Russia-Ukraine war live news: Zelenskiy fires top officials; Moscow prepares for next offensive

Key events:

EU to discuss tightening sanctions against Russia

EU foreign ministers are expected to meet in Brussels on Monday to hold sanctions discussions, according to a senior EU official.

Among the measures being considered is a ban on gold purchases from Russia, a move already put in place by international partners.

The EU could also act to impose sanctions on additional Russian individuals.

A senior EU official told Agence France-Presse the EU was likely to discuss further sanctions at the meeting but would not make an immediate decision.

The new measures come as “Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine continues unabated”, Ursula Von der Leyen said in a statement.

Therefore, we are proposing today to tighten our hard-hitting EU sanctions against the Kremlin, enforce them more effectively and extend them until January 2023. Moscow must continue to pay a high price for its aggression.”

Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, added:

The EU’s sanctions are tough and hard-hitting. We continue to target those close to Putin and the Kremlin … I will also present proposals to Council for the listing of more individuals and entities, with their assets frozen and ability to travel curtailed.”

In case you missed this exchange earlier, British prime ministerial candidate Liz Truss said she was prepared to sit down with Vladimir Putin at the G20.

In the latest TV debate on Sunday night, the Conservative leadership hopefuls were asked if they would sit next to the Russian president at a G20 summit.

Truss said she would “call Putin out” and it was important for the free world to face down Russia.

Penny Mordaunt, Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch all said they would not sit down with Putin, at least in current circumstances.

Rishi Sunak said he has walked out before rather than sit down with the Russians.

China is not a party to the Ukrainian crisis, but will not sit idly by, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reportedly said during a phone call with his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó.

Yi and Szijjarto talked over the phone on Sunday about bilateral ties between the countries and the Ukraine crisis, according to a report by China’s Xinhua news agency.

Russia’s state media agency RIA Novosti quoted Yi as saying:

China is not a party to the Ukrainian crisis, but we are not going to be an indifferent spectator and, moreover, we are not going to add fuel to the fire, we have always been adamant and consistent in encouraging peace and negotiations.”

The lessons from the Ukraine crisis are “profound and worth well learning for all sides”, Wang noted, saying that in the long run, the parties should discuss building a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security framework, so as to realise lasting peace and security.

Russian journalist who staged TV protest arrested, later released

Russian police detained the journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who in March interrupted a live television broadcast to denounce the military action in Ukraine, her lawyer said earlier on Sunday.

No official statement has been made, but her entourage posted a message on the journalist’s Telegram account on Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Marina has been detained. There is no information on where she is.”

The message included three photos of her being led by two police officers to a white van, after apparently having been stopped while cycling.

Ovsyannikova also posted images of herself and two dogs on her Facebook page, later revealing she had been released.

Went for a walk with the dogs, just stepped outside the gate, people in uniform approached me. Now I’m sitting in Krasnoselsky ministry of internal affairs.

Three hours later, Ovsyannikova said she had been released. “I’m home. Everything is OK,” she wrote. “But now I know it’s always best to bring a suitcase and passport if you go out.”

В Москве полиция задержала журналистку и бывшую сотрудницу Первого канала Марину Овсянникову.
Ее доставили в отдел по Красносельскому району, на помощь отправился адвокат от ОВД-Инфо Дмитрий Захватовhttps://t.co/NSbJrHI9TW

Фото: телеграм-канал Марии Овсянниковой pic.twitter.com/LgqPZutXaK

— ОВД-Инфо (@OvdInfo) July 17, 2022

Her lawyer, Dmitri Zakhvatov, confirmed her arrest to the Ria-Novosti news agency, saying he did not know where Ovsyannikova had been taken.

“I assume that it is linked one way or another to her act of protest,” he added.

In March, Ovsyannikova, an editor at Channel One television, barged on to the set of its flagship Vremya (Time) evening news programme, holding a poster reading “No War” in English.

On Friday, Ovsyannikova posted photos of herself on Telegram showing her near the Kremlin and carrying a protest placard raising the deaths of children and denouncing Putin as a “killer”.

Russia prepares for next offensive

Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian and British military officials after its military claimed to have undertaken an “operational pause”.

The Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping units for an offensive towards Sloviansk, a symbolically important city held by Ukraine in the eastern region of Donetsk.

The British defence ministry added that Russia was also reinforcing its defensive positions across the occupied areas in southern Ukraine.

A child walks on the debris left by an explosion following a missile strike on a civilian neighbourhood in Bakhmut, near Sloviansk, Ukraine.
A child walks on the debris left by an explosion following a missile strike on a civilian neighbourhood in Bakhmut, near Sloviansk, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, ordered Russian military units operating in all areas of Ukraine to step up their operations to prevent strikes on eastern Ukraine and other territories under Russian control, the ministry said in a statement on its website on Saturday.

It said Shoigu “gave the necessary instructions to further increase the actions of groups in all operational areas in order to exclude the possibility of the Kyiv regime launching massive rocket and artillery strikes on civilian infrastructure and residents of settlements in Donbas and other regions”.

Zelenskiy fires Ukraine’s spy chief and top state prosecutor

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has fired the head of Ukraine’s powerful domestic security agency, the SBU, and the state prosecutor general, citing dozens of cases of collaboration with Russia by officials in their agencies.

Sunday’s abrupt sackings of SBU chief Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend of Zelenskiy, and the prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, who played a key role in the prosecution of Russian war crimes, were announced in executive orders on the president’s website.

Zelenskiy said he fired the top officials because it had come to light that many members of their agencies had collaborated with Russia.

Zelenskiy fires Ukraine’s spy chief and state prosecutor, citing collaboration with Russia – video

As of today, 651 criminal proceedings have been registered regarding treason and collaboration activities of employees of prosecutor’s offices, pretrial investigation bodies, and other law enforcement agencies.

In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the Security Service of Ukraine remained in the occupied territory and are working against our state.

Such an array of crimes against the foundations of the national security of the state and the connections detected between the employees of the security forces of Ukraine and the special services of Russia pose very serious questions to the relevant leadership. Each of these questions will receive a proper answer.”

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

I’m Samantha Lock and I will be bringing you all the latest developments for the next short while.

In a fairly explosive new development, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, fired the country’s head of the security service and the prosecutor general on Sunday, citing dozens of cases of collaboration with Russia by officials in their agencies.

Military officials in both Ukraine and the UK have also warned Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive.

It is 7.30am in Kyiv and here is where things currently stand:

  • The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has fired the country’s head of the security service and the prosecutor general, claiming more than 60 of their employees have been “working against” Ukraine in Russian-occupied territory. He added that 651 criminal proceedings had been registered relating to high treason and collaboration by employees of prosecutors’ offices, pretrial investigation bodies and other law enforcement agencies.
  • Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian military officials, after Moscow said its forces would step up military operations in “all operational areas”. The Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping units for an offensive towards Sloviansk, a symbolically important city held by Ukraine in the eastern region of Donetsk. The British defence ministry added that Russia was also reinforcing its defensive positions across the occupied areas in southern Ukraine.
  • 1,346 civilians have been found dead in the Kyiv region after the retreat of Russian forces, according to the region’s police chief. Andriy Nebytov said about 300 individuals were still missing, and that 700 of those killed were shot with small arms such as a handgun.
  • Russia has lost more than 30% of its land combat effectiveness and 50,000 of its soldiers have either died or been injured in the conflict, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the UK defence staff, told the BBC. The military chief added that Russia posed “the biggest threat” to the UK and that its challenge would endure for decades.
  • Mourners have buried a four-year-old girl who was killed by a Russian missile strike in the city of Vinnytsia, in central Ukraine, last week. The killing of Liza Dmitrieva, who had Down’s syndrome, as she was pushed in a stroller through a crowded square was reported around the globe, becoming a poignant symbol of the heavy civilian cost of Russia’s invasion.
  • Russian missiles hit an industrial and infrastructure facility in Mykolaiv, a shipbuilding centre and city near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. Oleksandr Senkevych, the city’s mayor, said there was no immediate information about casualties.
  • A Russian attack on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in Donetsk has injured six people, including three children, according to local media reports. The three injured children have shrapnel wounds, the Donetsk prosecutor’s office said.
  • A British man apparently being held captive by Russian forces in Ukraine has been shown in a video appealing to Boris Johnson for help, saying he could face the death penalty. “I would say to Boris Johnson, if you can help, if you can influence President Zelenskiy … or if you can influence President Putin, then please do,” John Harding, in his 50s and originally from Sunderland, said while interviewed by a Russian journalist. “People’s lives are depending on this. So if you can, please help.”
  • Russian police have detained journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who in March interrupted a live TV broadcast to denounce the military action in Ukraine, her lawyer has said. No official statement has been made, but her entourage posted a message on the journalist’s Telegram account on Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse. “Marina has been detained,” it read. “There is no information on where she is.”
  • Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Donetsk in 2014, which killed 298 people onboard. Russia denied involvement in the plane’s downing, despite the findings of an international investigation that found witnesses who saw an anti-aircraft missile launcher that had secretly crossed into Ukraine from Russia in the hours before it shot down the commercial flight. Iryna Venediktova, the prosecutor general of Ukraine, called for international action against Russia.
  • A Ukrainian cargo plane transporting munitions from Serbia to Bangladesh crashed and exploded in northern Greece, killing all eight crew onboard. Serbia’s defence minister, Nebojša Stefanović, said the plane was carrying 11.5 tonnes of military products, including illuminating mortar shells and training shells, and the buyer was the Bangladesh defence ministry. A Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson said all eight crew members onboard were Ukrainian citizens.
  • The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, will travel to Baku on Monday to seek more natural gas from Azerbaijan, the EU’s executive said, as the EU seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian energy.
  • The European Union is to discuss tightening sanctions against Russia on Monday, as Moscow is accused of using the captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to store weapons and launch missiles on the surrounding regions of southern Ukraine.
A teddy bear is seen next to a swing, next to buildings destroyed by Russian missile strikes in Saltivka, one of the most damaged residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 17 July.
A teddy bear is seen next to a swing, next to buildings destroyed by Russian missile strikes in Saltivka, one of the most damaged residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 17 July. Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters

source: theguardian.com