The NATO summit in Madrid, which saw the alliance redefine its strategic concept to clearly identify Russia as a threat to its members, drew to a close on Thursday with its leaders underlining the importance . Meanwhile, Russian forces withdrew from Ukraine's Snake Island, a strategic outpost in the Black Sea. Follow our live blog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time, GMT+2.
1:24pm: Macron says France will soon deliver more CESAR guns to Ukraine
French President Emmanuel Macron told the NATO summit in Spain that France would soon deliver six more CESAR guns to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia during closing remarks.
1:20pm: Greece has offered ships to export grain from blocked Ukrainian ports, Stoltenberg says
Greece is willing to provide ships to help export grain from Ukraine's Black Sea ports that have been blocked by Russia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.
1:14pm: Sweden, Finland to sign NATO accession protocol on Tuesday, Stoltenberg says
Sweden and Finland will sign on Tuesday the NATO accession protocol to formally join the alliance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
The accession protocol must then be ratified by all 30 allied parliaments to allow both countries to become part of NATO and benefit from the alliance's collective defence clause.
12:02pm: Russia says it has over 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war
Russia says over 6,000 Ukrainian servicemen have been captured or surrendered, RIA news agency cited the defence ministry as saying on Thursday.
The ministry said the exchange of 144 prisoners of war with Ukraine, announced on Wednesday by Ukrainian intelligence, was organised by direct order of President Vladimir Putin, RIA cited the ministry as saying.
10:55am: Russia withdraws from Ukraine's Snake Island
Russia announced Thursday it was pulling its forces from Ukraine's Snake Island, calling it a "goodwill gesture" to allow Kyiv to export agricultural products.
"On June 30, as a gesture of goodwill, the Russian armed forces completed their tasks on Snake Island and withdrew a garrison stationed there," the defence ministry said in a statement.
The head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office, Andriy Yermak, confirmed that Russian forces had withdrawn from Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost.
10:45am: Sweden to send more anti-tank weapons to Ukraine
The arms package, which also includes equipment for mine clearing, is valued at around 500 million Swedish crowns ($49 million), it added.
7:11am: Amnesty says Russia behind 'war crime' bombing of Mariupol theatre
A theatre sheltering civilians destroyed in March in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol was likely hit by a Russian airstrike in a war crime, Amnesty International said in a report published Thursday.
"Until now, we were speaking about an alleged war crime. Now we can clearly say it was one, committed by the Russian armed forces," Oksana Pokalchuk, head of Amnesty's Ukraine branch, told AFP.
"These explosions were caused by something really big: two 500-kilogramme (1,100-pound) bombs" dropped from a plane, she added, dismissing Russian claims that the theatre was hit in a false-flag attack by the city's Ukrainian defenders.
4:20am: US disburses $1.3 bn of promised aid to Ukraine
"With this delivery of economic assistance, we reaffirm our resolute commitment to the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Putin's war of aggression and work to sustain their economy," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The payment, part of the $7.5 billion aid package signed by President Joe Biden in May, is set to be made through the World Bank.
According to World Bank estimates, the war, which began with Russia's invasion of its former Soviet neighbor in February, could cause the Ukrainian economy to contract by up to 45 percent in 2022.
The country is currently running a budget deficit that is growing by $5 billion every month, exacerbated by its inability to raise funds or to access financing on external markets.
Allies have rushed to pump Ukraine with aid, with the G7 and the European Union also announcing commitments of $29.6 billion in further money for Kyiv, with $8.5 billion of that coming from the United States, according to the Treasury Department.
Washington already disbursed two payments of $500 million of that through the World Bank in April and May to help cover Ukraine's immediate costs as it dealt with "Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion", the Treasury said.
Washington has already supplied Kyiv with more than $6 billion in military equipment since Russia's invasion.
12:30am: If Putin was a woman, there would be no Ukraine war, says UK's Johnson
"If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn't, but if he were, I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has," Johnson told German broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.
Putin's invasion of Ukraine is "a perfect example of toxic masculinity", he said, calling for better education for girls around the world and for "more women in positions of power".
Putin, speaking in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat, dismissed Johnson's comments as "incorrect".
"I'd like to point to events in modern history when (former British prime minister) Margaret Thatcher decided to launch an offensive against Argentina for control of the Falkland Islands" in 1982, he said.
"There, a woman decided to start a war," which ended in British victory the same year, the Russian leader said.
11:30pm: Britain unveils Pound 1 bn of new military aid for Ukraine
The fresh funds will bring Britain's total military support to Kyiv since the start of the war in late February to Pound 2.3 billion, Downing Street said in a statement.
The package includes "sophisticated air-defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, innovative new electronic warfare equipment and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers," it said.
This will be a "first step" to allow Ukraine to go beyond its "valiant defence" efforts and move towards "mounting offensive operations" to regain territory.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin's attacks against Ukraine were "increasingly barbaric" as the Russian leader "fails to make the gains he had anticipated and hoped for and the futility of this war becomes clear to all.
"UK weapons, equipment and training are transforming Ukraine's defences against this onslaught," the statement quoted him as saying.
"And we will continue to stand squarely behind the Ukrainian people to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)