Russia-Ukraine latest: Moscow controls 20 percent of Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine war news from June 2: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian army has taken over swaths of land as Kyiv calls for more weapons.

Ukraine rubble Donbas
A woman collects belongings in the rubble of her home after a strike destroyed three houses in the city of Sloviansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on June 1, 2022 [Aris Messinis/AFP]
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia is currently occupying about 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory.
  • At least 261 children have been killed and 460 injured since the start of the war, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general. The tally does not include places of active conflict.
  • Zelenskyy estimates that 200,000 children are among the Ukrainians who have been forcefully taken to Russia and dispersed across the vast country.
  • Luhansk’s regional governor says civilians are sheltering under a chemical plant in Severodonetsk as Russian forces make steady gains on the key eastern city.
  • Officials say a Russian missile hit rail lines in the western Lviv region, a key conduit for Western weapons and other supplies.
  • US President Joe Biden is expected to meet NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House on Thursday.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 99

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EC moves to unlock aid package for Poland over Ukraine

The European Commission has opened the door for giving Poland billions of dollars in aid, which had been blocked during a dispute over judicial independence in the country.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said on Thursday that the executive body has endorsed a Polish plan to address concerns over the country’s judiciary that would unfreeze coffers from a $38bn European Union coronavirus recovery fund.

“A first payment will only be possible when the new law is in force and ticks all the boxes under our contract,” von der Leyen said, according to AFP.

Poland’s hard line against Moscow has thawed relations between Brussels and Warsaw.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaking
Poland will only receive the money from its $38bn post-Covid economic recovery package if it carries out rule of law reforms, EC chief Ursula von der Leyen said [Kenzo Tribouillard/AP]

European Parliament bans Russian lobbyists from premises

The European Parliament has announced that it has banned all Russian lobbyists from its premises, AFP reported.

A parliament spokesperson said it was due to “Russia creating and spreading false narratives about the war in Ukraine through multiple channels, including through state-owned companies”.

NATO’s Stoltenberg in talks with Turkey over Sweden, Finland’s bid to join pact

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that he was in close contact with Turkey to find a way forward to address Ankara’s concerns over Sweden and Finland’s bid to join the alliance.

“When an ally, Turkey, raises concerns, we have to do what we always do and that is to sit down, address those concerns, then find a united way forward. We are in close contact with Ankara, leadership there,” he said, noting NATO was also in close contact with Sweden and Finland.

Stoltenberg was speaking outside the White House after meeting with US President Joe Biden.

Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg talks to reporters outside the White House after meeting with President Joe Biden on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Washington, DC [Evan Vucci/AP]

Turkey to donate combat drone crowdfunded by Lithuanians

Turkey has said that it will donate a combat drone to Lithuania to be handed over to Ukraine, after hundreds of Lithuanians crowdfunded nearly 6 million euros ($6.45m) to buy it.

Lithuania’s defence ministry said that manufacturer Baykar will deliver the TB2 advanced combat drone, painted in the colours of the Lithuanian and Ukrainian flags, in a few weeks.

Ukraine central bank raises interest rates to 25 percent

Ukraine’s central bank has more than doubled its interest rates – from 10 to 25 percent – on Thursday, its first increase since Russia launched its invasion of the country on 24 February.

The move by the Ukrainian central bank’s governor, Kyrylo Shevchenko, is meant to try to stem double-digit inflation and protect the country’s exchange rate.

Kyrylo Shevchenko
Ukraine’s central bank’s governor Kyrylo Shevchenko has raised its interest rate from 10 to 25 percent [Tetiana Bondarenko/Reuters]

Moscow: Son of UK legislator involved in killing of commander in Ukraine

Moscow has accused the son of a United Kingdom member of parliament from the Conservative Party of being involved in the killing of a Chechen brigade commander in Ukraine, The Guardian reported, citing a statement by Russia’s National Guard.

The statement said that one of its commanders, a Chechen named Adam Bisultanov, was killed on 26 May in a clash with a “group of mercenaries from the UK and the USA” that included the “son of a British parliamentarian,” Ben Grant.

