Russia-Ukraine latest: Russia ‘overwhelmingly’ striking civilians

‘Paramount’ task for the West is to provide weaponry to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian rocket fire pounding civilians, president says.

Ukrainian troops drive an armoured vehicle on a damaged road near the front line in the city of Severodonetsk in early June [EPA-EFE]
  • President Vladimir Putin says Russia has weathered sweeping Western sanctions in a speech at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
  • The European Union’s executive arm backs Ukraine’s bid for EU candidacy status, a move President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hopes will bring Ukraine closer to victory.
  • An international expert helping Ukraine investigate alleged war crimes says there are “all the hallmarks of a chain of command” linking alleged atrocities to “Putin himself”.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes surprise visit to Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy, his second such trip since the war started.


The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for June 17, 2022.

Ukraine receives $773m loan from Canada

Ukraine has received a $773m loan from Canada, its finance ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“The funds will be directed to the state budget to finance priority expenditures, in particular, to ensure priority social and humanitarian expenditures,” the ministry said.

Ukrainian Minister of Finance Sergii Marchenko said he was grateful to the government of Canada “for the unwavering support for Ukraine in the fight for our freedom”.

He also added, “This decision once again demonstrates Canada’s leadership in supporting the Ukrainian people and crucial timeliness to help Ukraine.”

UN: Civilian casualties in Ukraine hit 10,000-mark

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has confirmed that civilian casualties in Russia’s war on Ukraine have exceeded the 10,000 mark.

Officials said they have recorded 10,046 civilian casualties in the country, including 4,481 who were killed and 5,565 injured.

Ukraine has seen the most casualties in the eastern Donbas region, where 2,611 civilians have been killed and 3,103 have been injured, the UN office said. Donbas is the site of the heaviest fighting in the besieged country at present.

Officials have said that the actual numbers are likely higher.

Chancellor Scholz: “Necessary” for leaders to speak directly with Putin

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that it is “absolutely necessary” for leaders to speak directly with Russian President Putin in an attempt to end the war on Ukraine.

“It is absolutely necessary to speak to Putin, and I will continue to do so – as the French president will also,” Scholz said, speaking to German news agency dpa on Friday.

Olaf Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits Irpin, outside Kyiv, Thursday, June 16, 2022 [Ludovic Marin/Pool via AP]

Ukraine condemns decision not to host Eurovision

Ukraine has condemned on Friday the European Broadcasting Union’s decision to strip it of the right to host next year’s Eurovision song contest on security grounds in light of Russia’s invasion.

“We will demand to change this decision, because we believe that we will be able to fulfil all the commitments … We demand additional negotiations on hosting Eurovision-2023 in Ukraine,” Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said in a statement, according to AFP.

Earlier Friday, the EBU in Geneva said that given the current circumstances in war-torn Ukraine, the Eurovision Song Contest cannot be held there. Instead, United Kingdom, whose singer was runner-up in this year’s contest, is being considered as a possible replacement host.

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine appear on stage after winning the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy on May 15, 2022 [Yara Nardi/Reuters]
Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine appear on stage after winning the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy, on May 15, 2022 [Yara Nardi/Reuters]

Experts: Crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine

A group of international investigators and experts have visited war-torn areas near Kyiv, including a burned-out school, as part of Ukraine’s continuing investigation into alleged war crimes.

“The scale of these crimes, the systematic nature of them, it very clearly appears to be crimes against humanity … it runs the whole gamut of violations of international humanitarian law,” one expert told Reuters.

Putin: Restoration of relations with Ukraine is “inevitable”

The restoration of Russia’s relations with Ukraine is “inevitable”, Putin said on Friday at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“We proceed from the fact that sooner or later the situation will normalise, and we are interested in prosperity for all our neighbours, then it is inevitable,” Putin said commenting on Ukraine’s possible accession to the European Union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in St Petersburg, Russia, June 17, 2022 [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

PM Johnson: UK to oversee training for Ukraine soldiers

Johnson has announced that the UK will oversee a new three-week training programme for Ukrainian soldiers that would “fundamentally change the equation of the war”.

In a statement released by Downing Street on Friday, Johnson is quoted as saying, “As Ukrainian soldiers fire UK missiles in defence of your nation’s sovereignty, they do so also in defence of the very freedoms we take for granted. That is why I have offered President Zelenskyy a major new military training program that could change the equation of this war – harnessing that most powerful of forces, the Ukrainian determination to win.”

According to Downing Street, the programme has the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days, with each soldier spending three weeks on the training course outside of Ukraine, learning battle-winning skills for the front line, as well as basic medical training, cybersecurity and counter explosive tactics.

Key highway from Lysychansk blown up and impassable

A strategic highway out of the bombarded Ukrainian city of Lysychansk is now impassable because of heavy Russian shelling.

The road links Lysychansk and the town of Bakhmut, 55km (25 miles) to the southwest. Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Haidai said in an online post that Lysychansk was still completely under Ukrainian control despite the attacks.

