1. Ukraine facing ‘brutality’ unseen in Europe since WW2, says NATO chief before Madrid summit
Ukraine is facing “brutality” unseen in Europe “since World War II” amid Russia’s invasion, said Jens Stoltenberg on the opening day of a pivotal NATO summit in Madrid.
The comments come a day after a Russian attack on a crowded shopping centre at Kremenchuk in central Ukraine killed at least 18 people, according to a provisional toll. The strike was described as a “war crime” by G7 leaders.
NATO countries, which have already supplied billions of euros worth of weapons to Kyiv, will agree in Madrid “a comprehensive programme of assistance” to help Ukraine “enforce its right to self-defence”, Stoltenberg said at a briefing alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
“It is extremely important that we are ready to continue to provide support because Ukraine is now facing a brutality that we have not seen in Europe since the Second World War,” said Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general.
The military alliance summit, which runs until Thursday, brings together more than 40 heads of state and government in the Spanish capital. It will be largely devoted to the war Russia launched against Ukraine on 24 February.
On Monday, Stoltenberg announced a massive increase in NATO’s rapid reaction troops from 40,000 to 300,000, in a major reinforcement of the alliance’s eastern flank.
2. Survivors describe ‘hell’ of Russian attack on Kremenchuk shopping centre
Survivors of the Russian missile attack on a shopping centre in central Ukraine on Monday have been describing their experiences, with one calling it simply “hell.”
At Kremenchuk’s public hospital, five people are crammed into a room in an intensive care ward, their wounds bound up in bloodied bandages. A dead body lies on a stretcher outside, covered in a blanket.
Yulia, a 21-year-old woman covered with deep cuts, said Monday was her first day working in one of the stores in the shopping centre.
The hospital is treating 25 people injured in the attack, six of them in critical condition. Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday that the strike killed at least 18 people and injured 59, while more than 40 are missing.
The strike drew a global outcry, with G7 leaders condemning it as “abominable” as they gathered for a summit in Germany.
“This is not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an evening video address. He said the death count could rise.
He estimated around 1,000 people were in the shopping centre at the time of the strike. The city had a population of 217,000 before the invasion.
3. Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin jailed amid criticism of Ukraine war
A Moscow court has sentenced one of Russia’s last remaining opposition leaders to 15 days in prison.
Ilya Yashin was arrested on Monday and was taken to a detention facility in the Russian capital’s Luzhniki neighbourhood.
A journalist friend said the municipal councillor was taken into custody while they walked in a Moscow park. He was convicted of “disobedience to the police” during his arrest, according to the Moscow court press service.
Yashin has denied any wrongdoing and said on Telegram that the charges had been “fabricated”.
“I am not crazy, to get in a fight with three policemen,” he said, adding that his case could spiral into a longer jail term.
Yashin is one of the very few politicians still in Russia who has openly criticised the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. He was charged with discrediting the Russian army last month, according to the independent Meduza news website, and ordered to pay 90,000 roubles (€1,600).
4. Ukraine detains former Soviet KGB agent suspected of helping Russia attack its troops
Ukraine’s security service said on Tuesday it arrested a former Soviet KGB agent who helped direct Russian missile strikes that killed over 50 soldiers at a military facility in the country’s west in March.
The suspect sent the locations of targets at the Yavoriv military training centre to contacts in an unspecified Russian agency using the Telegram messaging app, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and local prosecutors said.
“As a result of rocket strikes on the Yavoriv training range over 50 service personnel died, and almost 150 received injuries,” the SBU said on Telegram.
In the aftermath of the missile strike, Ukraine had said that 35 troops were killed at the facility, which lies 25 kilometres from the Polish border.
The suspect, a native of the western city of Lviv, is being held in detention and investigated for treason, the prosecutor’s office said.
5. Bulgaria expelled 70 Russian diplomats for alleged espionage
Bulgaria said on Tuesday it was expelling 70 Russian diplomatic staff over espionage concerns and had set a cap on the size of Moscow’s representation as tensions between two countries that were once close allies fractured over Ukraine.
The move, announced by the foreign ministry and outgoing prime minister, was the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats by Sofia in recent years and more than halves the size of Moscow’s diplomatic footprint in the Balkan country.
According to the Russian state press agency TASS, Moscow is expected to respond.
“Today we have expelled 70 Russian diplomats… Many of them have worked directly for (intelligence) services and their diplomatic role has been more like a cover,” said Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who last week lost a parliamentary no-confidence vote.