Ukraine acknowledges difficulties in fighting in the eastern regions as Russian forces capture territory along a frontline river and intensify pressure on two key cities on the 118th day of the armed conflict.

Since being repelled from Kiev and other parts of Ukraine after launching its military operation in February, Moscow is focusing its offensive on the strategic Donbass region.
Since being repelled from Kiev and other parts of Ukraine after launching its military operation in February, Moscow is focusing its offensive on the strategic Donbass region. (AP)

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Russian shelling in Ukraine's Kharkiv region kills 15: Governor

An eight-year-old child was among 15 people killed by Russian shelling in the eastern Kharkiv region, governor Oleg Synegubov has said, denouncing the strikes as "crimes against humanity that must be punished".

Located in northeastern Ukraine, Kharkiv is a region that borders Russia where many residents who fled at the start of the offensive have begun to return after Russian attempts to capture Ukraine's second city were repelled.

"Fifteen people died and 16 were wounded. Such are the terrible consequences of Russian daytime shelling in the Kharkiv region," Synegubov said on Telegram. The deaths and injuries occurred in four separate incidents. There was no immediate reaction from Russia, which denies targeting civilians.

Appalling to deny captured Americans protection from execution: US

The United States has said it is "appalling" for the Kremlin to suggest that two US citizens captured while fighting for Ukraine against Russian forces could face execution.

"It's appalling that a public official in Russia would even suggest the death penalty for two American citizens that were in Ukraine," John Kirby, a White House spokesperson, told reporters — after the Kremlin said the two men are not protected by the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war.

Kirby, spokesperson for foreign policy at the White House, also said the Kremlin was being at minimum reckless with the comments.

Russia: Britain asks for help over Donetsk death sentences

Russia's ambassador in London says Britain has asked for Moscow's help in connection with two British citizens sentenced to death in a Russian-backed separatist region for fighting for Ukraine.

A court in the breakaway so-called Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine this month sentenced Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun to death for "mercenary activities".

"There was an approach by the British to us — they sent us a note but the note was so full of such arrogant and didactic expressions that it really didn't produce any desire in us to cooperate in these questions," Ambassador Andrei Kelin told Russia-24 TV. "They need to approach the DPR — our recommendation remains the same." 

Ukraine says hit Black Sea oil platform used by Russia troops

Ukraine has admitted striking an oil drilling platform in the Black Sea, saying it was being used by Russian troops as a military installation. Monday's incident was the first such strike against offshore energy infrastructure in Moscow-annexed Crimea since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24.

It targeted a rig with four towers some 70 kilometres off the Crimean peninsula. "On those towers, Russia had organised small garrisons and stored equipment for air defence, radar warfare and reconnaissance," Sergiy Bratchuk of Odessa's regional military administration told an online briefing.

"They were being turned into fortification points that were helping the Russians achieve full control of the northwestern part of the Black Sea," he said in remarks quoted by Interfax Ukraine.

US attorney general vows help to prosecute 'war crimes' in Ukraine

US Attorney General Merrick Garland has pledged during a surprise visit to Ukraine to help Ukrainian authorities prosecute what Kiev and the West describe as "war crimes" by Russian forces.

"I'm here to express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion," Garland told reporters after meeting Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova at Krakovets on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Garland announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team headed by Eli Rosenbaum, a 36-year veteran of the Justice Department who previously led US efforts to identify and deport Nazi war criminals.

There is no hiding place for war criminals. The US Justice Department will pursue every avenue of accountability for those who commit war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine

US Attorney General Merrick Garland

Russia says first foreign cargo ship leaves port of Mariupol

The first foreign cargo ship has left the port of Mariupol, according to Russian media. The Turkish Azov Concord started its journey to the Russian city of Novorossiysk without cargo, said the TASS news agency.

The captain of the vessel, Ivan Babenkov, said the ship was repaired of damage caused by the Ukrainian military and a new crew was recruited.

Russia slashing EU gas flows for 'illegal' reasons: Ukraine

Ukraine has accused Russian energy giant Gazprom of illegally cutting natural gas supplies to European countries, a move that has forced EU member states to scramble to fill energy shortfalls.

