June 23, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Hafsa Khalil, Jeevan Ravindran, Aditi Sangal, Ed Upright and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2:43 a.m. ET, June 24, 2022
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2:31 a.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Ukrainian military says it controls about 45% of Donetsk region

From CNN’s Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Ukrainian servicemen ride BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 14.
Ukrainian servicemen ride BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 14. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Ukraine's forces control less than half of the country's eastern Donetsk region, a regional military chief said on Wednesday, adding that more than a hundred cities and villages within the Ukrainian-controlled areas had no gas or electricity supply.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine control about 45% of the Donetsk region, where hostilities are currently taking place," the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, told Radio Svoboda.
"Accordingly, 55% that is completely destroyed, is under the control of illegal armed groups, under the control of the occupier I mean, including the half-destroyed Mariupol and Volnovakha."

A man stands outside a damaged residential building following recent shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine, on June 20.
A man stands outside a damaged residential building following recent shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine, on June 20. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

When asked about the situation in the Ukrainian-controlled areas of Donetsk, Kyrylenko called it “very difficult.” 

"One hundred and twelve cities and villages are without electricity at the moment and gas supply is absent from the month of April," he said.
"Those who do not leave Donetsk are usually staying in shelters along the front line. People receive humanitarian aid and food. But it is also extremely dangerous. Because the enemy uses extremely heavy artillery, aircraft. The enemy uses all kinds of weapons on the front line. People are constantly told to leave.
"In the destroyed city of Avdiivka, for example, there hasn't been a building spared from shelling. About 2,000 civilians still remain in the city right now." 

According to Kyrylenko, Russian forces killed four civilians in the Donetsk region on Wednesday. Another five people were injured, he added. 

2:21 a.m. ET, June 23, 2022

Zelensky canvasses European leaders ahead of Ukraine EU candidacy decision

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Jonny Hallam

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky address the nation from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 22.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky address the nation from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 22. (President of Ukraine)

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of the conversations he held with 11 European leaders on Wednesday, asking for their support on the eve of an EU summit where a decision will be made on Ukraine's candidate status with the bloc.

The question of Ukraine's candidacy for the European Union will be decided at the European Council summit taking place on Thursday and Friday. 

“Tomorrow I will continue this marathon —  we must provide maximum support to our state,” Zelensky said.

At a separate event earlier Wednesday, Zelensky told an audience in Canada that he believed all European Union members would back a proposal to grant Ukraine EU candidate status.

Russian missile strikes: The President also gave an update on the Russian missile strike at Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, earlier on Wednesday. CNN reported earlier that Mykolaiv was struck with seven missiles and suffered damage to infrastructure. "Fortunately, no one was killed and five were injured," Zelensky said.

According to Zelensky, casualties were reported following a strike on Kharkiv on Wednesday. Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, confirmed this in his Telegram post Wednesday. He reported 10 people dead and 10 wounded as the result of the strike.

“In Donbas — massive air and artillery strikes. The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same — they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step. All. Lysychansk, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk — they need to make any city like Mariupol. Completely broken,” Zelensky said. 

War crimes: Zelensky also thanked the United States "for its assistance in investigating war crimes in Ukraine," and called it "one of the greatest contributions to the protection of international law and order today."

The US attorney general announced a war crimes accountability team during a trip to Ukraine Tuesday that will work to identify and prosecute anyone who committed war crimes in the country.

8:58 p.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Lithuania accuses Russia of lying about rail "blockade"

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has said Russian claims of a rail blockade of its territorial outpost in Kaliningrad are a “lie.”

“Any talk of a blockade of Kaliningrad is a lie. Lithuania is complying with the sanctions imposed by the [European Union] on Russia for its aggression and war against [Ukraine],” she tweeted. “The sanctions were agreed by all the EU member states on March 15.
“All the other goods necessary for people living in the Kaliningrad Oblast – food, pharmaceuticals, etc. – are being transported.”

Some context: Russia has reacted furiously after Lithuania prohibited the passage of sanctioned goods across its territory into the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad last week. Peskov said the move was "unprecedented" on Monday. “We also consider it illegal," he said, adding the Kremlin will need to analyze the situation carefully. “It is part of a blockade, of course,” he said.

8:31 p.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Zelensky will address G7 and NATO summits

From CNN's Donald Judd and Kevin Liptak

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will virtually address the G7 and NATO summits that are occurring over the coming week, senior US administration officials said, as he works to reinforce Western support amid Russia's grinding invasion of his country.

The Ukraine war will loom over President Joe Biden's trip to Germany and Spain, where he will confer with a dozens of leaders.

At the G7, the officials said, Biden will unveil steps alongside other leaders to increase pressure on Russia for its invasion. And at NATO, the US will announce measures 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.

However, they acknowledged officials "expect Ukraine to be at the very front of conversations, and expect to roll out 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.

Read the full story here.

8:52 p.m. ET, June 22, 2022

European leaders expected to back Ukraine's bid as EU candidate, 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: “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.”

2:17 a.m. ET, June 23, 2022

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

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

A utility worker during installation of an address sign on the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) square near the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia, on June 22
A utility worker during installation of an address sign on the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) square near the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia, on June 22 (Andrey Bresonov/Kommersant/Sipa USA/AP)

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 councilors 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.

8:34 p.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.