Every week we wrap up the must-reads from our coverage of the Ukraine war, from news and features to analysis, visual guides and opinion.
‘There could be children’: search through Kremenchuk rubble continues
Two Russian X-22 cruise missiles hit a crowded shopping centre in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Monday afternoon, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens more.
The Guardian’s Lorenzo Tondo was at the scene, where plumes of black smoke and flames billowed from the once-bustling Amstor shopping centre while emergency crews rushed in to search for victims.
As night fell on the city, emergency workers and soldiers combed through blackened debris and twisted metal as the burned-out building was illuminated by floodlights.
Dozens of people who feared their loved ones had been inside the building when the deadly explosions ripped through it looked on in grim silence. A giant crane removed sections of the collapsed roof and rescue workers carefully placed fragments of charred human remains found in the rubble on stretchers.
The Ukrainian defence ministry said the attack, which is likely to become responsible for one of the war’s highest civilian death tolls in a single strike, was deliberately timed to coincide with the mall’s busiest hours and cause the maximum number of casualties.
“We pulled out several bodies, but there are definitely more trapped under the rubble,” said Oleksii, 46, a firefighter. “This is normally a very crowded place.” The search for survivors continues.
World leaders were quick to denounce Russia’s strike as “abominable” and a war crime.
Russia’s ministry of defence has since claimed, without evidence, that the fire was caused by “the detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons” and the shopping centre was “non-functional” at the time.
Ukraine pushes Russian forces from Snake Island
Ukrainian forces pushed occupying Russian troops from Snake Island, the strategic Black Sea outpost off Ukraine’s southern coast now synonymous with Ukraine’s relentless commitment to defend its territory since the start of the war.
Winning back the vital Black Sea island could could loosen the grip of Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian ports and weaken any future Russia coastal land attack, Isobel Koshiw explained.
Russia said it had decided to withdraw as a “gesture of goodwill”. Ukraine’s military said the Russians fled the island in two speedboats after a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and missile strikes over Thursday night.
“KABOOM!” tweeted Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration. “No more Russian troops on Snake Island. Our armed forces did a great job.”
The Ukrainian military shared an image of what appeared to be the island, seen from the air, with several columns of black smoke rising above it. “Currently, Snake Island is consumed by fire, explosions are bursting,” it said.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the military success “significantly changes the situation in the Black Sea”.
‘I thought the bombings were over’: war returns to Kyiv
When the Kyiv opera house reopened in late May, it was seen by many as the symbol of a return to normality after months of war, with the melodies of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville replacing the din of Russian artillery.
The main thoroughfare of Khreshchatyk Street was buzzing again with busy cafes, businesses and bars. Oleksandr Litvin, a 23-year-old marketing manager, surveyed the weeks of calm and decided it was time to go back to his apartment in the central Shevchenkivskyi district, returning last weekend after months away.
“I left Kyiv right after the invasion,” he told the Guardian’s Lorenzo Tondo in Kyiv. “I moved to a village in the Zakarpattia oblast, the westernmost region of Ukraine. My friends told me the capital was quite safe now and I thought maybe it was time for me to return after more than three months. I thought the bombings were over. But I was wrong.”
Four explosions in the space of a few seconds in the early hours of Sunday morning catapulted Litvin and the entire city back to a crude reality. Columns of smoke rose over buildings next to his apartment – home to a cluster of universities, restaurants and art galleries – as air-launched Russian missiles fired from the Caspian Sea served as a violent reminder that the Ukrainian capital is still in a conflict zone.
G7 and Nato pledge support for ‘as long as it takes’
The Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Patrick Wintour, reported from Elmau, deep in the Bavarian Alps, where G7 leaders met for a three-day summit.
Against the backdrop of the biggest geopolitical crisis since 1945, the summit began with a few shared quips between leaders mocking Putin’s macho image and ended with a surprising choice of dish: Russian salad.
Boris Johnson entered the summit warning that Russia was poised to annex more Ukrainian land if the status quo in the balance of forces continues. He warned the west not to show war fatigue, saying the global consequences of letting Russia prevail would be “absolutely catastrophic”.
Similarly, the US president, Joe Biden, urged the G7 to show resolve: “We have to stay together, because Putin has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow Nato and the G7 would splinter. But we haven’t and we’re not going to.”
Western leaders vowed to “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes”, promising to increase the economic and political costs to Vladimir Putin and his regime of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Guardian’s defence and security editor, Dan Sabbagh, reported on the following two-day Nato summit from Madrid.
The US and the UK announced fresh commitments and Nato leaders signed off on creating a new high-readiness force of 300,000 to deter any Russian invasion.
However, the Nato summit was largely about the consequences of Russia’s invasion, not for Ukraine but for countries already inside or about to join Nato, Wintour explained. It was about “defending every inch of Nato territory”, as Biden put it.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy needs ammunition, not words. As the leaders headed home to their more mundane domestic challenges, it is legitimate to ask how far these promises change the balance of power on the battlefield, or put doubt in the mind of Putin.
Turkey gains from lifting Sweden and Finland Nato veto
The US president, Joe Biden, thanked his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for reaching a deal with Finland and Sweden to allow the Nordic countries to end decades of neutrality and join Nato, at a meeting between the leaders on the eve of the military alliance’s summit in Madrid.
The trilateral deal saw Finland and Sweden vow to take steps to control support for Kurdish terrorism in their countries after Erdoğan pressed the alliance to take the threat on its southern borders more seriously.
Patrick Wintour explored how Erdoğan immediately started to reap the rewards for lifting the block when Biden responded to the Turkish president’s lifting of the veto by authorising his officials to say they were willing to help in the modernisation of the Turkish air force.
US officials added that they now supported Turkey’s desire to buy F-16 fighter jets and upgrade its air force, after Turkey initially made a request last in October.
“The US Department of Defence fully supports Turkey’s modernisation plans,” Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, told reporters, adding that Turkey’s modernisation of its fighter fleet “is a contribution to Nato security and therefore American security”.
US officials rejected any suggestion Washington was backing the contentious warplane request in order to remove Turkey’s objections to Sweden and Finland’s entry to Nato.