Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has announced the return of five military commanders who were previously expected to have to remain in Turkey until the end of the war. The men led the defence of the city of Mariupol until surrendering to Russian forces last year, and had been sent to Turkey under the terms of a prisoner exchange brokered by Ankara. Russia has said the return of the men represents “nothing more than a direct violation of the terms of the existing agreements” by both Ukraine and Turkey. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Saturday Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, would visit Turkey in August.
Joe Biden leaves on Sunday for Europe, where he will attend the Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. He will participate in meetings with leaders, who will debate the war in Ukraine and revise plans for dealing with Russian aggression. Biden will then head to Helsinki on Thursday, where he will celebrate the expansion of Nato with Finland as the newest member.
The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has reiterated that the UK is signatory to a convention that prohibits cluster munitions, after the US agreed to supply Ukraine with the controversial weapons. “We will continue to do our part to support Ukraine against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion, but we’ve done that by providing heavy battle tanks and, most recently, long-range weapons,” Sunak said. The US president, Joe Biden, has been condemned by human rights groups for agreeing to send the weapons, with one fellow Democrat labelling the decision “unnecessary and a terrible mistake”. Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson has backed the move, describing it as “difficult but brave”.
Eight people were killed and 13 injured on Saturday in Lyman in eastern Ukraine after the town came under Russian rocket fire, Ukraine’s interior ministry said. “So far we know about eight dead … The number of injured has increased to 13 people,” the ministry said on social media. The strikes hit around 10am local time at two intersections that were busy with pedestrians. A residential building, an annex to a printing house and three cars were set on fire in the attack, the ministry said.
Mercenary fighters of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner group are preparing to move to Belarus under the terms of a deal that defused their mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, a senior commander of the group was quoted as saying. Since the June mutiny, when Wagner fighters briefly seized a southern Russian city and marched towards Moscow, the exact whereabouts of Prigozhin and his mercenaries have been unclear.
Poland began moving more than 1,000 troops and almost 200 units of equipment to the east of the country on Saturday amid rising concern in the Nato member that the presence of Wagner fighters in Belarus could lead to increased tension on its border. “This is a demonstration of our readiness to respond to attempts at destabilisation near the border of our country,” the defence minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, wrote on Twitter. Last Sunday Poland said it would send 500 police to shore up security at its border with Belarus.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy has secured Turkey’s crucial backing for Ukraine’s pledge to join Nato during his meeting with Erdoğan in Istanbul. “There is no doubt that Ukraine deserves membership of Nato,” Erdogan said. Nato leaders will publicly recommit to Ukraine at some point becoming a member of the military alliance when they meet in Vilnius on Tuesday, according to the organisation’s secretary general. However, Joe Biden said he does not think there is “unanimity in Nato” to bring Ukraine into the military alliance during a time of war.
The Ukrainian president has visited Snake Island, which became a symbol of his country’s defiance early in the war after Ukrainian soldiers there refused to surrender to Russian forces, to mark 500 days since the invasion. In an undated clip released on Saturday, Volodymyr Zelenskiy was shown arriving by boat and laying flowers to honour those who defended the island.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog chief said it was “making progress” on inspecting several areas of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, after Ukraine claimed that “external objects similar to explosive devices” had been placed on rooftops at the site. UN officials said they had “not seen any indications of explosives or mines” while touring the cooling ponds and other areas, but have yet to visit the facility’s rooftops.