Ukraine war latest: US has key to ending conflict, Kremlin claims … – Sky News

UN’s nuclear watchdog records several explosions near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Yet Russia denies any blasts happened, telling officials to check their information is not based on a “rumour”. You can listen to our latest episode of Ukraine War Diaries below as you scroll.
The European Union (EU) has extended its economic sanctions against Russia until 31 July, the council of the EU has said. 
Russia’s defence ministry has admitted to carrying out “massive missile strikes” on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure – and claimed it was to stop the supply of Western weapons.
According to Russian state news agency RIA, the ministry said the attack prevented weapons, including those sent from NATO, from being supplied to Ukraine’s frontline. 
The strikes took place over the last 24 hours, and the ministry said they also hit “Ukrainian defence industry targets”. 
The news comes after Ukraine’s state-run energy operator Ukrenergo said the country’s power network suffered “significant damage” following a “mass” Russian missile attack on Thursday. 
A police officer has been identified as a victim of a “massive rocket attack” on a logistics centre in southeastern Ukraine. 
Maksym Zdorevsky had been working to organise humanitarian convoys in the city of Zaporizhzhia back in September when the area was struck by a Russian missile, the National Police of Ukraine has claimed.
“That day, the Russian army fired S-300 missiles at a convoy of cars leaving for the temporarily occupied territory through a filtration camp near Zaporizhzhia,” it said in a statement. 
“One of the launched enemy missiles ended the life of a policeman.” 
It described the father-of-two as “very responsible”, adding: “He always walked in the first ranks, any task was within his power.” 
Serving in the police for 16 years, he served in the Ukraine war from the day Russian forces invaded, performing official tasks at checkpoints. 
“Smiling, always ready to lend a friendly shoulder, hard-working and reliable – this is how Maksym will be remembered by his colleagues, friends and family,” the National Police added. 
He was posthumously awarded the rank of lieutenant colonel of the police for his service. 
 Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin has reacted rather sarcastically to news that the US will impose fresh sanctions against his Wagner private military group. 
Yesterday, the United States designated Wagner, which is fighting on the Russian side in some of the most intense battles of the Ukraine war, as a transnational criminal organisation responsible for widespread human rights abuses. 
In a statement via his press service, Mr Prigozhin said: “We conducted an internal check on the subject of the Wagner group’s crimes, but found nothing damaging.
“If anybody has any information about Wagner’s crimes, please send it to our press service or publish it in the media, so we can help our American colleagues formulate their position.” 
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was not the first time Washington had “demonised” the group.
“This has been going on for many years. As a rule, such statements from Washington are unfounded.” 
After years spent operating in the shadows and denying his links to Wagner,  in September, Mr Prigozhin acknowledged he had founded the organisation, which has also dispatched soldiers to fight in Syria and in conflicts across Africa.
In recent months, he has emerged as one of the key Russian figures in the war in Ukraine, clashing publicly with the defence ministry and army generals over Russia’s faltering campaign strategy. 
Novak Djokovic’s father has insisted he was unwittingly caught up in a pro-Russian demonstration at the Australian Open. 
A video on a Russian activist’s YouTube channel emerged on Thursday, showing Srdjan Djokovic standing with a man holding a Russian flag with Vladimir Putin’s face on it, while wearing a t-shit bearing the Z symbol that demonstrates support for the war in Ukraine.
In a statement released by the tennis star’s representatives, Mr Djokovic senior said: “I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption.
“I was outside with Novak’s fans, as I have done after all of my son’s matches to celebrate his wins and take pictures with them. I had no intention of being caught up in this.
He added that he has decided not to attend his son’s semi-final against Tommy Paul. 
“My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace. So there is no disruption to tonight’s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home,” the statement continued. 
Ukraine’s power network has suffered “significant damage” following a “mass” Russian missile attack, the country’s state-run energy operator has said. 
While the amount of electricity being used has remained at the same level across the country, Ukrenergo said there is now a shortage of power in the energy system.
“The recovery of the power grid becomes harder, and lasts longer, after every Russian attack,” the company said in a statement posted on Facebook.
It noted that Ukraine had now suffered 13 missile attacks and 15 drone attacks on its energy facilities.
It comes after Russia launched 70 missiles at Ukraine yesterday, 47 of which the Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed were intercepted. d. 
Earlier, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the main targets were energy facilities.  
Ukraine has warned it could boycott the Olympic Games if Russia and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete next year. 
In a Facebook post, the country’s sports minister Vadim Guttsait said plans by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to look at ways for those athletes to return to competition would be opposed. 
“Our position is unchanged: as long as there is a war in Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be in international competitions,” said. 
“If we are not heard, I do not rule out the possibility that we will boycott and refuse participation in the Olympics.”
The 2024 Olympics is being held in Paris, France. 
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many sports organisations have moved events and suspended Russian teams or athletes, while sponsors have ended contracts in protests against the war.
Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned in some sports, while they are allowed to compete under a neutral flag in others.
Throughout this conflict, a number of prisoners of war exchanges have taken place, but now they have become a rare intersection of mutual interest for Ukraine and Russia. 
In an eye-opening piece by the Washington Post, reporters have been given access to a prisoner of war centre in Ukraine. 
Inside, they found captives from Russia, as well as Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. 
Walking with their hands behind their backs and their heads down, the prisoners were not handcuffed. 
Staff inside the centre told the Post it’s like a revolving door, with new people coming in every week, and others leaving to be exchanged, so they can return to the frontline. 
One prisoner said: “I don’t want to fight, but if they tell me to again, then so be it.” 
US President Joe Biden has the key to ending the war in Ukraine – but it’s not willing to use it, according to the Kremlin. 
Speaking to reporters this morning, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the US could end the conflict quickly if it wanted to by “directing Kyiv” to settle. 
“The key to the Kyiv regime is largely in the hands of Washington,” he said. 

However, the country is “pumping weapons into Ukraine” instead,” he added. 
Moscow has previously accused Ukraine of taking orders from Washington and claims that the US is prolonging the conflict by supplying Kyiv with weapons. 
But the US has argued that Moscow unleashed the war, and it can only end if Russia withdraws its troops. 
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