Ukraine war: Both sides suffering heavy losses, Russia-Iran trade pact, Moscow blocking aid

A Ukrainian soldier of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fires towards Russian positions at the front line near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on June 17, 2023.

Both sides suffering heavy losses – UK MoD

Russia and Ukraine are experiencing high casualties as Kyiv attempts to dislodge Moscow from occupied areas in its counteroffensive, British officials said on Sunday. 

Russian losses are probably at their highest level since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, the UK Ministry of Defence said in its daily assessment. 

The most intense fighting was centred on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province and Bakhmut in the east, according to British intelligence. 

While the update reported Ukraine had “made small advances” in these areas, it said Russian troops were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations”. 

Regional Russia-Iran trade pact possible by year-end

A free trade zone agreement between Iran, Russia and several Eurasian countries is possible by the end of the year, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Monday.

Talks between the Eurasian Economic Union – comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Iran – are in their final stages, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk was quoted as saying by the state-owned media outlet. 

Both Iran and the wider region have taken on extra significance for the Kremlin after Western sanctions over the Ukraine invasion limited its trade, forcing it to look for markets outside of Europe. 

However, despite tighter ties between Moscow and Tehran – centred on large purchases of Iranian-made drones to attack Ukraine – their trade has grown only moderately.

Russia blocks aid to dam victims, claims UN

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine accused Russia on Sunday of obstructing aid deliveries to victims of the Kakhovka dam blast.

The Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, located in an area under Russian control in the Kherson region, was destroyed on 6 June. 

Hundreds of square kilometres were flooded, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and raising fears of both a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe.

UN coordinator Denise Brown claimed Russia was refusing their request to access affected areas, and urged Moscow to honour its obligations under international humanitarian law. 

Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of blowing up the dam.