June 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Kathleen Magramo and Hafsa Khalil, CNN

Updated 2:07 a.m. ET, June 16, 2022
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8:05 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Russia is predicted to lose around 15,000 millionaires this year

From CNN's Anna Cooban

Millionaires are leaving Russia in droves after its invasion of Ukraine and the West imposed sanctions.

According to a report by Henley & Partners -- a company that helps the wealthy move abroad -- almost three times as many Russian millionaires are expected to leave the country in this year than in 2019.

As Western sanctions take a toll on its elite, Russia is predicted to suffer a net loss of around 15,000 high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) -- people with over $1 million in assets -- in 2022 which is about 15% of Russia's millionaire population, the report said.

Andrew Amoils, head of research at analytics company New World Wealth, which contributed data to the report, said that Russia was "hemorrhaging millionaires."

"Wealth migration figures are a very important gauge of the health of an economy," he told CNN Business, adding that this usually precedes "any major country collapse in history."

Read the full article here.

8:06 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

"A performance at the cemetery": Ukrainian official slams Russian plans to reopen Mariupol theater

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Mick Krever

Emergency workers and volunteers remove debris in April after Russian strikes on the Mariupol Drama Theater.
Emergency workers and volunteers remove debris in April after Russian strikes on the Mariupol Drama Theater. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russia is planning to reopen Mariupol’s Drama Theater this fall -- the location where hundreds of people are believed to have died after a Russian bombing on March 16 -- according to an adviser to the Ukrainian mayor of the city.

“The Drama Theater in Mariupol is scheduled to open on September 10,” Petro Andriushchenko said on Telegram on Tuesday. “The new season will open with two or three dance and pop-concert shows, as well as a theatrical performance.”

Dances on the bones, a performance at the cemetery,” he said. “There is no such depth of the inhumanity bottom that the occupiers have not hit.”

Andriushchenko is not in the city but has been a reliable conduit for information from Mariupol.

Meanwhile, the theater company is preparing a new production in exile, in the western Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod.

“In May, our theater troupe found refuge in the Transcarpathian Music and Drama Theater,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region military administration, on Telegram.

“Work is currently underway on the first full-fledged production in the evacuation: a play about the life of Vasyl Stus [a Ukrainian dissident poet]," he added.

Read more on the theater here.

5:37 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Pope appeals to the world not to forget the Ukraine war

From CNN’s Hada Messia in Rome

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience at the Vatican, on June 15.
Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience at the Vatican, on June 15. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

Pope Francis made an appeal for people not to forget about the Ukraine war as the conflict rages on.

Speaking on Wednesday in his weekly general audience, he urged that people keep the “martyred” people of Ukraine in their thoughts. 

Let’s not get used to living as if war were a distant thing,” he said. 

“Our memory, our affection, our prayer, our help always goes…. to the people who suffer so much and who are carrying out a true martyrdom.”

Pope Francis previously 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.

The Pope spoke of the "brutality and ferocity" of the war, "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," he added.

4:52 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

"Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children are displaced," says UNICEF regional director

From CNN's Richard Roth in New York and Mick Krever in London

A girl rides a kick scooter past a destroyed residential building in the village of Horenka, Ukraine, on June 4.
A girl rides a kick scooter past a destroyed residential building in the village of Horenka, Ukraine, on June 4. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian invasion has forced a large majority of Ukrainian children to leave their homes, a regional director for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told a news conference in New York.

“Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children are displaced -- whether displaced inside the country or those who have fled across borders as refugees,” said Afshan Khan, regional director for Europe and Central Asia, according to remarks as prepared for delivery.

“Children forced to leave homes, friends, toys and treasured belongings, family members and facing uncertainty about the future.”

Khan said that according to UN figures, 277 children have been killed and 456 injured over the course of the war, and fighting has damaged or destroyed one in six “UNICEF-supported ‘safe schools’” in the country’s east.

The Ukrainian government quotes an even higher figure: The Prosecutor General says 313 children have been killed and 579 injured.

As these numbers show, the war in Ukraine is a child rights crisis, and UNICEF is working to support children and families wherever they are in the country,” Khan added.

She said that attacks on populated areas and civilian infrastructure “clearly must stop.”

“UNICEF continues to call for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and to protect all children from harm. Every day that this war continues, is increasing the long-lasting, devastating impact on children, in Ukraine, in the region and across the world."

4:14 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Ukrainian official: "We are waiting for a decision" on weapons

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mick Krever

A Ukrainian serviceman checks a just received Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW) not far from the Ukrainian town of Chuguiv, on June 9
A Ukrainian serviceman checks a just received Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW) not far from the Ukrainian town of Chuguiv, on June 9 (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

As NATO and allied defense ministers prepare to meet with their Ukrainian counterpart in Brussels, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his compatriots are eagerly awaiting “a decision” on weapon supplies.

“Ratio [Russia] / [Ukraine] artillery in some areas: 10 to 1,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Head of the Office of President of Ukraine, on Twitter. “Front line — more than 1000 km.
“Daily, I receive a message from the defenders: ‘We are holding on, just say: when to expect the weapons?.’ I address this question to the Rammstein participants.
“Brussels, we are waiting for a decision.” 

Some context: The US expects more announcements of weapons and equipment packages to Ukraine during a key meeting of nearly 50 countries known as the Ukraine Contact Group on Wednesday, according to a senior US defense official.  

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia is gaining ground in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, specifically in the city of Severodonetsk, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting recently. Without an influx of more weapons, some Ukrainian officials have said it will be increasingly difficult to halt Russia’s incremental progress or reclaim occupied ground in the region. 

8:42 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Fight in eastern Ukraine "getting harder," says Luhansk region leader

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Mick Krever

A Ukrainian artillery man prepares near the city of Lysychansk, in Luhansk region of Ukraine, on June 14.
A Ukrainian artillery man prepares near the city of Lysychansk, in Luhansk region of Ukraine, on June 14. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian military’s defense in the eastern region of Luhansk is growing more difficult, the head of Luhansk’s military administration said Wednesday morning.

“It is getting harder, but our military is holding back the enemy from three directions at once,” Serhiy Hayday said via Telegram. “They are defending Severodonetsk not allowing the enemy to advance towards Lysychansk. However, the Russians are close; the population suffers and houses are destroyed.”

Hayday said Russia was once again targeting the Azot chemical plant, where just over 500 civilians are said to be sheltering.

“High-rise buildings located closer to the chemical giant are being destroyed,” he said. “The enemy is weaker in street battles, which is why uses artillery fire, destroying our homes.”

The Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday called on Ukrainian fighters at the Azot plant to lay down their arms, and said it would open a “humanitarian corridor” on Wednesday from the Ukrainian-controlled plant to Russian-held territory to the north. Ukrainian officials have not commented on that proposal.

8:07 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

War in Ukraine reaches pivotal moment that could determine long-term outcome, intelligence officials say

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Barbara Starr, Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann

Ukrainian servicemen ride BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 14.
Ukrainian servicemen ride BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 14. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Ukraine's military is burning through Soviet-era ammunition that fits older systems as the country pleads with the West to send more heavy weaponry and Russia amasses a significant artillery advantage around two strategically important cities in eastern Ukraine.

Western intelligence and military officials believe Russia's war in Ukraine is in a critical stage that could determine the long-term outcome of the conflict, according to multiple sources familiar with US and other Western intelligence.

This pivotal moment could also force a tough decision for Western governments, which have up until now offered support to Ukraine at a steadily increasing cost to their own economies and national stockpiles of weapons.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is poised to lead a working group of nearly 50 countries to discuss the crisis on Wednesday, when the US expects more announcements of weapons and equipment packages for Ukraine, according to a senior US defense official. Ukrainian officials have expressed frustration that these vital munitions appear to be trickling into the fight piecemeal — and have raised fears that Western commitment may be softening at a decisive moment.

"I think that you're about to get to the point where one side or the other will be successful," said a senior NATO official. "Either the Russians will reach Slovyansk and Kramatorsk or the Ukrainians will stop them here. And if the Ukrainians are able to hold the line here, in the face of this number forces, that will matter."

Read more.

8:42 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

Zelensky says painful losses continue in Severodonetsk and Kharkiv region

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video address on Tuesday June 14.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video address on Tuesday June 14. (Office of President of Ukraine)

Fierce fighting continues in Severodonetsk and the Kharkiv region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a video address on Tuesday.

In Severodonetsk “the losses, unfortunately, are painful,” Zelensky said. “But we have to hold on.” He went on to say how it is vital for the Ukrainian military to stay in Donbas. 

“The more losses the enemy suffers there, the less strength they will have to continue the aggression. Therefore, the Donbas direction is key to determining who will dominate in the coming weeks,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine’s president also spoke about how “painful losses” have taken place in the Kharkiv region where the Russian army is trying to strengthen its position.

“Fighting for this direction continues, and we still have to fight hard to fight for complete security for Kharkiv and the region,” Zelensky said. 

Fierce battles are occurring in Izium, to the south of Kharkiv, according to local official Maksym Strelnyk.

Strelnyk, the deputy of Izium’s city council, said Russian forces are trying to move in the direction of Sloviansk and Barvinkove. 

Ukrainian Armed Forces have been able to liberate some settlements on the outskirts of Izium with counterattacks. Strelnyk estimates 15,000 civilians remain in Izium and the city lacks electricity, water, gas, mobile communications and internet. According to the official, about 80% of the infrastructure has been destroyed in Izium.

3:58 a.m. ET, June 15, 2022

US expects more announcements of weapons to Ukraine during key meeting of nearly 50 countries

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The US expects more announcements of weapons and equipment packages to Ukraine during a key meeting of nearly 50 countries known as the Ukraine Contact Group on Wednesday, according to a senior US defense official.  

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia is gaining ground in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, specifically in the city of Severodonetsk, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting recently. Without an influx of more weapons, some Ukrainian officials have said it will be increasingly difficult to halt Russia’s incremental progress or reclaim occupied ground in the region. 

“We hear what they’re saying, we absolutely hear what they’re saying,” said the senior defense official, who spoke of the “urgency” of the group’s meeting Thursday in Brussels. 

The official would not detail what countries would be announcing new security packages or what those shipments would include but noted the US works “very closely” with other countries to figure out what Ukraine’s armed forces need and then find those systems to send over.

The official would also not say whether the US would have a new package to announce, but said US President Joe Biden's administration is already working on the next package.

“It’s a constant drumbeat because it’s a constant battle” with “constantly evolving urgent requirements,” the official told a group of reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.