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Live: Macron hosts NATO's Stoltenberg for talks in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for talks in Paris on Wednesday ahead of a summit of NATO leaders in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in July. The leaders' meeting came after NATO said on Tuesday it was ready to defend itself against any threat from "Moscow or Minsk", after Belarus welcomed Wagner rebel leader Yevgeny Prigozhin into exile. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for talks in Paris on Wednesday ahead of a summit of NATO leaders in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in July.

Ahead of the talks, Macron and Stoltenberg delivered a joint declaration in front of the Elysee Palace, in which Macron pledged to increase French defence spending by more than 2% of GDP, while Stoltenberg expressed a wish that NATO member countries will consider this as a minimum rather than maximum threshold in the years to come amidst the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Click on the video below to hear the full joint declaration.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday he has called a meeting of senior officials from Turkey, Sweden and Finland on July 6 to try to overcome Turkish objections to Sweden joining the military organisation.

The July 6 pre-summit meeting is a last-ditch effort by Stoltenberg to have the Nordic country standing among NATO's ranks as a member. It would be a highly symbolic moment and another indication of how Russia's war in Ukraine is driving countries to join the Western alliance.

"The time is now to welcome Sweden as a full member of NATO," Stoltenberg told reporters as he announced the date for the meeting. Foreign ministers, intelligence chiefs and security advisers from Turkey, Sweden and Finland, which joined NATO in April, will be taking part in the talks in Brussels.

The presence of Wagner troops in Belarus could pose a potential "threat" to the countries of the region, Polish President Andrzej Duda said Wednesday during a visit to Ukraine.

"It is difficult for us to exclude today that the presence of the Wagner Group in Belarus could pose a potential threat to Poland, which shares a border with Belarus, a threat to Lithuania ... as well as potentially to Latvia," Duda told reporters in Kyiv.

US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that "pariah" Vladimir Putin is "losing" the war in Ukraine, but it is too early to tell whether the Russian president has been weakened by the mercenary Wagner group's aborted rebellion.

"He's clearly losing the war," Biden told reporters at the White House.

3:59pm: African countries can decide for themselves whether they want to keep working with Wagner, says Russia

African countries' leaders should decide for themselves whether they want to continue working with the Russian Wagner mercenary group, Russia's foreign ministry said on Wednesday, after the paramilitary group's brief mutiny.

Wagner fighters advanced on Moscow on Saturday, challenging President Vladimir Putin and seeking the dismissal of top military leaders, before making a deal with the Kremlin that saw Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin leave for Belarus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow was in contact with Washington about the work of their respective embassies, the state news agency RIA reported on Wednesday.

The two countries' embassies have been severely scaled down in recent years as relations have worsened.

Lavrov said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan had got in touch with Moscow.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday Ukraine understood it could not join NATO while war was raging on its soil, but that Kyiv wanted to receive a signal that it can join the military alliance after the war ends.

Reiterating Kyiv's stance before a NATO summit next month, he said Ukraine also wanted security guarantees for the period until it can join the alliance.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday some members of Russia's Wagner mercenary group remained in Ukraine, but the Ukrainian army believed the situation in the northern part of the country was under control.

Poland and Lithuania will do everything they can to ensure that Ukraine becomes a member of NATO as soon as possible, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Wednesday during a visit to Kyiv.

"We will do everything to make this happen as soon as possible," Duda told a press conference. "We are trying to ensure that the decisions made at the (NATO) summit clearly indicate the perspective of membership, we are conducting talks on this issue with our allies."

The death toll rose to 10 on Wednesday from a Russian missile strike on a crowded restaurant in Ukraine's eastern city of Kramatorsk the previous evening.

Police said at least 61 people were wounded in Tuesday's missile strike, which turned the restaurant into a pile of twisted beams.

"As of now, rescuers have recovered the bodies of 10 people from the rubble," Veronika Bakhal, spokeswoman for the Donetsk region emergency services, told Ukrainian television.

