- Ukrainian troops will “have to be withdrawn” from the mostly Russian-occupied battleground city of Severodonetsk, the Luhansk governor says a day after he said troops had pulled out of some areas around Lysychansk.
- A Washington-based think-tank believes Kyiv is preparing for the ultimate loss of both key cities, but says this would not be a decisive victory for Russia.
- The United States is sending $450m more in military aid to Ukraine, including another four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
- The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, says Russia is carefully recording the use of each Western-supplied weapon to ensure Ukraine fulfils its promise of not launching an attack into Russia.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the EU’s decision to approve Ukraine’s application for candidacy status is one of the most important for the country since it gained independence.
- Ukraine says it will move quickly and take the necessary steps for accession talks to begin.
Here are the latest updates:
Ukrainian forces will have to leave embattled Severodonetsk: Governor
Ukrainian troops will “have to be withdrawn” from the mostly Russian-occupied battleground city of Severodonetsk, the Luhansk governor said on television on Friday.
“Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense,” Serhiy Haidai said.
Russian forces captured another village near Lysychansk: Governor
Russian forces have taken the village of Mykolaivka, around 25km south of the key city of Lysychansk, the governor of Luhansk has said.
Serhiy Haidai said Ukraine’s forces repulsed a Russian attack on Lysychansk, and the nearby village of Borivske, on Thursday.
He said the Russian army fired on Severodonetsk with “all available weapons” as well as the nearby villages of Bila Hora, Vovchoyarivka, Synetskyi and Pavlohrad.
“The enemy’s offensive near Borivske was successfully stopped. In addition, our soldiers repulsed the offensive in the direction of the southern outskirts of Lysychansk. However … Russians managed to capture Mykolaivka,” Haidai said.
Russian air force likely lacks trained pilots for Ukraine invasion: UK
The Russian air force is likely struggling to support its Ukraine offensive with sufficient aircrew, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence has said, citing recent Ukrainian information about a captured pilot flying a Russian plane who confessed to being a military contractor with the private Wagner army.
“Ukrainian forces have announced that the pilot of a Russian Su-25 FROGFOOT ground attack aircraft shot down on 17 June was captured shortly afterwards,” the defence ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.
“The pilot has confessed to being a former Russian air force Major, who had taken employment as a Wagner military contractor and had flown several missions during the conflict,” it said, adding that this indicated a lack of sufficient aircrew in the Russian air forces.
“This is likely due to a combination of Russia’s insufficient numbers of suitably trained personnel and its combat losses,” the ministry said.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 24 June 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/eIX58Cf3Y2
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) June 24, 2022
Energy provider says Germany should boost domestic gas production
Germany should explore all options to increase domestic natural gas output including fracking, the chief executive of German energy provider E.ON has said, as Berlin triggered the “alarm stage” of its emergency gas plan in response to falling Russian supplies.
“We must now search without taboos for all solutions that will help us to improve our situation” Leonhard Birnbaum said in an interview with the WirtschaftsWoche podcast.
Birnbaum said a modest increase in domestic production would not be the solution to the current supply situation, but a small building block that could help.
Kyiv likely preparing for loss of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk: ISW
Ukrainian authorities are likely setting conditions to prepare for the ultimate loss of both key Luhansk cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, but this outcome would not represent a turning point in the war, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Thursday Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from some areas near Lysychansk to avoid being surrounded, which the ISW said indicated preparations on behalf of Kyiv for the loss of the territory. But the ISW said taking Severodonetsk would not be a decisive victory for Russia.
“Ukrainian troops have succeeded for weeks in drawing substantial quantities of Russian personnel, weapons, and equipment into the area and have likely degraded Russian forces’ overall capabilities while preventing Russian forces from focusing on more advantageous axes of advance,” the Washington-based think-tank said.
“Russian offensive operations will likely stall in the coming weeks, whether or not Russian forces capture the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area, likely granting Ukrainian forces the opportunity to launch prudent counteroffensives,” it added.
#Russian forces have likely reached the outskirts of #Lysychansk and are reinforcing #Severodonetsk to complete the capture of both cities. #Belarusian forces are conducting exercises along the #Ukrainian border but are unlikely to enter the war.
Latest: https://t.co/kIwBOB3Fpk pic.twitter.com/QOAwR4cYyJ
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) June 23, 2022
Russia cancels Kaliningrad power network isolation test
Russia’s power grid told Litgrid, its counterpart in Lithuania, that it has cancelled the planned isolation operation test of the electricity network of the Kaliningrad exclave, Litgrid has said.
The test, which was due to begin on Saturday, would have involved Kaliningrad region disconnecting from the common grid of Baltic states, Russia and Poland for eight hours to test its capacity to operate independently, Litgrid said. Three similar tests were conducted in 2019-2021, it said.
