June 20, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Mike Hayes, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023
6 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:41 p.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Ukraine's health ministry says water in regions hit by dam collapse remains highly contaminated 

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Maria Kostenko

A satellite image shows a closer view of the Nova Kakhovka dam after its collapse, in Ukraine, on June 16.
A satellite image shows a closer view of the Nova Kakhovka dam after its collapse, in Ukraine, on June 16. Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Water in the regions affected by the Nova Kakhovka dam collapse remains highly contaminated, Ukraine's health ministry said in a statement Monday.

About 40 surface water monitoring points have been set up along the river channel in the flood zone and along the seacoast in Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Kherson regions, according to the statement. The most dangerous pollutants in the water were salmonella, rotavirus, worm eggs, and E. coli, it said. 

“In reservoirs of the Kherson, Odesa and Mykolaiv regions, individual indicators significantly exceed the established hygiene and sanitary standards,” the ministry said, adding that Odesa is “under the greatest danger” at the moment.

The ministry also urged residents not to swim or fish in the waters of Odesa, Mykolaiv and Kherson. 

Russia and Ukraine continue to blame each other for the dam collapse.

Meanwhile, Moscow has cited security concerns for declining the United Nations' help in the Russian-occupied flooded areas. 

Vladimir Saldo, the Russia-appointed governor of Kherson, said Monday that 8,100 people have been evacuated from the region since the start of the rescue operation — including 583 children and 290 people with low mobility. Saldo also said medical assistance and compensation were being given out in affected areas. 

Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson region military administration in the Ukrainian-controlled areas, said the situation in occupied areas was “critical” and the Russians had failed in evacuation efforts.

"People are trapped in the water. Officially, 11 people died of drowning in Oleshky alone. However, this figure is underestimated, as Russia is trying to hide the fact that civilians died," he said. 

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for international support to help rescue victims of the dam collapse in Russian-occupied territory and accused Moscow of not providing “any real help to the people in the flooded areas.” 

11:45 p.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Ukraine has not lost any positions, only gained new ones, Zelensky says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 16.
Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 16. Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

Ukraine has not lost any of its positions, only gained new ones, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday.

“In some areas our warriors are moving forward, in some areas they are defending their positions and resisting the occupiers' assaults and intensified attacks,” he said. “We have no lost positions. Only liberated ones.” 

Zelensky also noted “a significant political decision by the UK regarding sanctions” was made Monday. 

He said the United Kingdom will “maintain sanctions against Russia until the aggressor compensates for all the damage” done to the Ukrainian people. “And it is very important that the assets of the aggressor state and all those associated with it […] are used to compensate for the damage caused by the Russian war and terror.” 

11:59 p.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Russia is moving resources to Zaporizhzhia from other parts of Ukraine, multiple authorities say

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Maria Kostenko

Russian servicemen stand guard at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on June 15.
Russian servicemen stand guard at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on June 15. Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images/File

Russia appears to be transferring its personnel and heavy military equipment from other parts of Ukraine to support its front line in the Zaporizhzhia area, Ukrainian and UK officials say.

The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, reported this transfer from the Nova Kakhovka and Kakhovka area in Kherson to the Zaporizhzhia front line via Melitopol.

The British Defense Ministry, in its intelligence assessment Monday, also reported it is "highly likely" Russia has started relocating "elements of its Dnipro Group of Forces (DGF) from the eastern bank of the Dnipro River to reinforce the Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut sectors" over the past 10 days.

"This potentially involves several thousand troops from the 49th Army, including its 34th Separate Motorized Brigade, as well as Airborne Forces (VDV) and Naval Infantry units," the ministry said, adding that it was likely because of "Russia’s perception that a major Ukrainian attack across the Dnipro is now less likely following the collapse of Kakhovka Dam and the resulting flooding."

Ukraine's deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said the situation in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Kharkiv remains difficult, with Russia pulling in its forces to attack Lyman and Kupyansk, but the Ukrainians are not allowing Russians to advance.

"The enemy has not given up their plans to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They have concentrated a significant number of their units in the east, including airborne assault units," Maliar said.

Ukrainian officials have claimed limited advances in parts of Donetsk, including around Avdiivka, which has been under attack by Russia and Russia-backed groups since the start of the invasion.

Possible change in tactics: Some analysts perceive a slow-down in Ukrainian offensive operations in the south, as various parts of the long front line see heavy combat.

"Ukrainian forces may be temporarily pausing counteroffensive operations to reevaluate their tactics for future operations," according to the Institute for the Study of War.

The institute said Sunday it "has previously noted that Ukraine has not yet committed the majority of its available forces to counteroffensive operations and has not yet launched its main effort."

9:13 p.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Russia's "major focus" remains on the eastern front, Ukrainian military says 

From CNN’s Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Jo Shelley in London

Russia’s "major focus" is still on the war’s eastern front, Ukrainian military officials said Monday. 

“The Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka directions remain the major focus of the enemy’s effort,” the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces reported in its evening update. “Heavy fighting continues. There were 39 combat engagements over the last day.” 

Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian military, told state TV that Russian troops were, “using infantry units, airborne units, as well as ‘Storm Z’ (convict) assault units” in the east and had shelled Ukrainian positions there more than 500 times over the past day. 

11:55 p.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Russia has heavily mined areas along the southern front, Ukraine's top general says 

From CNN’s Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Jo Shelley in London 

Valerii Zaluzhnyi attends a session of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine on December 28, 2022.
Valerii Zaluzhnyi attends a session of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine on December 28, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters/File

Russian troops have heavily mined areas along Ukraine’s southern frontline and sent considerable numbers of reservists into the fight there, the commander of the Ukrainian armed forces claimed on Monday. 

“The adversary is trying to prevent the advance of our units. To this end, they have deployed a system of fortifications with dense minefields and a significant number of reserves,” Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in a Facebook post. “The operation continues as planned.” 

Zaluzhnyi posted a video of himself alongside the commander of Ukraine’s southern forces, Brig. Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavsky, whose units Ukraine said earlier Monday had liberated eight settlements in the south over the past two weeks. 

"Constant fighting": Russia’s actions in the south were further outlined by one Ukrainian deputy unit commander on the ground. 

Kostiantyn Denysov, a fighter with Ukraine’s Legion of Liberty, told state television Monday that Russian troops had “dug in really well” and unleashed “massive firepower” to prevent any Ukrainian advance.

“We’re liberating some of the settlements, but it is here on the ground that we see at what cost. Guys with heavy wounds, with contusions. This is the price of fighting for freedom,” Denysov said. 

"Constant fighting is ongoing" along several areas of the front line, he said.

"The enemy has a lot of artillery. They are shelling our guys from everything," he said. "They are using drones to adjust their fire. They have got a lot of drones, which is a big problem. They are attacking not only our guys, but also civilian infrastructure from the air." 

Denysov also said Russian units had built, “concrete trenches and minefields… setting traps for our guys on the temporary fortifications,” and making it difficult for Ukraine to recapture its territory. 

“Unfortunately, there is nothing left of some settlements except for the name,” he said.

8:28 p.m. ET, June 19, 2023

Russia claims to have remotely detonated tank laden with explosives, in apparent new tactic

From CNN's Tim Lister, Pauline Lockwood and Duarte Mendonca

Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed that a Ukrainian stronghold was destroyed by a remotely-controlled tank packed with a huge amount of explosives, in what appears to be a new battlefield tactic.

In a post on its Telegram channel at the weekend, the ministry said “about 3.5 tons of TNT and 5 FAB-100 bombs” were packed into the tank. FAB-100 bombs normally carry a 100-kilogram (220-pound) payload.

In a video shared by the ministry on Saturday, a Russian tank commander, callsign “Bernaul,” said he was assigned with the task of setting up the tank and executing the attack.

“About 300 meters (984 feet) away from the enemy, the tank operator put the vehicle on manual gas, directing it [to the enemy’s] direction. He jumped out and went to the rear. I stayed behind to observe, and after the vehicle approached the enemy’s positions, I detonated it by radio control,” the commander said.
“The explosion was very serious, there were a lot of explosives … as a result, according to radio intercept data, the enemy suffered significant losses,” he added.

Read more here.