- An advisor to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the battles for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are entering a “sort of fearful climax”.
- Luhansk’s governor Serhiy Haidai says Russian forces have taken another two villages near Lysychansk.
- Russia claims it has Ukraine’s troops surrounded south of the city.
- The European Union is set to make a historic offer of candidacy status to Ukraine at a summit that starts Thursday.
- Zelenskyy has compared Russia’s invasion of his country on February 24 to Hitler’s surprise attacks on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.
- About 25 people have been killed in Russia’s shelling of the Kharkiv region on Tuesday and Wednesday, the regional governor says.
These are the latest updates:
Briton captured in Ukraine told execution will go ahead: BBC
A British man sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court for fighting in Ukraine has been told the execution will be carried out, his family have told the BBC.
Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were sentenced by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
The BBC says Aslin’s family said they had spoken to him in a phone call in which he said he had been told “time is running out” by his captors. Aslin also reportedly told his family his captors said there had been no attempt by UK officials to negotiate on his behalf.
The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has previously said she and her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba had spoken about “efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies” and has called the death sentences a “sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy”.
Briton sentenced to death in Ukraine told execution will go ahead https://t.co/5RsJ8dd9xD
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) June 23, 2022
Four civilians killed in Donetsk Wednesday: Governor
Russian forces killed four civilians in the Donetsk region on Wednesday, the governor has said.
Two people were killed in the village of Prechystivka, one in the town of Krasnohorivka and one in the settlement of Zalizne, Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram.
He said it was impossible to determine the exact number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovakha.
Russia putting ‘increasing pressure’ on Ukraine’s troops in Severodonetsk area: UK
Russian forces are putting Ukraine’s troops in the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk area under “increasing pressure,” the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.
Russian forces have advanced more than 5km towards the southern parts of Lysychansk, the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing, adding that some Ukrainian units had withdrawn, likely to avoid being encircled.
Russia’s recent unit reinforcement and heavy concentration of fire had most likely improved its performance in the area, the ministry said.
“Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure with this creeping advance around the fringes of the built-up area. However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled,” it added.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 23 June 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/IMlKAZ5Kay
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) June 23, 2022
Fight for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk entering ‘fearsome climax’: Advisor
The fight for the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk is “entering a sort of fearsome climax”, an advisor to Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych, has said, as Russian forces intensify their push to take the Donbas.
The governor of Luhansk has said Russian forces captured another two villages on Wednesday: Loskutivka, about 25km south of Lysychansk and Rai-Oleksandrivka, about 60km southwest of Lysychansk (closer to the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk).
“Lysychansk was shelled several times during June 22. Destruction was recorded in one of the city’s schools,” Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.
Haidai said Ukraine’s forces were still holding their positions in Severodonetsk where Russian shelling caused a fire in the fibreglass factory. He said the Russian army was “liberating Severodonetsk from life and jobs”.
China’s Xi talks of Russia-Ukraine war as ‘alarm for humanity’
The conflict in Ukraine has “sounded an alarm for humanity,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said, but gave no indication on how it could be resolved.
“The Ukraine crisis has again sounded the alarm for humanity. Countries will surely end up in security hardships if they place blind faith in their positions of strength, expand military alliances, and seek their own safety at the expense of others,” Xi said, according to state media.
The Chinese president, who did not propose any solutions, was speaking at the opening of a virtual business forum ahead of the 14th summit of the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Read more here.
Mixed views for Kaliningrad residents on Lithuania ban: Reuters
Residents of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, have mixed views about whether Lithuania’s transit ban on EU sanctioned goods would affect the region.
“In grocery retail, the situation is calm, we do not have an increase in turnover compared to the data of a week or a month ago”, the deputy CEO of “SPAR Kaliningrad” chain of grocery stores, Alexey Elaev, told Reuters.
He added that these sanctions did not apply to food products, as well as a significant range of household non-food products. The EU sanctions list notably includes coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology, and the ban would cover around 50 percent of the items Kaliningrad imports.
