Ukraine will need at least a decade to clear all the mines and explosives from its land and territorial waters once the war with Russia is over, an emergency services official has said.
Ukraine has managed to clear 620 square kilometres of land littered with thousands of explosive devices, including 2,000 bombs dropped from the air. However, nearly 300,000 square kilometres were still seen as "contaminated", the official said.
"Up to 10 years, that's the optimistic figure. Because we don't know what's happening on the territories where active combat is ongoing right now," Oleksandr Khorunzhiy, spokesperson for Ukraine's State Emergency Service, said.
"Just imagine the number of bombs that have been dropped on us by the enemy."
The first priority would be to demine infrastructure, residential areas and roads, but it would take longer to clear woods, rivers and the coastline, he said.
That's all for today
Thanks for following today's live blog.
Here are the key developments from today:
- Ukraine will need at least a decade to clear all the mines and explosives from its land and territorial waters once the war with Russia is over, an emergency services official said.
- Volodymyr Zelensky asked revellers at Glastonbury festival to donate to Ukraine's war effort, warning that "time is priceless and every day is measured in human lives".
- Ukraine said that it had seized a huge multimillion-dollar collection of antiquities, allegedly stolen from museums in Russian-annexed Crimea, after a series of police raids in Kyiv.
- Ukrainian forces will retreat from Severodonetsk after weeks of fierce fighting over the key city, a senior Ukrainian official said, in a major boost to Russia's goal of seizing a swathe of eastern Ukraine.
- Russian forces have "fully occupied" a town south of the strategically important city of Lysychansk, Ukraine said, after Moscow claimed it had encircled about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area.
- A senior official in the Russian-installed administration of Ukraine’s occupied Kherson region was killed in an apparent assassination on Friday, the deputy head of the administration told Reuters.
Italy says it has reduced dependence on Russian gas by quarter
Italy has managed to reduce its dependence on gas imported from Russia to 25 percent from 40 percent last year as it diversifies suppliers, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Friday.
"The measures the government has put in place since the beginning of the war are starting to pay off. In other words, other gas suppliers are beginning to replace Russian gas," Mr Draghi told the Italian media in Brussels following the EU summit.
To reduce its dependence on Russian gas following its invasion of neighbour Ukraine, Italy signed a major agreement with Algeria in April on increased gas supplies.
Discussions have also been held with Qatar, Angola and Mozambique.
In addition, Italy was thinking ahead to the winter season when gas demand is higher, and "storage is going very well", Mr Draghi said.
Auschwitz Museum says it's a 'target of Russian propaganda'
The Auschwitz-Birkenau museum alleged Friday that it was the target of "primitive" propaganda spread by Russian state agencies on social media.
The museum said that social media posts falsely claim to show anti-Russian stickers placed around the memorial at the former site of the Auschwitz death camp site in southern Poland, an area under German occupation during World War II.
"Russia and Russians," the stickers appearing in fake images say, "the only gas you and your country deserve is Zykon B." That is a reference to the gas the Germans used in the mass murder of Jews and others at the camp, which operated during 1940-1945.
The images were tweeted by official Russian sites, including the Russian Arms Control Delegation in Vienna and retweeted by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They appeared intended to portray Russians as targets of vicious Russophobia. Some posts claimed the stickers were the work of Ukrainians.
The Auschwitz Museum said no such stickers were found at the places depicted in the images, and that security cameras did not capture anyone affixing anything to the locations on or before June 22. It said an analysis showed the photos were manipulated and the stickers added digitally.
"Everything indicates that the photographs are simply a manipulation," the museum said, describing the images as "primitive and gross propaganda."
Moscow says Ukraine EU candidacy is to 'contain Russia'
Russia's foreign ministry on Friday condemned the decision by Brussels to grant Ukraine official EU candidate status as a move to "contain Russia" geopolitically.
The decision "confirms that a geopolitical monopolisation of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) space is continuing actively in order to contain Russia," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
Ukraine needs 'fire parity' with Russia to defend Luhansk region, top general says
Ukraine's top general told his US counterpart during a phone call on Friday that Ukraine needed "fire parity" with Russia in order to "stabilize" the difficult situation in the country's eastern Luhansk region, according to his summary of the call.
"We discussed the operational situation and the delivery flow of international technical assistance," Ukraine's General Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on the Telegram app after a phone call with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.
Ukraine has said Russia's artillery advantage on the Donbas frontlines is taking a significant toll on Ukrainian troops, and has called on its Western partners to supply more weapons to minimize the deficit.
US denies export privileges for three Russian airlines after alleged violation
The US Commerce Department has denied export privileges for three Russian airlines that it says violated export controls issued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The export denials for Nordwind Airlines, Pobeda Airlines and S7 Airlines are issued for six months and may be renewed, the department said in a statement.
Poland gets a loan to help it look after Ukraine refugees
Poland is getting a loan of 450 million euros ($474 million) from a bank linked to a European human rights group to help it cope with the influx of refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Poland and the Council of Europe Development Bank signed the loan agreement Friday.
The Council of Europe has 46 member countries, including EU nations, and aims to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Paris-based bank was founded in 1956 and finances projects with a social mission.
Spain warns of possible cyberattack at Nato summit
Spain's defence minister warned on Friday of a possible cyberattack during the Nato summit in Madrid next week.
Asked if Spain feared Russia could launch such an attack, Margarita Robles told journalists "the possibility of a cyberattack exists", without mentioning the country by name.
"There are many challenges and many threats," she said, adding that there were "many people working... to prevent any situation that could affect security" at the summit on June 28-30.
According to the Barcelona daily La Vanguardia, Spanish intelligence services fear a Russian attack on strategic infrastructure such as airports, hospitals, or water and energy supply centres.
The Spanish capital will be under tight security.
Putin defends Russia's stance on global food crisis
Vladimir Putin has said that Russia is not responsible for the global food crisis, instead blaming the West for preventing the export of Russian grain.
"The food market is unbalanced in the most serious way," Putin said, addressing a "BRICS Plus" virtual summit that brought together the leaders of 17 countries, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa.
Putin accused Western countries, in particular the United States, of "destabilising global agricultural production" with restrictions on the delivery of fertiliser from Russia and Belarus, and by "making it difficult" for Moscow to export grain.
"Rising prices on agricultural staples, such as grain, have hit the hardest developing countries, developing markets where bread and flour are a necessary means of survival for the majority of the population," Putin said.
He also slammed the "hysteria" surrounding grain that has been trapped in Ukrainian ports since the start of Russia's military actions, saying that it "does not solve any problems on the global grain market".
Britons condemned in Donetsk holding out for intervention from UK, lawyer says
The lawyer defending one of two Britons sentenced to death in a Russian-backed breakaway territory of Ukraine has said that they had not yet submitted an appeal because they seemed to be holding out for intervention from London.
A court in the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, which is armed and financed by Russia, found Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun guilty on June 9 of "mercenary activities" and attempting to "overthrow the constitutional order of the DPR".
Russia's TASS news agency on Thursday quoted Mr Pinner's lawyer, Yulia Tserkovnikova, as saying the defence attorneys were preparing an appeal, which must be lodged by July 8.
But Pavel Kosovan, defending Mr Aslin, told Reuters in an interview that the appeals had not yet been filed "because I suspect they hope that the British authorities will still contact either the Russian Federation or the Donetsk People's Republic".
The men's families deny that the trio, who were contracted to the Ukrainian armed forces, were mercenaries.
Ukraine seizes stolen antiquities collection after multiple raids
Ukraine has said that it has seized a huge multi-million-dollar collection of antiquities, allegedly stolen from museums in Russian-annexed Crimea, after a series of police raids in Kyiv.
Several thousand Bronze Age and Medieval artifacts were found in a Kyiv office, officials told a press conference in the Museum of the History of Ukraine.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said the authorities had recovered "more than 6,000 antiquities, including swords, sabres, helmets, amphoras and coins".
The raids were part of an investigation into the "illegal activity" of a former Ukrainian lawmaker, who also served as a high-ranking official in Crimea before it was annexed by Moscow.
Some of the collection may have been stolen from Crimean museums and was estimated to be worth "several million dollars", Ms Venediktova said.
Poland wants Nato to strengthen defences in Suwalki Gap, says PM
Poland and the Baltic states want to see a stronger Nato defensive presence in the Suwalki Gap, the stretch of land that separates the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad from Belarus, the Polish prime minister said on Friday.
"We are going to seek the reinforcement of this corridor... in our talks with our partners from Nato," Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference in Brussels after a European Union summit.
A ban by Baltic state Lithuania on sanctioned goods crossing from the Russian mainland via its territory to Kaliningrad has increased already high tensions between Moscow and the West.
Russia trying but unable to impede weapons flow to Ukraine, US official says
Russia is trying but has been unable to target Western weapons flowing into Ukraine, including longer-range systems that Kyiv hopes will be decisive on the battlefield, a senior US defense official said on Friday.
The official also appeared to play down the significance of Russian advances in Ukraine and said a Ukrainian pullback from Severodonetsk would allow them to take a better defensive position.
"In moving the Ukrainian armed forces from Severodonetsk back, what they are doing is putting themselves in a position where they can better defend themselves," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Germany faces 'difficult decisions' in gas shortage
Germany would be confronted with "difficult societal decisions" in the event of a gas shortage, its economy minister said Friday, as Russian supplies of the fuel dwindle.
"When there is not enough gas some industries that need gas will have to be turned off," Economy Minister Robert Habeck told magazine Der Spiegel.
On Thursday, Mr Habeck raised the alert level under Germany's emergency gas plan after supplies of gas from Russia were slashed, bringing Europe's economy one step closer to rationing.
Russian energy giant Gazprom last week reduced deliveries via the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany by 60 percent, attributing the move to a delayed repair.
Without enough gas, Germany would "have to make difficult societal decisions", Mr Habeck said, adding that there were "no good decisions only less wrong ones".
Poland again sees more Ukrainians arriving than leaving
The number of Ukrainians crossing into Poland has again surpassed those going back, reversing a month-long trend, Polish data showed on Friday.
For a couple of days now, 3,000 more Ukrainians on average have entered Poland than have left, according to the Polish border authorities.
The change comes amid Russia's continued bombing of Ukrainian cities and the destruction of infrastructure, including the Kremenchuk oil refinery, that has left thousands without jobs, according to Natalia Panchenko, head of the Euromajdan Warszawa citizens' initiative in support of Ukraine.
"Over time, even the greatest holdouts can lose their nerve," she told AFP.
IAEA voices concern for staff at Ukrainian nuclear plant
The UN nuclear watchdog is increasingly concerned about the welfare of Ukrainian staff at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe's largest, it said on Friday, adding that it must go there as soon as possible.
"The IAEA is aware of recent reports in the media and elsewhere indicating a deteriorating situation for Ukrainian staff at the country's largest nuclear power plant," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.
It added that it was "increasingly concerned about the difficult conditions facing staff".
Ukraine's forces to retreat from Severodonetsk
Ukrainian forces will retreat from Severodonetsk after weeks of fierce fighting over the key city, a senior Ukrainian official said Friday, in a major boost to Russia's goal of seizing a swathe of eastern Ukraine.
The announcement came shortly after the European Union granted Ukraine candidate status in a show of support for the former Soviet republic, although there is still a long path ahead to membership.
Russia has focused its offensive on the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine after being repelled from the capital Kyiv and other areas following the February invasion. Its forces have gradually made progress despite encountering fierce resistance and sustaining heavy losses.
"Despite the growing loss of personnel and equipment, Russians continue to outnumber the (Ukrainian) defence forces in artillery" in certain areas, Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, Ukraine's defence ministry spokesman, told reporters on Friday.
