Biden’s U-turn on weapons will help defend Ukraine, says Zelensky

Kharkiv has endured heavy shelling by the Russian army
Kharkiv has endured heavy shelling by the Russian army - GETTY IMAGES

Joe Biden’s U-turn on the firing of American weapons inside Russia will make it easier for Ukraine to defend itself, said President Volodymyr Zelensky

US officials said on Thursday that President Joe Biden had secretly lifted restrictions on Ukraine using certain American-supplied weapons against targets inside Russian territory, but only to defend the under-fire Kharkiv region.

“This is a step forward toward (the) goal ... of making it possible to defend our people who live in the villages on the border,” Mr Zelensky told reporters in Stockholm where he took part in a Ukraine-Northern Europe security summit.

Biden had come under increasing pressure from a desperate Ukraine to ease his ban, but had so far resisted amid fears it could drag Nato into direct conflict or even a nuclear standoff with Moscow.

The Kremlin accused the West on Thursday of “entering a new round of escalations in tensions”.

02:51 PM BST

Thank you for following today’s live blog

Thank you for following our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

We’ll be back soon with the latest updates from the conflict.

02:14 PM BST

Stoltenberg says Nato members have relaxed rules around its weapons

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, said alliance members had eased restrictions on the use of Western weapons by Ukraine to strike military targets inside Russia.

“Ukraine has the right to self-defence and also striking legitimate military targets in Russia,” he told reporters at a news conference.

Mr Stoltenberg added that Russia had used its territory to stage an attack on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, meaning it makes sense for Kyiv’s forces to need to strike over the border.

“We need to be vigilant, we need to adapt and evolve our support to Ukraine,” he said.

01:21 PM BST

Stoltenberg urges Nato allies to commit to €40 billion a year for Ukraine

Jens Stoltenberg on Friday urged Nato allies to commit to spend at least €40 billion a year on supporting Ukraine to ensure long-term backing for the war-torn nation.

He said the figure was roughly what the alliance’s member states had provided Kyiv over the course of the full-scale invasion.

“We must maintain at least this level of support each year for as long as necessary,” Mr Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, said after a meeting in Prague.

The official had previously proposed a $100 billion war chest for the alliance to continue arming Kyiv and training its troops.

Outlining his latest plan, Mr Stoltenberg said the cash should be raised “equitably” across the alliance’s 32 members, possibly using GDP to calculate to fair contributions.

12:59 PM BST

US Treasury No. 2 warns China over support for Russia

Deputy US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said that Washington and the European Union must deliver a message to China that its firms face a choice between doing business with US and EU economies or equipping Russia with dual-use goods.

It had to be made clear that “Chinese firms can either do business in our economies or they can equip Russia’s war machinery with dual-use goods. They can’t continue to do both,” he said on a visit to Berlin.

12:26 PM BST

Ukrainian drones strike Russian radar system, according to report

Ukrainian drones have reportedly struck another Russian radar system, this time in Crimea.

If confirmed, the attack on the $100-million Nebo-SVU radar reported by Ukraine Pravda would be the latest by Ukraine on Russian radar systems.

On Monday, Ukraine hit a radar station near the border with Kazakhstan, a Ukrainian intelligence official said.

12:12 PM BST

Boris Johnson is always with me, says Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky has said he doesn’t miss Boris Johnson because the former prime minister is always with him.

The Ukrainian president described Mr Johnson as a “good friend” who “really helped Ukraine”.

The pair struck up a close bond in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion and spoke almost every day.

Since standing down as prime minister, Mr Johnson has made numerous trips to Kyiv and joined international efforts to prepare Ukraine for Nato membership.

Asked if he missed Mr Johnson in an interview with the Guardian, Mr Zelensky said: “He does not give me the opportunity to miss him. He is always here.”

11:55 AM BST

Watch: Aftermath of missile strike on Kharkiv

Russian strikes killed three people in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, authorities said on Friday.

With Russia having retaken the battlefield initiative in recent months, Ukraine had doubled down on calls to permit it to use longer-range US weapons to attack Russian territory - something Washington had resisted over fears it could drag Nato into direct conflict with Moscow.

But that calculus changed after Russian forces launched a fresh offensive in the Kharkiv region this month.

11:16 AM BST

EU plotting to start conscription, claims Orban

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, claimed on Friday that there was a plot to carry out an EU conscription drive amid fears of a war with Russia.

It would mean that someone else could decide about the blood of Hungarians,” he told the Good Morning, Hungary radio show.

“Such thoughts should be quickly dismissed; the seed must be removed from the soil before it can sprout.”

The Hungarian leader – who is seen as Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in Europe – blamed the plan on Manfred Weber, a German conservative MEP, who is president of the centre-right EPP group.

But Mr Orban’s accusations are seen as absolutely baseless and part of his wider row with Nato over the alliance’s support for Ukraine.

10:58 AM BST

Germany tells Ukraine it can use its M270 rocket launchers to strike Russia

Germany has told Ukraine it can use M270 rocket launchers donated by Berlin to strike Russian soil, the Telegraph understands.

The M270 – which has also been donated by Britain – is a tracked version of the American-supplied Himars system.

German officials have also told counterparts in Kyiv that German-made self-propelled 155mm artillery howitzers can be used on cross-border strikes on military targets inside Russia.

It came after an agreement during talks with the Quad group of Britain, America, France and Germany, sources said.

Steffen Hebestreit, the German chancellor’s spokesman, said: “Ukrainians are fighting for their country and their freedom. Many countries around the world are supporting them politically, economically and with military equipment and weapons.

10:41 AM BST

Ukraine returns to Russia bodies of 45 Russian servicemen, RBS says

Ukraine has handed over to Russia the bodies of 45 Russian servicemen as part of a swap, the RBS news outlet cited lawmaker Shamsail Saraliyev as saying.

10:24 AM BST

Ukraine can use German weapons to defend Kharkiv border region, Berlin says

Germany suggested Ukraine could use weapons supplied by Western countries to defend itself against attacks on Kharkiv launched from just inside Russia

“We are jointly convinced that Ukraine has the right, guaranteed under international law, to defend itself against these attacks,” the spokesperson said.

“To do so, it can also use the weapons supplied for this purpose in accordance with its international legal obligations; including those supplied by us.”

10:07 AM BST

Moscow says Nato chief’s comments confirm Western weapons used to hit Russia

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s comments on Western arms supplied to Ukraine show they have been used against targets on Russian soil all along, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday.

Zakharova was commenting on Stoltenberg’s remarks about there being no restrictions on Kyiv’s use of British Storm Shadow cruise missiles and some other weapons supplied by Nato countries.

09:51 AM BST

Oil depot on fire after Ukraine’s air strike in Russia’s Krasnodar

An oil depot in the Krasnodar region was on fire and people were injured after Ukraine’s air strike early on Friday targeting oil facilities, the governor of the southern Russian region said.

“The situation is more serious in the Temryuk region - the infrastructure of the oil depot there was damaged by an air strike: three tanks with petroleum products are damaged and burning,” Krasnodar Governor Veniamin Kondratyev said on the Telegram messaging app.

“The fire is being extinguished now... Unfortunately, there are injured among the employees of the oil depot.”

09:26 AM BST

Russian missiles kill three in Kharkiv

Russian missiles hit three sites in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, killing at least three people and injuring 16, local officials said early on Friday.

Accounts of the attack said the missiles hit a five-storey apartment block, a shop in a three-storey building and a sewing factory.

Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said the attacks on the city’s Novobazarskyi district, used the “double tap” technique that has occurred recently, delivering a second strike soon after an initial attack on a given site.

People look on as Ukrainian rescuers work at the site of the shelling of a residential building in Kharkiv
People look on as Ukrainian rescuers work at the site of the shelling of a residential building in Kharkiv - SERGEY KOZLOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

He said that, according to preliminary information, S-300 missiles were used.

“The third, fourth and fifth floors are destroyed, stairwells were destroyed, facades were destroyed,” Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov told public broadcaster Suspilne, describing damage to the apartment building.

Mr Syniehubov said at least two children were among those injured in the attack, which occurred at about midnight local time. He warned that residents could be trapped underneath rubble left by the strike.

09:05 AM BST

Moscow’s nuclear threats over Ukraine are ‘no bluff’

Senior Russian security official Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that Russia was not bluffing when it spoke of the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine and that its conflict with the West could escalate into an all-out war.

In a post on his official Telegram channel, Medvedev said Moscow’s conflict with the West was developing according to the worst-case scenario and that “no one can rule out it escalating to the last stage”.

Medvedev was commenting after four US officials told Reuters on Thursday that Joe Biden had quietly authorised Kyiv to launch US-supplied weapons at military targets inside Russia that are supporting an offensive against the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

08:53 AM BST

China says ‘difficult’ to attend Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland

China said Friday it would be “difficult” to attend a conference on the war in Ukraine slated to take place in Switzerland next month.

“The arrangement of the meeting still falls short of China’s requirements and the expectations of the international community, making it difficult for China to attend,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said.

Ukraine is trying to whip up attendance at the June peace conference, where it hopes to win broad international backing for its vision of the terms needed to end Russia’s war.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged China to take part.

But Beijing insisted on Friday that any such summit would need the participation of Russia, which Ukraine has rejected.

“China has always insisted that the International Peace Conference should have the recognition of Russia and Ukraine, equal participation of all parties and fair discussion of all peace plans,” Ms Mao said.

“Otherwise, it is difficult for the conference to play a substantive role in restoring peace,” she said.

08:32 AM BST

Pictured: Soldiers receive treatment in Donetsk

As fighting rages in the direction of Chasiv Yar, Donetsk, soldiers from the frontline are receiving medical treatment.

A Ukrainian soldier receives treatment from army medics at a stabilisation point
A Ukrainian soldier receives treatment from army medics at a stabilisation point - Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images
Ukrainian army medic shows shrapnel remains, extracted from wounded Ukrainian soldiers
Ukrainian army medic shows shrapnel remains, extracted from wounded Ukrainian soldiers - Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images

08:10 AM BST

Russia threatens to remove children from their parents in anti-war dissent crackdown

Russia has threatened to remove children from their parents in an anti-war dissent crackdown.

Children have been forced to flee the country, face jail sentences and be placed in orphanages as the pressure piles on parents who dare to question the Kremlin.

Amnesty International said that “the very bond between children and their parents that is being shamelessly exploited to crush dissent”.

“In this politically motivated assault on children, schools and teachers have become tools of persecution and arbitrary interference by the state,” Oleg Kozlovsky, Amnesty’s Russia researcher, said.

He added that schools were indoctrinating children with “false government-mandated narratives”.

In many cases known to Amnesty, commissioners for children’s rights did not intervene in the politically motivated persecution of children or advocate for their right to freedom of expression.

07:54 AM BST

Russian MP promises ‘asymmetric’ response to attacks with US arms

Russia will retaliate asymmetrically to Ukrainian attacks on its territory using weapons provided by the United States, the RIA news agency cited Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the Russian lower house’s defence committee, as saying on Friday.

Kartapolov said Joe Biden’s decision to allow limited missile strikes inside Russia with US weapons would not impact Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.