Baltic states expect to decouple from the common grid in 2025, necessitating Kaliningrad, sandwiched between NATO members Poland and Lithuania, to operate on its own.
Lithuania’s president told Reuters on Wednesday his country is ready for Russia to try to kick it off the grid imminently, as a punishment for blocking cargo sanctioned by the European Union from traveling from mainland Russia to the exclave.
Russia’s Canada embassy spars with Germany’s ambassador
The Russian embassy in Canada has responded with scorn to social media remarks by Germany’s ambassador to Ottawa which claimed Russia was using energy as a weapon.
“This is a rough road our country will have to walk,” Germany’s Sabine Sparwasser wrote on Twitter after Europe’s biggest economy moved to phase two of its gas emergency plans in the wake of Russia slashing supplies. “Russia is using energy as a weapon against Europe.”
Russia’s embassy countered that Europe had backed itself into a corner with its ban on Russian energy.
“Europe got cornered by its own sanctions’ policy, declares intent to cut itself from Russian oil & gas, dubs Russia [as an] adversary and wants to suffocate Russia’s economy while still buying gas. At the same time claiming that Russia uses energy as a weapon. Did we miss something Ambassador @s_sparwasser?,” the embassy said in a tweet.
🇪🇺 got cornered by its own sanctions’ policy, declares intent to cut itself from 🇷🇺 oil&gas, dubs 🇷🇺 adversary and wants to suffocate 🇷🇺 economy while still buying 🇷🇺 gas. At the same time claiming that 🇷🇺 uses energy as a weapon. Did we miss smth, Amb @s_sparwasser? 😸 https://t.co/Qx1y8d5eUC
— Russia in Canada (@RussianEmbassyC) June 23, 2022
Russia to ‘carefully record’ Ukraine’s use of Western weapons: Spokesman
The Kremlin spokesman has said that Russia’s defence ministry is carefully recording each use of weapons provided by the United States to Ukraine to ensure they aren’t being used to strike inside Russia, state media channel RT has reported.
“We carefully record all episodes of the use of these weapons,” Dmitry Peskov said. “So, if any of these weapons reach the front lines and are not destroyed by our military, we will track how they are being used.”
US senator calls for review into Russian airlines safety
US Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct a safety review of Russian airlines and alert Americans to the risks of Russian-administered aircraft continuing to operate in international airspace.
Sanctions imposed by Europe, the United States and others have denied Russia access to new planes, spare parts and maintenance services and forced Russia’s aviation industry to cut back on flights.
“So long as Russian airlines maintain such operations, they pose a potential threat to international travellers, as well as to Russians flying domestically,” Rubio wrote.
Russian forces aiming to take another settlement near Severodonetsk: Army
Russian forces are aiming to capture another settlement near the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine’s general staff has said.
After taking control of the villages of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka near Lysychansk on Thursday, Russians are set on taking Syrotyne, on the outskirts of Severodonetsk, according to Ukraine’s army. Syrotyne is near the settlement of Metolkine, which Russian forces took control of earlier in the week.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that the Russians were “burning everything out” in their offensive to encircle Ukraine’s fighters.
“The Russians are advancing without trying to spare the ammunition or troops, and they aren’t running out of either,” Haidai said. “They have an edge in heavy artillery and the number of troops.”
Boris Johnson signals UK’s willingness to help export grain from Ukraine: Reuters
The United Kingdom is willing to assist with demining operations off Ukraine’s southern coast and is considering offering insurance to ships to move millions of tonnes of grain stuck in the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.
Turkey is trying to broker talks between the United Nations, Ukraine and Russia to create a possible safe sea corridor in the Black Sea, but Moscow wants some Western sanctions lifted first to facilitate its grain and fertiliser exports.
“There is a job of work to be done. We are working with the Turks and other European friends and allies to see what we can do,” Johnson told Reuters in an interview on Thursday during a visit to Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit.
The UK also pledged 372 million pounds ($456m) in aid to countries hit hardest by rising global food costs and shortages of fertiliser, including 130 million pounds for the World Food Programme, it said in a statement.
EBRD loans 300 million euros to Moldova to overcome energy disruptions
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has said it would loan Moldova 300 million euros ($316m) to help it withstand energy supply disruptions compounded by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, obtains nearly all its gas for industry and heating from Russian giant Gazprom under a contract extending to 2026. Supplies have been subject to difficult, periodic negotiations over prices, which were sent soaring even before the Ukraine invasion, and Moldova’s ability to pay its debts.
The loan to the pro-Western government of President Maia Sandu will be provided in two tranches – 200 million euros to avoid disruptions and a further 100 million euros to build up a strategic reserve in Ukraine or Romania.
Germany’s network agency head says full gas storage enough for 2.5 months
Germany could sustain itself for two and a half months of average winter if its natural gas storage facilities were to be 100 percent full, the head of Germany’s network agency has said, adding that Europe’s biggest economy needs additional suppliers and must save gas.
“If the storage facilities in Germany were mathematically 100 percent full … we could do without Russian gas completely … for just two and a half months and then the storage tanks will be empty,” Klaus Mueller said on ZDF’s Maybrit Illner programme.
Mueller said the gas supply situation was tense but still stable.
Germany’s economy minister Robert Habeck earlier said in a statement that Russia’s cut in gas supplies was an economic attack by President Vladimir Putin.
Canada passes budget including power to confiscate assets seized in response to Russia’s invasion
Canada’s Senate has passed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s budget, adopting a long list of measures which includes the power to confiscate and sell assets seized in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
US welcomes Turkey’s help on Ukraine grain exports
The United States welcomes Turkey’s involvement in brokering an agreement to get grain out of Ukraine, John Kirby, the national security spokesman, has said.
The US is working with allies and partners to get some grain out of Ukraine, exports that have been thwarted by Russia’s invasion, Kirby said.
“We certainly welcome Turkey’s involvement in trying to broker some kind of arrangement to allow shipping of grain,” he said.
US sending advanced rocket systems, other aid to Ukraine
The United States will send another $450m in military aid to Ukraine, including some additional medium-range rocket systems, to help push back Russian progress in the war, officials have announced.
The latest package includes four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, which will double the number they have now. All four were prepositioned in Europe, and training on those systems has already begun with the Ukrainian troops who will use them, said Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Anton Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman.
The first four HIMARS that the US previously sent have already gone to the battlefield in Ukraine and are in the hands of troops there.
According to the Pentagon, the aid also includes 18 tactical vehicles that are used to tow howitzers, so the weapons can be moved around the battlefield, as well as 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats, thousands of machine guns, grenade launchers and rounds of ammunition, and some other equipment and spare parts.
Zelenskyy says won’t rest until EU membership secured
Zelenskyy has promised not to rest until Russia’s defeat and full membership of Ukraine in the European Union had been secured.
“This is a victory,” a smiling Zelenskyy said in a brief video posted to his Instagram channel, noting Ukraine had waited 30 years for this moment.
“We can defeat the enemy, rebuild Ukraine, join the EU, and then we can rest,” he said in a low voice.
“Or perhaps we won’t rest at all – our children would take offence. But without any doubt, we will win.”
Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said Kyiv would quickly implement the plan needed for accession talks to begin.
We thank 🇺🇦 people and the army having shown the importance of European values. We are paying a high price. And we are keen to become the 🇪🇺 member.
Getting ready for further necessary reforms. 🇺🇦🏻 🇪🇺
— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) June 23, 2022
Ukraine, Moldova will tackle reforms quickly: EU’s von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said she was convinced Ukraine and Moldova would move as swiftly as possible to implement necessary reforms.
“There can be no better sign of hope for the citizens of Ukraine, Moldova … in these troubled times,” she told reporters on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels after both countries were granted EU candidate status, adding that they still had to do homework.
“I am deeply convinced that our decision that we have taken today strengthens us all. It strengthens Ukraine, Moldova … in the face of Russian aggression,” she said.
“And it strengthens the European Union because it shows once again to the world that the European Union is united and strong in the face of external threats.”
Moldovan President says EU decision on candidacy status is an historic day
Moldovan President Maia Sandu has said the European Union’s move to grant her nation candidacy status was an historic day, adding: “We have a difficult road ahead, which will require a lot of work and effort”.
In a Facebook post, she said EU membership would bring more welfare, more opportunities and more order in the small country, which lies sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania.
Zelenskyy thanks EU for candidacy approval
A triumphant Volodymyr Zelenskyy has thanked the European Union for granting Ukraine candidate status, saying this was the beginning of Europe’s new history.
Listing and thanking every country in the bloc individually in a video address, Zelenskyy said they had made “one of the most important decisions for Ukraine in all 30 years of independence of our state”.
“I have always said that we, Ukrainians, believe in the European Union. Although we remained formally outside the European Union, our country probably had the largest number of flags of a united Europe,” he said.
“They were in the hands of our people during the revolutions. They have been in the hands of our people in the trenches since 2014. I believe that the flag of the European Union will be in every Ukrainian city that we have yet to liberate from the occupation of the Russian Federation,” Zelenskyy added.
Sincerely commend EU leaders’ decision at #EUCO to grant 🇺🇦 a candidate status. It’s a unique and historical moment in 🇺🇦-🇪🇺 relations. Grateful to @CharlesMichel, @vonderleyen and EU leaders for support. Ukraine’s future is within the EU. #EmbraceUkraine https://t.co/o6dJVmTQrn
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 23, 2022
Read all the updates from June 23 here.