‘We need to break them … we have no alternative,’ warns Zelensky

Residents walk past the tail section of a rocket embedded in the ground in Kramatorsk, the day after a Russian rocket attack – GENYA SAVILOV / AFP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his armed forces were undeterred in their efforts to “break” Moscow’s will to pursue a nearly five-month war.

It comes as Russia’s Vladimir Putin hailed his military’s victory in the grueling battle of Luhansk.

Russia captured the city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, bringing an end to one of the biggest battles in Europe in generations and completing its conquest of Luhansk province, one of two regions it has demanded Ukraine cede to separatists in the Donbas region.

With the war entering its next phase, Ukrainian forces took up new defensive lines in the eastern part of the country.

In his nightly video message, Mr Zelensky said: “There have been no significant changes on the battlefield in the past 24 hours.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine respond, push back and destroy the offensive potential of the occupiers day after day. We need to break them. It is a difficult task. It requires time and superhuman efforts. But we have no alternative.”

Earlier in the day, Putin congratulated Russian forces on “victories in the Luhansk direction”. Participants in that combat should “absolutely rest and recover their military preparedness”, while units in other areas keep fighting, the Russian president said in a brief televised meeting with his defense minister.

Follow the latest updates below.

03:19 AM

Basketballer pleads for US President’s help

American basketball star Brittney Griner has made a direct plea to President Joe Biden to stand up for her in an emotional letter sent to the White House on Monday as she remains detained in Russia on drug charges.

Griner, who was held at a Moscow airport on February 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed multiple cannabis oil vape cartridges, went on trial on Friday and could face up to 10 years in a Russian jail.

The case takes place against a backdrop of high tension between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine. American officials say Griner has been detained wrongfully.

Griner, who competes in the US Women’s National Basketball Association but has also played regularly in Russia, was formally told at the first hearing that she was charged with intentionally importing narcotics into Russia.

The judge set the next hearing for July 7.

02:55 AM

Social media fines over Kremlin disinformation

Facebook and other social media firms will face multi-billion pound fines if they fail to take down the Kremlin disinformation under new laws.

They will be placed under a new legal duty to “proactively” prevent and remove attempts by Russia, other hostile states and their agents to use their sites to mislead the public or interfere in the UK’s political system.

READ MORE: Social media firms face massive fines for failing to remove Kremlin disinformation

02:49 AM

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