Ukraine reports small advances in ‘extremely fierce’ fighting amid counteroffensive

Ukraine reported incremental advances in its counteroffensive against Russian forces on Wednesday, in what it said was “extremely fierce” fighting Reuters reports.

In a post on Telegram, the deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said the Ukrainian actions had had “partial” success.

In the past day, Ukrainian troops advanced 200-500 metres in various areas near the small eastern city of Bakhmut, and 300-350 metres in the direction of the south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia, she said.

She reported continuing fighting near the village of Makarivka in the direction of the southern port city of Berdiansk, and said battles were raging in the areas of Novodanylivka and Novopokrovsk in the Mariupol direction.

Maliar said:

Our troops are moving in the face of extremely fierce fighting, and air and artillery superiority of the enemy.

Key events

Here are some pictures of a local clean up effort in Odesa after a missile attack hit the southern Ukrainian city.

Religious icons were reportedly removed from the church to be cleaned by locals in Odesa, southern Ukraine.
Religious icons were reportedly removed from the church to be cleaned by locals in Odesa. Photograph: Igor Tkachenko/EPA
A woman cleans religious icons near a damaged church after a missile strike in Odesa.
A woman cleans religious icons near a damaged church after a missile strike in Odesa. Photograph: Igor Tkachenko/EPA
A view of damage inside a church following a missile strike in Odesa, southern Ukraine.
A view of damage inside a church following a missile strike in Odesa, southern Ukraine. Photograph: Igor Tkachenko/EPA

The lower house of Russia’s parliament said on Wednesday it had voted to give its initial backing to legislation that will allow the defence ministry to sign contracts with suspected or convicted criminals to fight in Ukraine.

More than 15 months into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is trying to recruit more soldiers for what is Europe’s largest land war since the second world war.

Under the proposed changes, a contract could be concluded with someone being investigated for committing a crime, who is having their case heard in court or after they have been convicted but before the verdict takes legal effect, according to the database of the State Duma, the lower house.

People convicted of sexual crimes, treason, terrorism or extremism would not be able to sign up, Reuters reports.

Those who do sign up would be exempt from criminal liability upon completion of their contract or if they receive awards for their combat prowess.

The Wagner mercenary group was previously allowed to recruit convicts from prisons to fight in Ukraine, but said in February it had stopped. Prison rights activists say the defence ministry has taken over the process but wanted to make changes.

The new changes being examined by the Duma do not cover recruitment of people already serving their sentences and the defence ministry has not commented.

Kremlin worried by reports a senior Chechen commander has been injured in Ukraine

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it was concerned by unconfirmed media reports that a senior Chechen commander had been wounded in Ukraine and was awaiting clarification about what had really happened, Reuters reports.

Earlier on Wednesday, the defence ministry’s TV channel reported that Adam Delimkhanov, head of Chechnya’s national guard, had been injured in Ukraine (See post at 10:32am).

Delimkhanov, who is a member of the Duma as well as commander of the Chechen division of the Russian national guard, is widely seen as the Caucasian region’s second most senior official, behind Ramzan Kadyrov.

Vladimir Putin will hold talks in Moscow on Wednesday with Cuba’s prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Kremlin said.

Russia is seeking to bolster relations with Latin American, African and other non-western countries as the west tries to isolate and economically punish it for its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, poses for a photo with Cuba’s Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz prior to their talks at the Kremlin.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, with the prime minister of Cuba, Manuel Marrero Cruz. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/AP

Germany enshrined a Nato commitment to spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defence and identified Russia as the biggest threat to European security as the government announced its first ever National Security Strategy on Wednesday.

Here are some of the highlights of Germany’s strategy outlined in a policy document and at a government press conference, as reported by Reuters:

  • Russia is the biggest threat to peace in the Euro-Atlantic area

  • Russia is trying to destabilise European democracies, weaken EU and Nato

  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it is important to continue to discuss security guarantees for Ukraine, including when the war ends

Germany’s military budget was the seventh largest in the world last year behind the US, China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Nato members pledged in 2014 to move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence by 2024.

A fire broke out on Wednesday at the Novocherkassk power station in Russia’s southern Rostov region close to the border with Ukraine, state-owned news agency RIA reported.

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It did not say what had caused the blaze.

