The centre of the fighting in Ukraine has switched to the road to Mariupol, where the Ukrainian offensive is slowly pushing back Russian forces, and British Challenger tanks are ready to join the battle, a minister in Kyiv has said. Hanna Maliar, a deputy defence minister, said the most active fighting was no longer around Bakhmut, in the eastern Donetsk region, but in the south, and specifically in the direction of the two coastal cities of Berdiansk and Mariupol. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said movement in the counteroffensive was “the most important thing”.
Vladimir Putinconfirmed that Russia had deployed its first tranche of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. He said nuclear weapons would only be used in the event of a threat to the existence of the Russian state. Speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday, the Russian president also said there was a “serious danger” that the Nato military alliance could be pulled further into the Ukraine war. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying Russia was ready for further talks on arms control. The US said there was no indication the Kremlin planned to use nuclear weapons to attack Ukraine.
A delegation of African leaders met with Zelenskiy in Kyiv and urged Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate and negotiate, hours after sheltering from missile strikes on the capital. The diplomatic team called their visit a “historic mission” and voiced concerns of a continent suffering from the fallout of the war, including rising grain prices. The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said both sides needed to stop fighting and “this war must be settled and there should be peace through negotiations”. Zelenskiy rejected any negotiations with Moscow, saying he had made clear to the African leaders that “permitting any talks with Russia now, when the occupier is on our land, means freezing the war, freezing pain and suffering”.