Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:
Three dead in Belgorod blasts
At least three people are killed and four injured in a series of “strong explosions” that rocked the Russian city of Belgorod, according to the governor of the region, which borders Ukraine.
“We are currently trying to establish the circumstances of the incident. The anti-aircraft defences were in operation,”Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov says on Telegram.
Eleven residential buildings and 39 houses were damaged in the explosions which occurred in the early hours, he says, but stops short of accusing Ukrainian forces of being behind the strikes.
Ukraine ‘fired missiles’: Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says his army had shot down missiles fired into their territory from Ukraine and vows to respond “instantly” to any enemy strike.
“We are being provoked,” “I must tell you that around three days ago, maybe more, they tried to strike military targets in Belarus from Ukraine.Lukashenko is quoted as saying by state news agency Belta.
Ukraine last week said missiles fired from Belarus had struck a border region inside its territory.
Separatists say key city surrounded
Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they had “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Lugansk region.
“Today the Lugansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled,”Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, tells the TASS news agency.
Fighting rages as Russian troops intensify their offensive in parts of the hard-fought Ukrainian city.
Capturing the city will allow the Russians to push deeper into the wider eastern region of the Donbas, which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv after launching their military operation in Ukraine in late February.
and Kyiv denies surrounded claim
The Ukrainian army however rejects the claims that Lysychansk has been surrounded, but says heavy fighting was ongoing on its edges.
“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. (But) luckily the city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army,”Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, says on Ukrainian television.
“The Russians are entrenching themselves in a district of Lysychansk, the city is on fire,” Sergei Gaidai, governor of the Lugansk region, adds on Telegram.
“They attacked the city with inexplicably brutal tactics,”he says.
‘Phosphorus bombs on Snake Island’
Ukraine’s army accuses Russia of carrying out strikes using incendiary phosphorus munitions on Snake Island, just a day after Moscow withdrew its forces from the rocky outcrop in the Black Sea.
“Russian air force SU-30 planes twice conducted strikes with phosphorus bombs on Zmiinyi island,”it says in a statement Friday, using another name for Snake Island.
The Russian defence ministry has described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill” meant to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organise protected grain exports from Ukraine.
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Snake Island decision ‘changes situation’: Zelensky
Russia’s decision to abandon Snake Island “changes the situation in the Black Sea considerably”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says.
“It does not yet guarantee security. It does not yet guarantee that the enemy will not return. But it already considerably limits the actions of the occupiers,”he says Thursday in his daily address.
A strategic target, Snake Island sits aside shipping lanes near Odessa port. Russia had attempted to install missile and air defence batteries while under fire from drones.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence says in an intelligence update that Russia has highly likely withdrawn “owing to the isolation of the garrison and its increasing vulnerability to Ukrainian strikes, rather than as a ‘gesture of good will’, as it has claimed.”
Deadly strike on Odessa
Missile strikes kill 21 people and wound dozens in Ukraine’s flashpoint Odessa region on the Black Sea, says Sergiy Bratchuk, Odessa deputy chief of district.
The strikes come a day after Russian troops abandoned positions on the strategic Snake Island off the coast of Odessa.
Early Friday, missiles hit a nine-storey apartment building and a recreation centre in Serhiivka about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Odessa.
Two children were among the dead and six others among the injured, officials say.
Germany condemns the attack as “inhuman and cynical.”
Russia ‘engaging in terror’: Zelensky
Zelensky accuses Russia of engaging in state “terror” as he blames Moscow for missile strikes on a southern resort town that left 21 dead and dozens wounded.
© Agence France-Presse