"Gazprom has limited gas supplies to Europe for far-fetched and illegal reasons, justifying this by saying Nord Stream 1 is not operating at full capacity," said Yuriy Vitrenko, the head of Ukraine state energy company Naftogaz. "This is unscrupulous behaviour on the part of Gazprom."

Gazprom announced the supply reductions in the Nord Stream pipeline earlier this month, saying the reduced flows were the result of repair work. But EU officials believe Moscow is punishing allies of Ukraine.

FIFA extends option for foreign players to leave Ukraine, Russia

FIFA has extended until June 2023 the possibility for foreign players and coaches based in Ukraine and Russia to unilaterally suspend their contracts and move to another club. The decision follows changes made to the transfer rules in March following Russia's offensive against Ukraine.

"The Bureau of the FIFA Council has decided to extend the temporary employment rules established in the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) with the aim of effectively assisting players, clubs and coaches impacted by the war in Ukraine," FIFA said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Should clubs affiliated to the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) or the Football Union of Russia (FUR) not reach a mutual agreement with their respective foreign players and coaches before or on 30 June 2022...these players and coaches will have the right to suspend their employment contracts with their clubs until 30 June 2023," FIFA added.

East Ukraine region faces constant Russian bombardment

Russian attacks have laid down a curtain of fire across areas of eastern Ukraine where pockets of resistance are denying Moscow full military control of the region.

“Today everything that can burn is on fire,” Sergiy Gaiday, the governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, told The Associated Press.

In the city of Sievierodonetsk, the hot spot of the fighting, Ukrainian defenders held on to the Azot chemical plant in the industrial outskirts. About 500 civilians are sheltering at the plant, and Gaiday said the Russian forces are turning the area “into ruins.”

Russia has captured Donbass frontline village Toshkivka: Ukraine

Russian forces have pushed deeper into Donbass  with Ukraine announcing the capture of the frontline village of Toshkivka near the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, the site of fierce weeks-long fighting.

"As of today, according to our information, Toshkivka is controlled entirely by the Russians," Roman Vlasenko, the head of the Sievierodonetsk district told Ukrainian television, adding that the battle for Donbas is "now in full swing".

Toshkivka, which had a population of around 5,000 before the conflict, is about 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk, where Russian troops and have been battling against Kiev's army for weeks.

The entirety of the Luhansk region is now the epicentre of fighting between Ukraine and the Russian army

Roman Vlasenko, the head of Sievierodonetsk district

US confirms death of second citizen in Ukraine

The United States has confirmed that a second American was killed fighting for Ukraine, as it warned of risks amid worries over two other US citizens captured battling Russia.

The State Department said that 52-year-old Stephen Zabielski died in Ukraine and that it was providing his family with consular assistance. A 22-year-old former Marine, Willy Joseph Cancel, was confirmed as the first American killed fighting for Ukraine in late April.

"We once again reiterate US citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of US citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials," a State Department spokesperson said.

Putin says 'proud' of Russian troops in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is "proud" of the action of his soldiers in Ukraine, where Moscow says it is conducting a military operation.

"We are proud that during the special military operation our fighters act with courage, professionalism, like real heroes," Putin said in televised remarks during a Kremlin meeting with military academy graduates. Referring to Western sanctions imposed on Russia, he said "they will be overcome".

And "in the face of new threats and risks, we will further develop and strengthen our armed forces", he said, promising the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile would be commissioned by the end of the year. "There is no doubt that we will be even stronger," Putin added.

Russia says repelled attack on Ukraine's Snake Island

Russia says it has repelled Kiev's attempt to retake the Black Sea's Snake Island. The outpost became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after a radio exchange went viral at the start of the conflict, in which Ukrainian soldiers used an expletive in rebuffing a demand by the Russian warship Moskva to surrender.

"On June 20 at 5:00 am, the Kiev regime undertook another mad attempt to take possession of Snake Island," Russia's defence ministry said. Ukraine's forces had "planned to carry out massive air and artillery fire...before landing and capturing" the island, it added.

