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Russia-Ukraine War Live: Zelenskiy Appoints New Spy Chief After Removing Top Officials

Confusion as Ukraine president’s aide says Bakanov and Venediktova removed, not firedOne of Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s top aides has denied that Ivan Bakanov and Iryna Venediktova have been fired, instead saying on Ukrainian television that Bakanov had been “temporarily removed from fulfilling his duties” while “checks and investigations” are carried out, and Venediktova had been suspended.

Bakanov had been head of the SBU domestic security agency and Venediktova was prosecutor general.

Reuters reports Andriy Smyrnov, deputy head of the presidential office, asked if the two may return to their jobs, said “We live in a law-abiding country, and of course I can conceive of (the possibility of) this” if investigations exonerate.

Zelenskiy said on Sunday he had fired the top officials because it had come to light that many members of their agencies had collaborated with Russia.

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Russia’s Gazprom tells Europe gas halt beyond its controlRussia’s Gazprom has told customers in Europe it cannot guarantee gas supplies because of ‘extraordinary’ circumstances, according to a letter seen by Reuters, upping the ante in an economic tit-for-tat with the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Dated 14 July, the letter from the Russian state gas monopoly, said it was declaring force majeure on supplies, starting from 14 June, Reuters reported.

Known as an ‘act of God’ clause, force majeure is standard in business contracts and spells out extreme circumstances that excuse a party from their legal obligations.

In its analysis, Reuters reported:

Uniper, Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas, was among the customers who said they had received a letter, and that it had formally rejected the claim as unjustified. Meanwhile, RWE, Germany’s largest power producer and another importer of Russian gas, also said it has received a force majeure notice.

“Please understand that we cannot comment on its details or our legal opinion,” the company said.

A source, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the force majeure concerned supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a major supply route to Germany and beyond.

Flows through the pipeline are at zero as the link undergoes annual maintenance that began on 11 July and is meant to conclude on Thursday.

It may take years to hold perpetrators of war crimes in Ukraine accountable, the European Union’s top justice official told Reuters, but those responsible should know the threat of prosecution will hang over them “forever”.

The European justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, spoke as the United States and more than 40 other countries work to align evidence to help prosecution and trials for atrocities Russian troops committed in Ukraine.

“It will be for the next weeks, next months, next years, maybe for the next decades. For some cases, it will be very fast. It will be longer for others,” said Reynders.

“But it is also a clear message to the Russian authorities – the risk of these investigations and prosecutions and trials will hang over them for the rest of their lives. It’s forever.”

Reynders said Russia’s war in Ukraine marked the first time the international community started working to bring those guilty of war crimes to justice even before the conflict ended.

Turkey will freeze Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership bids if the Nordic countries do not keep promises on counter-terrorism made last month, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Monday, adding he believed Sweden was “not showing a good image” for now.

Finland and Sweden applied for membership of the defence alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but were met with opposition from Turkey, which accused the Nordic countries of supporting groups it deems terrorists.

The three countries signed an accord at the Nato summit in Madrid last month to lift Ankara’s veto in exchange for pledges on counter-terrorism and arms exports.

Turkey has said it will closely monitor the implementation of the accord to ratify their membership bids, Reuters said.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry accused Russia on Monday of treating Ukrainian prisoners of war illegally and using them for political purposes, and demanded humane treatment of captured foreigners fighting for Ukraine.

It urged Russia to adhere strictly to the provisions of international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva conventions that define international legal standards for humanitarian treatment, Reuters reported.

It said “all foreign citizens and stateless persons” fighting for Ukraine on Ukrainian territory had been voluntarily accepted for military service, and that international humanitarian law should apply to them.

Zelenskiy appoints Vasyl Maliuk as acting chief of the SBUUkraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has appointed an experienced security official and corruption fighter as the acting head of the domestic security agency after abruptly sidelining his predecessor.

Zelenskiy signed a decree appointing Vasyl Maliuk as acting chief of the State Security Service (SBU), one day after the president suspended childhood friend Ivan Bakanov over what he portrayed as a failure to root out treason in the agency.

Reuters reports that in a further top-level change, parliament voted to accept the resignation of social policy minister, Maryna Lazebna. She did not explain her resignation, which she tendered last week. The prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, issued a statement thanking her for her “effective” work in the role since March 2020.

Here are some of the latest images sent to us over the newswires showing the impact of the war in Ukraine and in Moscow.

In Kharkiv a man removes debris inside an apartment in a residential building destroyed by a Russian artillery strike. Photograph: ReutersLead vocalist of the Vopli Vidopliasova rock band Oleg Skrypka performs during a charity concert in Teatralna Square, Uzhhorod, in western Ukraine. Photograph: Ukrinform/REX/ShutterstockT-shirts with the letter Z, which has become a symbol of support for Russian military action in Ukraine, are displayed for sale at a gift shop in Moscow. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty ImagesA street sign for the newly renamed ‘Lugansk People’s Republic Square’ sits in front of the British embassy in Moscow. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty ImagesFuneral ceremony held at Kyiv monastery for a Ukrainian serviceman nicknamed ‘Fanat’ killed in eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPAThe Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will discuss the export of Ukrainian grain at their meeting in Tehran on Tuesday, a Kremlin aide has told reporters.

Reuters reports Yuriy Ushakov, foreign policy adviser to Putin, said “The issue of Ukrainian grain shipment will be discussed with Erdoğan. We are ready to continue work on this track.”

Ukrainian spy chief’s dismissal renews questions over Russian infiltrationPeter Beaumont reports for us from Kyiv:

The sidelining of Ukraine’s security chief and prosecutor general by the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has renewed questions over Russian intelligence infiltration of key ministries before the war, as well as suggesting increasingly public divisions among his inner circle of top officials.

After recent anonymous briefings against Zelenskiy’s childhood friend Ivan Bakanov – who had been in charge of the 30,000-strong state security service, the SBU, since 2019 – over claims of failure to counter Russian infiltration, Bakanov was abruptly suspended on Sunday along with the prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, who had been leading war crimes investigations.

While the reason cited for the dismissals was the claim of widespread Russian collaboration in the two departments, it also appears to reflect jostling for influence around the president among key players.

Zelenskiy, widely feted on the world stage as a wartime leader, had been dogged on the domestic stage before the invasion by accusations that he had named inexperienced outsiders, including friends, to jobs in which they were out of their depth.

The latest move comes just a week after Zelenskiy dismissed ambassadors to five countries including Germany, and several other envoys including to Hungary, Norway, the Czech Republic and India,. Last month there was a public spat with the head of his armed forces.

Former head of the security service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov pictured late last year. Photograph: Ukrinform/REX/ShutterstockBakanov, in particular, was regarded as close to Zelenskiy, growing up in the same city of Kryvyi Rih. He worked for Zelenskiy’s Studio Kvartal-95 production company and ran the former actor’s campaign headquarters during his presidential race. At the time of his appointment, he was accused of holding a top position in a private company registered in Spain in apparent breach of Ukraine’s anti-corruption legislation.

While observers suggest that one motive is to demonstrate to the Ukrainian public that Zelenskiy will not tolerate underperformance, the moves also come amid hostile briefing against key figures that has ticked up in recent weeks.

Read more of Peter Beaumont’s report from Kyiv: Ukrainian spy chief’s dismissal renews questions over Russian infiltration

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that it was impossible to cut Russia off from the rest of the world.

He added that sanctions imposed by western countries would not turn the clock back on Russia’s development, Reuters reported.

Since sending troops into Ukraine, Russia has been hit with a barrage of sanctions, designed to isolate it from the global economy, that have deprived it of access to goods including commercial electronics, semiconductors and aircraft parts.

“Not just restrictions but the almost complete closure of access to foreign hi-tech products is being deliberately, intentionally used against our country,” Putin said, speaking to a video-conference with government figures.

“It is clear that this is a huge challenge for our country, but … we are not going to give up and stay in a state of disarray or, as some of our ‘well-wishers’ predict, go back decades. Of course not,” he said.

Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations will most likely meet this week to discuss resuming Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, Turkish defence minister, Hulusi Akar, said on Monday.

Last week, Akar said Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN would sign a deal this week on the grain exports corridor, but UN chief António Guterre,s warned there was still “a long way to go” before there would be peace talks to end the war.

Akar said on Monday there was an agreement on “a plan, general principles” regarding the export corridor, and added a meeting between all parties to discuss details was “probable” this week, Reuters reported.

