Battles being fought in eastern Ukraine could determine the country’s fate, Ukraine’s defence ministry spokesperson says – as it happened – The Guardian

Wealthlandnews June 7, 2022
Updated 2022/06/07 at 2:43 PM

This live blog is now closed, you can find our latest coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war here
The bodies of more than 200 people have been discovered in the rubble of a high-rise apartment building in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, according to a Ukrainian official.

Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boychenko, said workers found the bodies while digging through a basement underneath the collapsed building.
Andryushchenko wrote on Telegram:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}During the dismantling of the blockages of a high-rise building near the suburban gas station about 200 bodies were found dead in the basement under the blockages with a high degree of decomposition.
Due to the refusal of locals to collect and pack the bodies of the dead, the Russian ministry of emergencies left the work site.
Anton Gerashchenk, an adviser to Ukraine’s internal affairs ministry, said Russian forces had tried to force locals to take the bodies out. When they refused, the grave site was simply abandoned, he said.
It has not been possible to independently verify this information.
We will be pausing our live coverage of the war in Ukraine for the next few hours.
Before we return, here is a comprehensive rundown of where things currently stand.
Here are some of the latest images to come out of Ukraine today.
Russia’s parliament has passed a bill giving prosecutors powers to shut down foreign media bureaus in Moscow if a western country has been “unfriendly” to Russian media.
The bill, passed in the first reading by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday, needs to undergo two more readings, be reviewed by the upper house of parliament, and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law according to a Reuters report.
The journalists of a media organisation deemed to be an offender under the bill would have their foreign ministry accreditation withdrawn – meaning they could not work in Russia.
“In the current geopolitical situation, the mass media has become an instrument of influence on the informational state of society,” the lawmakers said in an official explanatory note on the bill, as seen by Reuters.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}In accordance with the bill, a journalist and a foreign correspondent may lose their accreditation if the fact of unfriendly action is established through the imposition of restrictions on the distribution of Russian mass media operating in a foreign country.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to be the “beginning of the third world war” that could spell the end of civilisation, the veteran philanthropist and former financier George Soros has warned.
In a ferocious attack on Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Soros warned that autocratic regimes were in the ascendant and the global economy was heading for a depression.
Soros, who has become a hate figure for the hard right in the US, also heavily criticised the former German chancellor Angela Merkel for cosying up to Moscow and Beijing.
With the mood in Davos already downbeat due to the war in Ukraine, Soros ramped up the gloomy rhetoric to new heights.
“The invasion may have been the beginning of the third world war and our civilisation may not survive it,” he said.
“The invasion of Ukraine didn’t come out of the blue. The world has been increasingly engaged in a struggle between two systems of governance that are diametrically opposed to each other: open society and closed society.”
Ukraine is gathering the bodies of dead Russian soldiers strewn among the rubble of formerly occupied towns and using everything from DNA to tattoos to verify their identities in the hope of exchanging them for prisoners of war, Reuters is reporting.
Volunteers have helped the military gather 60 bodies in the northeastern region of Kharkiv where Russian forces have retreated in recent weeks, stacking them up in a refrigerated rail carriage.
Bodies are sometimes used as part of prisoner exchanges and other times in exchanges for Ukrainian bodies, according to Anton Ivannikov, captain of the Ukrainian armed forces military-civil cooperation branch, which is coordinating the effort.
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We are gathering all the documents, all the credit cards. Anything which would help us identify the body” including tattoos and DNA, Ivannikov said.
In the future this will tell us which soldier, which brigade was in this region, for further exchange.”
The bodies will travel on the train to Kyiv where the team negotiating exchanges is based, he added.
Léonie Chao-Fong, Maanvi Singh, Guardian staff
Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russian forces after the three-month siege of the Azovstal steel plant are being held in “satisfactory” conditions, according to the unit commander’s wife, amid uncertainty over the fate of the prisoners.
Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov battalion, was able to briefly call his wife, Kateryna, who said she had also been told that the prisoners had not been subjected to violence. It was not immediately clear if Prokopenko had been able to speak freely during the conversation.
“He said he was ‘OK’ and asked how I was,” Kateryna Prokopenko told the Guardian on Tuesday. “I’ve heard from other sources that the conditions are more or less satisfactory.”
At least 1,000 Ukrainian fighters, including members of the Azov battalion, were transferred to Russian-held territory last week after the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol was taken by Russian forces.

Kateryna Prokopenko, the wife of the Ukrainian commander of the Azov regiment that led the defence of Mariupol, Denys Prokopenko.Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
The Azov battalion has played a central role in Russia’s justification for its invasion, which was originally launched with the supposed goal of “denazification”. Officials in Kyiv have suggested they could be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials have called for them to face trial or even execution on “terrorism” charges.
Previously, the only news of the fighters’ conditions had come via a news channel given access to the prison by the Russian Ministry of Defence. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is involved in monitoring the conditions for prisoners of war and has a long-held policy of not publicly commenting, has not issued a statement.

“They are being fed, given water. The conditions meet the requirements and they have not been subjected to violence during this short period,” said Kateryna Prokopenko. “What will happen next, of course, we don’t know but at the moment there are third parties – the UN and the Red Cross – who are controlling the situation.”
Most of the injured Azov fighters are being held in a prison in Olenivka, a village in Russian-occupied Donetsk, but a smaller group of severely injured fighters are in a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk, also in Russian-occupied Donetsk. Prokopenko said that to her knowledge none of the fighters have been taken to Russia.
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Three months into the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the country has survived “thanks to the tens of thousands of feats of all those who defend the state. And at the cost of tens of thousands of lives of Ukrainian men and women killed by the occupiers.”
In his daily address, he said that the situation in Donbas remained dire. “The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult,” he said. “In fact, all the strength the Russian army still has was thrown there to attack. Lyman, Popasna, Severodonetsk, Slovyansk – the occupiers want to destroy everything there.”
He then reiterated a need for heavy weapons:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Therefore, the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine – MLRS, tanks, anti-ship and other weapons – is the best investment in maintaining stability in the world and preventing many severe crises that Russia is still planning or has already provoked.
We continue to work to ensure that Ukraine receives reliable security guarantees after this war. In particular, an international advisory group headed by Yermak and former NATO Secretary General Rasmussen has been set up. The group will include leading experts in the fields of security and defense, diplomacy. Their task is to develop a format of guarantees that will really work. And not for several months or years, but during the lifetime of many generations of our Ukrainians.
The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Lugansk region said the situation there “is only getting worse” as Russian troops advance.
“The situation is very difficult and unfortunately it is only getting worse. It is getting worse with every day and even with every hour,” said governor Sergiy Gaidai. “Shelling is increasing more and more.” He added that the Russians are focused on the key city of Severodonetsk.
“The city is being bombed by aviation, shelled by multiple launch rocket systems, artillery, mortars, tanks,” he said. “They are simply eliminating Severodonetsk from the earth.”
The US Treasury Department said it will not renew the license allowing Russia to pay debts via American banks.
The AP reports:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Since the first rounds of sanctions, the Treasury Department has given banks a license to process any dollar-denominated bond payments from Russia. That window expires at midnight May 25.
There had already been signs that the Biden administration was unwilling to extend the deadline. At a press conference heading into the Group of Seven finance minister meetings in Koenigswinter, Germany, last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the window existed “to allow a period of time for an orderly transition to take place, and for investors to be able to sell securities.”
“The expectation was that it was time-limited,” Yellen said.
Without the license to use U.S. banks to pay its debts, Russia would have no ability to repay its international bond investors. The Kremlin has been using JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup as its conduits to pay its obligations.
“The majority who wanted out have gotten out. The only issue is finding buyers,” he said.
The Kremlin appears to have foreseen the likelihood that the U.S. would not allow Russia to keep paying on its bonds. The Russian Finance Ministry prepaid two bonds on Friday that were due this month to get ahead of the May 25 deadline.
The next payments Russia will need to make on its debts are due on June 23. Like other Russian debt, those bonds have a 30-day grace period — which would cause default by Russia to be declared by late July, barring the unlikely scenario that the Russia-Ukraine war would come to an end before then.
Investors have been almost certain of Russia going into default for months now. Insurance contracts that cover Russian debt have priced a 80% likelihood of default for weeks and rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have placed the country’s debt deep into junk territory.
Russia has not defaulted on its international debts since the 1917 Revolution, when the Russian Empire collapsed and the Soviet Union was created. Russia defaulted on its domestic debts in the late 1990s during the Asian Financial Crisis, but was able to recover from that default with the help of international aid.
A Russian default this time will likely have little-to-minimal impact on the global economy, Auslander said, since Russia has been cut off from global financial markets for months now and investors have been expecting a default. Biden officials have made similar statements.
Here’s an exclusive from the Guardian’s Kate Connolly: Pete Buttigieg, the US transportation secretary, has backed a recovery programme for Ukraine in the style of the Marshall plan, which helped rebuild Europe after the second world war.

Connolloy writes:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}With the memory of the Marshall plan in mind, what we’re talking about is not only about how we fund immediate needs and support their ability to maintain the war effort, but how we support the ability of Ukraine to be economically viable and generate a sustainable future for themselves, even as they’re under attack,” the former presidential candidate said in an interview with the Guardian.
Buttigieg admitted that while “the destruction of Ukrainian homes and infrastructure is still under way”, to talk about reconstruction might feel premature “and yet in my encounters with Ukrainian leaders, and particularly my counterpart [Oleksandr Kubrakov], who I speak to regularly, they are already thinking about reconstruction even as they’re thinking about defending their homeland and it’s inspiring to see and it deserves strong and unified support from us.”
He said a “major topic of conversation” among transport ministers at the world meeting in Leipzig this week for the International Transport Forum was how they could help to get grain and other produce out of Ukraine, which is stuck because of blocked and destroyed ports and railway lines and is threatening to create a global food shortage.
“This is not only something that concerns us, as friends to Ukraine, but also concerns us because the world needs that production, especially on the agricultural side,” he said.
“Without access to the Black Sea, it’s always going to be a major disadvantage. We’re committed to helping there in any way we can.
“But I really admire in my Ukrainian counterparts that they’re thinking about the short and the long term at the same time – how to shore up infrastructure in the immediate term – the heroic work by the railway workers to restore connections so that goods can be moved from west to east and people from east to west.
“But they’re also thinking about very long-term questions and recognising that what they rebuild towards will not simply be a reconstruction of the Soviet-era infrastructure that this generation of Ukrainians has inherited.”
Buttigieg was speaking on the sidelines of an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund NGO in Berlin to mark the 75th anniversary of the Marshall plan, a multibillion-dollar recovery programme initiated by the US in 1947 that provided humanitarian and economic assistance to millions of Europeans to ease their recovery after the second world war.
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This is Maanvi Singh in San Francisco, taking over the blog from my colleagues Maya Yang and Joanna Walters. I’ll bring you live updates for the next few hours.

Ukraine’s military said Russian troops had killed at least 14 civilians and injured 15 more on Tuesday during mass attacks in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the focus of Moscow’s latest offensive, Reuters reports.
In a Facebook post it said Russian troops had used aircraft, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and missiles in their assault on the two regions, large parts of which are controlled by Russian-speaking separatists.
Ukrainian prosecutors have launched a war crimes investigation in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park, Agence France-Presse reports.
Prosecutors took up the case to ensure that the park, which was hit by around 50 shells in three months of war, could be open without the public being at risk and, above all, determine whether the attacks constitute a war crime.
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Hitting civilian targets, civilian infrastructure, trying to kill civilians and destroy cultural heritage, are considered war crime. An error can happen once or twice, but there are 56 hits recorded. It’s not an accident. They were targeting the park,” said Ukrainian prosecutor Roman Petrenko.
The shells also hit a small theatre and a closed restaurant in the park. The shrapnel even reached and damaged bronze sculptures of children scattered around the park.
For John Culp, a retired US soldier and American de-miner from the US-based non-profit Bombs Tech Without Borders, there was no doubt the Russians were targeting the park deliberately:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}“We are in Gorky Park.. With its paths, its stages etc.. We are investigating the fact that many rockets and shells were fired in and near the park. There is no military target here. It was done knowingly to cause terror and fear among the civilian population,” said Culp, who is helping advise his Ukrainian counterparts.
The self-proclaimed leader of the Moscow-backed separatist region of Donetsk has said Russian and separatist forces were fighting to take full control of the town of Lyman and have already captured half of it, Agence France-Presse reports.
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The active phase of the liberation of Krasny Liman is underway,” separatist leader Denis Pushilin said on the pro-Kremlin Solovyov Live YouTube programme.
Located in the north of the eastern Donetsk region, Krasny Liman is the old name of the Ukrainian town of Lyman.
Lyman lies on the road to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the capital of the Ukrainian-controlled part of the region of Donetsk.
Pushilin said the Russian army and separatist troops have entered the town and controlled around half of it.
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Krasny Liman will also soon be a liberated settlement. Svyatogorsk will come afterwards and then Slavyansk.”
He said Russian and separatist forces have now taken control of 28 settlements in the north of the region of Donetsk.
Svyatogorsk (Svyatogirsk in Ukrainian) and Slavyansk (Sloviansk in Ukrainian) are also located in the region of Donetsk.
There was no immediate comment from Russia and Ukraine. Pushilin’s claims could not be independently verified.
Russia is focused on securing and expanding its gains in the eastern Donbas region, near the border and home to pro-Russian separatists, as well as the southern coast.
Separately, the Ukrainian army announced that Russians were now in control of town of Svitlodarsk, also in the Donetsk region.
Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram that Ukrainian troops “have regrouped to take a more favourable position”.
Reuters adds that Russian forces were in the process of an all-out assault to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities straddling a river in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, a battle which could determine the success or failure of Moscow’s main campaign in the east.
Civilians had been evacuating from the area around Lyman earlier in May.




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