Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now


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The Ukrainian military said it had killed scores of Russian soldiers in fighting in the south, including the Kherson region that is the focus of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in that part of the country and a key link in Moscow’s supply lines.

FIGHTING * Ukraine’s government has decided on a mandatory evacuation of people in the eastern Donetsk region, scene of fierce fighting with Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday. In a late-night address, Zelenskiy also said the hundreds of thousands of people still in combat zones in the larger Donbas region needed to leave. * Rail traffic to Kherson over the Dnipro River has been cut, the Ukrainian military’s southern command said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east. * South of the town of Bakhmut – cited by Russia as a prime target in Donetsk – Ukraine’s military said Russian forces had been “partially successful” in establishing control over the settlement of Semyhirya by storming it from three directions.

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* Ukraine’s military said that on Friday more than 100 Russian soldiers had been killed and seven tanks destroyed in fighting in southern Ukraine.

* Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the deaths on Friday of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the Donetsk region. Moscow-backed separatists said Kyiv targeted the facility with U.S.-made rockets. Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian artillery had targeted the facility to hide the mistreatment of prisoners.

* Russian-installed authorities in occupied territories in southern Ukraine may be preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia later this year and are “likely coercing the population into disclosing personal details in order to compose voting registers,” UK military intelligence said.

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* Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.

DIPLOMACY

* U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday held the first call between the top U.S. and Russian diplomats since before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, to discuss a U.S.-proposed prisoner swap.

* Blinken said the world expected Russia to fulfill its commitments under a deal with Ukraine to reopen grain and fertilizer exports. Lavrov said U.S. sanctions complicated the global food situation.

* Lavrov said Russia will meet the aims of its “special military operation” and that Western arms supplies to Kyiv were prolonging the conflict.

* Blinken also expressed his condolences over the deaths of the Ukrainian prisoners of war in a phone call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

* Russia’s foreign ministry announced sanctions against 32 officials and journalists from New Zealand for supporting what it called the country’s “Russophobic agenda.” (Compiled by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)



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