Wed, 10 Aug 2022

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday her executive will "by the end of next week" finalise its opinion on whether Ukraine should be a candidate country to join the EU. Meanwhile, Ukraine reiterated its pleas to Western countries for faster weapons deliveries and humanitarian aid as Russia said it had shot down three Ukrainian war planes. Read FRANCE 24's liveblog to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time 'GMT+2).

8:09pm: Germany's Scholz to travel to Kyiv with Macron and Draghi before G7

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv with his counterparts from France and Italy before the Group of Seven summit at the end of June, Bild am Sonntag reported on Saturday.

The newspaper cited French and Ukrainian government sources. The press office for the German government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

6:19pm: Shelling of Severodonetsk plant causes oil leak and fire, governor says

Russian shelling of the Azot chemical plant in Ukraine's frontline city of Severodonetsk caused a powerful fire to break out after a leak of tonnes of oil, regional governor of Serhiy Gaidai said on Saturday.

Speaking on national television, Gaidai did not say if the fire at the plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, had been extinguished.

He said there was non-stop fighting in Severodonetsk, a small city in the Luhansk region that has become the focus of Russia's advance in eastern Ukraine.

5:07pm: 'EU Commission expected to recommend Ukraine's candidacy'

"Ursula von der Leyen made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital this Saturday and she assured Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine would get an answer [...] by the end of next week," FRANCE 24's Catherine Norris-Trent reported from Kyiv.

"EU leaders are due to meet on the 17th of June ahead of an upcoming summit on the 23rd and 24th of June. Now the EU Commission is expected to recommend Ukraine's candidacy to join the EU - but that is just a preliminary step; there are many more along the road. Notably, all 27 member states would need to agree on Ukraine becoming a candidate and we know that already there have been divisions among EU member states."

4:42pm: Russia using more deadly weapons in war, say Ukraine, UK

Ukrainian and British officials warned Saturday that Russian forces are relying on weapons able to cause mass casualties as they try to make headway in capturing eastern Ukraine and fierce, prolonged fighting depletes resources on both sides.

Russian bombers have likely been launching heavy 1960s-era anti-ship missiles in Ukraine, the U.K. Defense Ministry said. The Kh-22 missiles were primarily designed to destroy aircraft carriers using a nuclear warhead. When used in ground attacks with conventional warheads, they "are highly inaccurate and therefore can cause severe collateral damage and casualties," the ministry said.

Both sides have expended large amounts of weaponry in what has become a grinding war of attrition for the eastern region of coal mines and factories known as the Donbas, placing huge strains on their resources and stockpiles. Russia is likely using the 5.5-tonne (6.1-ton) anti-ship missiles because it is running short of more precise modern missiles, the British ministry said.

3:49pm: French plans to help unblock Odesa port raise more questions than answers

Odesa port was "built originally at the turn of the 18th and 19th century by French architects to deliver an amazing supply of grain to all of Europe", noted Oleg Kobtzeff, an Eastern Europe specialist at the American University in Paris.

With regard to ambitions to unblock the port, "neither FRANCE 24, nor myself, nor most of us, know exactly how to interpret the AFP news release that [the French government] wants to go through the blockade. Apparently, it would be tolerated by Putin, from what the news release is saying," Kobtzeff continued.

"Is Putin going to be nice enough, quote unquote, to let civilian cargoes go through? And anyaway who exactly is going to get rid of mines that are blockading the seaport of Odesa? Or is it going to be French military vessels that are going to go through and are going to try and pass the blockade, which could escalate the conflict tremendously?"

2:48pm: EU to finalise advice 'next week' on Ukraine's ambitions to join

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday her executive will "by the end of next week" finalise its opinion on whether Ukraine should be a candidate country to join the EU.

"The discussions today will enable us to finalise our assessment by the end of next week," she told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv during a surprise visit.

2:10pm: Family of British man facing the death penalty in Donbas call for his release

The family of British man Shaun Pinner who has been sentenced to death by a court by Russian proxy authorities in Donbas have spoken of their devastation at the news and requested he is exchanged or released.

"Firstly, our whole family is devastated and saddened at the outcome of the illegal show trial by the so-called Donetsk People's Republic," the family said in a statement.

"Shaun should be accorded all the rights of a prisoner of war according to the Geneva Convention and including full independent legal representation. We sincerely hope that all parties will co-operate urgently to ensure the safe release or exchange of Shaun."