This came after footage emerged of the British national, Ben Grant, fighting in the country. He is the son of Member of Parliament Helen Grant.

EU approves sanctions targeting Russian oil and Sberbank

The European Union has given its final stamp of approval to fresh sanctions on Russian oil and top bank Sberbank, after disagreements with Hungary.

EU leaders agreed to an embargo on crude oil imports that will take full effect by the end of 2022. Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic secured exemptions for the pipeline imports they rely on.

The sixth round of sanctions also included cutting Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, off from the SWIFT international transaction system.

“This will reduce Russia’s capacity to finance its war,” the head of the EU’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said of the measures.

A man cycles past one of the Slovenian branches of the Russian state-owned bank Sberbank, in Ljubljana
The European Union has given its final stamp of approval to fresh sanctions on Russian oil and top bank Sberbank [Jure Makovec/AFP]

OPEC Plus agrees to larger increase in oil supply

OPEC Plus has agreed to a larger increase in oil supply than planned for July and August.

The group of oil-producing nations said on Thursday it would raise production by 648,000 barrels a day, an increase of about 50 percent over the 430,000 barrels a day agreed under a programme last year.

This means that producers are compressing three months of planned increases into two months.

Russian production has fallen by 10 percent or about one million barrels a day since the invasion of Ukraine because of sanctions.

Read the full story here.

EU drops Patriarch Kirill from sanctions list

The EU has removed Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, from its new sanctions list, AFP reports.

Diplomats are cited as saying the was dropped from the list of sanctioned individuals, at the request of Hungary.

EU leaders agreed in principle earlier this week on a sixth sanctions package against Russia, but several diplomats said Budapest was holding up the finalisation of the package.

People & Power - Russia Orthodox connection
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, right, during the Orthodox Easter service at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, Russia on April 12, 2015 [Alexey Druzhinin/EPA]

US levels new sanctions on Russia

The US Department of the Treasury has announced a host of new sanctions against a yacht management company and its owners, describing them as part of a corrupt system that allows Russian elites and President Vladimir Putin to enrich themselves.

The Department of State is separately targeting additional Russian oligarchs and elites close to Putin, while the Department of Commerce is further restricting the Russian military’s ability to obtain technologies.

This includes adding 71 parties located in Russia and Belarus to the Entity List, effectively cutting them off from obtaining US-origin items or foreign-made products derived from certain US technology or software, a White House statement said.

Joe Biden
United States President Joe Biden delivers remarks on arming Ukraine, after touring a Lockheed Martin weapons factory in Troy, Alabama in the US on May 3, 2022 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Russia warns US about military aid to Ukraine

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has said the supply of US advanced rocket systems to Ukraine increases the risk of a “third country” being dragged into the conflict.

Lavrov’s deputy, Sergey Ryabkov, said that US military aid to Ukraine increases the risk of a direct confrontation.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov added, “We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire.”

Ukraine grateful to US for new weapons package

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister has expressed his gratitude to the US and his counterpart Antony Blinken for a new $700m weapons package for Ukraine.

The new package will include artillery rocket systems, which can accurately hit targets as far away as 80km (50 miles).

Ukraine is considering switching off nuclear power plant

Ukraine would consider switching off its Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that lies in Russian-occupied territory, if Kyiv loses control of operations at the site.

Reuters cited Interfax news agency quoting an aide to the Ukrainian prime minister as saying on Thursday, “As long as the control commands are executed and the site maintains the regime, we are not stopping. But the scenario in which the station could move completely out of control and we stop it is also being looked at.”

The facility in southeast Ukraine is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Russia close to capturing all of Luhansk

Russian forces are trying to attack the east Ukrainian village of Berestove which lies on a main road linking the Luhansk region’s city of Lysychansk to the rest of Ukraine, a Ukrainian general has said.

Russia is close to capturing all of Luhansk, one of two Ukrainian regions that make up the Donbas. Russian forces are also trying to attack the town of Sviatohirsk in the Donetsk region, Reuters reports General Oleksiy Gromov told a media briefing.

