Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday visited the east Ukraine city of Izium, the military said, one of the largest cities recently recaptured from Russia by Kyiv’s army in a lightning counter-offensive. Ukraine has set its sights on freeing all territory occupied by invading Russian forces after driving them back in a speedy counter-offensive in the northeast. Read FRANCE 24’s live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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6:18pm: Russia launched eight cruise missiles against Ukrainian city

Russian forces launched eight cruise missiles against the southern Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih on Wednesday, aiming to disrupt water supplies, a senior Ukrainian official said.

Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that there had been no civilian casualties in the attack.

6:10pm: ‘Even the most optimistic didn’t quite expect them to do so well’ 

FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports from Kharkiv on Zelensky’s visit to the newly liberated city of Izium, saying that even Ukrainians were shocked by the success of the counter-offensive.


6:08pm: German Chancellor: No sign Russia’s Putin realises Ukraine war is a mistake

Russian President Vladimir Putin “unfortunately” does not seem to have realised yet that the decision to invade Ukraine is a mistake, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday, commenting on a phone call with Putin a day earlier.

Scholz said it was still important to emphasise to Putin that Russia had to withdraw from Ukraine. In the Tuesday 90-minutes phone call, Scholz urged Putin in to find a diplomatic solution for the conflict in Ukraine based on a ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops as soon as possible.

6:02pm: UN chief spoke with Putin about grain deal on Wednesday

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he spoke with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Wednesday about the Black Sea grain export deal, prisoners of war and the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Guterres said it was “absolutely essential” that obstacles to the export of Russian fertiliser were overcome.

5:54pm: German Defence Minister: Too early to tell if Ukraine counter-offensive is turning point

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Wednesday it is too early to tell whether Ukraine’s significant territorial advances in recent days mark a turning point in the war prompted by Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

“This is hard to assess because we don’t know how the Russians will react now (to Ukraine’s counter-offensive),” Lambrecht told Reuters in an interview at the defence ministry in Berlin.

“But it is definitely a remarkable success that will contribute to Russia’s destabilisation,” she added, speaking of a weakening of the Russian military.

5:54pm: Ukraine welcomes report on international security guarantees rejected by Moscow  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government are studying proposals drawn up by senior officials and the former head of NATO that envisage Western countries providing future security guarantees to Kyiv.

Russia has already condemned the draft document, which also underlines Ukraine’s continued “aspiration to join NATO and benefit from its mutual defence arrangements”.

5:52pm: France rejects appeal against seizure of yacht linked to Putin ally

A French court has rejected an appeal placed by an offshore holding company against the seizure of a superyacht linked to a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, according to a ruling published on Wednesday.

The Amore Vero, which the French authorities maintain is owned by a company linked to the chief executive of Russian state oil giant Rosneft Igor Sechin, was seized by France in early March.

The seizure of the vessel was part of EU sanctions imposed against Russian oligarchs over the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

5:50pm: Russia sanctions British PR executives and defence lobbyists

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it had introduced sanctions against the heads of 30 British public relations firms, as well as a number of defence lobbyists, in response to what it called unfriendly steps by the British government.

The individuals on the list are barred from entering Russia, the ministry said.

3:53pm: Kremlin says Ukraine’s NATO ambitions remain a threat to Russia

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Ukraine’s ongoing ambitions to join the Western NATO military alliance presented a threat to Russia’s security and highlighted the necessity for Russia to conduct its “special military operation” in the country.

Moscow was responding to the publication of a draft set of security guarantees by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office on Tuesday that outlined Ukraine’s “aspiration to join NATO and benefit from its mutual defence arrangements”.

In a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia viewed the document negatively, saying the idea of Ukraine joining NATO was “the main threat to Russia”.

“It once again emphasises the relevance and urgent need for us to ensure our own security and our own national interests.”

2:14pm: Zelensky vows ‘victory’ on frontline visit to liberated Kharkiv region

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday promised “victory” on a visit to the strategic city of Izium that was recently recaptured from Russia by Kyiv’s army in a lightning counter-offensive.

The visit comes at a decisive moment in Russia’s six-month invasion, with Ukraine routing Moscow’s forces from swathes of the east and seriously undermining the Kremlin’s ambitions to capture the entire Donbas region of Ukraine.

“Our blue-yellow flag is already flying in deoccupied Izium. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village,” Zelensky said in a statement on social media.

“We are moving in only one direction — forward and towards victory.” 

Pictures distributed by his office showed the Ukrainian leader wearing dark-green and flanked by guards as he took selfies with soldiers and thanked troops at a flag-rising ceremony.

1:38pm: EU chief von der Leyen to visit Ukraine to stress support

European Union Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen announced a surprise visit to Kyiv later Wednesday to show the bloc’s support for Ukraine as it fights back against the Russian invasion.

Dressed in Ukraine’s colours, von der Leyen said in her State of the European Union address that the bloc would come to Ukraine’s aid by opening its seamless single market more to Ukrainian products and said she would “discuss all this with President (Volodymyr) Zelensky”.

The EU has already committed billions in aid to Ukraine since the February 24 Russian invasion. Von der Leyen announced Wednesday that the bloc will provide €100 million to build up schools destroyed during the invasion.

1:15pm: Zelensky visits recaptured hub of Izium in east Ukraine, says army

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday visited the east Ukraine city of Izium, the military said, one of the largest cities recently recaptured from Russia by Kyiv’s army in a lightning counter-offensive.

The Ukrainian military in a statement on social media said Zelensky and military officials “took part” in a ceremony raising the Ukrainian flag over the captured city which was key for Russia’s ambitions to capture the Donbas region.

5:34am: Biden says Ukraine has made progress

Ukraine has made significant progress as it pushes back Russian forces but it is not possible to tell if the war is at a turning point, US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

Asked whether Ukraine has reached a turning point in the war, he said: “The question is unanswerable. It’s hard to tell. It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long haul.”

12:37am: Ukraine is in full control of more than 4,000 square km recaptured from Russia

Ukraine is in full control of more than 4,000 square km (1,500 square miles) of territory recaptured from Russian forces and is stabilising another 4,000 square km, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address on Tuesday.

On Monday he said Ukraine had retaken 6,000 square km in its recent counter-offensive. Ukrainian officials, though, say it is important to make a distinction between taking territory and ensuring it is totally safe.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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