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June 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

What we covered

  • Russian forces have captured ground around Lysychansk, the last city in eastern Luhansk still controlled by Ukraine, as they step up their bombardment of the region.
  • The Ukrainian Army said it has launched “aimed strikes” on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, where Russian forces and infrastructure are stationed.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a “seventh package of European Union sanctions” as the bloc meets to make a final decision on formally giving Ukraine candidate status.
  • Kaliningrad, Russia’s toehold in Europe, could be a flashpoint in its war against Ukraine after Lithuania banned the passage of sanctioned goods across its territory.
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29 Posts

Zelensky will address G7 and NATO summits as Biden could unveil new steps to pressure Russia

Ukrainian President Zelensky will virtually address the G7 and NATO summits next week, senior US administration officials said, as he works to reinforce western support amid Russia’s grinding invasion.

The Ukraine war will loom over President Biden’s trip to Germany and Spain, where he will confer with dozens of leaders. At the G7, Biden would unveil steps alongside other leaders to increase pressure on Russia for its invasion, according to officials. And at NATO, the US will announce steps to “strengthen European security, alongside expected major new contributions from allies,” one official said.

Officials declined to detail what, if any, new sanctions the administration, in concert with G7 allies, would announce against Russia, but “expect Ukraine to be at the very front of conversations, and expect to roll out a concrete a concrete set of proposals to increase the pressure on Russia to support Ukraine during the course of the summit,” while touting what they called already “unprecedented actions to our sanctions and export controls on Russia for its unjustified war against Ukraine” from G7 nations.

These officials did acknowledge that with gas prices rising precipitously both home and abroad, leaders participating will likely discuss the European Union’s partial ban on Russian oil. Additionally, leaders are also expected to discuss what they described as “a set of shared values around taking steps to reduce reliance on Russian energy” while still minimizing price impacts at home. 

“I think we’ll expect them to speak to how can we take steps that further reduce Russia’s energy revenues, and how do we do so in a way that stabilizes global energy markets and lessens the disruptions and pressures that we’ve seen?” the official told reporters Wednesday. “Again, that all goes back to those principles articulated at the very start with Russia’s invasion– how do we maximize pain on Putin’s regime, how do we minimize spill backs back to the rest of the world? And I think that’s exactly how the discussion around energy markets and energy market challenges will get framed and discussed by leaders this weekend.”

European leaders expected to back Ukraine's bid as EU candidate country, but officials caution "long process"

The 27 leaders of the European Union countries are expected to support granting EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova at a two-day summit being held in Brussels Thursday and Friday, according to a senior EU official.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels Wednesday, the EU official said, “I have not seen a problem on granting candidate status to Ukraine,” and lauded the work of European Council President Charles Michel.

But the senior official added: “I would like to tell you that ‘it’s a done deal’ and ‘it’s easy,’” but after years of working inside the EU, institutions didn’t want to be drawn on a definitive answer.”

Separately, a senior diplomat from an EU country said that “Ukraine and the Commission have done a great job” in preparing for Ukraine’s bid to start the long process of joining the EU, and the diplomat’s country was “happy with the report on the table.”

The diplomat tamped down expectations, saying that granting Ukraine candidate country status “doesn’t mean that we can advance, side-tracking everything which is normally on the table. That is not the case, and I think is not fair.”

When asked about a timetable for Ukraine becoming a full EU member state, the diplomat said that “I think the only one who can set a timetable is Ukraine, because Ukraine has to adapt, to transform, reform, and under the present circumstances, we understand that priorities lie elsewhere.”

Area outside US Embassy in Moscow renamed to "Donetsk People's Republic Square"

 A view of the square where US Embassy building is located is seen after Moscow City Hall changed the name of the square to the Donetsk People's Republic, in Moscow on June 22.

Moscow has renamed the area outside the US Embassy after the pro-Russian breakaway republic in eastern Ukraine.

The new address has been changed to “Donetsk People’s Republic Square,” the Moscow City Hall office announced on Wednesday.  

“The US Embassy in Russia has received a new official address,” the statement said. “Now the diplomatic mission is located at the following address: Russian Federation, city of Moscow, intracity territory of the Presnensky municipal district, square of the Donetsk People’s Republic, building 1, buildings 1–9.” 

The new address was chosen following the results of a public vote with nearly 280,000 participants, according to the city hall.

In May, Moscow councillors proposed to rename one of Moscow’s streets in honor of the “defenders of Donbas.” 

The embassy’s previous address was 8 Bolshoi Devyatinsky Lane.

