Mon, 02 Oct 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday called for Bucha to become a "symbol of justice" on the one-year anniversary of Russia's withdrawal from the town now synonymous with war crimes allegations. His visit to the martyred town came after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Russia could place intercontinental nuclear missiles in his country, "if necessary". Read about the day's events as they unfolded on our live blog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2)

This blog is no longer being updated. For more coverage of the war in Ukraine, please click here.

10:25pm: Ukraine's Zelensky says Bucha must become 'symbol of justice'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday called for Bucha to become a "symbol of justice" on the one-year anniversary of Russia's withdrawal from the town now synonymous with war crimes allegations. Earlier the Ukrainian president visited Bucha with leaders of Croatia, Moldova, Slovakia and Slovenia for a commemoration ceremony.

"We must do everything to make Bucha a symbol of justice... We want every Russian murderer, executioner, terrorist to be held responsible for every crime," Zelensky said at a Kyiv summit on the Bucha crimes. "What happened in Bucha, the Russian army does it wherever it goes," Zelensky said back in Kyiv. He said the Bucha tragedy exemplified the "systemic genocidal violence, which is the essence of Russian actions in all Ukrainian occupied territories."

Ukraine estimates that around 1,400 civilians died around Bucha, and 637 in the town itself.

8:10pm: IMF board approves $15.6 billion loan package for Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund's board has approved a $15.6 billion support package for Ukraine to assist with the conflict-hit country's economic recovery, the Fund announced Friday.

The decision is expected to mobilize large-scale concessional financing from Ukraine's international donors and partners to help resolve Ukraine's balance of payments problem, attain medium-term external viability, and restore debt sustainability, the fund said in a statement.

The new four-year Extended Fund Facility "aims to anchor policies that sustain fiscal, external, price and financial stability and support economic recovery, while enhancing governance and strengthening institutions to promote long-term growth in the context of post-war reconstruction and Ukraine's path to EU accession," the IMF said in a statement.

It said the new Extended Fund Facility would allow the immediate disbursement of around $2.7 billion to Ukraine.

6:50pm: Russia could put intercontinental nuclear missiles in Belarus if necessary, Lukashenko says

President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that Russia could "if necessary" put intercontinental nuclear missiles in Belarus too, as Moscow has already decided to station tactical nuclear weapons in its ally's territory. Belarus shares about 1,084 km of border with Ukraine.

In an annual address to lawmakers and government officials, Lukashenko said Moscow's plans to station nuclear arms on the territory of its close ally would help protect Belarus, which he said was under threat from the West.

"I am not trying to intimidate or blackmail anyone. I want to safeguard the Belarusian state and ensure peace for the Belarusian people," Lukashenko said. Lukashenko said Belarus had enough conventional weapons to counter threats, "but if we see that behind (the threats) lies the destruction of our country, we will use everything we have". "If necessary, Putin and I will decide and bring in strategic weapons - if needed," he said.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that the tactical missiles would remain under Moscow's control, Lukashenko suggested he could use them with Russia's agreement if Belarus was threatened with destruction.

5:57pm: Ukraine condemns Wimbledon decision to lift ban on Russian, Belarusian players, urges UK to deny visas

Ukraine's foreign minister said Friday that Wimbledon's decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete was "immoral" and urged the UK to bar entry to participants from the two countries.

"Wimbledon's decision to permit the participation of Russian and Belarusian players is immoral. Has Russia ceased its aggression or atrocities? No, it's just that Wimbledon decided to accommodate two accomplices in crime. I call on the UK government to deny visas to their players," Dmytro Kuleba said on social media.

5:45pm: Wimbledon Tennis competition lifts ban on Russian and Belarussian players, allowed to play as 'neutral'

Wimbledon lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian players on Friday and will allow them to compete in the grasscourt Grand Slam this year as "neutral" athletes in a climbdown from the stance it took after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The players will be prohibited from expressing support for the invasion and must not receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, tournament organisers the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said in a statement.

"We continue to condemn totally Russia's illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine," AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt said. "This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted. "It is our view that, considering all factors, these are the most appropriate arrangements for The Championships for this year."

5:35pm: Macron to warn China against military backing Russia during visit to Beijing, Elysee palace says

French President Emmanuel Macron will next week warn Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that any decision by Beijing to back Russia militarily in Moscow's war on Ukraine would be disastrous, the French presidency said.

"If China took this disastrous decision (to back Moscow militarily) it would have a major strategic effect on the conflict," an advisor to Macron, asking not to be named, told reporters ahead of the president's visit to China next week. The official added dialogue with China is all the more crucial since "China is the only country in the world capable of having an immediate and radical impact on the conflict, in one direction or the other", added the official.

3:10pm: One year after discovery of mass graves, 'normal life has returned to Bucha', Ukraine's symbolic city

One year after the discovery of the mass graves and the "very unexpected victory, where Ukrainian forces managed to push the Russian troops out of the Kyiv region, Bucha has become symbolic," FRANCE 24's Ukraine correspondent Gulliver Cragg reports from Bucha. "Many ceremonies are taking place today," he adds.

1:59pm: New Russian foreign policy strategy identifies West as 'existential' threat, says Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that a new foreign policy strategy adopted by President Vladimir Putin identifies the West as posing an "existential" threat to Moscow.

Lavrov told a televised meeting of the Kremlin's Security Council that the new concept would outline how Russia could take "symmetrical and asymmetric measures in response to unfriendly actions against Russia", referring to "unprecedented pressure" being placed on Russia by its Western foes.

"The existential nature of threats to the security and development of our country, driven by the actions of unfriendly states is recognised" in the policy, Lavrov said, describing the United States as the driving force behind "anti-Russian sentiment".

1:49pm: Zelensky, on Bucha anniversary, vows to defeat 'Russian evil'

President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to defeat Russia on Friday speaking alongside European leaders in Bucha one year after Moscow's troops withdrew from the Ukrainian town synonymous with war crimes allegations.

"The battle for the foundation of the free world is taking place on Ukrainian land. We will definitely win. Russian evil will fall, right here in Ukraine and will not be able to rise again," Zelensky said, according to journalists on the scene.

Zelensky was accompanied by Moldova's President Maia Sandu and the prime ministers of Croatia, Slovenia, and Slovakia.

1:44pm: WSJ editorial board calls for US to expel Russian ambassador and journalists

The Wall Street Journal editorial board has called for Russia's ambassador to the United States to be expelled following the arrest of one of the newspaper's reporters in Russia on espionage charges.

"Expelling Russia's ambassador to the US, as well as all Russian journalists working here, would be the minimum to expect," the board of opinion editors said in a piece published Thursday.

"The timing of the arrest looks like a calculated provocation to embarrass the US and intimidate the foreign press still working in Russia," it added.

1:18pm: Spain PM urges Xi to hold talks with Ukraine's Zelensky

Spain's prime minister said Friday he had urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart, as he visits China's capital for talks aimed at boosting ties between Beijing and Madrid.

Speaking at a press conference at the Spanish embassy in Beijing, Pedro Sanchez said he had discussed "China's position" on Russia's war in Ukraine in meetings with Xi and other top Chinese officials.

He also accused Russian leader Vladimir Putin of seeking to "weaken" the EU's "multilateral project for peace and welfare".

"I encouraged President Xi to have a conversation with (Ukrainian) President Zelensky to learn first-hand about this peace plan of the Ukrainian government," Sanchez said.

11:58am: Kremlin says foreign journalists can carry on working in Russia

The Kremlin said on Friday that all accredited foreign journalists could continue to work in Russia, a day after the country's FSB security service said it had arrested a Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges.

11:47am: Russia's Lavrov to present new foreign policy concept to Putin on Friday

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will present Russia's new foreign policy concept to President Vladimir Putin later on Friday at an "important" meeting of Russia's Security Council, the Kremlin said.

11:42am: Severe violations 'shockingly routine' in Ukraine war, says UN rights chief

Russia's war in Ukraine has made severe rights violations "shockingly routine", and is distracting humanity from battling existential threats to its survival, the UN rights chief warned Friday.

"At a time when humanity faces overwhelming existential challenges, this destructive war is tugging us away from the work of building solutions, the work of ensuring our survival," Volker Turk told the UN Human Rights Council.

10:47am: Russia 'should not be' permanent Security Council member, says US envoy to UN

Russia "should not be" a permanent member of the UN Security Council, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with AFP.

"Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. It shouldn't be, because of what it is doing in Ukraine, but the (UN) charter does not allow for a change in its permanent membership," Thomas-Greenfield said on Thursday from Costa Rica, where she was attending a democracy summit.

Russia is also set to assume the rotating presidency of the Security Council on Saturday for a month.

The US ambassador said she expects Russia to behave "professionally" in the presidency, but expressed doubts.