Here is an update on the UN nuclear chief’s trip to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant being delayed due to travel safety concerns (See post at 09:34).

The head of Russian-installed authorities in Zaporizhzhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, also said the trip was delayed.

“We will wait for Grossi at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on 15 June, the visit is delayed by a day,” he was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

According to a western diplomatic source contacted by AFP, Grossi’s visit has been delayed “by a few hours, but not cancelled”.

Ukraine has accused Russian military forces of attacking a car near the two countries’ shared border, and killing six people.

Writing on Telegram, Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office said the attack happened on Tuesday in the Sumy region, in eastern Ukraine.

These claims could not immediately be independently verified. Moscow is yet to officially comment on the allegations.

Patrick Wintour

Patrick Wintour

The International Committee on the Red Cross, under ferocious criticism from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, admitted the principles of neutrality under which it operates have been put under unprecedented strain by the Ukraine war.

It also defended the quality of its response to the floods caused by the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, saying it had been working tightly with the Ukrainian Red Cross to coordinate efforts to supply drinking water.

Juerg Eglin, ICRC’s head of delegation in Ukraine, also revealed that Russia was continuing to refuse to give the body access to the Russian-occupied side of the Dnipro River, where the ICRC estimates that most of the 50,000 people affected by the floods are living.

Refusing to share the Russian explanation for refusing to grant access since the discussions were not over, he said: “We are ready to intervene on both sides of the river and have made concrete requests.”

The ICRC said hundreds of thousands had been affected in a different way upstream of the dam, and that the risk of mines was becoming a growing threat to the civilian population. He added that ICRC staff were working under the risk of shelling.

More broadly, the ICRC said it had now visited 1,500 prisoners from both sides, and that the visits had led to improvements in conditions in Russia. It had also delivered 2,500 messages between prisoners and relatives.

Defending the ICRC from Zelenskiy’s longstanding criticism, the organisation said the principles under which it operates were not always understood.

Ariane Bauer, ICRC’s regional director for Europe and central Asia, said: “The current environment we are in is extremely mediatised. Our efforts are not always visible. Our discrete approach can sometimes seem out of sync with today’s realities of today’s information space.

“Neutrality and trust remain central to meeting our objectives and they cannot be dissociated one from another. Remaining neutral means we stick to our principles – the very principles that help people that need our support.

“Remaining neutral shows that we care for the mandate we were given by states that were signatory to the Geneva convention. We have seen neutrality under strain and misunderstood in this conflict and many others, but perhaps more in this than others. For us, neutrality is not a moral position, it is a tool that helps us work and get access to prisoners of war and populations in hard-to-reach areas.”

She refused to comment on whether Ukrainian prisoners of war in Russia were in worse conditions than Russians held in Ukraine, but said improvements in conditions in Russia had followed ICRC visits to Russia.

Russia had also cooperated with the ICRC by setting up lists of named prisoners held under its authority, she said.

The water receded by another 32cm in the Kherson Region, in southern Ukraine, overnight, but 28 de-occupied settlements are still flooded, the Kyiv Post cited the regional military administration as saying on Wednesday morning.

❗️Overnight, the water receded by another 32 cm in #Kherson Region, but 28 de-occupied settlements remain flooded, the Regional Military Administration reported.

As of this morning, the average water level in the flooded areas is 2.13 metres.

📷: Ukraine’s Environmental… pic.twitter.com/KzNNEQeapl

— KyivPost (@KyivPost) June 14, 2023

In the early hours on Tuesday last week, footage began to emerge of water spilling from the strategically important Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian army’s southern military command said the dam had been blown up by Russian forces. The local Russian-installed mayor has called it a “terrorist act”.

Ukraine reports small advances in ‘extremely fierce’ fighting amid counteroffensive

Ukraine reported incremental advances in its counteroffensive against Russian forces on Wednesday, in what it said was “extremely fierce” fighting Reuters reports.

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In a post on Telegram, the deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said the Ukrainian actions had had “partial” success.

In the past day, Ukrainian troops advanced 200-500 metres in various areas near the small eastern city of Bakhmut, and 300-350 metres in the direction of the south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia, she said.

She reported continuing fighting near the village of Makarivka in the direction of the southern port city of Berdiansk, and said battles were raging in the areas of Novodanylivka and Novopokrovsk in the Mariupol direction.

