Follow the latest developments from the war in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that he was "ready" for "constructive dialogue with those who want peace" at a meeting with African mediators on Ukraine, welcoming their "balanced approach" to the Ukrainian crisis.
"We welcome the balanced approach of our African friends to the Ukrainian crisis", said Mr Putin at the start of the meeting in St Petersburg (north-west Russia). "We are open to constructive dialogue with those who want peace based on the principles of justice and consideration of the legitimate interests of the parties", he stressed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has firmly and repeatedly insisted that there is no room for any negotiation that does not involve the Russian military leaving his country's territory.
Biden says Ukraine's NATO accession won't be made easy
Ukraine will not be given any special treatment in its bid to join NATO, US President Joe Biden said on Saturday.
Asked by journalists whether he intended to make it "easier" for Kiev to join the Atlantic Alliance, Biden bluntly said "no", assuring them that Ukraine would have to "meet all the criteria. So we're not going to make it easy".
Biden also described as "totally irresponsible" Russia's deployment of nuclear warheads in Belarus, which it confirmed this week. The deployment is the result of an agreement announced in March between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has lent his country's territory to Russia to attack Ukraine.
Mr Biden's remarks come ahead of NATO's next annual summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11 and 12 July.
While Russian propaganda has often framed the invasion of Ukraine as a response to supposed NATO overexpansion, the war has in fact driven the alliance to expand. Along with a Ukrainian membership, Finland has joined, and Sweden's membership is being blocked only by Turkey and Hungary.
Russian military hardware scramble continues
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Saturday called for more tanks to be produced to meet the Russian army's needs in the face of Ukraine's counteroffensive.
Mr Shoigu made the remarks on a visit to a military factory in the Omsk region in western Siberia, the Russian army said in a press release. Shoigu also stressed the need to improve the safety of armoured vehicles and their crews, according to the same source.
According to the UK Ministry of Defence's most recent Ukraine update, Russia has had more luck reinforcing its crucial fleet of attack helicopters, with at least 20 more arriving at Berdyansk Airport behind the front line.
Moscow keeps insisting that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has failed, while Kyiv claims to have liberated a handful of towns and around a hundred square kilometres of territory, mainly on the southern front.
According to military analysts, Ukraine has not yet launched the bulk of its forces in its counter-offensive, and is still testing the front to identify weak points in Russia's defences.
African mediators meeting with Putin
A delegation of African leaders who arrived in Kyiv on Friday to put forward a peace plan are now heading for St Petersburg, where they are expected to meet Vladimir Putin today.
The delegation led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa proposed peace mediation in the conflict on Friday, saying from the Ukrainian capital that there should be "de-escalation on both sides".
He was rebuffed by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who denounced Moscow's repeated "deception".
"Allowing negotiations with Russia now, when the occupier is on our land, means freezing the war, freezing the pain and suffering", Mr Zelensky said at a joint press conference with the African leaders.
NATO welcomed the proposal for mediation, but warned that only a "just" solution that recognised Russia's invasion as an act of aggression would work.
Ramaphosa's trip has been poorly received by his political opponents in South Africa, who are criticising him both for his policy toward Russia and for the logistical and financial expense of the venture.
In a humiliating episode, more than 100 South African security staff who travelled on a separate plane were refused permission to disembark on arrival in Warsaw en route to Ukraine, and have now flown home after more than 24 hours at Chopin Airport without accompanying the president to Russia.
Putin calls Zelensky a "disgrace to the Jewish people"
Vladimir Putin yesterday described Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, as a "disgrace to the Jewish people", once again accusing Ukraine of being controlled by neo-Nazis – an often-repeated theme of Kremlin propaganda.
"I've had a lot of Jewish friends since childhood," Putin said at an economic forum in St Petersburg that was broadcast live on Russian TV. "And they say that Zelensky is not Jewish, but a disgrace to the Jewish people. This is not a joke."
Putin once again accused the Ukrainian president of "covering up for those neo-Nazi bastards" and treating Nazi collaborators during the Second World War as heroes.
"Why aren't they listening to us?" he asked. "We are obliged to fight this. We have every right to consider that the objective of denazification of Ukraine is one of the key objectives."