10:45am: Belarus's Lukashenko urges 'truce' in Ukraine, evokes nuclear war

Belarusian strongman and close Kremlin ally Alexander Lukashenko called Friday for a "truce" in Ukraine and for talks "without preconditions" between Moscow and Kyiv.

"I'll take the risk of suggesting an end of hostilities... a declaration of a truce," Lukashenko said during a state of the nation address. "All territorial, reconstruction, security and other issues can and should be settled at the negotiation table, without preconditions." He warned Ukraine against launching an anticipated counter-offensive, saying it would make negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv impossible.

He also said that that Western support for Kyiv was increasing the likelihood of a nuclear war breaking out in Ukraine. "As a result of the efforts of the United States and its satellites, a full-scale war has been unleashed in (Ukraine) ... a third world war with nuclear fires looms on the horizon," the president said during a televised address to lawmakers and Belarusians. He argued that Russia's plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of his country were a chance to safeguard Belarus from Western threats.

9:08am: Zelensky says Ukraine 'will never forgive' on Bucha anniversary

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that his country would "never forgive" Russia for its occupation of Bucha, a town near the Ukrainian capital where Moscow's forces were accused of massacring civilians.

"365 days since it is a free Ukrainian сity once again. A symbol of the atrocities of the occupying country's army. We will never forgive. We will punish every perpetrator," Zelensky said in a statement on social media.

7:14am: One year on, Ukraine remembers Bucha victims and starts to rebuild

Ukraine on Friday marks one year since Russia withdrew from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, leaving the bodies of executed civilians strewn in the streets in what has become a symbol of alleged Russian war crimes.

Russian forces withdrew from the commuter town northwest of the capital on March 31, 2022, just over a month after President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine.

In their wake, they left behind scenes of horror that shocked the world.

AFP journalists on April 2 discovered the bodies of at least 20 people in civilian clothing, some with their hands tied behind their backs, lying in a street of the suburb.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian troops of war crimes after the discoveries at Bucha, pointing to an abundance of footage and witness accounts.

Moscow denies the accusations, claiming the atrocities in Bucha were staged.

But a year after it was retaken by Kyiv's forces, Bucha has not forgotten its victims. The community of what was once a family-friendly suburb is rebuilding, and locals told reporters "the pain subsides" and that they must "continue to live" despite their collective trauma.

"There's a desire to become clean, to free ourselves from anything that could remind us that the Russians stayed here," says Anatoliy Fedoruk, Bucha's major.

Click on the player below to see the full video report.

4:45am: Japan bans steel, aircraft exports to Russia in latest sanctions on Ukraine war

Japan is banning Russia-bound exports of steel, aluminium and aircraft, including drones, in its latest sanctions against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, the trade ministry said on Friday.

The measure, which also prohibits Japanese entities from exporting a wide variety of industrial items such as construction machinery, ship engines, testing equipment and optical devices to Russia, will go into effect on April 7, the ministry said in a statement.

12:50am: Turkish parliament ratifies Finland's NATO accession as Sweden kept waiting

Turkey's parliament approved a bill on Thursday to allow Finland to join NATO, clearing the way for the country to become part of the Western defence alliance as war rages in Ukraine.

The Turkish parliament was the last among the 30 members of the alliance to ratify Finland's membership after Hungary's legislature approved a similar bill earlier this week.

President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier in March that Finland had secured Turkey's blessing after taking concrete steps to keep promises to crack down on groups seen by Ankara as terrorists, and to free up defence exports.

Finland and Sweden asked to join NATO last year in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but the process has been held up by Turkey and Hungary. The parliaments of all NATO members must ratify newcomers.

Key developments from Thursday, March 30:

A US reporter for The Wall Street Journal newspaper was detained in Russia for espionage, Russian news agencies reported Thursday, citing the FSB security service. Evan Gershkovich is "suspected of spying in the interests of the American government" and of collecting information "on an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex", Russian news agencies reported. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the charges "ridiculous" and said that "the targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable". Gershkovich pleaded not guilty to the espionage charges in a court appearance on Thursday afternoon. Moscow's Lefortovo district court then ordered that he be held in pre-trial detention until May 29.

Europe's security has come under threat amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Britain's King Charles III told German MPs, adding, however, that "we can draw courage from our unity".

At least six Russian missiles hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on Thursday night, and officials are gathering details about damage and casualties, regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said.

>> Read our live blog for all of yesterday's developments as they unfolded.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

More Stockholm News

Access More

Sign up for Stockholm News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!