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Finland’s armed forces chief says his country is prepared for a Russian attack and ready to fight – as it happened

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 Updated 
Wed 22 Jun 2022 20.26 EDTFirst published on Wed 22 Jun 2022 00.31 EDT
A Ukrainian service member points an AK-74 assault rifle while defending the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk, Ukraine, from Russian forces.
A Ukrainian service member points an AK-74 assault rifle while defending the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk Photograph: Reuters
A Ukrainian service member points an AK-74 assault rifle while defending the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk Photograph: Reuters

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Finland ‘ready to fight Russia if attacked’

Finland’s armed forces chief, Gen Timo Kivinen, said his country was prepared for a Russian attack and would put up stiff resistance in the event that one should occur.

Finns are motivated to fight and the country has built up a substantial arsenal, Kivinen said in an interview. He said:

The most important line of defence is between one’s ears, as the war in Ukraine proves at the moment.

Finland has maintained a high level of military preparedness since the second world war, having fought two wars in the 1940s against its eastern neighbour, with which it shares a 810-mile border.

Kivinen said:

We have systematically developed our military defence precisely for this type of warfare that is being waged there [in Ukraine], with a massive use of firepower, armoured forces and also airforces.

He added:

Ukraine has been a tough bite to chew [for Russia] and so would be Finland.

Key events

Summary

Thank you for joining us for today’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

We will be pausing our live reporting overnight and returning in the morning.

In the meantime, you can read our comprehensive summary of the day’s events in our summary below.

  • Russian forces are edging closer to seizing the last pocket of resistance in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. Sievierodonetsk and its neighbouring city, Lysychansk, continue to be battered by intense Russian shelling. Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, said on Wednesday that Russian forces were moving towards Lysychansk, targeting the buildings of police, state security and prosecutors.
  • Dramatic footage has emerged from Russia of what appears to be a drone flying into an oil refinery and causing an explosion in what could be an attack inside Russia’s borders. Video shared on social media showed the unmanned aerial vehicle crashing into the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in Rostov region, in what would be an embarrassing breach of Russia’s air defence systems.
  • A television tower in the Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk has been badly damaged by shelling and broadcasting has been interrupted, the local Donetsk news agency reported. The Petrovskiy television centre is still standing, but part of its equipment has been damaged, while some equipment has been moved out, the agency said.
  • Residents and workers at a nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, a city in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, are being abducted by Russian occupiers, according to the region’s mayor. “Whereabouts of some unknown. The rest are in very difficult conditions: they are being tortured with electric shock, bullied physically and morally,” said mayor Dmytro Orlov.
  • British intelligence predicts that Russia’s momentum will slow over the next few months.“Our defence intelligence service believes, however, that in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources,” British prime minister, Boris Johnson, told reporters.
  • Ukraine has played down the chances of reaching an agreement with Russia that could allow blocked grain shipments to start sailing across the Black Sea. Consultations are ongoing, Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko, said. Russia’s defence ministry said Moscow and Ankara had agreed to continue discussions on safe vessel departures and grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
  • Leaders at the upcoming G7 summit in Germany will announce new measures aimed at pressuring Russia as well as new commitments to shore up European security, a senior US official has said. “We will roll out a concrete set of proposals to increase pressure on Russia,” the official said. The G7 is also likely to discuss the fate of a Russian turbine blocked in Canada and blamed for reducing gas supplies to Germany, Canada’s natural resources minister added.
  • Vladimir Putin has called for a strengthening of ties with countries from the Brics group of emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China South Africa– following western sanctions over Ukraine. The Russian leader said discussions were continuing on the “opening of Indian chain stores in Russia, increasing the share of Chinese automobiles” on the Russian market.
  • Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited in Iran on Wednesday to expand cooperation between the two nations in light of western sanctions. The Iranian foreign ministry said Lavrov’s visit was aimed at “expanding cooperation with the Eurasian region and the Caucasus”.
  • Europe needs to prepare immediately for Russia to turn off all gas exports to the region this winter, according to the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol. He called on governments to work on reducing demand and keeping nuclear power plants open.
Ukrainian servicemen seen on training exercises in the Odesa area on 22 June. [This is a corrected caption. An earlier version wrongly stated that live combat was shown]
Ukrainian servicemen seen on training exercises in the Odesa area on 22 June. [This is a corrected caption. An earlier version wrongly stated that live combat was shown] Photograph: Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images
A woman learns how to use a Kalashnikov assault rifle in Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine, during a security training programme aimed at teaching women to use guns and instructing them in urban combat tactics.
A woman learns how to use a Kalashnikov assault rifle in Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine, during a security training programme aimed at teaching women to use guns and instructing them in urban combat tactics. Photograph: Marina Moiseyenko/AFP/Getty Images
Servicemen of the 126th Separate Territorial Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine take part in military exercises in Odesa.
Servicemen of the 126th Separate Territorial Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine take part in military exercises in Odesa. Photograph: Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images

Countries should ask the United States for help if they have any problems importing Russian food and fertiliser, a senior US official has said.

“Nothing is stopping Russia from exporting its grain or fertiliser except to own policies and actions,” US State Department Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Assistant Secretary, Ramin Toloui, said according to a transcript published on Wednesday.

However he added that concerns had been raised about “so-called over compliance with sanctions.”

Facilitating Russian food and grain exports is a key part of attempts by UN and Turkish officials to broker a package deal with Moscow that would also allow for shipments of Ukraine grain from the Black Sea port of Odesa.

A meeting between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and UN officials would likely be held in Istanbul in coming weeks, sources in the Turkish presidency said.

“We are fully supportive of this and want to see that play out,” Toloui said of the UN efforts. “We’ll continue close coordination with the UN delegation and the government of Ukraine on ways to mitigate the impacts to global food security of Putin’s war in Ukraine.”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Iran on Wednesday to expand cooperation between the two nations in light of western sanctions.

Russia’s foreign ministry posted a clip of Lavrov’s opening remarks during a meeting with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi in which he said Moscow was adapting to what he called the west’s aggressive policies.

In all the countries experiencing the negative influence of the selfish line taken by the United States and its satellites, there arises the objective need to reconfigure their economic relations so they can avoid relying on the whims and vagaries of our western partners,” Lavrov said.

📸 FM Sergey #Lavrov & President Ebrahim Raisi 🇷🇺🇮🇷 meet in Tehran pic.twitter.com/ApAiXmx5kw

— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) June 22, 2022

Last month Moscow said Russia and Iran, which are both under western sanctions and sit on some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, had discussed swapping supplies for oil and gas as well as establishing a logistics hub.

While Moscow is challenging western sanctions over Ukraine, Tehran’s clerical rulers have been struggling to keep Iran’s economy afloat because of US sanctions that were reimposed after Washington exited Tehran’s nuclear deal in 2018.

“During Lavrov’s visit, Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, boosting bilateral and energy cooperation, as well as international and regional issues will be discussed,” Iranian state media reported.

The Iranian foreign ministry said on Monday that Lavrov’s visit was aimed at “expanding cooperation with the Eurasian region and the Caucasus”.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA said Lavrov would meet his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, on Thursday.

The G7 is also likely to discuss the fate of a Russian turbine blocked in Canada and blamed for reducing gas supplies to Germany, Canada’s natural resources minister said on Wednesday.

“If you talk to the Germans, they are very, very concerned about” a decline in gas supplies allegedly caused by the missing turbine, Jonathan Wilkinson told Reuters.

“I’m sure it’ll come up at least in the corridors of the G7 … I wouldn’t hold my breath that we’re going to find a resolution before the end.”

Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom has cut the capacity along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 40% of usual levels in recent days, citing the delayed return of equipment being serviced by Germany’s Siemens Energy in Canada.

Moscow said on Thursday more delays in repairs could lead to suspending all flows, putting a brake on Europe’s race to refill its gas inventories.

Canada, alongside its western allies, has issued sweeping sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. Russia calls the war a “special military operation”.

“We are trying to be sensitive to the concerns that Germany and others are expressing and trying to find a resolution that will allow us to ensure that we’re respecting the intent of the sanctions, but also ensuring we’re not penalising our allies,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said he did not know for sure if the turbines were the reason for the current reduction in gas supplies, but said the issue should be resolved anyway.

G7 summit to announce new measures against Russia - reports

Leaders at the upcoming G7 summit in Germany will announce new measures aimed at pressuring Russia over its invasion of Ukraine as well as new commitments to shore up European security, a senior US official has said.

“We will roll out a concrete set of proposals to increase pressure on Russia,” the official said.

US President Joe Biden will join the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan at the summit in Bavaria.

After attending the G7 summit from Sunday to Tuesday, Biden will fly to Madrid for a summit of the Nato military alliance next week.

Ukraine and Russia will feature heavily in both diplomatic gatherings as allies ponder how to weather the secondary impact from sanctions against Russia on their own economies - particularly in stoking high fuel prices.

Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, the US official said:

How do we maximise pain on Putin’s regime? How do we minimise spill-backs back to the rest of the world? And I think that’s exactly how the discussion around energy markets and energy market challenges will get framed.”

The official also confirmed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would address both summits by video link.

Summary

It’s 1am in Kyiv. Here’s where things stand:

  • British intelligence predicts that Russia’s momentum in its war in Ukraine will slow over the next few months, according to British prime minister Boris Johnson. “Our defence intelligence service believes, however, that in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources,” Johnson told a group of European newspapers.
  • Columbia Law School will advise Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on war reparations. Ukraine has added to its growing arsenal of U.S. lawyers, tapping Washington, D.C.-based Allen & Overy partner Patrick Pearsall through Columbia Law School as a legal advisor to Zelenskiy on reparations issues.
  • In a recent interview with Ukrainian outlet Hromadske, wounded Ukrainian soldiers said that Russian forces and weaponry significantly outnumber theirs. “There is one artillery shell of ours against about 20 of theirs … and I’m talking about only the bombardment artillery, I’m not even mentioning the cluster projectiles, which they deluge us with,” one soldier told the outlet.
  • Five women have been killed in the village of Pryshib in the Kharkiv oblast as a result of Russian shelling on Wednesday, Euromaidan Press reports. According to the outlet, at least 860 civilians have been killed by Russian forces in Kharkiv since the Russian invasion in February.
  • Ukraine’s parliament has approved and ratified the Istanbul Convention, a human rights treaty aimed to prevent and combat violence against women. The convention “will establish legally blinding standards for governments to prevent violence against all women and girls...and applies during armed conflict.”
  • Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has launched a series of criminal cases under the article of “discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” The cases include a list of “objectionable media.” the Belarusian outlet NEXTA, which is also on the list, reports.
  • The mayor of Enerhodar, a city in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, has said that locals, including workers at the nuclear power plant operator Energoatom, are being abducted by Russian occupiers. “Whereabouts of some unknown. The rest are in very difficult conditions: they are being tortured with electric shock, bullied physically and morally,” said mayor Dmytro Orlov.

That’s it from me, Maya Yang, as I hand over the blog to my colleague in Australia, Samantha Lock, who will bring you the latest updates on Ukraine. I’ll be back tomorrow, thank you.

British intelligence predicts that Russia’s momentum in its war in Ukraine will slow over the next few months, according to British prime minister Boris Johnson.

“Our defence intelligence service believes, however, that in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources,” Johnson told a group of European newspapers.

“Then we must help the Ukrainians to reverse the dynamic. I will argue for this at the Group of Seven summit (in Germany at the weekend),” he added.

When asked what a victory for Ukraine or failure for Putin would look like, Johnson replied, “That we at least regain the status quo that was there before Feb. 24 and that its (Russia’s) troops are repulsed from the areas they invaded.”

A handout photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) walking on the square near St. Mikhailovsky Cathedral in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, 17 June 2022.
A handout photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) walking on the square near St. Mikhailovsky Cathedral in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, 17 June 2022. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service Handout/EPA

Columbia Law School will advise Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on war reparations.

Reuters reports:

Ukraine has added to its growing arsenal of U.S. lawyers, tapping Washington, D.C.-based Allen & Overy partner Patrick Pearsall through Columbia Law School as a legal advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on reparations issues.

According to a filing with the U.S. Department of Justice dated June 13, Pearsall is studying international law remedies Ukraine may pursue in response to Russia’s four-month-old invasion.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires law firms, lobbying shops and public relations consultants to disclose certain engagements with foreign clients.

Pearsall did not report any income from the Ukraine engagement in the filing.

He is representing Zelenskiy as the director of Columbia Law’s new International Claims and Reparations Project.

The group is examining how Ukraine can utilize international law to bring claims against Russia and seek reparations for its hostilities, according to a May statement from Columbia Law.

Ukraine has added to its growing arsenal of U.S. lawyers, tapping Washington, D.C.-based Allen & Overy partner Patrick Pearsall through Columbia Law School as a legal advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on reparations issues, @Karen_Sloan1 reportshttps://t.co/mlyXaNx3TX 1/4 pic.twitter.com/39Cl2EoIN4

— Reuters Legal (@ReutersLegal) June 22, 2022

In a recent interview with Ukrainian outlet Hromadske, wounded Ukrainian soldiers said that Russian forces and weaponry significantly outnumber theirs.

“There is one artillery shell of ours against about 20 of theirs … and I’m talking about only the bombardment artillery, I’m not even mentioning the cluster projectiles, which they deluge us with,” one soldier told the outlet.

Another soldier said, “We were going to the positions to replace a brigade. Our brigade, our company was coming. And our company was fired [on] by tanks, planes, helicopters and missiles.”

Ukrainian forces have been pleading for increased western military assistance as the war enters its fourth month.

Hromadske visited frontline hospitals of Donbas, now most difficult part of the front

Wounded soldiers confirm that Russia significantly outnumbers Ukraine in artillery. They are waiting for Western help to come &hope Russians will waste their ammunition https://t.co/NF2G8mtCj0 pic.twitter.com/12tkBLhgI5

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) June 22, 2022

Five women have been killed in the village of Pryshib in the Kharkiv oblast as a result of Russian shelling on Wednesday, Euromaidan Press reports.

According to the outlet, at least 860 civilians have been killed by Russian forces in Kharkiv since the Russian invasion in February.

Today 5 women have been killed in the village of Pryshib, Kharkiv Oblast as a result of Russian shelling, Izium district head https://t.co/2RErkJmYSX

As of June 19, it is known that 860 civilians were killed by the Russian military in Kharkiv Oblast since 24 Feb 2022

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) June 22, 2022
A view on a destroyed building in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, 22 June 2022.
A view on a destroyed building in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, 22 June 2022. Photograph: Orlando Barría/EPA

Ukraine’s parliament has approved and ratified the Istanbul Convention, a human rights treaty aimed to prevent and combat violence against women.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a law that ratified the Istanbul Convention, a move that has been described as “historic moment for Ukraine...which supports the policy of gender equality.”

The Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić praised the move, saying, “This is a huge step forward in protecting women and girls from all forms of violence, whether in Ukraine or abroad.”

According to the UN website Relief Web, the convention “will establish legally blinding standards for governments to prevent violence against all women and girls...and applies during armed conflict.”

The Ukrainian authorities' ratification of the #IstanbulConvention opens additional ways to prevent and combat violence against women. Such a step is further evidence of Ukraine's readiness to become a full member of the European community 🇪🇺🇺🇦https://t.co/FIaTCEeLBp pic.twitter.com/NcX8ZoG3ox

— Kateryna Pavlichenko (@Pavlichenko_K) June 22, 2022

Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has launched a series of criminal cases under the article of “discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” and has included a list of “objectionable media.” the Belarusian outlet NEXTA reports.

Russian Prosecutor General's Office initiated a criminal cases under the article "discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation" and compiled a list of objectionable media, which included NEXTA, as well as a number of other media that opposed the war in #Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/JszpvF1erl

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) June 22, 2022

The mayor of Enerhodar, a city in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, has said that locals, including workers at the nuclear power plant operator Energoatom, are being abducted by Russian occupiers.

“Whereabouts of some unknown. The rest are in very difficult conditions: they are being tortured with electric shock, bullied physically and morally,” said mayor Dmytro Orlov.

Locals, incl Enerhoatom workers, are being abducted en masse by Russian occupiers in Enerhodar, mayor says

"Whereabouts of some unknown. The rest are in very difficult conditions: they are being tortured with electric shock, bullied physically &morally" https://t.co/ZfJy5Nuer6 pic.twitter.com/cxaA9yZeY8

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) June 22, 2022

Orlov added that the “exchange of civilian prisoners abducted by the occupiers was urgently needed at the highest level”.

Summary

It is 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Russian forces are edging closer to seizing the last pocket of resistance in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. Sievierodonetsk and its neighbouring city, Lysychansk, continue to be battered by intense Russian shelling. Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, said on Wednesday that Russian forces were moving towards Lysychansk, targeting the buildings of police, state security and prosecutors.
  • A television tower in the Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk has been badly damaged by shelling and broadcasting has been interrupted, the local Donetsk news agency reported. The Petrovskiy television centre is still standing, but part of its equipment has been damaged, while some equipment has been moved out, the agency said.
  • Ukraine has played down the chances of reaching an agreement with Russia that could allow blocked grain shipments to start sailing across the Black Sea. Consultations are ongoing, Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko, said. Russia’s defence ministry said Moscow and Ankara had agreed to continue discussions on safe vessel departures and grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
  • Europe needs to prepare immediately for Russia to turn off all gas exports to the region this winter, according to the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol. He called on governments to work on reducing demand and keeping nuclear power plants open.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, today on the blog. My colleagues in the US will be here shortly with the latest from Ukraine. Thank you.

Ukrainian soldiers take part in military exercises in Odesa region.
Ukrainian soldiers take part in military exercises in Odesa region. Photograph: Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images
A boy with a toy machine gun stands near Ukrainian servicemen as they patrol central Kyiv.
A boy with a toy rifle stands near Ukrainian servicemen as they patrol central Kyiv. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

A television tower in the Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk has been badly damaged by shelling and broadcasting has been interrupted, Russian state media cited the local Donetsk news agency as saying.

The Petrovskiy television centre is still standing, but part of its equipment has been damaged, while some equipment has been moved out, according to the Donetsk news agency.

Footage shows a plume of smoke rising above Mykolaiv after a vegetable oil terminal caught fire in the Ukrainian port city.

Mykolaiv was struck seven times early on Wednesday, according to local officials. Strikes in other parts of the city killed at least one person and damaged homes, businesses and a school, the city’s mayor said.

Vegetable oil depot burns in Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv – video