9М723 missiles, part of Iskander-M missile complex, are seen during a demonstration at the International military-technical forum ARMY-2019 at Alabino range in Moscow Region, Russia June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there has been no progress in the dispute over Sweden’s NATO membership. A phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson was unsuccessful, the Turkish President’s Office said on Saturday, a few days before the start of the NATO summit in Madrid.

In the phone call, Erdogan reiterated that Sweden “must take action on issues as important as the fight against terrorism,” the presidential office said. He therefore called for “concrete and clear measures” in response to Turkey’s demands.

In May, under the impact of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Sweden and Finland gave up their decades-long military neutrality and both applied for NATO membership. All 30 member states must agree to a country joining NATO – Turkey is threatening to veto it.

After weeks of fighting, the strategically important city of Sieverodonetsk in eastern Ukraine is now completely in the hands of the Russian army, according to its mayor. The city is “completely occupied” by the Russian armed forces, Mayor Oleksandr Strjuk said on Ukrainian television on Saturday. On Friday, the Ukrainian authorities announced the withdrawal of the Ukrainian army from the city. (AFP)

In eastern Ukraine, troops loyal to the government have largely withdrawn from the heavily contested city of Sieverodonetsk. They have taken different positions, Mayor Oleksandr Strjuk said on Saturday, according to the Ukrainian news site 24tv. He did not give numbers or details. The troops had left the chemical plant “Azot”. There were still civilians there.

The Ukrainian army had ordered its withdrawal from the city on Friday. This should take a few days. Sievjerodonetsk has so far been one of the last parts of Luhansk that has not yet been conquered by Russian and pro-Russian fighters.

Several thousand people still live in the city today. According to the pro-Russian separatists, more than 800 civilians have now left the chemical plant. Recently, there have been different reports as to how many people have sought protection from the attacks in the factory. (dpa)

The ground offensive of the Russian troops in eastern Ukraine is accompanied by violent rocket attacks – with probably hundreds of fatalities within one day alone. The city of Lysychansk is considered the next strategic target.

In the bitter battle for eastern Ukraine, Russian troops say they killed almost 800 enemy soldiers within 24 hours – including 80 volunteer fighters from Poland. The “mercenaries” were liquidated by a rocket attack on a zinc plant in the city of Kostyantynivka, the Defense Ministry said in Moscow on Saturday.

A rocket attack on Mykolaiv in the south killed about 300 soldiers. The government in Kyiv also reported heavy shelling in many areas. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wife compared the Russian troops to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia and accused them of sex crimes. (dpa)

Russian authorities have removed the Polish flag from the memorial in Katyn commemorating the murder of thousands of Polish military personnel on Stalin’s orders. The mayor of the western Russian city of Smolensk, Andrei Borisov, wrote that there could be no Polish flag on Russian monuments, “especially not after the openly anti-Russian statements made by Polish officials.”

Tensions between Moscow and Warsaw have escalated since the start of the Russian offensive against Ukraine at the end of February. NATO member Poland supports Ukraine, among other things, with arms deliveries. (AFP)

According to Ukraine, Russia has hit targets in all parts of the country under heavy fire. “48 cruise missiles. At night. All over Ukraine,” wrote one of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s advisers, Mykhailo Podoliak, on Twitter on Saturday. “Russia continues to try to intimidate Ukraine, create panic and scare people.” There was initially no comment from the Russian side.

In eastern Ukraine, local troops continued to come under Russian fire as they retreated from the fiercely contested town of Sieverodonetsk in the Luhansk region.

From the north, Ukraine reported rocket attacks near the cities of Zhytomyr, Chernihiv and Kharkiv on Saturday. Russian forces fired nearly 30 rockets at a military infrastructure facility near Zhytomyr, Governor Vitaly Bunechko said. Almost ten missiles were intercepted and destroyed.

According to Ukrainian sources, four people were injured in a Russian rocket attack on a military installation in Yavoriv in western Ukraine. Russian forces fired six missiles from the Black Sea, Lviv region governor Maxym Kosytskyi said in a video message. (Reuters)

Ukraine reports military successes with US-supplied Himars missile systems. The armed forces hit targets of the Russian military on Ukrainian territory, writes the supreme commander of the Ukrainian armed forces, Valery Salushny, on the short message service Telegram. (Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is confident that his country under attack from Russia will meet the criteria for EU membership. Ukraine is now concentrating on EU requirements, the head of state said in his evening video address. “But does that scare us? no Because we have successfully completed hundreds before that.” The criteria for accession include the rule of law, the fight against corruption, guarantees of fundamental rights and a functioning market economy.

Zelenskyy called on his compatriots to be happy about the decision of the EU summit to give Ukraine the status of a candidate country. He compared the path to membership to climbing Mount Everest. Anyone who talks about how difficult the further route will be in the last 1848 meters devalues ​​his success in having already conquered the mountain at 7000 meters.

Ukraine has acquired candidate status, Zelenskyy said. “It didn’t fall from the sky. Ukraine has done a lot for this.” (dpa)