June 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Ivana Kottasová, Sana Noor Haq, Hafsa Khalil, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 2:56 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022
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9:54 p.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Top US general downplays criticism of weapons sent to Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley speaks at a press conference during the first day of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defence Ministers' meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, June 15.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley speaks at a press conference during the first day of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defence Ministers' meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, June 15. (Valeria Mongelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley downplayed criticisms that the United States is not providing Ukraine with all of the weapons it is requesting, saying that "in warfare, no weapons system is a silver bullet, ever."

"So no weapons system, singular weapons system ever, quote unquote turns the balance," Milley said at a news conference in Brussels alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. 

Milley said that if the Ukrainians use the weapons systems the US and other allies are providing properly, "they ought to be able to take out a significant amount of targets."

He also complimented them as "top-notch gunners" on the Triple 7 Howitzers, and he expected them to also be very good on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, a lighter wheeled system capable of firing many of the same types of ammunition as MLRS.

Milley said he believes Ukraine will be able to sustain the fight, despite media reports that say around 100 Ukrainian forces are killed and another 100 to 300 people are wounded each day.

“Your ability to endure suffering, your ability to endure casualties, is directly proportional to the object to be attained. And if the object to be attained is survival of your country, then you’re going to sustain it,” Milley said.

He said that he believed Ukraine would continue to fight “as long as they have leadership, and they have the means by which to fight,” such as “ammunition, artillery tubes, et cetera.”

8:44 p.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Biden administration announces additional $1 billion in military aid for Ukraine

From CNN's Barbara Starr, Jeremy Herb and Oren Liebermann

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday it was providing an additional $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine to fight Russia, a package that includes shipments of additional howitzers, ammunition and coastal defense systems.

US President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday ahead of the announcement, which the Pentagon said included providing Ukraine with 18 howitzers, 36,000 rounds of howitzer ammunition and two Harpoon coastal defense systems.

"I informed President Zelensky that the United States is providing another $1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems that the Ukrainians need to support their defensive operations in the Donbas," Biden said in a statement after the call. "We also discussed Secretary Austin's efforts in Brussels today to coordinate additional international support for the Ukrainian armed forces."

Speaking in Brussels, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US and Ukraine are "working in lockstep to meet Ukraine's requests for new capabilities, especially its need for long-range fires, armor and coastal defense."

The latest weapons package comes as Ukraine's military is burning through its Soviet-era ammunition, while Ukrainian officials have pleaded with the West to send additional heavy weaponry as the war with Russia girds on. Western intelligence and military officials believe the war is at a critical stage that could determine the long-term outcome of the conflict, while Russia has amassed a significant artillery advantage around two key cities in eastern Ukraine.

Zelensky thanked Biden on Wednesday for his "consistent, unwavering support" and for mobilizing the international security, according to a statement from the Ukrainian president's office.

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8:47 p.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Top US general: Russian control of eastern Ukraine not "an inevitability"

From CNN's Michael Conte

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that despite Russian forces outnumbering and outgunning the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas region, Russian consolidation of their control in eastern Ukraine was “not a done deal.” 

“There are no inevitabilities in war. War takes many, many turns. So I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability,” said Milley, before granting that “the numbers clearly favor the Russians.”

Milley said the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk “is probably three quarters taken or so by Russian forces,” but “the Ukrainians are fighting them street by street, house by house.”

He also characterized the current phase of the war as a “very severe battle of attrition, almost World War I-like,” noting how Russian progress in the region has been “very slow, a very tough slog.”

“The Russians have run into a lot of problems. They’ve got command and control issues, logistics issues. They’ve got morale issues, leadership issues and a wide variety of other issues,” said Milley. “And the Russians have suffered tremendous amounts of casualties.”
8:49 p.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Fight in eastern Ukraine "getting harder," says Luhansk region leader

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Mick Krever

The Ukrainian military’s defense in the eastern region of Luhansk is growing more difficult, the head of Luhansk’s military administration said Wednesday.

“It is getting harder, but our military is holding back the enemy from three directions at once,” Serhiy Hayday said via Telegram. “They are defending Severodonetsk not allowing the enemy to advance towards Lysychansk. However, the Russians are close; the population suffers and houses are destroyed.”

Hayday said Russia was once again targeting the Azot chemical plant, where just over 500 civilians are said to be sheltering.

“High-rise buildings located closer to the chemical giant are being destroyed,” he said. “The enemy is weaker in street battles, which is why uses artillery fire, destroying our homes.”

The Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday called on Ukrainian fighters at the Azot plant to lay down their arms, and said it would open a “humanitarian corridor” on Wednesday from the Ukrainian-controlled plant to Russian-held territory to the north. Ukrainian officials have not commented on that proposal.