Russian forces have reportedly captured the settlements of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka south of Ukraine’s twin eastern cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk.
The cities have been the focus of the Russian offensive in the region for the past few weeks.
An update released early this morning by Ukraine’s general staff of the armed forces reads:
The enemy captured the settlements of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka. Conducts assault operations in order to establish control over the settlement of Syrotyne. Carries out preparatory measures for the forcing of the Siversky Donets River.”
Ukrainian forces continue the defence of Sievierodonetsk and the nearby settlements of Zolote and Vovchoyrovka, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai added.
A dog search team in the UK which specialises in recovering human bodies is stepping up its training ahead of an expected deployment to Ukraine.
Springer spaniel Bracken, sprocker Bramble and Dougal, a Labrador-springer spaniel mix, are travelling to Italy on Thursday to hone their skills while on standby for a trip to the war zone, PA Media reports.
Handlers John Miskelly, a British army veteran, and NHS nurse, Emma Dryburgh, have received a request to help in Ukraine but are waiting to receive confirmation that it is safe enough for them to travel.
They are part of Response Rescue International Scotland and their cadaver dogs, who are trained to detect the scent of human remains, would be assisting the work of the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams (Evolsar).
Miskelly, 54, told the PA news agency:
A request was put into us directly by a search, rescue and recovery team in Ukraine if we could assist in the recovery of bodies.”
Referring to search teams currently on the ground in Ukraine, he added:
Those people are tired, weary, their dogs are wrecked, they’re shattered. We’re fresh handlers with fresh dogs and we even have a partner team in the Czech Republic in Prague who we will bring with us – so fresh handlers, fresh dogs. They’re pleading for our help.”
Miskelly said the team will undergo five days’ training in Italy to help prepare them for the Ukraine deployment.
Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy believes Russian forces are attempting to destroy cities in the eastern Donbas region in the same way they did in Mariupol.
During a nightly address, Zelenskiy said:
In Donbas there are massive air and artillery strikes.
The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same – they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step. Entire.
Lysychansk, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk – they aim to turn any city into Mariupol. Completely ruined.”
Zelenskiy also called for parity on the battlefield in plea for more heavy weapons.
That is why we repeatedly emphasise the acceleration of weapons supplies to Ukraine. Parity is needed on the battlefield as soon as possible to stop this devilish armada and move it beyond the borders of Ukraine.”
EU leaders will decide today whether to grant Ukraine candidate status, following a positive recommendation from the European Commission last Friday.
EU leaders in Brussels are expected to sign off on last week’s recommendation by the European Commission, the EU executive.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he had spoken to 11 EU leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine’s candidacy and will make more calls on Thursday, believing all 27 EU countries would support Ukraine’s candidate status.
“We deserve it,” he told crowds in Amsterdam via video link.
That is a very crucial moment for us, for some people in my team are saying this is like going into the light from the darkness.
In terms of our army and society, this is a big motivator, a big motivational factor for the unity and victory of the Ukrainian people.”
Expectations for a yes have grown since four EU leaders, including France and Germany, which had been perceived as among the most lukewarm, visited Kyiv last week in a show of support.
Zelenskiy filed an application to join the EU five days after Russia’s attack began. On a day when blasts were heard in Kyiv, he called for “immediate accession under a new special procedure”. While the initial response from about 10 EU states was deeply sceptical, opposition has fallen away, although questions remain about the long road ahead.
Ukraine has been seeking EU membership since the 2004 “orange revolution” and more insistently since the 2013-14 Maidan protests, when the pro-Kremlin president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted after he refused to sign an association agreement with the bloc.
Granting Ukraine candidate status to join the EU would be a historic decision signalling to Russia it can no longer claim a sphere of influence over its eastern neighbour, Kyiv’s ambassador to Brussels has said.
Vsevolod Chentsov, the head of Ukraine’s mission to the EU, said Russia’s war had united Kyiv with the bloc, while ending what he called a “mistake” about whether his country could belong to the union.
A survey published this week by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a thinktank, showed 57% of Europeans backed Ukraine’s membership bid.
EU candidate status, which can be granted only if the existing member countries agree unanimously, is the first step toward membership. It does not provide any security guarantees or an automatic right to join the bloc.
Ukraine’s full membership will depend on whether the war-torn country can satisfy political and economic conditions.
Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you as we continue to report all the latest news from Ukraine.
Here are all the other major developments as of 8am in Kyiv.
- Russian forces are edging closer to seizing the last pocket of resistance in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. Sievierodonetsk and its neighbouring city, Lysychansk, continue to be battered by intense Russian shelling. Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, said on Wednesday that Russian forces were moving towards Lysychansk, targeting the buildings of police, state security and prosecutors.
- Dramatic footage has emerged from Russia of what appears to be a drone flying into an oil refinery and causing an explosion in what could be an attack inside Russia’s borders. Video shared on social media showed the unmanned aerial vehicle crashing into the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in Rostov region, in what would be an embarrassing breach of Russia’s air defence systems.
- A Russian missile strike has left at least one person dead in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, according to its mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych. The attack caused several fires and damaged a number of buildings including a school, Senkevych said. The regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, said seven missiles had hit Mykolaiv.
- Residents and workers at a nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, a city in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, are being abducted by Russian occupiers, according to the region’s mayor. “Whereabouts of some unknown. The rest are in very difficult conditions: they are being tortured with electric shock, bullied physically and morally,” said mayor Dmytro Orlov.
- A television tower in the Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk has been badly damaged by shelling and broadcasting has been interrupted, the local Donetsk news agency reported. The Petrovskiy television centre is still standing, but part of its equipment has been damaged, while some equipment has been moved out, the agency said.
- British intelligence predicts that Russia’s momentum will slow over the next few months.“Our defence intelligence service believes, however, that in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources,” British prime minister, Boris Johnson, told reporters.
- Leaders at the upcoming G7 summit in Germany will announce new measures aimed at pressuring Russia as well as new commitments to shore up European security, a senior US official has said. “We will roll out a concrete set of proposals to increase pressure on Russia,” the official said. The G7 is also likely to discuss the fate of a Russian turbine blocked in Canada and blamed for reducing gas supplies to Germany, Canada’s natural resources minister said.
- The Kremlin said the EU sanctions that led Lithuania to block the transit of some goods to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad were “absolutely unacceptable”. Moscow was working on retaliatory measures in response to the “illegal sanctions” by the EU, it said. Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow’s response to Lithuania’s ban would not be exclusively diplomatic but practical in nature.
- Ukraine has played down the chances of reaching an agreement with Russia that could allow blocked grain shipments to start sailing across the Black Sea. Consultations are ongoing, Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko, said. Russia’s defence ministry said Moscow and Ankara had agreed to continue discussions on safe vessel departures and grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
- Finland’s armed forces chief said his country was prepared for a Russian attack and would put up stiff resistance in the event that one should occur. Finns are motivated to fight and the country has built up a substantial arsenal, Gen Timo Kivinen said, adding: “The most important line of defence is between one’s ears.”
- Russian president Vladimir Putin has called for a strengthening of ties with countries from the Brics group of emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China South Africa– after western sanctions over Ukraine. Putin said discussions were continuing on the “opening of Indian chain stores in Russia, increasing the share of Chinese automobiles” on the Russian market.
- Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited in Iran on Wednesday. The Iranian foreign ministry said Lavrov’s visit was aimed at “expanding cooperation with the Eurasian region and the Caucasus”.
- Europe needs to prepare immediately for Russia to turn off all gas exports to the region this winter, according to the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol. He called on governments to work on reducing demand and keeping nuclear power plants open.
- A Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier who was accompanying him were “coldly executed” when they were killed in the first weeks of Russia’s invasion, according to Reporters Without Borders. Maks Levin and Oleksiy Chernyshov were reportedly searching Russian-occupied woodlands for the photographer’s missing image-taking drone, the agency said, citing its findings from an investigation into their deaths.