Maliar said:

Our troops are moving in the face of extremely fierce fighting, and air and artillery superiority of the enemy.

If you haven’t already seen it, this stark piece from our colleague Lorenzo Tondo is well worth a read …

The war in Ukraine has driven the largest annual increase of people forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations in decades, according to the UN refugee agency.

In 2022, the number of displaced people grew by 21%, standing at an estimated 108.4 million at the end of the year. That is likely have risen to more than 110 million people in May 2023, with Russia’s invasion and the war in Sudan being the biggest drivers of the growth, according to a report released on Wednesday by UNHCR.

“These figures show us that some people are far too quick to rush to conflict, and way too slow to find solutions. The consequence is devastation, displacement, and anguish for each of the millions of people forcibly uprooted from their homes,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees.

Wagner chief reiterates refusal to sign contracts with Russian defence ministry

Yevgeny Prigozhin with Wagner mercenaries on 1 June.
Yevgeny Prigozhin with Wagner mercenaries on 1 June. Photograph: Press Service Of “concord”/Reuters

Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday reiterated the refusal of his Wagner fighters to sign contracts with the defence ministry, a day after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said the agreements were needed.

In a rare direct show of defiance towards the Russian leader, Prigozhin said: “None of Wagner’s fighters is ready to go down the path of shame again. That’s why they will not sign the contracts.”

In a televised meeting on Tuesday, Putin backed a call by the defence ministry for “volunteer” fighters in Ukraine to sign contracts with the country’s military command, widely seen as a means to assert control over Wagner.

Putin said that contracts were necessary to allow all participants in Russia’s campaign in Ukraine to receive the social support payments to which they are entitled. These include compensation to fighters if they are wounded, and to their families if they are killed in action.

Prigozhin has waged a bitter public feud with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the army top brass since last year, accusing them of failing to provide adequate support and ammunition to Wagner forces in Ukraine and so causing them to suffer higher casualties.

In Wednesday’s remarks, however, he said he thought a “compromise solution” would be found between Putin and parliament to enable Wagner fighters to receive social guarantees and certified status as combatants. (Via Reuters)

Daniel Boffey

Daniel Boffey

More here on the missing Chechen commander Adam Delimkhanov …

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has made a bizarre appeal for information from Ukrainian intelligence over the location of Adam Delimkhanov, his right hand man and a member of the Russian state Duma.

The message on Kadyrov’s official Telegram account followed reports of a strike on Delimkhanov’s convoy in the Zaporizhzhia region which is at the heart of the Ukrainian counter offensive.

Kadyrov writes: “I myself can’t find Adam Delimkhanov in any way. He doesn’t get in touch. I ask Ukrainian intelligence to provide information on exactly what place and what positions were hit, so that I can still find my dear BROTHER. I promise a generous reward and I ask you to help.”

Russia’s defence ministry quoted the State Duma as confirming Delimkhanov had been injured but they provided no further information.

Kyrylo Sazonov, a Ukrainian military blogger, has claimed on his Facebook account that Delimkhanov was killed in an attack near the city of Prymorsk, west of Mariupol, after Ukrainian intelligence had spotted a motorcade of SUVs.

He writes: “There were no wounded… All the bodies were taken away by helicopters. They arrived in half an hour.”

Senior commander of Russia’s Chechen forces in Ukraine has been wounded – report

Adam Delimkhanov with Chechen special forces in Mariupol in April.
Adam Delimkhanov with Chechen special forces in Mariupol in April. Photograph: Chingis Kondarov/Reuters

A senior commander of Russia’s Chechen forces fighting in Ukraine has been wounded, Russia’s defence ministry television channel Zvezda reported on Wednesday, citing the press service of the state Duma, the lower house of parliament.

Adam Delimkhanov, who is a member of the Duma as well as commander of the Chechen division of the Russian national guard, is widely seen as the Caucasian region’s second most senior official, behind Ramzan Kadyrov.

In a message posted on Telegram, Kadyrov wrote that he could not contact Delimkhanov, and asked for help finding his “dear brother”.

Delimkhanov, a former Chechen separatist who eventually switched sides to Moscow along with much of the region’s leadership, had taken a prominent role in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, commanding Chechen forces in Mariupol in the conflict’s early days.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian media reported that Delimkhanov had been killed in an artillery strike in southern Ukraine. (Via Reuters)




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