Russia-Ukraine war: Germany stands by decision not to provide long-range missiles – as it happened

German leader says Europe must keep increasing aid to Ukraine after US approves new military help

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that Europe must continue to step up its help for Ukraine even after the approval of a big US aid package, but made clear that he is sticking to his refusal to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Kyiv, reports the Associated Press (AP).

Scholz spoke after meeting the UK prime minister Rishi Sunak in Berlin. The two countries are Europe’s biggest suppliers of military assistance to Ukraine as it counters Russia’s full-scale invasion, and both vowed to keep that up “for as long as it takes.”

Scholz described the progress made on a US military aid package that had been held up for months as “an encouraging and necessary signal.”

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak (left) and Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz speak during a press conference at in Berlin on Wednesday. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/PA

“But I also want to say clearly that the United States’s decision doesn’t release us here in Europe from the task of further expanding our support for Ukraine so that the country can defend itself against the aggressor,” he said.

According to the report by the AP, Scholz, whose country recently pledged to supply a third Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, appealed again for other European countries that have the system to examine whether they can spare one.

The AP reports that when he was asked whether he will reverse his often-criticised refusal to send Taurus missiles, Scholz listed at length the military hardware Germany has provided and added: “As far as the weapons system you mention is concerned, my decision won’t change.”

Scholz has argued that Taurus missiles could only be used responsibly with the involvement of German soldiers, whether inside or outside Ukraine, and says that is a line he does not want to cross.

Sunak, who on Tuesday pledged new military aid to Ukraine, praised Germany’s efforts on air defence in particular and said “every country has got different things that it can bring to the table”.

Ukrainian troops have faced acute shortages of shells and air defence systems, allowing Russian forces to edge forward in some parts of eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pleaded for greater international assistance, warning that his country will lose the war without it.

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Key events

Closing summary

It has gone 6pm in Kyiv and in Moscow. We will be closing this blog soon, but you can stay up to date on the Guardian’s Russia and Ukraine coverage here.

Here is a recap of today’s latest developments:

  • UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said the UK and Germany will provide “unwavering support” for Ukraine “for as long as it takes”, as he visited Berlin to deepen defence and security ties between the two allies. Sunak said “every country has got different things that it can bring to the table” after German chancellor Olaf Scholz said his decision not to deliver Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv “will not change”.

  • German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that Europe must continue to step up its help for Ukraine even after the approval of a big US aid package, but made clear that he is sticking to his refusal to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Kyiv. “But I also want to say clearly that the United States’s decision doesn’t release us here in Europe from the task of further expanding our support for Ukraine so that the country can defend itself against the aggressor,” he said.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged “speed” on providing weapons to Ukraine. In a social media post on X, Zelenskiy wrote: “The key now is speed. The speed of implementing agreements with partners on the supply of weapons for our warriors. The speed of eliminating all Russian schemes to circumvent sanctions. The speed of finding political solutions to protect lives from Russian terror.”

  • The US Senate voted resoundingly on Tuesday to approve $95bn in aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as a bipartisan super-majority united to send the long-stalled package to Joe Biden’s desk for signature. “Today the Senate sends a unified message to the entire world: America will always defend democracy in its hour of need,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a floor speech on Tuesday afternoon. “We are showing Putin that betting against America is always, always a grave mistake.”

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister enthusiastically praised US politicians for approving a long-delayed $61bn military aid package for Ukraine, but cautioned that fresh supplies would not immediately turn the tide on the battlefield. “Hallelujah,” Dmytro Kuleba said when asked for his reaction to Tuesday’s final vote by the US Senate. He added that he was hopeful that the White House would unveil a new package of weapons “within days, maybe hours,” and it was “just a matter of logistics” to get the supplies to the frontline.

  • Zelenskiy said he is “grateful to the United States Senate for approving vital aid to Ukraine today”, after a US bill was passed which allocates $60.84bn to support Ukraine in its battle to repel Russia’s invasion. In a social media post on X, Zelenskiy thanked Schumer and the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, for “their strong leadership in advancing this bipartisan legislation”. He also thanked “all US Senators on both sides of the aisle who voted in favor of it”.