Russia spy agencies step up hacking efforts against Ukraine allies, Microsoft says

Russian intelligence agencies have increased their efforts to hack US and allied government computer networks to gather intelligence since the war in Ukraine began, Microsoft said in new findings published Wednesday. 

American organizations were the top target of the Russian hacking attempts outside of Ukraine, according to Microsoft, but the alleged Russian hacking has spanned 42 countries, and a range of sectors that might have valuable information related to the war, from governments to think tanks to humanitarian groups. 

It’s a reminder of the voracious appetite that Russian cyber operatives have for strategic information as the Kremlin is more isolated on the international stage than it has been for decades. 

Those hacking attempts have successfully penetrated defenses 29% of the time, according to Microsoft. Of those successful breaches, a quarter resulted in data stolen from networks. 

But measuring the “success” of a Russian cyber-espionage is difficult, and Microsoft said it didn’t have a full view of the hacking because some customers stored data on their own systems rather than in Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure. 

CNN has reached out to the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment. Moscow routinely denies hacking accusations. 

Various governments have likely stepped up their offensive cyber activities related to the Ukraine war as they search for insights on how the fighting and the global fallout from it. 

Cyber Command, the US military’s hacking unit, has conducted a “full spectrum” of offensive, defensive and information operations in support of Ukraine, the head of the command confirmed this month. 

China, too, has trained some of its very capable hackers on targets related to the Ukraine war, according to cybersecurity researchers. Suspected Chinese hackers appeared to try to break into computers linked to officials in the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk, near the Chinese border, according to cybersecurity firm Secureworks.

Russia claims it destroyed M777 Howitzers sent to Ukraine by western allies

U.S Marine Corps. prepare the shipment of M777 howitzers to be loaded onto a C-17 by the U.S Air Force in the March Air Reserve Base in California, US, on May 19, along with other supplies and munitions as part of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed it has targeted and destroyed “155-mm M-777 howitzers” provided to Ukraine by the US and European allies, in a statement accompanying a video it released Wednesday.

Russian used high-precision artillery strikes to destroy the “155-mm howitzers made in the USA,” its Ministry of Defense claimed.

It’s unclear how many M777 Howitzers were allegedly destroyed, but it’s not the first time Russia has made similar claims. 

CNN has reached out to Ukrainian officials for comment on Russia’s claims but has yet to hear back.

CNN could not independently verify the destruction of M777 Howitzers, but it is widely understood that levels of attrition are high on both sides of the conflict.

Lithuanian president says country is prepared for any "unfriendly actions" by Russia

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda speaks during an interview in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 22.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said his country is ready for some form of retaliation by Russia after it banned the transit of certain goods subject to European Union sanctions across its territory and into the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

“We are ready and we are prepared for some kind of unfriendly actions from the side of Russia, disconnection from the BRELL system or other actions,” said Nauseda, speaking to Reuters in a video published Wednesday. The BRELL system is a power grid shared between Russia, Belarus and Baltic states.

He said he does not believe Russia will challenge Lithuania militarily because his country is a NATO member.

Nauseda defended the decision to block the passage of some goods, saying they’re implementing what was decided on a European Union level.

“We just implement the sanctions, which were imposed on European Union level, and this has nothing to do with the bilateral relations between Russia and the Lithuania,” Nauseda said. 

“We are looking forward to implement next stages of the sanctions, and it would be very good that European Commission explains the content of the sanctions to the Russian authorities and probably it will remove some tensions which are arising right now,” he added, warning that the escalation of tensions won’t benefit either side.

Earlier Wednesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that retaliatory measures for Lithuania’s transit ban on European Union-sanctioned goods to Russia through Kaliningrad were being discussed. Peskov did not elaborate what those measures could entail and said there was no exact timeline for Moscow’s response.

Germany will train Ukrainian soldiers on Mars II systems

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht speaks during a session of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on June 22.

The German military is planning to train Ukrainian soldiers up on the Multiple Launch Rocket System Mars II, defense minister Christine Lambrecht said in the German parliament Wednesday.

The training to be conducted in Germany could start as early as next week, Lambrecht said, adding that once those instructions have been concluded, delivery of that weapons system could start.

Germany would deliver three such systems to Ukraine, with the UK matching that number, and the US would deliver four Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS), she added.

German government warns Russia against retaliatory measures over Kaliningrad dispute

Freight train cars from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad are seen at the border railway station in Kybartai, some 200 kms (124 miles) west of the capital Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 22.

The German government has warned Russia not to take countermeasures over the dispute of freight traffic to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad

“We call on Russia not to take any measures that violate international law,” German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said. 

