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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1:51 p.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

From CNN’s James Frater in Brussels

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."

“So I'm confident, but I'm cautious too,” the official said.

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.”

1:18 p.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

 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.
 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. (Evgenii Bugubaev/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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.

12:58 p.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

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.

10:25 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova, Olga Voitovych and Vasco Cotovio

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. 
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.  (EyePress News/Reuters)

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.

9:52 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

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

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda speaks during an interview in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 22.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda speaks during an interview in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 22. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

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.

9:42 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Germany will train Ukrainian soldiers on Mars II systems

From CNN's Chris Stern in Berlin

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht speaks during a session of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on June 22.
German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht speaks during a session of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on June 22. (John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

9:39 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

German government warns Russia against retaliatory measures over Kaliningrad dispute

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

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.
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. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

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.

9:08 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Ukraine says city of Mykolaiv struck with 7 missiles

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

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.

8:27 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Turkish and Russian defense ministers discuss grain exports from Ukrainian ports

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

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.
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. (AP)

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.