Thu, 08 Jun 2023

The US Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion infusion of military and economic aid for Ukraine and its allies on Thursday as both parties rallied behind America's latest, and quite possibly not last, financial salvo against Russia's invasion. Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

This live page is no longer being updated. For the latest updates, follow our live blog. For more coverage and analysis of the war in Ukraine, click here.

11:50pm: Justice chiefs of 'Five Eyes' Alliance support Ukraine war crime prosecutions

The justice chiefs of the members of the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance gave strong support Thursday to Ukraine's efforts to prosecute war crimes arising from Russia's invasion.

The attorneys general of the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand said they fully backed Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova in ensuring accountability for war crimes committed since Russia attacked the country on February 24.

Ukraine authorities say they have opened thousands of cases into alleged crimes committed by Moscow's forces.

"We support the pursuit of justice by Ukraine and through other international investigations, including at the International Criminal Court" and other bodies," they said in a statement.

9:37pm: Choose between 'insane' sanctions or food supplies, Russia's Medvedev tells West

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's former president and now a senior security official, said Thursday the West should not expect Russia to continue food supplies if it slaps Moscow with devastating sanctions over Ukraine.

"Our country is ready to fulfil its obligations in full. But it also expects assistance from trading partners, including on international platforms," Medvedev said on messaging app Telegram.

"Otherwise, there's no logic: on the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies. Things don't work like that, we're not idiots," said Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council.

"Countries importing our wheat and other food products will have a very difficult time without supplies from Russia. And on European and other fields, without our fertilisers, only juicy weeds will grow," added Medvedev, who served as president between 2008 and 2012.

8:49pm: Ukrainian troops surrendering at Mariupol registered as POWs

Hundreds more Ukrainian fighters who made their stand inside Mariupol's bombed-out steel plant surrendered, bringing the total to over 1,700, Russia said Thursday, amid international fears the Kremlin will take reprisals against the prisoners.

The Red Cross registered hundreds of the soldiers as prisoners of war in a step toward ensuring their humane treatment under the Geneva Conventions.

Meanwhile, in the first war crimes trial held by Ukraine, a captured Russian soldier testified that he shot an unarmed civilian in the head on an officer's orders and asked the victim's widow to forgive him. The soldier pleaded guilty earlier in the week, but prosecutors presented the evidence against him in line with Ukrainian law.

8:36pm: Pentagon warns war will stretch out despite Ukraine successes

A senior Pentagon official said Thursday that the Ukraine war could continue for a long time despite Kyiv's forces recapturing the Kharkiv region and their use of substantial US artillery supplies.

The official cautioned against analysts saying that Russian forces are stretched to capacity and could within weeks reach a point at which they are no longer able to advance.

"It's difficult to know where this is going to go over time," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official praised Ukrainian forces for their command and control, cohesion and spirit, calling it "nothing short of historic" compared to the Russian forces.

7:18pm: US Congress approves new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine

The US Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion infusion of military and economic aid for Ukraine and its allies on Thursday as both parties rallied behind America's latest, and quite possibly not last, financial salvo against Russia's invasion.

The 86-11 vote gave final congressional approval to the package, three weeks after President Joe Biden requested a smaller $33 billion version and after a lone Republican opponent delayed Senate passage for a week. Every Democrat and all but 11 Republicans backed the measure.

Biden's quick signature was certain as Russia's attack, which has mauled Ukraine's forces and cities, slogs into a fourth month with no obvious end ahead. That means more casualties and destruction in Ukraine, which has relied heavily on US and Western assistance for its survival, especially advanced arms, with requests for more aid potentially looming.

5:50pm: Biden 'reiterated the message he wanted to show the world'

Biden "really reiterated the message he wanted to show the world, especially to show Russia," FRANCE 24's Kethevane Gorjestani reported from Washington. And that is a message of "support for Finland and Sweden joining".

5:44pm: Germany to increase Ukraine budget aid as G7 discuss support

Germany said it would contribute one billion euros ($1.1 billion) to shore up the Ukrainian government's finances, as G7 ministers met Thursday to discuss further support for Kyiv in the face of the Russian invasion.

The G7 were coordinating "commitments to finance the government functions of Ukraine", German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said at a press conference following the first day of the meeting in Germany.

