Russia-Ukraine war: EU warns Moscow could halt gas supply; ratification of Sweden and Finland joining Nato fast-tracked by UK – live

Europe must prepare for complete cut-off of Russian gas, says Ursula von der Leyen

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the EU needs to make emergency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas.

The EU chief accused Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, of using energy as a weapon in an address to lawmakers in Strasbourg today.

The commission is working on a “European emergency plan” with the first proposals to be presented by the middle of the month, she said.

Von der Leyen said:

If worst comes to worst, then we have to be prepared.

She stressed the importance of having a European overview and coordinated approach “to a potential complete cut-off of Russian gas”.

Putin continues to use energy as a weapon.

12 Member States are affected by gas supply reductions.
We need coordination at EU level: @EU_Commission will soon present a 🇪🇺 emergency plan.
We will work to protect our Single Market and industrial supply chains from disruptions.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) July 6, 2022

Key events:

Ukraine: firefighters tackle huge blaze after Russian attack on Mykolaiv – video

Some more lines from Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Alexei Zaitsev, who said US basketball player Brittney Griner may appeal her sentence or apply for clemency once a verdict has been delivered.

Griner, one of America’s most decorated women’s basketball players, was detained by Russian authorities in February after it said it discovered vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.

Zaitsev said in a briefing:

The court must first deliver its verdict, but no one is stopping Brittney Griner from making use of the appeal procedure, and likewise asking for clemency.

He added that “attempts to present the case as though the American woman was illegally detained do not stand up to criticism”.

Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow
Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Griner made a direct appeal to US president Joe Biden for her freedom in a handwritten letter that was delivered to the White House on Monday, according to her representatives.

“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” an excerpt shared by Griner’s representatives with the Guardian said. “I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.”

Latvia to reinstate compulsory military service as Russia tensions rise

Latvia is to reinstate compulsory military service amid growing tension with Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The current military system of Latvia has reached its limit. Meanwhile, we have no reason to think that Russia will change its behaviour,” the Latvian defence minister, Artis Pabriks, told reporters on Tuesday.

Latvia had scrapped mandatory service a few years after joining the Nato military alliance. Since 2007, the EU member’s military has consisted of career soldiers along with National Guard volunteers who serve in the infantry part-time at weekends.

The country of under 2 million people, which borders Belarus and Russia, has only 7,500 active-duty soldiers and National Guard members, backed by 1,500 Nato troops.

Russia says Turkey has not seized ship carrying ‘stolen Ukrainian grain’

Russia has denied reports that a Russian-flagged ship is being held and investigated by Turkish authorities in the Black Sea port of Karasu over claims its cargo was stolen from Ukraine.

Turkish customs officials acted after Kyiv claimed the Zhibek Zholy was illegally transporting 7,000 tonnes of grain out of Russian-occupied Berdiansk, a Ukrainian port in the south-east of the country.

Officials in Karasu said the ship was waiting off port while inquiries were undertaken into the provenance of the shipment.

But Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Alexei Zaitsev, told reporters today that the ship was “undergoing standard procedures”.

The Zhibek Zholy, anchored off the Black Sea port of Karasu.
The Zhibek Zholy, anchored off the Black Sea port of Karasu. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed that the ship was Russian-flagged, while appearing to muddy the waters while claiming the Kremlin was seeking clarity.

Kyiv has accused Russia of stealing grain from occupied Ukrainian territory to sell on the international markets. The country’s grain exports are responsible for almost 15% of the world’s total.

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here again to bring you all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin has witnessed the devastation inflicted by Russian forces in the war-scarred suburbs of Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin while on a visit to Ukraine to reiterate his country’s solidarity with Kyiv.

Martin began his visit today with a trip to Borodianka, where he met the town’s mayor and viewed apartment blocks gutted by fire during the Russian shelling.

Taoiseach Michael Martin with local officials viewing the damage to the Borodianka area of Kyiv.
Taoiseach Michael Martin with local officials viewing the damage to the Borodianka area of Kyiv. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

From there, he visited the site of a mass grave in Bucha on the grounds of the church of St Andrew before travelling to nearby Irpin.

After viewing the war-scarred suburbs of Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin, Martin tweeted that it was “difficult to comprehend the devastation and inhumanity of Russia’s attacks” during its invasion of Ukraine.

It is difficult to comprehend the devastation and inhumanity of Russia’s attacks on Irpin, Borodyanka and Bucha.

Clear how important it is for women and children to get to Ireland to escape trauma and brutality. We stand with Ukraine 🇺🇦

— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) July 6, 2022

Martin is due to discuss how Ireland and the EU can support Ukraine in meetings later today.

He will restate Ireland’s full backing for continuing sanctions against Russia and for Ukraine’s path to full EU membership.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Kyiv, Martin said Ireland would continue to welcome and support civilians fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Martin said:

The people of Ireland stand with Ukraine and its people in the face of Russia’s immoral and unprovoked war of terror.

The bombardment and attacks on civilians are nothing short of war crimes, and I will use my visit to express Ireland’s support for moves to hold those behind these attacks fully accountable.

Alex Lawson

Alex Lawson

The Norwegian government has stepped in to end a strike that had threatened supplies of gas to Britain.

The labour dispute had shut down oil and gasfields and was expected to cut Norway’s gas supplies by almost 60% by the weekend.

Gassco, Oslo’s state-owned pipeline operator, had even warned that “in a worst-case scenario, deliveries to the UK could stop totally”.

Workers demanded a pay increase to handle rising inflation, which has been triggered in part by a jump in oil and gas prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The labour dispute had shut down oilfields and gasfields.
The labour dispute had shut down oilfields and gasfields. Photograph: Carina Johansen/NTB Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

However, the Norwegian government has the power to intervene to end industrial disputes. The country’s labour minister, Marte Mjøs Persen, said: “When the conflict can have such great social consequences for the whole of Europe, I have no choice but to intervene in the conflict.”

Gas prices had soared in recent days as the strike action threatened to exacerbate the existing supply crunch, but their rally was halted on Wednesday after the announcement.

European nations have been scrambling to fill their gas storage sites before the winter for fear that Russia will cut off supplies altogether.

Britain sources about a third of its gas from Norway and the remainder from a combination of the North Sea, other parts of Europe and imports of liquefied natural gas from the rest of the world, including the US.

Germany is far more reliant on Russian gas and fears are growing over the knock-on effect of Russia reducing gas supplies. The key Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia into Germany is also scheduled for maintenance from 11-21 July.

Read the full article by Alex Lawson here.


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