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June 14, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Putin unveils imperialist mission: Taking back land he says is Russia's
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What we covered

  • Russian forces are now in control of most of Severodonetsk, the epicenter of the bloody battle for Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, but Ukrainian lines to the city do not yet appear to be totally cut.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia would “go further” than his country’s eastern Donbas region if given the chance, as he appealed for more weaponry from Western nations.
  • Amnesty International has accused Russia of war crimes during its efforts to capture the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, documenting the alleged use of cluster munitions and other indiscriminate means of attack.
  • A ship carrying 18,000 tons of Ukrainian corn arrived Monday at a port in Spain, using what a regional animal feed producers group described as a “new maritime route” that aims to avoid Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports.
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23 Posts

Zelensky says painful losses continue in Severodonetsk and Kharkiv region

Smoke rises from the city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 13.

Fierce fighting continues in Severodonetsk and the Kharkiv region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a video address on Tuesday.

In Severodonetsk “the losses, unfortunately, are painful,” Zelensky said, “But we have to hold on.” He went on to say how it is vital for the Ukrainian military to stay in Donbas. 

Ukraine’s president also spoke about how “painful losses” have taken place in the Kharkiv region where the Russian army is trying to strengthen its position.

“Fighting for this direction continues, and we still have to fight hard to fight for complete security for Kharkiv and the region,” Zelensky said. 

Fierce battles are occurring in Izium, to the south of Kharkiv, according to local official Maksym Strelnyk.

Strelnyk, the deputy of Izium’s city council, tells CNN that Russian forces are trying to move in the direction of Sloviansk and Barvinkove. 

Ukrainian Armed Forces have been able to liberate some settlements on the outskirts of Izium with counterattacks. Strelnyk estimates 15,000 civilians remain in Izium and the city lacks electricity, water, gas, mobile communications and internet. According to the official, about 80% of the infrastructure has been destroyed in Izium.

Ukrainian president pleads for anti-missile weapon systems

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country does not have a sufficient amount of modern anti-missile weapon systems and the procrastination in obtaining them cannot be justified.

In a video address on Tuesday, Zelensky pleaded for Ukraine’s partners to provide modern anti-missile weapons and said this week there will be many important talks with not just European politicians who are able to provide Ukraine with modern anti-missile system.

“Even though there are fewer and fewer modern missiles in Russia with each passing day, Ukraine’s need for such systems remains. Because Russia still has enough Soviet types of missiles, which are even more dangerous. They are many times less accurate, and therefore many times more threatening civilian objects and ordinary residential buildings,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine received 10% of military assistance requested from Western partners, deputy defense minister says

Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine Hanna Maliar holds a briefing in Kyiv on June 2.

Ukraine has received only 10% of military assistance requested from Western partners, according to the country’s deputy defense minister.

Speaking in televised remarks, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said “Whatever efforts we put, no matter how professional our army is, without the assistance of our Western partners Ukraine will not be able to win this war.”

Earlier today CNN reported the US expects more announcements of weapons and equipment packages to Ukraine during a key meeting of nearly 50 countries known as the Ukraine Contact Group on Wednesday, according to a senior US defense official.  

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia is gaining ground in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, specifically in the city of Severodonestk, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting recently. Without an influx of more weapons, some Ukrainian officials have said it will be increasingly difficult to halt Russia’s incremental progress or reclaim occupied ground in the region. 

“We hear what they’re saying, we absolutely hear what they’re saying,” said the senior defense official, who spoke of the “urgency” of the group’s meeting in Brussels. 

The official would not detail what countries would be announcing new security packages or what those shipments would include but noted that the US works “very closely” with other countries to figure out what Ukraine’s armed forces need and then find those systems to send over.

Previous reporting from CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.

Mayor of captured Ukrainian town switches sides

Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s office said the mayor of Sviatohirsk, Volodymyr Bandura, is being investigated for suspicions of treason committed under martial law. 

On Tuesday Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s office said the mayor is under investigation for “moving to the side of the enemy” and spreading through the media “an appeal in which he promoted the ideas of the Russian world.” Russian forces recently captured Sviatohirsk. CNN was unable to reach Bandura directly.

In an announcement on the website of Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor accused Bandura of agreeing to the proposal by the Russian Federation to take a position to head the temporarily occupied Sviatohirsk.

On Monday the leader of the so-pro-Russian, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine claimed Bandura had joined the DPR.

