A large convoy of hundreds of cars and vans carrying refugees from the ruins of Mariupol arrived in the city of Zaporizhia on Saturday evening after waiting days for Russian troops to allow them to leave, Reuters reports. Ukraine has been gradually evacuating civilians from the devastated city for more than two months.
Ukraine rode a wave of emotional support from Europeans to win the 66th Eurovision Song Contest, held on Saturday evening in Turin, Italy. Kalush Orchestra’s Stefania finished first after strong performances from the UK, Spain and Sweden in the early voting. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the victory and pledged to one day stage the final in a “free and rebuilt” Mariupol.
US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined the growing list of US politicians visiting Kyiv. Zelenskiy hailed McConnell’s visit as a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.
Zelenskiy also thanked President Joe Biden for signing into law an update to the World War II Lend-Lease Act this week, which enables faster production and delivery by the United States of arms and ammunition to allies engaged in conflicts in which it does not directly participate.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said his country’s diplomats in Washington DC were threatened with violence and harassed by American intelligence services, Reuters reports, citing Russian news agency Tass.
president of finland, Sauli Niinistö, told Vladimir Putin that Helsinki plans to join NATO. Niinistö announced the news during a phone call with the Russian leader.
Putin said abandoning neutrality would be a mistake and that there is currently no threat to Finland’s security. Russia has described Helsinki’s NATO bid as a hostile move that would “definitely” pose a threat – to which Moscow will respond.
Ukraine has said Moscow plans to hold a referendum, possibly as early as Sunday, on Mariupol’s desire to join Russia. It follows the announcement of a similar poll in the breakaway region of Georgia South Ossetia and allegations by Western allies that Russia is planning sham referendums to justify military actions.
Russian troops have withdrawn from the area of the city of Kharkiv, said its mayor, Ihor Terekhov. He said that “thanks to the efforts of the Territorial Defense of Kharkiv and the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Russians retreated far from the city towards the Russian border”.
The war will be over by the end of 2022, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief said. Major General Kyrylo Budanov claimed Moscow was suffering heavy losses and predicted a turning point by mid-August – adding his belief that ‘most active combat actions will be over by the end of this year’ .
Moscow is failing to achieve its political goals in Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has said. The fact that Russia only succeeded in imposing a pro-Russian local leadership in the city of Kherson ‘highlights the failure of the Russian invasion to advance its political goals’, according to the latest update intelligence services.
“Very difficult negotiations” on the next stage of evacuations from Mariupol were underway, Zelenskiy said. The last Ukrainian defenders of the city are entrenched in the steel works of Azovstal.