Thu, 07 Jul 2022

Russia's defence chief says the country's forces have taken full control of the massive steel plant in Mariupol that was the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the city. Read our liveblog below to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

10pm: Wimbledon stripped of ranking points by ATP, WTA over Russia, Belarus ban

Wimbledon had its ranking points stripped by the ATP and WTA Tours on Friday over its decision to exclude players from Russia and Belarus at this year's championships due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Tennis's governing bodies have banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, which Moscow calls a 'special operation', but allowed players from the two countries to continue competing as neutrals.

The move by the men's and women's tours to strip Wimbledon of its ranking points will effectively reduce the world's most famous tennis tournament to an exhibition event.

"The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour," the ATP said in a statement.

"The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the UK this summer undermines this principle and the integrity of the ATP Ranking system. It is also inconsistent with our Rankings agreement.

8:34pm: Russia claims full control of Mariupol

Russia's defence chief says the country's forces have taken full control of the massive steel plant in Mariupol that was the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the city.

That would mark the end of a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of Ukraine's vital Black Sea port of Mariupol to ruins and left over 20,000 people there feared dead.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol has been "completely liberated" from Ukrainian fighters.

8:17pm: Russian soldier's lawyer gives 'impassioned plea' in Kyiv war crimes trial

"Today it was the turn of the defence lawyer, who really made an impassioned plea for his client to be acquitted; this after Vadim Shishimarin had admitted guilt [...] and begged for forgiveness," FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reported from Kyiv. "The defence lawyer, [...] though being appointed by the Ukrainian state, was in no mind to let anybody suspect that this trial would be tainted by the political climate."

7:21pm: Russia ramps up assault aiming to seize Ukrainian province for separatists

Russian troops bombarded a riverside city on Friday in what appeared to herald a major assault to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in a province it claims on behalf of separatists.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had launched a massive artillery bombardment against Sievierodonetsk, one of the last Ukrainian-held bastions in Luhansk, one of two southeastern provinces Moscow and its proxies proclaim as independent states.

The city, and its twin Lyshchansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskiy Donets river, form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture the capital Kyiv.

"The Russian army has started very intensive destruction of the town of Sievierodonetsk, the intensity of shelling doubled, they are shelling residential quarters, destroying house by house," Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said via his Telegram channel. "We do not know how many people died, because it is simply impossible to go through and look at every apartment," he said.

6:12pm: Finland says Russian suspension of natural gas supplies will happen on Saturday

Russian supply of natural gas to Finland will be cut on Saturday morning, Finnish and Russian energy companies said Friday, after the Nordic country refused to pay supplier Gazprom in roubles.

"It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted," Gasum CEO Mika Wiljanen said in a statement.

However, we have been carefully preparing for this situation" and "there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network," Wiljanen said. The supply contract will end on Saturday at 7:00 am (0400 GMT), Gasum said.

Gazprom Export, the exporting arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom, said it had not received payment for gas supplied in April and would therefore halt deliveries from Saturday.

6pm: Deliberations start in Russian soldier's war crimes trial

The lawyer for a Russian soldier who was the first to go on trial for an alleged war crime in Ukraine asked a Kyiv court Friday to acquit his client, who had admitted killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian during the first days of the war.

Defence lawyer Victor Ovsyanikov argued that his client, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, had been unprepared for the "violent military confrontation" and mass casualties that Russian troops encountered when they first invaded Ukraine.

"It is essential, your honor, in my opinion, to assess Shishimarin's intentions as to what happened and the reasons he was guided by when he fired," Ovsyanikov said. "Could any of the people present here understand these circumstances in that situation?"

Shishimarin, a member of a Russian tank unit who was eventually captured, testified Thursday that he shot the civilian from an open car window on orders from two officers. He said one of the officers insisted the man, 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov, could report their location in the northeastern Sumy region to Ukrainian forces.

"Let's try to put ourselves in the place of at least one of those people in that car, and in general," Ovsyanikov, a Ukrainian lawyer who was appointed to defend the Russian sargeant, said Friday. "Did they understand that they killed a person at the time, or did they just shoot from a machine gun and go on?"

5:45pm: Ukraine orders end to defence of Mariupol

Ukraine on Friday ordered its last troops holed up in Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steelworks to lay down their arms after nearly three months of desperate resistance against a ferocious Russian assault.

Russia's flattening of the strategic port city has drawn multiple accusations of war crimes, including a deadly attack on a maternity ward, and Ukraine has begun a reckoning for captured Russian troops.

5:26pm: Russia makes early debt payment dash in bid to avoid default

Russia sent funds to pay interest on two of its international bonds on Friday in an attempt to stave off sovereign default ahead of the expiration next week of a key US licence that allows such transfers.

The finance ministry said it channelled $71.25 million to pay coupons on dollar-denominated Eurobonds maturing in 2026 and 26.5 million euros ($28 million) on euro-denominated notes due in 2036.

Russia has faced the prospect of sovereign default since Western capitals imposed sweeping sanctions in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, as well as Moscow introducing counter-measures. The country has been all but cut off from the global financial system and has seen roughly half of its $640 billion reserves abroad frozen.

3pm: Russia says it fulfilled obligations on Eurobond coupon payout in full

The Russian finance ministry on Friday said it has fulfilled obligations on paying coupons on two issues of Eurobonds in full.

The ministry said it channelled $71.25 million on coupon payout for dollar-denominated Eurobonds maturing in 2026 and 26.5 million euros ($28 million) on papers due in 2036. The national settlement depository has received the funds the ministry channelled, it said.

2:54pm: Finland says Russia suspending natural gas supplies

Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland after the Nordic country that applied for NATO membership this week refused President Vladimir Putin's demand to pay in rubles, the Finnish state-owned energy company said Friday, the latest escalation over European energy amid the war in Ukraine.

Finland is the latest country to lose the energy supply, which is used to generate electricity and power industry, after rejecting Russia's decree. Poland and Bulgaria were cut off late last month but had prepared for the loss of natural gas or are getting supplies from other countries.

Putin has declared that "unfriendly foreign buyers" open two accounts in state-owned Gazprombank, one to pay in euros and dollars as specified in contracts and another in rubles. Italian energy company Eni said this week that it was "starting procedures" to open a euro and a ruble account.

The European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, has said the system does not violate EU sanctions if countries make a payment in the currency listed in their contracts and then formally signal that the payment process is concluded. But it says opening a second account in rubles would breach sanctions.

2:43pm: G7 countries provide nearly $20 billion to Ukraine

Germany's finance minister says the Group of Seven leading economies and global financial institutions are providing $19.8 billion in aid to bolster Ukraine's public finances.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner told reporters Friday that $9.5 billion of the total was mobilised at meetings of the G-7 finance ministers in Koenigswinter, Germany, this week.

He said the goal is to ensure that Ukraine's financial situation does not affect its ability to defend itself against Russia's invasion.

2:22pm: Turkey's Erdogan to speak to Finland as NATO application row simmers

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will speak to Finland on Saturday, while maintaining his opposition to Finnish and Swedish NATO membership bids over their history of hosting members of groups Ankara deems "terrorists".

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO on Wednesday, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan said he had discussed the issue with the Dutch prime minister on Friday and would also speak to Britain on Saturday. He did not specify the people he would speak to in Finland and Britain.

1:32pm: Troops holed up in Azovstal steelworks ordered to stop fighting, Ukrainian army chief says

Kyiv has ordered the remaining Ukrainian troops still holed up in Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steelworks to stop fighting, a commander of a battalion leading the trapped units said Friday.

"The higher military command has given the order to save the lives of the soldiers of our garrison and to stop defending the city," Denys Prokopenko said in a video on Telegram. He said there was an "ongoing process" to remove fighters who had been killed from the plant.

1:20pm: Russian gas supplies to Finland will be suspended from Saturday

Russia's Gazprom has informed Finland that it will halt natural gas flows from Saturday morning, Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum said on Friday.

12:11pm: Russia to create new military bases in response to NATO expansion

"By the end of the year, 12 military bases and units will be deployed in the Western Military District," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told his ministry and army officials, noting "the growth of military threats on Russia's borders" and laying the blame with NATO and the US.

12:05pm: Moscow says the conquest of the Lugansk region is 'almost complete'

The Russian Defence Minister said that 1,908 Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol have surrendered. "The liberation of the Lugansk People's Republic is almost complete," he said, adding that "units of the Russian armed forces, together with divisions of the People's Militia of the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics, are continuing to increase control over the territories of the Donbas."

11:33am: Judge presiding over first Ukraine war crimes trial says verdict will be announced Monday

Viktor Ovsyannikov, the defence lawyer of the Russian soldier appearing in the first Kyiv war crimes trial, said his client was not guilty of premeditated murder and war crimes, even though he has admitted to killing a civilian, and asked for him to be acquitted.

Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin said he was "truly sorry" for his actions.

The judge presiding over this trial said the verdict will be announced on Monday.

10:55am: Russian parliament to consider allowing over-40s to sign up for military

In a sign of Russia's urgent need to bolster its war effort in Ukraine, its parliament said on Friday that it would consider a bill to allow Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military.

8:57am: Germany's lower house backs 40-billion supplementary budget to fund Ukraine costs

Germany's parliamentary budget committee approved plans on Friday to take out almost €40 billion euros ($42.3 billion) in additional debt this year to fund costs stemming from the fallout of the war in Ukraine.

7:46am: Luhansk's regional governor says Russian shelling has killed 13 civilians

Russian shelling in Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk has killed 13 civilians over the past 24 hours, Serhiy Gaidai, the regional governor, said on Friday.

Twelve were killed in the town of Sievierodonetsk, where a Russian assault has been unsuccessful, he said. The town and the city of Lysychansk are in an area where Russian troops have launched an offensive.

7:25am: US approves a $40-billion aid package for Ukraine

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the renewed Russian offensive in Ukraine's Donbas had turned the eastern region into "hell" and thanked the US for approving a $40-billion aid package for Ukraine.

2:55am: Blinken accuses Russia of using food as a weapon

Blinken told a UN Security Council meeting called by the United States that the war has halted maritime trade in large areas of the Black Sea and made the region unsafe for navigation, trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports and jeopardising global food supplies.

Blinken said the meeting, which he chaired, was taking place "at a moment of unprecedented global hunger" fuelled by climate change and COVID-19 "and made even worse by conflict."

Since Russia's invasion on February 24, he said, its naval operations have sought to control access to the northwestern Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and to block Ukrainian ports, which the United States assesses to be "a deliberate effort" to block safe passage and shut down shipping.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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