Eight people had been rescued alive from the rubble and at least three more were believed to be trapped, she said.

The Swiss Federal Council said on Wednesday that it had rejected a request by Swiss defence firm Ruag for the trade of 96 Leopard 1 A5 main battle tanks for use in Ukraine.

Such a sale would be contrary to the war material act and would entail an adjustment of Switzerland's neutrality policy, the cabinet said.

The Kremlin said Wednesday that Russian forces only hit military-linked targets in Ukraine, after a strike on a restaurant in the eastern city of Kramatorsk killed at least 10 people.

"Strikes are only carried out on objects that are in one way or another linked to military infrastructure," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"The Russian Federation does not carry out strikes on civilian infrastructure," he added.

Polish President Andrzej Duda is in Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his office said on Wednesday.

"The talks with President Zelensky are related to ... the current situation at the front, including the threat of a Russian attack behind the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant," his office wrote on Twitter. "Preparations for the July NATO Summit will also be discussed."

At least three people were killed in Russian shelling of Ukraine's eastern Kharkiv region on Wednesday, the regional governor said.

"Unfortunately, as a result of this shelling, three civilians in the village of Vovchanski Khutory were killed near their homes," governor Oleh Synehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app. He said the victims were men aged 45, 48 and 57.

10:46am: 'The restaurant was absolutely full': FRANCE 24's Catalina Gomez Angel reports from site of deadly Russian strike on Kramatorsk

FRANCE 24 journalist Catalina Gomez Angel was dining at a popular pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, when the building was hit by a Russian missile strike on Tuesday evening.

Nine people were killed in the attack and more than 50 were injured, authorities have said.

"The area is completely destroyed," Gomez Angel said from Kramatorsk. "It's a miracle that anyone survived."

The body of a boy was pulled out of the rubble of a building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on Wednesday, taking the death toll from a Russian missile strike on Tuesday to nine, the city's mayor said.

"Rescuers pulled a boy's body from the rubble," Mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday as search and rescue operations continued. He did not give the boy's age.

Officials also said two girls aged 14 and a girl aged 17 were among the dead.

Ukrainian authorities said 60 people were wounded in the attack, when a missile slammed into a busy restaurant.

Ukraine's counteroffensive is "still in the first phase", with forces trying to identify weaknesses in the Russian front lines, FRANCE 24 correspondent Gwendoline Debono reports from Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine.

Even so, Ukrainian forces have claimed progress on the eastern part of their front line, "especially on the flanks of the city of Bahkmut", Debono said.

Lithuania on Wednesday said it had bought two NASAMS air defence launchers for Ukraine from Norwegian firm Konsberg, adding that the multimillion-euro contract does not include missiles.

"The NASAMS launchers will reach Ukraine in the near future," President Gitanas Nauseda said on Facebook, while Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said the deal was worth €9.8 million.

The probability of Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal in July remains high, although talks continue, Russia's RIA news agency cited an anonymous source as saying on Wednesday.

Moscow has repeatedly complained that it was not getting what it wanted from the deal, which has allowed grain to be shipped out of Ukrainian ports and expires on July 18.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Wednesday to discuss NATO as Ukraine seeks to enter the alliance.

Zelensky on Tuesday stepped up calls for Ukraine to receive a "political invitation" to join NATO at a July 11-12 summit of alliance members in Lithuania.

NATO members are close to agreeing incremental steps to strengthen ties with Ukraine by the Vilnius summit but have yet to resolve differences over how to address Ukraine's desire for membership.

The presidents will discuss "the NATO summit agenda", Ukraine's European Union membership negotiations and European support for Ukraine, Nauseda's office said in a statement.

The death toll has risen to eight from Russia's attack on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, Ukraine's emergency services said on Wednesday, adding that 56 people were injured.

Two Russian missiles struck Kramatorsk on Tuesday, hitting a crowded restaurant in the city centre. Three people were pulled from the rubble, the emergency services added.

"Rescuers are working through the rubble of the destroyed building and searching for people who are probably still under it," emergency services officials said on the Telegram messaging app.

General Sergey Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia's military operations in Ukraine, had advance knowledge that the mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was planning a rebellion against Moscow's defence officials, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper cited US officials briefed on US intelligence regarding the matter, and reported that the officials were "trying to learn if Gen. Sergey Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr. Prigozhin's actions last weekend".

As the fallout unfolded from Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's brief rebellion - widely seen as the biggest threat to Kremlin authority in decades - Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to shore up his authority by thanking regular troops for averting a civil war.

But as Moscow announced preparations to disarm Wagner fighters, jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny launched a stinging attack on the president in his first comments since the aborted rebellion by the paramilitaries.

"There is no bigger threat to Russia than Putin's regime," Navalny said on social media.

"Putin's regime is so dangerous to the country that even its inevitable demise will create the threat of civil war," he wrote.

South Korea on Wednesday announced new sanctions on two individuals and two entities over their alleged involvement in North Korea's weapons programmes, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

The sanctions target Choi Chon Gon, a former South Korean national who acquired Russian citizenship, two companies Choi owns and a North Korean who supported Choi, the ministry said.

Choi is accused of helping North Korea's illegal financial activities in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions after acquiring Russian citizenship.

"It marks the first time our government has imposed unilateral sanctions on an individual of Korean descent," the ministry said in a statement.

Taiwan detected two Russian frigates sailing off its eastern coast on Tuesday and deployed surveillance ships and aircraft to monitor their movements, the island's ministry of national defence said.

The Russian warships were "detected sailing from south to north in the waters off our eastern coast" as of 11pm local time (1500 GMT), it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Taiwan's military monitored their movements and "dispatched aircraft, ships and (activated) shore-based missile systems to keep watch", it added.

The ministry did not say how far the warships were from Taiwan's coast.

The United States will provide Kyiv with a new military package worth up to $500 million, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, in a show of support for Ukraine's fight against Russia as Moscow deals with the aftermath of an aborted rebellion by Wagner mercenary fighters.

The package "includes key capabilities to support Ukraine's counteroffensive operations, strengthen its air defenses ... and other equipment to help Ukraine push back on Russia's war of aggression", the Pentagon said.

"I am sincerely grateful," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Twitter post "for another $500 million defense assistance package. Additional Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, ammunition for HIMARS, Patriots and Stingers will add even more power."

1:18am: Colombian writer, politician and FRANCE 24 journalist in Kramatorsk restaurant hit by Russian strike

Three well-known Colombian figures, including a FRANCE 24 journalist, were dining in the Kramatorsk restaurant hit by a Russian missile strike on Tuesday evening.

Journalist Catalina Gomez Angel has reported as a special envoy in Ukraine for FRANCE 24's Spanish-language service since the Russian invasion in February 2022.

Novelist Hector Abad and politician Sergio Jaramillo were in eastern Ukraine to "express Latin America's solidarity with the Ukrainian people against the barbarism and illegal invasion being carried out by Russia", according to a statement released by the two men on Tuesday.

The three people survived the attack. Jaramillo has a bruised leg while Abad and Gomez Angel escaped unhurt, FRANCE 24 reported.

Key developments from Tuesday, June 27:

A deadly Russian missile strike hit a restaurant in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that General Sergei Surovikin, a top Russian general, had advance knowledge of the rebellion, raising questions of whether elements of Russia's military brass supported the uprising.

NATO is ready to defend itself against any threat from "Moscow or Minsk", alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday, after Belarus welcomed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin into exile. Stoltenberg said NATO would agree to strengthen its defences at a key summit in Lithuania next week in order to protect all members, especially those that border Russia's ally Belarus.

Read yesterday's liveblog to see how all the day's events unfolded.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)