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Ukraine war: Five things you need to know this weekend

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer in Donetsk, 18 June 2022
Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer in Donetsk, 18 June 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

1. Food prices soar as Russia's Ukraine invasion halts grain exports

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, now in its fourth month, is preventing grain from leaving the "breadbasket of the world" and making food more expensive across the globe.

Russian forces' blockade of Ukrainian ports, destruction and alleged theft of the country's grains and agricultural machinery, and shells and mines now strewn across its fields are threatening to worsen shortages, hunger and political instability in developing countries.

Weeks of negotiations on safe corridors to get grain out of Ukraine's Black Sea ports have made little progress, with urgency rising as the summer harvest season arrives.

Together, Russia and Ukraine export nearly a third of the world's wheat and barley, more than 70% of its sunflower oil and are prominent suppliers of corn. Russia is the top global fertiliser producer.

The war made the already-climbing world food prices skyrocket by preventing some 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain from reaching the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia.

Up to 181 million people in 41 countries could face a food crisis or even outright famine, UN projections show.

2. Streets fill for funeral of prominent activist killed in action

Thousands gathered in Kyiv Saturday for the funeral of Roman Ratushny, a Ukrainian civic and environmental activist, who died in battle.

Huge crowds flocked to Kyiv's Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery for the 24-year-old's ceremony, with many carrying flowers and Ukrainian flags on their backs. 

Ratushny, a scout, was killed during a combat operation on 9 June near Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, where Ukrainian forces are facing the Russian army. 

His body was carried by four soldiers in military uniforms, after the ceremony Ratushny will be buried in the Baikove cemetery, the resting place of many Ukrainian notables. 

"Roman is the generation that is the future of Ukraine," friend Oleh Nikyforov told Euronews. "Those people who think and do not live by patterns [and] established standards, [and] understand what is right and wrong."

Tributes poured in for the young activist after his death was announced last week, with the NGO he headed Let's Save Protasiv Yar saying he was "our best."

Ratushny was one of the student demonstrators beaten by the police on the first evening of Ukraine's 2014 Maidan revolution, which led to the ousting of Russian-leaning Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. 

He later became a famous activist and freelance journalist, having graduated in law.

3. NATO secretary-general warns of a possible lengthy war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine could take years, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a German weekly newspaper, asking the invaded country's western allies to continue supporting it.

"We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine," Stoltenberg told Bild am Sonntag. "Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices."

Stoltenberg stressed, though, that "the costs of food and fuel are nothing compared with those paid daily by the Ukrainians on the front line."

If Russian President Vladimir Putin should reach his objectives in Ukraine, like when he annexed Crimea in 2014, "we would have to pay an even greater price," Stoltenberg added.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also expressed concerns "that a bit of Ukraine fatigue is starting to set in around the world," urging support for Ukrainian efforts to try to roll back the Russian invasion.

"It would be a catastrophe if Putin won. He'd love nothing more than to say, 'Let's freeze this conflict, let's have a cease-fire,'" Johnson said on Saturday, a day after a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and offered offer continued aid and military training.

4. Ukrainian medic who filmed Mariupol horror thanks Zelenskyy for release

Celebrated Ukrainian paramedic who was freed from Russian captivity earlier in the week Yuliia Paievska has thanked the Ukrainian president for her release.

Paievska, who goes by the nickname of Taira -- a nickname she chose for herself in the World of Warcraft game -- recorded some 260 gigabytes of her team’s efforts to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers, in the besieged southern city.

“I know that everything will work out and we will all be home as I am now,” Paievska said addressing Ukrainians still held by Moscow forces.

The video posted on social media came after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Paievska, also known as Taira was home.

"Today I can finally announce this. We managed to liberate Taira, the Ukrainian paramedic Yuliia Paievska, from captivity," Zelenskyy said.

"I am grateful to everyone who worked towards this result. Taira is home. We will keep working to liberate everyone."

5. Russian and Ukrainian forces both claim operational successes in the east, south

The Ukrainian army said on Sunday it had repelled Russian attacks near Sievierodonetsk in the east of the country, the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in a war that is now in its fourth month.

"Our units repelled the assault in the Toshkivka region," the Ukrainian army said on Facebook. "The enemy has retreated and is regrouping."

The local governor, Serhiy Haidai, called the idea that the Russians controlled the strategic town of Sievierodonetsk "lies". "They indeed control the majority of the city but they do not control it entirely," he said on Telegram.

For its part, the Russian defence ministry said that "the offensive against Sievierodonetsk is proceeding successfully". 

"Units [of LNR], supported by the Russian armed forces, have liberated the locality of Metolkin," southeast of Sievierodonetsk, the Kremlin claimed on Sunday.

The Russian ministry also claimed to have hit a factory in the southern region of Mykolayiv with cruise missiles, and destroyed "10 M777 155mm howitzers and up to 20 armoured vehicles supplied to the Kyiv regime by the West over the past ten days". These claims cannot be independently verified.