UK pledges medium-range missiles to Ukraine

The UK has pledged to send sophisticated medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, joining the United States and Germany in equipping the embattled nation with advanced weapons for shooting down aircraft and knocking out artillery.

British defence secretary Ben Wallace said the UK would send an unspecified number of M270 launchers, which can fire precision-guided rockets up to 80km (50 miles). Ukrainian troops will be trained in the UK to use the equipment, he said.

The decision to provide the launchers was coordinated closely with the US government, which said Wednesday that it would supply High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems to Ukraine.

Ukraine war cannot overshadow ‘existential’ threats posed by climate change: UN

Russia’s war against Ukraine should not stop the world from tackling other pressing global crises, UN Environment Programme chief Inger Andersen has said.

“The world has to learn to deal with multiple crises and not let go of one in favour of another,” she told reporters at the two-day Stockholm+50 environmental conference in the Swedish capital.

She cited the climate crisis and difficult issues surrounding biodiversity and pollution as “existential” threats that must be urgently faced.

Ukrainian embassy says Russia ships ‘stolen’ wheat to Syria

Russia has sent its ally Syria an estimated 100,000 tonnes of wheat stolen from Ukraine since invading the country, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut has said.

In a statement to Reuters, the embassy said the shipments included one on board the Matros Pozynich, a Russian-flagged vessel that docked at Syria’s main seaport Latakia in late May.

“The wheat is stolen from a facility that combines wheat from three Ukrainian regions into one batch,” the embassy said. “This is criminal activity.” It added that it had tried to reach out to the Syrian authorities but had never received a response.

Sweden to supply more military aid including anti-ship missiles to Ukraine

Sweden will provide Ukraine with more economic aid and military equipment, the Nordic country’s defence and finance ministers have said.

Finance minister Mikael Damberg and defence minister Peter Hultqvist told a news conference the military equipment would include anti-ship missiles, rifles and more anti-tank weapons.

Sweden in February announced it would send military materiel including 5,000 anti-tank weapons, helmets and body armour to Ukraine, and in March announced it would send another 5,000 anti-tank weapons.

Hungary says stance on sanctioning Patriarch Kirill “known for a long time”

Hungary’s opposition to potential EU sanctions against the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, “has been known for a long time,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s press chief has told state news agency MTI.

MTI cited Bertalan Havasi as saying that Hungary would keep to the agreement signed at the EU summit on sanctions earlier this week and that no one raised their voice against the Hungarian stance regarding Patriarch Kirill at the EU summit.

Russia says not planning to ‘close window to Europe’

Russia does not plan to “close the window” to Europe, the Kremlin has said, as its relations with the West linger at new lows over the conflict in Ukraine.

Asked whether difficult relations with Europe were turning the clock back on Peter the Great’s efforts to open Russia up to Europe, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “We are not planning to close anything.”

Peter the Great, a tsar who ruled the Russian Empire from 1682 to 1725, oversaw Russia’s transition to a major European power and founded the city of Saint Petersburg, dubbed Russia’s “window to Europe”.

Russia occupies 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory: Zelenskyy

Russia is currently occupying about 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told Luxembourg’s parliament in a video address.

“We have to defend ourselves against almost the entire Russian army. All combat-ready Russian military formations are involved in this aggression,” he said, adding that the front lines of battle stretched across more than 1,000km (620 miles).

Zelenskyy also expressed gratitude for the military assistance received so far and called for weapons supplies to be stepped up.

US plan to sell armed drones to Ukraine does not affect military operation: Russia

Russia has said US plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia would not change the parameters of what Moscow calls its military operation.

“Pumping [Western] weapons into Ukraine does not change all the parameters of the special operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “Its goals will be achieved, but this will bring more suffering to Ukraine.”

Russia trying to capture key Donetsk cities: Governor

Russian forces in Ukraine’s east are attempting to advance south towards the key Ukrainian-held cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the local region’s governor has said.

“The Lyman and Izyum fronts are the main directions in which the enemy is trying to advance in order to capture the territories of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, [their] key aims in the north of the region,” Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a briefing.

Kyrylenko also said 340,000 residents remained in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the region, out of a pre-war population of 1.67 million.

Kremlin confirms report that Yeltsin son-in-law quit as Putin advisor

The Kremlin has confirmed a Reuters report that Valentin Yumashev, the son-in-law of former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, had quit his role as an unpaid adviser to President Vladimir Putin.

“I can confirm that about a month ago he stopped being an advisor on a voluntary basis”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Yumashev did not play a major role in decision-making as a Putin adviser, but he represented one of the few remaining links in Putin’s administration to Yeltsin’s rule, a period of liberal reforms and an opening-up of Russia towards the West.

Ukraine seeking UN-backed mission to export grain shipments through Black Sea

Ukraine is working with international partners to create a United Nations-backed mission to restore Black Sea shipping routes and export Ukrainian farm produce, foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko has said.

Russia has captured some of Ukraine’s biggest seaports and its navy controls major transport routes in the Black Sea, blocking Ukrainian shipments and deepening a global food crisis.

“We call on countries whose food security may suffer more from Russian aggression against Ukraine to use their contacts with Moscow to force it to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports and end the war,” Nikolenko wrote on Facebook.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine is already a ‘de facto EU member’

Ukraine already considers itself part of the European Union, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said in a video address to the Luxembourg parliament.

“Ukraine has already become a de facto member of the EU,” he said. “I believe that Ukraine is already showing by its actions that it meets the European criteria.”

Referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelenskyy called on the bloc to “stop this individual from destroying European values. If we do not manage together to stop this man, then these are dark hours – dark hours that we have already experienced in the second world war.”

Denmark expected to join EU defence policy vote: Foreign minister

Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod has said he expects Denmark to join the European Union’s common defence policy after two-thirds of voters who cast ballots in a referendum supported abandoning a 30-year-old waiver that kept the EU country out.

There are “a series of formal steps before Denmark can be admitted” to the defence agreement, Kofod said, including the Danish parliament giving its approval of the referendum’s result.

The minister said he expects Denmark to be able to join as of July 1. According to figures from Statistics Denmark, 66.9 percent voted in favour of getting rid of the opt-out while 33.1 percent were against.

Moscow says it shot down Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet

Russia’s defence ministry has said its military downed a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet in the Mykolaiv region.

It also said in a briefing that it had struck command points of Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv.

EU move to partially phase out Russian oil likely to rock markets: Russia

The Russian foreign ministry has said that the European Union’s decision to partially phase out Russian oil was likely to destabilise global energy markets.

“Brussels and its political sponsors in Washington bear full responsibility for the risk of an exacerbation in global food and energy issues caused the illegitimate actions of the European Union,” the ministry said in a statement.

Lviv strikes ‘severely damaged’ railway infrastructure: Governor

The regional governor of Lviv’s district has said Russian cruise missiles struck and “severely damaged” railway infrastructure but did not hit a mountain railroad tunnel as previously stated.

Maksym Kozytskyi said on Telegram that the missiles were launched on Wednesday from the Black Sea and hit between 10:45pm and 10:55pm.

He added that five people have been injured, four of whom have been hospitalised.

Ukraine prosecutor says 261 children killed since start of the war

The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general has said 261 children have been killed and 460 injured since the start of the war.

The tally does not include places of active conflict, the office said on Twitter. It also registered more than 15,000 crimes of aggression that could amount to war crimes.

African Union head to speak to Putin Friday in Russia

The head of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, will speak with President Vladimir Putin in the southwestern Russian city of Sochi on Friday, his office has said.

The visit, aimed at “freeing up stocks of cereals and fertilisers, the blockage of which particularly affects African countries”, was organised after an invitation by Putin. Sall will travel with the president of the African Union Commission.

The AU will also receive a video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, though no date has been set.

Slovakia to send Ukraine eight Zuzana 2 howitzers

Slovakia will deliver eight self-propelled Zuzana 2 howitzers to Ukraine under a commercial contract which a state-controlled producer signed, the Slovak defence ministry has said.

The Zuzana 2 howitzer, a modernised version of an older model, uses 155mm rounds and has an effective range of 40km (25 miles) to more than 50km (30 miles), depending on the ammunition type.

