- Microsoft says Russia conducting ‘sophisticated and widespread’ hacking attack
- Finland says its military is structured ‘precisely’ to counter strategies used in Ukraine
- Kremlin angered with Lithuania over Kaliningrad rail ban
- RSF says Ukraine journalist and soldier were “coldly executed” in the early weeks of the war
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This story was last updated at 18:00 UTC/GMT
Ukrainian envoy Melnyk wants to apologize to Olaf Scholz
Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, said he regretted calling German Chancellor Olaf Scholz the equivalent of a “snowflake” in May.
The dispute started when Ukraine signaled that German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was not welcome in Ukraine over his alleged contacts with Russia. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz then said he himself would not be going to Kyiv because of the Steinmeier snub.
Ambassador Melnyk responded by calling Scholz an “offended liver sausage” — a German idiom used to describe thin-skinned, overly sensitive people.
Speaking to Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, Melnyk said he “naturally regretted” the remark in retrospect.
“I will apologize to (Scholz) personally,” he promised.
His latest remarks come after Scholz visited Ukraine last week.
Italy’s biggest party splits over Ukraine policy
Italy’s populist 5-Star movement has fractured as Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio left the party to form a new movement named “Together for the Future.”
Di Maio’s movement will be represented by a group of former 5-Star lawmakers in both the Lower Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
The foreign minister has repeatedly clashed with 5-Star chief Giuseppe Conte over weapon deliveries to Ukraine. Conte has called for deliveries from Italy to be halted and for Rome to focus on a more diplomatic solution. But Di Maio said Conte, who served as prime minister from 2018 to 2021, was undermining international support for Ukraine and Rome’s standing on the world stage.
“We had to decide which side of history to be on,” Di Maio told reporters.
Conte pledged his party will continue to support current Prime Minister Mario Draghi despite the split.
Microsoft says Russian state-sponsored hackers attacked 42 countries outside Ukraine
Russia is conducting “sophisticated and widespread” operations to undermine Western unity and bolster its own war efforts, according to US tech giant Microsoft.
“The Russian invasion relies in part on a cyber strategy that includes at least three distinct and sometimes coordinated efforts – destructive cyberattacks within Ukraine, network penetration and espionage outside Ukraine, and cyber influence operations targeting people around the world,” Microsoft said while announcing a new report named “Defending Ukraine: Early Lessons from the Cyber War.”
The company analyzed Russian cyberattacks since the war in Ukraine started on February 24, finding that hackers targeted governments, businesses, analysts and aid groups in 42 countries outside Ukraine. They were successful 29% of the time, according to Microsoft President Brad Smith.
The ongoing war, according to the report, showed the value of decentralizing data and moving it to other countries, as it makes it less vulnerable to physical attacks.
German chancellor wants to preserve 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it would be “unwise” for NATO to step out of the 1997 accord with Russia which redefined diplomatic and military ties between the two sides following the end of the Cold War.
The NATO-Russia Foundation Act foresees gave Moscow a permanent presence at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. The two sides pledged to coordinate, and — if possible — work together. One of the act’s key provisions states that “in the current and foreseeable security environment” NATO would forego “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” although “reinforcement may take place, when necessary, in the event of defense against a threat of aggression and missions in support of peace.”
Russia has accused NATO of breaching this agreement with their eastward build-up, while many Western analysts claim Russia has changed the security environment with the war in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, and the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
But on Wednesday, Germany’s Olaf Scholz said stepping out of the accord would feed into the narrative pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Founding Act contains provisions on respecting sovereignty and state borders as well as keeping the peace, Scholz said, adding that Putin should always be reminded of them.
Russia threatens Google with another massive fine over banned content
Google might face a fine equal to up to 10% of its revenue in Russia for not deleting YouTube content, including banned information on Ukraine.
Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor accused Google of “purposefully promoting the dissemination” of unreliable information about the “special military operation” in Ukraine. In Russia, media outlets face fines if they use the word “war” to refer to the Ukraine conflict.
According to Russian officials, Google is aiding the spread of information which discredits the Russian military, propagates extremist stances, and calls on minors to take part in unsanctioned mass protests.
Google’s Russian subsidiary reported 134.3 billion rubles (€2.39 billion, $2.5 billion) of revenue last year. At the same time, the company also reported a net loss amid a prolonged struggle over forbidden content, which started long before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
In May this year, Russia seized $143 million from the company. The subsidiary declared bankruptcy in Russia last week, saying its accounts were frozen and it was unable to continue doing business. However, Google said it would continue to provide its users with free services such as YouTube, Google Maps, Google Pay and its search engine.
Rebuilding Ukraine a ‘task for generations’ says Scholz
Ukraine needs massive financial aid in order to rebuild, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement to the German parliament, the Bundestag, on Wednesday.
He referred to the Marshall Plan, a US-funded program that helped rebuild Western Europe after WWII, as a role model for rebuilding Ukraine. Scholz, who visited Ukraine last week, said destroyed cities reminded him of images of post-war devastation in Germany.
“Just like Europe devastated by war, Ukraine needs a Marshall Plan for reconstruction,” said the German chancellor.
Scholz said the reconstruction of Ukraine would be a “task for generations.”
Russia accuses Germany of propagating ‘Russophobia’
Moscow has accused Germany of anti-Russian sentiment on the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union as tensions rise amid the conflict in Ukraine.
“Russophobic hysteria is systematically fueled by almost daily public attacks against our country by members of the German government,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
It said Berlin has “recently been undermining the process of historical reconciliation between Russians and Germans” since World War II.
“The anti-Russian propaganda campaign” has provoked “unmotivated aggression bordering on mass psychosis” against Russians and Russian speakers in Germany, the statement continued.
The ministry also accused NATO member Germany of increasing its military presence near Russia, “bringing to mind the most bitter periods of Russian-German relations for our people, including the events preceding May 1945.”
On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched its invasion of the former Soviet Union, which was code-named Operation Barbarossa, and earlier on Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider outside the Kremlin wall in Moscow to mark the anniversary.
Russia soccer appeals set to be heard in July
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will hear on July 5 the Russian soccer federation’s appeal against FIFA and UEFA’s joint decision to suspend its national and club teams.
A second CAS hearing on July 11 will consider an appeal by four Russian clubs, including league champions Zenit St. Petersburg, against exclusion from next season’s UEFA club competitions.
The bans have affected both the Russian women’s team’s involvement in this summer’s European Championships and the men’s team’s World Cup qualification bid.
IEA: Russia may cut off gas, Europe ‘needs contingency plan’
Russia may cut off gas to Europe entirely, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t rule out Russia continuing to find different issues here and there and continuing to find excuses to further reduce gas deliveries to Europe and maybe even cut it off completely,” executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement sent to the news agency Reuters.
“This is the reason Europe needs contingency plans”, Birol added.
The IEA does not see a full cut-off as the most likely scenario but cannot rule it out as Moscow may attempt to gain political leverage ahead of the winter months, Birol said.
The European Union has sanctioned Russian oil and coal, but has so far held off from banning gas imports, partly due to its heavy dependence.
Finland ready to fight Russia if attacked, defense chief says
Finland has for decades prepared for a Russian attack and would put up stiff opposition should one occur, its armed forces chief said.
Helsinki has built up a substantial arsenal. But aside from that, General Timo Kivinen said a crucial factor is that the Finnish people would not be lacking in motivation.
“The most important line of defense is between one’s ears, as the war in Ukraine proves at the moment,” Kivinen said.
The Nordic country is now applying to join NATO over concerns that Russia could invade like it did Ukraine.
“We have systematically developed our military defense precisely for this type of warfare that is being waged there (in Ukraine), with a massive use of firepower, armored forces and also airforces,” Kivinen said.
“Ukraine has been a tough bite to chew (for Russia) and so would be Finland.”
Russia: ‘Unacceptable’ EU sanctions, countermeasures being prepared
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the “illegal EU sanctions” that prompted Lithuania to block the transit of some goods from mainland Russia to its exclave of Kaliningrad were “absolutely unacceptable.”
Peskov also said that Russia was working on retaliatory measures.
Lithuania has closed off the route to steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is required to do under EU sanctions that came into effect on Saturday.
Kaliningrad is connected to Russia by a rail link through Lithuania, a member of both the European Union and NATO.
Russian delegates to OSCE denied British visas
Members of the Russian delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been denied British visas to attend the next conference.
The development was revealed on Wednesday by Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of Russian upper house’s international affairs committee.
Ukraine calls fight in Sievierodonetsk ‘hell’
Ukraine said the situation in Sievierodonetsk has become “hell” after the eastern industrial city suffered weeks of heavy shelling from Russian forces.
“For four months all our positions have been under fire from everything, from all the weapons that the Russian army has,” the Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said in a statement.
“Our boys are holding their positions and will continue to hold on as long as necessary.”
Ukraine journalist, soldier ‘coldly executed’ says Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Wednesday that a Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier who was accompanying him “were doubtless coldly executed” when they were searching Russian-occupied woodlands for the photographer’s missing image-taking drone.
RSF said it had carried out an investigation into the deaths of Maks Levin and serviceman Oleksiy Chernyshov, returning to the spot where their bodies were found on April 1. The press freedom organization said it counted 14 bullet holes in the burned hulk of their car still at the scene in woods north of Kyiv.
RSF found food rations, cigarette packets and other litter seemingly left by Russian soldiers.
Some of Levin and Chernyshov’s belongings were also recovered.
A team with metal detectors also uncovered a bullet in the soil where Levin’s body had been found. RSF said that suggests “he was probably killed with one, perhaps two bullets fired at close range when he was already on the ground.”
A jerrycan for gasoline was also spotted close to where Chernyshov’s burned body had been recovered, the press freedom group added.
UK: ‘Extraordinary attrition Russian forces are suffering in the Donbas’
Casualties among Russian troops have amounted to “around 55% of its original force,” highlighting the “extraordinary” attrition rate Moscow forces are suffering in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, Britain’s defense ministry said in its daily Twitter update.
“The Russian authorities have not released the overall number of military casualties in Ukraine since March 25,” the ministry said. “However, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) publishes casualty figures for DPR forces. As of June 16, the DPR acknowledged 2,128 military personnel killed in action, and 8,897 wounded, since the start of 2022.”
The defense ministry repeated its stance that it is “highly likely” DPR forces are using “outdated” weapons and equipment.
Lysychansk under ‘massive’ bombardment
Ukrainian forces are facing “massive” and relentless artillery attacks in Lysychansk, the governor of the Luhansk region, where the eastern city lies, said Wednesday.
“They are just destroying everything there… They destroyed buildings and unfortunately there are casualties, ” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy calls for more sanctions on Moscow
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his nightly video address once again called for EU sanctions on Russia as both parties remain entrenched in eastern Ukraine.
This would be the seventh package of sanctions imposed by Brussels on Moscow.
“Russia must feel the growing pressure of going to war and of its aggressive anti-European policy,” Zelenskyy said.
“The lives of thousands of people directly depend on the speed of our partners.”
Zelenskyy said that Ukraine had manage to strengthen its defenses in the Luhansk region and begin gradually recapturing the southern city of Kherson.
Fighting in Ukraine’s east has favored Russian forces in recent weeks, due to their superior artillery firepower. Russian forces pushed towards Lysychansk, one of the few remaining bastions of Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region.
“[The Luhansk region] is really the toughest spot. The occupiers are also pressing strongly in the direction of Donetsk,” Zelenskyy said.
Russia to commemorate WWII Nazi invasion
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to lay down flowers to honor the dead today as the country commemorates Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
Ukraine and Belarus also commemorate the anniversary of the invasion on June 22.
Russia’s defense ministry released documents dating back to the start of World War II that purport to show that Germany intended to claim the Soviet army was bombing churches and cemeteries.
“Just as nowadays, in 1941, the Nazis prepared provocations in advance to discredit our state,” Russia’s defense ministry said, alluding to Ukrainian forces. Moscow claims the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine as one of its war aims in the country.
What happened in Russia’s war in Ukraine on Tuesday
The first delivery of heavy weapons promised by the German government had arrived in Ukraine, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said. The arrival of the self-propelled howitzers, the Panzerhaubitze 2000, comes after repeated appeals from Kyiv for better weapons and ammunition.
Foreign policy adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ihor Zhovka, told TAUT that Kyiv’s expectations as to whether Ukraine will be conferred EU candidate status are now more positive than several days ago, following the recommendation of the European Commission.
The head of Russia’s security council threatened Lithuania with “serious” consequences on Tuesday over restrictions imposed on the rail transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Moscow’s exclave of Kaliningrad, a region bordering Lithuania and Poland.
Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Gazprom’s reduction of gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline amounts to an “economic attack on us” by Moscow.
The United States said it was “appalling” for the Kremlin to suggest that two US citizens captured while fighting for Ukraine against the Russian invasion could receive the death penalty. Russian-backed separatists were holding the two, Alexander John-Robert Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, in Donetsk after they were captured last week.
Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize gold medal for $103.5 million (€98.4 million). Muratov is the editor-in-chief of independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The proceeds from the auction will go to UNICEF’s Humanitarian Response for Ukrainian Children Displaced by the War, according to Heritage Auctions.
You can revisit our live updates from June 21 here.
jsi, lo, sdi/wd (Reuters, TAUT, TAUT, dpa)