The embattled city is preparing for a possible street battle with Russian troops fighting Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Severodonetsk, just across the river.

PM Johnson highlights Putin’s ‘vain ambitions’

Speaking from Kyiv, UK Prime Minister Johnson denounced Russia’s leader for invading Ukraine and said Russian forces are under extreme pressure.

“I completely understand why you and your people can make no compromise with Putin because if Ukraine is suffering, if the Ukrainian troops are suffering, then I have to tell you that all the evidence is that Putin’s troops are under acute pressure themselves and they are taking heavy casualties,” he told President Zelenksyy. “Their expenditure of munitions, of shells and other weaponry, is colossal.”

Johnson said two months after his last visit, “the Ukrainian grit, determination and resilience is stronger than ever, and I know that unbreakable resolve will long outlive the vain ambitions of President Putin”.

Russian media show images allegedly of US citizens captured in Ukraine

Russian media broadcast images of what they said were two US citizens captured while fighting for Ukraine in what could be the first confirmation the duo had been taken prisoner.

The Izvestia newspaper showed a video clip of what it said was a brief interview with Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama. The RT channel posted an image of a man it identified as Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In a separate six-second video posted on the Telegram messaging app, a bearded man with an American accent speaks into a camera and says, “My name is Alexander Drueke, I am against war.” He repeated, “I am against war” in Russian.

In another two-second video, the man Izvestia identified as Huynh says, “I am against war” in Russian.

Russian leader chides US as ‘God’s emissary on Earth’

Vladimir Putin said his country would “never take the path of self-isolation” and Russia is focusing on “expanding interactions” with nations who “want to work with us”.

Putin began his address at the International Economic Forum with a lengthy denunciation of countries he contends want to weaken Russia, including the United States.

Putin said the US considered itself “God’s emissary on Earth” and Russia was taking its place in a new world order whose rules would be set by “strong and sovereign states”. He promised the country’s economy would overcome sanctions he called “reckless and insane”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, praised Chinese-Russian cooperation and underlined Putin’s contention that an era of American domination is at an end.

Putin says he has ‘nothing against’ Ukraine joining EU

Russia has “nothing against” Ukraine’s possible membership of the European Union, President Putin said after the European Commission recommended granting Kyiv candidate status of the 27-member bloc.

“We have nothing against it. It’s their sovereign decision to join economic unions or not … It’s their business, the business of the Ukrainian people,” Putin said. “The EU is not a military alliance, unlike NATO.”

The Russian president, however, said if Ukraine joined the EU it would “turn into a semi-colony” of Western countries. “That’s my opinion.”

Johnson: UK to help Ukraine free up grain for export

In joint news conference with Zelenskyy, Johnson said the UK will give Kyiv the “strategic endurance” to prevail in Russia’s war on Ukraine, and it will continue to intensify sanctions against Russia.

He also pledged to help Ukraine free up grain for export via the Black Sea, which he said was being “held hostage” by Vladimir Putin.

“We’re going to work together to liberate the grain, which is being held hostage right now by Putin, depriving people around the world and the food that they need,” Johnson said.

Zelenskyy says Russia overwhelmingly striking civilians

Ukraine’s president said the “overwhelming majority” of Russian missile strikes are targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Russia has been attacking residential buildings, schools, hospitals, transport and enterprises, he said.

Speaking at a news conference with Boris Johnson, following the UK prime minister’s surprise visit to Kyiv, Zelenskyy said the “paramount” task for the West is to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian rockets.

The two leaders also discussed how to “step up” sanctions against Russia, Zelenskyy said, adding, “We can make sanctions very, very tangible in order to make sure that Russia feels the consequences of his or its terrorist acts against Ukraine and international stability.”

Zelenskyy meets Johnson June 2022
President Zelenskyy, right, and the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during his second visit to Kyiv since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/AFP]

Ukraine says it hit Russian vessel with Harpoon missiles

Ukraine has said its navy has struck a Russian rescue tug, which it says was in the process of transporting “ammunition, weapons and personnel of the Black Sea Fleet to Snake Island”.

Ukraine’s armed forces strategic communications directorate said the tug boat Spasatel Vasily Bekh was hit with two Harpoon missiles.

If confirmed, the incident would mark the first time Ukraine has hit a Russian vessel with this type of Western-supplied anti-ship missiles.

Analysis: What does Ukraine joining the EU really mean?

Even if candidacy is green-lit, working towards full membership status can take EU aspirants years or even decades.

“Negotiations can be very complicated. It doesn’t mean that it ends in membership,” Bruno Lété, a senior fellow on security and defence at The German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels, told Al Jazeera.

Read more here

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen,
All 27 EU member states must sign off on granting Ukraine candidate status [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

Biden says he is unaware of whereabouts of Americans missing in Ukraine

President Joe Biden says he has been briefed about a trio of US nationals missing in Ukraine but is unaware of their whereabouts.

In remarks issued to reporters, he also reiterated that “Americans should not be going to Ukraine.”

Washington said on Thursday it was aware of reports that a third US citizen was missing after travelling to Ukraine and that it had not yet asked Moscow about two other nationals reportedly captured after going to the country to fight against Russia’s forces.

Moscow says Netherlands spy case part of ‘anti-Russia campaign’

Russia’s foreign ministry has accused the Netherlands of waging an “anti-Russian campaign”, responding to Dutch authorities announcing the detention of a man they said was a Russian spy.

The ministry’s remarks came after the Dutch intelligence service said on Thursday it had uncovered a Russian military agent trying to use a false identity to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating accusations of war crimes in Ukraine.

UK’s Johnson makes surprise visit to Kyiv

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a surprise visit to Kyiv for talks with Ukraine’s president.

“My visit today, in the depths of this war, is to send a clear and simple message to the Ukrainian people: the UK is with you, and we will be with you until you ultimately prevail,” Johnson said.

During his talks with Zelenskyy, Johnson offered to launch a major training operation for Ukrainian forces, with the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days, his office said.

The visit marks his second trip to the Ukrainian capital since Russia invaded in late February and comes a day after the leaders of France, Germany and Italy held discussions with Zelenskyy there.

What did Putin say in St Petersburg?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered a 73-minute speech at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum after an initial delay due to an alleged cyberattack. Here are some highlights:

  • Putin said Western sanctions had failed as he pledged to expand economic cooperation “with those who want it”.
  • He denied Moscow was to blame for rising prices on the global grain market, accusing Washington of “snapping up” food and pushing up costs, and said Russia stood ready to boost grain and fertiliser exports.
  • Putin said the EU had lost its “political sovereignty” and accused the bloc’s leaders of “dancing to someone else’s tune” at the expense of their own populations.
  • He argued Russia’s decision to launch its self-described “special military operation” in Ukraine was “difficult … but forced and necessary”.
  • The speech ended with him saying Russia was entering a new global order as a “powerful and modern country”.

Ukraine receives first funds through IMF account

Ukraine’s prime minister says his country has received a loan of one billion Canadian dollars ($770m) on concessional terms, its first funds through an “administered account” set up by the International Monetary Fund.

“Grateful to…(Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland) for support & comprehensive assistance to Ukraine in the fight against the aggressor,” Denys Shmygal tweeted, referring to Russia.

The IMF set up the administered account in April to provide donors with a secure way to channel financial assistance to Ukraine in the form of grants and loans.

Germany has also already pledged to contribute funds and other countries have expressed interest, too, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said last week.

Denmark accuses Russian warship of violating its territorial waters

Denmark’s army says a Russian warship twice violated Danish territorial waters north of the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm earlier today.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod slammed the alleged action, which coincided with the holding of a democracy festival on Bornholm attended by senior lawmakers and business people, as unacceptable.

“A deeply irresponsible, gross and completely unacceptable Russian provocation in the middle of #fmdk,” Kofod tweeted, referring to the Democracy Festival of Denmark.

“Bullying methods do not work against Denmark,” he added, noting Russia’s ambassador to the NATO member state had been summoned over the issue. There was no immediate response to the allegations from Moscow.

Read more here

Putin says Moscow has weathered Western sanctions

Putin says that Russia’s economy has weathered a “blitzkrieg” of Western sanctions imposed in response to Moscow’s invasion.

Delivering a combative speech at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Russian president said gloomy forecasts for his country’s economy had not been fulfilled.

He also delivered a lengthy denunciation of the United States and its allies, accusing Washington of treating other countries as “colonies” and warning “nothing will be as it used to be in global politics” any more.

Moscow accueses EU of ‘manipulating’ Ukraine over membership

Russia’s foreign ministry has accused Brussels of “manipulating” Ukraine after the European Commission recommended the country be granted candidate status for joining the 27-nation bloc.

“We see how for many years the Western community has been manipulating the idea of some kind of involvement of Ukraine in their integration structures,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Ukraine, however, is getting “worse and worse,” she added.

Zakharova said Ukraine was “not getting a bright future, for some reason, despite the promises becoming more and more sweet and alluring”.

International expert says ‘chain of command’ appears to link alleged war crimes directly to Russian leader

An international expert helping Ukraine investigate alleged war crimes has said there are all the “hallmarks of a chain of command” linking reported atrocities committed on the ground during the conflict to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

“With the noises and rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin, with the obvious correspondence between what’s being said by the Kremlin and what’s happening on the ground, you’ve got all the hallmarks of a chain of command from the ground crimes to Putin himself,” British lawyer Wayne Jordash, who is coordinating mobile justice teams that will assist the Ukrainian investigators, said during a visit to a village near Kyiv.

Jordash and others were visiting Bohdanivka, which sits about 50km (30 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian capital, where they toured a burned-out school and a kindergarten and houses that were reduced to rubble when Russian troops pulled back from the area in early April.

Russia denies its forces have carried out war crimes during its self-described “special military operation”, which it claims is aimed at disarming and “denazify” its neighbour. Kyiv and its allies argue the invasion is an unprovoked war of aggression.

CERN to halt cooperation with Russia, Belarus over Ukraine war

The European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) says its decision-making body intends to terminate cooperation agreements with Russia and Belarus after they expire in 2024 over the situation in Ukraine.

The organisation said in a statement that its council had declared during a meeting on Thursday that the situation “will continue to be monitored carefully” and that it “stands ready to take any further decision in the light of developments” in the war-torn country.

Many killed by Russian shelling in Lysychansk: Regional governor

The governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region says the city of Lysychansk has been heavily shelled by Russian forces, leaving “many people” dead.

Serhiy Haidai did not specify exactly how many people had been killed in the strikes but told Ukraine’s public broadcaster that Russian forces had not managed to capture Severodonetsk, which sits just the other side of the Siverskyi Donets River to Lysychansk, with fighting still raging in the city.

Severodonetsk has over the last several weeks witnessed some of the most brutal street fighting observed during Russia’s invasion.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify Haidai’s claim.


Ukraine to scrap visa-free travel for Russians from July 1

Ukraine is scrapping visa-free entry for Russians and will require them to obtain visas to enter the country from the beginning of next month, Zelenskyy has announced.

“According to a decision that is planned by the Cabinet of Ministers, Ukraine will introduce a visa regime for Russian citizens from July 1, 2022,” the Ukrainian leader said.

Reporter’s Notebook: Witnessing war crimes in Kharkiv

Click here to read an account by Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig of the harrowing scenes he witnessed in Ukraine’s second city, including apparent abuses by both sides.

Russia could be ’emboldened’ if Ukraine’s EU candidacy bid fails: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kyiv, says there is a “general sense” in Ukraine and among its Western allies that if the European Commission’s candidacy recommendation does not go through then Putin could be “emboldened”.

“So it is a positive step, but there are very strict conditions that are being demanded of Ukraine with respect to tackling corruption and with respect to the rule of law,” Stratford said.

“Its entire legal system will be scrutinised by Brussels and it basically has to comply with the standards that Brussels sets out,” he added.

EU candidate status will help Ukraine defeat Russia: Zelenskyy

The European Commission’s decision to recommend granting Ukraine European Union candidate status will help Kyiv in defeating Russia’s invasion, Zelenskyy says.

“It’s the first step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our victory closer. Grateful to @vonderleyen & each [EU] member for a historic decision,” the Ukrainian leader tweeted.

He added that he expected EU government leaders to approve the proposal at their upcoming summit in Brussels next week.

‘Devil in the detail’ on Ukraine EU membership bid: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, says “the devil is in the detail” on the European Commission’s move to recommend Ukraine be granted candidate status in its bid to join the EU.

“[If a candidate], the Ukrainians must comply with several different criteria but the most important ones are they have to prove that they have a stable democracy, a functioning market economy and that the rule of law pertains throughout their country,” Kane said.

“And they have to sign up to accepting all parts of EU legislation and that includes joining the Euro [currency] when or if they join the EU,” he added.

Kane also noted a number of other countries “have all been waiting as candidates to become members of the EU for a very considerable time”.

“So what this represents is a step forward [for Ukraine] … but there is a lot still ahead, no question about that,” he said.

Eurovision 2023 cannot go ahead in Ukraine: Organisers

The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest cannot be held in Ukraine given the war, the European Broadcasting Union has announced.

“The security and operational guarantees required for a broadcaster to host, organise and produce the Eurovision Song Contest under the ESC Rules cannot be fulfilled by UA:PBC,” ESC said on Twitter, citing Ukraine’s public broadcaster.

“The EBU would like to thank UA:PBC for their wholehearted cooperation and commitment in exploring all scenarios in the weeks since Kalush Orchestra’s win on 14 May in Turin and share their sadness and disappointment that next year’s Contest cannot be held in Ukraine,” it added, noting it was in talks to host the annual event in the United Kingdom instead.

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won this year’s contest last month, with the UK’s entry coming second.

European Commission recommends EU ‘candidate status’ for Ukraine

The European Commission says it has recommended Ukraine be formally named a “candidate” for joining the EU, a move that could open up a years-long path towards joining the bloc.

“Yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country – this is based on the understanding that good work has been done but important work also remains to be done,” Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive arm, said.

Meanwhile, Moscow said it was closely following Ukraine’s efforts to become a member of the bloc, especially in the light of increased defence cooperation within the EU.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue “requires our heightened attention, because we are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defence component of the EU”.

Kremlin: Russia’s main goal in Ukraine remains protection of Donbas

The Kremlin says the goal of its self-described “special military operation” in Ukraine remains the protection of the population of the country’s eastern Donbas region.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s main objective in Ukraine was to “save and secure” the Donbas from what he called “barbaric attacks” by Kyiv’s armed forces.

Russia has backed two breakaway republics in the region after they were established by separatists in early 2014.

France ‘no longer receiving any Russian gas via pipelines’

France has not received any natural gas from Russia via pipeline since June 15, network operator GRTgaz says, after Russian energy giant Gazprom warned this week it would sharply cut deliveries to Europe.

Gazprom said the supply reductions via the Nord Stream pipeline are the result of repair work, but EU officials believe Moscow is punishing allies of Ukraine.

France gets around 17 percent of its gas from Russia through network connections with Germany, which relies heavily on Russian supplies and has criticised Gazprom’s move as “political”. Supplies had already been reduced by 60 percent since the beginning of this year, sending prices soaring.

But GRTgaz said there was no risk to French supplies currently, with reserves at 56 percent capacity compared with 50 percent in June normally.

Slovak gas importer sees Russian deliveries cut by half

Slovakia’s gas importer SPP was informed by Russia that its deliveries of gas would be reduced by half, its chief executive has been quoted as saying.

“Cutting the deliveries by a half does not hurt us at the moment. We are working with a realistic risk that they will be cut completely,” SPP boss Richard Prokypcak was cited as saying by Slovak news website Dennik N.

SPP was not immediately available for comment.

INTERACTIVE - Russian gas imports into the EU - Europe's reliance on Russian gas

Macron sceptical on deal to get grain out of Ukraine’s Odesa port

French President Emmanuel Macron says he is open to talking to Putin as part of efforts to strike a deal to get grain out of the Ukrainian port of Odesa but that he sees little chance of an agreement.

“We have to talk with Russia on food security and it (discussions) can be justified by liaising directly with the UN secretary general to get grains out of Odesa,” Macron told BFM TV on his way back from Ukraine, where he held talks with Zelenskyy on Thursday.

“But I don’t believe a lot in this path, because I already had talks a few weeks ago with President Putin, but he didn’t want to accept a UN resolution on this subject.”

Ukraine: Evacuation from Severodonetsk chemical plant ‘impossible’

The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region says the evacuation of 568 civilians sheltering in bunkers under the Azot chemical plant in the embattled city of Severodonetsk is currently impossible due to shelling and heavy fighting.

Haidai said in a Telegram post that there were 38 children among those taking shelter at the facility.

Ukraine says it hit Russian naval tugboat with missiles

Ukraine says its forces have attacked a Russian naval tugboat transporting soldiers, weapons and ammunition to the Russian-occupied Zmiinyi Island in the Black Sea with missiles.

The governor of Ukraine’s southwestern Odesa region, Maksym Marchenko, named the tugboat as the Vasiliy Beg.

There was no comment from Moscow on the Ukrainian claim.

Italy’s Eni faces further squeeze on Russian gas supplies

Italy’s Eni says it will receive only half of the gas supply volumes it had requested from Russia’s Gazprom on Friday after experiencing a shortfall in the two previous days.

“Against a daily gas demand by Eni of around 63 million cubic meters, Gazprom announced that it will only supply 50 percent of what was requested, with actual quantities delivered almost unchanged from yesterday,” the energy giant said on its website.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that reductions in supply were not premeditated and were related to maintenance issues, but Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi dismissed his explanation.

“Both Germany and us, and others, believe these are lies. In reality they are making a political use of gas like they are using grain for political use,” Draghi told a news conference during a visit to Kyiv with his German and French counterparts.

Russian superyacht Amadea arrives in Honolulu from Fiji

A Russian-owned superyacht seized by the United States arrived in Honolulu Harbor on Thursday flying an American flag.

The US last week won a legal battle in Fiji to take the $325m vessel and immediately sailed it to Hawaii. The FBI has linked the Amadea to the Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.

The ship became a target of Task Force KleptoCapture, launched in March to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs to put pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

The superyacht Amadea moored in Honolulu on Thursday, June 16, 2022
The superyacht Amadea moored in Honolulu on Thursday, June 16, 2022 [Audrey McAvoy/AP]

Ukraine war accelerating Russia’s authoritarianism trajectory: UK

The war in Ukraine has accelerated Russia’s long-term internal trajectory towards authoritarianism, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

“In recent weeks, the Duma has started the process to introduce a 20-year sentence for Russians who fight against the Russian Federation,” the ministry said in its intelligence briefing on Twitter.

Although speaking out against the invasion is being criminalised and despite the majority of Russians saying they support what Moscow calls its “special military operation”, many Russians are passively and actively showing opposition, the UK said.

“Migration applications suggest that 15,000 Russian millionaires [in US dollars] are likely already attempting to leave the country,” it said, adding that were this exodus to continue, it would exacerbate the war’s damage to Russia’s economy.

‘We didn’t invade Ukraine’: Russia’s FM

Russia’s foreign minister has said that his country “didn’t invade Ukraine”.

“We declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the West that dragging Ukraine into NATO was a criminal act,” Sergey Lavrov told the BBC.

When asked about Russia’s relationship with the UK, Lavrov said there was no room for manoeuvre any more.

“Because [British Prime Minister Boris] Johnson and [Foreign Secretary Liz] Truss claim publicly that ‘we must defeat Russia’, ‘We must bring it to its knees’. Well, go on, do it,” he said.

One dead, six injured in Mykolaiv: Governor

One person has been killed and six more injured in a morning missile attack on Mykolaiv, the region’s governor has said.

A child was among those injured, Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram, adding that four residential high-rise buildings and an infrastructure facility were damaged by the attack.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify Kim’s claim.

Damage to a school gymnasium that was shelled, in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine June 13, 2022
Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region has been heavily shelled by Russian forces [Edgar Su/Reuters]

Russia says reports it is taking stolen Ukraine grain to Syria are fake: RIA

Moscow’s representative to Syria has labelled as “fake” reports that Russian-flagged ships had been seen taking Ukraine’s grain to ports in Syria, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Reuters had earlier reported on satellite images from Maxar Technologies showing that Russia had been transporting Ukraine’s grain, harvested last season, to Syria over the last couple of months.

“This is more fake, unconfirmed and unrealistic information,” RIA quotes Alexander Lavrentyev as saying.

“The main reserves are located in the Nikolaev [Mykolaiv] and the Odesa regions. Russian ships do not have access to these ports, because they are under the control of Ukraine,” Lavrentyev added.

Air strikes hit Mykolaiv: Mayor

Russian forces struck Mykolaiv with rockets on Friday morning, the Ukrainian port city’s mayor has said.

“Houses were damaged. Rescuers, medics and communal workers are working on the spot. I will inform you more about the consequences of the shelling later,” Oleksandr Syenkevych wrote on Telegram.

Air raid sirens were activated in the Mykolaiv region early on Friday and several residents reported explosions on social media.

Russian spy caught seeking to infiltrate ICC: Netherlands

The Dutch intelligence service has uncovered a Russian military agent attempting to use a false identity to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is investigating accusations of war crimes in Ukraine.

Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov created an elaborate cover story dating back years to attempt to enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian national for an internship at the Hague-based ICC in April, the agency’s head told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

Read more here.

Russian economy ‘won’t be as it was’: Central bank head

The head of the Russian central bank has warned that the country’s economy faces pressure from abroad that could persist indefinitely, dampening hopes that conditions could return to what they were before Russia sent troops into Ukraine.

“It seems to me that it’s obvious to everyone that it won’t be as it was before,” Elvira Nabiullina said at a session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual showpiece gathering aimed at investors.

“External conditions have changed for a long time indeed, if not forever,” she said.

Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, Maxim Reshetnikov, told the same session that the prognosis is for Russia’s gross domestic product to fall by 7.8 percent this year, but “in the last month, there’s been a wave of improving assessments and prognoses”.

UK sanctions Russia’s minister responsible for forced ‘transfer and adoption’ of Ukraine’s children

The United Kingdom’s new round of sanctions on Russian officials includes Moscow’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, for her role in the “forced transfer and adoption of Ukrainian children”, a statement from the foreign ministry says.

The statement describes Russia’s treatment of children in Ukraine as “barbaric” and says that “Lvova-Belova has been accused of enabling 2,000 vulnerable children being violently taken from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions”.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in mid-May that more than 190,000 children had arrived in Russia from Ukraine’s Donbas region, including about 1,200 coming from orphanages in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.

Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly and illegally deporting more than 200,000 children – some with families, others who had lost their parents in the war and others from orphanages.

Moscow-sanctioned leader of Australian state says he won’t be bullied by Putin

The head of the state of South Australia has responded to Moscow’s latest set of sanctions, which ban him among more than 200 Australian citizens from dealings with Russia, by saying he will not be bullied by Putin.

“Overnight I became the first Premier blacklisted by Vladimir Putin,” Peter Malinauskas wrote on Twitter.

“While travelling to Russia wasn’t on my bucket list, it appears this decision has been made in response my government’s strong stance in standing up for Ukraine,” he said.

“Vladimir Putin, I won’t be bullied, the State Government won’t be bullied and I will continue to stand up for democracy,” he added.

Ukraine says Russian peace talks proposals are an attempt to deceive world

Ukrainian peace talks negotiator dismissed Russia’s latest comments about being ready to resume negotiations as “an attempt to deceive the world.”

Mykhailo Podolyak said in an online post on Thursday that Russia wanted to give the impression of being ready to talk while planning to stab Ukraine in the back.

Kyiv would definitely return to the negotiations but only at the right time, he added.

A satellite image shows fields of artillery craters near Slovyansk

Maxar Technologies has released a satellite image showing fields peppered with artillery craters northwest of the city of Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region.

Russian forces resumed advancing towards Slovyansk in the past week aiming to take the city as well as nearby Kramatorsk. The photograph was taken on June 6.

The Institute for the Study of War said on Thursday that Moscow’s troops launched “unsuccessful assaults northwest” of the city.

A satellite image shows fields peppered with artillery craters, north west of Slovyansk
A satellite image shows fields peppered with artillery craters, northwest of Slovyansk, June 6, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

Europe energy security at no immediate risk: EC

Europe’s energy security is not at immediate risk as a result of Russia reducing gas supplies to more European countries on Thursday, a European Commission spokesperson has said.

“Based on our exchange with the national authorities this morning via the Gas Coordination Group, there is no indication of an immediate security of supply risk,” the spokesperson said, adding that Brussels and countries’ national authorities were monitoring the situation closely.

Russian ships taking Ukraine’s grain to Syria: Satellite image company

Russian-flagged ships have been carrying Ukraine’s grain that was harvested last season and transported to Syria over the last couple of months, US satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies has said.

A satellite image of grain being loaded on the Matros Pozynich, in Sevastopol, Crimea May 19, 2022 and a satellite image of Matros Pozynich unloading grain in Latakia, Syria May 27, 2022
A satellite image of grain being loaded on the Matros Pozynich in Sevastopol, Crimea, May 19, 2022 and a satellite image of Matros Pozynich unloading grain in Latakia, Syria, May 27, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

Air strikes in Lysychansk kill at least four: Governor

The death toll after an air strike hit a building in Lysychansk, where civilians were sheltering, has risen to four, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.

“The rescue operation is still ongoing,” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram on Thursday evening. At least seven people were injured in the attack, he said.

Haidai said a separate air strike on Thursday hit a sanatorium building in Lysychansk and collapsed it, possibly causing further casualties.

“It is likely that there are people trapped under the rubble,” he said of the second strike, adding that a rescue effort was also under way there.

Australia’s PM won’t say if he will visit Kyiv: Sky News

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has remained coy over whether he would accept Zelenskyy’s invitation to visit Ukraine later this month, Sky News reports.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia previously said Zelenskyy had extended the invitation when he congratulated Albanese on the Labor Party’s election win on May 21. But Albanese told Sky News he had only read about the invitation in the paper.

“That’s the information, the extent to which it’s come at this point in time,” he said.

“Look, I’m going to NATO as a priority because Australia is actually the largest non-NATO contributor to the efforts to support sovereignty in Ukraine and support the people of Ukraine standing up against this thuggish illegal behaviour of Russia,” he told Sky News.

Russian separatists in Luhansk ready to open corridor for Azot evacuation: Interfax

Pro-Russian militia in Luhansk say that they, together with the Russian Federation, are ready to discuss opening humanitarian corridors for civilians to exit the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, subject to a ceasefire from Ukraine, the Russian Interfax news agency has reported.

The self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic’s (LPR) Ambassador to Russia, Rodion Miroshnik, said Ukrainian militants disrupted the humanitarian corridor on Wednesday by shelling from a mortar and tank, according to Interfax.

Luhansk separatists say evacuation efforts failed in Severodonetsk

The pro-Russian militia of the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) has said efforts to evacuate people to safety from the eastern front line city of Severodonetsk have failed, in a video released on Thursday.

The Reuters news agency was able to geolocate the video to damaged shopfronts in central Severodonetsk. One shot showed a woman dragging luggage outside a damaged supermarket, and another showed a man walking by a storefront with an insurance company logo.

Russia had told Ukrainian forces holed up in the city’s Azot chemical plant to lay down their arms from Wednesday morning – an ultimatum ignored by Kyiv’s soldiers.

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside the chemical factory, sheltering from weeks of Russian bombardment. Russian-backed separatists say up to 1,200 civilians may be inside.

Russia’s Ukraine invasion shows aggression against all of Europe: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that Russia’s invasion amounted to aggression against all of Europe and that the more weapons Ukraine receives from the West, the faster it will be able to liberate its occupied land.

“Every day of delay or postponed decisions is an opportunity for the Russian military to kill Ukrainians or destroy our cities,” he said at a news conference on Thursday.

“There is a direct correlation: the more powerful weapons we receive, the faster we can liberate our people, our land.”

Putin says government must support domestic car industry

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to come up with new measures to support the domestic car industry, which has seen sales tank since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Amid a crunch on demand from Russian buyers and severe logistics problems as a result of Western sanctions slapped on Moscow, car sales slumped a record 83.5 percent in May, according to figures from the Association of European Businesses (AEB).

Mariupol ‘deadliest place in Ukraine’: UN

At least 1,348 people have been killed in Mariupol since the beginning of the war, making it the “deadliest place in Ukraine”, Michelle Bachelet has said, adding the death toll is likely “thousands higher”.

UN’s top human rights official also said that nine out of 10 residential buildings and six out of 10 private houses have been damaged or destroyed, citing the attack on the theatre in March as an emblematic example.

Bachelet raised concern over the “filtration” process in the city where arbitrary determinations, intimidation and humiliation, which may amount to ill-treatment, have been reported.

The Ukrainian coordinator of the humanitarian corridor effort, Tetiana Lomakina, said her hometown “is purposefully turned into a ghetto for the Ukrainians where the genocide takes place at an accelerated pace”. She said the civilian death toll is at 22,000 and that “47,000 have been forcefully transferred to Russia or other occupied territories.”

