Ukraine latest updates: Kyiv lays out $750bn ‘recovery plan’

Ukraine news from July 4: Zelenskyy says reconstruction of his war-torn country is the ‘common task of the entire democratic world’.

A local resident stands in front of an apartment building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • Reconstructing Ukraine is expected to cost $750bn, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said, adding that seized Russian assets should be used pay for the recovery.
  • President Vladimir Putin congratulates Russian troops on “liberating” the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk.
  • Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia will respond in kind to Bulgaria’s expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats
  • Luhansk governor says Russia will shift the focus of its war in Ukraine to trying to seize all of the Donetsk region after capturing Luhansk
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledges to retake lost territory, including the city of Lysychansk after Russia claimed full control of the Luhansk region.

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These were the updates on Monday, July 4:

Briton appeals against death sentence in separatist-held east Ukraine

British citizen Aiden Aslin, sentenced to death by a court in the Russian-backed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, has submitted an appeal, the Russian Interfax agency reported.

“A cassation appeal against the verdict was filed today,” the lawyer representing him, Pavel Kosovan, told Interfax.

Aslin was sentenced to death last month together with fellow Briton Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun for “mercenary activities” because they had been captured while fighting as foreigners for Ukraine’s army against Russian and Russian-backed forces in Ukraine.

UK adds six people, one business to Russia sanctions list

Britain has added the names of six individuals and one company to its list of people and businesses who are subject to an asset freeze following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The measures allow for “the freezing of funds and economic resources of certain persons, entities or bodies involved in destabilising Ukraine … or obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia,” Britain’s finance ministry said.

European Union to set up platform for Ukraine war reconstruction

The European Union will set up a reconstruction platform to coordinate the rebuilding of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

The platform will be used to map investment needs, coordinate action and channel resources, von der Leyen told the Ukraine Recovery Conference.

Read more here.

British foreign secretary says Russians must be accountable for Ukraine war

Russia needs to help pay for the damage it has inflicted on Ukraine during its “appalling war” while Kyiv also needed help to revive its battered economy, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the Reuters news agency.

“Russia needs to be held to account for this appalling war,” Truss said on the sidelines of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano. “We are looking at options for the deployment of Russian assets.”

Britain is looking at legislation to seize assets from people responsible for the war, Truss said.

We need to look at alternatives to get grain out of Ukraine, says UK PM Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that alternative routes to retrieve grain stuck in Ukraine will need to be looked at if the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey cannot be used to move it.

“The Turks are absolutely indispensable to solving this. They’re doing their very best … It does depend on the Russians agreeing to allow that grain to get out,” Johnson told parliament.

“We will increasingly have to look at alternative means of moving that grain from Ukraine if we cannot use the sea route, if you can’t use the Bosphorus.”

UK to introduce new economic and trade sanctions on Belarus

Britain has said it would introduce new economic, trade and transport sanctions on Belarus over the country’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The new package will include import and export bans on goods worth around 60 million British pounds ($72m) including exports of oil-refining goods, advanced technology components and luxury goods, and imports of Belarusian iron and steel.

Britain will also ban more Belarusian companies from issuing debt and securities in London.

Turkey’s Baykar delivers drone to Lithuania after crowdfunding campaign

Lithuania has taken delivery of a Bayraktar combat drone from Turkey after hundreds of Lithuanians clubbed together to buy it for Ukraine, the defence ministry has said.

In the end, Turkish manufacturer Baykar said in June it would donate the drone for free, with Lithuania’s government committing to spend 1.5 million euros ($1.56m) of the crowdfunded money to arm it and the rest of the nearly six million euros ($6.2m) collected going towards humanitarian help for Ukraine.

Pictures shared by the Lithuanian government showed the drone delivered with a logo of a hawk in Lithuania’s and Ukraine’s colours. An internet vote in Lithuania named the drone after the bird.

Ukraine reconstruction estimated to cost $750bn: PM

Reconstructing Ukraine is expected to cost $750bn, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said, insisting that seized Russian assets should be used pay for the recovery of his war-shattered country.

Speaking to the Ukraine Recovery Conference in southern Switzerland, he said Ukraine’s recovery “is already estimated at $750bn. We believe that the key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs.”

Ukraine renews its invitation for pope to visit

Ukraine has renewed its invitation for Pope Francis to visit Ukraine, urging the pontiff to continue praying for its people, a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman said.

“It is time to deepen connections with those who sincerely desire it. We renew the invitation to Pope Francis to visit our country and urge you to continue praying for the Ukrainian people,” Oleg Nikolenko said when asked for comment about an interview the pope gave to the Reuters news agency.

The pope said in the interview that he hoped he would be able to go to Moscow and Kyiv after a trip to Canada as part of efforts to end the war in Ukraine.

Pope Francis waves during Regina Caeli prayer, in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis said in an interview that he hoped he would be able to go to Moscow and Kyiv [File: Reuters]

What is life like in Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine?

It was not a knock, it was loud banging – at about 7:30 on a recent Saturday morning.

Taras opened the door of his two-bedroom apartment in Kreminna, a town in the Luhansk region that was taken over by Russia in late April, to see three gun-toting soldiers in camouflage.

“Do you have a garage on the corner?” the oldest of them, a redhead in his late 20s, asked Taras imperatively.

Without waiting for his answer, the soldier continued: “Open it up.”

Read more here.

Pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle along in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Region, Ukraine May 26, 2022. The writing on the vehicle reads: "Valkyrie" [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
Pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk region, Ukraine [File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Turkey halts Russian ship, investigates Ukrainian claims

Turkey has halted a Russian-flagged cargo ship off its Black Sea coast and is investigating a Ukrainian claim that it was carrying stolen grain, a senior Turkish official has said.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey said on Sunday the Zhibek Zholy ship was detained by Turkish customs authorities. Ukraine previously asked Turkey to detain the vessel, according to an official and documents viewed by Reuters.

A Russian serviceman patrols on the promenade in Berdyansk.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said the Zhibek Zholy loaded some 4,500 tonnes of grain from Berdyansk [File: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP]

Russia says it will respond in kind to Bulgaria after diplomatic expulsions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said Moscow would respond in kind to Bulgaria’s expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats.

Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria, a European Union and NATO member state and once a close ally of Russia, said last week she would ask Moscow to close its embassy in Sofia over the expulsions.

Ukraine flag raised again on Snake Island, military says

The Ukrainian flag has been raised again on Snake Island in the Black Sea, a Ukrainian military spokeswoman said, after Russian troops withdrew from the strategic outpost last week.

“The territory [Snake Island] has been returned to the jurisdiction of Ukraine,” Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military command, told a news conference.

Putin congratulates Russian troops on ‘liberating’ Luhansk region

President Vladimir Putin has congratulated Russian troops on “liberating” the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, a significant milestone for Moscow in its military campaign.

In a televised meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin said the troops involved in the operation to capture the region should rest but that other military units should continue fighting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the 6th Caspian Summit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
President Putin said Russian troops involved in the operation to capture the Luhansk region should rest [File: Grigory Sysoyev/AFP]

Kremlin says others may disagree with Japan’s proposal on Russian oil price cap

Russia needs to wait and see how proposals to cap the price of Russian oil exported abroad are finalised, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told reporters.

Commenting on reports that Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had proposed capping Russian oil’s purchase price at about half the current purchase price, Peskov said that other countries may disagree with Tokyo’s cap level proposals.

Russian cosmonauts celebrate capture of Ukraine’s Luhansk region in space

Russian cosmonauts on board the International Space Station have celebrated Russia’s capture of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, a significant milestone for Moscow in the war.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, described Moscow’s capture of the Luhansk region as “a liberation day to celebrate both on Earth and in space”.

The agency posted pictures of cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov smiling as they held up flags of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine, the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic.

“This is a long-awaited day that the residents of the occupied areas of the Luhansk region had been waiting eight years for,” Roscosmos wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“We are convinced that July 3, 2022, will forever remain in the history of the (Luhansk People’s) Republic.”

Russian cosmonauts
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov pose with a flag of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic at the International Space Station (ISS) [Roscosmos/Reuters]

France suspends expulsions of foreign students fleeing Ukraine

The French government has said it will suspend expulsions of foreign students fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a sensitive issue that has seen European countries accused of racist double standards.

“We have introduced a moratorium for students until September,” a government source told the AFP news agency.

This means “no requirement to leave French territory will be applied or any new ones decided on until the new university year”, Joseph Zimet, a senior official in charge of hosting Ukrainian refugees, had earlier told newspaper Le Monde.

New arrivals would have to comply with “the same criteria as students who request a visa in France” regarding their study plans and financial resources, he added.

Including students, some 3,500 third-country citizens who fled Ukraine are currently under temporary protection in France.

Western ambassadors in China sound off over Russia in rare forum

Western envoys in China have criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, with the US ambassador saying China should not spread Russian “propaganda”, in an unusual public forum in a country that has declined to condemn Moscow’s attack.

Speaking at the World Peace Forum, organised by the Tsinghua University, US ambassador Nicholas Burns called the Russian war against Ukraine “the greatest threat to global world order”.

Burns said he hoped China’s foreign ministry spokespeople would stop repeating “Russian propaganda” blaming NATO for the war.

“I hope foreign ministry spokespersons would also stop telling lies about American bioweapons labs, which do not exist in Ukraine,” he said.

Luhansk governor says Russia will shift focus to Donetsk region

Russia will shift the main focus of its war in Ukraine to trying to seize all of the Donetsk region after capturing neighbouring Luhansk, the Luhansk region’s governor has said.

Governor Serhiy Haidai told Reuters in an interview that he expected the city of Sloviansk and the town of Bakhmut, in particular, to come under attack as Russia tries to take full control of what is known as the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Gazprom says exports of gas to Europe via Ukraine unchanged

Russian gas producer Gazprom has said its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point was seen at 42.1 million cubic metres (mcm), unchanged from Sunday.

An application to supply gas via the Sokhranivka entry point had again been rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

EU lending arm aims to raise 100 billion euros to help rebuild Ukraine

Reuters says the European Investment Bank is proposing a funding structure previously used during the COVID-19 pandemic to help rebuild Ukraine with up to 100 billion euros ($104.3bn) of investment.

Citing an official document, Reuters said the EU-Ukraine Gateway Trust Fund (E-U GTF) would seek to have an initial 20 billion euros ($20.8bn) in contributions from the EU countries and the EU budget in the form of grants, loans and guarantees.

The guarantees in particular would have a multiplier effect, leading to infrastructure projects totalling some 100 billion euros, the document said, about half of Ukraine’s more immediate needs.

Zelenskyy pledges to retake Lysychansk

Ukraine’s president has acknowledged that his forces have withdrawn from the bombed-out city of Lysychansk, but pledged late to regain control of the lost territory with the help of long-range Western weapons.

“If the commanders of our army withdraw people from certain points at the front, where the enemy has the greatest advantage in firepower, and this also applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“That we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.”

Read more here

Sloviansk in Donetsk prepares for battle

As the front line moves closer to the eastern city of Sloviansk, residents and soldiers are preparing for an imminent Russian invasion, The Associated Press news agency reports.

“Everyone knows that there will be a huge battle in Sloviansk,” a soldier who could not be named for security reasons told the AP.

Another soldier, a 23-year-old accountant who enlisted when the invasion began, said Ukrainian forces simply do not have the weapons to fight off the superior arsenal of the approaching Russian army. “We know what’s coming,” he said with a sad smile.

Pro-Russian separatists captured and held the city for three months in 2014. The brief occupation terrorised Sloviansk, where dozens of officials and journalists were taken hostage, and several killings took place. Attacks on the city are intensifying. The mayor told AP that shelling now occurs at least four or five times a day, and the use of cluster munitions increased in the last week.

Yekaterina Len, 61, cries outside her ruined house following a shelling in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Yekaterina Len, 61, cries outside her ruined house following shelling in Sloviansk, Ukraine, on May 20, 2014 [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

UK supports seizing frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine: Report

British foreign secretary Liz Truss says the United Kingdom wants to follow the example of Canada and seize the assets of Russians in the country and redistribute them to victims of Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to the Guardian newspaper.

“I am supportive of the concept,” Truss told legislators last week. “We are looking at it very closely. The Canadians have, in fact, just passed legislation. This is an issue that we are working on jointly with the Home Office and the Treasury, but I certainly agree with the concept. We just need to get the specifics of it right.”

Zelenskyy praises Israel’s decision to scrap refugee quota

Ukraine’s president has praised Israel’s High Court after it rejected a government cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees allowed to enter the country.

Under existing regulations, Ukrainians do not need a visa for a visit of up to three months in Israel. The interior minister said in March that Israel would grant visas to a further 5,000 refugees who do not automatically qualify for immigration under the Law of Return, which allows anyone who has a Jewish parent or grandparent to receive Israeli citizenship.

The High Court on Sunday ruled in favour of a petition against the 5,000 quota, the Times of Israel reported.

Zelenskyy said he “commends” the court’s decision “which obliges the government of Israel to abolish any additional restrictions on the entry of citizens of Ukraine”.

“The rule of law and respect for human rights is exactly what distinguishes a true, developed democracy!” he wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine will be helped but not as if a NATO member: Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his government is discussing security guarantees for Ukraine in preparation for a time after the war, but said these will not be the same as for a member of the transatlantic NATO alliance.

“We are discussing with close allies the question of the security guarantees we can give. This is an ongoing process. It is clear that it will not be the same as if someone were a member of NATO,” Scholz told the broadcaster ARD.

UK to host 2023 Ukraine recovery conference

The United Kingdom says it will host a conference next year focused on helping Ukraine recover from the damage caused by Russia’s invasion as nations gather in Switzerland for this year’s event.

“We have led on support for Ukraine during the war and will continue to lead in supporting the Ukrainian Government’s Reconstruction and Development Plan,” Foreign Secretary Truss said in a statement.

Belarus leader stands with Russia in Ukraine campaign

The president of Belarus – Kremlin leader Putin’s closest ally – has said his ex-Soviet state stands fully behind Russia in its military drive in Ukraine.

Addressing a ceremony marking the anniversary of the World War II liberation of Minsk by Soviet troops on Sunday, Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, said he had thrown his weight behind Putin’s campaign against Ukraine “from the very first day” in late February.

“Today, we are being criticised for being the only country in the world to support Russia in its fight against Nazism. We support and will continue to support Russia,” a video on the state BelTA news agency showed Lukashenko telling the gathering on Sunday. “And those who criticise us, do they not know that we have such a close union with the Russian Federation … That we have practically a unified army. But you knew all this. We will remain together with fraternal Russia.”

Zelenskyy has said the Belarusian leader’s statement amounted to a “signal”, with his actions to be watched carefully. Some Ukrainian officials suggest Belarus could soon become directly involved in the conflict.

Turkish customs detain Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain

Turkish customs authorities have detained a Russian cargo ship carrying grain that Ukraine says is stolen, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey has said.

“We have full cooperation. The ship is currently standing at the entrance to the port, it has been detained by the customs authorities of Turkey,” ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said on Ukrainian national television on Sunday.

Bodnar said the ship’s fate would be decided by a meeting of investigators on Monday.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from the territories that Russian forces have seized since its invasion began in late February. The Kremlin has denied that Russia has stolen any Ukrainian grain.

With brooms, nail guns and shovels, Kharkiv residents clean up after attack: Report

Armed with brooms, nail guns and shovels, residents in Kharkiv gathered to clean up after multiple Russian rockets hit at 4am (01:00 GMT), the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, Oleh Synyehubov, said on Sunday.

One of the rockets hit the yard between a school and some private houses. Residents were seen shovelling earth back into a large crater created by the attack, while others were sweeping broken window glass from the floors inside the school and surrounding houses. On Sunday morning, locals were busy fixing roofs and sweeping soot off the façade of the district’s school.

“It (missile blast) happened very early in the morning and in 15 minutes everyone was here.” Vita Kuzub, a school principal, told Reuters.

The raids that began on Tuesday, June 21, were the worst for weeks in an area where normal life had been returning since Ukraine pushed Moscow’s forces back in May.

A residential area destroyed by a Russian bombing in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A residential area destroyed by a Russian bombing in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 15, 2022 [Ricardo Moraes/Reuters]

Russia shelled Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv: Zelenskyy

The Russian army shelled the eastern cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk on Sunday, as well as the city of Kharkiv, with multiple-launch rocket systems as well as Soviet Smerch rockets, Zelenskyy has said, adding that Russia has enough weapons to destroy every city in Ukraine.

“In Sloviansk alone, six people are on the list of dead, and about 20 are wounded. A girl died, her name was Yeva. She would have turned 10 in August this year,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

“Russia has enough Smerch, Uragan and Grad systems to destroy city after city in Ukraine. They have now accumulated their largest firepower in Donbas,” he added.

Fighting continues on Lysychansk outskirts: Zelenskyy

Kyiv’s forces are still battling Russian soldiers on the outskirts of the city Lysychansk “in a very difficult and dangerous situation,” Zelenskyy has said after Ukraine withdrew its forces from Lysychansk and the Russian defence ministry claimed its army had captured the Luhansk region.

“We cannot give you the final judgement. Lysychansk is still being fought for,” Zelenskyy told a news conference in Kyiv given alongside Australia’s visiting prime minister. He noted that territory can move quickly from one side to the other.

Russian forces maintain an advantage in the area, he acknowledged, calling it a Ukrainian military “weak spot”.

The capture of Lysychansk would give the Russians more territory from which to intensify attacks on the neighbouring Donetsk region. In recent weeks, Russian forces were thought to hold about half of Donetsk, but it is not clear where things stand now.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Sunday, July 3, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies