1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

144 Ukrainian soldiers in prisoner swap — as it happened

June 29, 2022

In the largest prisoner exchange since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, 144 Ukrainian soldiers were exchanged for an equal number of Russian and separatist fighters. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant
Many Ukrainian soldiers were taken prisoner in fighting at the Azovstal facility in MariupolImage: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • 144 Ukrainian soldiers freed in prisoner swap
  • Zelenskyy calls on UN to visit site of Ukraine mall strike
  • NATO offers membership to Sweden, Finland
  • Boris Johnson reckons that if Vladimir Putin was a woman there would be no war

This live updates article is now closed. For our latest, on June 30, click here.

Britain announces new military aid to Ukraine

UK pledged on Wednesday another 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion or €1.15 billion) in military aid to Ukraine to help it fend off Russia's invasion.

The package includes "sophisticated air-defense systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, innovative new electronic warfare equipment and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers," Downing Street said in a statement.

This will be a "first step" to allow Ukraine to go beyond its "valiant defense" efforts and move towards "mounting offensive operations" to regain territory.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin's attacks against Ukraine were "increasingly barbaric" as the Russian leader "fails to make the gains he had anticipated and hoped for and the futility of this war becomes clear to all.

"UK weapons, equipment and training are transforming Ukraine's defenses against this onslaught," the statement quoted him as saying.

The fresh funds will bring Britain's total military support to Ukraine since the start of the war in late February to 2.3 billion pounds.

Putin says Russia has no problems with Finland, Sweden in NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia has no problems with Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

"We don't have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine," Putin told a news conference in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. "If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That's up to them. They can join whatever they want."

However, he added that Russia would respond in kind if NATO set up infrastructure in these countries.

The Russian president also said that Russia's goals against Ukraine have not changed, but "tactics may be different."

According to Putin, Russian troops are allegedly achieving their goals during the war against Ukraine.

The Russian leader also appeared to deny that Moscow's forces were responsible for a strike on a crowded shopping center in the Ukrainian town of Kremenchuk earlier this week, in which 18 people were killed.

"Our army does not attack any civilian infrastructure site. We have every capability of knowing what is situated where," Putin told the news conference.

Zelenskyy says ties cut with Syria after it recognized separatists

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine will cut ties with Damascus after Moscow ally Syria recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk separatist republics.

"There will no longer be relations between Ukraine and Syria," Zelenskyy said, adding that the sanctions pressure against Syria "will be even greater."

He also said that despite all the difficulties, Ukrainian authorities will constantly do what brings Ukraine closer to full membership in the European Union.

"The state will have a relevant document — a clear map of actions that can be checked by any citizen of Ukraine: what needs to be done by state institutions so that we fulfill our part of the job on the path to the European Union," Zelenskyy said and added that this document will be presented on July 1.

Munich Security Conference head approves NATO's strategy

NATO has set the right course in terms of defensive strategy in the face of Russia's war in Ukraine, Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, told DW.

"NATO's strategic concept reflects the reality of the ground," he said. "NATO has to adapt its strategy. And I think this is the right response. Now we have Russia as an enemy. Russia as a country that violates international law. Russia that is committing war crimes. NATO has to respond to this."

Heusgen said that while Ukraine was receiving substantial support, more military hardware was needed to help Ukraine defend itself and "those countries that share the same values."

Heusgen said that Putin was operating in a vacuum of dissent, which he had managed to engineer by clamping down on political opponents and free media.

"Putin doesn't have any national opposition. There is no free media. He is throwing in lots of soldiers, young people who don't even know why they are where they are and getting killed. Putin is a dictator, and we have to confront him," Heusgen added.

'Putin is a dictator and we have to confront him'

Ukrainian prime minister: US provided $1.3 billion grant

Ukraine received a $1.3 billion (€1.2 billion) grant from the United States, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

"Sanctions, weapons and funds are all approaching Ukrainian victory. Received a grant of $1.3 billion under the state budget financing package of $7.5 billion," Shmyhal wrote on Twitter.

Shmyhal thanked US President Joe Biden for "unprecedented support," the World Bank Group and its president, David Malpass, "for quick decisions and financing mechanisms."

