Kyiv: On Saturday, as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez started a visit to Kyiv as a sign of continuing support from Madrid and the European Union for Ukraine's battle to drive out invading Russian forces, Ukrainian officials reported more civilian casualties from Russian shelling in the country's east and south.
In a speech to the Ukrainian parliament that was met with several standing ovations, Sánchez promised, "We'll be with you as long as it takes."
He made the statement on the day Spain assumed the rotating six-month presidency of the 27-nation EU. "I am here to express the firm determination of the European (Union) and Europe against the illegal and unjustified Russian aggression to Ukraine," he said.
Later, during a press conference alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sanchez declared that Spain would send Ukraine additional heavy weapons, including four Leopard tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and a mobile field hospital. He added that Spain will contribute an additional 55 million euros to support the costs of reconstruction.
Regional officials in other parts of Ukraine reported that on Friday and into the night, in the front-line eastern Donetsk region, where fierce battles are raging, at least three civilians were killed and 17 were injured by Russian shelling, according to Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
The Russian General Staff allegedly massed troops and attempted to advance in three areas of Donetsk, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, where fierce clashes reportedly continued. Three cities' peripheries were given names: Bakhmut, Lyman, and Marinka.
According to Oleksandr Prokudin, the regional governor, five people, including a child, were hurt on Friday and overnight in the southern Kherson region. According to Prokudin, Russian forces launched 82 artillery, drone, mortar shell and rocket attacks on the province, which is split in half by a 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) stretch of the front line and is still suffering from flooding brought on by the collapse of a significant Dnipro river dam earlier this month.
A 57-year-old civilian man was hurt in northeastern Kharkiv by Russian shelling the day before, according to governor Oleh Syniehubov. A teenage boy was hurt in a strike from across the Russian border in the Sumy region further west, according to the local military administration.
Sanchez said, in reference to potential peace talks, "Only Ukraine can set the terms and times for peace negotiations. Plans for peace are being proposed by other nations and regions. Although we greatly appreciate their participation, we can't accept them completely.
"There is an aggressor and a victim in this war of aggression. They are ineligible for equal treatment, and breaking the law should never be rewarded. We therefore support President Zelensky's peace proposal.
Zelensky lamented the lack of clarity regarding Western training for Ukrainian fighter pilots during the news conference. Despite their statements of readiness, he claimed that Western allies have not yet established a timeline for pilot training on F-16s made in the US. I believe some partners are holding up this process; I'm not sure why, he said.
Additionally, he reiterated Ukraine's assertion that Russia is ready to detonate a nuclear explosion at the Moscow-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as Ukraine keeps making steady progress along the front line.
"Technically, Russia is prepared to cause a local explosion at the station that could release hazardous substances into the air. We are communicating clearly, and we have talked about the need with our partners so that everyone is aware of why Russia is taking this action, he said.
F-16s could give Ukraine a crucial advantage over Russia, which currently enjoys air superiority, in the conflict.
The Wagner mercenary group's fighters may be housed in the camp, according to statements from a Belarusian guerrilla group and officials, according to satellite images analysed by The Associated Press on Saturday. The camp appeared to have recently been constructed and was located in Belarus.
At a former military base outside of Osipovichi, a town located 230 kilometres (142 miles) north of the Ukrainian border, it appears from the images provided by Planet Labs PLC that dozens of tents have been set up within the previous two weeks. The rows of white and green structures that are clearly visible in an image taken later, on June 30, are not visible in a satellite image taken on June 15.
Following Minsk's assistance in negotiating a settlement to end what appeared to be an armed uprising by the mercenary group, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his fighters were spared prosecution and offered asylum in Belarus last week. The failed uprising saw Wagner troops, who had fought alongside Russian forces in Ukraine, seize a military command centre in southern Russia and advance seemingly unhindered hundreds of kilometres (miles) towards Moscow.
The authoritarian leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, declared that the fighters had been offered a "abandoned military unit" to set up camp, saying that his nation, which is a close and dependent ally of Moscow, could use Wagner's experience and knowledge.
Wagner mercenaries' base of operations is being built close to Osipovichi, according to Aliaksandr Azarau, the head of the anti-Lukashenko BYPOL guerrilla group of former military personnel.
According to a spokesperson for Ukraine's border force, up to 8,000 fighters from Wagner's private military force could be sent to Belarus on Saturday. Andriy Demchenko stated in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper that in response, Ukraine would fortify its 1,084 km (674 mi) border with Belarus.
Previously, Lukashenko permitted the Kremlin to send troops and weapons into Ukraine via Belarusian soil. He has also expressed support for Russia's continued military presence in Belarus, including joint military training exercises and the stationing of some of its tactical nuclear weapons there.
Demchenko stated on Saturday that as of this week, there were still about 2,000 regular Russian army personnel stationed in Belarus.