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Ukraine war: Five things you need to know about the conflict this weekend

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By Euronews  with AP, Reuters
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Smoke billows the air from a residential buildings following explosions, in Kyiv, 26 June 2022
Smoke billows the air from a residential buildings following explosions, in Kyiv, 26 June 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty

1.  Russia launches a barrage of rockets on Kyiv

Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital in the early hours of Sunday morning, striking at least two residential buildings, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Klitschko said two people were hospitalized with injuries including a 7-year-old girl who was pulled alive from the rubble.

Local outlets are reporting that at least one person was killed in the strike, while another person remained trapped under the rubble of a building in the Shevchenkivskyi District, citing emergency services.

"Our military is doing everything to prevent attacks on our city. But unfortunately, we cannot guarantee 100% security in Kyiv or elsewhere in Ukraine as long as this aggression continues," Klitschko said.

Ukraine Member of Parliament Oleksiy Goncharenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app that “according to [preliminary] data 14 missiles were launched against Kyiv region and Kyiv.”

Before Sunday’s early morning attack, Kyiv had not faced any such Russian airstrikes since 5 June.

2. Russian troops bombard Lysychansk after taking Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces have been seeking to swallow up the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region, pressing their momentum after taking full control Saturday of the charred ruins of Sievierodonetsk and the chemical plant where hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians had been holed up.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said on Sunday that Russia was conducting intense airstrikes on the adjacent city of Lysychansk, destroying its television tower and seriously damaging a road bridge.

“There's very much destruction — Lysychansk is almost unrecognizable,” he wrote on Facebook.

"Street fighting" was also taking place in Lysychansk as early as Saturday, according to the Kremlin-backed LNR separatists. Moscow is now in almost complete control of the Lugansk region.

Sievierodonetsk was "fully occupied" by Russia's forces on Saturday, according to the city's head of military administration Oleksandr Striuk.

“The city is completely occupied by the Russians,” Striuk said in a televised address after the Ukrainian army withdrew to the neighbouring town of Lyssytchansk yesterday. 

Sievierodonetsk, a key city in the prized Donbas region, has experienced several grinding weeks of fighting between Russia and Ukraine and has been bombed heavily, with some witnesses stating that most of it has been turned to rubble. Before the war, it was home to 100,000 people. 

According to Striuk, several hundred locals, who had been sheltering from the bombardment in Sievierodonetsk's Azot factory, have started to leave the site. 

"These people have lived almost three months of their lives in basements, shelters," he said. "It's difficult emotionally and physiologically." 

Striuk added that they "now they (need) help -- medical and psychological".

3. Russia trying to 'draw' Belarus into war, claims Ukraine

Kyiv accused Moscow on Saturday of attempting to "draw" Minsk into the conflict, following missile strikes from Belarus on Ukrainian soil. 

"Today's strike is directly linked to the Kremlin's efforts to draw Belarus into the war in Ukraine as a co-belligerent," said the Ukrainian Defence Ministry on Telegram.

Moscow has not publically stated that it wants to bring Belarus, its principal ally, into the conflict. 

Missiles fired from Belarus struck the northern Cherniguiv region on the Ukrainian-Belarussian border early Saturday morning, according to Ukraine's army. 

“Around 5:00 a.m. (2:00 GMT), the Chernihiv region came under massive missile bombardment. Twenty rockets targeted the village of Desna, fired from the territory of Belarus (and also) from the air,” it said. 

No casualties were reported, although the Ukrainian army said "infrastructure was affected", without specifying what it was. 

Belarus provided logistical support for Moscow's troops, especially in the first weeks of the Russian offensive, although it is not directly taking part in the conflict with Ukraine.  

4. Moscow to give Belarus nuclear-capable missiles

Russia will deliver missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to Belarus, Putin said Saturday. 

The Russian leader made the announcement during a meeting with Belarusian strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, amidst tensions between the pair and the West over Ukraine.

"In the coming months, we will transfer to Belarus Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use ballistic or cruise missiles, in their conventional and nuclear versions," said Putin. 

The two leaders also signalled that they wanted to modernise the Belarusian air force to make it capable of carrying nuclear weapons, potentially further straining relations between Moscow and Western countries. 

"Many Su-25 (aircraft) are in service with the Belarusian army," said Putin. "They could be upgraded in an appropriate way. This modernisation should be carried out in aircraft factories in Russia and training of personnel should begin in accordance with that.” 

"We will agree on how to accomplish this," Putin added

5. Turning the tide of war possible, say Macron and Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday warned French President Emmanuel Macron that a negotiated solution in Ukraine now could cause instability around the world, Downing Street said.

At a meeting on the sidelines of a G7 summit in Germany, the two leaders "agreed that this was a critical moment in the development of the conflict and that it was possible to turn the tide of war," a British government spokesman said, adding that they had agreed to "step up" military support to Kyiv.

"The Prime Minister stressed that any attempt to resolve the conflict now would only cause lasting instability and give Putin the right to manipulate sovereign countries and international markets in perpetuity," he added.

Unlike Macron, Johnson has refused to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has described as a "dictator", since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

In an interview with the British media, Johnson said the West must have "really, really frank discussions" at the G7 summit, followed by a NATO summit in Madrid, about the implications of the war and sanctions for inflation and other issues, in order to "protect the unity" displayed so far.

"There is going to be, realistically, a certain amount of fatigue among the people and the political classes," he said, acknowledging a "certain amount of anxiety" about the issue.