Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official said Saturday. The G20 summit ended with a closing statement from host country Indonesia, which said “many” nations agreed that Russia’s war was hampering the global economy’s recovery. Follow FRANCE 24 for live updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
11:31pm: Zelensky sacks Ukraine’s top prosecutor, security head
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday sacked his chief prosecutor and the head of the country’s security agency in the largest government shakeup since the start of Russia’s invasion nearly five months ago.
Zelensky said he was firing Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and security chief Ivan Bakanov amid a high number of cases of suspected treason by Ukrainian law enforcement officials.
“Today, I made the decision of relieving of their duties the prosecutor general and the head of Ukraine’s security service,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation.
Zelensky said over 650 cases of suspected treason and aiding and abetting Russia by Ukrainian security officials are currently being investigated, including 60 cases of officials who have remained in territories occupied by Russia and are working against Ukraine.
“Such a great number of crimes against the foundations of national security and the connections established between Ukrainian law enforcement officials and Russian special services pose very serious questions to the relevant leaders,” Zelensky said. “Each such question will be answered.”
9:21pm: EU Commission chief to seek more natural gas for bloc from Azerbaijan
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Baku on Monday to seek more natural gas from Azerbaijan, the EU’s executive said, as the European Union seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian energy.
“Amid Russia’s continued weaponisation of its energy supplies, diversification of our energy imports is a priority for the EU,” the Commission said on Twitter. “President von der Leyen and (Energy) Commissioner Kadri Simson will be tomorrow in Azerbaijan to further strengthen the cooperation.”
According to a draft document seen by Reuters on July 14, the Commission has proposed to EU countries a deal with Azerbaijan to increase imports of natural gas and support the expansion of a pipeline to do this.
The Commission was not immediately available for comment. EU governments have already agreed a gradual oil embargo on Russia.
8:30pm: Former Russian president threatens devastating response in case of attack on Crimea
The refusal of Ukraine and Western powers to recognise Moscow’s control of Crimea poses a “systemic threat” for Russia and any outside attack on the Ukrainian region will prompt a “Judgment Day” response, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday.
Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 by force after a pro-Moscow president in Kyiv was toppled amid mass street protests. Moscow then also backed pro-Russia armed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
In the event of an attack on Crimea, Medvedev was quoted by TASS news agency as saying, “Judgment Day will come very fast and hard. It will be very difficult to hide.”
Medvedev did not elaborate but has previously warned the United States of the dangers of attempting to punish a nuclear power such as Russia over its actions in Ukraine, saying this could endanger humanity.
His comments were aired a day after a Ukrainian official suggested that Crimea, which most of the world still recognises as part of Ukraine, could be a target for US-made HIMARS rocket systems, recently deployed by Kyiv as it battles Russian forces.
Vadym Skibitskyi, an official at Ukrainian military intelligence, was asked on Saturday in a televised interview if HIMARS could be used on targets in Crimea.
He said Russia had carried out strikes on Ukrainian territory from Crimea and the Black Sea and so these were also justified targets.
7:40pm: Ukraine’s central bank says it has sold more than $12 billion of gold reserves since Russian invasion began
Ukraine’s central bank has sold $12.4 billion of gold reserves since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24, the bank’s deputy head said on Sunday.
“We are selling (this gold) so that our importers are able to buy necessary goods for the country,” ther bank’s Deputy Governor Kateryna Rozhkova told national television. She said the gold was not being sold to shore up Ukranie’s hryvnia currency.
7:33pm: Russian missiles hit industrial facilities in Mykolaiv, mayor says
Russian missiles hit industrial facilities in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on Sunday, the city’s mayor said, as Moscow also pressed efforts to expand its gains in the country’s east.
Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said the missiles struck an industrial and infrastructure facility in the city, which is a key shipbuilding center in the estuary of the Southern Bug river. There was no immediate information about casualties.
Mykolaiv has faced regular Russian missile strikes in recent weeks as the Russians have sought to soften Ukrainian defenses.
The Russian military has declared a goal to cut off Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border. If successful, such an effort would deal a crushing blow to the Ukrainian economy and to trade, and allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, which hosts a Russian military base.
7:24pm: ‘Almost constant’ sound of artillery in the distance in Ukraine’s Kramatorsk
There is an ‘almost constant’ sound of artillery in the distance in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, which is 20 kilometres from the nearest part of the war’s front lines. FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports.
4:16pm: UK military chief says Putin health rumours ‘wishful thinking’
The head of Britain’s armed forces has dismissed as “wishful thinking” speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin is suffering from ill-health or could be assassinated.
As the Conservative Party chooses a successor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Admiral Tony Radakin also said Britain’s next leader should be aware that Russia poses “the biggest threat” to the UK and that its challenge would endure for decades.
“I think some of the comments that he’s not well or that actually surely somebody’s going to assassinate him or take him out, I think they’re wishful thinking,” the chief of the defence staff said of Putin, in a BBC television interview broadcast on Sunday.
“As military professionals we see a relatively stable regime in Russia. President Putin has been able to quash any opposition, we see a hierarchy that is invested in President Putin and so nobody at the top has got the motivation to challenge President Putin,” Radakin added. “And that is bleak.”
Russia’s land forces may pose less of a threat now, after suffering setbacks in the war in Ukraine, the military chief said.
The invasion has killed or wounded 50,000 Russian soldiers and destroyed nearly 1,700 Russian tanks, as well as some 4,000 armoured fighting vehicles, he estimated.
“But Russia continues to be a nuclear power. It’s got cyber capabilities, it’s got space capabilities and it’s got particular programmes under water so it can threaten the underwater cables that allow the world’s information to transit around the whole globe.”
Ukraine will dominate military briefings for Johnson’s successor when he or she takes office on September 6, Radakin said.
3:32pm: Ukrainian soldier in Kramatorsk says successful use of Western weapons has raised morale
The situation is ‘very tense’ in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, but a Ukrainian soldier there says that morale among Kyiv’s forces is higher now since the fall of the city of Lysychansk two weeks ago, due to the successful use of Western-supplied weapons on the battlefield. FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports.
2:39pm: Ukrainian military official: Russia preparing for next stage of offensive in Ukraine
Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official said, after Moscow said its forces would step up military operations in “all operational areas”.
“It is not only missile strikes from the air and sea,” Vadym Skibitskyi, a spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence, said on Saturday. “We can see shelling along the entire line of contact, along the entire front line. There is an active use of tactical aviation and attack helicopters.”
“Clearly preparations are now under way for the next stage of the offensive.”
The Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping units for an offensive towards Sloviansk, a symbolically important city held by Ukraine in the eastern region of Donetsk.
The British defence ministry said on Sunday that Russia was also reinforcing defences across areas it occupies in southern Ukraine after pressure from Ukrainian forces and pledges from Ukrainian leaders to force Russia out.
As Western deliveries of long-range arms begin to help Ukraine on the battlefield, Russian rockets and missiles have pounded cities in strikes that Kyiv says have killed dozens in recent days.
Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in Russian shelling of urban areas since Thursday as the war launched by Moscow on February 24 intensifies.
2:34pm: Russia says it has shot down Ukrainian warplane in Kharkiv region, helicopter near Sloviansk
Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its aircraft shot down a Ukrainian MI-17 helicopter near the eastern town of Sloviansk and a SU-25 aircraft in Kharkiv region.
The army also said that its long-range air-based missiles have destroyed a depot in an industrial zone in the southern city of Odesa that stored Harpoon anti-ship missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO countries.
Reuters could not immediately verify the claims.
8:04am: Russian strikes hit ‘oasis of calm’ in Donetsk
After Russian forces stepped up attacks throughout Ukraine on Saturday, one target was the city of Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region. Strikes appear to have hit a residential area, with local authorities saying 27 houses were damaged.
Prior to the attack there was “a sense that Pokrovsk was something of an oasis of calm in Donetsk”, says FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg, reporting from the city. “It’s been a hub for people evacuating from the more dangerous places in Donbas.”
On Sunday morning more explosions were reported in the southern port city of Mykolaiv.
7:50am: Russia reinforcing defence in occupied southern Ukraine, says British defence ministry
Russia is reinforcing its defensive positions across the areas it occupies in southern Ukraine, the British defence ministry said on Sunday.
The reinforcements include movement of manpower, equipment and defensive stores between Mariupol, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, while Russian forces in Melitopol are also increasing security measures, the ministry wrote on Twitter in its regular bulletin.
6:53am: EU to discuss new sanctions against Russia on Monday
The European Union will discuss tightening sanctions against Russia on Monday, as Moscow is accused of using the continent’s largest nuclear power plant to store weapons and launch missiles on the surrounding regions of southern Ukraine.
The situation at the captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is “extremely tense”, Ukraine’s atomic energy agency chief Petro Kotin said, adding that the Russians had installed missile launchers and used the facility to shell the Dnipro region.
Describing “a deluge of fire”, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko on Saturday said Grad missiles had pounded residential areas.
With the conflict grinding on and increasingly spilling out into global energy and food crises, the EU’s foreign ministers are considering banning gold purchases from Russia, which would align with sanctions already imposed by G7 partners.
More Russian figures could also be placed on the EU’s blacklist.
“Moscow must continue to pay a high price for its aggression,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after forwarding the proposed measures.
2:52am: G20 closing statement says ‘many’ members condemn Russian actions in Ukraine
Many nations in the Group of 20 major economies condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and called for it to end the war during ministerial talks in Indonesia, the host said in its closing statement early Sunday.
A two-day gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors on the resort island of Bali ended without a joint communique because of disagreements with Russia about the war.
But Western nations pressed Russia over the military assault, accusing Moscow of sending a shockwave through the global economy and its technocrats of complicity in alleged war crimes committed during the invasion.
“Many members agreed that the recovery of the global economy has slowed and is facing a major setback as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which was strongly condemned, and called for an end to the war,” Indonesia said in the declaration.
“One member expressed the view that the sanctions are adding to existing challenges,” it said, in an apparent reference to Russia, which has denied blame for the current global economic headwinds.
Russia only sent a deputy minister to the finance talks, with its finance minister participating virtually.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)