“We have been in touch with him for a long time, he was waiting, like many residents of Sviatohirsk, for liberation and he supports a special military operation,” Denis Pushilin said in a post on Telegram.

Pushilin posted a photo of himself meeting with the mayor.

Sviatohirsk, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, is the site of a prominent monastery that sustained damage in recent weeks during Russia’s advance. It lies on the Siverskyi Donets river, and is a key prize in Russia’s advance toward Sloviansk, to the south.

“For obvious reasons he had to hide his position — the task was to keep people safe,” Pushilin said of Bandura on Telegram.

“At a difficult time, Volodymyr did not leave his post, he is respected and supported by the residents, so I offered him the position of the head of Sviatohirsk city administration,” Pushilin said.

He said that the monastery, or Sviatohirsk Lavra, was intact but “needs repairs.”

Additional bodies of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers to be repatriated in exchange, official says

As part of an exchange, the bodies of 56 Russian soldiers are being repatriated to Russia by Ukraine’s government, Oleh Kotenko, Ukraine’s commissioner for Persons Missing in Special Circumstances, tells CNN.   

The bodies of another 64 Ukrainian soldiers who died defending the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, southeast Ukraine, have been repatriated to government-controlled territory, Ukraine’s Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories said Tuesday.

Ukraine and Russia have committed to an exchange of bodies as part of the agreement that ended that siege according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories. This is the third exchange of bodies to have taken place, Kotenko said. He added similar exchanges are planned in the future and the timings of the next exchange will depend on the identification of the bodies on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides.

Olena Tolkachova, chief of the Azov regiment Patronage Services, told CNN she has been working in a morgue to help identify soldiers and civilians from Mariupol, including the 64 soldiers who were from the Azovstal steel plant who were repatriated. She tells CNN the Ukrainian bodies are being gathered by the Russians and loaded into their refrigerator and then the bodies are reloaded into the morgue’s refrigerator.

She said oftentimes those who work at the morgue recognize the bodies by their tattoos or personal belongings because they are soldiers from within their regiment. Tolkachova said getting DNA to confirm the bodies with relatives is a complicated process that takes up to three months. 

CNN did not immediately hear back from its request for comment from Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

US expects more announcements of weapons to Ukraine during key meeting Wednesday of nearly 50 countries

Ukrainian servicemen ride American 155 mm turreted self-propelled howitzers M109 in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 13.

The US expects more announcements of weapons and equipment packages to Ukraine during a key meeting of nearly 50 countries known as the Ukraine Contact Group on Wednesday, according to a senior US defense official.  

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia is gaining ground in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, specifically in the city of Severodonestk, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting recently. Without an influx of more weapons, some Ukrainian officials have said it will be increasingly difficult to halt Russia’s incremental progress or reclaim occupied ground in the region. 

“We hear what they’re saying, we absolutely hear what they’re saying,” said the senior defense official, who spoke of the “urgency” of the group’s meeting Thursday in Brussels. 

The official would not detail what countries would be announcing new security packages or what those shipments would include but noted that the US works “very closely” with other countries to figure out what Ukraine’s armed forces need and then find those systems to send over.

The official would also not say whether the US would have a new package to announce, but said US President Biden’s administration is already working on the next package.

“It’s a constant drumbeat because it’s a constant battle” with “constantly evolving urgent requirements,” the official told a group of reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The Biden administration announced the last weapons package on June 1st, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HiMARS), a system capable of launching a barrage of rockets and missiles that Ukraine had urgently requested for weeks. The $700 million package was the first time the administration had drawn from the new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, which received bipartisan support in Congress.

A small group of Ukrainian soldiers began training on HiMARS almost immediately after the weapons package was announced. But the system, which requires three weeks of training, has not yet entered the fight. The senior defense official would only say that it will enter Ukraine “soon.”

The US has taken on “some risk” to its own military readiness in sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said earlier this month, but it was “not an unacceptable level of risk at all.”

The senior defense official said the US and it allies had a significant amount of equipment still available to send to Ukraine.

“We have far from exhausted the resource and the multi-country security assistance for this battle on Ukrainian territory,” the official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed in his evening speech on Monday that Ukraine would liberate all of the territories occupied by Russia, even the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed shortly after its takeover in 2014. But that could only happen, he said, with more weapons for Ukraine.

“It only takes enough weapons to make it happen. The partners have it. In sufficient quantities. And we work every day for the political will to give us these weapons to appear,” Zelensky said. 