  • The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia would further expand its “buffer zone” inside Ukraine if Kyiv takes delivery of longer-range Atcams missiles from the US that allow it to strike deeper inside Russia. The US is preparing a $1bn military aid package for Ukraine, the first to be sourced from the yet to be signed $95bn foreign aid bill, two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

A photograph that is reported to be of a firefighter extinguishing a fire at an oil depot in the Smolensk region was published on Telegram by regional governor Vasily Anokhin on Wednesday. Photograph: TELEGRAM/@anohin67/AFP/Getty Images
  • Ukrainian drones attacked oil facilities in western Russia overnight, defence sources in Kyiv confirmed on Wednesday. Officials in the western Russian regions of Smolensk and Lipetsk first announced the attacks, blaming Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles for starting blazes at energy sites. “The fire is localised. There is no threat of its spread beyond the facilities,” Smolensk regional governor Vasily Anokhin said, adding that no one was injured or killed.

  • Another drone attack targeted the Lipetsk region farther south, which houses metallurgical and pharmaceutical sites, governor Igor Artamonov said on Wednesday.

  • Russian forces hit a Ukrainian drone production facility and a Ukrainian army fuel depot, Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday.

A law enforcement officer walks by a crater next to a damaged building after a missile attack in Kharkiv on Wednesday. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images
  • Russian missiles damaged residential buildings and injured six people in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, early on Wednesday, governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram. The attack damaged three residential buildings, two offices, three non-residential buildings and a gas pipeline in the central district of the city, according to the governor’s statement.

  • Russia’s RIA state news agency reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources within Russian forces, that their attack hit soldiers’ quarters in Kharkiv where Ukrainian military personnel were stationed. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

  • A well-connected Russian deputy defence minister has been charged with bribe-taking, in the highest-profile corruption scandal in the country in years. Timur Ivanov, 47, who was responsible for Russia’s military infrastructure projects, was detained by the FSB services late on Tuesday evening.

  • On Wednesday, Ivanov, wearing his military uniform, appeared behind a glass cage in a Moscow court, where he was formally arrested and charged with high bribery. The court remanded him in custody for two months and placed him in the high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow.

  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed media speculation about the reasons behind the arrest of Ivanov on bribery charges, and urged reporters to focus on official information.

  • Russian forces have made significant advances in a narrow corridor in eastern Ukraine as an offensive by Moscow to take territory before western military aid arrives appears to be gathering pace. Footage posted by Kremlin military bloggers shows a Russian tricolour flying above the shattered village of Ocheretyne. Russian troops reportedly entered the territory on Sunday, north-west of the town of Avdiivka, after advancing about 5km in 10 days. Moscow’s defence ministry claimed Ukrainian troops fled Ocheretyne in small groups and under heavy fire.

  • Nato exercises starting on 26 April in Finland and in close proximity to the Russian-Finnish border are provocative in nature, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, told RIA state news agency in remarks published on Wednesday.

  • The UK has been accused of “helping Russia pay for its war on Ukraine” by continuing to import record amounts of refined oil from countries processing Kremlin fossil fuels. Government data analysed by the environmental news site Desmog shows that imports of refined oil from India, China and Turkey amounted to £2.2bn in 2023, the same record value as the previous year, up from £434.2m in 2021. Russia is the largest crude oil supplier to India and China, while Turkey has become one of the biggest importers of Russian oil since the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

  • The priest who oversaw a memorial service for late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been suspended for three years by the head of the country’s Orthodox Church. An order on the Moscow diocese website demoted Dmitry Safronov from his position as priest to that of a psalm-reader and stripped him of the right to give blessings or to wear a cassock for the next three years. According to the Associated Press, no reason was given for the decision.

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Here are a couple of images from the newswires that appear to show Russia’s Smolensk oil depot on fire after a Ukrainian drone attack on Wednesday.

The Guardian has been unable to independently verify the images.

A still image from a video taken through a windshield, and shared on social media, reportedly shows a fire at energy facilities in Yartsevo, Smolensk region, on Wednesday. Photograph: Social Media/Reuters
A still image from a video shared on social media that reportedly shows a large fire after Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia’s Smolensk oil depot. Photograph: Social Media/Reuters

UK prime minister says Ukraine has support from UK and Germany ‘for as long as it takes’

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said the UK and Germany will provide “unwavering support” for Ukraine “for as long as it takes”, as he visited Berlin to deepen defence and security ties between the two allies, reports the Press Association (PA).

Sunak said “every country has got different things that it can bring to the table” after German chancellor Olaf Scholz said his decision not to deliver Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv “will not change”.

Scholz has refused to send the German-made missiles to Ukraine for fear of a wider escalation of the war, or even drawing Germany into direct conflict with Russia.

The Chancellor, pointing to Germany’s delivery of Leopard tanks and other systems, told a joint press conference at the chancellery that he would not change his mind on Taurus, reports the PA.

Sunak praised Scholz’s recent commitment of another Patriot missile system to bolster Ukraine’s air defence, which he called one of Kyiv’s “key needs”.

He added: “Thankfully, a wide and broad coalition of countries are united in wanting to support Ukraine. Everyone can bring something slightly different and complementary to the table. The key thing is that we’re united on wanting to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Scholz also underlined the allies’ continuing backing of Kyiv. “Germany and the UK are the biggest supporters of Ukraine in Europe and we will continue our support for as long as necessary,” he said.

Sunak said: “Together we will continue to provide unwavering support for our Ukrainian friends, as you said, for as long as it takes.”

According to the PA, Sunak praised the German chancellor’s “historic decision” to increase defence spending under his “Zeitenwende” policy following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Sunak said: “At this dangerous moment, the bond between our two nations is stronger than ever. We meet as a war rages on our continent and new threats are rising around the world.”

The two leaders agreed to deepen UK-German defence cooperation, announcing the joint development of remote-controlled Howitzer 155mm wheeled artillery systems to be fitted to Boxer armoured fighting vehicles.

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged “speed” on providing weapons to Ukraine.

In a social media post on X, Zelenskiy wrote: “The key now is speed. The speed of implementing agreements with partners on the supply of weapons for our warriors. The speed of eliminating all Russian schemes to circumvent sanctions. The speed of finding political solutions to protect lives from Russian terror.”

“Every leader who does not waste time is a life saver. Every state that knows how to act quickly safeguards the rules-based world order. I thank everyone in the world who helps our people restore normal life after the Russian strikes. I thank everyone who helps our warriors defend the cities and villages of Ukraine from Russian evil.”

The key now is speed. The speed of implementing agreements with partners on the supply of weapons for our warriors. The speed of eliminating all Russian schemes to circumvent sanctions. The speed of finding political solutions to protect lives from Russian terror. Every leader… pic.twitter.com/hEG5cKJmO3

— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) April 24, 2024

German leader says Europe must keep increasing aid to Ukraine after US approves new military help

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that Europe must continue to step up its help for Ukraine even after the approval of a big US aid package, but made clear that he is sticking to his refusal to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Kyiv, reports the Associated Press (AP).

Scholz spoke after meeting the UK prime minister Rishi Sunak in Berlin. The two countries are Europe’s biggest suppliers of military assistance to Ukraine as it counters Russia’s full-scale invasion, and both vowed to keep that up “for as long as it takes.”

Scholz described the progress made on a US military aid package that had been held up for months as “an encouraging and necessary signal.”

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak (left) and Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz speak during a press conference at in Berlin on Wednesday. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/PA

“But I also want to say clearly that the United States’s decision doesn’t release us here in Europe from the task of further expanding our support for Ukraine so that the country can defend itself against the aggressor,” he said.

According to the report by the AP, Scholz, whose country recently pledged to supply a third Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, appealed again for other European countries that have the system to examine whether they can spare one.

The AP reports that when he was asked whether he will reverse his often-criticised refusal to send Taurus missiles, Scholz listed at length the military hardware Germany has provided and added: “As far as the weapons system you mention is concerned, my decision won’t change.”

Scholz has argued that Taurus missiles could only be used responsibly with the involvement of German soldiers, whether inside or outside Ukraine, and says that is a line he does not want to cross.

Sunak, who on Tuesday pledged new military aid to Ukraine, praised Germany’s efforts on air defence in particular and said “every country has got different things that it can bring to the table”.

Ukrainian troops have faced acute shortages of shells and air defence systems, allowing Russian forces to edge forward in some parts of eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pleaded for greater international assistance, warning that his country will lose the war without it.

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West must boost defence as era of peace in Europe is over, says Ukrainian foreign minister

Dan Sabbagh and Luke Harding report from Kyiv:

Ukraine’s foreign minister has enthusiastically praised US politicians for approving a long-delayed $61bn military aid package for Ukraine, but cautioned that fresh supplies would not immediately turn the tide on the battlefield.

“Hallelujah,” Dmytro Kuleba said when asked for his reaction to Tuesday’s final vote by the US Senate. He said it had been “my belief that we would have a positive outcome”, based in part on the cultivation of religious conservatives, but the west had to “realise the era of peace in Europe is over” and build its defence industry.

Speaking to the Guardian, Kuleba said he was hopeful that the White House would unveil a new package of weapons “within days, maybe hours,” and it was “just a matter of logistics” to get the supplies to the frontline.

Pentagon officials have indicated that some munitions have been already stockpiled in Europe, with artillery and air defences expected to be among the priorities.

Kuleba also said Ukraine had identified seven Patriot air defence systems it could use to protect civilians in major cities outside Kyiv. One had been obtained from Germany, four more had been located and negotiations were taking place, Kuleba said, and two more were in his sights.

Read the full story here.

Russian forces have hit a Ukrainian drone production facility and a Ukrainian army fuel depot, Russia’s defence ministry said today, Reuters reported.

Speaking in Berlin, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said that “defending our democracy, our democratic processes and institutions is an absolute priority, and we won’t tolerate any activity that undermines that.”

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More from the press conference now and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said Ukraine has the country’s “unwavering support … for as long as it takes”.

Sunak’s comments were made at a joint press conference in Berlin with Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

Scholz told journalists that the US package of support for Ukraine does not free Europe from the obligation to keep helping, Reuters reports.

He also said there was no change to his position on sending Taurus missiles to Ukraine after the US Senate approved $60bn worth of aid to support its war efforts.

Scholz also expressed his desire to work with the UK on the European sky shield.

More details soon …

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The UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, held a joint press conference in Berlin, in which they discussed funding for Ukraine.

You can watch it back, below:

Rishi Sunak holds press conference with Olaf Scholz – watch live

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This handout photograph published on Wednesday on the official Telegram account of the Smolensk regional governor Vasily Anokhin, reportedly shows a firefighter working to extinguish a fire at an oil depot in the Smolensk region.

A photograph that is reported to be of a firefighter extinguishing a fire at an oil depot in the Smolensk region was published on Telegram by regional governor Vasily Anokhin on Wednesday. Photograph: TELEGRAM/@anohin67/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian drones attacked oil facilities in western Russia overnight, defence sources in Kyiv confirmed on Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Officials in the western Russian regions of Smolensk and Lipetsk first announced the attacks, blaming Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles for starting blazes at energy sites.

“The fire is localised. There is no threat of its spread beyond the facilities,” Smolensk regional governor Vasily Anokhin said in a later post on social media, according to AFP.

He distributed images of first responders in helmets at the scene of the attack dousing flames as plumes of black smoke billowed over the site. No one was wounded or killed, the governor said.

Another drone attack targeted the Lipetsk region farther south, which houses metallurgical and pharmaceutical sites, governor Igor Artamonov said.

A source in the Ukrainian defence sector confirmed to AFP that drones of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had carried out the attacks.

The source made no mention of the attack on Lipetsk but claimed two oil depots were destroyed in the Smolensk region.

“Rosneft lost two storage and pumping bases for fuels and lubricants in the towns of Yartsevo and Rozdorovo,” the source said, referring to the Russian state-controlled energy company.

Russian forces make significant gains in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces have made significant advances in a narrow corridor in eastern Ukraine as an offensive by Moscow to take territory before western military aid arrives appears to be gathering pace.

Footage posted by Kremlin military bloggers shows a Russian tricolour flying above the shattered village of Ocheretyne. Russian troops reportedly entered the territory on Sunday, north-west of the town of Avdiivka, after advancing about 5km in 10 days.

A Ukrainian police officer walks past a destroyed residential building in Ocheretyne. Russian forces have now reportedly entered the village. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images

It comes as Ukraine’s foreign ministry said it was suspending consular services for military-age men living abroad, except for those heading back to Ukraine, in a move designed to increase conscription.

The Ukrainian army retreated from Avdiivka in February and has been trying to establish a new defensive line in settlements along the Durna River but in recent weeks reinforced Russian units have been pushing forward, using air-launched glide bombs to pulverise Ukrainian bunkers.

Moscow’s defence ministry claimed Ukrainian troops fled Ocheretyne in small groups and under heavy fire. Video showed a destroyed administration building, with its windows blown out and streets full of debris. Civilians appeared to have left.

You can read more of the report by Luke Harding and Dan Sabbagh in Kyiv here:

According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), the priest who oversaw a memorial service for late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been suspended for three years by the head of the country’s Orthodox Church.

Dmitry Safronov held a memorial service at Navalny’s gravesite in Moscow on 26 March to mark 40 days since the politician’s death, an important ritual within Russian Orthodox tradition.

The AP reports that an order on the Moscow diocese website demoted Safronov from his position as priest to that of a psalm-reader and stripped him of the right to give blessings or to wear a cassock for the next three years.

According to the news agency, no reason was given for the decision, which was signed by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a key ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

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Nato drills in Finland are ‘provocative’, says Russia’s foreign ministry

Nato exercises starting on 26 April in Finland and in close proximity to the Russian-Finnish border are provocative in nature, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, told RIA state news agency in remarks published on Wednesday.

“Nato military exercises near the Russian borders are provocative in nature. Their task is to exert military pressure on the Russian Federation through a demonstration of force,” Zakharova said, reports Reuters.

“The drills … increase the risks of possible military incidents,” added Zakharova.

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Russia will expand Ukraine ‘buffer zone’ if Kyiv gets longer range missiles, says Kremlin

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia would further expand its “buffer zone” inside Ukraine if Kyiv takes delivery of longer-range Atcams missiles from the US that allow it to strike deeper inside Russia, reports Reuters.

The US is preparing a $1bn military aid package for Ukraine, the first to be sourced from the yet to be signed $95bn foreign aid bill, two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

When asked about the possibility that the package would include longer-range Atcams missiles, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s stance on the subject – that it will be forced to expand what it calls a buffer zone in Ukraine if longer-range missiles are delivered – had not changed.

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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed media speculation about the reasons behind the arrest of deputy defence minister Timur Ivanov on bribery charges, and urged reporters to focus on official information, reports Reuters.

Asked about a report that Ivanov was suspected of treason, Peskov said: “There are many different interpretations around all this now.”

“You need to focus on official information,” Peskov said. “It is necessary to focus on the information of the investigative authorities and, ultimately, on the court’s decision.”

Pjotr Sauer

Pjotr Sauer

Pjotr Sauer is a Russian affairs reporter for the Guardian.

A well-connected Russian deputy defence minister has been charged with bribe-taking, in the highest-profile corruption scandal in the country in years, triggering speculation about a possible purge within Moscow’s elites.

Timur Ivanov, 47, who was responsible for Russia’s military infrastructure projects, was detained by the FSB services late on Tuesday evening at his work.

Detained Russian deputy defence minister Timur Ivanov attends a court hearing in Moscow on Wednesday. Photograph: Moscow City Court/Reuters

On Wednesday, Ivanov, wearing his military uniform, appeared behind a glass cage in a Moscow court, where he was formally arrested and charged with high bribery. The court remanded him in custody for two months and placed him in the high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow. He faces 15 years in jail if convicted.

Ivanov was widely seen as a long-term confidant of the powerful defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, having worked with Shoigu across various agencies for more than a decade.

The sudden arrest of an ally of Shoigu, who in turn Putin tasked with fighting the war in Ukraine, sparked speculations about a battle within the elite and of a public crackdown on the corruption that has plagued Russia’s post-Soviet armed forces.

“It is hard to find an official who has done more for Shoigu than Ivanov,” said a former defence official who worked directly with Ivanov, asking for anonymity so they could speak freely.

“This is an attack on Shoigu’s standing. But Shoigu has weathered other storms before.”

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The UK has been accused of “helping Russia pay for its war on Ukraine” by continuing to import record amounts of refined oil from countries processing Kremlin fossil fuels.

Government data analysed by the environmental news site Desmog shows that imports of refined oil from India, China and Turkey amounted to £2.2bn in 2023, the same record value as the previous year, up from £434.2m in 2021.

Russia is the largest crude oil supplier to India and China, while Turkey has become one of the biggest importers of Russian oil since the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

This comes as Russia is increasingly targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, with only a few major power plants not yet damaged or destroyed. UK politicians have been lobbying the US to approve £60bn in military aid for Ukraine, which finally passed on 20 April. The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, has been advocating for frozen Russian assets to be deployed to Ukraine’s war effort.

In response to the 2022 invasion, allies of Ukraine pledged to divest from Russian oil and gas. The UK officially banned the import of Russian oil products from 5 December 2022. However, a loophole in the legislation has allowed Russian oil to continue to flow into the UK.

You can read the full piece by Sam Bright here:

The Ukrainian online newspaper, the Kyiv Independent, says its sources have told them that Russia’s state-controlled company Rosneft “lost two storage and pumping bases for fuel and lubricants in Yartsevo and Razdorovo in Smolensk oblast” on Wednesday.

Fire engulfs Russian oil deposits in Smolensk region – video

The Kyiv Independent has also shared a screengrab from footage circulating on social media of what was purported to be a burning oil terminal in Yartsevo.

The Guardian could not independently verify the image or footage.

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