June 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Hafsa Khalil, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Elise Hammond, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 7:05 p.m. ET, June 17, 2022
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4:33 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Third American missing in Ukraine is US Marine veteran Grady Kurpasi

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman, Michael Conte and Jennifer Hansler

US Marine veteran Grady Kurpasi is seen in this 2019 file photo.
US Marine veteran Grady Kurpasi is seen in this 2019 file photo. (US Dept. of Defense)

A third American whom the State Department has identified as missing in action in Ukraine is a US Marine veteran, Grady Kurpasi, his wife confirmed to CNN.

The last time Heeson Kim and other close friends heard from Kurpasi was between April 23 and 24, George Heath, a family friend of Kurpasi's told CNN. Kurpasi served in the US Marine Corps for 20 years, retiring in November 2021. He chose to volunteer alongside Ukrainians in Ukraine but initially did not envision himself fighting on the front lines of the war, Heath said.

"For him personally, he has a skill set that he feels he can give back," he said of Kurpasi. "He wanted to go and help the Ukrainian people. He wasn't really planning on fighting."

The State Department said it was aware of reports of a third American who traveled to Ukraine to fight against Russia who has been identified "in recent weeks" as missing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing on Thursday. Price did not give the name of the third reportedly missing American, but said the State Department was in touch with the family.

Read more here.

9:31 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

State Department working to verify photo in Russian media of reportedly captured Americans, mother tells CNN

From CNN's Daniella Mora, Mick Krever, Jonny Hallam and Michael Conte

Missing Americans Alexander John-Robert Drueke (left) and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh appeared in this undated photo posted on Telegram on Thursday by a Russian blogger.
Missing Americans Alexander John-Robert Drueke (left) and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh appeared in this undated photo posted on Telegram on Thursday by a Russian blogger. (From Telegram)

A photo emerged on Thursday of two American fighters in the back of a Russian military truck apparently confirming they had been captured by Russian forces north of Kharkiv, Ukraine, last week.

The men are Alexander John-Robert Drueke, age 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, age 27, from Hartselle, Alabama. The photo shows the two men looking up at the camera with hands behind their backs as if bound.

The undated photo was posted on Telegram on Thursday by a Russian blogger, The V, whose full name is Timofey Vasilyev, from Moscow. CNN cannot verify when it was taken.

Bunny Drueke, the mother of one of the Americans reportedly captured, said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that the US State Department told her that they are working to verify the alleged photo.

“They said that there is a photograph that is being circulated on the Russian media. And they’re working hard to verify it,” said Bunny Drueke. “We’re very hopeful.”
 Drueke said her son went to Ukraine to train soldiers there to fight against Russia because “he felt that if Putin wasn’t stopped now, he would just become bolder with every success, and that eventually he might end up on American shores.”

More background: The two Americans fighting alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv, in Ukraine, have been missing for nearly a week and there are fears they may have been captured by Russian forces, according to their families and a fellow fighter.

There is very little to identify the location of the vehicle but a white box of food with tin cans falling out has been identified by CNN's Russia desk as being "mackerel with vegetables" made by Russian food producer Fregat.

CNN has reached out to Russia's Ministry of Defense for comment.

4:32 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Europe is making it much harder for Russia to ship oil anywhere

From CNN's Julia Horowitz

The European Union's embargo on 90% of the oil it imports from Russia is the toughest punishment it's inflicted on the Kremlin since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

But a smaller part of the latest sanctions package could prove just as significant. A ban on insuring ships carrying Russian oil would make it harder for Moscow to divert hundreds of thousands of barrels a day to other buyers in India and China, and that could drive global oil prices even higher.

"Targeting the insurance side of things is the best shot at halting Russian crude flows instead of just redirecting them," said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler, a market intelligence firm.

The European Union has announced that EU companies will be blocked from "insuring and financing the transport" of Russian oil to third-party countries after a transitional period of six months.

"This will make it particularly difficult for Russia to continue exporting its crude oil and petroleum products to the rest of the world since EU operators are important providers of such services," the Commission, the EU's executive arm, said in a statement.

The United Kingdom is expected to join the EU effort. That would further tighten the vise, since Lloyd's of London has for centuries been at the center of the maritime insurance market.

So far, Russia has been able to cushion the blow from a drop-off in exports to Europe by attracting other customers with steep discounts. But if ships can't get the insurance they need for delivery runs, that will become much tougher in the near term.

"The restrictions on insurance for Russian ships is hugely important and a primary reason we assume not all Russian barrels can simply be redirected away from Europe to elsewhere, in particular China and India," said Shin Kim, head of supply and production analysis at S&P Global Commodity Insights. "The ban will add political and economic complications to moving Russian oil."

Read more here.

4:32 a.m. ET, June 17, 2022

Leaders of Europe's biggest countries visit Kyiv to smooth tensions

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

When the loud sound of air raid sirens pierced through the relative calm of Kyiv on Thursday morning, it was a stark reminder for French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that they were visiting a country under attack.

Not that they needed one.

Like other leaders before them, they traveled to the Ukrainian capital on a special train that set off from Poland in the middle of the night and was guarded by dozens of heavily armed soldiers.

The three were in Kyiv on a mission to try and smooth out tensions over what the Ukrainian government perceives as a lack of tangible support from their governments.

Macron and Scholz in particular have been on the receiving end of much criticism in recent weeks, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky even going as far as suggesting the two were trying to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Macron appeared determined to change the narrative.

Arriving in Kyiv for his first visit since the war started nearly four months ago — and long after a number of other world leaders traveled there — Macron was keen to send a message of support.

Asked by reporters at the train station whether he had a message for the Ukrainian people, the French President said: "A message of European unity addressed to Ukrainian men and women, of support to talk about both the present and the future because the coming weeks, we know, will be very difficult weeks. I want to be in support and at their side."

Read more here.