The UK’s ministry of defence has issued its regular daily intelligence briefing on the situation in the ground in Ukraine. It says:
Fighting continues in the Sieverodonetsk pocket but, in the last 48 hours, Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces (EGF) have also likely increased their efforts to advance to the south of Izium.
Russia’s progress on the Izium axis had remained stalled since April, after Ukrainian forces made good use of the terrain to slow Russia’s advance.
Russia has likely attempted to reconstitute EGF after they suffered very heavy casualties in the failed advance on Kyiv, but its units likely remain understrength.
Russia likely seeks to regain momentum in this area in order to put further pressure on Sieverodonetsk, and to give it the option of advancing deeper into the Donetsk Oblast.
Russia’s permanent representative to the UN has insisted Moscow is making progress in Ukraine and the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions will be “liberated … very soon”.
Vasily Nebenzya was interviewed for the BBC’s HardTalk where host Steven Sackur grilled the official on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“After 100 days of armed conflict, can you say that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is going according to plan?” Sackur asked. Nebenzya replied:
It seems to me that there is progress. No one promised a result in three days or a week.
Now some experts assure that the Russian military operation has stalled and is going much slower than planned. But there is progress, it continues, and it’s clear as day.”
Sackur pressed: “Do you admit that the original plan to take over Kyiv and install a pro-Russian regime there has completely failed?”
“I don’t know anything about such plans,” Nebenzya said, noting that no one from the Russian command had ever said out loud that Moscow intended to take control of Kyiv by installing a puppet government there.
“The scale of your losses over the past 100 days is amazing. People living in Russia would be absolutely shocked by these figures if they knew about them,” Sakur continued.
Nebenzia said any losses could not be confirmed.
“As I said, they are not officially disclosed, and in the course of any conflict, the parties tend to greatly inflate each other’s losses. I cannot tell you the numbers and I cannot comment that Ukraine or the US are talking about it there.”
Sakur responded that in more than 100 days in, the conflict has seemingly reached a stalemate. “You still haven’t taken Sievierodonetsk. You can’t even take Luhansk in its entirety, not to mention the entire Donbas. If this, in your opinion, is progress, then I’m very interested: What exactly is the plan, anyway?”
According to the Russian permanent representative, the main goal now is the liberation of Donbas. “Just give it time … and you will see the Donetsk and Luhansk regions liberated. And, I hope, this will happen very soon.”
Former pro wrestler John Cena met with one of his Ukrainian fans – a 19-year-old resident of Mariupol with Down Syndrome – after the teenager and his family fled Ukraine with the promise that the actor was waiting for them in America.
Misha Rohozhyn and his mother, Liana, fled Mariupol in March.
To motivate Misha on their journey to safety, his mother told him they were on their way to find Cena.
Misha met with the 45-year-old actor in Huizen, Netherlands, where he and his relatives have sought refuge.
Cena became aware of the 19-year-old after he was chronicled in a piece for The Wall Street Journal in May that explored the impact of war on people with disabilities.
Recently released photos show what daily life is like for Ukrainian serviceman fighting on Ukraine’s eastern frontlines.
In case you missed it earlier, here is the moment a Ukrainian journalist confronted Russia’s foreign minister, accusing Moscow of stealing grain amid fears of world hunger if the issue is not resolved.
Sergei Lavrov was in Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the establishment of secure corridors for Ukrainian grain exports.
“Apart from cereals, what other goods did you steal from Ukraine and who did you sell them to?” journalist Muslim Umerov asked.
Lavrov, smiling, replied: “You Ukrainians are always worried about what you can steal and you think everyone thinks that way.”
Contacted later by Agence France-Presse, Umerov, who is based in Istanbul for Ukrainian public television, explained that he had raised his hand during the whole question-and-answer session but realised that the organisers “would not let me speak” so decided to interject loudly.
“I took the risk of disrupting the news conference because all of Ukraine is waiting for the answer to this question,” he said.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said the battle for the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk will decide the fate of Donbas and is seeing probably the most difficult fighting since Russia’s invasion began.
“Sievierodonetsk remains the epicentre of the confrontation in Donbas,” Zelenskiy said in a late-night address to the nation on Wednesday evening, claiming that Ukraine had inflicted “significant losses on the enemy”.
However, regional leaders said earlier that Ukrainian forces had been pushed back to the outskirts of the key frontline city amid heavy fighting there and in frontline villages to the south as Russia pursues a breakthrough in Donbas.
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, said most of the city was now in Russian hands and that it was no longer possible to rescue civilians stranded there.
“Our [forces] now again control only the outskirts of the city. But the fighting is still going on, our [forces] are defending Sievierodonetsk. It is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city,” the governor said.
Zelenskiy corroborated reports of heavy fighting, saying the battle for Sievierodonetsk was “probably one of the most difficult during this war”.
“In particular the fate of Donbas is being decided there,” he added.
Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you on the Guardian’s live blog as we cover all the latest developments from Ukraine.
If you’re just waking up, or just dropping in to find the latest information, here’s a summary of the main points you might have missed:
- Ukrainian forces have been pushed back by a Russian bombardment in the frontline eastern city of Sievierodonetsk and now only control its outskirts. Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, said most of the city was now in Russian hands and that it was no longer possible to rescue civilians stranded there.
- The battle for Sievierodonetsk – where the fate of Donbas is being decided – is probably the most difficult seen so far during the war, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said. “Battle for Sievierodonetsk is probably one of the most difficult during this war, and in particular the fate of Donbas is being decided there,” he said in his latest national address on Wednesday night.
- A Ukrainian journalist confronted Lavrov about grain exports from Ukraine during a visit to Ankara, Turkey. “Apart from cereals, what other goods did you steal from Ukraine and who did you sell them to?” Muslim Umerov asked.
- The UN’s secretary general, António Guterres, warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake”. A new report by the UN said an estimated 94 countries, home to around 1.6bn people, are “severely exposed to at least one dimension of the crisis and unable to cope with it”.
- Russian-installed officials in the occupied part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region reportedly plan to stage a referendum later this year on joining Russia. A Kremlin-backed official, Vladimir Rogov, was quoted by the Russian state-owned news agency Tass as saying: “The people will determine the future of the Zaporizhzhia region.” Ukraine says any referendums held under Russian occupation would be illegal and their results fraudulent.
- More than 1,000 Ukrainian servicemen and foreign mercenaries, who had surrendered in Mariupol, have been transferred to Russia for an investigation there, Russian state-owned news agency Tass reports. More Ukrainian prisoners of war will be taken to Russia “later on”, a Russian law enforcement source told the outlet.
- Two British men captured by Russian forces while fighting alongside Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol face 20 years in prison, according to a video shared by Russian state media. Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, appeared in court in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
- Britain’s economy will suffer more than any other major industrial country from the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The UK will grow by 3.6% in 2022 before posting zero growth in 2023, according to the Paris-based thinktank the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
- Ukraine has received the first billion dollars of the $40 billion aid package that the US Congress approved last month. In a tweet on Wednesday, US ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A Brink said: “Supporting Ukraine means strengthening its economy. Direct support of $1 billion is already here to help Ukraine and its people move forward.”
- Zelenskiy said he met with American philanthropist Howard Buffet, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffet, in Kyiv to discuss rebuilding efforts. “We discussed assistance that would be valuable for our state. I offered him the chance to join projects restoring irrigation systems in the Odesa region, supporting our people, (and) mine clearance,” Zelenskiy said in a tweet.
- Russian authorities have further cracked down against citizens who speak out about the fighting in Ukraine. A Moscow court on Wednesday extended the detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., a journalist and former associate of assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, accusing him of spreading lies about the Russian military. Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov said a criminal case had also been opened against him.