Live: Fighting rages in Donbas, Russian forces appear stalled

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Russian forces appeared to be stalled in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region despite "significant efforts" in the Izium and Severodonetsk areas to make a breakthrough to Kramatorsk, the major city in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the coal basin. Follow FRANCE 24's live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

9:15am: Erdogan’s ‘opportunistic’ opposition to Finland, Sweden NATO bid

Reporting from Ankara, FRANCE 24’s Jasper Mortimer says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expressed opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO “appears to be opportunistic”.

Erdogan on Friday accused Finland and Sweden of harbouring “terrorist organisations” and said Turkey did not have a “positive opinion” on the Nordic nations’ NATO membership bid.

Mortimer explains that the “terrorist organisations” Erdogan referred to appeared to be the Kurdish PKK and DHDKP-C groups, and the Gulenists, a group accused of masterminding a failed 2016 coup attempt. “These groups are present in other European countries as well,” explained Mortimer. “Erdogan’s picking on Finland and Sweden appears to be opportunistic. I think what’s going on here is Erdogan is saying a big “no” in order to gain concessions, to get the governments in Helsinki and Stockholm to promise to crack down on the PKK.”

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8:05am: Moscow-administered Kherson to ask to be included in Russia: UK

The Russian-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine's Kherson region said it will ask Russia to include it in the Russian federation, according to the British defence ministry.

If Russia carries out an accession referendum in Kherson, it will almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority in favour of leaving Ukraine, Britain said in a regular Twitter bulletin.

7:43am: Duma deputy head visits Ukraine's Russian-occupied Kherson: reports

Senior Russian lawmaker Anna Kuznetsova visited the Russian-occupied region of Kherson in Ukraine to discuss social and healthcare needs of the local population, the state RIA news agency reported on Saturday.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

Kherson is the first region set to be annexed after Moscow said in April it had gained full control of the region, which has seen sporadic anti-Russian protests.

Kuznetsova, deputy head of Russia's Duma or lower house of parliament, discussed the supply of foodstuffs as well as medical and other products needed for children, RIA reported.

4:33am: Heavy fighting in Donbas region

Intense fighting is raging in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, according to a local officials.

"There is heavy fighting on the border with the Donetsk region, near Popasna," said Lugansk regional governor Sergei Gaidai in a Facebook post late Friday. There were heavy losses in personnel and equipment on the Russian side, he added.

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Friday said Ukrainian forces had "successfully" repelled a Russian attempt to cross the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severodonetsk.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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