Sun, 03 Jul 2022

Dmitry Muratov, the Russian editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, on Monday auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize gold medal for a whopping $103.5 million to benefit children displaced by the war in Ukraine. Earlier Monday, the EU's top diplomat called Russia's blockade of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain a war crime. Read about the day's events as they unfolded in our liveblog. All times Paris time (GMT+2).

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2:14am: Russian journalist's Nobel medal sells for $103.5 million, destined for Ukraine aid

Dmitry Muratov, the Russian editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, on Monday auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize gold medal for a whopping $103.5 million to benefit children displaced by the war in Ukraine.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the medal - which was snapped up by an as yet unidentified phone bidder - will go to UNICEF's Humanitarian Response for Ukrainian Children Displaced by War, according to Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale.

Muratov won the prize in 2021 alongside journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines, with the committee honoring them "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression."

2:10am: Kremlin spokesman says Americans captured in Ukraine committed 'crimes'

Two Americans captured in Ukraine while fighting with Kyiv's military were "endangering" Russian soldiers and should be "held accountable for those crimes", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday in an interview with NBC News.

The interview marks the first time the Kremlin has commented on the cases of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, both US military veterans, according to NBC.

"They're soldiers of fortune and they were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. They were involved in firing and shelling our military personnel. They were endangering their lives," Peskov told the network, in English.

"They should be held responsible for those crimes that they have committed," he added in the first bits of the interview made public.

When pressed on what crimes the Americans had committed, Peskov admitted their specific offenses were not yet known, but claimed that they would not be covered by the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war.

"They are not (in the) Ukrainian army, so they are not subject to the Geneva Conventions," the Kremlin spokesman said.

June 21, 12:42am: Some 120,000 march in Georgia 'for Europe' after blow to EU bid

At least 120,000 Georgians took to the streets Monday in support of the country's EU membership bid, after the European Commission recommended deferring Tbilisi's candidacy.

Waving Georgian, Ukrainian, and EU flags, demonstrators flooded on Monday evening the main throughfare of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

In what was the biggest demonstration in decades, at least 120,000 people took part in the "March for Europe" in Tbilisi, according to an AFP estimate based on video footage shot from drones.

The rally was initiated by the Black Sea nation's leading pro-democracy groups and supported by all of the opposition parties to "demonstrate the commitment of the Georgian people to its European choice and Western values".

11:51pm: 'You're my hero', Hollywood's Ben Stiller tells Zelensky in Kyiv

Hollywood star Ben Stiller met Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday, hailing the comedian-turned-president as "my hero" for rallying the world's support for Ukraine in the face of Russia's invasion.

"It's a great honour for me... you're my hero!" said Stiller, a UN goodwill ambassador who met the Ukrainian leader on World Refugee Day.

"What you've done, the way that you've rallied the country, the world, it's really inspiring," said the 56-year-old American comedian referring to Zelensky's countless speeches to audiences around the world to rally support for his embattled country.

Footage of their meeting was released by Zelensky's office.

Earlier on Monday, Stiller visited the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, the scene of fierce battles early on in the invasion and the closest Moscow's army got to the capital since it sent troops into Ukraine in February.

11:39pm: Moscow to summon EU ambassador to Russia over Kaliningrad rail ban, region's governor says

The Russian foreign ministry will on Tuesday summon European Union ambassador to Moscow Markus Ederer over Lithuania's ban of the transit of goods under EU sanctions through Kaliningrad, the governor of Kaliningrad said on Monday.

Vilnius banned the transit of goods under European Union sanctions through Lithuanian territory to and from the Russian exclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, citing EU sanction rules.

"This is, of course, a situation, that can be resolved by diplomatic means," Anton Alikhanov, Kaliningrad's governor, told the Russian television. "As far as I know, tomorrow Marcus Ederer, the European Union ambassador to Russia, will be summoned to the foreign ministry .... and he will be told of the appropriate conditions involved here."

There was no immediate official confirmation from the Russian foreign ministry about the summon.

9:15pm: Russia blames West for 'destructive' stance on grain

Russia on Monday blamed the "destructive" stance of the West for soaring grain prices that have sparked fears of a global food crisis following the invasion of Ukraine.

"Concerning the possibility of famine, more and more experts are leaning towards a pessimistic scenario ... and that is the fault of western regimes, which act as provokers and destroyers," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Telegram.

9pm: Ukraine says food warehouse in Odesa destroyed in Russian missile attack

A food warehouse in the Black Sea port of Odesa was destroyed in a Russian missile attack on Monday but no civilians were killed, the Ukrainian military said.

The city has come under sporadic bombardment since the start of the war and is blockaded by the Russian navy, while each side accuses the other of laying mines in the sea.

The Operational Command "South" said Russian forces fired 14 missiles at southern Ukraine during a three-hour barrage "in impotent anger at the successes of our troops." Russia's military did not immediately comment on the reports.

7:15pm: At least 3 injured, 7 missing after Black Sea drilling platforms targeted, Russian official says

Three people were injured and seven more are missing after Ukraine forces fired on Black Sea drilling platforms off the coast of Crimea on Monday, a Russian official said. "Unfortunately, we can confirm that there are three injured and seven missing, we guarantee that the search will continue," Moscow-appointed Crimean governor Sergei Aksionov said on his Telegram account.

6:08pm: US President Biden says 'not likely' to visit Ukraine on upcoming Europe trip

US President Joe Biden said on Monday he is not likely to visit Ukraine when he travels to Europe later this month for summits with Washington's allies.

Speaking to reporters, Biden also said he believes it is very likely that Ukraine will become a member of the European Union. EU leaders later this week are expected to give their blessing to Ukraine becoming an official candidate to join, a decision that will be marked as a triumph in Kyiv as it fights Russia's invasion.

6pm: Lithuania 'only applying EU sanctions' over Kaliningrad rail goods, EU's top diplomat Borrell says

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday that Lithuania was following EU sanctions in blocking certain goods heading by rail to the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. "Lithuania has not taken any unilateral national restrictions and only applies the European Union sanctions," Borrell said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

4:50pm: Zelensky tells African Union that Africa is a 'hostage' of Russia's war as negotiations to unblock ports continue

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky told the African Union on Monday that the continent was being held hostage by Russia's invasion of Ukraine which has spurred food shortages and fears of a food crisis in Africa.

"Africa is actually a hostage. It is a hostage of those who unleashed war against our state," Zelensky said during an address to the African Union, during which he blamed Russia for blocking exports of Ukrainian grain.

Regarding the latter, Kyiv is engaged in "complex negotiations" to release its ports from Russia's blockade, Zelensky added Monday, warning the global grain crisis would last as long as Russia's "colonial war". "We are conducting complex multilevel negotiations to unblock our Ukrainian ports. But there is no progress yet. That is why the global food crisis will continue as long as this colonial war continues," he said in a video address to the African Union.

4:30pm: Russian-backed separatists claim control of village south of key Severodonetsk battle

Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine said on Monday they had taken the village of Toshkivka, beside the main southern road towards the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, over which Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting for weeks.

Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have suffered significant losses in the battle for Severodonetsk, which is in one of the two self-proclaimed breakaway regions Russia says it launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February to defend. Vitaly Kiselev, an assistant to the self-styled interior minister of the Russian-backed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), was quoted by TASS new agency as saying the village of Toshkivka, about 25 km south of Sievierodonetsk, had been taken.

4:00pm: Kyiv might need to start debt servicing talks if war drags on

Ukraine will have to start discussions with creditors on external debt restructuring if the war with Russia continues for a long time, presidential economic adviser Oleh Ustenko said on Monday.

He said Ukraine was grateful to its state partners and international organisations for their financial assistance, substantial part of which is grants. "On the one hand, we receive grants from our allies, on the other hand, we continue to pay off debts that are in private hands. This is not entirely fair," Ustenko told national television. "Everyone should understand that there was a force majeure... the country cannot function as it did before the war."

2:45pm: Lithuania says Kaliningrad rail ban in line with 'EU sanctions'

Lithuania said on Monday its ban on rail transit for EU-sanctioned goods through Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad is in line with European sanctions, after Moscow slammed the move and vowed a response. "These are European sanctions that started to work from June 17," Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told journalists, specifying that in this case it concerned the rail transport of steel products.

1:36pm: 'Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania', says Ukraine

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday criticised Russia after it accused Lithuania of imposing trade restrictions on the transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Moscow's exclave of Kaliningrad.

"Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania. Moscow has only itself to blame for the consequences of its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine," Kuleba wrote in a statement on social media.

1:35pm: Ukraine bans, seizes assets of pro-Kremlin party

A Ukrainian court on Monday banned the country's largest pro-Russian political party and seized its assets nationwide after the group was accused of undermining the country's sovereignty.

The ruling comes after President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree in March banning the work of several parties identified by the security services as being sympathetic to Moscow.

An appeals court "banned the activities of the political party Opposition Platform - For Life," Ukrainian Justice Minister Denys Malyuska said in a statement on social media.

"The court has ruled to transfer all property, funds and other assets of the party to state ownership," he added.

10:01am: Germany says working with Poland, Romania on freeing stuck Ukrainian grain

Germany supports Poland and Romania in adapting their railways to enable the export of millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine due to a Russian sea blockade, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday.

"The railway tracks need to be modernized, we need the right cargo wagons - the German government is working on this with many other actors," she said as she arrived for a meeting with her European Union counterparts in Luxembourg.

"It is clear that, in the end, we will certainly not be able to get out all grain but if we even just manage to free part of it, on various routes, then this will help as we are facing this global challenge."

9:37am: Ukraine says lost control of Severodonetsk village

Ukraine said Monday it had lost control of a village adjacent to the eastern industrial city of Severodonetsk, the centre of weeks of fierce fighting with invading Russian troops.

"Unfortunately, we do not control Metyolkine anymore. And the enemy continues to build up its reserves," the Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a statement on social media.

Russia's capture of the hamlet with a pre-war population of around 1,000 people, is the latest around Severodonetsk, where Moscow's army has met tough Ukrainian resistance.

9:23am: Russia's blockade of Ukrainian grain exports is a war crime says EU's top diplomat

Russia's blockade of the export of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain is a war crime, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday.

"We call on Russia to deblockade the (Ukrainian) ports ... It is inconceivable, one cannot imagine that millions of tonnes of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger," he told reporters.

"This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer," he said on arriving to a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

6:24am: EU seeks to release Ukrainian grain stuck due to Russia's sea blockade

European Union foreign ministers will discuss ways to free millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine due to Russia's Black Sea port blockade at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

Ukraine is one of the top wheat suppliers globally, but its grain shipments have stalled and more than 20 million tonnes have been trapped in silos since Russia's invaded the country and blocked its ports.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis and blames Western sanctions for the shortage that has led to a jump in global food prices and warnings by the United Nations of hunger in poorer countries that rely heavily on imported grain.

The EU supports efforts by the United Nations to broker a deal to resume Ukraine's sea exports in return for facilitating Russian food and fertilizer exports, but that would need Moscow's green light.

Turkey has good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow, and has said it is ready to take up a role within an "observation mechanism" based in Istanbul if there is a deal.

05:45 am: Ukraine prepares for intensified Russian attacks as EU weighs membership bid

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warned Sunday that Russia was likely to intensify its "hostile activity" this week, as Kyiv awaits a historic decision from the European Union on its membership application.

Nearly three months after Russia launched a bloody invasion of his country, Zelensky said there had been "few such fateful decisions for Ukraine" as the one it expects from the EU this week, adding in his evening address that "only a positive decision is in the interests of the whole of Europe".

Ukraine applied to join the EU four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. The EU's executive, the European Commission, on Friday recommended that Ukraine receive candidate status.

Leaders of the 27-nation union will consider the question at a summit on Thursday and Friday and are expected to endorse Ukraine's application despite misgivings from some member states. The process could take many years to complete.

The EU's embrace of Ukraine would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow's southern neighbour outside of the West's sphere of influence.

"Obviously, we expect Russia to intensify hostile activity this week ... We are preparing. We are ready," Zelensky said.

Ukraine is not only trying to rally support from Western allies but galvanize them to be in this fight for the long term, explains FRANCE 24's Senior reporter, Catherine Norris Trent, reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

05:19 am: Russia claims deadly strikes on military meeting, weapons depot

Ukraine said Sunday it had repulsed fresh attacks by Russian forces on the eastern front, rocked by weeks of fierce battles as Moscow tries to seize the industrial Donbas region.

Russia's defence ministry said on Sunday it launched missile strikes during the past 24 hours, with one attack by Kalibr missiles on a top-level Ukrainian military meeting near the city of Dnipro killing "more than 50 generals and officers".

It said it also targeted a building housing Western-provided weapons in the holdout Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, destroying "ten 155mm howitzers and around 20 armoured vehicles supplied by the West to the Kyiv regime over the last ten days".

There was no independent verification of the claims.

Ukraine has repeatedly urged Western countries to step up their deliveries of arms since the February 24 invasion, despite warnings from nuclear-armed Russia that it could trigger wider conflict.

Ukrainian president Zelensky spoke Sunday after making a rare trip outside Kyiv a day earlier to Mykolaiv, where he visited troops nearby and in the neighbouring Odessa region for the first time since the invasion.

"We will not give away the south to anyone, we will return everything that's ours and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe," he said in a video posted on Telegram as he made his way back to Kyiv.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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