June 30 (Reuters) – Russian forces have withdrawn from Snake Island in the Black Sea in a move Ukraine hailed as a victory and Russia said showed Moscow was not seeking to hinder UN efforts to organise a corridor for the export of Ukrainian agricultural produce.
* Russian forces withdrew from Snake Island in the Black Sea as a “gesture of goodwill”, Russia’s defence ministry said.
* A first cargo ship has left the Russian-occupied Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, a local official said, after Russia said the port had been de-mined and was ready to resume grain shipments.
* Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces destroyed a Ukrainian military control centre near the city of Dnipro in a missile strike.
* “There is no let-up,”,” said the governor of the eastern Luhansk region, much of which is now in Russian hands. The Russians are taking the city of Lysychansk building by building, he said, as they did before in nearby Sievierodonetsk.
* Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.
* Ukraine carried out its biggest exchange of prisoners of war since Russia invaded, securing the release of 144 of its soldiers, including 95 who defended Mariupol’s steelworks, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said.
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* Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said NATO could intervene in Mali if needed, after the alliance’s summit in Madrid mentioned terrorism among the “hybrid threats” that hostile powers can use to undermine its stability. Albares has previously flagged the presence of a Russian military contractor in Mali as potentially destabilising.
* Trade through Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad could return to normal within days, two sources familiar with the matter said, as European officials edge towards a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow.
* Norway is not blocking Russian access to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, only applying international sanctions, and Russia has other means to reach its settlements, the Nordic country’s foreign minister told Reuters.
* NATO agreed to modernize “heroic” Ukraine’s military and Britain said it would provide another 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) of military support, including air defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles and new electronic warfare equipment
* In reaction to NATO’s invitation to Finland and Sweden to join, Putin said Russia would respond in kind if the alliance deployed troops and infrastructure in the Nordic nations.
* “My combat experience here was that one mission on that one day,” said Alexander Drueke, former U.S. soldier captured in eastern Ukraine. “I didn’t fire a shot. I would hope that would play a factor in whatever sentence I do or don’t receive.”
(Compiled by Lincoln Feast and Frank Jack Daniel)