"This allows them to gain some tactical success," Mr Motuzyanyk added.
World faces unprecedented global hunger crisis, UN chief says
There is a "real risk" of multiple famines this year, UN chief Antonio Guterres has said as he urged ministers meeting on food security to take practical steps to stabilize food markets and reduce commodity price volatility.
"We face an unprecedented global hunger crisis," Mr Guterres told the meeting in Berlin via video. "The war in Ukraine has compounded problems that have been brewing for years: climate disruption; the Covid-19 pandemic; the deeply unequal recovery."
More than 460,000 people in Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan are in famine conditions under the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) - a scale used by U.N. agencies, regional bodies and aid groups to determine food insecurity. This is the step before a declaration of famine in a region.
Millions of people in 34 other countries are on the brink of famine, according to the IPC.
Russia's war to cast 40-50 million people into hunger, Blinken says
Russia's war against Ukraine, not Western sanctions, will add another 40 or 50 million more people to the ranks of the hungry, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
"There is no reason other than Russia's blockade of Ukraine and Russia's refusal in many cases to export its own grain for political reasons," Mr Blinken said at a joint news conference in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Friday.
Ms Baerbock said international partners were working together to counter Russia's "cynical" and potentially destabilizing grains war and the corresponding propaganda.
Russia seeks to surround Lysychansk and capture Severodonetsk, Kyiv says
Russian forces seek to surround the embattled city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine and are mounting assaults on its sister city of Severodonetsk to establish full control, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's spokesperson said on Friday.
The region's governor said earlier that Ukrainian troops would "have to be withdrawn" from Severodonetsk and that they had been ordered to take up new positions.
Defence Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk declined to comment on the governor's remarks and told reporters at a briefing in Kyiv that the information was "closed" to the public.
Russian forces have 'fully occupied' town south of Lysychansk, Ukraine says
Russian forces have "fully occupied" a town south of the strategically important city of Lysychansk, Ukraine has said, after Moscow claimed it had encircled about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area.
"Unfortunately, as of today... the entire Hirske district is occupied," Hirske's municipal head Oleksiy Babchenko said in a television broadcast. "There are some insignificant, local battles going on at the outskirts, but the enemy has entered."
"There is a red flag flying over the municipal administration (in Hirske)," a spokesperson for the regional administration told Reuters by telephone. The loss of Hirske and several other settlements around it leaves Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-controlled city in Luhansk, in danger of being enveloped from three sides by advancing Russian forces.
Russia's defence ministry said it had encircled up to 2,000 Ukrainian troops, including 80 foreign fighters, at Hirske. Reuters could not independently verify the report.
The spokesperson for the regional administration declined to comment on the assertion.
G7 countries agree Russia is responsible for food crisis , Japan's foreign minister says
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy countries agreed on Friday that Russia's invasion of Ukraine had brought about the current global food crisis, and Moscow was responsible for the matter, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said.
Mr Hayashi made the comment to reporters after a G7 foreign ministers' meeting, in which he had participated remotely.
Japan intends to support grain exports from Ukraine, and plans to look into further food assistance to respond to the global food crisis, Mr Hayashi said.
Russia worse off than West as result of sanctions, German government says
European Union sanctions targeting Russia for the war in Ukraine are having the desired effect, a German government spokesperson said, adding that high inflation was hitting the Russian economy more strongly than the West.
"The effectiveness of the sanctions is increasing with time," the spokesperson said at a regular news conference in Berlin on Friday.
Russian-installed Kherson official reportedly killed in bomb blast
A senior official in the Russian-installed administration of Ukraine’s occupied Kherson region was killed in an apparent assassination on Friday, the deputy head of the administration told Reuters.
Dmitry Savluchenko, head of the families, youth, and sports department of the Kherson Military-Civilian Administration, was killed in a bomb blast.
Russia's TASS news agency said there were two burnt-out cars in a courtyard of Kherson, the regional capital where the blast took place, and that the windows of one four-storey house had been shattered.
An adviser to the Ukrainian governor of Kherson told Ukraine's public news network Suspilne that the assassination was the "successful work of partisans" directed by Ukraine's armed forces.
Kremlin says Ukraine's EU candidacy is a 'domestic' European issue
The Kremlin has said that the European Union's decision to grant Ukraine official EU candidate status was a "domestic" matter.
"These are domestic European affairs. It is very important for us that all these processes do not bring more problems to us and more problems in the relations of these countries with us," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Speaking of Moscow's relations with the European Union, he said that it would be "very difficult to spoil them further".
Germany 'looking at' converting part of Nord Stream 2 for LNG link
The German Economy Ministry is considering converting parts of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline into a connection for a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Baltic Sea coast, magazine Der Spiegel reported.
The ministry is looking at possibly expropriating the part of the pipeline system located on German territory and cutting it off from the rest of the pipeline, Spiegel added.
Russia blames U.S. for Kaliningrad transit restrictions
Moscow's foreign ministry has blamed the United States for a Lithuanian ban on sanctioned goods crossing from the Russian mainland to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which has increased already high tensions between Moscow and the West.
"The so-called 'collective West', with the explicit instruction of the White House, imposed a ban on rail transit of a wide range of goods through the Kaliningrad region," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement published on Friday.
It said the move was part of a pattern of "increasingly hostile actions from the American side" towards Russia.
European Union member Lithuania last Saturday began blocking the transit of Russian goods that fall under EU sanctions after new restrictions took effect.
Russian officials have variously estimated the ban will halt 30 per cent or 50 per cent of cargo traffic, but have also said the goods can quickly be rerouted onto ships crossing the Baltic Sea.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Wednesday that Russian claims of a blockade were false. She said passenger transit continued uninterrupted, and that the goods affected amounted to only 1 per cent of total Russian freight transit to Kaliningrad.
Our Brussels correspondent Joe Barnes travelled to Kybartai to see the impact of the ban. You can read his dispatch in full here.
No plans for extraordinary EU summit on gas prices in July
There are no plans at the moment to hold an extraordinary summit of EU leaders in July to discuss ways to deal with rising gas prices, an EU official has said.
"There are no plans", the official said when asked about reports on a possible extra summit next month.
The official said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had suggested a July summit on Thursday in internal meetings with EU leaders, to discuss a proposal to cap prices on Russian gas.
EU needs to buy energy collectively to avert winter crisis, Belgian PM says
EU countries need to start buying energy collectively and to implement price caps on gas to avert a major crisis in the coming winter, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said.
"We need to form an energy bloc. If we all operate on our own, we will go down on our own", De Croo said before a meeting with EU leaders in Brussels.
"We need to start buying energy collectively, we need to implement price caps and we need to make plans together to get through the winter."
Goat triggers grenades, injuring Russian soldiers
Several Russian soldiers have been injured after a Ukrainian goat set off a series of grenades in Zaporizhzhia, reports Verity Bowman.
The Kremlin’s forces were setting up a tripwire when an escaped goat from a farm in the village of Kinski Rozdory triggered it.
They had pinned grenades around the edge of a local hospital and placed the trap as a “circular defence”, Ukraine's Chief Intelligence Directorate said.
But shortly after the trap was made, the goat wandered towards the area, creating a chain reaction that injured several troops.
As of yet, the fate of the goat is unknown.
Four dead in Russian military cargo plane crash
A Russian military cargo plane crashed in the city of Ryazan southeast of Moscow on Friday, killing four people and injuring five others, the regional government said.
"According to preliminary information, four people died as a result of a plane crash in the area of the Mikhailovsky highway in the city of Ryazan," the regional government's crisis unit said in a statement, as quoted by the TASS state news agency.
Ukraine repels Russian attack
Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack on the southern outskirts of Lysychansk, the last fully Ukrainian-controlled city in the region of Luhansk, the area's governor said on Friday.
Serhiy Gaidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Russia had, however, taken control of the village of Mykolaivka, located near a key highway to Lysychansk, which has been the focus of heavy fighting.
Fighting continues, he added, in the battleground twin city of Severodonetsk, where Russia has advanced slowly over several weeks.
Germany heading for a gas shortage
Germany is heading for a gas shortage if Russian gas supplies remain as low as they are now, and certain industries would have to be shut down if there is not enough come winter, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told Der Spiegel magazine.
Mr Habeck held out the prospect of further relief for companies and people affected by the lack of gas but warned that it would not be possible to absorb all the effects, reported Der Spiegel on Friday.
Troops will 'have to be withdrawn' from Severodonetsk
Ukrainian troops will "have to be withdrawn" from the mostly Russian-occupied battleground city of Severodonetsk, the regional governor said on television on Friday.
"Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense," Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.
Bishop: Ukraine should give up Donbas for ceasefire
Ukraine should give up its territory to gain a ceasefire from Russia, a senior bishop has said, as the Church of England put itself on course for a fresh row with the Government.
The message is in direct contravention of the Government’s foreign policy, after Boris Johnson said he feared Volodymyr Zelensky could be bounced into agreeing a "s----y" peace deal.
However, the Church of England's lead bishop on foreign affairs said the price of peace could be Russia’s annexation of the Eastern Donbas region. The Kremlin has already illegally annexed Crimea.
On Thursday night, the Church insisted this was not its "view", adding that “the territorial integrity of Ukraine is without question”.
Johnson: Accepting a 'bad peace' deal would be a disaster
Boris Johnson has warned Nato allies it would be a "disaster" to pressure Ukraine into accepting a "bad peace" deal that would see swathes of territory surrendered to Vladimir Putin.
The Prime Minister said there was little hope of sending the Navy to rescue grain from the Russian president's blockade as he set sights on talks with Turkey to prevent famine being a consequence of the invasion.
There are concerns in Kyiv that Germany and France will push President Volodymyr Zelensky to accept a ceasefire deal that would see him concede land to Moscow.
Mr Johnson warned there is "no question there is a lot of Ukraine fatigue now in the world".
"But I think they are going to win. I know they are going to win. It is their country. They are fighting for it desperately hard," he said.
"But they need to be properly supported. So, my message to colleagues at the G7 and at Nato in particular is going to be now is not the time to settle and encourage the Ukrainians to settle for a bad peace, for a peace by which they are invited to give up chunks of their territory in return for a ceasefire.
"I think that would be a disaster. It would be a trigger for further escalation by Putin whenever he wanted. That would do much further economic damage to the world."
UK pledges £372m in aid to countries hit by food crisis
The UK, US and European Union have accused Russia of stoking a food crisis by preventing grain exports from Ukraine – which accounts for about one tenth of global wheat exports.
In a statement late on Thursday, the UK pledged £372 million in aid to countries hit hardest by rising global food costs and shortages of fertiliser, including £130 million for the World Food Programme.
The UK said its funding would provide humanitarian aid to increase access to food across the worst-hit African countries.
Russia denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming it on Western sanctions imposed on Moscow that had led to a jump in global food prices. It also said the West had spread lies about the causes of the crisis.
While acknowledging there were multiple factors why food inflation was so high, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, accused Vladimir Putin of trying to hold the world to "ransom" with the blockade.
"It is absolutely unconscionable," Mr Johnson said.
"That supply could help people around the world, it could help some of the poorest countries in the world."
Zelensky: Ukraine's future is in the EU
"Ukraine's future is in the EU," President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted after the official announcement that his country had become a candidate to join the European Union on Thursday.
Kyiv and Brussels hailed the bold geopolitical step – triggered by Russia's invasion – as a "historic moment".
Starting on the long path to EU membership will be a huge boost to morale in the embattled country, as Russian assaults on two cities in the eastern Donbas region move towards a "fearsome climax", according to a Ukrainian government adviser.
The approval of the Kyiv Government's application by EU leaders meeting in Brussels will anger Russia as it struggles to impose its will on Ukraine. Moldova also became an official candidate on Thursday, signalling the bloc's intention to reach deep into the former Soviet Union.
Friday will mark four months since Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border to Ukraine.
Ukraine granted EU candidate status
The European Union formally granted Ukraine candidate status for the EU on Thursday night as leaders of countries wanting to join the bloc warned Kyiv not to have “illusions” about membership coming anytime soon.
The 27 heads of state and government gave their approval to Ukraine being considered for EU membership in what was described a historic show of support for Kyiv.
“A historic moment. Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU," said Charles Michel, the European Council President.
“Our future is together.”
Read the full story here.
Prepare for a two-year food crisis
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is guaranteed to cause a two-year global food crisis even if the war ends tomorrow, Western officials have warned, as Ukraine struggles to export its crucial grains.
Officials are bracing for food supplies to suffer a long hangover from the conflict after Russia placed mines in Ukraine’s seaports and caused severe disruption to production in what is known as the “breadbasket of Europe”.
The Kremlin has been accused of weaponising global food supply, as prices soar to record levels and fears grow of shortages in the developing world.
READ MORE: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is guaranteed to cause a two-year food crisis, Western officials warn
Mine clearing effort would be biggest attempt since Iran-Iraq war
London’s insurance market has placed the entire region around the Black Sea on its high risk list, meaning soaring costs for shipments.
Boris Johnson said the UK was considering all options when asked whether the Government could provide sovereign guarantees for shipping insurance.
"What the UK possibly has to offer, most of all, is expertise when it comes to maritime insurance, and a lot of expertise in moving goods through should we say contested areas of the sea," he said.
Asked if Britain was ready to help Ukraine demine the area, the Prime Minister said: "Yes, I don't want to get into the technical or military details, but you can take it from what we have already done in supplying equipment to the Ukrainians to help themselves protect that we are certainly talking to them at a technical level to help demine Odesa."
Any mine clearing effort would be the biggest attempted since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and any project to clear mines off Ukraine would take several months.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said separately on Thursday that urgent action needed to be taken within the next month, ahead of the next harvest, to maintain supply.
Team effort to move grain stuck in Ukraine
Boris Johnson has said the UK is willing to help with demining operations off Ukraine's southern coast and considering offering insurance to ships to move millions of tonnes of grain stuck in the country.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine and blockade of its Black Sea ports has prevented the country – traditionally one of the world's top food producers – from exporting much of the more than 20 million tonnes of grain stored in its silos.
This has helped push food prices to record highs and left tens of millions of people struggling to eat, a crisis Western officials say could last two years.
Turkey is trying to broker talks between the United Nations, Ukraine and Russia to create a possible safe sea corridor in the Black Sea, but Moscow wants some Western sanctions lifted first to facilitate its grain and fertiliser exports.
"There is a job of work to be done. We are working with the Turks and other European friends and allies to see what we can do," the Prime Minister told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit.
Today's top stories
- Ukraine should give up its territory to gain a ceasefire from Russia, a senior bishop has said, as the Church of England put itself on course for a fresh row with the Government
- The first trial of a Russian soldier accused of raping a Ukrainian woman during the war started on Thursday, heralding what could be many more similar prosecutions
- The European Union formally granted Ukraine candidate status for the EU on Thursday night as leaders of countries wanting to join the bloc warned Kyiv not to have “illusions” about membership coming anytime soon
- Fresh attacks near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv injured a dozen people on Thursday as Russia targeted the country’s north and south in a bid to divert Ukrainian reinforcements from the epicentre of fighting in the Donbas
- The daily sleeper train service from the Russian mainland to the exclave of Kaliningrad slides into its penultimate stop shrouded in mystery, curtains drawn, those on board shielded from the realities of the war in Ukraine
- Comment: The European Union summit this week looks like a classic of the genre: full of warm words for Volodymyr Zelensky and an offer of “accession candidate” status for his country. But behind the scenes, there’s huge discord