weapons to Ukraine ‘end of July or the start of August’
This was last updated at 21:53 UTC/GMT
Macron says he is ready to travel to Moscow under ‘preconditions’
French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris was on Ukraine’s side but it would move to avoid any escalation. While visiting Kyiv, Macron also discussed the possibility of going to Moscow to negotiate with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“I think that a trip to Russia today requires preconditions, that means gestures from President Putin. I will not go there just like that,” Macron told broadcaster TF1.
In turn, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy questioned if Putin was “ready to hear anything” and if talks with any world leader would change his mind.
Macron last visited Putin in Moscow on February 8, just weeks before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The French president has since also talked to the Russian leader on the phone.
Standing side to side with Germany’s Olaf Scholz, Macron also defended his earlier comments about how the West should “not humiliate Russia.” He said France made this mistake with Germany at the end of WWI and “lost the peace” moving into WWII.
Situation in Mariupol remains ‘dire,’ says UN rights chief
The death and destruction across the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol will scar generations to come, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday.
In an update to the UN Human Rights Council, she said the extent and intensity of fighting, as well as the number of civilian deaths “strongly suggest that serious violations of international … law have occurred.”
The UNHCR, which did not have access to the city, verified at least 1,300 civilians died in the city — including 70 children.
Bachelet noted, however, that “the actual death toll of hostilities on civilians is likely thousands higher.” Ukrainian officials have estimated that 22,000 people were killed in the siege.
The residents who were left behind in Mariupol, which is now under Russian control, face a “dire” situation, struggling to access basic services and medical care.
Bachelet warned that the “the horrors inflicted on the civilian population will leave their indelible mark, including on generations to come.”
An aerial image shows the extent of destruction on buildings located near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine
Major European stock markets close at lowest level in 3 months
The three biggest stock markets in Europe closed at their lowest levels in three months, as central banks moved to raise interest rates to curb booming inflation.
Germany’s DAX index in Frankfurt and London’s FTSE fell by more than 3%, while the CAC 40 in Paris dropped by 2.4%.
The move came as the Bank of England raised borrowing costs to levels not seen since the 2009 financial crisis.
The Swiss National Bank also unexpectedly raised interest rates for the first time since 2007.
The European Central Bank is set to raise interest rates in the eurozone in July, which would be the first rate hike in over a decade.
On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve announced a major interest rate hike on Wednesday, which initially sparked a rally in US stock markets. By Thursday, however, stocks fell sharply on Wall Street.
Global markets have taken a major hit this year amid concerns over rising consumer prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened the situation, prompting food and energy prices to soar.
Germany pushes for new NATO combat units in Lithuania
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht is trying to drum up support from allies to build up new multinational combat troops to be stationed at NATO’s eastern flank in Lithuania.
Lambrecht said Germany is ready to lead a new combat brigade and contribute up to 1,500 soldiers, but is speaking with fellow NATO members to find others who would participate. Brigade units would each contain between 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers.
Under the German plan, the troops would be rotated through NATO’s eastern flank, drawing criticism from Baltic states, who want more troops stationed consistently there.
Until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO had battalions stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — each containing 1,000 troops.
Lambrecht’s comments came on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, to address the transatlantic alliance’s response to potential threats from Russia.
The three Baltic states have been urging for greater support from fellow NATO allies since the start of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.
NATO has troops stationed in many eastern member states but is discussing larger and potentially permanent deployments in light of the war in Ukraine. The subject is one of those up for discussion at the alliance’s summit in June.
Germany’s Scholz: ‘Ukraine belongs to the European family’
The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania voiced support for Ukraine’s EU membership bid during a highly anticipated visit to Kyiv.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin strongly favored Ukraine and neighboring Moldova being granted EU candidate status.
“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” he said following talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the other leaders.
He added that requirements on rule of law and democracy would need to be complied with in order for Ukraine to advance on the long path to become a member of the 27-nation bloc.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the support for Kyiv’s membership bid is “a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians.”
“We are at a turning point in our history. The Ukrainian people defend every day the values of democracy and freedom that underpin the European project, our project. We cannot wait. We cannot delay this process,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the leaders, Ukraine’s Zelenskyy said his country had “already earned the right to go down this road.”
“We are ready to work for our state to become a full member of the EU,” Zelenskyy said.
For more on the European leaders’ trip to Ukraine, read the full story here.
European leaders meet Zelenskyy in Kyiv
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in person for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Zelenskyy received the four leaders at the presidential palace in Kyiv.
Images showed the four leaders in business suits sat around a wooden table with Zelenskyy in his customary khaki T-shirt
UK sanctions Russia’s Patriarch Kirill
Britain’s Foreign Office announced sanctions on Patriarch Kirill, the leader of Russia’s Orthodox Church, “for his support and endorsement” of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The powerful 75-year-old cleric was dropped from an EU sanctions packages two weeks ago after opposition from Hungary.
“Today we are targeting the enablers and perpetrators of Putin’s war who have brought untold suffering to Ukraine, including the forced transfer and adoption of children,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.
“We will not tire of defending freedom and democracy, and keeping up the pressure on Putin, until Ukraine succeeds,” she said in a statement.
The Russian Orthodox Church slammed the move. “Attempts to intimidate the primate of the Russian Church with something or to force him to renounce his views are senseless, absurd and unpromising,” church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda said on Telegram.
Russia ‘hopes’ European leaders’ Kyiv visit won’t focus on weapons
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow hoped the German, French and Italian leaders visiting Ukraine would “push President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy to take a realistic look at the state of affairs.”
“I would hope that the leaders… will not focus only on supporting Ukraine by further pumping it with weapons,” Kremlin Peskov said in a call with reporters.
“That’s absolutely pointless, it will prolong people’s suffering and cause new damage to the country,” he added.
Scholz: ‘This war must end’
The Kyiv suburb of Irpin has become a symbol of the “cruelty” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its violence, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said while visiting the damaged town.
“Irpin, like Bucha, has become a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war, of senseless violence,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.
“The brutal destruction of this city is a warning: this war must end.”
In Irpin, Macron denounces ‘massacres’
French President Emmanuel Macron decried “barbarism” and signs of war crimes in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, which was devastated when Russian forces were trying to capture the city in the end of March.
The French leader also praised Ukrainian “heroism” in the face of Russia’s invasion.
“It’s here, among other places, that the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army descending onto Kyiv,” he said. “It represents the heroism of the army, but also of the Ukrainian population. And alongside that, you have traces of barbarism.”
Macron, on a joint trip to Ukraine with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, made the remarks while visiting the destroyed suburb.
Russia-backed forces to open humanitarian corridors: report
Russian-backed forces in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierdonetsk will allow civilian evacuations from the Azot chemical plant through humanitarian corridors, the Interfax news agency reported, citing a separatist leader.
Ukrainian officials have said hundreds of civilians were sheltering in the chemical plant.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported, citing a pro-Moscow separatist leader in the eastern Luhansk region, that separatist forces entered the plant.
Scholz, Macron, Draghi visit Irpin
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited a battle-damaged suburb of Kyiv as part of their symbolic trip to Ukraine.
The trio were joined by Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis.
Residential buildings and civilian infrastructure in Irpin are still damaged following Russian forces’ attempts to capture the Ukrainian capital in the early weeks of the war.
Bodies of hundreds of civilians were found in Irpin after Russian troops withdrew from the area in late March.
Romania’s president in Kyiv
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has joined three European leaders in Kyiv and is set to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Iohannis said he wanted to show his “full solidarity” with Ukraine and that the “illegal Russian aggression must stop!”
Governor says 10,000 civilians still in Sievierodonetsk
Serhiy Gaiday, the governor of the eastern Ukrainian Luhansk region, said that around 10,000 civilians are still in the key city of Sievierodonetsk, where fighting has been raging amid a dire humanitarian condition.
“Out of 100,000 residents, around 10,000 remain,” Gaiday said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Ukraine’s army is “holding back the enemy as much as possible.”
Earlier this week, Ukraine said Russian forces destroyed all bridges connecting the city, making it difficult to evacuate civilians or deliver humanitarian aid.
Russia is believed to be now in control of the majority of the city.
European leaders arrive in Kyiv
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kyiv on Thursday, the French presidential palace said.
Scholz said the three leaders wanted “to show their support for Ukraine and the citizens of Ukraine.”
“But we don’t just want to demonstrate solidarity, we also want to assure that the help we organize — financial and humanitarian, but also when it comes to weapons — will be continued,” he said. Support will continue for as long as is necessary, he said.
The trio took an overnight train to Kyiv from Poland. They are expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Major German and Italian media outlets, including Germany’s ZDF and Italy’s Repubblica, had earlier published a photo of the three leaders on the train.
It is the first time the three travel to Kyiv since the war started in Ukraine.
There had been speculation earlier this week that Scholz would be part of the joint trip ahead of a G7 summit at the end of June.
The visit also comes a day before the European Commission is set to make a recommendation on Ukraine’s status as an EU candidate.
The three leaders have come under criticism over their response to the war. Critics say France and Germany, and, to a lesser extent, Italy, have been slow to deliver weapons to Ukraine. Scholz and Macron have also been criticized for maintaining contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
German minister: Weapons can be delivered to Ukraine by August
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said three multiple rocket launchers could be delivered to Ukraine in July or August after Ukrainian forces receive adequate training on them.