Russia vows to respond to increased US troop presence in Europe

Russia has threatened "compensatory measures" considering the announced US troop increase in Europe.

"What's happening, NATO's buildup in eastern Europe, now will invariably prompt compensatory measures on our part," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

"We won't turn a blind eye to this move. We have the capabilities and resources for that. Security will be 100% guaranteed," Ryabkov added.

US President Joe Biden had stated earlier on Wednesday in a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that the US wants to further expand its troop presence in Europe as a result of the Russian war against Ukraine.

According to Biden, one focus of the US troop increases is NATO's eastern flank.

Canada to lead efforts to form a brigade in Latvia

Canada has signed an agreement to work with Latvia and NATO partners to lead efforts to form a "combat capable" brigade in Latvia, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said.

"This is a commitment that the Canadian government is making together with Latvia to work with our allies to move towards and surge to a brigade level force in Latvia," Anand told reporters, adding that details about exact number of troops had not yet been determined.

Earlier on Wednesday, NATO said it would deploy more "robust in-place combat-ready forces" on its eastern flank, scaled up from existing battlegroups to brigade-size units.

UK sanctions Russia's second-richest man

Britain on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Vladimir Potanin, Russia's second-richest man. He would face an asset freeze, travel ban, transport sanctions and a block on technical advice relating to aircraft, the UK Foreign Office said.

Potanin is an owner of the Interros conglomerate and a co-owner of Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel. Forbes magazine lists him as the second-richest individual in Russia with a fortune estimated in 2021 at $27 billion (€ 25.8 billion).

Also sanctioned by Britain was Anna Tsivileva, a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who heads the Russian coal mining company JSC Kolmar Group.

"Today's sanctions show that nothing and no one is off the table, including Putin's inner circle," a UK government spokesperson said in a statement.

IAEA loses transmission from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, said it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

"The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again — for the second time in the past month — only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission [to Zaporizhzhia]," IAEA said in a statement. The connection was lost on Saturday "due to a disruption of the facility's communication systems," the agency added.

Zaporizhzhia is Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

Grain prices to rise sharply if Russia, Ukraine exports fail to reach market

Grain prices could be set to increase dramatically if Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine prevents one or both countries from exporting agricultural products, a UN report warned.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), warned that should Ukraine's export capacity be blocked, grain prices could shoot up by 19% compared to pre-war prices.

Beyond that, if Russia's exports were to be halved, prices could go up by 34% compared to pre-war levels. Both countries are key grain growers and exporters, with many other countries and aid agencies relying on their output for grain.

Russia's invasion has made many Ukrainian fields untillable and blocked key ports.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the secretary-general of the United Nations that the country was ready to coordinate efforts to reduce the threat of a global food crisis, as well as to fulfilling its grain and fertilizer export obligations.

Zelensky says his G20 attendance depends on other 'participants'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Indonesia's visiting President Joko Widodo that he will attend the upcoming G20 summit in Bali depending on who else is attending.

"Certainly I accept the invitation. Ukraine's participation will depend on the security situation in the country and on the composition of the summit's participants," Zelenskyy said, in an apparent reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

the Indonesian president was in Kyiv on Wednesday before heading to Moscow to meet Putin. Widodo offered to deliver a message from Zelenskyy to the Russian leader to try to boost peace hopes. It was not immediately clear how Zelenskyy responded to this offer or if he had any message he wished to send to Putin.

Washington open to potential F-16 sale to Turkey: official

A top US official says the Biden administration supports Turkey's plans to modernize its F-16 fleet.

Washington "supports Turkey's modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security," Assistant Secretary for Defense Celeste Wallander told reporters.

She said Ankara's request last October to buy 40 F-16 fighter jets was "in the works," but needed to go through the US contracting process.

The comments came a day after Turkey agreed to withdraw its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. In return, the Nordic countries pledged not to support Kurdish militant groups and to lift arms embargoes against Turkey.

US officials rejected any suggestion that Washington's support for Turkey's goal of modernizing its fleet was tied to the NATO deal with Sweden and Finland. "The US did not offer anything to Turkey and was not asked for anything by Turkey," as part of its agreement, a senior administration official said.

144 Ukrainian soldiers freed in prisoner swap: Kyiv

Ukrainian intelligence said 144 soldiers, including dozens who fought at the Azovstal steelworks in the southern city of Mariupol, have been freed in a prisoner swap with Russia.

"This is the largest exchange since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. Of the 144 freed, 95 are Azovstal defenders," the intelligence directorate of Ukraine's Defense Ministry said on Telegram.

Pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin said 144 soldiers from Russia and the Donetsk People's Republic — the name of the breakaway region recognized by Moscow — had "returned home".

Hundreds of Ukrainians sheltered in the Azovstal steel plant during Moscow's bombardment of Mariupol, but they were taken into Russian custody after surrendering in mid-May. 

Transport services to link Crimea with southern Ukraine: pro-Russia authorities

Pro-Russian authorities have announced plans to launch train and bus services connecting Moscow-annexed Crimea and southern Ukraine. 

"Starting from July 1, regular bus and train services between Crimea and the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will be launched for the first time in eight years," Sergei Aksyonov, the pro-Russia head of Crimea, said on the Telegram messaging app.

He added that the safety of passengers would be guaranteed by Russia's National Guard.

The regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are now largely under Moscow's control and are being gradually integrated into Russia's economy.

Kherson's pro-Moscow regional administration on Wednesday announced the opening of a branch of the Russian Pension Fund responsible for paying state pensions. Authorities there also announced the establishment of a Russian office to register births, deaths and marriages. 

Kyiv welcomes NATO's 'clear-eyed stance' on Russia

Ukraine has welcomed NATO's decision to invite Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance and its pledge to provide more support to Kyiv.

During a summit in Madrid on Wednesday, NATO leaders also agreed to treat Moscow as the "most significant and direct threat to the allies' security," according to a statement.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said NATO had shown it could take "difficult but essential decisions."

"We welcome a clear-eyed stance on Russia, as well as the accession for Finland and Sweden. An equally strong and active position on Ukraine will help protect the Euro-Atlantic security and stability," Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Andriy Yermak, chief of the Ukrainian presidential staff, also welcomed NATO's statement.

"Russia will not defeat Ukraine — Russia is going to be defeated. That's the message @NATO member states repeatedly emphasize at the summit. Ukraine and its allies must win this battle for democracy," he wrote on Twitter.

NATO to give Kyiv anti-drone systems

"Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on the second day of a NATO summit in Madrid.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had previously voiced fears that Western powers would get conflict fatigue and roll back their support.

He said leaders had agreed a comprehensive package of assistance for Ukraine, including secure communications, fuel, medical supplies, equipment to counter mines and hundreds of anti-drone systems.

The announcement came after the alliance confirmed that it was pivoting back to one of its original goals, countering the military threat from Moscow.

Syria recognizes Luhansk, Donetsk independence

The government of Syria recognized the independence and sovereignty of the two breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, state news agency SANA said on Wednesday, citing a Foreign Ministry source.

President Bashar Assad, who has received military assistance from Moscow during his country's civil war, had affirmed his intention to build relations with the two breakaway republics in February.

NATO names Russia 'most direct threat'

Under the new doctrine announced Wednesday,  NATO no longer considers Russia a strategic partner but says it is still open to communication with Moscow. 

NATO leaders signed off a new strategic concept that marks Russia as "the most significant and direct threat to allies' security and stability," an indication of the blocs deteriorating relationship with Moscow since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

At a summit in Madrid, the military alliance accused Russia of seeking "to establish spheres of influence and direct control through coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation."

NATO also expressed concern about Russia's expanding nuclear capabilities and its development of dual-purpose nuclear weapons. 

The alliance indicated that it would respond to Moscow's growing military aggression by strengthening its capacity for "deterrence and defense." Leaders also agreed to ramp up military reinforcements in eastern Europe. 

However, NATO stressed that it does not seek confrontation and would remain open for communication with Russia. 

"We remain willing to keep open channels of communication with Moscow to manage and mitigate risks, prevent escalation and increase transparency," the strategic concept says.

NATO issues a new strategic concept that outlines its goals and missions, every ten years. The updated document marks a dramatic shift in strategy for the alliance who previously sought to build closer ties with Moscow.  

Belarus could execute 3 men for trying to hinder Russian troops

Three Belarusian activists "could face the death penalty" after being charged with carrying out railway sabotage in Belarus to impede Russian troops during the early stages of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Minsk investigators said Wednesday.

The men were accused of terrorism after being arrested on March 1 for setting fire to relay boxes on the railway network at night, the Belarusian Investigative Committee said on its website as it completed the three-month probe.

Pope condemns 'barbaric' attack in Kremenchuk

Pope Francis has condemned the bombing of a shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk.

Ukraine said at least 18 people were killed and around 60 wounded in Monday's missile strike.

Moscow's Defense Ministry said it had hit a legitimate military target, and that the mall was not in use.

"Every day, I carry in my heart dear and martyred Ukraine, which continues to be flagellated by barbarous attacks like the one that hit the shopping center in Kremenchuk," Pope Francis told those gathered St. Peter's Square.

"I pray that this mad war can soon end and I renew my appeal to persevere without tiring in praying for peace."

"May the Lord open the those paths to dialogue which men either do not want or not able to find. May they not neglect to help the Ukrainian population, which is suffering so much."

Russia views Sweden and Finland's NATO accession 'negatively'

Russia said Wednesday it took a dim view over the possibility of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Moscow's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia views the two Nordic countries joining the military alliance "negatively," Interfax reported.

Russian state news agency RIA also quoted Ryabkov as saying that NATO expansion is "destabilizing" and does not increase the security of its members.

Moscow-governed Kherson plans referendum on joining Russia

The Moscow-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine's Kherson region said it has plans to hold a referendum on whether to join Russia, according to an official in the administration.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Moscow-backed administration, told the news agency Reuters that he expected the referendum to take place in "the coming half year."

Norway to donate rocket launchers to Ukraine

Norway has announced it is donating three multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine, following similar decisions made by Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Ukraine has repeatedly called on its allies to provide more weaponry.

"We must continue to support Ukraine so that they can continue their fight for freedom and independence," Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said in a statement.

Stoltenberg: Russia's war 'biggest challenge' in NATO history

At a NATO summit in Madrid, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia's war in Ukraine presents the "biggest challenge" in the alliance's history while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wanted to send "a strong message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin: "you will not win."

Indonesian president arrives in Kyiv on 'peace mission'

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the chair of the Group of 20 (G20) nations, has arrived in Kyiv as he embarks on a trip to the capitals of both Ukraine and Russia.

"The eleven-hour train journey from the Polish city of Przemysl to the Ukrainian capital was smooth without a hitch," he tweeted. He was met by Ukrainian officials upon arrival.

Ahead of his trip, the president said: "We start this peace mission with good intentions. Hope things will get easier."

Widodo will host the G20 summit in Bali in November. He said this week that he would call on Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to agree to peace talks while urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the conflict to avert a global food crisis.

He said: "My mission is to call on Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to open space for dialogue in the context of peace, to build peace, because the war must stop and the food supply chain must be reactivated."

Widodo is due to travel to Russia on Thursday.

Johnson: If Putin was a woman there would be no war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if he was a woman, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told German broadcaster ZDF.

"If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn't, but if he were, I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has," Johnson said.

Putin's war is "a perfect example of toxic masculinity," he continued, while calling for "more women in positions of power."

Meanwhile, Johnson said he didn't see any signs the war was nearing its end as "Putin isn't making an offer of peace."

UK intelligence: 'Realistic possibility' Kremenchuk strike was meant for nearby infrastructure

Russia remained willing to accept a high level of collateral damage while striking a target, according to the UK’s latest defense intelligence, which indicated that there was a possibility that Monday’s attack on the Kremenchuk mall was intended to hit a nearby infrastructure target.

With a shortage of modern precision strike weapons, and the shortcomings of Russian planners, the likelihood of further civilian casualties was very high, the report said. 

