US changes rules on Ukraine firing long-range missiles into Russia

Members of Ukraine's 24th Mechanised brigade fire mortar towards Russian positions  on the front line at Chasiv Yar
Members of Ukraine's 24th Mechanised brigade fire mortar towards Russian positions on the front line at Chasiv Yar - Oleg Petrasiuk/Ukrainian 24th Mechanised brigade via AP

Ukraine’s military can use US-supplied long-range missiles to strike targets deeper inside Russia if it is acting in self-defence, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The US had previously maintained a policy of not allowing Ukraine to use the weapons to hit targets inside Russia for fear of further escalating the war with Russia.

But, Joe Biden had earlier loosened those restrictions to help Kyiv defend the eastern city of Kharkiv from a relentless barrage of Russian missiles.

Moscow has been firing on Ukrainian targets from inside its border, which it treats as a “safe zone,” said Maj Gen Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary.

“As we see those forces conducting those types of operations from across the border, we’ve explained Ukraine can and does have the right to fire back to defend themselves,” Mr Ryder said.

It comes as Ukraine launched a major drone assault on “military objects” in Russian territory, targeting oil refineries, drone facilities and radar stations.

However, Russia continues to retaliate and is said to be launching “massive frontal assaults” around the town of Chasiv Yar, according to a Ukrainian military brigade who described the situation there as “extremely difficult”.

Chasiv Yar has become a flashpoint on the Donetsk front line as its capture could accelerate Russian advances in the industrial region.

04:19 PM BST

That’s all for today

Thanks for following our live coverage of the war in Ukraine. You can read more of The Telegraph’s latest news from the front line here.

Today’s headlines have included:

  • Ukraine launched a major drone assault overnight, including against military targets within Russian territory

  • A Ukrainian military brigade reported ‘massive frontal assaults’ taking place around the flashpoint of Chasiv Yar in eastern Donetsk

  • The EU officially approved the launch of membership talks for Ukraine and Moldova, to begin next week

  • President Zelensky set out a plan to protect Ukraine’s energy supply, which continues to be pummelled by Russia

  • Germany arrested three men who are accused of spying on a Ukrainian national on behalf of a foreign intelligence service

  • Putin warned South Korea it would be a “big mistake” to arm Ukraine, as tensions rumble on following the signing of a military pact between Russia and North Korea

03:59 PM BST

Ukraine facing ‘mass frontal assault’ on strategic hilltop city

Russia is launching “massive frontal assaults” around the town of Chasiv Yar, according to a Ukrainian military brigade.

The 24th Mechanised Brigade said it was deploying extra units to the town, where the situation has become “extremely difficult.”

“The enemy is constantly organising massive frontal assaults, and also trying to bypass the settlement from the north and south”, it said in a statement.

Chasiv Yar has become a flashpoint on the Donetsk front line as its capture could accelerate Russian advances in the industrial region.

A frontal assault is a risky and violent military tactic which involves a direct, full-force attack on the front of an enemy’s forces, rather than to the flanks or rear.

03:56 PM BST

Watch: The Telegraph’s exclusive interview with Olena Zelenska

The wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told The Daily Telegraph there are moments when she feels “close to psychological burnout” as the war in her country heads towards the 2.5 year mark.

In an exclusive interview, Mrs Zelenska spoke to Defence Editor Danielle Sheridan at the president’s office in Kyiv. She also spoke about how to maintain support for Ukraine as the war drags on, and her mixed feelings when it comes to speaking Russian.

03:32 PM BST

Watch: Ukraine’s SBU security service strikes two Russian fuel depots

03:22 PM BST

Zelensky hails start of EU membership talks next week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday welcomed the launch of accession talks with the EU - which were formally approved today and will begin next week. The opening of the talks will formally mark the start of Kyiv’s path towards joining the bloc.

“Millions of Ukrainians, and indeed generations of our people, are realising their European dream. Ukraine is returning to Europe, where it has belonged for centuries, as a full-fledged member of the European community,” Zelensky said on social media.

03:02 PM BST

Russia sentences Ukrainian woman to 12 years for balloon protest

A Russian military court on Friday sentenced a Ukrainian woman to 12 years in prison for releasing blue-white-blue balloons - the colours of opposition to the Ukraine offensive - over Moscow last year.