1:43pm: Ukraine in control of Severodonetsk plant sheltering hundreds, governor says

Ukraine remains in control of the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, the region's governor said on Saturday, after a Russia-backed separatist claimed 300-400 Ukrainian fighters were also trapped there.

"The information about the blockade of the Azot plant is a lie," Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists, said on the Telegram messaging app.

"Our forces are holding an industrial zone of Severodonetsk and are destroying the Russian army in the town," he wrote. Ukraine has said some 800 people were hiding in several bomb shelters underneath the Azot plant.

1:27pm: Up to 300,000 tonnes of grain in destroyed warehouses, Ukraine minister says

Up to 300,000 tonnes of grain may have been stored in warehouses that Kyiv says were destroyed by Russian shelling last weekend, deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskyi said on Saturday.

Speaking on national television, Vysotskyi said, according to records, at the start of the war on February 24 the warehouses at one of Ukraine's largest agricultural commodities terminals in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv held 250,000-300,000 tonnes of grain, mainly wheat and corn.

11:36am: Zelensky warns of "acute" food crisis due to blockade, says Ukraine will "prevail in this war"

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that his country would "definitely prevail in this war that Russia has started".

Speaking from an undisclosed location in Kyiv, Zelenskiy told delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that his country was unable to export enough food because of a Russian blockade, and that the world would face "an acute and severe food crisis and famine."

11:21am: Russia says it has shot down three Ukrainian war planes

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Saturday that its air defence forces had shot down three Ukrainian war planes.

The Russian military shot down two MIG-29 planes in the Mikolayiv region and one Su-25 fighter jet in the Kharkiv region, the ministry said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

11:10am: EU chief to discuss Ukraine's EU membership with Zelensky

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen visited Ukraine on Saturday to discuss with President Volodymyr Zelensky his country's bid to get candidacy status to join the European Union.

"With President Zelensky I will take stock of the joint work needed for reconstruction and of the progress made by Ukraine on its European path," von der Leyen tweeted on arrival in Kyiv.

10:15am: Ukraine pleads for more weapons for battle in the east

Ukraine pleaded to Western countries for faster deliveries of weapons as better-armed Russian forces pounded the east of the country, and for humanitarian support to combat growing outbreaks of deadly diseases. FRANCE 24"s Catherine Norris Trent reports from Kyiv.

08:50am: Ukraine pleads for faster deliveries of weapons

Ukraine pleaded to Western countries for faster deliveries of weapons as better-armed Russian forces pounded the east of the country, and for humanitarian support to combat growing outbreaks of deadly diseases.

In Severodonetsk, the small city that has become the focus of Russia's advance in eastern Ukraine and one of the bloodiest flashpoints in a war well into its fourth month, further heavy fighting was reported.

The war in the east, where Russia is focusing its attention, is now primarily an artillery battle in which Kyiv is severely outgunned, Ukrainian officials say.

08:15am: French experts collect evidence of possible war crimes in Chernihiv

Weapons experts from France are helping their Ukrainian counterparts collect evidence of possible Russian war crimes in the northern region of Chernihiv, Ukraine's prosecutor general said on Friday.

The French Gendarmerie's experts, including specialists in drone modelling, ballistics and weapons of mass destruction, have been collecting evidence at sites of destruction from Russian shelling.

They replaced group of gendarmerie forensic experts who arrived in mid-April to help establish what happened in Bucha, near Kyiv, where the killing of many civilians provoked a global outcry.

07:54am: Zelensky didn't want to hear US warnings, Biden says

US President Joe Biden said Friday that his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky "didn't want to hear" American warnings ahead of Russia's invasion of his country. "I know a lot of people thought I was exaggerating," Biden said at a fundraising reception in Los Angeles, referring to his forewarning of the possibility of a Russian attack.

"But I knew we had data to sustain (the assessment)," he added in front of reporters.

"(Russian President Vladimir Putin) was gonna go into the border. And there was no doubt, and Zelensky didn't want to hear it, nor did a lot of people. I understand why they didn't want to hear it, but he went in."

The United States began raising the alarm over Russia's preparations for an invasion of Ukraine well before Putin announced the "special operation" against the country on February 24.

(FRANCE24 with REUTERS and AFP)

Originally published on France24

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