Latest Developments in Ukraine: July 3

2022-07-03 23:19:39 By : Mr. HONGLI GUAN

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

6:55 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach in Kyiv, The Associated Press reported. Bach stated it was a "great honor" to meet Zelenskyy, before the IOC delegation had a sitdown meeting with Ukrainian officials.

Zelenskyy thanked Bach for the decision to allocate a new support package for Ukrainian Olympians, AP reported. The IOC also proposed holding a special donor conference to restore the sports infrastructure in Ukraine, Zelenskyy said.

5:42 p.m.: Two Russian airplanes departed Bulgaria with scores of Russian diplomatic staff and their families amid a mass expulsion that has sent tensions soaring between the historically close nations, a Russian diplomat said, The Associated Press reported.

Filip Voskresenski, a high-ranking Russian diplomat, told journalists at the airport in Bulgaria's capital Sofia before the flights left that he was among the 70 Russian diplomatic staff declared “persona non grata” last week and ordered to leave the country by the end of Sunday, AP reported.

Bulgaria's expulsion decision was announced by acting-Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who has taken a strong stance against Russia after it invaded Ukraine on February 24. Petkov, who lost a no-confidence vote on June 22, has claimed Moscow used “hybrid war” tactics to bring down his government.

4:37 p.m.: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will on Monday commit long-term British support for Ukraine, to help the country rebuild when the conflict with Russia ends, Agence France-Presse reported. Truss is due to attend a Ukraine Recovery Conference in Switzerland, where she will pledge both immediate humanitarian assistance as well as access to British financial and economic expertise.

3:50 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “Ukraine does not give anything up. And when someone over there in Moscow reports something about the Luhansk region -- let them remember their reports and promises before February 24, in the first days of this invasion, in the spring and now. Let them really evaluate what they got over this time and how much they paid for it.”

1:45 p.m.: During a visit to Kyiv, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has pledged that his country will provide additional support to Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion, RFE/RL reports.

While meeting Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Albanese said that the new military assistance will include 14 armored personnel carriers, 20 Bushmaster armored vehicles, and a number of drones, worth a total of about A$100 million (U.S. $68 million).

Zelenskyy said Australia was giving Ukraine "considerable aid, in particular defense support," and that the Australian-made Bushmaster vehicles were “highly valued.” The Bushmaster is designed mainly as a troop-transport vehicle.

1:15 p.m.: Ukraine’s General Staff has announced on Facebook that its forces have been forced to leave occupied positions and lines in Luhansk, citing the superiority of Russian artillery, aviation, MLRS fire, ammunition and personnel.

"The continuation of the defense of the city would lead to fatal consequences," the post states. "We continue the fight. Unfortunately, steel will and patriotism are not enough for success - material and technical resources are needed."

12 p.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that fighting is still taking place on the outskirts of Lysychansk, the last major city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk Oblast and while the situation is extremely difficult as Ukraine has "no advantage there," it is still too early to say the city has fallen to Russia, the Kyiv Independent reports.

"There are risks that the entire Luhansk region will be occupied. But you must understand that the situation can change daily," he said.

11 a.m.: Germany is discussing security guarantees for Ukraine with its allies in preparation for a time after the war, but these will not be the same as for a member of the transatlantic alliance, German Chancellor Scholz told the broadcaster ARD on Sunday.

"We are discussing with close friends the question of the security guarantees we can give. This is an ongoing process. It is clear that it will not be the same as if someone were a member of NATO," Scholz said.

Scholz, who took office in December, has faced accusations at home and abroad of failing to show leadership in the Ukraine crisis and failing to convey empathy for citizens struggling with the soaring inflation that it has helped to fuel.

10:40 a.m. Turkish customs authorities have detained a Russian cargo ship carrying grain which Ukraine says is stolen, Ukraine's ambassador to Turkey said on Sunday.

"We have full co-operation. The ship is currently standing at the entrance to the port, it has been detained by the customs authorities of Turkey," ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said on Ukrainian national television.

Bodnar said that the ship's fate would be decided by a meeting of investigators on Monday.

10 a.m.: Serhii Bolvinov, head of the investigative department of the Kharkiv Oblast police, says one person was killed and at least four injured in Russia’s shelling of the city, the Kyiv Independent reports. Several apartment buildings were also damaged, he added.

9:45 a.m.: Six people were killed in Sloviansk after the eastern Ukrainian city was hit by powerful shelling from Russian multiple rocket launchers Sunday, local officials say. Tetiana Ihnatchenko, spokesperson for the Donetsk Oblast Administration, told the Suspilne media outlet Sunday that another 15 were wounded in the shelling.

Mayor Vadym Lyakh, writing on Telegram, said it was the worst shelling to hit Sloviansk, the front-line city in the industrial Donbas region that Russia is trying to capture; it caused nearly 15 fires.

9:30 a.m.: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was "determined long ago," the Kyiv Independent reports. Lukashenko said Minsk and Russia's forces are “practically united” as countries of the Union State, a supranational organization consisting of the two countries. While not a direct participant in the war, Belarus provides logistical support to Russia and allows Russia to use its territory to launch missiles at Ukraine.

9:15 a.m.: Residents of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, which was occupied by pro-Russian separatists for months in 2014, are reportedly preparing to defend the city again as the fighting draws closer and invites a major battle.

Slovyansk, in Ukraine's southeastern Donbas region, is a city of splintered loyalties, with some residents antagonistic toward Kyiv or nostalgic for Ukraine's Soviet past, and the city may become the next major target in Russia’s campaign to take Donbas, Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland.

8:55 a.m.: Ukraine’s defense ministry has denied Russia’s claims that its troops have taken control of Lysychansk, saying that the city is not under Russia’s “full control”, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports. But spokesman Yuriy Sak added that if the entire Donbas region were to fall, it would not be “game over” for Ukraine.

8:35 a.m.: According to the Kyiv Independent, Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko reports that Russian troops have attacked the city in Ukraine's easter Donestsk Oblast with Smerch multiple launch rocket systems. There are no reports of casualties.

8 a.m.: The British Defense Ministry reports that Russia's proxies say they will hold a referendum on annexing Kherson Oblast to Russia by autumn. The U.K. Defense Ministry said Sunday that finding a "pseudo-constitutional solution" for the occupation is a "priority policy objective" for the Kremlin. Russia will likely be prepared to rig the vote in order to show an acceptable result, the ministry said.

7:45 a.m.: At least three people are dead and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border, the regional governor says, in what Moscow says was a Ukrainian missile attack.

At least 11 apartment buildings and 39 private houses were damaged, including five that were destroyed, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov posted on the Telegram messaging app.

"I emphasize that this missile attack had been intentionally planned and was launched at the civilian population of Russian cities," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Ukraine has made no statement.

7:30 a.m.: Russia’s defense minister says Russian forces have taken control of Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-held city in Ukraine’s Luhansk province, bringing Moscow closer to its stated goal of seizing all of Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Russia’s troops together with members of a local separatist militia “have established full control over the city of Lysychansk,” a ministry statement said.

Taking Lysychansk constitutes “the liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic,” one of two separatist regions in Ukraine that Russia recognizes as sovereign, the statement said.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately provide an update on its status.

5:13 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said the mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhaiev, has been arrested. The update says it's probably an attempt to suppress opposition to the Russian occupation. "However, widespread armed and peaceful resistance continues across occupied areas," the update said.

4 a.m.: The BBC reported that a Ukrainian adviser says the city of Lysychansk could fall to the Russians this weekend.

"This is indeed a threat. We shall see. I do not rule out any one of a number of outcomes here. Things will become much more clear within a day or two," said Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy.

3:12 a.m.: As Ukrainians return to their homes, many are returning to places with an unknown number of landmines, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

1:27 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest assessment of the Ukraine conflict that Russia is likely to complete the capture of the entire Luhansk Oblast.

Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, are likely planning to use Western-supplied weapons to attack Russian ground lines of communication throughout Kharkiv Oblast, the assessment said.

12:02 a.m.: Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Russian forces have crossed the Siverskiy Donets river and were approaching Lysychansk from the north, Reuters reported.

"If Lysychansk is taken, strategically it becomes more difficult for the Russians to continue their offensive,” he said. "The front lines will be flatter and there will be a frontal attack rather than from the flanks."

He said the Russians would have to focus on taking six major cities in the industrialized eastern Donbas region and with each their forces would be more and more thinly spread.

"The more Western weapons come to the front, the more the picture changes in favor of Ukraine," he said.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters.