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Ukraine war briefing: Russia’s foreign earnings to pay for Ukrainian defence

UK expels Russian military officer and shuts diplomatic properties; Ukraine says its drone output matches Russia. What we know on day 806

The EU has reached a deal to arm Ukraine using seized profits from Russia’s frozen assets. EU senior diplomats meeting on Wednesday agreed on using the €4.4bn windfall profits, smoothing over a dispute about taxation and management costs in Belgium where most of the frozen assets are held.

Rajeev Syal writes that an “undeclared” Russian military intelligence officer, named as Col Maxim Elovik, will be expelled from the UK. James Cleverly, the British home secretary, also announced the closure of several Russian diplomatic premises in retaliation for “malign activity” across Britain and Europe. The Russian properties that have had diplomatic status removed include Seacox Heath in Ticehurst, East Sussex, and the Russian embassy’s trade and defence section in Highgate, north London.

The measures come after a suspected arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked business in east London which authorities suspect was organised by the Kremlin, and over which charges have been laid. Russia has denied involvement. In a separate case, six Bulgarian nationals have been charged with conspiring to commit espionage on behalf of Russia in the UK.

Russian missiles and drones struck nearly a dozen Ukrainian energy infrastructure facilities on Wednesday, causing serious damage at three thermal power plants and blackouts in multiple regions, officials said. Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 39 of 55 missiles and 20 of 21 drones. Two people were injured in the Kyiv region and one was hurt in the Kirovohrad region, said the interior minister, Ihor Klymenko. National power grid operator Ukrenergo said it was forced to introduce electricity cuts in nine regions and expanded them nationwide for businesses during the peak evening hours of Wednesday.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy noted the attacks were launched on the day Ukraine marks the end of the second world war. Ukraine’s president singled out what he said was the west’s limited progress in curbing energy revenue to Vladimir Putin’s regime. Fighting Nazism back then, he said, was “when humanity unites, opposes Hitler, instead of buying his oil and coming to his inauguration”.

Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, estimated that more than 800 heating facilities had been damaged and up to 8GW of power generation lost so far, adding the government needed $1bn to fund repair work.

Ukraine said it was producing the same number of deep strike drones as Russia, claiming to have reached parity on a key type of weapon.

Russian forces have taken over the village of Kyslivka in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and the village of Novokalynove in the Donetsk region, Russia’s defence ministry said.

Ukraine’s parliament has passed a bill allowing mobilisation of some categories of convicts but not those convicted of premeditated murder, rape, sexual violence, and crimes against national security.

Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, stressed Berlin’s support for a Ukraine peace summit to be held in Switzerland in mid-June during a phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, a government spokesperson in Berlin said. “They agreed to work towards the broadest possible global participation,” Reuters reported from a statement.

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