Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now


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Ukrainian forces were holding their positions in intense street fighting and under day and night shelling in Sievierodonetsk, officials said, as Russia pushes to control the bombed-out city, key to its objective of controlling eastern Ukraine.

FIGHTING

* Russia is looking for weak points in Ukrainian defenses near the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said on Friday. He told national television that Russian forces had not abandoned attempts to launch storming operations in the area.

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* Britain on Friday condemned Russian proxy authorities in Donbas for what it called an “egregious breach” of the Geneva convention in sentencing to death two British nationals captured in the separatist region while fighting for Ukraine.

* Cholera and other deadly diseases could kill thousands of people in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol as corpses lie uncollected and summer brings warmer weather, its mayor said. Britain’s Ministry of Defence also warned of the risks of a major cholera outbreak as Russia struggles to provide basic public services to the population in territories it has occupied.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Russia’s central bank cut its key interest rate to the pre-crisis level of 9.5% and kept the door open to further easing as inflation slowed, while noting uncertainty related to external risks such as the Western embargo on Russian oil.

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* Switzerland has adopted new EU sanctions against Belarus and Russia, also imposing financial and travel sanctions on 100 additional individuals and entities, including oligarch Aleksandra Melnichenko, the Federal Council said on Friday.

* Ukrainian grain exports are rising and nearing 2 million tonnes per month now, European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said on Friday.

* The IMF said Canada and Germany have already pledged over $2 billion to a new fund to aid Ukraine and that it hoped other countries would contribute as much as possible.

DIPLOMACY

* France is unwilling to make concessions to Russia and wants Ukraine to win the war against Moscow’s invading forces with its territorial integrity restored, a French presidential official said on Friday, as Paris seeks to assuage concerns over its stance in the conflict.

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* Germany, the world’s fifth-largest arms exporter, plans to revise its rules on arms exports to make it easier to arm democracies like Ukraine and harder to sell weapons to autocracies, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

* NATO’s deputy chief said on Friday he saw no immediate military threat to Sweden and Finland from Russia and is confident the aspiring NATO members will join the alliance despite Turkey’s objections.

* German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Friday he had asked Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to join European Union sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Russia during their bilateral talks in Belgrade. (Compiled by Kim Coghill, Philippa Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman)

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