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Ukraine war: Six key developments to know about today

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP, Reuters
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Rescue workers clearing rubble of a destroyed school after an attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday, July 4, 2022
Rescue workers clearing rubble of a destroyed school after an attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday, July 4, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

1. Russian forces move onto Donetsk next after taking hold of entire Luhansk

Ukrainian forces are today concentrating on defending Donetsk province in the eastern Donbas after Russia claimed to have taken control of neighbouring Luhansk.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces were now focusing their efforts on pushing toward the line of Siversk, Fedorivka and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, about half of which is controlled by Russia.

The Russian army has also intensified its shelling of the key Ukrainian strongholds of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, deeper in Donetsk.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Luhansk province and ordered his forces to continue their offensive in eastern Ukraine, as the five-month-long war entered a new phase.

It came a day after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city of Lysychansk, their last remaining bulwark of resistance in the province.

2. Russia behind mass arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of Ukrainian civilians, says UN human rights chief

Arbitrary detention of civilians has become widespread in parts of Ukraine held by Russia's military and affiliated armed groups, with 270 cases documented, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday, announcing plans to boost monitoring in the country.

The findings were based on information from monitors' field visits and interviews conducted with some 500 victims and witnesses of human rights violations, as well as other sources of data, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

"Despite restrictions on access, we have documented 270 cases of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance. Eight of the victims were found dead," Bachelet said in an update on the situation in Ukraine in the period from 23 February to 15 May.

In a speech at the same session, Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova accused Russia of kidnappings on a "massive" scale, including of Kherson Mayor Ihor Kolykhayev, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

The UN human rights office, which has maintained a presence in Ukraine since 2014, has not yet been provided access to territory occupied by Russian armed forces, Bachelet said.

She also said her office was increasing its presence in the country. A UN rights spokesperson added that it planned to boost its monitoring team in Ukraine to 80 people from about 55, without giving a timeframe.

It has documented some 4,889 deaths of civilians so far, Bachelet said, stressing that the actual figures were "likely considerably" higher.

3. Kharkiv under constant bombardment as Ukrainian troops rally to push back Moscow's forces

Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, has come under heavy fire with missiles hitting the city and its outskirts every day as Russian forces move to take control of the Donbas, the country's eastern industrial heartland.

Soldiers in Ukraine's 228th battalion of the 127th brigade of the Kharkiv territorial defence team have been holding their positions on the outskirts, but have suffered casualties while under artillery fire.

Troops are managing to keep the Russian army at bay, for now, using high-tech drone technology to aim the US-donated M777 Howitzers.

Ukraine's Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said recently that the Russian forces were firing 10 times more ammunition than the Ukrainian military.

Meanwhile, Kharkiv's North Saltivka neighbourhood has been heavily damaged by Russian bombardment, and the few remaining residents face food shortages and are struggling to return to normal life.

Most of the apartment blocks and houses in the neighbourhood have sustained critical damage and are impossible to live in. There is no water, gas or electricity in most of the houses.

Viktor Shevchenko, a resident of Kharkiv whose home was destroyed by shelling, said if the Ukrainian army had enough ammunition, they would be able to fight back Kremlin's troops.

"My son is in the army. If they had enough ammunition, we would push Russia away. This is me speaking for the whole world, Shevchenko Viktor Vasilievich: we will push Russia away. Because we are patriots and we live on our land."

4. Belarus won't be dragged into war with Ukraine, Zelenskyy believes

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday he thinks that Belarus, an ally of Moscow, will not be made to participate in Russia's war with his country.

"We believe that Belarus will not be drawn into this war, but there are provocations, and they will continue," he said in a video conference at the Economist's annual forum on the changing world, held this year in Athens.

He appeared to be referring to recent statements by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko said on Sunday that his anti-aircraft systems had intercepted missiles fired by Ukrainian forces and threatened to "retaliate".

Since the Kremlin's attack on Ukraine on 24 February, Belarus has served as a springboard for Russian forces.

"Many missiles of various calibres have been fired from the territory of Belarus and caused much suffering to Ukraine," Zelenskyy said.

"However, we understand that this is not due to a decision of the Belarusian people," he continued, before calling on Belarusians to "do everything possible not to be dragged into this war" and to "take their responsibilities".

Zelenskyy said Ukraine would be prepared in the event of an attack from the Belarusian side.

5. Finnish authorities seize 865 Russian-owned rail cars over EU sanctions

Finland has seized nearly a thousand freight cars belonging to Russian companies as a result of European Union sanctions, according to Finnish state-owned rail operator VR and a letter from Russia's rail monopoly seen by Reuters.

As Finland's VR moved to reduce railway traffic with Russia after the EU sanctioned Russian coal supplies in April, 865 rail cars from Russia were seized by bailiffs, according to the 6 June-dated letter from Russian Railways to the Ministry of Transport.

Finnish bailiff authority told Reuters it froze assets of a few dozen Russian and Belarusian individuals and legal entities, including transportation firms, worth at least €82 million, to comply with EU sanctions.

VR's spokeswoman Taina Kuitunen confirmed by email that there were "around 800 units of sanctioned [freight] cars in Finland at the moment" and the company sought to return the non-seized ones to Russia as soon as possible.

VR's head of logistics told Finnish media in March that around 5,000 Russian rail carriages were in Finland when it decided to suspend traffic, and while his company wanted to send them back, bailiffs ordered some to be seized.

The seized rail cars belong to companies either directly hit by EU sanctions or whose shareholders gave up their control because they got hit by sanctions after Russia sent its troops into Ukraine in late February.

6. Russian parliament considers law forcing companies to supply military for war effort

The Russian government will be able to compel businesses to supply the military with goods and make their employees work overtime under two laws to support Moscow's war in Ukraine that were approved in an initial vote in parliament on Tuesday.

The measures will effectively place Russia on a war economy footing, nearly 19 weeks into the invasion.

"In order to guarantee the supply of weapons and ammunition, it is necessary to optimize the work of the military-industrial complex and enterprises that are part of cooperation chains," Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said.

One of the two bills, both passed unanimously in a first reading by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said the state could impose "special economic measures" during the war, requiring firms to supply goods and services to the military.

The second bill would amend the labour code to grant the government the right to regulate working hours and determine off-days at given companies. Employees of businesses providing goods to the military could be compelled to work at night, on weekends and holidays, and without annual leave.

Both bills still need to undergo second and third readings in the Duma, where speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the discussion would continue behind closed doors on Wednesday. They must then be reviewed by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.