War in Ukraine: Latest developments
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- Ukrainian forces to withdraw from Severodonetsk -
Ukrainian forces will retreat from Severodonetsk in the embattled eastern Donbas region after weeks of fierce fighting, says Sergiy Gaiday, the governor of Lugansk.
He says that Russian forces are also advancing on the twin city of Lysychansk, which has been facing increasingly heavy Russian bombardment.
Russia has been focusing its offensive on eastern Ukraine after being repelled from Kyiv following its February invasion, but has faced stubborn resistance from outgunned Ukrainian forces.
Capturing Severodonetsk and Lysychansk would give the Russians control of Lugansk, and allow them to push further into Ukraine's industrial heartland of Donbas.
"Despite the growing loss of personnel and equipment, Russians continue to outnumber the (Ukrainian) defence forces in artillery" in certain areas, Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, Ukraine's defence ministry spokesman, tells reporters.
"This allows them to gain some tactical success."
- Zelensky hails 'historic' EU candidacy -
President Volodymyr Zelensky hails a "historic" decision by European Union leaders to grant candidate status to Ukraine, while the Kremlin dismisses the decision as "domestic European affairs".
"Today it is recognised that Ukraine is not a bridge, not a pillow between the West and Russia, not a buffer between Europe and Asia, not a sphere of influence," Zelensky says in a video address to Ukrainians.
"Ukraine is a future equal partner for at least 27 EU countries," he adds.
Securing candidate status is the first step on the road to EU membership, a process that can take years.
Russia brushes off the EU decision, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters -- referring to Moscow's relations with the bloc -- that it would be "very difficult to spoil them further".
- Moscow official killed in Kherson -
A Moscow-appointed official in Ukraine's southern Kherson region was killed in an explosion, local authorities say, the latest in a string of attacks on pro-Kremlin officials in Ukrainian regions under Russian control.
It is the first confirmed death of pro-Russian official in an attack.
The Moscow-appointed deputy head of Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, says on Telegram the victim, head of the department of family, youth and sports of the Kherson region, Dmitry Savluchenko, died "as a result of a terrorist act in the city of Kherson".
- Kharkiv under fire -
Russia has also intensified its offensive in the northern city of Kharkiv in the past few days, AFP reports.
AFP reporters hear strong explosions in the city centre late on Thursday and in the morning see that the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute has been hit by missiles, breaking windows and causing its roof to partially collapse.
An unidentified military official at the scene tells AFP the Russians "thought there might be something military in there but there was not".
- BRICS call for Ukraine-Russia talks -
The group, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa together accounts for over 40 percent of the global population and nearly a quarter of the world's gross domestic product.
Three members -- China, India and South Africa -- have abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning Russia's invasion, and President Vladimir Putin on Thursday urged the group to snub Western countries who have imposed drastic sanctions on Moscow in response to the invasion.
- Putin blames West for food crisis -
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow's military action in Ukraine is not responsible for the global food crisis, blaming the West for preventing the export of Russian grain.
Addressing a "BRICS Plus" virtual summit attended by leaders of 17 countries, he says Western countries, in particular the United States have imposed restrictions on the delivery of fertiliser from Russia and Belarus, and are "making it difficult" for Moscow to export grain.