NATO summit focuses on conflict as Sweden, Finland near entry

The Ukraine war is set to dominate a NATO summit taking place in Madrid on Wednesday.

It is anticipated that Finland and Sweden will be formally invited to join the alliance during the summit in the Spanish capital.

This comes after Turkey dropped its opposition to the Nordic countries joining NATO.

"We will make a decision at the summit to invite Sweden and Finland to become members, that's unprecedented quick," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.

Mykolaiv mayor says 3 killed in Russian strike

At least three people were killed and five injured after a Russian missile strike on a residential building in the southern city of Mykolaiv, local authorities said. Rescue efforts have been launched for survivors. 

Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said a total of eight missiles had hit the city, urging residents to evacuate. Authorities said the building appeared to have been hit by a Russian X-55 cruise missile. 

Smoke could be seen rising from a four-story building where the upper floor was partly destroyed, images from the scene showed.

Lithuania calls for stronger NATO presence in the Baltic

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called for a stronger NATO presence on the defense alliance's eastern flank as leaders gathered in Madrid to discuss NATO’s strategy going forward.

Nauseda said the invasion of Ukraine meant NATO had to transition from deterrence to forward defense. Adding that the tripwire logic was "no longer viable", Nauseda demanded more ground troops in the Baltic states and along NATO's eastern flank. 

The Lithuanian leader also called for aerial defense over aerial surveillance keeping in mind the current situation.

As Nauseda calls for an upgrade of existing NATO battlegroups to brigade level in the eastern member states, Germany said it would lead the NATO combat brigade in Lithuania.

Nauseda shared his country’s appreciation: "This shows that Germany's commitment to deploy more troops here in Lithuania is very strong and determined."

A Bundeswehr-led NATO battalion has been stationed in Lithuania since 2017. A brigade would consist of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops, up from 1,600 currently stationed.

Dozens still missing after Kremenchuk mall attack

Ukrainian authorities say around 36 people remain missing on Wednesday following a Russian missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk.

The attack claimed the lives of 16 people when a missile struck on Monday while people in the central Ukrainian city were shopping.

Russian officials have denied that the mall was full, and claimed to have struck a nearby arms depot.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who posted a video that claims to show the moment a missile hit the mall, has said Russian troops "deliberately" targeted civilians.

Zelenskyy calls Putin 'terrorist' leader in address to UN Security Council

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed all members of the United Nations Security Council via video link on Tuesday night, calling for the UN to investigate the site of Russia's deadly airstrike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk.

"I suggest the United Nations send either a special representative, or the secretary-general of the United Nations ... so the UN could independently find out information and see that this indeed was a Russian missile strike," he said.

Zelenskyy asked all 15 members of the Security Council — including Russia — to observe a minute's silence for the victims of the attack.

He also called for Russia to be expelled from the group (a move which Russia has the right to veto) and for the UN to legally define the term "terrorist state" in order to prosecute Moscow and President Vladimir Putin.

"Putin has become a terrorist," he said. "Daily terrorist acts, without weekends. Every day they are working as terrorists," he told the Council.

Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy hit back, saying the Security Council "should not be turned into a platform for a remote PR campaign for President Zelenskyy in order to get more weapons" from NATO countries.

What happened in Russia's war in Ukraine on Tuesday

At the NATO summit in Madrid, the defense ministers of Germany and the Netherlands promised to send a further six Howitzer 2000 weapons to Ukraine in its struggle to fend off invading Russian forces, in addition to the 12 howitzers they already delivered.

Turkey also backed down from its threat to veto Finland and Sweden's NATO membership bids after reaching an agreement with the Nordic countries at the summit.

Meanwhile, the G7 countries pledged to support Ukraine for "as long as necessary." The key agreement was to implement a price cap on Russian oil to make the war financially unviable.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Russian President Vladimir Putin is not invited the forthcoming G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

The death toll from the Russian airstrike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk also climbed to 16. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed it had targeted a nearby ammunition depot but Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the mall had "no strategic value."

Click here to catch up on Tuesday's developments on Russia's war in Ukraine.

jsi, zc,es/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Skip next section Explore more