June 14, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Updated 3:02 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022
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9:27 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Russia calls on Ukrainian fighters to lay down their arms in Severodonetsk

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Mick Krever

Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday called on Ukrainian fighters in Severodonetsk to lay down their arms “as has already happened to your comrades who previously surrendered in Mariupol.”

“We call on the official authorities in Kiev to show prudence and give appropriate instructions to the militants to stop their senseless resistance and withdraw from the territory of Azot plant,” the ministry said in a news statement.

The ministry said that it was prepared to conduct a “humanitarian operation” on Wednesday to evacuate civilians from the Ukrainian-held Azot chemical plant to Russian-held territory to the north.

“The Russian military announced their readiness to conduct a humanitarian operation to evacuate civilians from Azot in the northern direction,” towards the town of Svatove, in Russian-occupied territory, the ministry said, adding that Russia will open an evacuation corridor for civilians on Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Moscow time.

Smoke rises after a military strike on Severodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on June 10.
Smoke rises after a military strike on Severodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on June 10. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

The Ukrainian head of the Severodonetsk military administration said Tuesday that just over 500 civilians continued to shelter in the Azot chemical plant, which is still under Ukrainian control, and which authorities say has been the target of intense shelling by Russian forces.

Russia's Ministry of Defense claimed that Ukraine had requested a corridor to evacuate civilians to Ukrainian-held territory, in Lysychansk, but that “it is not possible to safely evacuate in this direction” because all three major bridges are impassable.

CNN has reached out to Ukrainian authorities for comment.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said Monday that crossing between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk was now “difficult, but not impossible,” and Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday that evacuations were slow because of the constant bombardment but still possible.

In calling for Ukrainian fighters to surrender, Russia's Ministry of Defense said that it would guarantee “the preservation of lives and the observance of all norms of the Geneva Convention for the treatment of prisoners of war, as happened to your comrades who previously surrendered in Mariupol.”

CNN's Olga Voitovych, Julia Presniakova Yulia Kesaieva, and Jen Deaton contributed to this report.

8:45 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Bodies of another 64 Ukrainian soldiers who died in Mariupol steel plant have been repatriated, Ukraine says

From CNN's Yulia Kasaieva and Mick Krever

An aerial view shows ruins of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on June 13.
An aerial view shows ruins of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on June 13. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images)

The bodies of another 64 Ukrainian soldiers who died defending the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol — located southeast of Ukraine — have been repatriated to government-controlled territory, the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories said Tuesday.

“Ukraine has returned the bodies of 64 heroic Azovstal defenders for their dignified burial,” the statement read. “The process of returning the bodies of the dead Ukrainian soldiers continues.”

The ministry said that the bodies were repatriated in an “exchange.” CNN is seeking clarification on this statement.

8:44 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Zelensky calls on Germany to reject "balancing act" with Russia

From CNN's Victoria Butenko, Irina Morgan, and Mick Krever

Germany must reject a “balancing act” between Ukraine and Russia and provide certainty about its support for Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.

“I think there is a certain amount of skepticism in the German leadership's relationship with Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “And I don't think this skepticism came with Olaf Scholz. I don't think this is something new.” 

“I believe this skepticism towards us is mainly about our future membership of the European Union or NATO. All this skepticism was there before Mr Scholz. Unfortunately, this was the attitude. And I believe this attitude will change. Right now, it is what it is on this issue," he continued.

Germany has pledged heavy weaponry to Ukraine but has faced sustained criticism from Ukrainian leadership for alleged equivocation and slow delivery.

“We need Chancellor Scholz to give us certainty that they will support Ukraine," Zelensky said in a transcript distributed by his office.

“He and his government must choose not to do a balancing act between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, but to choose which is their priority. I feel that the people of Germany have made this choice, but it is always difficult for the leadership because there are many different challenges. I understand it. Nevertheless, I am counting on this very much," he added.  

8:51 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Ukraine's Zelensky says Russia will "go further" than Donbas if given the opportunity

From CNN's Mick Krever

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that he believes that Russia, if given the opportunity, will expand its ambitions in Ukraine beyond the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the country’s east, known as the Donbas. 

“I am sure that if Ukraine is not strong enough, they will go further,” he said during a virtual press conference with Danish journalists. “We have shown to them our strength. And it is important for this strength to be also demonstrated together with us by our Western partners as well.”

Zelensky once again appealed for more weaponry from Western nations. He said he was grateful for what had already been sent, but “it has to come quicker” if Ukraine’s allies want to stymie Russia’s territorial ambitions.