The ministry said 15 Ukrainian attack and reconnaissance drones took part in the airstrike while missile launchers and howitzers fired at the island. Russian air defence systems intercepted all the projectiles and shot down 13 drones, the ministry added.

Kiev says sophisticated German artillery now deployed in Ukraine

Ukraine says it has "finally" deployed advanced German artillery system, in the latest delivery of the long-range, precision weapons that it has been calling for.

"Panzerhaubitze 2000 are finally part of 155 mm howitzer arsenal of the Ukrainian artillery," Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote on social media.

Germany said last month it would send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine.

Total consensus in EU on making Ukraine candidate: French minister

EU ministers have backed granting Ukraine "candidate status" to join the bloc, ahead of a summit expected to formally greenlight the move later this week, France's Europe minister has said.

Clement Beaune said after a meeting with his counterparts that there was "a total consensus on moving these issues forward, and in particular for Ukraine the possibility of confirming candidate status as soon as possible".

US attorney general in Ukraine to discuss 'war crimes'

US Attorney General Merrick Garland is visiting Ukraine to discuss prosecution of individuals involved in what Kiev and the West describe as "war crimes" by Russian forces, a Justice Department official said.

Garland, who is stopping in Ukraine on his way to the US-EU Ministerial in Paris, is meeting with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova near the Polish-Ukrainian border, the official said.

They will discuss US and international efforts to help Ukraine "identify, apprehend, and prosecute those individuals involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine," the official said.

Moscow councillor faces jail for 'false information' on Russian army

A Moscow court has started hearing the case of a city councillor, who faces up to 10 years in jail for criticising Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.

Alexei Gorinov, a 60-year-old lawyer by training, was arrested in late April for spreading "knowingly false information" about the Russian army.

Gorinov is accused of acting "in a group" with another Moscow deputy Yelena Kotyonochkina, who has left Russia and was charged in absentia. He faces up to 10 years in jail.

Sweden issues 'early warning' on Russian gas supply

The Swedish Energy Agency has declared a first level "early warning" over fears that gas supplies may be impacted due to reductions in energy imports from Russia in view of the Ukraine situation.

The announcement, which concerned western Sweden, follows a similar declaration by Denmark on Monday evening.

"Sweden and Denmark have a common gas market and a joint balancing zone where the Danish supply situation is of great importance for the Swedish one," the agency said in a statement. "Therefore the Energy Agency in Sweden has decided to mirror Denmark's decision on a crisis level," it added.

Russia inflicting 'catastrophic destruction' in Lysychansk: governor

Ukraine has said that Russia is heavily shelling the eastern industrial city of Lysychansk in the Donbass region which has been the centre of intense fighting for weeks between Kiev's army and Moscow's troops.

"Fighting in the Sievierodonetsk industrial zone and catastrophic destruction in Lysychansk," the Luhansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a statement on social media, adding that Lysychansk had suffered from heavy Russian strikes over the previous day.

Gaiday said that one person had been confirmed killed in the "heavy shelling" that had persisted all day on Monday and destroyed ten residential blocks and a police station. "We are determining the final number of victims, because yesterday it was almost impossible to move inside the city safely," he said.

EU united in support of Ukraine's candidacy status: Luxembourg

European countries are united in their support for granting Ukraine the status of European Union member candidate, Luxembourg's foreign affairs minister has said.

"We are working towards the point where we tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends," Jean Asselborn told reporters before a meeting with other EU ministers.

Sweden declares 'early warning' for potential gas supply disruptions

Sweden's energy agency has said it has activated the first step of a three-stage emergency gas supply plan for Western and Southern parts of the country to prepare for possible disruptions of natural gas from Russia.

The move was made after neighbouring Denmark, which supplies Sweden with piped gas, issued a similar warning on Monday.

Germany to send Ukraine arms for as long as needed - Scholz

Germany will send weapons to Ukraine for as long as needed, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said, adding that since his trip to Kiev last week, it has become only clearer that Ukraine belongs to Europe.

"One thing is clear: we will continue to support Ukraine, also with weapons, for as long as Ukraine needs our support," Scholz said in a speech to German industry association BDI's Industry Day.

