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Ukraine war: Russia 'improves position', West lining Putin's coffers, German army staff 'spying'

A Ukrainian soldier fires a mortar at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, May 29, 2023.
A Ukrainian soldier fires a mortar at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, May 29, 2023. Copyright Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AFP/AP
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All the latest developments from the Ukraine war.

Ukraine orders evacuations of 37 villages in Kharkiv region

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 Ukrainian authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation Thursday of nearly 12,000 civilians from 37 towns and villages in the eastern Kharkiv region, where Russian forces reportedly are making a concerted effort to punch through the front line.

The local military administration in Kharkiv's Kupiansk district said residents must comply with the evacuation order or sign a document saying they would stay at their own risk. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar had said the previous day that "the intensity of combat and enemy shelling is high" in the area.

The city of Kupiansk and the territories around it were under Russian occupation until September 2022, when Ukrainian forces conducted a rapid offensive operation that dislodged the Kremlin's forces from nearly the entire Kharkiv region.

The Russian army said on Thursday it had "improved its positions" in northeastern Ukraine, where it has been on the offensive for several weeks. 

In its daily report, the Russian Defence Ministry said assault units had gained ground towards Kupyansk, a city in the Kharvkiv region. 

Yandex co-founder slams 'barbaric' offensive in Ukraine

The co-founder of Russian tech gem Yandex spoke out on Thursday against the "barbaric" invasion of Ukraine, a rare stance of defiance among Russian businessmen amid unprecedented repression.

"I oppose it [the war] categorically. I am horrified by the plight of the people of Ukraine, many of whom are friends and relatives, and whose homes are being bombed every day," said Arkadi Voloj in a statement sent to AFP.

“I am against war,” he added.

In June 2022,  the entrepreneur resigned from Yandex, a search engine he co-founded in 1997 that has since become a giant in Russia. 

Living in Israel since the 2010s and presenting himself online as an "Israeli entrepreneur born in Kazakhstan", Voloj claims to have spent the last 18 months "supporting talented Russian engineers who have decided to leave the country" so that they can "start a new life".

After the Russian invasion began in 2020, Yandex was hit by several months of instability, with many employees leaving Russia. 

In December, the group's management announced its reorganisation and the arrival of Vladimir Putin's close friend as a "development adviser", at a time when the Kremlin is trying to strengthen its hold on Russian tech companies. 

Before Voloj, billionaire Oleg Tinkov was the only major Russian businessman to speak out against the conflict in Ukraine.

West lining Putin's coffers with nuclear fuel purchases

The US and its European allies are importing vast amounts of nuclear fuel from Russia, providing Moscow with hundreds of millions of euros in badly needed revenue as it wages war on Ukraine.

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The sales, which are legal and unsanctioned, have raised alarms from nonproliferation experts and elected officials who say they are helping to bankroll Moscow and complicating efforts to curtail its war-making abilities. 

The dependence on Russian nuclear products — used mostly to fuel civilian reactors — leaves the US and its allies open to energy shortages if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to cut off supplies. 

The challenge is likely to grow more intense as those nations seek to boost the production of emissions-free electricity to combat climate change.

“We have to give money to the people who make weapons? That’s absurd,” said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. “If there isn’t a clear rule that prevents nuclear power providers from importing fuel from Russia — and it’s cheaper to get it from there — why wouldn’t they do it?”

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Russia has sold about €1.5 billion in nuclear products to firms in the US and Europe, according to trade data and experts. 

Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia continue

Russia claimed early on Thursday it shot down 13 Ukrainian drones, including 11 near Crimea and two heading towards Moscow, at a time when Russian-held territories are increasingly coming under attack.

No casualties or damage were reported, either near the Russian capital or the annexed peninsula, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram.

Ukrainian drone attacks against Russia have markedly increased in recent weeks, while Moscow continues to hammer Ukraine. 

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"War is coming to Russian territory... and it is an inevitable, natural and absolutely just process," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at the end of July.

Deadly Russian strike onZaporizhia

Two people were killed and seven injured on Wednesday in a Russian strike on Zaporizhia, Ukraine's Interior Ministry said. 

The death toll in the major southern Ukrainian city was revised downwards after one person was resuscitated. 

Zelenskyy announced the previous casualty count, releasing a video that showed a damaged church, with flames and smoke in its courtyard, as well as another building on fire.

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This city - home to Europe's largest nuclear power plant - is located tens of kilometres from the southern front and is regularly the target of Russian bombardments.

German army employee arrested over spying for Russia

A man working for the German army has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia on Wednesday.  

The new case is considered embarrassing for Berlin amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine which has increased the threat of espionage.

Employed in the main IT and logistics department of the Bundeswehr, the man is "strongly suspected" of working for the Russian embassy in Berlin, announced the federal prosecutor's office in a press release. 

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He notably offered his services "on his own initiative", they added. 

Owing to his role, the suspect could potentially access sensitive data on German military equipment, since his department was responsible for equipping the army, plus the testing, supply and management of these items. 

“Vigilance remains in order”, wrote the Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann on Twitter, now called X. 

Sanctions on Russia and Western military support for Kyiv have sparked "increased interest" from the Kremlin in gathering information, German officials said. 

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Germany is one of Ukraine's main suppliers of military equipment to fend off Russian troops.

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