Ukraine round-up: 'Massive' shelling and playing dead to survive

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Market blaze, Slovyansk, 5 Jul 22Image source, AFP
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Market blaze: Slovyansk is under Russian fire as the frontline approaches

Russian shelling set fire to the central market in Ukraine's eastern city of Slovyansk on Tuesday, killing at least two people and injuring seven, local officials said.

Mayor Vadym Lyakh said the city was being hit by massive Russian shelling after Ukrainian troops pulled out of nearby Lysychansk.

Russia is seeking to control all of the eastern industrial Donbas area, claiming falsely that Russian speakers in the region have been the victims of genocide and need to be "liberated" from Ukrainian authorities.

The city of Slovyansk holds a symbolic significance in the battle for Donbas - in 2014 it became the first Ukrainian city to come under the control of the pro-Russian separatists of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic.

Ukrainian forces managed to push them back out of the city exactly eight years ago.

Turkish pressure on Nato over Nordic move

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The foreign ministers of Finland (L) and Sweden (R) signed off on Nato accession in Brussels

Nato has formally launched the process to ratify Finland and Sweden as members, but Turkey expects them to co-operate in handing over alleged "terrorists" living in the Nordic countries.

That co-operation was a condition for Turkey - strategically key for Nato in the Black Sea region - to lift its veto on their membership bids.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine spurred Finland and Sweden to join the 30-nation alliance, and the agreement signed on Tuesday brings them into Nato meetings and intelligence-sharing.

Nato sees the modern, well-equipped forces of Finland and Sweden as valuable new allies in the Baltic and Arctic, faced with Russia's hostile stance.

But Turkey has threatened to veto the two new members, demanding the extradition of more than 70 individuals with alleged terror links.

The BBC has spoken to three of the people sought by Turkey, who deny the Turkish allegations. Their cases and the implications for Nato are examined in full here.

Survivor lived by playing dead

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Ivan Skyba is now in Poland

Ivan Skyba is a man who came back from the dead - a survivor of Russian brutality in Bucha, just north of Kyiv.

The taxi driver and father of four was wounded but managed to lie still among dead Ukrainian comrades shot by Russian troops.

Later he found shelter in Poland, where he spoke to the BBC's Fergal Keane, describing the horrific ordeal suffered by Bucha's defenders.

Mr Skyba still feels the terror at night. "You wake up because you are anticipating that shot in your head. I have this feeling. It comes like a wave."

Ukraine has condemned Russia's actions in Bucha as war crimes, and is collecting evidence there.

Basketball star's plea to Biden

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Brittney Griner, the American basketball star detained in Russia, has written to US President Joe Biden pleading for help.

Ms Griner has been held for over four months on what Russia says are drug charges.

In the letter, which arrived on Monday, she wrote about her fear that she might never return to US soil.

While there is no indication that Ms Griner's arrest was connected to the invasion of Ukraine, some US officials have indicated that strained US-Russian relations may jeopardise her safe return.

Top maths award for Ukrainian

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Ms Viazovska (R) has been based in Lausanne since 2017

A Ukrainian mathematician, Prof Maryna Viazovska, has become only the second woman to receive the prestigious Fields Medal.

Often regarded as the Nobel Prize for mathematics, she won for her work on a 400-year-old puzzle about how best to pack spheres.

The 37-year-old is an academic in Lausanne, Switzerland. At the ceremony in Helsinki she expressed pain over the war in Ukraine, saying "Ukrainians are really paying the highest price for our beliefs and our freedom".

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