Resident Olga said she didn’t think there would be any major deficit. “We have a large region, we grow food, milk, all of that”, she said.
But another resident Georgiy said there was some psychological distress about the ban, which Lithuania said was due to take effect from June 18. “Our authorities must end this special operation, move on to negotiations and gradually improve relations with both Ukraine and the European Union,” he said.
Russia says it has Ukraine’s troops surrounded south of Lysychansk
Russian forces have surrounded Ukraine troops south of Lysychansk, the Moscow-backed militia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) has said, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS.
The LPR said on Wednesday that about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers and “foreign mercenaries” had fallen into a “tight ring” of Russian forces in the area of Hirske and Zolote, located south of Lysychansk, TASS reports.
TASS also quoted a source from the LPR saying that its forces had taken the village of Volcheyarovka, some 12km (7.5 miles) southwest of Lysychansk.
If true, Lysychansk would be at greater risk of being cut off.
Zelenskyy calls for heavy arms
Moscow’s considerable air and artillery attacks are aimed at destroying the entire Donbas region, Zelenskyy has said as he urged Ukraine’s allies to accelerate the shipment of heavy weapons to match Russia on the battlefield.
“In Donbas there are 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. Lysychansk, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk – they aim to turn any city into Mariupol. Completely ruined,” Zelenskyy said.
“This is why we again and again emphasise the acceleration of arm deliveries to Ukraine. What is quickly needed is parity on the battlefield in order to halt this diabolical armada and push it beyond Ukraine’s borders,” he added.
Diary of 12-year-old Ukrainian refugee to be released
The reflections of a 12-year-old refugee from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be published on October 25. Yeva Skalietska’s book is called “You Don’t Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine.”
“Everyone knows what the word ‘war’ means, but practically no one knows what this word really represents,” Skalietska said in a statement released Wednesday. “I want the world to know what we have experienced.”
Skalietska’s book begins with her 12th birthday, shortly before the Russians attacked on February 24. She had been living in Kharkiv with her grandmother when the bombing began.
“She describes the bombings they endured while sheltering underground, and their desperate journey to West Ukraine. She shares her confusion about why the Russians would attack them, since she speaks Russian and follows many of their customs,” according to Union Square’s announcement.
Russian attacks on Kharkiv kill 25 people: Governor
Russian attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday on Kharkiv have killed at least 25 people, according to the regional governor.
Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said Russians continued shelling residential districts of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and towns within the Kharkiv region.
“There is no letup in the shelling of civilians by the Russian occupiers,” he wrote on Telegram. “This is evidence that we cannot expect the same scenario as in Chernihiv or Kyiv, with Russian forces withdrawing under pressure.”
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video address that Russian forces were hitting Kharkiv to terrorise the population and force Ukraine to divert troops.
Zelenskyy speaks with 11 leaders on eve of EU summit
Ukraine’s president spoke with 11 European leaders on Wednesday, he has said, in an effort to boost the chances of the European Parliament approving Kyiv’s bid for EU candidacy.
In what Zelenskyy described as a second day “marathon” of talks, he listed his discussions with the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Latvia, Greece, Sweden, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Slovenia, as well as with the presidents of Moldova and Lithuania, and Austria’s chancellor.
“Tomorrow I will continue this marathon – we must provide maximum support to our state,” Zelenskyy said.
“We expect a key European decision tomorrow night,” he added.
Discussed the forthcoming European Council Summit with Federal Chancellor @karlnehammer. Thanked 🇦🇹 for the humanitarian support. Exchanged views on the reconstruction of 🇺🇦 and the forthcoming Conference on the Reconstruction of Ukraine in Lugano
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 22, 2022
Russia’s Lavrov in Iran to discuss nuclear deal, cooperation
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Iran on Wednesday, Iranian state TV reported, as world powers and Tehran are struggling to revive their 2015 nuclear pact amid stalled negotiations.
“During Lavrov’s visit, Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, boosting bilateral and energy cooperation, as well as international and regional issues will be discussed,” Iranian state media reported.
Iranian state TV showed Lavrov meeting Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi but gave no details. The Iranian foreign ministry said on Monday that Lavrov’s visit was aimed at “expanding cooperation with the Eurasian region and the Caucasus”.
Last month, Moscow said Russia and Iran – which are both under Western sanctions and sit on some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves – had discussed swapping supplies for oil and gas as well as setting up a logistics hub.
US hopeful for positive resolution soon for Sweden, Finland’s NATO bid
The United States is hopeful there will soon be a positive resolution of the issues between Turkey, Finland and Sweden regarding the NATO accession bids of the two Nordic countries, the State Department’s top diplomat for Europe has said.
Karen Donfried, assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian affairs, speaking at a Senate foreign relations hearing, said the US was “certainly pushing” to get all parties on the same page before next week’s NATO summit in Madrid.
G7, NATO leaders to ratchet up pressure on Russia, keeping eye on China: US officials
Leaders from the G7 and the NATO alliance will seek to increase pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine at meetings next week, while making clear that they remain concerned about China, the Reuters news agency cites senior US administration officials as having said.
NATO would announce new commitments to shore up European security, the officials said, while the participation of leaders from Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand would show that the war in Ukraine had not detracted from focus on China.
G7 leaders were also expected to address China’s “coercive economic practices,” which have become even more aggressive in recent years, one of the officials said, according to Reuters.
Russia marks anniversary of Hitler’s USSR invasion
Russia commemorated the 81st anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on Wednesday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin wall.
Hitler’s forces launched surprise attacks on Kyiv, Moscow and Belarusian Brest on June 22, a day that marks the start of what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War and is today known in the country as Day of Remembrance and Sorrow.
The Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces kicked off commemorations after midnight with a Divine Liturgy and a memorial service for the estimated 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians killed in the war, the Moscow Times reports. Later 1,418 candles were lit outside the cathedral for each day the war lasted.
In Ukraine’s occupied port city of Mariupol, pro-Moscow activists lit 10,000 candles to spell out the phrase “Remember 22.06.1941”.
Russia did the same in Ukraine as Germany when it invaded Soviet Union: Zelenskyy
Russia did the same on February 24 when it invaded Ukraine as Nazi Germany did on June 22, 1941, when it invaded the Soviet Union, Zelenskyy has said on the WW2 anniversary.
“Today, June 22, is the Day of Mourning and Remembrance of the Victims of War. A war that was to remain forever in the history of the 20th century and was never to be repeated. But it is repeated,” Zelenskyy said in his morning address.
“Today there is no shortage of words that Russia did the same on February 24 as the Nazis did on June 22 … And I want to add only one thing. Then 1418 days passed from the morning of the invasion to the defeat of the aggressor. We must liberate our land and achieve victory, but faster. Much faster,” he said.
“This is our national goal, and we must work to achieve it on a daily basis. Not only the state, but also every citizen – at the level at which it is possible.”
This day in 1941, Nazi Germany invades the Soviet Union with the largest invasion force in the history of warfare, called operation Barbarossa. Approx. 3 million personnel invaded the USSR along a 2,900-kilometer (1,800 mi) front. #WW2 pic.twitter.com/xk6VjxESmk
— WWII Pictures (@WWIIpix) June 22, 2022
Ukraine expects EU-wide support for candidacy to join bloc
A Ukrainian official overseeing the country’s push to join the EU has said she is “100 percent” certain all 27 EU nations will approve Ukraine’s candidacy during a summit this week.
In an interview with The Associated Press news agency, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said the decision could come as soon as Thursday, when the leaders’ summit starts.
Stefanishyna said the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark had been sceptical about starting accession talks with Ukraine while it is fighting Russia’s invasion but are now supportive. Asked how confident she was that Ukraine would be accepted as an EU candidate, she said: “The day before the summit starts, I can say 100 percent.”
EU candidate status, which can be granted only if the existing member countries agree unanimously, is the first step towards membership. It does not provide security guarantees or an automatic right to join the bloc. Ukraine’s membership bid is the top order of business for EU leaders meeting in Brussels.
You can read all the updates from June 22 here.