Latest on war in Ukraine today: Putin ‘shifts focus to Donetsk’ after capturing main city of Luhansk

‘World War III has already begun,’ says Ukrainian defense minister

Russia will “almost certainly” shift its focus to conquering Donetsk Oblast now that Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from Luhansk, the British Ministry of Defense has said.

The ministry added that the battle for the Donbas has been “tiring and exhausting and it is highly unlikely that this will change in the coming weeks”.

Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that Ukrainian fighters have left the last major city in Luhansk, but said his troops will return and regain control of the territory using modern weapons.

Mr Zelensky said in a speech last night: “If the command of our army withdraws people from certain points of the front where the enemy has the greatest fire superiority, especially Lysychansk, it means only one thing: we will return, thank you to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.

“And if anyone there in Moscow reports anything about the Luhansk region, let them remember their reports and promises for February 24, in the early days of this invasion, in the spring and now.”

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Pope Francis Says There Is Still ‘Very Open Dialogue’ With Russia

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said he would like to go to Ukraine and “want to go to Moscow first”.

He said: “We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the President of Russia would give me a small window, I would go there to serve the cause of peace… And now it is possible, after I return am from canada; it is possible that i will manage to go to ukraine.

“The first is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”

He added: “(With Russia) there is still that very open dialogue, very cordial, very diplomatic in the positive sense of the word, but for the moment it’s OK; the door is open.”

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 10:41 am

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Putin will not congratulate Biden on July 4, Kremlin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not congratulate his American counterpart Joe Biden on Monday on American Independence Day because of Washington’s “unfriendly” actions towards Moscow, the Kremlin said.

“Congratulations this year can hardly be considered appropriate,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a conference call. “The unfriendly policy of the United States is the reason.”

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 10:26

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Russian cosmonauts celebrate the conquest of Ukraine’s Luhansk region in space

Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station on Monday celebrated Russia’s conquest of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, a major milestone for Moscow in the war.

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

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

“This is a long-awaited day that the inhabitants of the occupied territories of the Luhansk region have been waiting for for eight years,” 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.”

Russia announced on Sunday that Russian and separatist forces have taken full control of the Luhansk region after capturing its last major city, Lysychansk.

Ukraine, which has vowed to reclaim lost territory, said its troops have withdrawn from their last remaining bastion in the region to save the lives of its soldiers. Kiev said its forces would regroup to launch a counter-offensive using Western long-range weapons.

After being rebuffed in its first attempt to take the capital Kiev in February, Russia has focused on expelling Ukrainian troops from the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Kiev since Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 10:05 am

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Western ambassadors to China sound at a rare forum about Russia

Western envoys to China criticized Russia on Monday 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 refused to condemn Moscow’s attack.

Speaking at the World Peace Forum hosted by Tsinghua University, US Ambassador Nicholas Burns called Russia’s war against Ukraine “the greatest threat to global world order”.

Burns said he hoped Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesmen would stop repeating “Russian propaganda” blaming NATO for the war.

“I hope State Department spokesmen would also stop telling lies about US bioweapons labs, which do not exist in Ukraine,” he said.

Burns was flanked by the British and French ambassadors to his left and a Chinese government adviser and the Russian ambassador to his right. The forum organizer had announced the session as a discussion between representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

While the session dealt with the broad topic of “The United Nations and the World Order,” all three Western ambassadors criticized Russia for what they called the illegal aggression against Ukraine, a characterization rejected by Russian Ambassador Andrey Denisov.

British Ambassador Caroline Wilson told the audience, made up of foreign diplomats, Chinese students and academics: “If Russia has its way, we would have global anarchy”.

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 09:48

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Australian Prime Minister Visits Ukraine

The Australian Prime Minister has shown his support for Ukraine after a visit to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Anthony Albanese wrote in a Twitter post today: “My visit to Ukraine sends a clear signal that democratic countries such as Australia will stand by the Ukrainian people in times of need.”

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 09:30

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Ukraine claims Russian military base was hit

Ukraine said its air force had flown some 15 sorties “in virtually all directions of hostilities”, destroying equipment and two ammunition depots.

In the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ukrainian troops hit a military logistics base with more than 30 strikes on Sunday, exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said. An official installed by Russia confirmed that strikes had hit the city.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield records.

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 09:15 am

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Luhansk governor says Russia will shift focus to Donetsk . region

Russia will shift the main focus of its war in Ukraine to trying to take the entire Donetsk region after conquering neighboring Luhansk, the Luhansk region’s governor said Monday.

Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Reuters in an interview that he expected the city of Sloviansk and the city of Bakhmut in particular to be attacked as Russia tries to gain full control of what is known as the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Russia says it has gained full control of the Luhansk region after a withdrawal by Ukrainian troops from the bombed city of Lysychansk.

“In terms of the military it is bad to leave positions, but there is nothing critical (in the loss of Lysychansk). We must win the war, not the battle for Lysychansk,” Gaidai said.

“It hurts a lot, but it’s not losing the war.”

He said the withdrawal from Lysychansk had been “centralised”, indicating that it was planned and orderly, but that Ukrainian forces risked being surrounded.

“Yet for them (Russian troops) target number 1 is the Donetsk region. Sloviansk and Bakhmut will be attacked – Bakhmut has already been shelled very hard,” he said.

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 09:00

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Donetsk Oblast: 9 civilians killed, 25 injured

The Kyiv Independent has reported that six civilians were killed in Sloviansk, one in Avdiivka, one in Bakhmut and one in Zaitseve on July 3, according to Donetsk Oblast governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

There are two children among the dead.

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 08:45

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Kharviv strikes: six dead in Sloviansk

Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had “brutally” hit Kharkov, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk with rocket attacks, killing six and injuring 20 in Sloviansk alone.

Russia’s defense ministry also said on Sunday it had hit the military infrastructure of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the northeast, where a Reuters reporter said Ukrainian forces were building fortifications after nighttime shelling.

Outside a school in Kharkiv, some residents threw rubble into a large crater created by an early morning rocket attack, while others got help repairing damaged homes.

“The woman was lucky enough to wake up early in the morning because the roof fell exactly where she had been sleeping,” one resident, Oleksii Mihulin, told Reuters.

About 70 km (44 miles) from Kharkiv on the Russian side of the border, Russia also reported explosions in Belgorod on Sunday, killing at least three people and destroying homes.

“The noise was so strong that I jumped up, I woke up, got really scared and started screaming,” a Belgorod resident told Reuters, adding that the blast happened around 3am (0000 GMT).

Moscow has accused Kiev of numerous attacks on Belgorod and other areas bordering Ukraine. Kiev never claimed responsibility for any of these incidents.

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 08:27

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ICYMI- Ukrainian army announces withdrawal from last major city in Luhansk. at

The Ukrainian army has confirmed that it has withdrawn from Lysychansk, the last major city that the country’s armed forces keep in the main eastern province of Luhansk.

Earlier on Sunday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had told President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated” — a claim Ukrainian defense officials initially denied.

But in a statement posted to an official Facebook page on Sunday night, the Ukrainian General Staff office said it had withdrawn after “heavy fighting” to protect its troops, it writes. Call Trew

Maryam Zakir-HussainJuly 4, 2022 08:12

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