1. Russia 'deliberately turning Donbas into ashes', says governor
Russian missile strikes in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv killed at least five people, Ukrainian authorities said on Wednesday.
A series of artillery barrages across the country over the past day has left at least 10 dead and nearly 20 wounded in eastern and southern regions.
Russian missiles also struck the town of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday, an attack that could signal Moscow's determination to hold onto territory in Ukraine's south as it aims to fully conquer the east.
Some of the civilian deaths occurred in Donetsk province. The city of Bakhmut faced particularly heavy shelling as the current focus of Russia's offensive, Donetsk administrative chief Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
In adjacent Luhansk province, which Russian and separatist forces have all but conquered, Ukrainian soldiers battled to retain control of two outlying villages amid Russian shelling, Governor Serhiy Haidai said.
Luhansk and Donetsk together make up Ukraine's Donbas region, a mostly Russian-speaking region of steel factories, mines and other industries vital to Ukraine's economy.
The Russians are “deliberately turning Donbas into ashes, and there will be just no people left on the territories captured,” Haidai said.
Russian artillery also rained down in northeast Ukraine, where a regional governor, Oleg Syniehubov, accused Russian forces of trying to “terrorise civilians” in Kharkiv, the country's second-largest city.
2. Ukraine seeks grain exports breakthrough at talks
Ukraine said on Wednesday that an agreement to resume grain exports blocked by Russia appeared close as Turkey hosted four-way talks.
It raised hopes of an end to a standoff that has exposed millions to the risk of starvation.
Kyiv believed a deal was just "two steps away", Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was quoted as saying before the talks began.
Other participants however seemed less optimistic. Afterwards, the UN reported “positive” results, although Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had previously warned there is a "long way to go" to reach agreement.
3. Russian anti-war dissident to be kept in jail
A Moscow court ordered opposition politician Ilya Yashin be kept in jail for two months pending an investigation into the spreading of "fake information" about Russia's army, a charge carrying a jail term of up to 15 years.
"Russia will be free!" Yashin shouted in court after the judge agreed with state prosecutors' request to keep him in prison until September 12.
New Russian legislation prohibits public statements which "discredit" its armed forces or cite information from non-official sources. The measure was criticised by the West as a further crackdown on free speech.
Yashin, an ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and member of Moscow's Krasnoselsky district council, had vowed to stay in Russia despite the looming threat of arrest.
He has been outspoken in his criticism of President Vladimir Putin and Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Yashin's lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said the charges related to a video Yashin posted on his YouTube channel in which he spoke about Russia's actions in Bucha, near Kyiv. Russia has denied carrying out atrocities.
Since the start of the conflict, Russia has moved to quash almost all forms of dissent, with most of its opposition figures either in jail or exile.
4. Blinken accuses Russia of 'war crime' over forced deportations
The U.S. top diplomat accused Russia of committing a “war crime" by forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children to Russia in a bid to change Ukraine's demographic makeup.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly condemned the “unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons" from areas in Ukraine that Russia now controls.
“Russian authorities mustrelease those detained andallow Ukrainian citizens forcibly removed or coerced into leaving their country the ability to promptly and safely return home," Blinken said in a statement.
Blinken said an estimated 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens — including 260,000 children — have been interrogated, detained and deported to Russia, in areas including the country's far east.
“Moscow’s actions appear pre-meditated and draw immediate historical comparisons to Russian “filtration” operations in Chechnya and other areas," he said. “President Putin’s ‘filtration' operations are separating families,confiscating Ukrainian passports, and issuing Russian passports in an apparent effort to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine."
Bliken cited mounting evidence that Russian authorities are detaining, torturing or “disappearing” thousands of Ukrainian civilians who Russia considers threatening because of their potential ties to the Ukrainian army, media, government or civil society groups. Some Ukrainians, according to reports, have been summarily executed.
“President Putin and his government will not be able to engage in these systematic abuses with impunity. Accountability is imperative," said Blinken. “The United States and our partners will not be silent. Ukraine and its citizens deserve justice."
5. Pro-Russian separatist territories 'recognised by North Korea'
The two pro-Russian separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday they had been recognised as states by North Korea. There was no immediate announcement from Pyongyang.
The recognition would be the third, after those of Syria in late June and Russia a few days before Moscow launched its offensive against Ukraine in February.
The diplomatic representations of the Donetsk and Luhansk separatists in Moscow each posted on Telegram a photo of their respective representatives receiving what is presented as a letter of recognition from North Korean Ambassador Sin Hong Chol.
Shortly before, the leader of the separatist territory of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, had announced the recognition by the North Korean authorities.
"The international status of the Donetsk People's Republic continues to strengthen," he said. "This is a new victory for our diplomacy," he also told AFP.
Russia has justified its military offensive against Ukraine by the need to defend these separatist entities in the east of the country.
Moscow is widely seen, despite its denials, as the instigator of these separatist movements in 2014, in the wake of Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
6. Gazprom casts doubt on gas pipeline's quick return to full flow
Russian energy company Gazprom appeared to cast doubt Wednesday on the prospects of quickly restoring the flow of natural gas to full capacity through a major pipeline to Western Europe.
Gazprom reduced the gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1 to Germany by 60% last month. The state-owned gas company cited technical problems involving a piece of equipment that partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for overhaul and couldn’t be returned because of sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Canadian government said over the weekend that it would allow the gas turbine that powers a compressor station to be delivered to Germany, citing the “very significant hardship” that the German economy would suffer without a sufficient gas supply to keep industries running and generate electricity.
Gazprom tweeted Wednesday that it “does not possess any documents that would enable Siemens to get the gas turbine engine ... out of Canada.” It added that “in these circumstances, it appears impossible to reach an objective conclusion on further developments regarding the safe operation” of a compressor station at the Russian end of the pipeline, which it said is “of critical importance.”
Siemens Energy had no comment on Gazprom's statement.
7. Germany launches fifth LNG terminal to diversify gas supplies
A fifth floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal project in Germany was launched on Wednesday with the participation of French group TotalEnergies, as Berlin tries to avoid an energy crisis this winter amid threats of Russian gas cuts.
TotalEnergies and Germany's Deutsche Ostsee have "signed an agreement for the installation and operation of a floating terminal in Lubmin", on the Baltic Sea, where the Nord Stream pipeline also arrives, according to a statement from the two companies.
"From 1 December 2022, the terminal will inject 4.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas into the German network," they added.
This is the fifth floating LNG terminal project launched by Germany since the start of the war in Ukraine in late February.
Since the Russian invasion, Berlin has been trying to diversify its gas supplies, which were previously dominated by Russia.
Berlin now fears that Moscow will cut off supplies completely as the Nord Stream pipeline has been undergoing maintenance since Monday.
The country was 35% dependent on Russian gas for its imports at the beginning of June, compared with 55% before the war in Ukraine.
LNG terminals allow natural gas to be imported by sea, thanks to a liquefaction process that makes it more transportable.
Germany currently has no such facilities, either at sea or on land, and receives all its gas supplies via pipelines, mostly from Russia.
These new terminals should enable Berlin to diversify its suppliers by increasing its orders from the United States, Qatar and Canada.
8. EU allows transit of some sanctioned Russian goods to Kaliningrad
The European Commission on Wednesday released new guidance on the transit of goods from Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave in what is seen as a bid to defuse tensions.
9. Two-thirds of Ukraine refugees plan to stay put for now, says UN
Around two-thirds of refugees from Ukraine expect to stay in their host countries until hostilities subside and the security situation improves after Russia's invasion, a survey by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has found.
10. European space agency ends cooperation with Russia over Mars rover mission
The European Space Agency (ESA) has officially ended its cooperation with Russia on the ExoMars mission to find life on the Red Planet.