Ukraine war: 'Explosions heard at Belarus airbase' near Ukrainian border

The explosions come just two days after a Russian airbase in Crimea was struck, destroying a number of the Kremlin's war planes Credit: Planet Labs PBC/AP

Unexplained explosions were heard in the early hours on Thursday at a military airbase in Belarus near the Ukrainian border, that Russia has been using as one of the launchpads for the invasion.

Footage published by Belarusian media outlet Belaruski Hajun on Thursday showed a flash of light over residential buildings about 20 kilometres away from the Zyabrouka airbase.

Local residents were quoted as saying they saw at least eight flashes in the sky at night and that a powerful blast wave was felt in the area.

Russia and Belarus kicked off joint military drills on Tuesday to train their air forces and missile defence.

The Zyabrouka base reportedly hosts large amounts of Russian tanks and long-range artillery including S-400 surface-to-air missiles and short-range Iskander ballistic missiles that have been used to target northern Ukraine including Kharkiv.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Saint Petersburg at the end of June Credit: SPUTNIK 

The Belarusian defence ministry was quick to dismiss speculation that the airbase may have been targeted by yet another Ukrainian attack, two days after unexplained explosions at an airfield in Crimea.

"On August 10, at around 23:00 (2000 GMT), during a test run, a piece of equipment that had its engine replaced caught fire," the Belarusian defence ministry said.

It added that the fire was extinguished "in a timely manner" and there were no casualties.

Just like with other suspected attacks, Ukrainian officials on Thursday were careful not to claim responsibility.

"The epidemic of technical accidents at military airfields in Crimea and Belarus should be considered by the Russian military as a warning: forget about Ukraine, take off your uniforms and leave," Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted on Thursday.

"Neither in occupied Crimea nor in occupied Belarus will you feel safe."

Evening summary

  • Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for a renewed shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex in southern Ukraine.  Zaporizhzhia is the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe and has been controlled by Russian troops since March.
  • The UK will send more multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) to Ukraine, as well as precision guided M31A1 missiles which can strike targets up to 50 miles away.
  • Russia has doubled the number of air strikes on Ukraine's military positions and civilian infrastructure compared with the previous week, according to Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov.
  • The Zyabrouka air base in Belarus - which reportedly hosts large amounts of Russian tanks and long-range artillery - may have been hit by a Ukrainian air strike.
  • New figures show that  361 Ukrainian children have been killed and 705 injured since the invasion began.

Ukraine releases slick video campaign

This remarkable video has been released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.

"Unless they want an unpleasantly hot summer break, we advise our valued Russian guests not to visit Ukrainian Crimea.

"Because no amount of sunscreen will protect them from the hazardous effects of smoking in unauthorised areas."

Russian court places TV protester Ovsyannikova under house arrest 

A Russian court on Thursday placed former state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who denounced President Vladimir Putin's attack on Ukraine, under house arrest.

During a closed-door hearing, Moscow's Basmanny district court ruled that Ovsyannkova be placed under house arrest until October 9.

She faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.

Placeholder image for youtube video: ze3HK12nRGI

Wallace speaks in Copenhagen

The Defence Secretary is in Copenhagen, having just met Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Danish Defence Secretary Morten Bodskov.

He hails the "great success of the international community coming together" at a time when Vladimir Putin probably thought that they'd lose their appetite.

"Quite the opposite," he says.

"We have come out of this meeting with more pledges or finance, more pledges of training and more pledges of military aid, all designed to help Ukraine win, to help Ukraine stand up for its sovereignty, and indeed, to ensure that President Putin's ambitions fail in Ukraine, as they rightly should.

(L-R) Danish Defense Minister Morten Boedskov, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

"I think it's incredibly important that people understand that the fighting is still going on. And it is still seeing the loss of life of both innocent civilians and indeed military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, all of whom are fighting bravely on a day to day basis.

"But it is also the case that Russia are starting to fail in many areas. They have failed so far, and are unlikely to ever succeed in occupying Ukraine. Their invasion has faltered and constantly been re modified to the extent they are really only focusing in parts of the South and in the east, a long long way away from their three day so called special operation."

Ukraine expects $3 billion US financial aid in August 

Ukraine expects $3 billion of U.S. financial aid to arrive in August and a further $1.5 billion in September, Finance Minister Sergiy Marchenko said today.

Mr Marchenko said the payments were part of the $7.5 billion financial aid package agreed by Ukraine and the United States at the start of the summer, and would be used to finance "critical spending" such as healthcare and pension costs.