Ukrainian officials have said 100 to 200 soldiers a day are dying in the fighting, a number that raises some doubts about the ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to sustain such losses. The US official didn’t doubt the casualty figures. 

“The numbers are not out of line with what you would expect for this kind of artillery battle,” the official said. “It’s not surprising that the numbers the Ukrainians are reporting are that serious.”

But the official said the US has not seen a flagging of Ukrainian morale to remain in the fight, even as the conflict becomes a grinding, brutal battle of artillery that may favor the firepower and manpower of Russia’s military. The official sounded a more optimistic note about the state of the fight, even as Russia appears to be gaining momentum in the Donbas region.

Problems of morale, poor command, and supply issues have plagued the Russian military since the beginning of the invasion. Russia was able to paper over some of those issues when the focus shifted to eastern Ukraine, since the battlefield bordered Russia, making it much easier to send supplies the short distance to units on the front line.

A lot of Russia’s high-end equipment has already been destroyed, the official said, forcing them to rely on older models. At the same time, Russia’s stock of precision munitions are dwindling, leading to the use of more artillery, which has had devastating consequences with its lack of precision. Sanctions and export restrictions have also made it higher to resupply their high end capabilities, the official said.

Despite all the challenges the Russians have faced — both self-made and a result of Ukraine’s counter-attacks — Russia still retains its biggest advantage, the sheer size of its military. But that doesn’t mean Russia is guaranteed victory, even if Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no indication that he is considering scaling back his goals.

Russia bans 49 UK citizens, including 29 journalists

Russia published on Tuesday an updated “stop list” banning a total of 49 UK citizens from entering the country.

The updated list includes 29 journalists and 20 UK citizens who Russia believes to be associated with the UK defense industry, according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry says the “stop list” was updated following the British government’s introduction of personal sanctions against leading Russian journalists and on heads of companies of the domestic defense complex.

Those added to the “stop list” include journalists from the Guardian, the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky News, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times, the Times, the Independent, the Daily Mail and the Financial Times.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said, “The British journalists included in the list are involved in the deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information about Russia and the events in Ukraine and Donbas. With their biased assessments, they also contribute to fueling Russophobia in British society.”

Among the UK citizens associated with the UK defense industry on the list are UK military officials, defense contractors and members of parliament.

Germany will introduce assets register to strengthen sanctions against Russian oligarchs

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at the plenary session of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Berlin, Germany, on June 14.

Germany plans to introduce an assets register to make sanctions against money of unclear origin more effective — including Russian oligarch assets — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced during a speech at a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) conference on money laundering.

Germany will facilitate whistleblowing by establishing a special hotline, Scholz said. 

“Russia’s war against Ukraine marks a watershed for all of us because it threatens the global order itself,” Scholz reiterated.

Russia calls on Ukrainian fighters to lay down their arms in Severodonetsk

Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday called on Ukrainian fighters in Severodonetsk to lay down their arms “as has already happened to your comrades who previously surrendered in Mariupol.”

“We call on the official authorities in Kiev to show prudence and give appropriate instructions to the militants to stop their senseless resistance and withdraw from the territory of Azot plant,” the ministry said in a news statement.

The ministry said that it was prepared to conduct a “humanitarian operation” on Wednesday to evacuate civilians from the Ukrainian-held Azot chemical plant to Russian-held territory to the north.

“The Russian military announced their readiness to conduct a humanitarian operation to evacuate civilians from Azot in the northern direction,” towards the town of Svatove, in Russian-occupied territory, the ministry said, adding that Russia will open an evacuation corridor for civilians on Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Moscow time.

Smoke rises after a military strike on Severodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on June 10.

The Ukrainian head of the Severodonetsk military administration said Tuesday that just over 500 civilians continued to shelter in the Azot chemical plant, which is still under Ukrainian control, and which authorities say has been the target of intense shelling by Russian forces.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that Ukraine had requested a corridor to evacuate civilians to Ukrainian-held territory, in Lysychansk, but that “it is not possible to safely evacuate in this direction” because all three major bridges are impassable.

CNN has reached out to Ukrainian authorities for comment.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said Monday that crossing between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk was now “difficult, but not impossible,” and Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday that evacuations were slow because of the constant bombardment but still possible.

In calling for Ukrainian fighters to surrender, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that it would guarantee “the preservation of lives and the observance of all norms of the Geneva Convention for the treatment of prisoners of war, as happened to your comrades who previously surrendered in Mariupol.”

CNN’s Olga Voitovych, Julia Presniakova Yulia Kesaieva, and Jen Deaton contributed to this report.

Bodies of another 64 Ukrainian soldiers who died in Mariupol steel plant have been repatriated, Ukraine says

An aerial view shows ruins of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on June 13.

The bodies of another 64 Ukrainian soldiers who died defending the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol — located southeast of Ukraine — have been repatriated to government-controlled territory, the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories said Tuesday.

“Ukraine has returned the bodies of 64 heroic Azovstal defenders for their dignified burial,” the statement read. “The process of returning the bodies of the dead Ukrainian soldiers continues.”

The ministry said that the bodies were repatriated in an “exchange.” CNN is seeking clarification on this statement.

Zelensky calls on Germany to reject "balancing act" with Russia

Germany must reject a “balancing act” between Ukraine and Russia and provide certainty about its support for Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.

“I think there is a certain amount of skepticism in the German leadership’s relationship with Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “And I don’t think this skepticism came with Olaf Scholz. I don’t think this is something new.” 

“I believe this skepticism towards us is mainly about our future membership of the European Union or NATO. All this skepticism was there before Mr Scholz. Unfortunately, this was the attitude. And I believe this attitude will change. Right now, it is what it is on this issue,” he continued.

Germany has pledged heavy weaponry to Ukraine but has faced sustained criticism from Ukrainian leadership for alleged equivocation and slow delivery.

“We need Chancellor Scholz to give us certainty that they will support Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a transcript distributed by his office.

“He and his government must choose not to do a balancing act between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, but to choose which is their priority. I feel that the people of Germany have made this choice, but it is always difficult for the leadership because there are many different challenges. I understand it. Nevertheless, I am counting on this very much,” he added.  

Ukraine's Zelensky says Russia will "go further" than Donbas if given the opportunity

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that he believes that Russia, if given the opportunity, will expand its ambitions in Ukraine beyond the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the country’s east, known as the Donbas. 

“I am sure that if Ukraine is not strong enough, they will go further,” he said during a virtual press conference with Danish journalists. “We have shown to them our strength. And it is important for this strength to be also demonstrated together with us by our Western partners as well.”

Zelensky once again appealed for more weaponry from Western nations. He said he was grateful for what had already been sent, but “it has to come quicker” if Ukraine’s allies want to stymie Russia’s territorial ambitions.

At the beginning of the invasion, Russian forces attacked and occupied multiple Kyiv suburbs before the Kremlin withdrew its forces from around the capital to concentrate on the east of the country. And in early June, Russia fired five cruise missiles toward the capital Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian military.

“They have already been to Kyiv,” Zelensky said of the Russians. “They have seen our welcome, and our ‘hospitality’ there. And of course they have the idea of occupying the whole country. They demonstrated this in the first weeks of the war. This is their objective.”

NATO preparing for Madrid summit as Zelensky repeats calls for more heavy weapons

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez (right), receives NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, on May 30.

Members of the NATO military alliance are preparing for the organization’s latest summit from June 28 to 30, with the war in Ukraine top of the agenda.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made repeated calls for greater support to face down Russian attacks in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine – and will be hoping to secure promises of more weapons supplies for Ukraine from NATO states.

The summit will take place in Spain’s capital, Madrid, as the country is this year marking 40 years since it joined the alliance.

At a ceremony to mark the anniversary on May 30, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that NATO’s support for Ukraine was “unbreakable.”

Speaking at the same event, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looked ahead to the June summit in what he described as a “very different context” from the last NATO summit that Spain hosted in 1997.

“These challenge our security and our democratic way of life at the Madrid Summit. We will chart the way ahead for the next decade. We will reset our deterrence and defense for a more dangerous world,” Stoltenberg said.

“We will deepen our cooperation with like-minded countries and organizations, including the European Union and countries in the Indo-Pacific,” he added. “We will also be joined by Finland and Sweden that just made historic applications to join our alliance.”

Further weapons supplies to Ukraine will likely be on the agenda at the meeting, after Stoltenberg underlined why Ukraine must continue to receive support.

If Putin wins the war, then “the price we have to pay would be higher than to now invest in support for Ukraine,” said Stoltenberg on June 1.

Ukrainian servicemen ride American 155 mm turreted self-propelled howitzers M109 in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 13.