Ukrainian citizen Kristina Lyubashenko, 35, was found guilty of taking part in a “terrorist” group and spreading “fake information” about the Russian armed forces, the state news agency TASS reported.

The prosecution said Lyubashenko released the balloons into the sky above the Russian capital and installed speakers at a window in a residential building that blasted out “fake information” on Moscow’s Ukraine offensive.

02:45 PM BST

Germany arrests three for ‘spying on a Ukrainian national’

German authorities have arrested three men - a Russian, a Ukrainian and an Armenian - on suspicion of spying for an unspecified foreign intelligence service.

The three men were arrested in Frankfurt after allegedly trying “to gather information about a Ukrainian national”, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The men were only identified as Robert A. from Ukraine, Vardges I. from Armenia and Russian citizen Arman S.

“The three suspects were acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence service in Germany,” the statement said, adding that the trio had on June 19th “scouted a cafe in Frankfurt am Main where the target person was thought to be”.

12:56 PM BST

Russian politician warns of dangerous convicts returning from Ukraine

Russian authorities need to do more to protect civilians from ex-convicts who have returned home from fighting in Ukraine, a politician said this week.

Nina Ostanina, a Communist Party deputy who is sanctioned by the West, warned that violent crimes involving decommissioned soldiers “will be even more numerous” if authorities do not act.

Reports of Russian soldiers committing serious crimes including murder and rape after returning from Ukraine are widespread and have posed problems for the Kremlin, which portrays those fighting in its “special military operation” as heroes.

Many of the offenders are men who had been released early from prison, where they were serving time for serious crimes, in exchange for fighting in the war. Some Russian prisons are set to close this year because so many of their inmates have gone to the battlefields.

The comments by Ostanina are a rare admission from a Russian politician that returning soldiers are straining local communities.

Ostanina said law enforcement should be obliged to keep regular tabs on the former soldiers, and also help them find jobs and reintegrate into society.

12:31 PM BST

Seoul summons Russia’s ambassador amid tensions

South Korea summoned Russia’s ambassador to Seoul on Friday to protest a defence deal signed by President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un during a visit to Pyongyang this week.

Seoul “strongly urged Russia to immediately stop military cooperation with North Korea and comply with (UN) Security Council resolutions,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Summoning Russia’s Ambassador Georgy Zinoviev came two days after Putin and Kim signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership” agreement, which includes a pledge to come to each other’s aid if attacked.

Putin also said this week that Moscow did not rule out military and technical cooperation with the North, or even sending weapons - all of which would violate rafts of UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

Tensions have ramped up this week between Moscow and Seoul. After the deal was signed, Seoul - which is a major weapons exporter - said it would “reconsider” a longstanding policy that bars it from supplying arms directly to Ukraine.

Putin said this would be a “big mistake”.

12:04 PM BST

Blinken condemns Russia-North Korea security pact

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned the new security pact between Russia and North Korea as a serious threat to regional peace and stability, according to a readout of a phone call with South Korea’s foreign minister Cho Tae-yul.

The pair agreed to closely monitor the situation and discussed ways to respond, the South Korean foreign ministry said.

Cho said any cooperation to help strengthen North Korea’s military capabilities is a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, while Blinken said the US will consider various ways to respond to the threat to international peace and stability from Russia and North Korea.

Under the pact, Moscow and Pyongyang have agreed to provide each other with immediate military assistance if either faces armed aggression.

11:42 AM BST

Ukraine EU membership talks to begin

EU countries today formally approved launching membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova next week, a landmark event for the two countries at the start of their long path towards joining the bloc.

EU ministers will start negotiations first with Ukraine and then with Moldova in Luxembourg on Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

10:44 AM BST

Putin says South Korea making ‘big mistake’ if it arms Ukraine

South Korea would be making “a big mistake” if it decides to supply arms to Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, warning that Moscow would respond if so.

A local news report yesterday suggested that South Korea would review the possibility of supplying weapons to Ukraine after Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a mutual defence pact.

Putin said Seoul had nothing to worry about when it came to the pact “because our military assistance ... only arises if aggression is carried out against one of the signatories”.

