Ukraine preparing dozens of war crimes cases — live updates

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  • Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said that her office is preparing war crimes cases against 41 suspects
  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said no-one can predict length of war
  • Russia is planning for ‘long war,’ says Ukraine’s interior minister 

This article was last updated at 06:26 UTC/GMT

UK intelligence: A Separatist referendum in Kherson will be rigged

The British Defense Ministry said Russia was “highly likely” to use rigged referendums to impose its rule on Ukrainian regions after separatists announced seeking to join Russia.

Earlier this week, the pro-Moscow leaders of the Russian-occupied region of Kherson in southeastern Ukraine said they plan to ask for the area to become a part of Russia.

“If Russia carries out an accession referendum in Kherson, it will almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority in favor of leaving Ukraine,” a British defense intelligence update said. 

“Citizens in the Kherson region are likely to continue to demonstrate their opposition to Russian occupation,” it added. 

Fewer Ukrainian refugees arriving in Germany: interior minister

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told the Rheinische Post newspaper’s Saturday edition that fewer Ukrainian refugees were arriving in Germany per day compared to two months ago. 

“At the moment only around 2,000 people fleeing Ukraine are arriving in Germany per day. In mid-March we were seeing around 15,000 people a day,” she said. 

Faeser noted that some 20,000 refugees, including some who had been in Germany, were returning to Ukraine via the Polish border, adding that she assumes the majority of arrivals will go back to Ukraine. 

“Some will stay if people see the chance to find their feet in the German labor market with their qualifications,” she said.

The Interior Ministry has has so far recorded 700,000 people fleeing from Ukraine to Germany, according to data cited by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. 

NATO foreign ministers to meet in Belin 

Foreign ministers from the NATO alliance are meeting this weekend in Berlin to discuss their long-term strategy toward Russia amid the war in Ukraine. 

They are expected to set out a clarification on further reinforcement of NATO’s presence in eastern Europe.

The NATO diplomats will also be joined by Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and her Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto.

It comes as Finland said it intended to apply for NATO membership, and a similar decision by Sweden is widely expected to be announced on Sunday. 

Sweden and Finland joining NATO would mark a turning point for the two countries after being militarily neutral for decades. 

Russia’s invasion entering ‘third phase’ — Ukrainian official

Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Viktor Andrusiv said on Ukrainian television that Russia’s invasion is entering its “third phase” which shows that Moscow is planning for a “long war.”

The first phase consisted of trying to take Ukraine “in a few days,” according to Andrusiv. The second phase saw the Russian military attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.

In the third phase of the invasion, Moscow is preparing a defense of territories in the east and south of the country that are under its control.

“This shows that they’re going to turn this war into a long war,” Andrusiv said.

Andrusiv argued that the Kremlin intends to use a drawn-out war to bring Western countries to the negotiating table, who would then push Kyiv to give concessions.

Ukraine preparing dozens of war crime cases

Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova has said that her office is preparing war crimes cases against 41 suspects.

“We have 41 suspects in cases with which we will be ready to go to court. All of them concern Article 438 of the [Ukrainian] criminal code on war crimes, but different types of war crimes. There is the bombing of civilian infrastructure, the killing of civilians, rape and looting,” Venediktova said on Ukrainian television.

The first war crime trial since the start of the invasion began on Friday in Kyiv. The suspect is a 21-year-old Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka.

Ukraine’s security service posted a video of the suspect describing how he shot the civilian. Ukraine has been criticized by rights groups for publishing footage and images of prisoners of war, which the say contravenes the Geneva Conventions.

Venediktova said that two more suspects are likely to face preliminary hearings next week.

Previously, Venediktova had said that her office was looking into more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects.

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy: no-one can predict how long war will last

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a nightly video address that “no-one today can predict how long this war will last.”

“This will depend, unfortunately, not only on our people, who are already giving their maximum,” Zelenskyy said. “This will depend on our partners, on European countries, on the entire free world.”

Zelenskyy said he was thankful to countries who have imposed sanctions on Russia and given military and financial support to Kyiv.

“This is the only recipe for protecting freedom in the face of the Russian invasion. And for Western countries, this is not simply an expense. This is not about accounting, it’s about the future,” Zelenskyy said.

Summary of Friday’s events in Russia’s war on Ukraine 

The president of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, announced the territory would hold a referendum on July 17 on whether to become part of Russia.

US President Joe Biden discussed NATO accession with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu to move immediately to implement a ceasefire in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone to discuss stalled Ukraine peace talks.

German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, meeting with his G7 and Ukrainian colleagues, said grain theft by Russian forces in eastern Ukraine was “repugnant.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced that the bloc was set to increase military aid to Ukraine with a further €500 million ($520 million).

DW correspondent in Kyiv Fanny Facsar said Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the east of the country “seems to be working.”

sdi/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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