He said that Lithuania had taken these actions within the European Union framework of sanctions on Russia. Only certain goods are affected by the sanctions, and no people have been sanctioned. 

“We therefore clearly reject countermeasures announced by Russia,” Hebestreit said during a regularly scheduled government news conference in Berlin.  

Some background: The Kremlin has said Lithuania’s transit ban on European Union-sanctioned goods to Russia through Kaliningrad is “unacceptable.”

“We are convinced that the sanctions adopted by the EU are absolutely unacceptable. Applying these sanctions regarding transit to Kaliningrad and back simply contradicts fundamental agreements,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday, adding that retaliatory measures are being discussed.

Peskov refused to elaborate what those measures could entail and said there was no exact timeline for Moscow’s response, but that it will announce them when they are ready.

“(Response) measures are being prepared. After we carefully weigh everything, we will talk about it,” he said.

Ukraine says city of Mykolaiv struck with 7 missiles

The city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine was struck by seven missiles on Wednesday, the head of the regional military administration, Vitaly Kim, said on his Telegram channel. 

Kim was inspecting local harvests when the alleged attack occurred. 

“I have interrupted the inspection in the district. I return to the city. The city was hit with seven missiles,” he wrote. 

One person was killed and two were injured as missiles struck, the city’s mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych said Wednesday.

“As of now we know about two private enterprises affected. Some fuel and lubricant materials were on the premises of these enterprises,” Sienkevych said. “Due to the missile hit into one of the enterprises the fuel and lubricant materials set on fire and now the whole city is covered with the black smoke. The firefighters are working on spot.”

According to the mayor, a school and a five-story building were also affected by the blasts and have had their windows shattered. The school also suffered damaged to the roof. 

“We also received the information about four private houses which were damaged,” he added.

Russian authorities and Russian media did not immediately report on the incident and CNN could not independently verify Kim’s claim that seven missiles had struck the city.

Mykolaiv was the site of a fierce battle in the early weeks of Russia’s invasion, but it was successfully defended by Ukrainian forces.

Turkish and Russian defense ministers discuss grain exports from Ukrainian ports

A Russian soldier guards a pier with grain storage in the background at an area of the Mariupol Sea Port, eastern Ukraine, on June 12.

Russia’s defense ministry said it discussed grain exports from Ukrainian ports with a Turkish delegation, during a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday. 

“On June 21, negotiations were held in Moscow between the delegations of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Turkey,” the Russian defense ministry said in press statement on Wednesday. 

“The parties discussed the safe exit of Turkish merchant ships and the export of grain from Ukrainian ports, as well as approaches to ensuring safe navigation in the Black Sea,” it added.

Grain shipments from Ukraine have stalled due to ongoing hostilities in the region since the start of Russia’s invasion. 

More background: Ukrainian and world leaders have denounced Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports, with the United Nations saying it could push nearly 50 million people into famine or famine-like conditions around the globe. Satellite images also show that Russian ships have been loading up with what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain in Crimea on their way to Middle Eastern ports.

Meanwhile, Moscow accuses the Ukrainian side of not de-mining the ports. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly blamed Western sanctions on the impending food crises, but European Union officials say he is blaming them for a crisis that he created.

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russian forces are targeting a key city in Ukraine’s east, while missile strikes have been reported around the country and European leaders are meeting to discuss Kyiv’s EU status.

Here are the latest headlines.

  • Battle for Lysychansk: Russia has advanced into several villages south of Lysychansk, the last city in the Luhansk region still held by Ukraine. It comes after a bruising week for Kyiv’s forces, which has seen several villages to the city’s south fall. “It is not easy for our soldiers to keep the defense,” a regional official admitted.
  • Fighting across Ukraine’s south: Heavy fighting is taking place in southern Ukraine along the borders of Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, according to Ukrainian officials. Russians were shelling many districts of Mykolaiv, the government said Wednesday. For the second day in a row, the town of Bereznehuvate came under fire Tuesday, according to regional authorities.
  • Kaliningrad tensions: The Kremlin has again expressed its fury after Lithuania blocked sanctioned goods from crossing its territory into Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave surrounded by EU territory. The region could become a new flashpoint in the war after days of frosty exchanges with Lithuania, which says it is merely upholding EU sanctions.
  • EU talks: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a “seventh package of European Union sanctions,” as the bloc meets to make a final decision on formally giving Ukraine candidate status. There is broad support for Ukraine’s application to join, but France said Wednesday that it won’t get a VIP pass.
  • Snake Island strikes: Large burn marks and a damaged tower have appeared on the island after the Ukrainian Army said it conducted “aimed strikes,” a new satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows. In the past two months, Ukrainian forces have repeatedly hit Russian forces and infrastructure stationed on the island.
  • War crimes team: US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a war crimes accountability team during a trip to Ukraine, which will work to identify and prosecute anyone who committed war crimes in the country. The team will be led by the department’s best-known Nazi Hunter, Eli Rosenbaum.

Kremlin says Lithuania's ban on sanctioned goods passing through Russian exclave is "unacceptable"

A Russian railway locomotive moves past freight train wagons at the border railway station in Kybartai, Lithuania, on June 21.

The Kremlin has said Lithuania’s transit ban on European Union-sanctioned goods to Russia through Kaliningrad – Russia’s exclave in the EU – is “unacceptable.”

Moscow is considering measures in response to Vilnius’s “unfriendly steps,” according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

“We are convinced that the sanctions adopted by the EU are absolutely unacceptable. Applying these sanctions regarding transit to Kaliningrad and back simply contradicts fundamental agreements,” Peskov said Wednesday, adding that retaliatory measures are being discussed.

Peskov refused to elaborate what those measures could entail and said there was no exact timeline for Moscow’s response, but that it will announce them when they are ready.

“(Response) measures are being prepared. After we carefully weigh everything, we will talk about it,” he said.

Some background: Russia has reacted furiously after Lithuania prohibited the passage of sanctioned goods across its territory into Kaliningrad last week.

Peskov said the move was “unprecedented” on Monday. “We also consider it illegal,” he said, adding that the Kremlin will need to analyze the situation carefully. “It is part of a blockade, of course,” he said.

However, Lithuania said it is merely upholding European Union sanctions and the European bloc has backed the country’s decision.

The row threatens to escalate tensions between Moscow and the EU, which has unveiled several packages of sanctions on Russian goods – including last month agreeing to ban 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.

Ukraine won't get a VIP pass to join the EU, France says

French Junior Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune arrives at the French National Assembly in Paris, France, on June 20.

France has said Ukraine’s passage to join the European Union could take years to complete, reiterating its position that the country won’t be fast-tracked into the bloc despite widespread support among leaders for its efforts to join.

Ukraine will have to comply with strict rules as with any applicant, a French minister said, ahead of a Brussels summit in which leaders will discuss Ukraine’s candidacy.

“There is no expedited procedure, there is no King’s Pass,” French Minister Delegate for Europe Clément Beaune said in an interview with French radio Europe 1, using a term for preferential treatment. 

“They need to finish the war first, to rebuild the country, to meet all the democratic and economic requirements. This will take time. But we are giving this signal of openness,” Beaune added.

EU leaders will gather on Thursday and Friday to discuss whether or not to grant EU candidacy status to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

The European Commission last week backed Ukraine’s candidacy.

Speaking in Brussels, its President Ursula von der Leyen said the Commission recommends “that Ukraine is given candidate status. This is of course on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further reforms.”

Russian forces use kamikaze drones to attack towns in northeastern Ukraine

Russian forces are using kamikaze drones for cross-border attacks into the northeastern Sumy region of Ukraine, according to a military official.

The portable so-called kamikaze drones carry warheads and detonate on impact. They are small and disposable devices equipped with cameras and GPS that when launched, locate nearby enemy assets and dive on command.

The town of Krasnopillya was shelled with mortars four times and bombarded with “kamikaze drones,” Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said Tuesday.

Four people were wounded, he added.

“In general the situation is quite tense. Yesterday the communities and territories along the border were shelled with different kinds of armament with self-propelled artillery units, mortars, MLRS,” Zhyvytskyy said.

Shostka, another border town, was shelled with mortars and heavy artillery on Wednesday morning, Zhyvytskyy added.

Heavy fighting rages in several areas of southern Ukraine

Heavy fighting is taking place in southern Ukraine along the borders of Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, according to Ukrainian officials.

Russians were shelling many districts of Mykolaiv, the government said Wednesday. For the second day in a row, the town of Bereznehuvate came under fire Tuesday, according to regional authorities. Shelling in adjacent rural areas set fire to crops, they added. 

The government said heavy fighting was raging in several villages along the regional border.

In Kherson, which has been under Russian control since March, more activists, politicians and journalists are reported to have been abducted.

“There is no Ukrainian media in the region,” Ukrainian authorities said. 

“The occupiers and local collaborators are making more and more loud statements about Kherson region joining Russia,” the government said, but added that “every day more and more Ukrainian flags and inscriptions appear in the city (of Kherson).”

Some background: The extent of dissent and resistance in Kherson is difficult to gauge, but several attacks have been made on Ukrainian officials who chose to collaborate with the Russians, as well as poster campaigns against the occupation.

Earlier this week, Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, urged civilians in Kherson region to leave if they could.

She said that if necessary they should travel through Russian-annexed Crimea and added that it “is almost the only” evacuation corridor available to those wanting to flee.

Russian occupying forces have made it increasingly difficult for civilians to leave Kherson for Ukrainian-held territory.

Anecdotal evidence suggests hundreds of Ukrainians have left Kherson through Crimea, taking buses through Turkey or Russia and Georgia in a long trek to reach parts of Ukraine not under Russian control. 

“According to our calculations, up to 50% of the region’s population, which is half a million people have already left Kherson and Kherson region,” Hennadii Lahuta, head of Kherson regional military administration, said Tuesday.

Routes out to Kryvyi Rih and Mykolaiv, which Kherson region residents previously used for evacuation, “do not work now, the occupiers do not let people out. There are columns which are being let out, but people are forced to spend weeks in the fields and go through occupied Melitopol and Vasylivka to Zaporizhzhia,” he added.

More than 1,400 people had left occupied territories in the previous 24 hours, of whom about 400 had come from Kherson region and reached Zaporizhzhia, Oleksandr Starukh, head of that region’s military administration, said Tuesday.

Ukraine may have endured its worst week since the fall of Mariupol

A Ukrainian serviceman looks on after a strike on a warehouse on the outskirts of Lysychansk, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on June 17.

Ukraine’s defense of Lysychansk – the last city in the Luhansk region it still holds – just became a lot more tenuous.

For weeks, Russian forces have been trying to obliterate Ukrainian defensive positions to the south and east of the city, in an effort to encircle it and cut off Ukrainian troops tasked with holding it. 

In the last couple of days, the Russians have advanced into several villages south of Lysychansk, though not without sustaining losses from Ukrainian artillery fire. Indeed, the Ukrainian military claims that some Russian battalion tactical groups are being consolidated or withdrawn to restore their combat capabilities.

The Institute for the Study of War, in its latest daily analysis of the battlefield, says the Russian breakthrough from the south means they “may be able to threaten Lysychansk in the coming days while avoiding a difficult opposed crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River.”

The settlements that Ukrainian officials confirmed as lost Wednesday are all on the western Siverskyi Donets Riverbank, within 10 kilometers of the southern outskirts of Lysychansk.

Ukrainian forces continue to fight on the fringes of the city of Severodonetsk, and in adjacent communities – and they benefit from higher ground in Lysychansk.

But their already-compromised supply lines are becoming more tenuous, and the sheer magnitude of Russian firepower is grinding down defensible positions.

The reverses suffered in the past few days, after weeks of determined resistance, probably mark the most difficult week for the Ukrainian military since the surrender of the last defenders in Mariupol.

The attacks near Lysychansk are being carried out in tandem with renewed Russian efforts to cut the highway that runs west to Bakhmut, a critical line of communication for the Ukrainians. In some places, Russian forces are within a few kilometers of the highway.

The Ukrainian defense of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk has consumed the firepower of many Russian units and blunted their efforts to make progress in the neighboring Donetsk region, but the Russians can still call on reserves holding in nearby areas of southwest Russia – while some of Ukraine’s best units are seriously depleted by months of missile, rocket, artillery and air attacks.

Russian forces target key holdout city of Lysychansk

Ukrainian troops move out of the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 21, as Ukraine says Russian shelling has caused "catastrophic destruction" in the eastern industrial city of Lysychansk.

Ukrainian officials have acknowledged the loss of several communities near the city of Lysychansk, the only conurbation in Luhansk region they still control.

“The Russians are approaching Lysychansk, entrenching in nearby towns. The city is being shelled by aircraft,” according to Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration.

Hayday acknowledged it was “difficult” in the area south of Lysychansk. “The enemy entered Toshkivka, which allowed it to increase fire on other settlements.”

He said Russian forces were entrenched in several villages immediately to the south of Lysychansk, including Ustynivka, Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna, and were advancing at Bila Hora. “It is not easy for our soldiers to keep the defense,” he admitted.

Hayday’s comments suggest that Ukrainian defenses around Lysychansk have begun to succumb to much greater Russian firepower, after weeks of bombardment.

He said that “street fights continue in Severodonetsk,” where Ukrainian defenders still occupy a part of the Azot chemical plant.

But he said the Russians were trying to surround Ukrainian units in some areas (such as Borivske) near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Military analysts have said that the risk of a Russian advance from the south means that some Ukrainian troops could be cut off.

Hayday added: “Lysychansk is under heavy fire now. The city is shelled from artillery, tanks and aircraft. There are at least three wounded civilians there, several policemen were injured.” He said the police and security service buildings were hit by missiles.

Throughout its campaign, Russia has used the tactic of intense bombardment before trying to take territory.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Russia held up to three battalion tactical groups and airborne units in border areas as potential reinforcements.

Settlements near Kharkiv had been intensively shelled, it said. On Tuesday, 15 people were reported killed by artillery strikes in the area.

In the Donetsk region, the General Staff said that Russian forces were using multiple launch rocket systems “in order to create conditions for the resumption of the offensive on the city of Sloviansk.”

But it also said that Ukrainian units had prevented the Russians advancing towards Bakhmut from the south. 

Elsewhere, along active front lines that extend for more than 1,000 kilometers, the Ukrainians reported shelling of settlements in Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

The head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said six children had been wounded and one person killed in shelling of Chasiv Yar. He said cluster munitions had landed on a beach at a lake in the town. 

Analysis: In Beijing's BRICS summit, Putin is back on the world stage

When Russian President Vladimir Putin dials into the virtual BRICS summit hosted by Beijing on Thursday, it will be his first time attending a forum with the heads of major economies since launching an invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

For Putin, this could offer a welcome picture: his face beamed onscreen alongside other leaders whose countries make up this acronymous grouping: China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa — a signal that Russia, though battered by sanctions and remonstrations for the invasion, is not alone.

It’s a message that may resonate even more clearly as China and Russia, weeks before the invasion, declared their own relationship to have “no limits,” and as each of the BRICS leaders have avoided condemning Russia outright, even as they hold varying levels of interest in not being seen to endorse its actions — and run foul of Western friends.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, top left, along with Chinese President Xi, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, attend the 13th BRICS summit via video link on September 9, 2021.

Below the surface, Putin’s invasion is likely to throw another complication into BRICS, a more than a decade-old grouping of major emerging economies, which already suffers from mistrust between members and mismatched ideologies.

But the decision by the group to press ahead with its 14th annual summit does reflect a view held by BRICS countries on the global order and, by extension, the situation in Ukraine, that departs from that of the West, experts say.

“We’re talking about some very major economies whose leadership is willing to be seen with Putin, even if it is only on a virtual platform,” said Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research (CPR) in New Delhi.
“The fact that Putin is welcome, he’s not a pariah, he’s not being pushed out – and this is a normal engagement, which has taken place every year and it’s still taking place — that is a big plus for Putin,” he said.

Editor’s Note: A version of this post appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here.

Read the full analysis here.

Intense Russian shelling in Kharkiv and Donetsk

The Housing and Communal College building damaged in recent shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 21.

The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Russia held up to three battalion tactical groups and airborne units in border areas as potential reinforcements.

It said there had been intense shelling of settlements near Kharkiv, in the northeast. On Tuesday, 15 people were reported killed by artillery strikes in the area.

In the Donetsk region: The General Staff said Russian forces were using multiple launch rocket systems “in order to create conditions for the resumption of the offensive on the city of Sloviansk.”

Bakhmut: It also said that Ukrainian units had prevented the Russians advancing towards Bakhmut from the south. 

The front lines: Elsewhere along active front lines that extend for more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), the Ukrainians reported shelling of settlements in Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

The head of the Donetsk regional military adminstration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said six children had been wounded and one person killed in shelling of Chasiv Yar. He said cluster munitions had landed at a beach on a lake in the town. 

Ukraine loses territory near Lysychansk

A man stands by a barricade made with destroyed police cars in Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 21.

Ukrainian officials have acknowledged the loss of several communities near the city of Lysychansk, the only conurbation in Luhansk region they still control.

“The Russians are approaching Lysychansk, entrenching in nearby towns. The city is being shelled by aircraft,” said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration.

Hayday said it was “difficult” in the area south of Lysychansk. “The enemy entered Toshkivka, which allowed it to increase fire on other settlements.”

Russian forces were entrenched in several villages immediately to the south of Lysychansk, including Ustynivka, Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna, and were advancing at Bila Hora.

His comments suggest that Ukrainian defenses around Lysychansk have begun to succumb to much greater Russian firepower, after weeks of bombardment.

Hayday said “street fights continue in Severodonetsk,” where Ukrainian defenders still occupy a part of the Azot chemical plant.

But he said the Russians were trying to surround Ukrainian units in some localities (such as Borivske) near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Military analysts have said the risk of a Russian advance from the south is that some Ukrainian troops could be cut off.

“Lysychansk is under heavy fire now. The city is shelled from artillery, tanks and aircraft. There are at least three wounded civilians there, several policemen were injured,” Hayday said. Police and security service buildings were also hit by missiles.

Some context: Throughout its campaign, Russia has used the tactic of intense bombardment before trying to take territory.

It's 9:30 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

The Ukrainian Army said it has launched “aimed strikes” on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, where Russian forces and infrastructure are stationed.

Here are the latest headlines on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

  • Snake Island strikes: Large burn marks and a damaged tower have appeared on the island after the Ukrainian Army said it conducted “aimed strikes,” a new satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows. In the past two months, Ukrainian forces have repeatedly hit Russian forces and infrastructure stationed on the island.
  • Kaliningrad could be new flashpoint: Tensions are mounting around the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, an isolated but strategically significant territory on the Baltic coast. Russia reacted furiously after Lithuania banned the passage of sanctioned goods across its territory and into Kaliningrad. But Lithuania says it is merely upholding EU sanctions, and the European bloc has backed Vilnius.
  • Zelensky calls for more sanctions: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a “seventh package of European Union sanctions is needed as soon as possible” as the 27 EU leaders meet this week to make a final decision on formally giving Ukraine candidate status.
  • Deaths in Kharkiv: The Military Administration of Kharkiv said 15 people were killed and 16 others injured in Russian attacks across the region. Russian forces shelling Ukraine’s second largest city have targeted residential and industrial zones, according to a police official in Kharkiv.
  • War crimes team: US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a war crimes accountability team during a trip to Ukraine, which will work to identify and prosecute anyone who committed war crimes in the country. The team will be led by the department’s best-known Nazi Hunter, Eli Rosenbaum.
  • Battle for key city: Russian troops have captured the frontline village of Toshkivka in the Donbas region as they try to seize the strategic city of Severodonetsk. Toshkivka is located south of the city, where Ukrainian forces have mounted fierce resistance to Moscow’s armies. 

Large burn marks appear on Snake Island after Ukrainian "aimed strikes," satellite image shows

A satellite image shows an overview of Snake Island, Ukraine, on June 21.

Large burn marks and a damaged tower have appeared on Snake Island after the Ukrainian Army said they conducted “aimed strikes,” a new satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows.

The burn marks are visible in three parts of the island in the satellite image, taken on June 21. One is near a tower structure on the southern side of the island. The other two are closer to the main building complex.

In the past two months, Ukrainian forces have repeatedly hit Russian forces and infrastructure stationed on the island. They’ve also knocked out a Russian helicopter and a number of naval craft located offshore.

Snake Island, or Zmiinyi Island, was the scene of one of the opening salvos of the war in Ukraine and is of strategic importance to both sides. During the opening days of the war, it was the site of a demand from a Russian warship to Ukrainian defenders to surrender. They replied, infamously, with ”Russian warship, go f**k yourself” — a phrase that become a motif of Ukrainian resistance.

Zelensky calls for 7th EU sanctions package as bloc considers Ukraine for candidate status

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video address on Tuesday June 21.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a “seventh package of European Union sanctions is needed as soon as possible,” in his nightly address on Tuesday. 

It came as the 27 EU leaders are meeting this week to make a final decision on formally giving Ukraine candidate status.

Zelensky also spoke of Russia’s “anti-European policy,” and Moscow’s response to Lithuania blocking sanctioned goods from Europe into Russia’s European exclave of Kaliningrad.

“Russia must feel a constant increase in pressure for the war and for its aggressive anti-European policy,” he said.
“Another Russian threat to Lithuania, another wave of energy pressure, another batch of lies from Russian officials about the food crisis are all arguments to agree on the seventh package of sanctions.”

Where is Kaliningrad? The exclave is Russia’s westernmost territory, and the only part of the country surrounded by EU states. Lithuania stands between it and Belarus, a Russian ally, while Poland borders it to the south.

CNN reported on Monday that Lithuanian Railways, the state-owned railway company, had notified Russia that transit trains with goods subject to EU sanctions would no longer be allowed to pass through.

Russia’s reaction: Moscow has responded furiously to Lithuania’s move.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday called the action unprecedented and illegal.