“As for the supply of lethal weapons to the war zone in Ukraine, that would be a very big mistake,” he said. “I hope that this will not happen. And if it does happen, then we will also take appropriate decisions, which are unlikely to please the current leadership of South Korea”.

10:20 AM BST

The latest pictures

Just a couple of walls remain standing of this destroyed house in Kostyantynivka
A destroyed house in Kostyantynivka on the Donestsk front line - Jose Colon/Anadolu via Getty Images
This newly-released photo taken a few days ago shows Ukrainian soldiers resting in a trench in Kharkiv region
This newly-released photo taken a few days ago shows Ukrainian soldiers resting in a trench in Kharkiv region - Pablo Miranzo/Anadolu via Getty Images

09:59 AM BST

Zelensky sets out plan to protect Ukraine’s energy supply

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky set out steps to protect the country’s energy supply in his nightly address to the people on Thursday.

It includes installing solar power in homes, rapidly building protection for energy infrastructure, and creating new, decentralised energy capacities.

Russia has been intensively targeting energy infrastructure in recent months. Kyiv says half of its energy generating capacity has been knocked out since March, forcing rolling blackouts.

09:45 AM BST

Ukraine claims strikes on military targets in Russia

Ukraine’s military says it struck four oil refineries and “military objects” within Russia overnight. Targets included radar stations, electronic intelligence centres and drone storage facilities. The drone attack took place in the early hours of Friday morning.

It comes after the Russian defence ministry said it had repelled a “mass” drone attack over Crimea and the Black Sea and the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. One man was killed.

The oil refineries that were attacked were named as Afipsky, Ilsky, Krasnodar, and Astrakhan.

09:13 AM BST

Reinforcements deployed to Chasiv Yar

Ukraine is dispatching reinforcements to an embattled hilltop town in the eastern Donetsk region that has become a strategic flashpoint.

“Units of the 24th Mechanized Brigade have been redeployed to strengthen the defence of the Chasiv Yar sector,” the grouping said in a statement late Thursday.

“The situation in and around the town is extremely difficult. The enemy is constantly organising massive frontal assaults, and also trying to bypass the settlement from the north and south,” it added.

The unit is being redeployed from the town of Toretsk, another frontline region where Russian forces have gained ground after a lull in fighting, according to military bloggers.

Chasiv Yar, which had a pre-war population of around 12,000 people, sits above nearby civilian hubs of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka.

If it were to be captured, it could accelerate Russian advances deeper in the industrial territory.

08:41 AM BST

Russia fires deputy defence minister detained on bribery charges

Russian authorities have formally dismissed a deputy defence minister jailed on bribery charges and accused by Kremlin critics of living a lavish lifestyle, Russian media reported on Thursday.

Timur Ivanov, 48, is one of several senior military officers arrested on corruption charges in recent months. He was a close associate of Sergei Shoigu, whom President Vladimir Putin replaced as defence minister last month.

Ivanov, arrested in April, was charged with taking an especially large bribe. His lawyers said he maintains his innocence. On Thursday, he was dismissed from his post, according to a registry of government officials cited by Russian media, and a court ordered that his pretrial detention be extended for three more months. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

08:22 AM BST

One killed in mass drone attack on Russia, officials say

Russia says it repelled a mass drone attack overnight that killed at least one person.

The defence ministry said it had intercepted 114 drones over Crimea and the Black Sea and the Krasnodar region in southern Russia.

In Krasnodar, an employee of a heating station was killed when a drone struck the facility, Regional Governor Venyamin Kondratyev said on Telegram.

Several administrative buildings at an oil refinery were also damaged in Severski district, he said.

07:56 AM BST

Russian teacher jailed for 20 years for sending money to Ukraine

A Russian military court has jailed a teacher for 20 years on “high treason” charges for sending money to Ukraine, with the defendant saying colleagues reported him to authorities.

Daniil Kliuka, 27, will spend five years in prison and 15 more in a “strict-regime penal colony”, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on Thursday.

Russian media group RBK said Kliuka allegedly made two bank transfers in cryptocurrency worth between 20,000 and 100,000 rubles (£181 to £904) to a Ukrainian fund, “Come back alive”, which collects money for the country’s army.