He underscored at the event that Germany stood resolutely at the side of Lithuania and other eastern allies.

Ukraine's Kherson region airs Russian TV: army

Russian television is now broadcasting in Ukraine's southern Kherson region, the Russian army has said, in an area where Moscow has already introduced the rouble and begun distributing Russian passports.

The Russian armed forces have "reconfigured the last of the seven television towers in the Kherson region to broadcast Russian television channels" for free, it said.

Bordering the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, the Kherson region was occupied by Russian forces in the days following the Kremlin's offensive in late February. One of the pro-Moscow officials in the region, Kirill Stremousov, said that the territory could join Russia "before the end of the year."

UK says Ukraine claimed its first successful use of Western donated missiles against Russia

Ukrainian forces last week have claimed their first successful use of Western-donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles to engage Russian forces, the British Military Intelligence has said.

"The target of the attack was almost certainly the Russian naval tug Spasatel Vasily Bekh, which was delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island in the north-western Black Sea," the defence ministry said in its daily Twitter update.

Georgia's PM says committed to joining NATO

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has said that his country is committed to joining NATO, but must solve its territorial problems with Russia before that.

He made the statement while attending an economic conference in Qatar.

Russian regulator blocks website of British newspaper The Telegraph

The website of British newspaper The Telegraph has been blocked in Russia following a request from the prosecutor general, data from state communications regulator Roskomnadzor has showed.

Black Sea drilling platform still on fire: Russian lawmaker

A fire that broke out after Ukraininan forces allegedly fired at oil rigs off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea is approaching an oil well, a senior lawmaker has said.

"As for the fire, it is not subsiding on the platform. At night, the fire approached the oil well," Olga Kovitidi, a Russian senator for Crimea, told the Interfax news agency.

Kovitidi said that the "search continues" for the seven missing persons, while the three injured are in hospital but their condition is not critical.

Russia vows 'serious' consequences over Lithuania rail transit ban

Russia's security council chief Nikolai Patrushev has warned EU and NATO member Lithuania of "serious" consequences over restrictions on the rail transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Moscow's exclave of Kaliningrad.

Retaliatory steps "will be taken in the near future. Their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania," Patrushev said at a regional security meeting in Kaliningrad, a Russian region wedged between Lithuania and Poland.

Russia says Ukraine has not tried to revive peace talks

Ukraine has not tried to restart peace negotiations with Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.

Russia's chief negotiator said last week that Moscow was ready to restart peace talks with Ukraine, which have been stalled since April, but had received no response from Kiev to its proposals.

Baltic states want more EU financial support for handling Ukrainian refugees

The Baltic states have asked for more financial support from the EU to handle Ukrainian refugees, the Lithuanian president's office has said.

"We must share the financial burden, which at the moment is unproportionally assigned to national budgets. EU solidarity is very important to assure proper support to war refugees from Ukraine", Lithuania's president Gitanas Nauseda said in a statement.

Kremlin says death penalty for captured US citizens cannot be ruled out

The Kremlin has said that the US citizens captured in Ukraine are subject to court decisions and does not rule out that they could face the death penalty.

"We can't rule anything out, because these are court decisions. We don't comment on them and have no right to interfere," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He said the Kremlin did not know where the men were now, after their families said they had not returned from a mission around the Kharkiv region.

Russian journalist auctions his Nobel Peace Prize to help Ukraine victims

Dmitry Muratov, the Russian editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta has auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize gold medal for a whopping $103.5 million to benefit children displaced by the conflict in Ukraine.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the medal –– which was snapped up by an as yet unidentified phone bidder –– will go to UNICEF's Humanitarian Response for Ukrainian Children Displaced by War, according to Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale.

Muratov, who was awarded the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication's editor-in-chief when it shut down in March amid the Kremlin's clampdown on journalists and public dissent in the wake of Russia's assault on Ukraine.

Dmitry Muratov won the prize in 2021 alongside journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines, with the committee honouring them
Dmitry Muratov won the prize in 2021 alongside journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines, with the committee honouring them "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression." (Reuters)

For live updates from Monday (June 20), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies