June 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Hafsa Khalil, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Elise Hammond, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 7:05 p.m. ET, June 17, 2022
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10:17 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Putin vows to accomplish all the "tasks" of Russia's invasion of Ukraine 

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 17.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 17. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to accomplish all the alleged "tasks" of Moscow's military action in Ukraine while speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg on Friday.

He called Russia's "special operation" in Ukraine "the decision of a sovereign country based on the right to defend its security." He vowed "all the tasks of the special operation will be met."

The Russian leader claimed that Russia was "forced" to conduct its "operation" in the eastern Donbas region. 

"It was difficult, but forced and necessary. And it was based on the UN charter to defend our security," Putin added.

Russian forces failed to take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and other areas of Ukraine in the earlier weeks of the war and have since been focused on the eastern part of the country.

Some context: The Russian president has long framed his decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine as a response to Kyiv’s growing diplomatic and security ties with the West. Last week, he hinted that his aim in Ukraine is the restoration of Russia as an imperial power.

Another one of Putin's alleged goals in his invasion, which began in late February, includes a baseless battle for “denazification,” a description dismissed by historians and political observers alike.

In his Friday speech, Putin also called the attempts of the West to "crush" the Russian economy through punishing sanctions "not successful."

"The economic dynamics are stabilizing; the state finances are stable," he added. 

The Russian president also said “the era of the unipolar world is over,” referencing the United States, and stated that the European Union has "fully lost its political sovereignty."  

9:06 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Putin is now speaking after Kremlin claims cyberattacks delayed the speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 17.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 17. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the stage at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg and is now speaking.

The speech was supposed to start at 7 a.m. ET, but was delayed due to a “massive DDoS [distributed denial-of-service] attacks" on the SPIEF systems, the Kremlin said Friday.

“Unfortunately, today, due to massive DDoS attacks on the forum’s system, the base of accreditation and admission were disabled,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists on an impromptu conference call.
8:47 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Ukraine scraps visa-free travel for Russians

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Ukraine’s cabinet has decided to get rid of visa-free travel for Russians, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has confirmed.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram that he suggested the change “in order to counteract the unprecedented threats to the national security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of our state.”

He said that the change would come into effect on July 1.

9:08 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Ceasefire being negotiated for civilians at Azot plant in Severodonetsk, district leader says

From CNN's Mick Krever

Smoke rises above Severodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on June 10.
Smoke rises above Severodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on June 10. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

Negotiations are underway to allow for the safe evacuation of hundreds of civilians sheltering at a chemical plant in Severodonetsk, the head of the district’s military administration told Ukrainian television.

“A ceasefire and a corridor are being negotiated, but there are a lot of Russian provocations and ‘games,’” Roman Vlasenko said, though made clear that he did was not personally involved in talks.

Russia earlier this week said that it would open a “humanitarian corridor” for civilians at the plant to evacuate, but only to Russian-controlled territory to the north, not to Ukraianian-held Lysychansk to the west.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the regional military administration, told CNN on Thursday that an evacuation would be possible only if there were a complete ceasefire, but that he was highly skeptical of any promises made by Russia. 

Vlasenko said that the situation at the Azot plant was “tense.”

“Bridges are all blown up, there is no direct access to Lysychansk,” he said. “We use creative approaches to communication and logistics.”

At repeated points during the war, Ukrainian officials say, Russian forces have broken promises to open evacuation corridors, driven civilian evacuees onto their territory and failed to observe ceasefire agreements.

11:03 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Diplomatic efforts to bring Ukraine closer to the West continue, while Moscow says it knows nothing about two US citizens who went missing fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.

Here are the latest developments in Russia's invasion of Ukraine:

Ukraine-EU process moves forward: Ukraine's bid to join the European Union received a major boost on Friday morning, after the bloc's executive said it believed the country should be formally considered for candidate status in the wake of Russia's invasion.

NATO builds Ukraine ties: Ukraine’s defense minister on Friday morning said NATO allies told him at a summit in Brussels that his country was considered a “de facto” member of the alliance. 

Moscow denies any knowledge of missing US fighters: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Friday that he does not know anything about two American fighters who went missing north of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Third US fighter missing: A third American whom the State Department has identified as missing in action in Ukraine is a US Marine veteran, Grady Kurpasi, his wife confirmed to CNN.

More than 1,300 civilians killed in Mariupol: The UN said 70 children were among at least 1,348 civilians killed during the battle of Mariupol. “The actual death toll of hostilities on civilians is likely thousands higher,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

7:54 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Ukraine-EU decision "requires our increased attention," says Kremlin

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the European Commission's decision to recommend Ukraine become an EU candidate state "requires our increased attention."

“It still remains a different plane, although it requires our increased attention," said Peskov during a daily call with reporters.

"We all know about the intensification in Europe and discussions about strengthening the defense component of the EU," he added. "Therefore, there are different transformations that we observe."

7:27 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Kremlin says "massive" cyberattacks have delayed Putin's speech

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Anna Chernova

Participants attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 17.
Participants attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 17. (Anton Vaganov/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday has been postponed by an hour due to a “massive DDoS [distributed denial-of-service] attacks" on the SPIEF systems, the Kremlin said Friday.

The speech was supposed to start at 7 a.m. ET.

“Unfortunately, today, due to massive DDoS attacks on the forum’s system, the base of accreditation and admission were disabled,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists on an impromptu conference call.

Peskov added that technical specialists are working to fix the system but it will take some time.

“We need 30-40 minutes to restore data base,” he said.

“In view of this, President [Putin] has decided to postpone his speech for an hour. It will take place not at 2 p.m, but at 3 p.m [local],” he added.

8:14 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Zelensky says EU membership path will "bring our victory closer"

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Mick Krever and Niamh Kennedy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pictured in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 17.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pictured in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 17. (President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that the European Commission’s recommendation that Ukraine be given “candidate status” to the EU would bring his country closer to victory in fighting off Russia’s invasion.

“I commend the positive @EU_Commission Conclusion on [Ukraine]’s candidate status,” he said on Twitter. “It’s the 1st step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our Victory closer.”

“Grateful to @vonderleyen & each EC [European Commission] member for a historic decision," he added. "I expect the positive result from #EUCO [European Council] next week.”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal also said he is "grateful" for the decision.

“Grateful to @vonderleyen for this decision!” he said via Twitter. “It will accelerate the process of full [Ukrainian] integration into the [European] internal market and effectively accompany the recovery of #Ukraine by EU standards.” 

7:18 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Ukraine will not host next year's Eurovision, but the contest will be offered to the UK

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London

Members of the band "Kalush Orchestra" pose onstage with the winner's trophy and Ukraine's flags after winning on behalf of Ukraine the Eurovision Song contest 2022 on May 14, at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin, Italy.
Members of the band "Kalush Orchestra" pose onstage with the winner's trophy and Ukraine's flags after winning on behalf of Ukraine the Eurovision Song contest 2022 on May 14, at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin, Italy. (Marco Bertorell / AFP) (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner Ukraine will not host the competition in 2023 and will instead be offered to the United Kingdom, the competition's organizers the European Broadcast Union (EBU) said in a statement on Friday.

It is tradition for the previous year’s winner to host the next event, but the EBU said a safety and security assessment has determined it will not be feasible for Ukraine due to the ongoing war in the country.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most complex TV productions in the world with thousands working on, and attending, the event and 12 months of preparation time needed," it said.

The contest's governing board, the Reference Group, has concluded that current circumstances mean "the security and operational guarantees required for a broadcaster to host, organize and produce the Eurovision Song Contest under the ESC Rules cannot be fulfilled by UA:PBC [Ukraine’s public broadcaster],” the statement said.

Ukraine's folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra won this year's Eurovision in May, surfing a wave of goodwill from European nations to clinch the country's third win at the event. The band's song "Stefania" -- written about the frontman's mother -- beat competition from main rivals the UK and Spain at the competition in the Italian city of Turin.

The event marked the first major cultural event in which Ukrainians had taken part in since Russia invaded in February, and many in the audience waved Ukraine's blue and yellow national flag during the evening.

The statement thanked UA:PBC for their "wholehearted cooperation and commitment" following Kalush Orchestra’s win, and expressed the EBU's "sadness and disappointment that next year’s Contest cannot be held in Ukraine.”

The EBU said it will now begin discussions with the BBC to potentially host the 2023 contest in the UK, as this year’s runner up.

“It is our full intention that Ukraine’s win will be reflected in next year’s shows. This will be a priority for us in our discussions with the eventual hosts,” the statement concluded.