Kyiv has complained that weapons that Germany pledged to Ukraine were not delivered. Berlin says Ukrainian troops must first be trained to use them.
“The training on these multiple rocket launchers can begin at the end of June, meaning they can be delivered at the end of July or the start of August,” Lambrecht told reporters as she arrived for a second day of talks with her NATO counterparts in Brussels.
German ex-chancellor seeks to recuperate parliamentary office
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sent a letter to the Bundestag budget committee that challenges the decision to revoke his right to a parliamentary office.
Schröder was Germany’s chancellor from 1998 to 2005. After leaving office he was involved with Russian energy firms Gazprom and Rosneft. Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, he has drawn criticism for his ties to Moscow.
The committee voted in May to wind down his office. The office was allocated more than €400,00 ($418,000) last year.
In a letter to the committee’s chair, Schröder’s lawyer said that the former chancellor had learned “via the media” that his office was being “put on hold.”
“This decision is based on the determination that he no longer has any ‘continuing obligations arising from the office,'” Schröders lawyer said in the letter, adding that this determination is not substantiated and that it was unclear what these “continuing obligations” would constitute.
The letter also argues that a resolution taken from the media is “evidently illegal and unconstitutional.”
Schröder’s lawyer said that he hopes for “the chance to reach a mutually acceptable settlement by way of conversation on an even playing field.”
Gazprom cuts gas supply to Germany by around 60% in 2 days
Russian energy giant Gazprom has begun reducing the volume of gas it supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to a daily maximum of 67 million cubic meters early on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Gazprom announced it would reduce the maximum delivery volume to 100 million cubic meters of gas per day, down from 167 million cubic meters.
Overall, the cut represents an approximate 60% reduction in gas supplies to Germany in just two days.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck accused Moscow of attempting to create unease and increase gas prices. He added that it was still possible to source alternative gas supplies on the market, albeit at a high price.
Report: 2 US volunteers in Ukraine missing
Two Americans who volunteered to support Ukraine’s armed forces have reportedly gone missing.
The Telegraph newspaper cited an unnamed fellow fighter as saying that the two Americans were captured by Russian forces during a June 9 battle northeast of Kharkiv.
The two Americans are identified as Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, US military veterans who had been living in the state of Alabama.
White House spokesperson John Kirby said that he could not confirm the disappearance, but that “if it’s true, we’ll do everything we can to get them safely back home.”
Kirby went on to discourage Americans from volunteering to fight in Ukraine.
“It is a war zone. It is combat. And if you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there’s any number of other ways to do that that are safer and just as effective,” Kirby said.
Ukraine says Russian companies use Georgian entities to bypass sanctions
David Arakhamia, Ukraine’s chief negotiator with Russia, said Russian people and companies are circumventing Western sanctions by making use of Georgian entities to do so.
He told a German Marshall Fund event in Washington that Russians are “heavily” using “Georgian banks, Georgian financial system, Georgian companies and so on,” to dodge the West’s sanctions regime.
“If you are a sanctioned Russian person, you go to the Internet, you open up a Georgian company, open up remotely the bank account and start processing,” Arakhamia added.
He also urged Washington to take action to close the loophole.
What happened in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said defending the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine was “vital” as the outcome would indicate “who will dominate in the coming weeks” of the war.
Serhii Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, said that the fighting around the contested city of Sievierodonetsk and other places in eastern Ukraine “is getting more difficult.” By contrast, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said that Russian forces were now in control of the city of Sievierodonetsk.
The United States will provide Ukraine with another $1 billion (€963 million) to help the country amid Russia’s assault in the eastern Donbas region. The latest boost of aid will include major weapons systems that the Ukrainian government has appealed for such as howitzers, anti-ship missile launchers and rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
The US will also send an additional $225 million in humanitarian aid to provide assistance for drinking water, food, shelter and other essential items.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said its missiles had destroyed a warehouse in the Lviv region, which was being used to store ammunition for weapons donated by NATO members.
Germany will only be able to deliver three instead of four planned rocket launchers to Ukraine, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country is ready to host four-way talks with the UN, Russia and Ukraine in order to unblock the passage of grain through the Black Sea.
A UN panel investigating possible human rights violations said they are collecting evidence, but that it is too early to say whether the allegations constitute war crimes.
Chinese state media reported Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin by phone and said his country would continue to support Russia’s “sovereignty and security.”
You can revisit our updates from Tuesday, June 15, here.
rs, fb, ar, sdi/jsi (UKTN, UKTN, dpa, Reuters)