He said technical matters like forming a monitoring centre in Istanbul, identifying safe routes, and checkpoints at port exits and entries were on the agenda.

Jennifer Rankin

EU foreign ministers are discussing a ban on Russian gold imports, the most significant measure in a limited plan by the bloc to further curb funding for the Kremlin’s war machine.

The EU’s high representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, said the ban on Russian gold was “the most important” measure of the latest plan, which is focused largely on “improving the implementation of the already existing sanctions”.

The EU has passed six rounds of sanctions against Russia, but agreeing the last package – an incomplete ban on oil agreed in May – was a bruising experience that revealed stark differences of opinion on how far the bloc should go.

The latest measures have been dubbed the “six-and-a-half package”, in a sign of the limited appetite for further sanctions against Russia.

Jim Waterson

Kremlin-backed rolling news channel RT breached British broadcasting rules on 29 separate occasions in the four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, according to a ruling by media regulator Ofcom.

The “serious and repeated” breaches of the UK’s rules on due impartiality are enough to warrant a sanction – but RT has already had its licence to broadcast in the UK revoked on separate grounds.

RT, formerly known as Russia Today, vanished from European television screens in March after the businesses that provided technical services to the channel were hit by EU sanctions. Ofcom then later revoked its licence to broadcast in the UK after concluding it was ultimately controlled by the Russia state – and not operated at arms length.

The UK’s due impartiality rules do not require equal airtime to opposing views and do allow broadcasting some leeway for politically-biased broadcasting. However, when dealing with matters such as armed conflict Ofcom requires broadcasters to take additional steps to preserve due impartiality” by including and giving due weight to a wide range of significant views”.

RT attempted to fight the punishment by saying it made a “sincere desire and effort” to maintain due impartiality in its coverage of the conflict and staff in the RT newsroom were “constantly reminded of the necessity to pay special attention to maintaining” due impartiality. However, Ofcom concluded it failed to represent an “appropriately wide range of significant viewpoints” when explaining the war in Ukraine to viewers.

Russia Today (RT) logo. Photograph: Dado Ruvić/ReutersEuropean Union foreign ministers have been arriving in Brussels for a crucial meeting during which they are expected to approve more sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told reporters as he headed into the meeting: “We are not going to stop supporting Ukraine” but he also said it was was becoming harder to keep up the sense of urgency.

Swedish deputy foreign minister Robert Rydberg said: “Sweden will raise the importance of agreeing a new package of military support for Ukraine. We will also raise the importance of continuing to strengthen the restrictive measures against Russia.”

Reuters reports Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba will address the 27 EU ministers via video conference later today.

Hello. I’m Tom Ambrose and will be bringing you coverage from Russia’s war on Ukraine today. Follow me on Twitter @tomambrose89 for more. Summary of the day so far … The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has removed the country’s head of the security service and the prosecutor general, claiming more than 60 of their employees have been “working against” Ukraine in Russian-occupied territory. He added that 651 criminal proceedings had been registered relating to high treason and collaboration by employees of prosecutors’ offices, pretrial investigation bodies and other law enforcement agencies. EU foreign ministers are expected to meet in Brussels on Monday to hold sanctions discussions, according to a senior EU official. Among the measures being considered is a ban on gold purchases from Russia, a move already put in place by international partners. The EU could also act to impose sanctions on additional Russian individuals. Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian military officials, after Moscow said its forces would step up military operations in “all operational areas”. The Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping units for an offensive towards Sloviansk, a symbolically important city held by Ukraine in the eastern region of Donetsk. The British defence ministry added that Russia was also reinforcing its defensive positions across the occupied areas in southern Ukraine. Six people were killed in Russian shelling of the town of Toretsk in the Donetsk region of east Ukraine on Monday, according to Ukraine’s state emergency service said. Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has instructed the military to prioritise destroying Ukraine’s long-range missile and artillery weapons, according to a defence ministry statement. The UK’s Ministry of Defence has claimed that Russia is using the private military company Wagner in Ukraine to reinforce its frontline forces, but that losses they have sustained are likely to be impacting their effectiveness. That is it from me, Martin Belam. I will be back later. Tom Ambrose will be with you shortly to continue our live coverage.

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