June 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Rob Picheta, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023
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6:16 a.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Russia claims to have remotely detonated tank laden with explosives, in apparent new tactic

From CNN's Duarte Mendonca, Pauline Lockwood and Tim Lister

Drone footage shows what the Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed is a blast from a remotely-controlled tank packed with a huge amount of explosives.
Drone footage shows what the Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed is a blast from a remotely-controlled tank packed with a huge amount of explosives. Romanov_92/Telegram

Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed that a Ukrainian stronghold was destroyed by a remotely-controlled tank packed with a huge amount of explosives, in what appears to be a new battlefield tactic.

In a post on its Telegram channel at the weekend, the ministry said that “about 3.5 tons of TNT and 5 FAB-100 bombs" were packed into the tank. FAB-100 bombs normally carry a 100-kilogram (220-pound) payload.

In a video shared by the ministry on Saturday, a Russian tank commander, callsign "Bernaul," said he was assigned with the task of setting up the tank and executing the attack.

"About 300 meters (984 feet) away from the enemy, the tank operator put the vehicle on manual gas, directing it [to the enemy's] direction. He jumped out and went to the rear. I stayed behind to observe, and after the vehicle approached the enemy's positions, I detonated it by radio control,” the commander said. 

“The explosion was very serious, there were a lot of explosives ... as a result, according to radio intercept data, the enemy suffered significant losses," he added.  

Drone video shows the tank static after apparently hitting a mine close to Ukrainian lines. There is then a huge explosion, but it's unclear why. A moment before the tank explodes, there appears to be a flash coming from Ukrainian positions, which may have been an attempt to destroy the tank.

On Sunday, a prominent Russian war blogger, "Voennyi Osvedomitel," shared a video from the pro-Russia “Romanov” channel of drone footage that shows the tank detonating. Osvedomitel said the tank hit a mine before reaching its target. 
“Sending an unmanned kamikaze tank filled with 6 tons of TNT to Ukrainian positions in Mariinka. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it, blown up by a mine,” he wrote.

It's not possible to geolocate the incident but the Mariinka area of Donetsk has seen heavy fighting since the Russian invasion began.

CNN has reached out to Ukrainian authorities about the incident.

2:52 a.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Ukraine has recaptured 8 southern settlements in past 2 weeks, deputy defense minister claims

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Hanna Maliar speaks during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 13.
Hanna Maliar speaks during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 13. Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukraine's military has recaptured eight settlements from invading Russian forces in the south of the country over the past two weeks, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday.

In a Telegram post, Maliar said offensive operations in the Berdiansk and Melitopol directions in the Zaporizhzhia region had liberated the communities of Novodarivka, Levadne, Storozheve, Makarivka, Blahodatne, Lobkove, Neskuchne and Piatykhatky,

The status of Piatykhatky had been in dispute Sunday after the Russian government denied a report from its own installed leader in occupied southern Ukraine, refuting his claim that Kyiv's forces had retaken the village.

On Monday, Maliar said Ukrainian forces had advanced 7 kilometers (4 miles) into Russian-occupied territory in the southern Tavria sector, reclaiming an area spanning 113 square kilometers (44 square miles).

She praised “the professionalism and courage” of Ukrainian soldiers for the advances in the frontline.

“Last week, our troops were both on the offensive and on the defense,” she said.

In eastern Ukraine, Maliar said Russian forces launched more than 5,800 attacks and used more than 277,000 munitions over the past week. Russian troops had been more active against a Ukrainian advance near Bakhmut and Lyman-Kupyansk, Avdiivka and Mariinka, she said.

This post has been updated with additional context.

11:59 p.m. ET, June 18, 2023

It's early morning in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 16.
Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 16. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday the toughest fighting is on the southern front and praised Kyiv's forces for repelling Russian assaults in the east.

Ukrainian troops are “advancing, position by position, step by step” and “are moving forward,” he said. 

The opening stages of Kyiv's counteroffensive have been marked by probing attacks — seemingly testing the Russian lines of defense — and modest gains, but no apparent major breakthroughs.

Here's what Ukraine and Russia say in their latest battlefield reports:

  • What Ukraine says: Russian troops "continue to focus their main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka directions," the Ukrainian military's General Staff said Sunday, referring to a series of eastern frontline cities stretching from north to south. "Heavy fighting continues," it said.
  • Air defenses working: Zelensky said not a single US Patriot air defense system has been destroyed in Ukraine, and that nearly three dozen missiles and about 50 attack drones were destroyed over the past week. He also said the Ukrainian Air Force carried out more than 100 strikes on enemy positions over the past week.
  • What Moscow says: In its daily report Sunday, Russia's defense ministry said "the Armed Forces of Ukraine are most actively advancing in the [southern] Zaporizhzhia direction, with forces of up to three battalion groups, reinforced with tanks and armored combat vehicles." The ministry also denied a report from a Moscow-backed official that Ukraine had retaken a village near Zaporizhzhia, saying troops held off Ukrainian attacks there and in a number of settlements east and northeast of Donetsk city.
  • Remember: CNN cannot independently verify either side's reports on battlefield developments.

Here's the latest map of control:

What else you should know:

  • UN censures Russia: The United Nations has condemned Moscow for denying humanitarian aid access to occupied areas affected by the Nova Kakhovka dam collapse earlier this month. The UN urged Russian authorities "to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law."
  • Flood's ongoing impact: The death toll in the major dam collapse has risen to at least 45 people, officials said Sunday. The flood also carried filthy water downstream and off the southern coast, posing serious health risks.
  • Border attacks: Ukrainian shelling on the Kursk region in western Russia wounded two people and damaged buildings, regional Gov. Roman Starovoyt said Sunday. The shelling targeted three settlements in the border district of Glushkovsky, the governor said, estimating Ukraine launched more than two dozen strikes.
  • Aid workers killed: Two people died Saturday when a Russian anti-tank missile hit their car as they tried to deliver aid in the northeastern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian officials said. They had been bringing food and medicine to residents, an official said. 
11:02 p.m. ET, June 18, 2023

UN condemns Russia for blocking aid access to occupied areas hit by dam collapse

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Richard Roth

A residential area of Hola Prystan, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, is flooded June 8 following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam.
A residential area of Hola Prystan, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, is flooded June 8 following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The United Nations condemned Russia on Sunday for denying humanitarian aid access to Russian-occupied areas affected by the Nova Kakhovka dam that collapsed earlier this month.

“The UN has been engaging with the governments of Ukraine and the Russian Federation regarding effective delivery of humanitarian aid to all people affected by the devastating destruction of the Kakhovka Dam,” the statement by Denise Brown, a humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine said Sunday, adding that Russia had so far declined the UN’s request to access the areas under its occupation.

The UN urged the Russian authorities “to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law” and that the UN will continue to seek the necessary access to the Russian-occupied affected areas.

The death toll in the major dam collapse has risen to at least 45 people, officials said Sunday. The flood also carried filthy water downstream and off the southern coast, posing serious health risks.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for international support to help rescue victims of the dam collapse in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine and accused Russia of not providing “any real help to the people in the flooded areas.”

“In the occupied territory, it is only possible to help people in some areas — Russian terrorists are doing everything to make the victims of the disaster as many as possible,” Zelensky said last week.

Russian-backed officials in occupied parts of Ukraine have said the government will provide “maximum” support to the areas affected, and that humanitarian aid was being distributed. On Thursday, Andrey Alekseenko, the Russian-backed head of the Kherson regional government, said humanitarian aid and monetary compensation were being given out in affected areas.

8:13 p.m. ET, June 18, 2023

Russian defense ministry denies that Ukraine took back a village near the southern front

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Uliana Pavlova

The Russian government contradicted a report from its own installed leader in occupied southern Ukraine Sunday, refuting his claim that Kyiv's forces took back a village near the Zaporizhzhia front.

“An attack on Piatykhatky was repulsed. Over a dozen tanks, armored vehicles and (Armed Forces of Ukraine) manpower destroyed,” a battalion press center wrote in a post on the Russian Ministry of Defense's Telegram page.  

Earlier Sunday, a local Russia-installed leader said Ukrainian forces had claimed Piatykhatky, which is located south of Zaporizhzhia city.

The official, Vladimir Rogov, made the report in a Telegram post, where he implied Ukraine had suffered losses to take control of the village.

A Russian pro-Kremlin military blogger also reported on the situation there, saying Russian artillery units were firing on Ukrainian infantry entrenched in the village.

More on recent fighting: The Russian defense ministry said in its daily report Sunday that “the Armed Forces of Ukraine are most actively advancing in the Zaporizhzhia direction, with forces of up to three battalion groups, reinforced with tanks and armored combat vehicles.” 

Russian forces also repelled eight Ukrainian army attacks in various settlements east and northeast of Donetsk city, the ministry claimed in its report.

CNN cannot independently verify claims on battlefield developments.

The opening stages of Kyiv's counteroffensive have been marked by probing attacks — seemingly testing the Russian lines of defense — and modest gains, but no apparent major breakthroughs.

8:11 p.m. ET, June 18, 2023

Ukrainian shelling wounds 2 people in Russian border region, governor says

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Uliana Pavlova

Ukrainian shelling on the Kursk region in western Russia wounded two people and damaged buildings, including a sugar factory, regional Gov. Roman Starovoyt said Sunday.

The shelling targeted three settlements in the border district of Glushkovsky, the governor said, estimating that Ukraine launched more than two dozen strikes at various areas.

Two residents in the village of Glushkovo were wounded, Starovoyt said. In addition to the sugar factory, the strikes damaged several houses, stores and power lines. Parts of the targeted communities lost power, and repair crews are working to restore it, he added.

Russia's military fired back at the Ukrainian military units that launched the assault, according to Starovoyt.

Attacks on Russian soil: Moscow's invasion of Ukraine is increasingly coming home to the Russian people, with more attacks coming across the border in recent weeks.

The assaults on places like Kursk and the neighboring Belgorod region have, according to Russian officials, included strikes by Ukraine's military. But attacks have also been launched by Russian fighters aligned with Kyiv, who strike across the border in hopes of sowing confusion and anger in Moscow.

Often, Ukraine declines to claim responsibility for attacks that reach across the border into Russia.

CNN cannot independently verify battlefield reports.

9:30 p.m. ET, June 18, 2023

Flooding turns Odesa's coastline into "garbage dump and animal cemetery"

From CNN's Mariya Knight, Maria Kostenko and Niamh Kennedy

Debris litters a beach in Odesa on June 13. 
Debris litters a beach in Odesa on June 13.  Roman Pilipey/Getty Images

Beaches in the southern Ukrainian region of Odesa have been closed off after filthy waters from a collapsed dam washed downstream, posing a “genuine threat” to local residents, authorities say.

The toll from the collapse of the Russia-controlled Nova Kakhovka dam on June 6 has risen to 45, with both sides giving updates on those killed.

The collapse destroyed villages, flooded farmland and cut off power and clean water supplies to tens of thousands of people .

Floodwaters are receding, but debris washed down the Dnipro river – which flows into the Black Sea — turning Odesa’s coastline into “a garbage dump and animal cemetery,” according to Ukrainian authorities.

“The beaches of Odesa have been declared unsuitable for swimming due to a significant aggravation in the condition of water in open water areas (sea, estuary) and a genuine threat to the health of the city residents,” the Odesa municipality said in a Telegram post Sunday.

Odesa’s stretch of sandy beaches and holiday resorts were once popular with Ukrainian and foreign holidaymakers before Russia’s invasion.

The beaches have been largely abandoned by swimmers in recent months as mines continue to wash on the shoreline.

Authorities raised the alarm about the declining water quality in a Telegram post on Saturday, saying that lab tests had “identified infectious agents over the past week.”

Traces of salmonella, worm’s eggs and worm’s larvae were all found in the water which also “significantly” exceeded permitted levels of E. Coli.

“The presence of all of these biological pathogens in the water of open water areas in Odesa region, including the Black Sea, the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi Estuary, and the Danube River, constitutes a genuine threat to the life and health of the population,” the municipality added.

It remains unclear if the Nova Kakhovka dam was deliberately targeted or whether structural failure was behind its collapse.

Read more here.