The Charge d’Affaires of Lithuania in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry and told that if freight transit to the Kaliningrad region was not fully restored, Russia reserved the right to take action to protect its national interests.

But the EU, whose sanctions Lithuania is enforcing by blocking transit, has backed its member state.

Read more on the situation here.

Luxembourg commits 15% of its defense budget to support Ukraine: Zelensky

Luxembourg has committed 15% of the nation’s annual defense budget to support Ukraine’s war efforts, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“15% of the defense budget of this state — this was a contribution to the defense of Ukraine. Both the greatness and the nobility of the state are immediately felt,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday.

According to NATO figures, Luxembourg spent $462 million on defense in 2021.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel visited Kyiv on Tuesday to show “Luxembourg’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

“Mr. Bettel visited the cities of the Kyiv region that had been liberated from the occupiers,” Zelensky said.
“I am grateful to him for his sincere understanding of our people and for Luxembourg’s readiness to take part in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.” 

Bettel visited Bucha, Borodyanka and Irpin, all places that have been heavily impacted by the war. 

The Prime Minister called Borodyanka “a symbol of senseless cruelty and violence.”

Biden says Russia's war in Ukraine a "waiting game" as he prepares to meet with allies in Europe

US President Joe Biden says he isn’t afraid of the Western alliance fracturing as Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds ahead.

But he did warn of a protracted conflict and said he would discuss the way forward with allies at next week’s NATO summit in Madrid

“I’m not afraid,” he said, when asked about the potential for fractures among US allies in Europe.
“I do think, at some point, this is going to be a bit of a waiting game. What the Russians can sustain and what Europe is going to be prepared to sustain,” he added.
“That’s one of the things we’re going to be speaking in Spain about.”

Biden departs Saturday for a G7 summit in Germany followed by the NATO gathering in Spain.

15 dead and 16 injured in Kharkiv region, military administration says

The Military Administration of Kharkiv said 15 people were killed and 16 others injured in Russian attacks across the region.

In a post on Telegram, Oleh Syniehubov said the dead included six in Chuhuiv, five in Kharkiv, three in Zolovhiv and an 8-year-old girl from Derhachi.

Russian forces shelling Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv targeted residential and industrial zones across the city, according to Serhii Bolvinov, head of the Investigative Department of National Police in Kharkiv.

Russia will "absolutely not" return to pre-war status quo, US State Department official says

Russia will “absolutely not” go back to the pre-war status quo, a senior State Department official told reporters Tuesday.

This official did not speak explicitly to the future of diplomatic relations with Russia, noting they were already strained prior to the war starting in February. They said US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan speaks less frequently with the Russian Foreign Ministry than before, but there is still contact on the issues of the US Embassy’s “staffing woes” and the detained Americans.

“That’s a frequent topic multiple times a week, on behalf of various detainees and not just the most high-profile ones, which are obviously Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, but there are other Americans who are detained there who deserve the same level of treatment as any American citizen does, who’s detained in a foreign country,” the official said.

The official also explained how challenging it is to work with Moscow on the issue of detained Americans, because the Russians put convoluted processes in place that prevent any quick contact with the detainees.

Sullivan has not “engaged on Ukraine policy with the Russian government since mid-February,” the official explained.

The official spoke of the commercial impact the war has had in Russia, noting there were more than 1,000 US companies that did business in Russia last year and “it’s a fraction of that now.”

US attorney general announces team to prosecute war crimes in Ukraine

US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova today in Krakovets, at the Ukraine border with Poland.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a War Crimes Accountability team during an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Tuesday that will work to identify and prosecute anyone who committed war crimes in the country.  

The team, Garland said, will be led by the department’s best-known Nazi Hunter Eli Rosenbaum, and will be made up of experts in investigations involving human rights abuses and war crimes. 

Rosenbaum, a 36-year veteran of the Justice Department who previously served as director of human rights enforcement strategy and policy, helped the department in over 100 cases to strip citizenship from or deport accused Nazis, according to the Justice Department.

The announcement is a strong signal from the Justice Department that it is interested in investigating war crimes in Ukraine and follows a previous effort by the department to lock down the assets of Russian oligarchs.

“There is no hiding place for war criminals. The US Justice Department will pursue every avenue of accountability for those who commit war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” Garland said in Ukraine. “Working alongside our domestic and international partners, the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable every person complicit in the commission of war crimes, torture, and other grave violations during the unprovoked conflict in Ukraine.”

Garland also said that the Justice Department will send three prosecutors to advise Ukraine, as well as countries in Europe and the Middle East, in fighting Russian efforts to evade global sanctions.

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