Ukrainian officials say the country's forces have recaptured 193 square kilometers of territory since launching a counteroffensive last month.
Poland, which serves as a hub for military aid to Ukraine, says it detained a 15th member of a Russian spy network. Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said the person "kept surveillance of military facilities and seaports."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that no agreement has been reached on the U.N. brokered Black Sea grain deal set to expire July 17. Russia will not extend the agreement that secures the safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea corridor until its requirements for Russian food and fertilizer exports are fulfilled.
The Pentagon won't say precisely when cluster munitions, promised in an aid package announced Friday, will be delivered to Ukraine, but Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told VOA the cluster munitions will arrive "at a time when they are most needed in the counteroffensive."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said NATO must confirm Ukraine's de facto membership during NATO's two-day summit at Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The security reality here on NATO's eastern flank depends on Ukraine," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. "When we applied to join NATO, we were frank: Ukraine is de facto already in the alliance. Our weapons are the weapons of the alliance. Our values are what the alliance believes in. … Vilnius must confirm all this," he remarked.
NATO members remained divided Monday over Ukraine's potential membership in the military alliance between those in Eastern Europe and in the direct path of Russian aggression backing Ukraine's entrance, and those such as the United States and Germany fearing that a NATO membership for Ukraine before the war ends would drag the whole alliance into the conflict against Russia and potentially spark a global war.
However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had put forward a package that included the removal of a key requirement to Ukraine's entrance into the alliance: The Membership Action Plan (MAP) — a list of political, economic and military goals that other eastern European nations had to meet before joining the alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited NATO's expansion toward Russia's borders over the past two decades as a reason for his decision to send his armed forces into Ukraine in February of 2022.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said NATO has an open-door policy on countries requesting NATO membership.
"Each NATO aspirant has their own path to membership, and the U.S. will always continue to support NATO's open-door policy," Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said in response to a question from VOA.
Turkey – Sweden
Stoltenberg said Monday that Turkey has agreed to back Sweden's bid to join the military alliance. "This is an historic step which makes all #NATO Allies stronger & safer," Stoltenberg posted on Twitter.
In a statement, Biden welcomed Turkey's commitment to NATO's accession protocol for Sweden. "I stand ready to work with President Erdoğan and Türkiye on enhancing defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area. I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister [Ulf] Kristersson and Sweden as our 32nd NATO ally. And I thank Secretary-General Stoltenberg for his steadfast leadership," he said.
Until now, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opposed Sweden's NATO accession over concerns that Stockholm has not taken adequate measures against groups that Turkey considers "terrorists."
Earlier Monday, the Turkish leader had suggested that Sweden could only join the alliance after his country is accepted into the European Union.
Kremlin – Prigozhin
Five days after the short-lived rebellion of Wagner's mercenaries against senior Russian military leadership, mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and several of his top commanders met with Putin and pledged loyalty to the Russian government, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.
Peskov said the three-hour meeting included Putin giving his assessment "of the events of June 24," the date of the rebellion, and listening to the commanders giving their account of what happened.
Recent online videos and witness accounts added yet another twist to the aborted mutiny saga alleging that during Wagner's march to Moscow on June 24, some Wagner forces broke off the main contingent and turned east on a highway in the direction of a fortified Russian army base that holds nuclear weapons. So far, there is no evidence to suggest the fighters entered a nuclear facility.
In a Reuters exclusive interview, Ukraine's head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, said the mercenaries reached the nuclear base intending to acquire small Soviet-era nuclear devices to "raise the stakes" in their mutiny.
Reuters could not confirm the information. Western officials have repeatedly said that Russia's nuclear stockpile was never in danger during the uprising, which ended quickly and mysteriously later that day.
Officials in southern Ukraine said Monday that Russian shelling hit a humanitarian aid hub in Orikhiv, a small town in the Zaporizhzhia region, killing at least four people and injuring 11 others.
Yuriy Malashko, the regional governor, said on Telegram that Russian forces used a guided bomb to strike the site in a residential neighborhood and that all four of those killed died at the scene of the attack.
Russia has been accused of striking numerous civilian targets during its invasion that began in February 2022, while denying it targets civilian sites. (VOA/NJ)