A local politician sentences in Moscow, dire warnings about humanitarian conditions in eastern Ukraine, more US weapons for Kyiv and Russian athletes out of World Championships.
1. Moscow councillor gets seven years in prison for criticising war in Ukraine
Moscow city councillor Alexei Gorinov was sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday for denouncing Russia's war in Ukraine.
Gorinov was found guilty of "disseminating clearly false information" about the Russian military using his "official duties" and doing so as part of an organised group motivated by "political hatred", according to Judge Olesya Mendeleyeva.
"The defendant's rehabilitation is impossible without a sentence of deprivation of liberty," the magistrate said before sentencing him to seven years in a penal colony.
Before she handed down the sentence, the trial audience applauded the defendant, leading to the expulsion from the courtroom of spectators who had come to support him.
The 60-year-old Gorinov's sentencing came in the midst of a wave of repression to silence any criticism of Russia's war.
2. US sending $400 million more in military aid to Ukraine
The United States will send another $400 million (€393 million) in military equipment to Ukraine, including four more advanced rocket systems, a senior defense official said Friday, in an effort to bolster Ukrainian efforts to strike deeper behind Russian frontlines in the eastern Donbas region.
The aid comes as Moscow this week claimed full control of Ukraine's Luhansk province in the Donbas, but Ukrainian officials say their troops still control a small part of the province and fierce fighting continues in several villages.
The defense official said that the eight High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that were previously sent are still being used by Ukraine forces in the fight. And this will give them four more to help hit Russian command and control nodes, logistics capabilities and other systems that are further back behind the battlefront. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.
Russia in recent days has launched dozens of missiles across Ukraine and pinned down Ukrainian forces with continuous long-range 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. The precision weapons can help Ukraine hit Russian weapons that are farther away and are being used to bombard Ukrainian locations.
The latest aid is the 15th package of military weapons and equipment transferred to Ukraine from Defense Department stocks since last August. In addition to the HIMARS, the U.S. will also send 1,000 rounds of 155 millimeter artillery which has an increased precision capability that also will help Ukraine hit specific targets. The package also will include three tactical vehicles, counter battery radar systems, spare parts and other equipment.
Looking ahead to the coming months, the official said that a key goal is to build up Ukraine's logistics and repair capabilities so troops can maintain its weapons systems and continue the fight into the future.
Overall, the US has sent about $7.3 billion (€7.1 billion) in aid to Ukraine since the war began in late February.
**3.**Ukrainian official warns of 'catastrophe' in captured city
A Ukrainian regional official warned Friday of deteriorating living conditions in a city captured by Russian forces two weeks ago, saying Sievierodonetsk is without water, power or a working sewage system while the bodies of the dead decompose in hot apartment buildings.
Governor Serhiy Haidai said the Russians were unleashing indiscriminate artillery barrages as they try to secure their gains in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk province. Moscow this week claimed full control of Luhansk, but the governor and other Ukrainian officials said their troops retained a small part of the province.
"Luhansk hasn’t been fully captured even though the Russians have engaged all their arsenal to achieve that goal,” Haidai told The Associated Press. “Fierce battles are going on in several villages on the region’s border. The Russians are relying on tanks and artillery to advance, leaving scorched earth.”
Russia's forces “strike every building that they think could be a fortified position,” he said. “They aren’t stopped by the fact that civilians are left there, and they die in their homes and courtyards. They keep firing.”
Occupied Sievierodonetsk, meanwhile, “is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe," the governor wrote on social media. “The Russians have completely destroyed all the critical infrastructure, and they are unable to repair anything.”
Haidai reported last week that about 8,000 residents remained in the city, which had a prewar population of 100,000. Some Ukrainian officials and soldiers said Russian forces leveled Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk province's administrative center, before Ukraine's troops were ordered out of the city late last month to avoid their encirclement and capture.
4. Moscow trolls British and American embassies by renaming roads
Moscow has taken a page out of Washington’s playbook to troll both the US and the UK by renaming the streets in front of their embassies in the Russian capital.
The streets are now officially named for the two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine where fighting is now the fiercest. Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized their independence in February just before sending in troops to “liberate” them from Ukraine.
The US and Britain have not recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” but Moscow officials said they will at least have to recognize the new addresses if they want to receive their mail.
A sign went up Friday renaming the street in front of the British Embassy the Luhansk People’s Republic Square. The US Embassy in Moscow since last month has been located on Donetsk People’s Republic Square.
The US, however, has played this game far longer. In the 1980s, the section of 16th Street outside the Soviet Embassy in Washington was symbolically renamed Andrei Sakharov Plaza, in honor of the Soviet nuclear physicist and leading human rights activist and dissident.
Since 2018, the section of Wisconsin Avenue in front of the new Russian Embassy has been symbolically called Boris Nemtsov Plaza. Nemtsov, an opposition leader who led anti-Putin protests and worked to expose official corruption, was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015.
The Russian Embassy in London, for now at least, has kept its more genteel address at Kensington Palace Gardens.
5. Russians officially out of track world championships
Track and field officials confirmed Friday that Russians will not be allowed to compete at this month's world championships due to the war in Ukraine.
The federation banned Russians from major international events shortly after the country invaded Ukraine in February. At the time, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said the unprecedented move appeared "to be the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace.”
World championships begin next Friday and run through 24 July.
World Athletics confirmed the ban in a news release announcing it had cleared an additional 18 Russian athletes to compete as neutrals in international competition, but that the approvals would not apply to worlds.
Those athletes were cleared as part of a protocol in the wake of a doping scandal that has left Russia's athletics federation under suspension since 2015. At last year’s Olympics, 10 Russians were allowed in the track meet; at the world championships in 2019, 29 Russians competed.
There are now 73 Russian athletes who can compete as neutrals, though their status at major international events is in limbo due to the war.
Among those athletes is reigning Olympic and world champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene, who has never lost in an international competition. Last month, she blasted the decision in an open letter to Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, which has recommended the Russian ban.
Lasitskene's top rivals are from Ukraine and she said “I still don’t know what to say them or how to look into their eyes.”
“They and their friends and relatives are experiencing what no one human being should ever have to feel,” she said.