Latvian Parliament calls Russia a state sponsor of terrorism 

Latvia's Parliament has declared Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism" for attacks on civilians during the war in Ukraine and has urged other countries to follow suit.

Lawmakers adopted a strongly worded statement that accuses Moscow of using "suffering and intimidation as tools in its attempts to demoralise the Ukrainian people and armed forces and paralyse the functioning of the state."

The statement says Latvia's Parliament "recognises Russia's violence against civilians in pursuit of political aims as terrorism, recognizes Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view."

It says Russian forces are deliberately targeting Ukrainian civilians in the war, including with attacks on a theatre in Mariupol in March, a shopping mall in Kremenchuk in June and a residential area in Odesa in July.

Ukrainian grain to be offloaded in Egypt

The first grain ship to depart from Ukraine under a UN-brokered deal docked in Turkey on Thursday after 11 days at sea, Refinitiv data showed, and the ship's agent in said it would continue to Egypt after unloading part of its cargo.

The Razoni set sail from Ukraine's Odesa port on August 1 under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey between Russia and Ukraine. Eleven other ships have left since then.

The Razoni, carrying Ukrainian grain, is seen in the Black Sea off Kilyos, near Istanbul Credit: REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Caliskan//File Photo

While the Razoni was initially headed to Lebanon's Tripoli, Ukraine's embassy in the country said the buyer had refused delivery due to a five-month delay and the ship was looking for a new customer.

The ship, which had since been at anchor off Turkey's southern coast, entered the port in Mersin Thursday afternoon, Refinitiv ship tracker data showed.

Energoatom says Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shelled again 

Ukraine's state energy company Energoatom has said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex has been shelled again today, putting the blame on Russian forces that seized the area in March.

Energoatom said the plant's area was struck five times, including near the site where radioactive materials are stored, but that nobody was injured and the situation at the plant remained under control.

Zaporizhzhia nuclerar plant seen from across the Dnipro river  Credit: Paul Grover for the Telegraph 

Earlier, the Russian state-owned news agency TASS said Ukraine shelled the plant for a second time today, citing the Russian-installed local administration.

It has not yet been possible to verify either side's claims.

Afternoon summary

It has been another busy day in Ukraine, where it is approaching 4:30pm.

  •  Satellite pictures released today showed devastation at a Russian air base in Crimea, hit in an attack that suggested Kyiv may have obtained new long-range strike capability with potential to change the course of the war.
  •  Russia has doubled the number of air strikes on Ukraine's military positions and civilian infrastructure compared with the previous week, according to Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov.
  •  Heavy fighting continues to rage around Pisky, near Donetsk.
  • Britain and Denmark will provide more financial and military aid to Ukraine.
  •  Russia said it had rejected a Swiss offer to represent Ukrainian interests in Russia and Moscow's interests in Ukraine because it no longer considers Switzerland a neutral country.

Scholz pledges more help for Germans to fight inflation 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised further measures to shield Germans from soaring inflation but also vowed not to stray from Germany's famed fiscal discipline.

"We will do everything we can to help citizens get through these difficult times," especially those "who have very little," Mr Scholz told a press conference in Berlin.

Olaf Scholz, Germany's chancellor, during his inaugural summer news conference in Berlin Credit: Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg

The government earlier this year unveiled a 30-billion-euro package to help consumers beat inflation, including a fuel tax cut and a cheap public transport ticket for June, July and August.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner this week also announced tax relief worth 10 billion euros (£8.5 billion) to help workers cope with rising prices.

But Scholz said the government was planning further measures to ensure that "no one is confronted with unsolvable problems".

UK to send more weapons systems to Ukraine

The UK will send more weapons to Ukraine to help it defend against Russia's invasion, the Defence Secretary has said.

Ben Wallace announced that more multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) will be sent to the eastern European nation, as well as precision guided M31A1 missiles which can strike targets up to 50 miles away, designed to defend against Russian heavy artillery.

Mr Wallace said: "This latest tranche of military support will enable the armed forces of Ukraine to continue to defend against Russian aggression and the indiscriminate use of long-range artillery.

Ministry of Defence of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) firing at Kirkcudbright Ranges Credit: Cpl Nathan Tanuku/MOD  

"Our continued support sends a very clear message: Britain and the international community remain opposed to this illegal war and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, providing defensive military aid to Ukraine to help them defend against Putin's invasion."

Ukrainian troops have been trained in the UK on how to use the launchers, and the UK has also committed to training 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers in infantry battlefield skills over the coming months.

German court tries army reservist suspected of spying for Russia 

A former officer in Germany's army reserve force went on trial on Thursday on charges of spying for Russia, in a case that could worsen relations deeply strained by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Prosecutors have said Ralph G., whose family name cannot be fully disclosed under German privacy laws, provided Russian agents with "numerous documents and information" about the German army from October 2014 until March 2020, when he was deputy commander of a squad.

"We believe the accused was in contact with Russian intelligence service GRU via several persons, particularly at the Russian Embassy in Berlin," federal prosecutor Gerd Kaiser said at the courthouse on Thursday.

Neither Ralph G nor his lawyer commented on the case on Thursday.

Return of the Mac

McDonald's will start reopening restaurants in Ukraine in the coming months, a symbol of the war-torn country's return to some sense of normalcy and a show of support after the American fast-food chain pulled out of Russia.

The burger giant closed its 109 Ukrainian restaurants after Russia's invasion nearly six months ago but has continued to pay more than 10,000 McDonald's employees in the country.

McDonald's said today that it will begin gradually reopening some restaurants in the capital, Kyiv, and western Ukraine, where other companies are doing business away from the brunt of the fighting.

McDonald's restaurants were shut down in Russia, with the branding removed following the invasion of Ukraine Credit: REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Western businesses including Spanish clothing retailers Zara and Mango are open in Kyiv.

"We've spoken extensively to our employees who have expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants in Ukraine reopen," Paul Pomroy, corporate senior vice president of international operated markets, said in a message to employees.

"In recent months, the belief that this would support a small but important sense of normalcy has grown stronger."

Russia doubles rate of air strikes on Ukrainian positions

Russia has doubled the number of air strikes on Ukraine's military positions and civilian infrastructure compared with the previous week, Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov said today.

"The enemy's planes and helicopters avoid flying into the range of our air defences, and therefore the accuracy of these strikes is low," he told a news conference. 

A Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack plane with a Z sign flies near the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk region Credit: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Listen in to The Telegraph's live Ukraine Spaces

The Telegraph's Francis Dearnley, Dominic Nicholls and Katie O'Neill have just gone live on The Telegraph's twitter page with the latest from Ukraine.

Listen in here.

UN chief urges immediate halt to military activity near Ukraine nuclear power plant 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for an immediate end to military activity near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe's largest.

"I am calling on the military forces of the Russian Federation and Ukraine to immediately cease all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant and not to target its facilities or surroundings," he said in a statement.

Belarus dismisses reports of explosions

Belarus played down reports of explosions at the Zyabrouka military airbase on Thursday, claiming that equipment caught fire during a test run. 

"On August 10, at around 23:00 (2000 GMT), during a test run, a piece of equipment that had its engine replaced caught fire," the Belarusian defence ministry said.

It added that the fire was extinguished "in a timely manner" and there were no casualties.

Franak Viacorka, a senior advisor to Belarusian exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, said Russian military aircraft are often stationed at the airfield.

Zyabrovka is around 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the border with northern Ukraine.

Ukraine war in pictures

An artillery unit from Ukraine's 58th Brigade fires toward advancing Russian infantry from a frontline position near the town of Bakhmut Credit: DAVID GUTTENFELDER/NYTNS / Redux / eyevine
A Ukrainian solider crouches as a heavy artillery weapon fires Credit: David Guttenfelder/The New York Times
Cars destroyed during the war have been painted by artists in the town of Irpin   Credit: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich 
A Ukrainian solider jumps from a tank near the front line in the Mykolaiv region Credit: REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva 
A destroyed barrack where Ukrainian prisoners of war were held in a detention center in Yelenovka, Donetsk region Credit: SERGEI ILNITSKY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock


Watch: Kyiv warns Russians holidays in Crimea are 'big mistake'

Placeholder image for youtube video: XmmpX24fJTY

Ukraine’s defence ministry has unveiled a glitzy social media video soundtracked by Bananarama’s Cruel Summer in which it discourages Russian holidaymakers from holidaying in occupied Crimea following a blast there this week.

“Unless they want an unpleasantly hot summer break, we advise our Russian guests not to visit Ukrainian Crimea,” the ministry wrote on Thursday.

“Because no amount of sunscreen will protect them from the hazardous effects of smoking in unauthorised areas.”

Read the full article here

Russia condemns Latvia's 'xenophobia'

Russia on Thursday condemned a resolution by Latvia's parliament that designated Russia as a "state sponsor of terrorism".

"Considering that there is no substance, except for animalistic xenophobia, behind this decision, it is necessary to call the ideologues nothing more than neo-Nazis," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.

The resolution said that "Latvia recognises Russia's actions in Ukraine as targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people", and called for greater military, financial, humanitarian and diplomatic backing for Ukraine.

