Latest political developments
Finland said on Thursday it would apply to join NATO “without delay” and Sweden is expected to follow suit.
The Kremlin said Finland’s NATO membership would “certainly” pose a threat to Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed his support for the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine said Russia stole around $100 million worth of grain and was trying to sell it to other countries.
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Human rights in Ukraine the leader accused Ruass to detain and torture civilians.
According to the Ukrainian military, Russian forces fired on Ukrainian troops heading towards Zaporizhzhia, a safe haven for civilians fleeing Mariupol.
The governor of Belgorod, a Russian border region, said at least one civilian was killed and six others injured in Ukrainian shelling.
Russia said its forces struck two ammunition depots in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, destroying a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile system and a radar station.
Russian official warns of ‘military-technical’ retaliation
In response to Finland’s announcement in favor of NATO membership on Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory measures of military-technical and other characteristics in order to counter emerging threats to its national security”.
The ministry said Finland’s move violated agreements with Russia.
Earlier Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Finland’s entry into NATO would “certainly” pose a threat to Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev, who is the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, said NATO support for Ukraine has “increased the likelihood that an ongoing proxy war will turn into an open and direct conflict between the ‘NATO and Russia’.
He also said that “there is always a risk that such a conflict could turn into a full-scale nuclear war, a scenario that will be catastrophic for all”.
In a comment on a messaging app, Medvedev urged the United States and its allies to think about the possible consequences of their actions and “not to choke on their own saliva in paroxysms of Russophobia.”
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Claims that Ukrainian civilians are detained and tortured
Ukrainian human rights official Lyudmyla Denysova claimed on social media on Thursday that kyiv was aware of at least two prisons where civilians are being held in the eastern Donetsk region.
She said around 3,000 civilians from Mariupol were being held there by pro-Russian separatists.
According to Denysova, the authorities have received reports that people have been “tortured, interrogated, threatened with execution and coerced into cooperating” and that others have disappeared after interrogations.
She also alleged that the detainees were held in “inhumane conditions”, with insufficient access to toilets and no space to lie down.
She claimed some captives were released after 36 days, after signing unspecified documents, but did not provide further details. The Ukrainian authorities are calling on the UN to intervene.
More reports on cluster munitions
Ukrainian officials have also accused Russia of using cluster bombs and phosphorus munitions in the southern Kryvyi Rih region. The allegation could not immediately be verified.
“Occupiers are firing, including with the use of banned phosphorus and cluster munitions,” regional military governor Oleksandr Vilkul told Ukrainian television channels on Thursday. He did not specify where and when they would have been used.
He said one person had been killed and another injured over the past day.
A cluster munition is a container filled with small explosive bombs, which scatter over a wide area and pose a risk to civilians. The bombs were banned by the Convention on Cluster Munitionsbut Russia has not signed the international treaty.
In March, the UN said it had credible reports that the Russian armed forces had used cluster munitions in populated areas of Ukraine at least two dozen times since the invasion began on February 24.
Ukraine takes over villages in the northeast
Since Russia refocused its invasion in the eastern region of Donbass, Ukraine has been able to retake several towns and villages in the northeast of the country, according to British intelligence.
The British military said Russia’s change in approach left its remaining troops around the city of Kharkiv “vulnerable to the mobile and highly motivated Ukrainian counter-attack force”.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday reiterated his determination to wrest separatist-held territory from Ukraine in a congratulatory message to the leader of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.
In a statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said: “I am sure that through our joint efforts we will defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the Luhansk Republic.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk republic, Leonid Pasechnik, has said it will never return to Ukrainian control and most of its residents want it to be part of Russia.