Thu, 07 Jul 2022

Finland and Sweden have submitted formal applications to join the NATO military alliance after weeks of anticipation. Also on Wednesday, a Ukrainian tribunal is set to begin its first war crimes trial. A Russian soldier, Vadim Shishimarin, accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian will appear in Kyiv on charges of war crimes and premeditated murder. Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

10:10am: Russia to service foreign debt in roubles if other options blocked, says finance minister

Russia will service its external debt obligations in roubles if the United States blocks other options, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told a forum on Wednesday. Siluanov said Russia will not call itself in default as it has money to pay its debts. Washington is considering blocking Russia's ability to pay its US bondholders by allowing a key waiver to expire next week, a US administration official said on Tuesday, which could put Moscow closer to default.

9:49am: Russia says 959 fighters surrendered since Monday at Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks

Russia's defence ministry said that 694 Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks had surrendered over the last 24 hours, RIA news agency reported on Wednesday. Since Monday, 959 militants from Azovstal have surrendered, 80 of whom were wounded, RIA reported, citing the ministry.

9:33am: UK says Russian 'disorganisation' is hampering its operations in Ukraine

In its latest intelligence report, the British Ministry of Defence says Russia has a "significant mobilisation problem" in the war. According to a ministry statement, Russia is using auxiliary personnel, which has contributed to a "disorganisation" of its command.

"These include Chechen forces, probably consisting of several thousand fighters mainly concentrated in Mariupol and Luhansk. These forces are probably made up of individual volunteers and national guard units, which are usually dedicated to providing security for the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov," the UK statement said.

8:28am: UK looking at how Russian assets can fund rebuilding of Ukraine

Britain and fellow G7 nations are looking at how Russian assets can be used to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday.

"We need a new Marshall Plan to rebuild Ukraine and in fact, we've just been discussing this at the G7 meeting that I had with my colleagues from around the world. We are looking at what we can do to use Russian assets to help pay for this," she told Times Radio.

8:09am: Finland, Sweden submit applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday at allied headquarters, setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks. Ratification of all 30 allied parliaments could take up to a year, diplomats say.

7:02am: First war crimes trial to be held in Kyiv

The first war crimes trial of a Russian soldier since the invasion began is set to get under way in Kyiv on Wednesday. Russian forces have been accused of committing a multitude of war crimes since the invasion began, and the case of 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin will be the first attempt to prosecute the alleged abuses. Shishimarin, a soldier from Irkutsk in Siberia, is accused of shooting an unarmed civilian and is faced with a life sentence if found guilty.

Prosecutors said Shishimarin was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy came under attack. He and four other soldiers stole a car and were travelling through the Sumy region when they encountered a 62-year-old man on a bicycle. Ordered by one of his companions to kill the cyclist, Shishimarin fired a Kalashnikov assault rifle from the window of the vehicle and "the man died instantly, a few dozen metres from his home", the statement said.

The trial, expected to be followed by several others, will test the Ukrainian justice system at a time when international institutions are also conducting their own investigations into alleged war crimes. The International Criminal Court said Tuesday it was deploying its largest-ever field team to Ukraine, with 42 investigators, forensic experts and support staff being sent into the field to gather evidence of alleged atrocities. The US State Department also announced it was creating a special unit to research, document and publicise Russian war crimes. The Conflict Observatory will "capture, analyse, and make widely available evidence of Russia-perpetrated war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine," the department said Tuesday.

5:39am: Russian gymnast banned for a year for pro-war symbol

A Russian gymnast who sported an insignia linked to his country's invasion of Ukraine on a medal podium has been banned for one year, a disciplinary panel said.

Ivan Kuliak's singlet had the letter 'Z' prominently placed as he stood next to Ukraine's Kovtun Illia, the gold medallist at a World Cup event in Doha in March.

The 'Z' has been seen daubed on Russian tanks and vehicles in Ukraine and has come to symbolise support for the invasion.

A disciplinary commission of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) found that Kuliak violated rules of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), the sport's ruling body.

"Mr Kuliak is not allowed to participate in any FIG-sanctioned event or competition organised by an affiliated FIG member federation for one year as of the date of this decision," GEF said.

Kuliak must also return his bronze medal and prize money of 500 Swiss francs ($500). He has 21 days to appeal against the punishment.

It had already been decided that all Russian and Belarusian gymnasts would be banned from future competitions.

2:30am: Russia says hundreds of Ukrainians surrender at Azovstal, Kyiv urges swap

Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who held off Russian fighters at the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol have surrendered, Moscow said Tuesday, as Kyiv called for an immediate prisoner swap.

The strategic port city fell to Russian forces last month, but a relentless Ukrainian military unit held out in the maze of tunnels under the plant, hailed as heroes and celebrated for stalling Moscow's invasion.

On Tuesday, 265 of them were taken into Russian captivity, including 51 who were heavily wounded, the Russian defence ministry said.

The ministry, which published images showing soldiers on stretchers, said the injured were transported to a hospital in the eastern Donetsk region controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.

The defence ministry in Kyiv said it was hoping for an "exchange procedure... to repatriate these Ukrainian heroes as quickly as possible".

The government would do "everything necessary" to rescue the undisclosed number of personnel still holed up in the Soviet-era bunkers, the ministry said, but admitted there was no military option available.

The fate of the captured Ukrainians was unclear Tuesday, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refusing to say whether they would be treated as criminals or prisoners of war.

8:04pm: Ukrainian President Zelensky addresses Cannes Film Festival

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise video address at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday.

"Hundreds of people are dying every day. They won't get up again after the clapping at the end," he told the audience, which had reacted with surprise when the pre-recorded message was introduced.

"Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?" Zelensky added.

Zelensky referred to the power of cinema during World War II, including the 1940 Charlie Chaplin film "The Great Dictator", which mocked Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

"Chaplin's dictator did not destroy the real dictator, but thanks to cinema, thanks to this film, cinema did not stay quiet," Zelensky said.

"We need a new Chaplin to prove today that cinema is not mute. Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? Can cinema stay outside of this?"

His speech received a standing ovation from the crowd in the southern French resort town's Palais des Festivals.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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