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Russia-Ukraine war: police search European parliament over possible Russian interference – as it happened

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Police search European parliament over possible Russian interference, prosecutors say

Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office has said that police carried out searches at the residence of an employee of the European parliament and at his office in the parliament’s building in Brussels over possible Russian interference.

Prosecutors said in statement that the suspect’s office in Strasbourg, where the EU parliament’s headquarters are located in France, was also searched, AP reported.

“The searches are part of a case of interference, passive corruption and membership of a criminal organisation and relates to indications of Russian interference, whereby members of the European parliament were approached and paid to promote Russian propaganda via the Voice of Europe news website,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they believe the employee played “a significant role in this.”

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Key events

Closing summary

  • Belgian police have searched the European parliament office and Brussels home of a parliamentary staffer who is believed to have played “a significant role” in a Russian interference operation, the national prosecutor has said. French authorities also carried out a search of the employee’s European parliament office in Strasbourg at the request of the Belgian examining magistrate overseeing the inquiry into corruption and Russian interference.

  • The Swedish government has said it will donate military aid to Ukraine worth 13 billion kronor (£962 million) in the largest help package Sweden has so far donated. “It consists of equipment that is at the top of Ukraine’s priority list,” deputy prime minister Ebba Busch said. It includes air defence, artillery ammunition and armoured vehicles, AP reported.

  • Russian strikes killed two civilians in the city of Nikopol in southern Ukraine on Wednesday, regional governor Serhiy Lysak said. Lysak said a Russian drone targeted an ambulance killing a 54-year-old driver and severely injuring his wife. Another civilian, a 52-year-old man, died in a hospital after being wounded in an artillery shelling earlier in the day, he said.

  • Russia’s human rights commissioner said on Wednesday that prisoner of war exchanges between Russia and Ukraine had been suspended for several months, the state TASS news agency said on Wednesday. TASS cited Tatyana Moskalova as blaming what she called Kyiv’s “false demands.” There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

  • Antony Blinken, is set to arrive in the Moldovan capital Chisinau on Wednesday. It the first stop of a brief Europe tour during which he will aim to solidify the western support for Ukraine across Nato allies and neighbouring countries. The US top diplomat’s trip comes as Ukraine is trying to fend off intensifying Russian attacks in the east and as President Vladimir Putin warns that allowing Kyiv use western weapons to hit inside Russia would trigger a global conflict.

  • Western countries should let Ukraine strike military bases inside Russia with the sophisticated long-range weapons they are providing to Kyiv, French president Emmanuel Macron said, pressuring his allies in the most recent sign of a potentially significant policy shift that could help change the complexion of the war. The question of whether to allow Ukraine to hit targets on Russian soil with Western-supplied weaponry has been a delicate issue since the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022, AP reported.

  • Prominent Russian nationalist ex-militia commander Igor Girkin, who accused president Vladimir Putin and the army of failure in the war in Ukraine, lost his appeal on Wednesday against a four-year jail term, the RIA state news agency reported. Girkin, who used the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov during fighting in east Ukraine a decade ago, was convicted by a Moscow court in January of inciting extremism, a charge he denied.

  • Ukrainian military shot down 13 drones out of 14 launched by Russia in an overnight attack on three regions, the country’s air force said on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday. Drone debris fell on energy infrastructure in Ukraine’s northwestern region of Rivne, governor Oleksandr Koval said on Telegram. The attack triggered a defence mechanism that cut power to some localities, although it has since been restored, Reuters reported.

  • The Russian capital Moscow has been successfully protected from Ukrainian drones, a high-ranking Russian air force official said on Wednesday, according to the TASS state news agency. The official was quoted as saying that Ukrainian drones could cover a distance of up to 2,500 kilometres (1,553 miles).

  • Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk has said its forces will further fortify the border with Belarus and can use “all available means” to defend the Nato nation’s frontier, after a soldier was seriously wounded with a knife by a migrant. Tusk said that a buffer zone some 200 metres (660ft) wide would be set up along the border, which is also the European Union’s eastern frontier, in addition to a 190-kilometre (118-mile) long metal barrier already in place to prevent an influx of migrants crossing from Belarus.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that planes from its Black Sea Fleet had destroyed two Ukrainian Crimea-bound sea drones in the north-western part of the Black Sea.

  • Newly-appointed Russian defence minister Andrei Belousov has sent telegrams to Moscow’s forces in Ukraine thanking them for their battlefield progress, official army news outlet Zvezda reported today. Putin in May removed ally Sergei Shoigu as defence minister and replaced him with Belousov, an economist and former deputy prime minister, in a surprise move.

That’s all from me, Tom Ambrose, and indeed the Ukraine live blog for today. Thanks for following along.

Prominent Russian nationalist ex-militia commander Igor Girkin, who accused president Vladimir Putin and the army of failure in the war in Ukraine, lost his appeal on Wednesday against a four-year jail term, the RIA state news agency reported.

Girkin, who used the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov during fighting in east Ukraine a decade ago, was convicted by a Moscow court in January of inciting extremism, a charge he denied.

Russian strikes kill two civilians in Nikopol, governor says

Russian strikes killed two civilians in the city of Nikopol in southern Ukraine on Wednesday, regional governor Serhiy Lysak said.

Lysak said a Russian drone targeted an ambulance killing a 54-year-old driver and severely injuring his wife. Another civilian, a 52-year-old man, died in a hospital after being wounded in an artillery shelling earlier in the day, he said.

Nikopol which is located just across the river from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, is being pounded regularly with Russian artillery fire.

Jennifer Rankin

Belgian police have searched the European parliament office and Brussels home of a parliamentary staffer who is believed to have played “a significant role” in a Russian interference operation, the national prosecutor has said.

French authorities also carried out a search of the employee’s European parliament office in Strasbourg at the request of the Belgian examining magistrate overseeing the inquiry into corruption and Russian interference.

The case is part of a Belgian investigation announced last month into alleged payments to MEPs to promote Russian propaganda on the Voice of Europe website. The searches come just over a week before elections to the European parliament.

After a Czech investigation into the Prague-based website, Belgium’s prime minister, Alexander De Croo, said last month a pro-Russian interference network was active in several European countries, including Belgium. The objective, he added, was to help elect more pro-Russian candidates to the European parliament in next week’s elections and reinforce “a certain pro-Russian narrative in that institution”.

In a statement on Wednesday, Belgium’s federal public prosecutor’s office said the searches were part of “a case of interference, passive corruption and membership of a criminal organisation and relates to indications of Russian interference”.

A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office declined to name the suspect, citing the standard practice of secrecy.

Ukrainian firefighters with Magirus Wolf C1 tactical robot carry out extinguishing efforts at the site of Russian aerial attack on the private residential area of the city of Oleksievo-Druzhkivka, Ukraine on May 28, 2024. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he is “grateful to Spain, Belgium and Portugal for their new decisions in support of Ukraine, our defense, our diplomacy and joint economic efforts, including in the defense industry.”

Three more clear voices in support of the Peace Summit, three more Security Agreements for Ukraine, and three more principled affirmations of our goal: Ukraine’s full integration into the European community.

Joint projects in weapons production, equipment, and ammunition, as… pic.twitter.com/LphT0yqY5P

— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 29, 2024

Newly-appointed Russian defence minister Andrei Belousov has sent telegrams to Moscow’s forces in Ukraine thanking them for their battlefield progress, official army news outlet Zvezda reported today.

Putin in May removed ally Sergei Shoigu as defence minister and replaced him with Belousov, an economist and former deputy prime minister, in a surprise move.

The change was widely seen as an attempt to get more value from defence spending and to clean up the defence ministry, which has been hit by a major bribery scandal, Reuters reported.

Lunchtime summary

  • Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office has said that police carried out searches at the residence of an employee of the European parliament and at his office in the parliament’s building in Brussels over possible Russian interference. Prosecutors said in statement that the suspect’s office in Strasbourg, where the EU parliament’s headquarters are located in France, was also searched, AP reported.

  • The Swedish government has said it will donate military aid to Ukraine worth 13 billion kronor (£962 million) in the largest help package Sweden has so far donated. “It consists of equipment that is at the top of Ukraine’s priority list,” deputy prime minister Ebba Busch said. It includes air defence, artillery ammunition and armoured vehicles, AP reported.

  • Russia’s human rights commissioner said on Wednesday that prisoner of war exchanges between Russia and Ukraine had been suspended for several months, the state TASS news agency said on Wednesday. TASS cited Tatyana Moskalova as blaming what she called Kyiv’s “false demands.” There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

  • Antony Blinken, is set to arrive in the Moldovan capital Chisinau on Wednesday. It the first stop of a brief Europe tour during which he will aim to solidify the western support for Ukraine across Nato allies and neighbouring countries. The US top diplomat’s trip comes as Ukraine is trying to fend off intensifying Russian attacks in the east and as President Vladimir Putin warns that allowing Kyiv use western weapons to hit inside Russia would trigger a global conflict.

  • Western countries should let Ukraine strike military bases inside Russia with the sophisticated long-range weapons they are providing to Kyiv, French president Emmanuel Macron said, pressuring his allies in the most recent sign of a potentially significant policy shift that could help change the complexion of the war. The question of whether to allow Ukraine to hit targets on Russian soil with Western-supplied weaponry has been a delicate issue since the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022, AP reported.

  • Ukrainian military shot down 13 drones out of 14 launched by Russia in an overnight attack on three regions, the country’s air force said on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday. Drone debris fell on energy infrastructure in Ukraine’s northwestern region of Rivne, governor Oleksandr Koval said on Telegram. The attack triggered a defence mechanism that cut power to some localities, although it has since been restored, Reuters reported.

  • The Russian capital Moscow has been successfully protected from Ukrainian drones, a high-ranking Russian air force official said on Wednesday, according to the TASS state news agency. The official was quoted as saying that Ukrainian drones could cover a distance of up to 2,500 kilometres (1,553 miles).

  • Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk has said its forces will further fortify the border with Belarus and can use “all available means” to defend the Nato nation’s frontier, after a soldier was seriously wounded with a knife by a migrant. Tusk said that a buffer zone some 200 metres (660ft) wide would be set up along the border, which is also the European Union’s eastern frontier, in addition to a 190-kilometre (118-mile) long metal barrier already in place to prevent an influx of migrants crossing from Belarus.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that planes from its Black Sea Fleet had destroyed two Ukrainian Crimea-bound sea drones in the north-western part of the Black Sea.

Western countries should let Ukraine strike military bases inside Russia with the sophisticated long-range weapons they are providing to Kyiv, French president Emmanuel Macron said, pressuring his allies in the most recent sign of a potentially significant policy shift that could help change the complexion of the war.

The question of whether to allow Ukraine to hit targets on Russian soil with Western-supplied weaponry has been a delicate issue since the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022, AP reported.

Western leaders have mostly shrunk from taking the step because it runs the risk of provoking Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly warned that the west’s direct involvement could put the world on a path to nuclear conflict.

But the war has been going Russia’s way recently as the Kremlin’s forces have exploited Ukrainian shortages in troops and ammunition after a lengthy delay in US military aid and western Europe’s inadequate military production slowed crucial deliveries to the battlefield.

Russian missiles and bombs have smashed into Ukrainian military positions and civilian areas, including the power grid. Kyiv is facing its hardest test of the war, and untying its hands on long-range weapons could spur a fightback and upset the Kremlin.

Macron said France’s position is that “we think we must allow (Ukraine) to neutralise the (Russian) military sites from which the missiles are fired.”

Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk has said its forces will further fortify the border with Belarus and can use “all available means” to defend the Nato nation’s frontier, after a soldier was seriously wounded with a knife by a migrant.

Tusk said that a buffer zone some 200 metres (660ft) wide would be set up along the border, which is also the European Union’s eastern frontier, in addition to a 190-kilometre (118-mile) long metal barrier already in place to prevent an influx of migrants crossing from Belarus.

Poland says the pressure of illegal migration is organised by Belarus and Russia. Tusk said the government will make a decision on the buffer zone next week, AP reported.

The Russian capital Moscow has been successfully protected from Ukrainian drones, a high-ranking Russian air force official said on Wednesday, according to the TASS state news agency.

The official was quoted as saying that Ukrainian drones could cover a distance of up to 2,500 kilometres (1,553 miles).

Sweden announces $1.3 billion military support for Ukraine

The Swedish government has said it will donate military aid to Ukraine worth 13 billion kronor (£962 million) in the largest help package Sweden has so far donated.

“It consists of equipment that is at the top of Ukraine’s priority list,” deputy prime minister Ebba Busch said. It includes air defence, artillery ammunition and armoured vehicles, AP reported.

Sweden’s defence minister Pal Jonson reiterated that the country has ruled out for now sending any Swedish-built JAS 39 Gripen jets to Ukraine, saying the focus on the Ukrainian side is on implementing the F-16 programme.

Several countries have said they want to donate F-16 fighter jets.

On Tuesday, Belgium pledged 30 F-16 jets to Ukraine. Jonson said Sweden “is still working on possibly being able to contribute with the Gripen system later”.

Ukrainian military shot down 13 drones out of 14 launched by Russia in an overnight attack on three regions, the country’s air force said on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday.

Drone debris fell on energy infrastructure in Ukraine’s northwestern region of Rivne, governor Oleksandr Koval said on Telegram. The attack triggered a defence mechanism that cut power to some localities, although it has since been restored, Reuters reported.

Drone debris also damaged power lines in central Kirovohrad region with repair work ongoing, its governor said.

The air force shot down 11 drones over the Mykolaiv region, with no details on damage reported by the local governor.

Police search European parliament over possible Russian interference, prosecutors say

Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office has said that police carried out searches at the residence of an employee of the European parliament and at his office in the parliament’s building in Brussels over possible Russian interference.

Prosecutors said in statement that the suspect’s office in Strasbourg, where the EU parliament’s headquarters are located in France, was also searched, AP reported.

“The searches are part of a case of interference, passive corruption and membership of a criminal organisation and relates to indications of Russian interference, whereby members of the European parliament were approached and paid to promote Russian propaganda via the Voice of Europe news website,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they believe the employee played “a significant role in this.”

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Updated at 

Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that planes from its Black Sea Fleet had destroyed two Ukrainian Crimea-bound sea drones in the north-western part of the Black Sea.

Russia’s human rights commissioner said on Wednesday that prisoner of war exchanges between Russia and Ukraine had been suspended for several months, the state TASS news agency said on Wednesday.

TASS cited Tatyana Moskalova as blaming what she called Kyiv’s “false demands.” There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

Moscow and Kyiv have carried out periodic prisoner swaps via intermediaries since Moscow began what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine more than two years ago.

Blinken travels to Eastern Europe as tensions with Russia build

Good morning and welcome to our blog covering the Russia-Ukraine conflict. We start with news that the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is set to arrive in the Moldovan capital Chisinau on Wednesday.

It the first stop of a brief Europe tour during which he will aim to solidify the western support for Ukraine across Nato allies and neighbouring countries.

The US top diplomat’s trip comes as Ukraine is trying to fend off intensifying Russian attacks in the east and as President Vladimir Putin warns that allowing Kyiv use western weapons to hit inside Russia would trigger a global conflict.

On Tuesday, the French president Emmanuel Macron said that Ukraine should be allowed to use its allies’ weapons to “neutralise” Russian military bases used to fire missiles into Ukraine. But he added: “We should not allow them to touch other targets in Russia, and obviously civilian capacities.”

Macron commented during a state visit to Germany, whose chancellor, Olaf Scholz, appeared to back Ukraine on the matter as well – saying he agreed with the French president as long as the Ukrainians respected the conditions of the weapons’ suppliers.

Earlier in the day the Polish foreign minister, Radosław Sikorski, had said the country should not rule out sending troops to Ukraine.

In other news:

  • Polish security services have arrested a man suspected of trying to get photos of military vehicles crossing the border into Ukraine, a spokesperson said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of spy cases. The 26-year-old Ukrainian man was suspected of encouraging a Polish citizen to share the photos and “take part in the activities of foreign intelligence against the Republic of Poland,” the spokesperson said.

  • Sweden’s energy and defence minister has announced 13.3bn krona (£1bn) in military support for Ukraine.

  • Newly-appointed Russian defence minister, Andrei Belousov, has sent telegrams to Moscow’s forces in Ukraine thanking them for their battlefield progress, official army news outlet Zvezda reported on Wednesday. Putin in May removed ally Sergei Shoigu as defence minister and replaced him with Belousov, an economist and former deputy prime minister, in a surprise move.

  • The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told the Economist that alliance members should let Ukraine strike deep into Russia with western weapons. But the White House on Tuesday ruled out such a possibility for US-supplied weapons. “There’s no change to our policy at this point. We don’t encourage or enable the use of US-supplied weapons to strike inside Russia,” said John Kirby, national security council spokesperson.

  • Vladimir Putin warned of “serious consequences” if Russia is struck with western weapons – repeating a pattern of routine but vague and unfulfilled threats towards Ukraine’s allies. The Kremlin also gloated over persisting differences in the west – “we see that there is no consensus on this issue”, regime spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the Russian daily Izvestia.

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