The battle in the Donbas “will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe,” said Zelensky in his nightly address Monday, adding that Ukrainian forces face the “significant advantage of the Russians in the amount of equipment, and especially – artillery systems.”

“The price of this battle for us is very high. It’s just scary,” he added. “And we draw the attention of our partners on a daily basis to the fact that only a sufficient number of modern artillery for Ukraine will ensure our advantage and finally the end of Russian torture of the Ukrainian Donbas.”

Ukraine war "perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented," says Pope Francis

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for the weekly general audience on June 8, at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

Pope Francis has said that the war in Ukraine “was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented” in remarks published by Italian newspaper La Stampa on Tuesday.

“What we are seeing is the brutality and ferocity with which this war is waged by the troops, generally mercenary, used by the Russians,” the pontiff reportedly said during a conversation with the directors of the Society of Jesus cultural publications on May 19, adding that the Russians “prefer to send Chechens, Syrians, mercenaries forward.”

“But the danger is that we only see this, which is monstrous, and we do not see the whole drama that is unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented. And I register an interest in testing and selling weapons. It is very sad, but basically this is what is at stake,” he said.

The Pope said he is not “in favor” of Putin but “simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good and bad, without thinking about roots and interests, which are very complex.” 

“While we see the ferocity, the cruelty of the Russian troops, we must not forget the problems to try to solve them,” he added. 

Pope Francis said that before Russia invaded Ukraine he met with “a head of state” who “was very worried about how NATO was moving.”

“I asked him why, and he replied: ‘They are barking at the gates of Russia. And they do not understand that the Russians are imperial and do not allow any foreign power to approach them,’” said the Pope, adding that the unnamed “head of state” told him “the situation could lead to war.” 

Pope Francis also said he hopes to be able to speak with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, later this year, after a meeting between the pair that had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday was ultimately postponed because of the war in Ukraine.

“I was supposed to meet him on June 14 in Jerusalem, to talk about our affairs. But with the war, by mutual agreement, we decided to postpone the meeting to a later date, so that our dialogue was not misunderstood,” Pope Francis said. 

The Pope said he hoped to meet the Russian Patriarch at a general assembly in Kazakhstan in September. The Pope recently cancelled a trip to Africa due to a knee injury. 

In separate remarks published Tuesday by the Vatican, the Pope said the invasion of Ukraine “has now been added to the regional wars that for years have taken a heavy toll of death and destruction.”

“Yet here the situation is even more complex due to the direct intervention of a ‘superpower’ aimed at imposing its own will in violation of the principle of the self-determination of peoples,” said the Pope as part of a message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor, which will be marked in November. 

It's 1 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

The strategic city of Severodonetsk is increasingly isolated as heavy fighting has destroyed all three bridges linking it to Lysychansk to the west, while Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa has sounded a cautionary note over Ukraine’s possible accession to the European Union. 

Here are the latest headlines on the war in Ukraine:

Battle for Severodonetsk continues: Intense fighting continues inside Severodonetsk, one of the last holdouts for Ukraine in the Luhansk region, and more widely, the entirety of the country’s eastern Donbas, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzianyk said in a briefing Monday.

Evacuation routes limited after bridges destroyed: All three bridges connecting Severodonetsk with its twin city Lysychansk to the west are now impassable for vehicles, severely limiting evacuation options for those trying to flee the city and supply routes in, according to Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration. However Oleksandr Struik, head of the Severodonetsk military administration, said evacuations were taking place “every minute when there is quiet there, or there is a possibility of transportation.”

Zelensky repeats call for more artillery: The battle for the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine “will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Monday, repeating his call for more heavy weapons deliveries from allied countries.

Ukraine investigating mass grave near Bucha: The Ukrainian Prosecutor General says that it is investigating the deaths of seven civilians found with their hands tied behind their backs near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. During an investigation of formerly Russian-held positions in the forest near the village of Myrotske, authorities said, “the bodies of seven civilians with gunshot wounds and hands tied behind their backs were found in the trenches.” 

Warning over Ukraine’s EU accession: Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa says that the debate over whether to grant Ukraine candidacy status in the European Union could divide the bloc and create “false expectations.” Division in the EU would be a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Costa reportedly told the Financial Times.

Debate over Ukraine’s EU status could endanger unity, says Portuguese prime minister

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa speaks to the press outside 10 Downing Street after a bilateral meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, England, on June 13.

