June 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Rob Picheta, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 1:02 a.m. ET, June 23, 2022
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7:25 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

A Russian railway locomotive moves past freight train wagons at the border railway station in Kybartai, Lithuania, on June 21.
A Russian railway locomotive moves past freight train wagons at the border railway station in Kybartai, Lithuania, on June 21. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

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.

6:44 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris

French Junior Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune arrives at the French National Assembly in Paris, France, on June 20.
French Junior Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune arrives at the French National Assembly in Paris, France, on June 20. (Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa USA/AP)

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."

6:32 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Russian forces use kamikaze drones to attack towns in northeastern Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister

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.

5:36 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Heavy fighting rages in several areas of southern Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

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.

5:28 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

Analysis from CNN's Tim Lister

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.
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. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

4:38 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Russian forces target key holdout city of Lysychansk

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Julia Kesaieva

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 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. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

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. 

3:22 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

Analysis from CNN's Simone McCarthy in Hong Kong

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.
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. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua/Getty Images)

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.

3:06 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Intense Russian shelling in Kharkiv and Donetsk

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Julia Kesaieva

The Housing and Communal College building damaged in recent shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 21.
The Housing and Communal College building damaged in recent shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 21. (Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

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. 

3:01 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Ukraine loses territory near Lysychansk

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Julia Kesaieva

A man stands by a barricade made with destroyed police cars in Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 21.
A man stands by a barricade made with destroyed police cars in Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 21. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

"It is not easy for our soldiers to keep the defense," Hayday said

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.