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Ukraine war: The latest developments you need to know

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
Ukrainian soldiers attend their positions, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, July 2, 2022.
Ukrainian soldiers attend their positions, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, July 2, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo

1. Russian forces pound last Ukrainian stronghold in key city

Russian forces are pounding the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk province, the governor said Saturday.

Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces took control of an oil refinery on Lysychansk's edge in recent days, but Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai reported that fighting for the facility continued.

Separatists backed by the Russian army said on Saturday they had "completely" surrounded Lyssychansk, the last major city in the Lugansk region controlled by the Ukrainian army. 

It is the twin of that of Severodonetsk, conquered last week by Moscow after the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces after a battle lasting several weeks. The two towns are separated by the Donets River. The capture of Lyssytchansk would allow the Russian army to then advance towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two other large cities in the industrial region of Donbass, which Moscow is seeking to conquer.

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2. US promises more military aid to Ukraine

The US announced it will provide Ukraine with $820 million (€786 million) in new military aid, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to respond to Russia's heavy reliance on long-range strikes in the war.

Russia in recent days has launched dozens of missiles across Ukraine and pinned down Ukrainian forces with continuous fire for sometimes hours at a time. Ukraine's leaders have publicly called on Western allies to quickly send more ammunition and advanced systems that will help them narrow the gap in equipment and manpower.

All told, the US has committed more than $8.8 billion in weapons and military training to Ukraine, whose leaders have sought more help from Western allies to repel larger and heavily equipped Russian forces. About $7 billion of that aid has been announced since Russia's February invasion.

3. Two British men captured by Russia-backed separatists

Two British volunteers have been "captured" by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, according to Russian state media, and confirmed by a UK-based charity. 

"Two British citizens, working as volunteers not connected to us but known to us, Paul Urey (b. 1977) and Dylan Healy (b. 2000), were "captured by the Russian army at a checkpoint in Ukraine on Monday," Dominik Byrne, one of the founders of the Presidium Network NGO, said in a statement.

According to Presidium, they disappeared while driving to help evacuate a woman and two children to Dniprorudna in the southern region of Zaporozhia. The last contact was at 4am.

After they were arrested, the woman's house "was stormed by armed Russian soldiers" and they "made her husband lie down on the floor and asked her how she knew about these British spies", Mr Byrne said, pointing out that the two men were humanitarian volunteers who had gone to Ukraine on their own.

Paul Urey's mother, Linda, said she was "extremely concerned", in a message carried by Presidium.

"We know that my son Paul and his friend who was a humanitarian aid volunteer in Ukraine have been captured by the Russians," Linda Urey said. "We want everyone's support to bring my son home," she said, adding that he is "type 1 diabetic and needs his insulin".

Originally from Manchester and Warrington in the north of England, Paul Urey is described as a family man who did not serve in the army but spent eight years in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, while Dylan Healy worked in a hotel chain in the UK. Presidium said it was in contact with the UK Foreign Office, which is urgently seeking information on both nationals.

4. Russian oil tanker heading to Greek port

A Russian tanker carrying Iranian oil, which had been seized in Greece in mid-April at the request of American justice, was heading for the port of Piraeus on Saturday, according to Greek maritime authorities.

The tanker, which was in Karystos, a port in the south of the Greek island of Euboea, left around 07:00 (04:00 GMT) in the direction of Piraeus, according to Marine Traffic, a site specializing in maritime traffic.

On 19 April, Greek authorities seized the Russian tanker Pegas, renamed Lana, off the island of Evia, under European sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine. According to reports at the time, the tanker was carrying 115,000 tonnes of Iranian oil.

The Greek authorities had subsequently announced that the ship and its crew would be released. But the oil had instead been withheld at the request of the US Department of Justice, and a process of transferring the cargo to a vessel chartered by the United States had been initiated.

The United States imposes economic sanctions on Iran that affect its oil exports in particular.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry had requested via the International Maritime Organization (IMO) the Greek government to release the tanker while accusing the United States of "having unloaded the cargo from the ship". In retaliation, two Greek oil tankers were seized by Iran. A Greek regional court had ordered on June 9 the return to Iran of the confiscated oil.

5. German regulator urges customers to prepare for gas shortages

Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany's regulatory agency for energy called on residents Saturday to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.

Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.

"Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10% to 15% ,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.

Mueller said residents and property owners need to use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to get ready. He said families should start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter -- or whether some rooms can be a little colder.”

The appeal came after Russia reduced gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month, as European Union countries scramble to refill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.

Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a pipeline which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.