Portugal’s prime minister has warned that the debate over whether to grant Ukraine candidacy status in the European Union could divide the bloc and create “false expectations.”

“The best support that the European Union can give to Ukraine is to keep its unity,” António Costa told the Financial Times in an interview. “The best we can offer is European unity.”

Division in the EU would be a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the newspaper cites Costa as saying.

“My focus is to obtain in the next European Council a clear commitment on the urgent support and to build a long-term platform to support the recovery of Ukraine,” Costa told the FT.

“This is my main priority. The most important are not legal debates about Ukraine but practical deliveries,” he added.

According to the FT, Costa said that he did not explicitly oppose Ukraine’s candidacy, but that his priority was “clear and immediate support,” warning against opening a years-long negotiation at this moment.

“The great risk is to create false expectations that become bitter disappointment. Less legal debates, more practical solutions,” he said.

During a visit to Kyiv this weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the Commission would be ready to finalize its assessment on whether to recommend Ukraine for EU membership “by the end of next week.”

Ukrainian prosecutor investigating mass grave near Bucha

A forensic technician inspects an alleged mass grave near the village of Vorzel in the Bucha district, Kyiv region, Ukraine, on June 13.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General says that it is investigating the deaths of seven civilians found with their hands tied behind their backs near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

During an investigation of formerly Russian-held positions in the forest near the village of Myrotske, authorities said “the bodies of seven civilians with gunshot wounds and hands tied behind their backs were found in the trenches.” 

“The pre-trial investigation is being carried out by the Bucha District Department of the National Police in the Kyiv Region,” a press release on Monday read.

Ukraine’s national police on Monday said that across the country they are still trying to identify the bodies of 1,200 civilians.

“This is a long process, rather painstaking, because a lot of bodies are in a state of putrefactive decay,” National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko told Interfax Ukraine. “We select DNA from those relatives who contacted us via the hotline, and then we compare the profiles of these relatives with the profiles of the dead, buried, shot, who could not be identified.”

He said that police are currently investigating the deaths of more than 12,000 civilians across the country.

In Bucha, he said, a single mass grave had been found with 116 people. He said that some mass graves were the result of residents who collected corpses from the streets and buried them in nearby parks.

Ukrainian authorities continue Severodonetsk evacuations "every minute when there is quiet"

Ukrainian authorities say they continue to evacuate civilians from Severodonetsk during every lull in “extremely escalated” fighting for control of the embattled eastern city.

The third of three main bridges to Severodonetsk was deemed impassable on Monday by the head of the regional military administration, though authorities say they still have ways in and out of the city.

“The ways to connect with the city are quite difficult, but they exist,” Oleksandr Struik, head of Severodonetsk military administration, told Ukrainian television. He said evacuations were taking place “every minute when there is quiet there, or there is a possibility of transportation.”

Struik said just over 500 civilians continued to shelter in the city’s Azot chemical plant, which authorities say has been the target of intense shelling by Russian forces.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, told Ukrainian television Tuesday that two more Russian battalion tactical groups had been moved into the area to bolster their efforts. He said Russian forces continue to try to encircle Ukrainian forces in the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Battle for Donbas is "one of the most brutal battles in and for Europe," Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives his nightly address from Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 13.

The battle for the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine “will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nighty address on Monday.

This comes after Ukrainian military officials earlier in the day said their troops had been pushed back from the Severodonetsk city center, which along with its twin city Lysychansk, is at the heart of the current battle for what’s still in Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas.  

Officials also said three key bridges linking Severodonetsk to Lysychansk are now impassable to vehicles, meaning supply routes in and evacuations out via those routes are impossible.

Zelensky said Ukrainians face the “significant advantage of the Russians in the amount of equipment, and especially — artillery systems.”

“The price of this battle for us is very high. It’s just scary. And we draw the attention of our partners on a daily basis to the fact that only a sufficient number of modern artillery for Ukraine will ensure our advantage and finally the end of Russian torture of the Ukrainian Donbas,” he added.

Zelensky said a boy was killed on Monday by Russian shelling in the battle for Lysychansk.

“This is it: a 6-year-old boy on Moskovska Street is also, as it turned out, a dangerous enemy for the Russian Federation,” he said.

All 3 bridges into Severodonetsk are now impassable, Luhansk region leader says

A satellite image shows the damaged Pavlograd Bridge in western Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on June 11.

All three bridges connecting the embattled city of Severodonetsk with its twin city Lysychansk to the west, are now impassable for vehicles, severely limiting evacuation options for those trying to flee the city and supply routes in, according to Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration.

“The bridges made it possible to carry at least some humanitarian cargo, something related to reserves. It is currently impossible to use the bridges,” Hayday said.

A second of three bridges was destroyed over the weekend. Hayday’s office explained that the third bridge, which has come under sustained shelling, is now impassable for vehicles.

The destruction of the bridges gives the Russian military another advantage since supply lines are interrupted, Hayday said. Getting in weapons and reserves is now “difficult, but not impossible,” he said.

Hayday said travel between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk was still possible, but did not go into detail for security reasons.

“Lysychansk is already being shelled very powerfully, with a heavy caliber [weapons], they are destroying everything: both humanitarian headquarters and hospitals. But from Lysychansk there is still an opportunity to evacuate people and pick up humanitarian goods every day,” he said.

Hayday also said of Severodonetsk that Russian forces “really control most of the city,” estimating about 70% to 80%.

But he denied claims by the self-declared Luhansk People Republic (LPR) that Severodonetsk has fallen, saying “this is not true.”

“Part of the city is still controlled by Ukrainian defenders. If they had complete control of the city, Russian soldiers would not have died there,” Hayday said.

Hayday also said that even if Ukrainian forces won back the city, it would be impossible to “restore the infrastructure completely before the winter. The only possible thing is to put radiators that will keep the temperature warm in the tents. And yes, everything is broken. With water, with electricity — there will be huge problems with everything.”

"High-intensity hostilities" continue in Severodonetsk, Ukrainian official says

Intense fighting continues inside Severodonetsk, one of the last holdouts for Ukraine in the Luhansk region, and more widely, the entirety of the country’s eastern Donbas, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzianyk said in a briefing Monday.

“High-intensity hostilities” continue in Severodonetsk, where Ukrainian troops fight to repel Russia’s advances, Motuzianyk said. 

Russian forces already in control of the city center are “actively using artillery, multiple rocket systems,” he added.

He said that Russia’s advantage is their airpower, which is why they are advancing, adding that Russia is losing troops in armed combat.

In terms of the street fighting happening in Severodonetsk, Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops, but “the enemy is suffering significant losses in the infantry units of the Russian Guard and the Russian armed forces. And they are advancing only by using assault aircraft,” Motuzianyk said.

Earlier Monday, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russia had pushed Ukrainian forces back from the city center.  

As Russian attacks continue to pound Ukraine, volunteers are rebuilding Kyiv's suburbs

Men in hard hats enter a child’s bedroom decorated with pink wallpaper that features two bejeweled elephants, a little one and big one.

The workers quickly shovel mounds of rubble off the beige carpet and into wheelbarrows, then dump it down a makeshift chute. They leave only a dusty pile of children’s books before moving on to the next room.

With the roof mostly burned out of this apartment building on the outskirts of Kyiv, due to previous Russian strikes on the Ukrainian capital, the sun beats down on the volunteers as they work methodically to make the devastated homes livable again.

“I really feel we are unified now. We know Ukraine is our home and all Ukrainians understand we need to rebuild,” said Andriy Kopylenko, co-founder of the charity organization District 1.

It’s now 110 days since Russian troops invaded Ukraine. They initially attacked and occupied multiple Kyiv suburbs before the Kremlin withdrew its forces from around the capital to concentrate on the east of the country. Even as brutal street-by-street battles continue to rage there, residents in Kyiv say it is time to rebuild and return.

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Volunteers have been working to make the devastated homes livable again.

Volunteers are rebuilding Kyiv's suburbs as Russia continues to pound Ukraine

Go Deeper

Russia is now in control of much of Severodonetsk, the epicenter of the battle for Ukraine's eastern Donbas region
As Russian attacks continue to pound Ukraine, volunteers are rebuilding Kyiv's suburbs
Rebranded McDonald's restaurants are unveiled in Russia
Russians are on the verge of capturing key Ukrainian city. In neighboring Bakhmut those with nowhere else to go brace for their arrival

Go Deeper

Russia is now in control of much of Severodonetsk, the epicenter of the battle for Ukraine's eastern Donbas region
As Russian attacks continue to pound Ukraine, volunteers are rebuilding Kyiv's suburbs
Rebranded McDonald's restaurants are unveiled in Russia
Russians are on the verge of capturing key Ukrainian city. In neighboring Bakhmut those with nowhere else to go brace for their arrival