Germany "will make one billion euros available to the Ukrainians in grants," Lindner said, in addition to a $7.5-billion pledge from the United States currently in the process of being approved by legislators.

5:41pm: Signs multiply that Russia seeks control of southern Ukraine

The Kremlin said Thursday it was important to ensure basic living conditions in war-torn Ukraine as signs multiplied that Moscow was seeking to permanently occupy or even annex the pro-Western country's southeast.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 but Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it is not seeking to occupy Ukrainian territories.

A growing chorus of senior Russian and pro-Moscow officials however indicates Moscow intends to remain in territories it controls in southern Ukraine, such as the Kherson region and large parts of Zaporizhzhia.

Asked about the future of southern Ukraine on Thursday, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that only local people would determine its fate.

"Nothing can be done without the expression of the will of the inhabitants of these regions, without them deciding how to go on and with whom they want to live," Peskov told reporters.

5:34pm: Ukrainians at Cannes call for total Russian ban

Ukrainians at the Cannes Film Festival said Thursday that all Russians should have been banned from the event -- even those who have spoken out against the war.

"We feel strongly that anything and everything Russian must be cancelled," said Andrew Fesiak, founder of Ukrainian production firm F Films.

"At a time when Ukrainian film-makers are forced to stop making movies because they either need to flee for their lives or take up arms... Russian filmmakers cannot pretend that everything is fine and that they are not to blame," he added.

5:25pm: At least 12 killed in Russian shelling of Severodonetsk, governor says

Russian shelling of the eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk left at least 12 people dead and another 40 injured, the region's governor Sergei Gaiday said on Thursday, as Moscow's army continued its slow push into Donbas.

The Lugansk regional governor said on social media that there were "12 dead and more than 40 injured in Severodonetsk", accused Russian forces of "randomly" shelling the urban hub with heavy weapons, and indicated that the toll could rise.

5pm: As NATO member, Finland will commit to Turkey's security, Finnish president says

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Thursday said Finland was open to discussing Turkey's concerns over its accession application to NATO, adding that the country was ready to commit to Ankara's security.

Speaking at the White House, where US President Joe Biden is hosting the leaders of Finland and Sweden after the formal submission of their NATO application, Biden said his administration was submitting reports on the two countries' NATO accession to Congress on Thursday.

4:56pm: Biden says Sweden, Finland 'meet every NATO requirement'

US President Joe Biden lauded Sweden's and Finland's applications to join NATO as he hosted their leaders at the White House on Thursday, describing them as "two proud, independent countries exercising the sovereign right all states possess to secure their own security."

"They meet every NATO requirement and then some," Biden told reporters with the two leaders at his side, offering the "full, total, complete backing of the United States of America."

4:54pm: Erdogan digs in over NATO expansion as Biden hosts Finnish, Swedish leaders

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dug in over his rejection of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, casting a shadow over a White House visit on Thursday by the leaders of the Nordic nations who applied this week to join the US-led alliance.

Finland and Sweden say they have been spurred into joining NATO by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, reversing generations of military non-alignment to bring about the biggest shakeup in European security for decades.

4:10pm: Macron wants quick EU opinion on Moldova membership

French President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted the European Union to give a "quick opinion" on Moldova's request for EU membership as he hosted a meeting with Moldovan President Maia Sandu in Paris.

Macron added that a risk that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia could spread to other neighbouring countries could not be ruled out.

Fears have grown Moldova could be drawn into the conflict in Ukraine, after pro-Russian separatists in Moldova's Transnistria region blamed Kyiv for what they said were shootings, explosions and cross-border drone incursions.

Last week, Moldova's Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu told Reuters there were internal elements in Moldova's pro-Russian separatist region trying to destabilise the area and stoke tensions, as his country presses ahead with efforts to join the European Union.

4:08pm: Biden hosts Swedish, Finnish leaders amid NATO bid

US President Joe Biden on Thursday welcomed the leaders of Finland and Sweden in a strong show of support for their bids to join NATO in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

To the pomp of a red carpet and military honor guard, Biden received Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto just days after they officially said they would seek to join the US-backed alliance.

The three leaders are expected to speak to reporters after talks in the Oval Office.

Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.

3:58pm: Ukraine war crimes trial set for 'last phase'

"In their final statement, the prosecution requested life imprisonment for Vadim Shishimarin. In response to that, his defence lawyer requested an adjournment until tomorrow in order for him and his client to prepare their final statement," FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reported from Kyiv. "That's basically the last phase of this trial: the defendant and his lawyer get a chance to express themselves one last time."

3:25pm: McDonald's finds a buyer for Russian restaurants

McDonald's has begun the process of selling its restaurants in Russia after more than 30 years in the country.

The Chicago burger giant said Alexander Govor, who operates 25 restaurants in Siberia, has agreed to buy McDonald's 850 Russian restaurants and operate them under a new name. McDonald's didn't disclose the sale price.

3:15pm: Life sentence requested for Russian soldier in Kyiv war crimes trial

Ukrainian prosecutors on Thursday requested a life sentence for the first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes since the start of Moscow's invasion, an AFP reporter in the Kyiv courtroom said.

A prosecutor asked the judge to "give a sentence in the form of life imprisonment" to 21-year-old Russian army sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, who admitted to killing a 62-year-old civilian in the first days of the Russian offensive.

2:49pm: Germany strips Schroeder of official perks over Russia ties

Germany on Thursday removed official perks accorded to former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, assessing that he has failed to uphold the obligations of his office by refusing to sever ties with Russian energy giants.

"The coalition parliamentary groups have drawn consequences from the behaviour of former chancellor and lobbyist Gerhard Schroeder in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine," the parliament decided. "The office of the former chancellor shall be suspended," it added.

2:44pm: WHO asks Russia for medical access to besieged parts of Ukraine

The head of the World Health Organization has urged Russia to ensure safe access to places in Ukraine that its troops control or are besieging in order to allow healthcare to be delivered to people.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the situation in Ukraine and Russia's role in global health matters.

"I requested safe access to Mariupol, Kherson, Southern Zaporizhzhia & other besieged areas to deliver health aid. Civilians must be protected," Tedros said on his Twitter feed.

1:56pm: Russian soldier on trial for war crimes asks for forgiveness

The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in Ukraine asked for "forgiveness" in a Kyiv court Thursday as he gave a detailed account on how he killed a civilian early during Moscow's invasion.

"I know that you will not be able to forgive me, but nevertheless I ask you for forgiveness," 21-year-old Russian sergeant Vadim Shishimarin said in court, addressing the wife of a 62-year-old civilian whom he admitted killing in the first days of the invasion.

FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reports on the case from Kyiv.

12:19am: Russia says review of sanctions needed in order to open Ukraine ports

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that if it were to heed a United Nations appeal to open access to Ukraine's Black Sea ports, the removal of sanctions against Russia would also have to be considered, the Interfax news agency reported.

Ukraine, one of the world's biggest grain producers, used to export most of its goods through its seaports, but since Russia sent troops into Ukraine, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.

UN food chief David Beasley appealed on Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: "If you have any heart at all, please open these ports." Beasley's World Food Programme feeds some 125 million people and buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine.

10:45am: Switzerland to reopen embassy in Kyiv

Switzerland is reopening its embassy in Kyiv, with five staff members, including the ambassador, set to return to the Ukrainian capital over the next few days, said the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

The decision to reopen the embassy after it was temporarily closed two and a half months ago was based on an in-depth analysis of the security situation, added the FDFA.

10:40am: Kyiv complains of 'second class treatment' from some EU capitals

Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba criticised the "second-class treatment" of Kyiv by some EU countries on Thursday, after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the war-torn country's bid to join the bloc cannot be sped up.

"Strategic ambiguity on Ukraine's European perspective practised by some EU capitals in the past years has failed and must end," Kuleba said on Twitter, saying this had "only emboldened" Russian President Vladimir Putin. He slammed the "second-class treatment" of Ukraine that he said "hurt feelings of Ukrainians".

10:37am: Poland says it will help Sweden and Finland if they are attacked before joining NATO

Poland will assist Sweden and Finland, should they be attacked before obtaining NATO membership, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday.

"I consider the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO as an important signal of strengthening security in Europe," he said during a conference.

"I want to make it clear that in the event of an attack on Sweden or Finland during their accession [process], Poland will come to their aid."

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.

10:35am: Ukraine welcomes announcement of new US ambassador

Ukraine welcomes the US Senate's confirmation of Bridget Brink as Washington's Ambassador to Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's chief of staff said on Thursday.

"We greet the US Senate unanimous decision to approve Bridget Brink [as] the US Ambassador to Ukraine," Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter. There has been no US ambassador in Kyiv since 2019.

10:20am: Kyiv and west Ukraine try to regain 'sense of normality' as fighting continues in east

As clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces continue in eastern Ukraine, in the capital Kyiv, residents are returning to work and queueing for petrol.

"This is the whole contradiction of the war in Ukraine," says FRANCE 24's Cyril Payen, reporting from Kyiv. "The west of the country and the capital city are trying to revive... a few hundred kilometres away war is raging."

"Life is not back to normal, but everybody here [in Kyiv] is trying to work and get back to a sense of normality," he said.

10:05am: 'No shortcuts' for Ukraine EU membership says Scholz

Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up despite the country's invasion by Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday, adding that the bloc must find a 'fast and pragmatic' way to help Kyiv.

"There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU," Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership. "The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years," he said.

10:02am: Ukraine's Azovstal steel plant fighters held by Russian-backed separatists

Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are being held in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists and may be tried for war crimes, Russia has said.

Russia's defence ministry said Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered at the besieged steel plant since May 16.

Video footage released by Russia shows evacuated soldiers being treated in a hospital. "I'm being treated well," one said. "No one is mistreating me, physically or psychologically." It has not been possible to establish if the soldiers were speaking freely.

09:20am: EU must create solidarity fund to rebuild Ukraine, says German chancellor

The European Union must make preparations for rebuilding Ukraine after the war by setting up a solidarity fund to help cover the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

Addressing parliament ahead of a meeting of EU leaders, Scholz said French President Emmanuel Macron was right that EU accession was not a matter of a few months or years, meaning it was all the more important to focus on pragmatic, immediate support.

"Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalising the Ukrainian economy will cost billions," he said. "We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners."

07:35am: Ukrainian attack on Russian border town kills civilian, Russian govenor says

One person died and others were injured in southwestern Russia after an attack in a village on the border with Ukraine, the governor of Kursk region said on Thursday.

"Another enemy attack on Tyotkino, which took place at dawn unfortunately ended in tragedy. At the moment, we know of at least one civilian death," governor Roman Starovoyt said on Telegram, implying that the attack came from Ukraine.

He said that according to preliminary information, the victim was a truck driver who was making a delivery to a local distillery, which was struck "several times".

Starovoyt added that others were wounded and work was underway to put out fires in the village of around 4,000 people on border with Ukraine, where Russia sent troops on February 24.

"Several houses were damaged. There are also reports of unexploded shells," Starovoyt said.

On Telegram, he posted photos showing charred buildings, blown out windows and dents in the ground from where the shells allegedly landed.

Authorities in Russian regions bordering Ukraine have repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of launching attacks.

07:24am: Mariupol deserted after weeks of Russian attacks

Ukrainian fighters are reportedly receiving medical care after leaving Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant. In recent days, nearly 1,000 soldiers who spent weeks holed up in the steel plant have surrendered to Russian forces, with some taken into territories controlled by Russian backed separatists.

Mariupol was home to around 500,000 inhabitants at the start of the war, but weeks of Russian attacks have left the city deserted and largely destroyed.

5:15am: Japan doubles its aid to Ukraine

Japan will double fiscal aid for Ukraine to $600 million in a coordinated move with the World Bank to back the country's near-term fiscal necessities damaged by Russia's invasion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Thursday.

Japan, a member of the Group of Seven industrialised nations, had previously announced $300 million in loans to Ukraine in April.

04:31am: G7 Finance ministers meeting to discuss Ukraine budget, impact of war on global economy

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven industrialised nations are holding talks in Koenigswinter in western Germany to coordinate their response.

"The bilateral and multilateral support announced so far will not be sufficient to address Ukraine's needs, even in the short term," United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a speech in Brussels on Tuesday.

Yellen, who is attending the meeting in Koenigswinter, called on US partners to "join us in increasing their financial support" for war-scarred Ukraine.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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