Latvian parliament declares Russia 'state sponsor of terrorism'

Latvian MPs on Thursday issued a statement declaring Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism" and said its actions in Ukraine constituted "targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people".

The statement said the parliament "recognises Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view".

MPs said they considered "Russia's violence against civilians committed in pursuit of political aims as terrorism".

They also condemned its use of cluster munitions "to sow fear and indiscriminately kill civilians".

361 children have been killed and 705 children injured since invasion began

The Ukrainian parliament commissioner for human rights has issued updated figures for child casualties since 24 February.

 As of 11 August, the commissioner says that 361 children have been killed and 705 children have been injured. A further  204 are considered missing, and 6,159 have been deported.

Grain ship's departure from Ukrainian port delayed due to bad weather

A grain-carrying ship that was scheduled to depart from Ukraine's Chornomorsk port under a U.N.-brokered deal on Thursday was unable to set sail due to bad weather conditions, Turkey's defence ministry said.

The deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey between Russia and Ukraine has allowed 12 ships to depart from Ukraine's Black Sea port since Aug. 1.

The agreement was reached last month after warnings that the halt in grain shipments from Ukrainian ports due to the conflict could lead to severe food shortages and even outbreaks of famine in parts of the world.


Russian actor claims world has 'had enough of liberal values and living in the Marvel Universe'

Sergei Bezrukov says the world has had enough of "liberal values" and hopes Moscow's intervention in Ukraine and foreign sanctions can help Russian culture chart its own path.

Bezrukov is among artistic figures who say Moscow should leverage the country's growing isolation to purify Russian culture of Western influence and promote conservative values including patriotism and the Orthodox faith.

"We must take advantage of the isolation to reconnect with our traditions," Bezrukov, one of Russia's most popular artists, told AFP in an interview.

Instead of looking up to Hollywood, Russia should build its own cultural space, he said.

"For 30 years, we have lived in the Marvel Universe," the 48-year-old actor and director said, referring to the American film industry.

"It's time to create our own," Bezrukov said at Moscow's Gubernsky Theatre, where he is artistic director.

Over the years President Vladimir Putin has cast himself as a guardian of traditional Russian values such as heterosexual marriage and religion, and repeatedly said that Western liberal values have become obsolete.

Russia 'highly unlikely' to be capable of fulfilling some export orders

Russia is unlikely to be able to fulfill some export orders for armoured fighting vehicles due to the "exceptional demand" for vehicles for Russia's own forces in Ukraine and increasing Western sanctions, the Ministry of Defence said.

"Russia has long considered the defence industry to be one of its most important export successes," the ministry said on Twitter on Thursday.

"However, its military industrial capacity is now under significant strain, and the credibility of many of its weapon systems has been undermined by their association with Russian forces’ poor performance in the Ukraine war."

Azov trial to begin this summer, says Russian-backed separatist head

A trial of captured personnel from Ukraine's Azov Regiment would take place by the end of the summer, likely in the city of Mariupol, the head of the Russian-backed separatist administration in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region said.

Hundreds of Azov fighters surrendered in May to Russian-backed forces after fighting for weeks from the bunkers and tunnels below Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks. 

The prisoners have not yet been formally charged, however Russia's supreme court on August 2 ruled the regiment was a terrorist organisation, clearing the way for captured fighters to be charged.

"The first tribunal will take place probably in Mariupol, and it will be organised before the end of summer," Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said. 

Satellite image taken by Planet Labs PBC shows damage at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol Credit: Planet Labs PBC

Fighting rages in Pisky

Heavy fighting raged around the eastern Ukrainian town of Pisky on Thursday as Russia pressed its campaign to seize all of the industrialised Donbas region.

An official with the Russia-backed Donetsk People's Republic said Pisky, on the frontlines just 10km (6 miles) northwest of provincial capital Donetsk, was under control of Russian and separatist forces.

"It's hot in Pisky. The town is ours but there remain scattered pockets of resistance in its north and west," the official, Danil Bezsonov, said on Telegram.

Ukrainian officials denied that the heavily fortified town, a key to the defence of Donetsk, had fallen. 

Fighting is intensifying around Pisky Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Russia ‘fired rockets from near nuclear plant’

Ukraine has accused Russia of firing rockets from around a captured nuclear power plant, killing at least 13 people and wounding 10, in the knowledge it would be risky for Ukraine to return fire.

The town Ukraine says Russia targeted - Marhanets - is one Moscow says its foes have used in the past to shell Russian soldiers at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which they seized in March.

Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday said Ukrainian forces would respond to the shelling of Marhanets. Ukraine's military said Russia also bombarded several other areas in the Zaporizhzhia region including the coal-mining town of Vuhledar.

The mayor of Nikopol, a Ukrainian-held town near Marhanets across the Dnipro River from the nuclear plant, said on Telegram that Russian shelling had hit a community nearby almost nightly for the past week.

Britain to double rocket launcher shipments to Ukraine

Britain will double the number of long-range rocket launchers being sent to Ukraine, Ben Wallace announced on Wednesday as he said that Kyiv’s forces were right to hit Russian targets in occupied Crimea, Dominic Nicholls and Joe Barnes write.

The Defence Secretary announced the extra M270 rocket launchers, the Army’s most advanced missile system, as Ukraine prepares itself for a major counteroffensive in the south of the country.

A “significant number of precision-guided missiles” with a range of 50 miles will also be supplied, Mr Wallace added.

It came as anonymous Ukrainian officials said that the country’s special forces and partisan resistance fighters were behind the unprecedented strike at the Novofedorivka airfield, 125 miles behind enemy lines, in Crimea.

Read more: Ben Wallace announces boost in Kyiv’s firepower

Britain will send double the number of M270 rocket launchers to Ukraine

Russian soldiers ‘tricked into fighting in Ukraine’

Russian soldiers have complained to the military watchdog about being tricked into joining the frontline in Ukraine, a massive leak on Wednesday revealed, Nataliya Vasilyeva writes.

A trove of complaints from troops and their relatives sent to the Russian Military Prosecutor’s Office and obtained by Bellingcat and The Insider revealed what appears to be a wide-spread practice of forcing and tricking soldiers into going to Ukraine.

One unnamed soldier said he was away on military drills on a warship off the Syrian coast when “we were tricked into going to Ukraine: no one asked me if I wanted to take part in the special military operation,” the man said, using the Kremlin’s term for the invasion.

“I lost all my friends in fighting, and I’m in a very depressed state. I’m 21 years old, and I want to live so much!”

Read more: Massive leak reveals Russian soldiers tricked into fighting in Ukraine

Three large craters and 20 destroyed aircraft in images of Crimea base

More on the new satellite images that reveal the devastation at the Russian air base in Crimea.

The photographs, captured by US-based satellite imaging company Planet and shared online by open-source investigators, appeared to show at least three large craters near jet ammunition storage buildings and severe damage from a fire which ripped through Russia’s Saki Airbase on Tuesday, Josie Ensor writes.

“One way to interpret those craters is precise strikes from a long-range munition,” speculated Elliot Higgins of Bellingcat, which analyses Russian losses in Ukraine.

However, another suggested the ammunition storage buildings may not have been hit in a long-range attack, but it was instead possible they were rigged and detonated remotely by Ukrainian special forces.

Before Credit: PLANET LABS
After Credit: PLANET LABS

Indian companies buying Russian coal in Asian currencies

Indian companies are using Asian currencies more often to pay for Russian coal imports, avoiding the US dollar and cutting the risk of breaching Western sanctions against Moscow, Reuters has reported.

India has aggressively stepped up purchases of Russian oil and coal since the war in Ukraine began, helping to cushion Moscow from the effects of sanctions and allowing New Delhi to secure raw materials at discounts compared to supplies from other countries.

Russia became India's third-largest coal supplier in July, with imports rising by over a fifth compared with June to a record 2 million tonnes.

Indian steelmakers and cement manufacturers have bought Russian coal using the United Arab Emirates dirham, Hong Kong dollar, yuan and euro in recent weeks, Reuters said.

Today's top stories

  • New satellite images reveal the extensive damage to a Russian base in Crimea after it was targeted in a mysterious attack, appearing to be considerably worse than the Kremlin has publicly admitted
  • Ukraine's air force said on Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a deadly string of explosions at an air base in Crimea, amid speculation the blasts were the result of a Ukrainian attack that would represent a significant escalation in the war
  • Russian soldiers have complained to the military watchdog about being tricked into joining the frontline in Ukraine, a massive leak on Wednesday revealed
  • Britain will double the number of long-range rocket launchers being sent to Ukraine, Ben Wallace announced on Wednesday as he said that Kyiv’s forces were right to hit Russian targets in occupied Crimea

  • SNP ministers are considering issuing a formal plea to the British Army and hiring a second cruise ship to house Ukrainian refugees, after Nicola Sturgeon’s flagship “super sponsor” scheme descended into chaos

  • A quarter of Britons who took Ukrainians into their homes want to end the arrangement after six months, raising the prospect of thousands of refugees being made homeless