June 22, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, June 23, 2023
8 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
4:02 a.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Ukrainian shelling hits bridge connecting Kherson with Crimea, Russia-backed official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Alex Stambaugh 

Vladimir Saldo speaks during an exhibition in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 14.
Vladimir Saldo speaks during an exhibition in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 14. Stringer/Getty Images

A bridge connecting Ukraine's southern Kherson region to the Crimean peninsula was the target of Ukrainian shelling overnight, a Russia-backed official said Thursday.

Vladimir Saldo, the Moscow-installed head of the occupied Kherson region, said on Telegram that Kyiv's forces carried out "barbaric shelling of civilian facilities," including a bridge near the village of Chonhar [known as Chongar in Russian]. 

The surface of the bridge was damaged, but there were no casualties, Saldo said, adding that traffic between Kherson and Crimea has been temporarily diverted.

The Russia-appointed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, said bomb experts are assessing the type of ammunition used in the alleged attack. Without providing any evidence, Saldo said long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles given to Ukraine by the UK could have been used.

There are three vehicle crossing points connecting Kherson and Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 in violation of international law. 

"Failure of one of [the bridges] cannot cardinally disrupt the transport logistics of the land transport corridor," said Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the head of Crimea, adding people should use the two other crossing points near the town of Armiansk. 

Remember: Ukraine has consistently said that it wants to recapture all of its territory controlled by Russia, including Crimea, which has served as a key logistics hub for Moscow's forces during the invasion.

10:56 a.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Ukraine is gaining the edge along the Dnipro River with formidable patrol boats

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, William Bonnett and Daria Markina Tarasova in Kyiv, Ukraine

This satellite image shows the water level of the Dnipro River near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine on June 13.
This satellite image shows the water level of the Dnipro River near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine on June 13. European Union/Copernicus Sentinel-2/Reuters/File

The 34-foot vessel speeds along Ukraine’s Dnipro River at maximum velocity, before its captain shouts: “Hold!” It does a snap turn and then smoothly moves on, in a seamless motion, barely slowing down.

With little armor, the US-donated Dauntless Sea Ark patrol boat relies on speed to evade attacks, and its impressive maneuverability is a key asset for Ukraine’s recently established river fleet.

“We’re looking for any kind of enemies everywhere, air, on land and on the river as well,” Captain Anton, his surname withheld for security reasons, says of his mission. “All the river Dnipro, from the north to the south, the riverine fleet must protect it.”

With a length of almost 1,400 miles (2,200 km) the Dnipro is the fourth longest river in Europe, rising in Russia, flowing through Belarus and Ukraine, before finally ending in the Black Sea. It cuts through Ukraine, connecting some of its major cities — such as Kyiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — providing water, electricity and a natural barrier against advancing armies.

Its water supply helps cool the reactors of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. And the destruction caused by the recent blast at the Nova Kakhovka dam also highlighted its importance for Ukrainians and Russians alike.

“The river is a strategic object,” Captain Anton says. “(Because of the explosion) now we can understand how it is important to make it a safe and secure place.”

For that reason Ukraine has been developing its river fleet, seeking to maintain control of the Dnipro and its shores, especially as it pushes through with its long awaited counteroffensive. In addition to some old Soviet equipment and civilian vessels modified for combat purposes, it has recently received support from the United States, NATO and other allies to bolster its fleet.

Read the full story here.

12:13 a.m. ET, June 22, 2023

It's early morning in Kyiv. Here's the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine

From CNN staff

More than 400 global companies pledged support Wednesday for rebuilding Ukraine's war-torn economy at a conference in London.

The World Bank estimated in March that the cost of rebuilding the country one year on from the start of the war amounted to $411 billion — a huge figure that is set to increase as the conflict drags on.

If you're just now catching up, here's what you should know:

  • Russian attacks: Russia claimed Wednesday that its forces had attacked units of the Ukrainian army and destroyed their equipment in the area of the Vremivka ledge — one of the epicenters of fighting, located in the southeast of the country near the border of the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions. Meanwhile, heavy fighting continues in the eastern Donetsk region as Russian forces keep their focus in the areas of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka, according to an earlier update from the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
  • Military equipment: Russia will boost the mass production of drones and increase their deployment to the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday. Putin also said Moscow will continue improving its armed forces based on the "invaluable" experience gained in Ukraine during its "special military operation," a term Russian officials use to refer to the invasion.
  • EU sanctions: European Union ambassadors have agreed on the 11th package of sanctions against Russia, the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council said Wednesday. The EU Commission chief said the new package "will deal a further blow to Putin’s war machine with tightened export restrictions, targeting entities supporting the Kremlin."
  • Dam collapse latest: Mines displaced by flooding after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam could end up on beaches around the Black Sea, the head of a UN mine program said Wednesday. The collapse of the dam was "almost a biblical disaster — and that's before you throw in the mine equation," he said.
  • Black Sea grain deal: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London. They discussed "a wide range of areas where Ukraine and Türkiye can advance bilateral cooperation," Kuleba said in a tweet. The Black Sea Initiative agreement is up for renewal on July 17. 
11:39 p.m. ET, June 21, 2023

US will have representatives at detained journalist Evan Gershkovich's upcoming hearing in Russia

From CNN's Michael Conte and Jennifer Hansler

Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Moscow  on April 18.
Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Moscow on April 18. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The US State Department said it would surely have US embassy representation at detained journalist Evan Gershkovich’s hearing Thursday in Russia, but did not have specifics about what to expect at the hearing.

“We continue to feel that this whole legal process as it relates to Evan is a sham,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel at a news briefing Wednesday. “We’ve been very clear that Evan is wrongfully detained, being wrongfully detained and targeted for simply doing his job as a journalist.”

Patel did not know when US officials were last granted consular access to the detained American. Multiple past requests for access have been denied by the Russian government.

9:02 p.m. ET, June 21, 2023

World leaders and more than 400 companies pledge support to rebuild Ukraine's war-torn economy

From CNN's Hanna Ziady in London

Ukraine’s long-awaited push to liberate territory held by Russia may have got off to a slow start, but the country is already planning for its future after the war — and turning to private investors for help.

More than 400 global companies pledged support Wednesday for rebuilding the war-torn economy at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London. Citi, Sanofi and Philips are among firms that have signed up to the Ukraine Business Compact, signaling their intent to boost investment in the country.

The UK government has also set out a package of support for Ukraine, including $3 billion of new guarantees to unlock World Bank loans and £240 million ($305 million) of bilateral assistance.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the conference that the United States would send an additional $1.3 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine to “overhaul its energy grid” and modernize other critical infrastructure.

Ukraine faces an enormous fundraising challenge, and it’s one that governments and development finance institutions won’t be able to meet without help from private investors. The World Bank estimated in March that the cost of rebuilding the country one year on from the start of the war amounted to $411 billion — a huge figure that is set to increase as the conflict drags on.

Read more here.

11:39 p.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Ukrainian foreign minister discusses maintaining Black Sea grain deal with Turkish counterpart

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Lauren Kent in London

From left, Hakan Fidan meets Dmytro Kuleba in London on June 21.
From left, Hakan Fidan meets Dmytro Kuleba in London on June 21. Murat Gok/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London.

"We discussed a wide range of areas where Ukraine and Türkiye can advance bilateral cooperation. I reaffirmed Ukraine’s interest in maintaining and expanding the Black Sea Grain Initiative, as well as mobilizing global support for the Peace Formula," Kuleba said in a tweet.

In an update Tuesday, the United Nations said exports under the initiative had "dropped significantly from a peak of 4.2 million metric tonnes in October 2022 to 1.3 million metric tonnes in May, the lowest volume since the Initiative began last year."

"The Secretary-General is disappointed by the slowing pace of inspections and the exclusion of the port of Yuzhny/Pivdennyi from the Black Sea Initiative. This has resulted in a reduction in the movement of vessels coming in and out of Ukrainian sea ports, leading to a drop in the supply of essential foodstuffs to global markets," the statement said.

The grain agreement up for renewal on July 17. 

Some more context: The deal, which is key for preventing a global food crisis, was last renewed in May.

Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the World Food Programme. According to the European Commission, Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market. It is also a key global player in the market of sunflower oil.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin said Russia is contemplating withdrawing from the grain deal, noting Moscow took part in the agreement to maintain relationships with “friendly” countries.

11:39 p.m. ET, June 21, 2023

UN nuclear watchdog says Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant will use multiple water sources for cooling 

From CNN's Lauren Kent

A Russian service member stands guard at a checkpoint near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, on June 15.
A Russian service member stands guard at a checkpoint near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, on June 15. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine will use multiple water sources — which have sufficient water for some months — for cooling after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam earlier this month, the UN's nuclear watchdog said in an update.

"For the past two weeks, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) has received the cooling water it needs from the reserves held by a discharge channel of the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP). This is separate from the reservoir, whose water level has plunged since the dam was severely damaged on 6 June," the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday in the update

The nuclear plant, which is under Russian control, was supplied by water from the dam's reservoir.

“Together, the large cooling pond, the smaller spray ponds, and the discharge channel have sufficient water for some months," it added.

Meanwhile, even as the war intensifies in the region, the nuclear plant is taking steps to "preserve and replenish these reserves as much as possible” and also "exploring alternative ways of getting water," the update said.

With the "extremely fragile" security situation around the plant, the dam's collapse "added to the severe difficulties," for the facility, the update said.

11:08 p.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Ukrainian military claims advances in the south as heavy fighting rages in eastern Donetsk region

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Lauren Kent in London

Ukrainian servicemen fire a BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system towards Russian troops near a front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine on June 21.
Ukrainian servicemen fire a BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system towards Russian troops near a front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine on June 21. Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters

Heavy fighting continues in the eastern Donetsk region as Russian forces keep their focus in the areas of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka, according to the latest update from the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

More than 30 combat engagements took place in those areas in the past day, the General Staff said Wednesday, noting that Russia conducted several "unsuccessful offensives" in those directions.

Both Ukraine's General Staff and Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, a commander of joint forces in the country's south, said Russian forces are on the defensive in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, while the Armed Forces of Ukraine are advancing.

"In the Tavria sector, our army is systematically driving the enemy out of their positions and continues to advance. The successes of the Defense Forces are already noticeable," Tarnavskyi said in a Telegram post

Within the past day in Tavria, a town in southern Ukraine, "enemy losses in killed and wounded amounted to almost three companies. Ukraine destroyed and damaged 68 units of enemy military equipment," Tarnavskyi claimed.

The General Staff said Russian forces were unsuccessful in offensives in the village of Piatykhatky in the Zaporizhzhia region, while they also conducted airstrikes in the areas of Preobrazhenka and Stopnohirsk in the Donetsk region.

In Bakhmut, Ukraine's acting Commander of the 3rd Assault Brigade Maksym Zhorin claimed Russian troops were unsuccessfully attempting to regain some of their lost positions on the battlefield.

"The result — dead and wounded Russians," he said.

What Russia says: The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed on Wednesday that its forces attacked units of the Ukrainian army in the southeast of the country near the border of the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, destroying their equipment. 

On Belarus: Ukraine's military also noted that "no signs of (the) formation of offensive groups were detected in Belarus" near the border with Ukraine. 

"However, combat training and coordination of the Russian Armed Forces units before their deployment to the areas of combat operations in Ukraine are ongoing at the training grounds of the Republic of Belarus," the General Staff claimed. 

Belarus, one of Russia's staunchest allies since the invasion of Ukraine, made changes to its constitution renouncing its neutrality on Wednesday.