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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8:42 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.
9:41 p.m. ET, June 14, 2022

Russia bans 49 UK citizens, including 29 journalists

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Karen Smith

Russia published on Tuesday an updated “stop list” banning a total of 49 British citizens from entering the country.

The updated list includes 29 journalists and 20 British citizens who Russia believes to be associated with the UK defense industry, according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The statement said the “stop list” was updated following the British government’s introduction of personal sanctions against leading Russian journalists and on heads of companies of the domestic defense complex.

Those added to the “stop list” include journalists from the Guardian, the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky News, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times, the Times, the Independent, the Daily Mail and the Financial Times.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said, “The British journalists included in the list are involved in the deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information about Russia and the events in Ukraine and Donbas. With their biased assessments, they also contribute to fueling Russophobia in British society.”

Among the British citizens associated with the UK defense industry on the list are UK military officials, defense contractors and members of parliament.

9:39 p.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 the 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.