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Ukraine war latest: Zelensky visits front line in Donetsk Oblast alongside newly appointed general

by The Kyiv Independent news desk and Kateryna Denisova June 26, 2024 11:04 PM 8 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi during a visit to Donetsk Oblast on June 26, 2024. (Presidential Office)
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Key developments on June 26:

  • Zelensky visits Donetsk Oblast along with newly appointed General Hnatov
  • PACE adopts 3 resolutions on Ukraine, including on Russia's cultural genocide
  • Russian attack on Kharkiv, Kherson oblasts injure at least nine people
  • U.S. backs ICC investigation into Shoigu, Gerasimov, State Department says
  • Ukraine's crowdfunded satellite takes over 4,000 images of Russian facilities, military intelligence says

President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Donetsk Oblast on June 26 along with the newly appointed Commander of the Joint Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Brigadier General Andrii Hnatov.

Zelensky announced on June 24 that he had appointed Hnatov to replace Lieutenant General Yurii Sodol following unconfirmed reports that Sodol was the subject of an official complaint to the State Bureau of Investigation. Sodol had been reportedly accused of practices that resulted in heavy losses among the troops in his command.

Zelensky said that he and Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi "officially introduced Andrii Hnatov to all those responsible for defense in the Donetsk region" and visited the 110th and 47th brigades.

In a video address filmed in front of the entrance sign to the city of Pokrovsk, Zelensky thanked the defenders and medics in the area and said that he had held a "detailed meeting on security and support for the people."

Pokrovsk, located some 70 kilometers (43 miles) northwest of the Russian-occupied regional capital Donetsk, was hit by a ballistic missile on June 24, killing at least five people and wounding another 41.

Zelensky emphasized the need for officials to personally visit front-line areas, saying that the solutions to local problems "simply cannot be seen from Kyiv."

"I was surprised to learn that some relevant officials have not been here for six months or more," he said. "There will be a serious conversation, and I will draw appropriate conclusions regarding them."

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PACE adopts 3 resolutions on Ukraine, including on Russia's cultural genocide

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted three resolutions related to Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine on June 26, said Maria Mezentseva, the head of the Ukrainian delegation.

PACE took into account all Kyiv's amendments to three documents — on legal aspects of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the role of sanctions in countering Russia's war, and countering the eradication of cultural identity during war and peacetime, Mezentseva said.

With this move, PACE supported the creation of a special tribunal for the crime of Russia's aggression, as well as a compensation mechanism and a register of damages, according to Mezentseva.

An international special tribunal to hold Russia accountable for war crimes committed in Ukraine may be created by the end of this year, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said in April.

Ukrainian officials have documented thousands of war crimes committed by Russian forces, including deliberate attacks on civilians, attacks on cultural sites or medical institutions, torture, and deportations.

A political declaration, published by the Restoring Justice for Ukraine conference on April 2 and signed by 44 countries, condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine and advocates for the establishment of a special tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russian crimes.

One of the adopted resolutions also recognized Russia's genocidal intent in destroying Ukraine's cultural heritage and identity, said Yevheniia Kravchuk, member of Ukraine's parliament's delegation to PACE.

The document condemns the systematic Russia's policy of "Russification" in the occupied territories of Ukraine which started since its first invasion in 2014, including the denial of the Ukrainian language and history, Kravchuk said.

Russia's full-scale war resulted in damage to 1,987 cultural facilities as of late April, according to Ukraine's Culture Ministry. Some 16.3% of this number – 324 – were destroyed completely.

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Russian attack on Kharkiv, Kherson oblasts injure at least nine people

Russian troops hit the town of Derhachi in Kharkiv Oblast on June 26 with a guided aerial bomb. Nine people suffered in the attack, Governor Oleh Syniehubov reported.

The Russian guided bomb damaged houses, causing a fire at an outbuilding, according to Kharkiv Oblast Police.

Four people were hospitalized with explosive injuries, and four more people, including three children, suffered from shock, the police said.

Russian forces also attacked the city of Kherson on June 26, injuring five people, including two children, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

Two sisters, aged 12 and 15, suffered multiple injuries after a Russian drone dropped explosives, the governor said. Children were hospitalized with head injuries in moderate condition.

Three other people also sought medical help after the attack, Prokudin said.

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Ukraine's crowdfunded satellite takes over 4,000 images of Russian facilities, military intelligence says

A satellite purchased via a Ukrainian crowdfunding campaign took 4,173 images of Russia's targets in almost two years, Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR) said on June 26.

About 38% of all data received was used to prepare for attacks that caused "billions of dollars" in losses to Russia, according to HUR.

Due to the ICEYE satellite, Ukraine obtained satellite images of 370 Russian airfields, 238 air defense and radio reconnaissance positions, 153 oil depots and fuel storage facilities, 147 missile, aircraft weapons and ammunition depots, and 17 naval bases.

The satellite can also track the permanent deployment points of Russia's troops, their military camps, and mobilization centers, as well as monitor its military-industrial complex and logistics, including the illegally constructed Kerch Bridge in occupied Crimea.

A satellite image of Russia's Kerch Bridge in occupied Crimea, Ukraine. (Ukraine's military intelligence/Telegram)

"This makes it possible to trace the dynamics of Russia's movements with its personnel, to reveal its military intentions in order to disrupt them," the agency said.

In addition, the ICEYE is able to accurately identify the type of detected combat aircraft, ships, and air defense systems, as well as record the level of damage to the affected facilities, according to HUR.

Serhiy Prytula, a comedian, politician, and volunteer who leads crowdfunding campaigns to help the Ukrainian army, announced on Aug. 18, 2023 that his charity had bought a satellite for the military.

The Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation signed an agreement with the Finnish company ICEYE after initially fundraising $17 million to buy Bayraktar attack drones. The Turkish manufacturer of the drones, Baykar, refused to take the money and instead offered three drones to Ukraine for free.

The contract with ICEYE stated that the company would transfer the capabilities of one of its satellites already in orbit to the Ukrainian government.

Until the purchase of the ICEYE satellite, Ukraine did not have its own satellite in orbit and therefore relied on satellite imagery from its allies for the first six months of the full-scale Russian invasion.

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U.S. backs ICC investigation into Shoigu, Gerasimov, State Department says

The U.S. supports the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigation into Sergei Shoigu, secretary of Russia's Security Council, and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian army, for war crimes against Ukraine, said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on June 25.

Earlier in the day, Shoigu and Gerasimov were issued arrest warrants by the ICC for their role in conducting Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure between October 2022 and March 2023. Shoigu served as Russia's Defense Minister at the time of the alleged war crimes.

When asked about the U.S. reaction to the arrest warrants, Miller said, "We support a range of international investigations into Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine, including the one conducted by the ICC."

"We have made clear that there have been atrocities committed by Russian forces in their illegal invasion of Ukraine and that there ought to be accountability for those atrocities."

Miller did not clarify if the U.S. was actively supporting the ICC's investigation or sharing any evidence, and did not specifically mention the arrest warrants. Neither the U.S. nor Russia are parties to the ICC.

As a result, the U.S. maintains a complicated relationship with the court.

President Joe Biden said he welcomed the ICC's March 2023 arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights, for the forcible transfer of children from Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

Biden has also reportedly ordered his administration to hand over evidence to the ICC in order to support investigations into Russian war crimes.

At the same time, the ICC's recent announcement that it was seeking an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over alleged war crimes committed in Gaza prompted a swift reaction from Biden and other top U.S. officials.

Biden called Netanyahu's arrest warrant "outrageous" and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration was prepared to work with Congress to potentially sanction ICC officials in response.

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