British soldiers from the 16 Air Assault Brigade stand next to a howitzer during the Swift Response 22 military exercise at the Krivolak army training polygon in the central part of North Macedonia
British soldiers from the 16 Air Assault Brigade stand next to a howitzer during the Swift Response 22 military exercise at the Krivolak army training centre in central North Macedonia on May 12, 2022 [Boris Grdanoski/AP]

OPEC+ working on making up for lower Russian oil output: Reuters

Oil group OPEC+ is working on compensating for a drop in Russian oil output, Reuters reports two OPEC+ sources as having said.

A Gulf OPEC+ source said a decision on the matter was “highly possible” at a meeting on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Another OPEC+ source familiar with the Russian position told Reuters that Moscow could agree to other producers compensating for its lower output but it may not happen at a Thursday meeting and might not be in full.

Russia’s production has fallen by about one million barrels per day in recent months as a result of Western sanctions.

Russian forces making steady gains in Severodonetsk: UK

While Russia has taken most of the key city of Severodonetsk and continues to make steady gains, its forces have sustained losses in the process and risk losing momentum when they switch to focus on taking the neighbouring Donetsk region, the UK’s ministry of defence has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said that the Siverskyy Donets river crossing, the sites of which include an area between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk and the recently captured town of Lyman, still remain under Ukrainian control. Russian forces would need the crossing as they switch to focusing on the Donetsk region after taking Luhansk, the ministry said.

“It is likely Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian forces have prepared defensive positions,” the ministry said.

“To do so risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week,” it added.

Drugmaker Novartis resuming business in Ukraine

Novartis is resuming business in Ukraine after reviewing how safe it was to operate in the country that Russia invaded in February, the Swiss drugmaker has said.

“After studying current safety protocols in the country, and on advice which we will regularly review, we have begun to resume business operations remotely to help the war-torn country restore some basic critical business processes,” Novartis said on its website in a post dated June 1.

“The safety and security of our people remains our number one objective, and we will constantly review the situation and our business operations in Ukraine.”

Novartis said it condemned the war in Ukraine and has been providing humanitarian support, financial donations and medicine to people there.

Russians ‘destroying and plundering’ the region: Luhansk governor

The governor of Luhansk has accused Russia of “simply destroying and plundering” the region, saying Moscow’s forces hit the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk on Wednesday, and damaged a hospital in Lysychansk.

“They targeted the Azot Association several times yesterday morning. They hit one of the administrative buildings and the warehouse where methanol was stored. In Lysychansk, the city hospital building was damaged,” Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.

“The Russians are simply destroying and plundering our region. With anger, because they themselves, sitting on a gas pipe, have almost nothing at home that is commonplace for Ukrainians,” he added.

Haidai said about 52 houses had been damaged yesterday and many more families left without a roof if destroyed apartments were counted. He added that the region was losing 50-60 houses per day.

Gulf Arab states won’t sanction Russia over Ukraine: CCTV

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Gulf Arab states would not participate in sanctions against Russia and Belarus, China’s CCTV has reported.

Lavrov’s comments came after a meeting with members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

CCTV reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said during the talks that the Gulf states shared the same position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and were very concerned about the effect of the conflict on world food security.

Russia vulnerable to Ukraine’s forces in Kherson: ISW

Russian forces in the now occupied Kherson region are scrambling to secure the vital ground line of communication the Ukrainians have threatened, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

The ISW had previously noted that Russia had left vulnerable its position in Kherson as it threw everything behind its attempts to capture the key Luhansk towns of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

“Ukrainian forces carried out a series of organised counterattacks targeting settlements on the eastern bank of the Ihulets River that are very close to a key highway supporting Russian forces further north,” the ISW said about the Kherson region. The institute added that the Russians destroyed the bridges Ukrainians had used to hold their line against anticipated counteroffensives.

But “Ukrainian forces are likely still close enough to the highway to disrupt its use as a main supply route, potentially undermining the Russians’ ability to hold against Ukrainian counter-offensives from the north,” the ISW said.

After criticism, Germany’s Merkel shows solidarity for Ukraine: Reuters

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed solidarity for Ukraine in what she described as a “barbaric war” with Russia at an event on Wednesday, after months of silence prompted criticism of her own policy towards Moscow.

Merkel, chancellor for 16 years until December, said she would not offer advice from the sidelines but she supported the government’s efforts to “find an end to this barbaric war”, a participant at the event told the Reuters news agency.

“My solidarity goes to Ukraine,” the participant quoted her as saying at a farewell ceremony for the outgoing president of the DGB trade union confederation.

A fluent Russian speaker after growing up in the former communist East Germany, Merkel drew criticism from the United States and others for supporting the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, designed to deliver Russian gas directly to Germany.

Shelling of historic monastery kills two monks and nun: Church

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has said that two monks and a nun have been killed in the shelling of an historic monastery in eastern Ukraine.

The church said in a statement that three monks were also wounded by Monday’s shelling, which heavily damaged the Sviatohirsk monastery in the Donetsk region. It did not give further details.

The monastery, located on the steep right bank of the Siverskyy Donets river, is one of the most important historic Orthodox monasteries in Ukraine.

The monastery provided shelter to civilians fleeing the fighting and had previously been hit by Russian shelling as the Russian troops were pressing their offensive in Donbas.

The Holy Mountains Lavra of the Holy Dormition, a major Orthodox Christian monastery, during winter sunrise on the steep right bank of the Seversky Donets River near the town of Sviatohirsk in Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine
The Holy Mountains Lavra of the Holy Dormition, an Orthodox Christian monastery, during winter sunrise on the steep right bank of the Siverskyy Donets river near the town of Sviatohirsk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, on Friday, December 24, 2021 [Andriy Andriyenko/AP]

Five wounded in Lviv rail strike: Governor

A Russian missile hit rail lines in the western Lviv region, a key conduit for Western weapons and other supplies, officials have said.

Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said five people were wounded in the strike, adding that more information would be available on Thursday.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the country’s interior minister, said the Russians hit the Beskidy railway tunnel in the Carpathian Mountains in an apparent effort to cut a key railway link and disrupt shipments of weapons and fuel.

However, the head of Ukrainian railways said the damage to the railroad was still being assessed but the tunnel was spared.

200,000 kids among Ukrainians taken to Russia: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that 200,000 children are among the Ukrainians who have been forcefully taken to Russia and dispersed across the vast country. They include children from orphanages, children taken with their parents and those separated from their families.

“The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation on Wednesday, which was International Children’s Day.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine would punish those responsible but first, it would show Russia on the battlefield that “Ukraine cannot be conquered, that our people will not surrender and our children will not become the property of the occupiers.”

Zelenskyy said 243 children have been killed so far in the war, 446 have been wounded and 139 are missing, adding that it could be more as his government doesn’t have a full picture of the situation in areas occupied by Russian troops.

Football coach dedicates Ukraine win to those fighting Russia

Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov has said his country’s World Cup qualification playoff win over Scotland is a victory for his compatriots who “fight with every last drop of their blood”.

“We played for them, for those who fight with their last drop of blood, for those who suffer every day, we made baby steps towards our great aim,” he said.

Football fans
Ukraine fans celebrated after the match and held flags in support of Ukraine [Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters]

Football legend Pele tells Putin: ‘Stop the invasion’

Brazilian football legend Pele has called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his army’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I want to use today’s match as an opportunity to make a request: stop the invasion. There is absolutely no justification for this continued violence,” Pele wrote in an open letter to Putin posted on Instagram just before the Ukrainian men’s football team faced Scotland in their World Cup playoff semi-final.

“This conflict is wicked, unjustifiable and brings nothing but pain, fear, terror and anguish … Wars only exist to separate nations, and there’s no ideology that justifies projectile missiles burying the dreams of children, ruining families and killing the innocent.”

Ireland designates Russia’s invasion an act of genocide

Ireland’s Senate has passed a resolution declaring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an act of genocide, Chair of the Irish Senate Mark Daly has said in a tweet.

The resolution follows similar moves in recent weeks by Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic.

Ukraine soccer win brings joy to military in war with Russia: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed the national soccer team’s win over Scotland in a vital World Cup playoff game, saying the victory would bring joy to soldiers fighting against Russia.

Ukraine kept alive their dream of reaching the finals, beating Scotland 3-1 in their first game since the Russian invasion. Ukraine will now face Wales on Sunday with the winner taking a place in the finals.

“Thank you guys! Two hours of happiness, something we have become unaccustomed to,” Zelenskyy said in an online post.

“Joy to our soldiers, joy to the entire country. We are all fighting, everyone on their own front. We will fight on, we will withstand everything, we will win. For we are Ukrainians.”

Cyber activity not against Russia policy: White House

The White House has said that any offensive cyber activity against Russia would not be a violation of US policy of avoiding direct military conflict with Russia.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commented on statements from US cyber command chief General Paul Nakasone, who told Sky News the US has conducted a series of digital operations in support of Ukraine.

Russia’s war has led to massive destruction to cultural heritage: Officials

Ukraine’s Culture Ministry has documented 367 war crimes against Ukraine’s cultural heritage, including the destruction of 29 museums, 133 churches, 66 theatres and libraries, and a Jewish cemetery, the Kyiv Independent has reported.

“Russians have the precise aim of destroying our culture as part of our identity, something that distinguishes Ukraine from Russia,” Olha Honchar, co-founder of Ukraine’s Museum Crisis Center told Bloomberg. “It has become quite clear now for the whole world that Russia bombs museums, archives, and theatres not by accident.”

Biden to meet NATO secretary-general at White House

Biden and his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House on Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said.

Stoltenberg told reporters after a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he would convene a meeting in Brussels in the coming days with senior officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey to discuss Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.

Denmark looks set to join EU defence policy

Denmark will join the European Union’s defence policy after a referendum, public broadcaster DR has projected.

Preliminary results by DR showed that 66.6 percent of voters were in favour of removing an opt-out to the EU’s so-called Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Denmark is the only EU member that is not part of the policy after the country secured several exemptions in a 1993 referendum.

“It is a completely new approach to Europe, that we are signalling to our European allies, to the whole world,” said former foreign minister and member of the Social Liberal Party, Martin Lidegaard.

“It can hardly be overestimated, the importance it has on our foreign and European policy,” Lidegaard said.

Ukrainians shelter under chemical plant from Russian shelling: Governor

Several civilians have been sheltering from Russian shelling under a chemical plant in the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, the Luhansk regional governor has said, raising concerns the facility may still have stocks of dangerous materials.

“There are civilians there in bomb shelters, there are quite a few of them,” Serhiy Haidai said of the Azot chemical plant, adding that there were “strong Soviet-era” bomb shelters under the factory.

“It’s a privately-owned plant, we can’t know 100 percent if any chemicals are left,” he told the Reuters news agency.

US plans to sell armed drones to Ukraine in coming days: Report

The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia, the Reuters news agency reported, citing three people familiar with the situation.

“Generally the MQ-1C is a much larger aircraft with a max take-off weight around three times that of the Bayraktar-TB2, with commensurate advantages in payload capacity, range, and endurance,” said drone expert Dan Gettinger with the Vertical Flight Society.

But the sale of the General Atomics-made drones could still be blocked by Congress, according to the report, and there is also a risk of a last-minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan.

US to send medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine

The Pentagon has announced that the US will send Ukraine four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition to help try to stall Russian progress in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

But it will take at least three weeks to get the precision weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, said Colin Kahl, the US defence undersecretary for policy.

“It is a grinding fight,” Kahl said during a Pentagon briefing. “We believe that these additional capabilities will arrive in a timeframe that’s relevant and allow the Ukrainians to very precisely target the types of things they need for the current fight.”

Biden announces new military aid package for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has announced a new $700m weapons package for Ukraine that will include High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which can accurately hit targets from as far away as 80km (50 miles).

“The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden announced the plan to give Ukraine the HIMARS after receiving assurances from Kyiv that it would not use them to hit targets inside Russian territory.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Read all the updates from Wednesday, June 1 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies