Russia-Ukraine War: Latest developments as conflict enters Day 163


It has been 163 days since Russia invaded Ukraine

Photo : AP

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:

  • US ratifies Finland, Sweden NATO membership

The US Senate ratified the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO, strongly backing the expansion of the transatlantic military alliance in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With the agreement of all 30 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization needed before hitherto non-aligned Finland and Sweden can join, the United States becomes the 23rd to give the nod.

Of the seven member countries which have yet to formally agree, only Turkey has raised a challenge, demanding certain concessions from both countries to back their memberships.

These include the extradition of dozens of government opponents it labels “terrorists” from both countries in exchange for its support.

Ankara has said a special committee will meet Finnish and Swedish officials in August to assess if the two nations are complying with its conditions.

  • Deadly bus stop shelling

Russian shelling of a bus stop in the frontline east Ukraine town of Toretsk killed eight people and injures four, the regional governor said.

“According to preliminary information, there was artillery fire. They hit a public transport stop, where there was a crowd of people at that time,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Ukraine-run Donetsk region administration, wrote on Telegram.

The attack comes as Kyiv orders civilians to leave the war-torn Donetsk region which is bearing the brunt of Moscow’s gruelling eastern offensive.

Ukrainian officials said Russia also continues to pound towns and cities across the sprawling front line, notably in Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv in the northeast.

  • Ukrainian forces endangering civilians: Amnesty

Rights group Amnesty International accused Ukrainian forces of violating international law and endangering civilians by establishing bases in residential areas, including in schools and hospitals.

Their tactics “in no way justify Russia’s indiscriminate attacks”, it said in a new report, and some Russian “war crimes” including in the city of Kharkiv are not linked to the tactics.

But it listed incidents when Ukrainian forces appeared to have exposed civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions.

Ukraine slammed the report as “unfair”.

“This behaviour of Amnesty International is not about finding and reporting the truth to the world, it is about creating a false equivalence — between the offender and the victim, between the country that destroys hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, territories, and a country that is desperately defending itself,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video posted on Facebook.
  • Three more grain ships to leave Ukraine

Three more ships filled with grain to sail from Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal lifting Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey’s defence minister said.

“It is planned that three ships will set sail tomorrow from Ukraine,” the Anadolu state news agency quoted Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying, one day after the first ship passed Istanbul on its way to Lebanon.

  • Accused grain ship leaves Lebanese port

A Syrian ship left the Lebanese port of Tripoli after being cleared for release following its seizure over allegations that it was carrying flour and barley stolen from Ukraine.

Investigations have failed to prove ‘The Laodicea’ carried stolen goods, officials say.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Moscow’s forces of ransacking its grain warehouses since Russia invaded on February 24.

Ukraine says it is “disappointed” by the decision, which it argues will encourage Russia to “continue thefts in the temporarily occupied southern Ukraine with a sense of impunity.”

  • UN to seek ‘truths’ on prison bombing

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres announced he will launch a fact-finding mission to uncover the “truths” about a jail where dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war died in a bombing strike last week.

Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other over the strikes on the prison in Kremlin-controlled Olenivka in eastern Ukraine, which killed over 50.

Moscow said that among the dead were Ukrainian forces that had laid down their arms after weeks of fighting off Russia’s brutal bombardment of the sprawling Azovstal steel works in Mariupol.

(With extensive inputs from AFP)