Ukraine round-up: Deportation claims and North Korea row

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Ben Gurion airport in Israel on 13 JulyGetty Images

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Russia to stop forced deportations and “filtration” operations involving Ukrainians.

Russia had detained and forcibly moved to Russia some 900,000 to 1.6 million people, many of them children, he said.

Mr Blinken cited reports of children being separated from parents or abducted from orphanages to be put up for adoption in Russia.

There was also mounting evidence of torture or summary execution, he said.

Russia has in the past rejected reports of filtration camps as unprofessional and lies.

Mr Blinken, who was speaking on the eve of a conference in The Hague on alleged war crimes in Ukraine, said unlawfully transferring or deporting civilians was a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Russia targets south and east

At least five people were killed by Russian shelling around the southern port city of Mykolaiv, Ukraine said.

A hospital and homes were targeted by a barrage of 28 rockets, officials said. Russia claimed to have killed dozens of soldiers.

Russia and its proxy forces are also claiming success in their campaign to seize Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. They say they have entered the two towns of Soledar and Siversk, to the north of Bakhmut.

There was no independent confirmation and Ukrainian forces said only that Siversk had come under artillery fire. Russia is now in full control of the north-eastern region of Luhansk after a protracted military campaign. Ukrainian officials in Donetsk region say occupying forces have significantly increased their numbers in an attempt to break through.

Rescue services were searching the rubble in case of further victims

Zaporizhzhia regional authority

Meanwhile, in south-eastern Ukraine a number of people were reported wounded when two Russian missiles hit a Ukrainian industrial facility in the city of Zaporizhzhia.

Officials said the building had been hit by cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea and rescue services were searching the rubble in case of further victims.


First direct talks for months

For the first time since March, Ukrainian and Russian officials have held face-to-face talks, although the issue of ending the war was not on the agenda.

Ukrainian officials are optimistic that a deal can be struck soon on resuming exports of grain through the Black Sea.

Ukraine has been able to send some of its grain by road and rail, and a new naval route is opening up through the Danube estuary. But only 2.5 million tonnes were exported last month, much less than the eight million-tonne average before the war, and millions more are waiting in the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian and UN diplomats during the meeting for grain talks in Istanbul, Turkey, 13 July 2022


Talks on opening up a “green corridor” through the Black Sea took place in Turkey on Wednesday. But any agreement will require support from President Vladimir Putin, who meets Turkey’s president in Iran on 19 July.

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Key opposition figure jailed

A court in Moscow has detained one of Russia’s last leading opposition figures, Ilya Yashin, to be held in jail for two months until he goes on trial for criticising the war and “discrediting” the army.

Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin attends a court hearing in Moscow


He could face up to 10 years in jail under Russia’s recently approved law on spreading “fake news” on the invasion. Mr Yashin has condemned the charge as politically motivated. Last week, his friend and Moscow city councillor Alexei Gorinov became the first opposition activist to be jailed for speaking out against the war.

Gorinov was given seven years in prison after footage of a council meeting emerged showing him objecting to a children’s drawing contest while children were dying in Ukraine.

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EU says Russian rail transit can go on

An EU row with Russia over the transport of goods under sanction into the Russian territory of Kaliningrad appears to have been resolved after threats from Moscow.

Kaliningrad is cut off from the rest of Russia so goods have to travel through Lithuania to get there. Russia threatened reprisals when Lithuania started enforcing EU sanctions on goods travelling by rail last month.

Map showing Kaliningrad

The European Commission has now given Lithuania legal guidance that while road transit for sanctioned goods is not allowed, “no such prohibition exists for rail transport“.

Lithuania has said it will stick to the advice but former Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius told Lithuanian radio that even greater dangers now lay in store because the Kremlin tended to escalate the situation “when it feels it can achieve something with its pressure”.

EU ambassadors are due to consider a new sanctions package against Russia on Thursday.


North Korea takes sides

Kim Jong-un - undated photo


Ukraine says it is breaking off diplomatic relations with North Korea, after Russian media reported that the isolated Communist state had recognised the breakaway pro-Russian republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

North Korea is only the third country after Russia itself and Syria to recognise the republics, set up in eastern Ukraine in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement that the move “says more about Moscow’s toxicity than Pyongyang’s”.

“Russia no longer has any allies in the world, with the exception of countries that depend on it financially and politically,” he said.


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