Macron asked French manufacturer to increase howitzer production: Reuters

Emmanuel Macron has asked French arms manufacturer Nexter to increase the production of Caesar howitzers as he promised to send six more of the weapon systems to the Ukrainian army, a source close to France’s defence ministry said, the Reuters news agency reports.

Macron, ahead of his visit to Kyiv on Thursday, urged Nexter “to review its organisation to be able to work in a ‘wartime’ mode to be able to produce Ceasars much more quickly for the French army”, the source told Reuters.

Macron on Thursday pledged to send six more Ceasar howitzers out of French army stocks to Ukraine, adding to the 12 previously delivered. The French army in total holds less than 80 such artillery weapon systems.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy listens during a joint news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens during a joint news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022 [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

UK to host Ukrainian leaders to discuss reconstruction

The United Kingdom will welcome representatives from Ukraine and business leaders on Friday to discuss how UK companies can help rebuild key infrastructure in Kyiv.

Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will seek to promote collaboration between British companies in infrastructure, energy and transport, and Ukrainian public and private organisations to help repair damaged and destroyed infrastructure.

Trevelyan will also announce changes to trade remedy measures, including reallocating ring-fenced market access for steel imports from Russia and Belarus to other countries including Ukraine.

Russian pranksters posing as Ukraine president trick J.K. Rowling

A pair of Russian pranksters have revealed fragments of an interview they conducted with British writer J.K. Rowling while posing as people with sympathies towards neighbouring Ukraine.

Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stoliarov, who are also known as ‘Vovan and Lexus’ on their show on the Russian video platform Rutube, revealed the video at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The pranksters told their audience they had questioned Rowling on “cancel culture” and her opinions towards Russia, while also pretending to ask questions on behalf of Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The Harry Potter author, who received widespread criticism on social media and beyond after making comments about transgender rights, said she supported tougher sanctions on Russia during the interview.

Macron decries ‘war crimes’ on ‘Ukraine’s soil’

Emmanuel Macron has decried the war crimes committed in Ukraine and promised to hold accountable the perpetrators.

“The whole world has witnessed the war crimes committed on Ukraine’s soil,” Macron said in a tweet.

“We will remain mobilised to ensure the perpetrators of those crimes are held accountable and punished in line with international law. Our experts are on the front line to gather the evidence,” he added.

US has not asked Russia about two missing Americans

The United States has said it has not asked Russia about two US citizens reported missing after travelling to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces and said there are reports of a third missing American.

“As of today, we have not raised this yet with the Russian Federation … (We) haven’t seen anything from the Russians indicating that two such individuals are in their custody,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, describing reports about the two men as unconfirmed.

Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, went to Ukraine as volunteer fighters against Russian forces, have been missing for a week, and are feared captured, family members have said.

EU leaders’ visit to Ukraine was ‘historic’: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the visit to Kyiv by the leaders of Germany, France and Italy — all criticised in the past by Kyiv for support viewed as too cautious — as “historic” and said “big steps” were made during their meeting.

“Today is a truly historic day. Ukraine has felt the support of four powerful European states. And in particular support for our movement towards the European Union. Italy, Romania, France and Germany are with us,” he said, during his evening address.

“All four leaders … support Ukraine’s candidacy. Of course, all relevant procedures must be followed, all EU member states must join. But at our meeting today a big step was made,” Zelenskyy said.

The leaders, who were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, toured Irpin, a town northeast of the capital devastated soon after the invasion began on February 24, where withdrawing Russian forces left behind bodies littering the streets.

‘Gross violations’ took place in Mariupol: UN

The intensity and extent of the death and destruction in Mariupol suggested that “serious violations” of international humanitarian law and “gross violations” of international human rights law occurred during the battle for the Ukrainian city, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said.

Michelle Bachelet made the observation as she presented her agency’s report on the situation in Mariupol before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

She said that the “tragedy of Mariupol” was far from over and explained that the full picture of the devastation was not yet clear.


Local residents transport a box in Mariupol
Residents transport a box on a wheelbarrow past a heavily damaged apartment building near Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol [File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

European leaders back Ukraine’s EU bid

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy back “immediate” European Union candidate status for Ukraine amid their ongoing visit to Kyiv.

“All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for accession,” French President Macron told a joint news conference with his EU colleagues.

Moreover, he said Ukraine must “resist and win” the war and has announced that France will donate six additional long-range artillery systems.

Russia’s war of ‘unimaginable cruelty’: Scholz

The Ukrainian town of Irpin, like Bucha before it, has become a symbol of the “cruelty” of Russia’s war in Ukraine and its senseless violence, German Chancellor Scholz said on a visit to the Kyiv suburb, adding that the war must end.

“Irpin, like Bucha, has become a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war, of senseless violence,” Scholz wrote on Twitter. “The brutal destruction of this city is a warning: this war must end.”

Read all the updates from June 16 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies