The world’s chemical weapons watchdog says it is keeping a close eye on Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, monitoring “threats of use of toxic chemicals as weapons”. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons chief, Fernando Arias, met Ukraine’s parliamentary chairman, Ruslan Stefanchuk, to discuss “the implementation of the chemical weapons convention”, the Hague-based organisation said on Friday.
Russia has demolished 1,300 high-rise buildings in the city of Mariupol without removing dead bodies of residents, according to Vadym Boichenko, mayor of Mariupol. He said cholera and other deadly diseases could kill thousands of people in the southern Ukrainian city as the corpses lie uncollected and summer brings warmer weather.
Ukrainian forces were holding their positions in intense street fighting and under day and night shelling in Sievierodonetsk, officials said. It came amid Ukrainian appeals for more help from the west as Russia pushes to control the key frontline city in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Russia has labelled a non-governmental organisation that fights for investigations into torture allegations as a “foreign agent”. On Friday, the Russian justice ministry updated its website list of blacklisted entities to include the Committee Against Torture, a United Nations-linked human rights treaty body.
Moscow announced its withdrawal on Friday from the UN World Tourism Organisation after it suspended Russia in April as a result of its military invasion of Ukraine. The Russian government said that it “accepted a proposal from the foreign ministry … concerning the withdrawal of Russia” from the organisation, according to a decree signed by the prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin.
Thirty-seven thousand women are in the Ukrainian army and more than 1,000 women have become commanders, the Ukrainian first lady, Olena Zelenskam said on Friday. “Most of our doctors are women, as well as 50% of our entrepreneurs who work to support the economy at war.”
Ihor Zhovka, diplomatic adviser to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said that Ukraine will not “cede an inch” of territory to Russia. Speaking to Bloomberg, Zhovka said, “We are not going to give away territory, we won’t cede an inch – especially not in Donbas. Russia has thrown everything at it – I won’t get tired of saying Ukraine needs immediate supply of heavy weapons.”
Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, appeared on Friday to reject calls from the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, for Serbia to join the European Union in imposing sanctions on Russia. Vučić said he did not believe sanctions were “efficient” and that his country was in a complicated position, given the longstanding special relationship between Serbia and Russia.
A video of one of many mass graveyards in Ukraine has emerged online, Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security under the ministry of culture and information policy tweeted on Friday.
Ukraine has conducted its 11th prisoner swap with Russia since the start of Moscow’s invasion in February, exchanging four Russian captives for five Ukrainians, the Mykolaiv region governor, Vitaliy Kim, wrote on Telegram. Reuters reported him saying one of the freed Ukrainians was a local village head who had been “kidnapped” by Russian forces on 10 March.
Ukraine tried to push back Russian troops in the east and south on Friday as France offered to help ensure access to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa and ease a global grain crisis. An adviser to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said France was ready to assist in an operation to allow safe access to Odessa.