At the beginning of the invasion, Russian forces attacked and occupied multiple Kyiv suburbs before the Kremlin withdrew its forces from around the capital to concentrate on the east of the country. And in early June, Russia fired five cruise missiles toward the capital Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian military.

“They have already been to Kyiv,” Zelensky said of the Russians. “They have seen our welcome, and our ‘hospitality’ there. And of course they have the idea of occupying the whole country. They demonstrated this in the first weeks of the war. This is their objective.”

8:51 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

NATO preparing for Madrid summit as Zelensky repeats calls for more heavy weapons

From CNN's Jack Guy, Al Goodman, Sarah Diab, Victoria Butenko and Jen Deaton

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez (right), receives NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, on May 30.
Spanish President Pedro Sanchez (right), receives NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, on May 30. (Alejandro Martinez Velez/Europa Press/Getty Images)

Members of the NATO military alliance are preparing for the organization's latest summit from June 28 to 30, with the war in Ukraine top of the agenda.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made repeated calls for greater support to face down Russian attacks in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine – and will be hoping to secure promises of more weapons supplies for Ukraine from NATO states.

The summit will take place in Spain's capital, Madrid, as the country is this year marking 40 years since it joined the alliance.

At a ceremony to mark the anniversary on May 30, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that NATO’s support for Ukraine was “unbreakable.”

Speaking at the same event, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looked ahead to the June summit in what he described as a “very different context” from the last NATO summit that Spain hosted in 1997.

“These challenge our security and our democratic way of life at the Madrid Summit. We will chart the way ahead for the next decade. We will reset our deterrence and defense for a more dangerous world,” Stoltenberg said.

“We will deepen our cooperation with like-minded countries and organizations, including the European Union and countries in the Indo-Pacific," he added. "We will also be joined by Finland and Sweden that just made historic applications to join our alliance.”

Further weapons supplies to Ukraine will likely be on the agenda at the meeting, after Stoltenberg underlined why Ukraine must continue to receive support.

If Putin wins the war, then “the price we have to pay would be higher than to now invest in support for Ukraine," said Stoltenberg on June 1.

Ukrainian servicemen ride American 155 mm turreted self-propelled howitzers M109 in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 13.
Ukrainian servicemen ride American 155 mm turreted self-propelled howitzers M109 in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 13. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

The battle in the Donbas “will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe,” said Zelensky in his nightly address Monday, adding that Ukrainian forces face the “significant advantage of the Russians in the amount of equipment, and especially – artillery systems.”

“The price of this battle for us is very high. It’s just scary," he added. "And we draw the attention of our partners on a daily basis to the fact that only a sufficient number of modern artillery for Ukraine will ensure our advantage and finally the end of Russian torture of the Ukrainian Donbas."

7:16 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Ukraine war "perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented," says Pope Francis

From CNN's Hada Messia in Rome and Radina Gigova in London 

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for the weekly general audience on June 8, at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives for the weekly general audience on June 8, at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has said that the war in Ukraine "was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented" in remarks published by Italian newspaper La Stampa on Tuesday.

"What we are seeing is the brutality and ferocity with which this war is waged by the troops, generally mercenary, used by the Russians," the pontiff reportedly said during a conversation with the directors of the Society of Jesus cultural publications on May 19, adding that the Russians "prefer to send Chechens, Syrians, mercenaries forward."

"But the danger is that we only see this, which is monstrous, and we do not see the whole drama that is unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented. And I register an interest in testing and selling weapons. It is very sad, but basically this is what is at stake," he said.

The Pope said he is not "in favor" of Putin but "simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good and bad, without thinking about roots and interests, which are very complex." 

"While we see the ferocity, the cruelty of the Russian troops, we must not forget the problems to try to solve them," he added. 

Pope Francis said that before Russia invaded Ukraine he met with "a head of state" who "was very worried about how NATO was moving."

"I asked him why, and he replied: 'They are barking at the gates of Russia. And they do not understand that the Russians are imperial and do not allow any foreign power to approach them,'" said the Pope, adding that the unnamed "head of state" told him "the situation could lead to war." 

Pope Francis also said he hopes to be able to speak with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, later this year, after a meeting between the pair that had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday was ultimately postponed because of the war in Ukraine.

"I was supposed to meet him on June 14 in Jerusalem, to talk about our affairs. But with the war, by mutual agreement, we decided to postpone the meeting to a later date, so that our dialogue was not misunderstood," Pope Francis said. 

The Pope said he hoped to meet the Russian Patriarch at a general assembly in Kazakhstan in September. The Pope recently cancelled a trip to Africa due to a knee injury. 

In separate remarks published Tuesday by the Vatican, the Pope said the invasion of Ukraine "has now been added to the regional wars that for years have taken a heavy toll of death and destruction."

"Yet here the situation is even more complex due to the direct intervention of a 'superpower' aimed at imposing its own will in violation of the principle of the self-determination of peoples," said the Pope as part of a message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of the Poor, which will be marked in November. 

8:41 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

It's 1 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

The strategic city of Severodonetsk is increasingly isolated as heavy fighting has destroyed all three bridges linking it to Lysychansk to the west, while Portugal's Prime Minister António Costa has sounded a cautionary note over Ukraine's possible accession to the European Union. 

Here are the latest headlines on the war in Ukraine:

Battle for Severodonetsk continues: Intense fighting continues inside Severodonetsk, one of the last holdouts for Ukraine in the Luhansk region, and more widely, the entirety of the country’s eastern Donbas, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzianyk said in a briefing Monday.

Evacuation routes limited after bridges destroyed: All three bridges connecting Severodonetsk with its twin city Lysychansk to the west are now impassable for vehicles, severely limiting evacuation options for those trying to flee the city and supply routes in, according to Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration. However Oleksandr Struik, head of the Severodonetsk military administration, said evacuations were taking place “every minute when there is quiet there, or there is a possibility of transportation.”

Zelensky repeats call for more artillery: The battle for the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine “will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Monday, repeating his call for more heavy weapons deliveries from allied countries.

Ukraine investigating mass grave near Bucha: The Ukrainian Prosecutor General says that it is investigating the deaths of seven civilians found with their hands tied behind their backs near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. During an investigation of formerly Russian-held positions in the forest near the village of Myrotske, authorities said, “the bodies of seven civilians with gunshot wounds and hands tied behind their backs were found in the trenches.” 

Warning over Ukraine's EU accession: Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa says that the debate over whether to grant Ukraine candidacy status in the European Union could divide the bloc and create “false expectations.” Division in the EU would be a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Costa reportedly told the Financial Times.

5:26 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Debate over Ukraine’s EU status could endanger unity, says Portuguese prime minister

From CNN's Mick Krever and Chris Liakos

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa speaks to the press outside 10 Downing Street after a bilateral meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, England, on June 13.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa speaks to the press outside 10 Downing Street after a bilateral meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, England, on June 13. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Portugal’s prime minister has warned that the debate over whether to grant Ukraine candidacy status in the European Union could divide the bloc and create “false expectations.”

“The best support that the European Union can give to Ukraine is to keep its unity,” António Costa told the Financial Times in an interview. “The best we can offer is European unity.”

Division in the EU would be a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the newspaper cites Costa as saying.

“My focus is to obtain in the next European Council a clear commitment on the urgent support and to build a long-term platform to support the recovery of Ukraine,” Costa told the FT.

“This is my main priority. The most important are not legal debates about Ukraine but practical deliveries," he added.

According to the FT, Costa said that he did not explicitly oppose Ukraine’s candidacy, but that his priority was “clear and immediate support,” warning against opening a years-long negotiation at this moment.

“The great risk is to create false expectations that become bitter disappointment. Less legal debates, more practical solutions," he said.

During a visit to Kyiv this weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the Commission would be ready to finalize its assessment on whether to recommend Ukraine for EU membership “by the end of next week.”

3:41 a.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Ukrainian prosecutor investigating mass grave near Bucha

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mick Krever

A forensic technician inspects an alleged mass grave near the village of Vorzel in the Bucha district, Kyiv region, Ukraine, on June 13.
A forensic technician inspects an alleged mass grave near the village of Vorzel in the Bucha district, Kyiv region, Ukraine, on June 13. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General says that it is investigating the deaths of seven civilians found with their hands tied behind their backs near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

During an investigation of formerly Russian-held positions in the forest near the village of Myrotske, authorities said “the bodies of seven civilians with gunshot wounds and hands tied behind their backs were found in the trenches.” 

“The pre-trial investigation is being carried out by the Bucha District Department of the National Police in the Kyiv Region,” a press release on Monday read.

Ukraine’s national police on Monday said that across the country they are still trying to identify the bodies of 1,200 civilians.

“This is a long process, rather painstaking, because a lot of bodies are in a state of putrefactive decay,” National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko told Interfax Ukraine. “We select DNA from those relatives who contacted us via the hotline, and then we compare the profiles of these relatives with the profiles of the dead, buried, shot, who could not be identified.”

He said that police are currently investigating the deaths of more than 12,000 civilians across the country.

In Bucha, he said, a single mass grave had been found with 116 people. He said that some mass graves were the result of residents who collected corpses from the streets and buried them in nearby parks.