June 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Ukrainian refugee couple vpx
Russian priest says he's helped 'thousands' of Ukrainian refugees get to Europe
04:51 - Source: CNN

What we covered

  • Russian forces attacking the key eastern city of Severodonetsk have enough firepower to launch a large-scale offensive, the Luhansk regional military chief said.
  • The US attorney general announced a War Crimes Accountability team during an unannounced trip to Ukraine Tuesday that will work to identify and prosecute anyone who committed war crimes in the country.
  • A Kremlin spokesperson claimed the Geneva Conventions for the protection of prisoners of war do not apply to two Americans captured in Ukraine, accusing them of being “involved in illegal activities.”
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Africa has been “taken hostage” by Russia’s invasion and warned the global food crisis will continue to impact millions.
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Biden says Russia's war in Ukraine a "waiting game" as he prepares to meet with allies in Europe

US President Joe Biden says he isn’t afraid of the Western alliance fracturing as Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds ahead.

But he did warn of a protracted conflict and said he would discuss the way forward with allies a next week’s NATO summit in Madrid

“I’m not afraid,” he said when questioned about the potential for fractures among US allies in Europe.

“I do think, at some point, this is going to be a bit of a waiting game,” he added. “What the Russians can sustain and what Europe is going to be prepared to sustain.”

“That’s one of the things we’re going to be speaking in Spain about,” he concluded.

Biden departs Saturday for a G7 summit in Germany followed by the NATO gathering in Spain.

15 dead and 16 injured in Kharkiv region, military administration says

The Military Administration of Kharkiv said 15 people have died and 16 have been injured across the region.

In a post on Telegram, Oleh Syniehubov said the dead included six in Chuhuiv, five in Kharkiv, three in Zolovhiv and an 8-year-old girl from Derhachi.

Russian forces fire on Kharkiv residential and industrial zones, killing 5 and injuring 11

A partially destroyed educational and laboratory building of a college, is seen on June 21,  in Kharkiv.  The building was hit the previous day by a rocket.

Russian forces shelling Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv have targeted residential and industrial zones across the city, according to Serhii Bolvinov, head of the Investigative Department of National Police in Kharkiv.

As a result of the shelling, five people were killed and 11 people were injured.

In addition to those who died in Kharkiv, four other people were killed in surrounding towns and villages, including an 8-year-old girl.

Ukrainian officials reported an uptick in Russian shelling overnight around the area.

White House says it's "appalling" Russia won't rule out executing detained Americans

Alexander John-Robert Drueke, left, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huyn, right, two Americans fighting alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv, went missing on June 9.

The White House says it is “appalling” Russia won’t rule out applying the death penalty on two American citizens detained after volunteering to fight in Ukraine.

“We still are trying to learn more about these two individuals,” said John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council.

“It’s appalling that a public official in Russia would even suggest the death penalty for two American citizens that were in Ukraine. And we’re going to continue to try and learn what we can about this,” he said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday the Geneva Convention — the charter which sets out how soldiers and civilians are treated in wartime, including banning execution of prisoners of war — does not apply to the two detained US citizens.

Peskov said the death penalty could not be ruled out, but that it was a decision for a court and not the Kremlin.

Kirby said he wouldn’t try and get into Peskov’s or Vladimir Putin’s heads. But he said no matter whether the prospect of the death penalty was real or hypothetical, it was troubling no matter what.

“Either way, it’s equally alarming, whether they actually mean what they’re saying here and this could be an outcome, that they could levy a death penalty against two Americans in Ukraine,” he said. “Or that they just feel it’s a responsible thing for a major power to do, to talk about doing this as a way of signaling the president of the United States and the American people. Either one of them is equally alarming.”

Russia will "absolutely not" return to pre-war status quo, US State Department official says

Russia will “absolutely not” go back to the pre-war status quo, a senior State Department official told reporters Tuesday.

This official did not speak explicitly to the future of diplomatic relations with Russia, noting they were already strained prior to the war starting in February. They said US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan speaks less frequently with the Russian foreign ministry than before, but there is still contact on the issues of the US Embassy’s “staffing woes” and the detained Americans.

“That’s a frequent topic multiple times a week, on behalf of various detainees and not just the most high-profile ones, which are obviously Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, but there are other Americans who are detained there who deserve the same level of treatment as any American citizen does, who’s detained in a foreign country,” the official said.

The official also explained how challenging it is to work with the Russians on the issue of detained Americans, because the Russians put convoluted processes in place that prevent any quick contact with the detainees.

“Oh, well, we moved detainee X last week. He’s on the other side of Moscow and you’re gonna need a different form, in triplicate, but that but the office that issues it is closed until next Thursday. But if you come after five on Friday, then maybe we’ll take care of you, but only bring blue pens,” the official said, describing the kinds of hoops that the Russians make US officials jump through.

Sullivan has not “engaged on Ukraine policy with the Russian government since mid-February,” the official explained.

The official spoke of the commercial impact the war has had in Russia, noting that there were more than 1,000 US companies that did business in Russia last year and “it’s a fraction of that now.”

The official said the US ambassador had previously dealt a great deal with helping US businesses in Russia that had gotten in trouble over regulatory or potential criminal matters. They said Sullivan had “a lot of interaction” with the minister of Trade and Industry and they “developed a pretty good relationship.” The official said the outcomes weren’t often positive but “the issues were treated seriously and sometimes we got good outcomes, more often than not we didn’t, but that’s all stopped.”

US attorney general announces team to prosecute war crimes in Ukraine

US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova today in Krakovets, at the Ukraine border with Poland.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a War Crimes Accountability team during an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Tuesday that will work to identify and prosecute anyone who committed war crimes in Ukraine.  

The team, Garland said, will be led by the department’s best-known Nazi Hunter Eli Rosenbaum, and will be made up of experts in investigations involving human rights abuses and war crimes. Rosenbaum, a 36-year veteran of the Justice Department, previously served as the Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy, helped the department over 100 cases to strip citizenship from or deport accused Nazis, according to the Justice Department.

The announcement is a strong signal from the Justice Department that it is interested in investigating war crimes in the ongoing war in Ukraine and follows a previous effort by the Justice Department to lock down the assets of Russian oligarchs.

“There is no hiding place for war criminals. The US Justice Department will pursue every avenue of accountability for those who commit war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” Garland said in Ukraine. “Working alongside our domestic and international partners, the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable every person complicit in the commission of war crimes, torture, and other grave violations during the unprovoked conflict in Ukraine.”

Garland also said that the Justice Department will send three prosecutors to advise Ukraine, as well as countries in Europe and the Middle East, in fighting Russian efforts to evade global sanctions.

Ukraine says it has attacked Snake Island with "aimed strikes"

The Ukrainian Army said Tuesday that it had launched some airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island, which is also known as Snake Island. 

The Southern Operational Command of the Ukrainian Army said it had used “aimed strikes with the use of various forces” on the island. 

The military operation is still on going and that “information silence” was required until the end of the operation, the command added.

Zmiinyi Island was the scene of one of the opening salvos of the war in Ukraine and is of strategic importance to both sides. During the opening days of the war, it was the site of a demand from a Russian war ship to Ukrainian defenders to surrender. They replied, infamously, with ”Russian warship, go f**k yourself” – a phrase that become a motif of Ukrainian resistance.

US attorney general makes unannounced visit to Ukraine and pledges "unwavering support"

US Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, made an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Tuesday, June 21, where he met Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Tuesday, where he met Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.

The two will discuss efforts by the United States and other countries to help Ukraine “identify, apprehend, and prosecute those individuals involved in war crimes” in Ukraine, according to a statement from a Justice Department official.  

Garland had previously announced a trip to Europe scheduled for this week to meet with European leaders and discuss their joint efforts to combat Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Garland is the most recent top-ranking US official to travel to Ukraine. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv in April, and a congressional delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell traveled to Kyiv just a few weeks later

Appearing alongside Venediktova inside Ukraine, Garland said he was there to “express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion.”

Garland also said he wanted to discuss actions the United States “is taking to assist the Ukrainian authorities in holding accountable those responsible for the atrocities, for the war crimes that the entire world has seen.” 

“The United States is sending an unmistakable message – there is no place to hide. We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” Garland said.

Land transit between Kaliningrad and Russia has not been banned, European Commission says

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell talks to the press during a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU Council building in Luxembourg on June 20.

The land transit between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia has not been banned, the High Representative of the European Commission Josep Borrell said on Monday.

“The land transit between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia has not been stopped nor banned. There is no blockade,” Borrell said in published remarks. “Transit of passengers and goods that are not sanctioned continues.”

Why is the European Commission making this clarification? It comes after Lithuanian Railways, the state-owned railway company, had notified Russia that starting midnight on June 18, transit trains with goods subject to EU sanctions would no longer be allowed to pass through.

The list of the banned goods includes construction material, cement, metals and “a number of other goods important both for construction and for production,” according to the governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanov. Kaliningrad is Russia’s exclave in the European Union.

Russia called this decision “unprecedented” and “illegal,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday.

Borrell said Lithuania had not taken any unilateral national restrictions and only applied the European Union sanctions. 

“The accusation that ‘Lithuania is implementing Lithuanian sanctions’ is false. Pure propaganda,” he said.

Separately, a European Commission press officer confirmed that European Union representative to Moscow Markus Ederer had been meeting with representatives of the Russian ministry regarding the subject Tuesday.

“We can also confirm that our head of delegation to Russia had a meeting in the Russian ministry where he explained our position and implementation of EU sanctions,” the official said.

Second known American killed while fighting in Ukraine

U.S. citizen Stephen Zabielski has died while fighting in Ukraine.

The US State Department on Tuesday confirmed the death of an American citizen in Ukraine whose obituary said he died in mid-May while fighting in the war.

“We can confirm the death of U.S. citizen Stephen Zabielski in Ukraine,” a State Department spokesperson said. 

“We have been in touch with the family and have provided all possible consular assistance. Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further,” the spokesperson said.

According to his obituary, published on June 1 in “The Recorder,”  a newspaper in New York, said Zabielski “died on Sunday, May 15, 2022, while fighting the war in Village of Dorozhniank, Ukraine.”

He was 52 years old and is survived by his wife and five stepchildren, according to the obituary. 

Zabielski is the second known American to be killed in combat in Ukraine. Marine Corps veteran Willy Cancel was killed in April fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.

End to the war "depends on the world's attention," Zelensky says

President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, speaks on stage during the Creativity Under Bombs talk at the Lumiere Theatre, Cannes Lions 2022 on June 20, in Cannes, France.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged creative film professionals to do more to “promote Ukrainian bravery,” in an address the Cannes Lions International Festival for creative industry. 

“I believe that the power of human creativity is greater than the power of a nuclear state that is stuck in the past,” Zelensky said. “Speak of Ukraine. Don’t let the world switch to something else.”

In 117 days of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Zelensky has made more than 70 speeches around the world, including at parliaments, international institutions and business forums. 

Russian forces capture frontline village on outskirts of Severodonetsk

Toshkivka, Ukraine, which is now under Russian control.

Russian troops have captured the frontline village of Toshkivka in the Donbas region as they keep trying to seize the strategic city of Severodonetsk.

The head of the Severodonetsk district military administration, Roman Vlasenko, told CNN on Tuesday that the village had not been under Ukrainian control since Monday.

Toshkivka is located south of Severodonetsk, where Ukrainian forces have mounted fierce resistance to Moscow’s armies. 

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

In the embattled city of Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, attacking Russian forces have enough reserves to launch a large-scale offensive, according to the head of the region’s military Serhiy Hayday.

Here are the latest developments on Russia’s war in Ukraine:

  • Possible onslaught on key city: Hayday said dozens of pieces of Russian heavy military equipment had been brought into the Severodonetsk region and were already deployed on the battlefield. Hayday added that “most of the city is under control [of the Russian army].” Only the industrial zone and Azot plant remain in Ukrainian hands.
  • Overnight shelling in Kharkiv: Ukrainian officials have reported an uptick in Russian shelling around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in the past 24 hours, as the evacuation of people from the territories occupied by Russian forces continued.
  • Fate of American detainees uncertain: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Geneva Convention does not apply to two detained US citizens, adding that the death penalty could not be ruled out. He said the Kremlin did not know where the two men were being held.
  • Harvest down and less farmland sown: Ukrainian farmers have sown about 25% less land than was in cultivation in 2021, according to officials and independent estimates, with sharp declines in in the sowing of corn and sunflowers. The expected harvest of grain and oilseed is just over half of last year’s quantity.
  • Africa “taken hostage”: Addressing the African Union Commission via video link, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Africa has been “taken hostage” by Russia’s invasion. He warned the global food crisis will continue “as long as this colonizing war goes on,” affecting the lives of as many as 400 million people all over the world who depend on Ukrainian exports.
  • Biden visit not on the cards: US President Joe Biden said he is “not likely” to visit Ukraine when he travels to Germany and Spain this weekend for the G7 and NATO summits. Biden, who has not visited Ukraine since the country was invaded, said he doesn’t want to “cause more difficulty for Ukrainians.”

Russian official calls Lithuanian actions "hostile" and warns of consequences

Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev attends a military parade in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9.

A top Russian official has described Lithuania’s announcement to ban the transit of European Union-sanctioned materials to Russia through Kaliningrad – Russia’s enclave in the EU – as “hostile” and promised retaliation.

As reported by the Ria Novosti state-owned news agency, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, said: “Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions. Measures are being worked out in an interdepartmental format and will be taken in the near future.”

Patrushev arrived in Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast, on Tuesday to meet with its governor, Anton Alikhanov.

Lithuanian Railways, the state-owned railway company, had notified Russia that starting midnight on June 18, transit trains with goods subject to EU sanctions would no longer be allowed to pass through, Alikhanov said on his telegram channel Friday.

Included on the list of banned goods published by Kaliningrad’s Ministry of Economic Development are industrial equipment, machine tools, and machines for production and building materials, as well as various luxury goods, works of art and antiques and golf equipment, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that the transit of passengers and non-sanctioned goods continues uninterrupted, that the country has not imposed any unilateral, individual or additional restrictions, and that it is acting fully in accordance with EU law.

Germany will send arms to Ukraine as long as is necessary, says Chancellor Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech at the two-day TDI 22 Day of Industry conference held by the BDI, the Federation of German Industries, in Berlin, Germany, on June 21.

Germany will continue to support Ukraine with weapons “as long as needed,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a speech at the Annual meeting of the Federation of German Industries on Tuesday.

Scholz also reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to stand with Lithuania and other eastern allies.

“Europe and the Western democracies do not accept the violent attack on Ukraine,” Scholz said. Therefore Ukraine was supplied “extensively with weapons” and “unprecedentedly tough sanctions” were imposed on Russia.

“These sanctions do work. Yes, these sanctions are hurting ourselves as well. They hurt our companies, but they are right,” Scholz said.

Scholz said his trip to Irpin near Kyiv last Thursday made clear to him that Ukraine belonged to the European family. “I will never forget the images of horror I saw there,” he said. Scholz emphasized that he will push for a positive decision on Ukraine as an EU accession candidate.

Overnight shelling increases in Kharkiv as evacuations from occupied territories continue

Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a fire at Kharkiv Housing and Communal College in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 21.

Ukrainian officials have reported an uptick in Russian shelling around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in the past 24 hours, as the evacuation of people from the territories occupied by Russian forces continued.

“Within 24 hours, the occupiers fired on Kyivsky, Industrial, Saltivsky and Nemyshlyansky districts of Kharkiv,” the head of the Kharkiv region military administration Oleh Syniehubov said in his official Telegram channel.

A CNN team in the Kharkiv area heard explosions in the distance around 11 p.m. local time (4 a.m. ET), later confirming they were coming from the educational institution mentioned by Syniehubov – a university – as it was struck.   

According to Syniehubov, three civilians were killed and seven have been injured in the past 24 hours. 

On the line of contact, Ukrainian forces have repelled attacks in the area around Izium while Russia continued to maintain a defensive stance around Kharkiv, trying to prevent a Ukrainian advance, Syniehubov added.

Fighting ensued as 993 people, including 254 children, were evacuated from the temporarily occupied territories in the Kharkiv region, according to Syniehubov. More than 30 buses to Chuhuiv and Kharkiv were used for the evacuation.

Some background: As of June 7, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported around 7.3 million border crossings from Ukraine, with at least 4.8 million refugees in Europe.

In May, Russian officials said almost 1.1 million people had been evacuated from Ukraine to Russia since the February 24 invasion. Of that figure, around 200,000 were children.

The Kremlin says Geneva Convention doesn't apply to American detainees

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Geneva Convention – the charter which sets out how soldiers and civilians are treated in wartime – does not apply to two detained US citizens.

Two American volunteers fighting for Ukraine – Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama – were taken into detention by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk after being captured last week, according to Russian state media.

Peskov, during a regular call with journalists Tuesday, said the Geneva Convenction does not apply to the two US citizens. Peskov said the death penalty cannot be ruled out but this is a decision for a court. The Kremlin – Peskov said – does not have a right to interfere.

Ukrainian farmland sown about 25% less than last year, with corn and sunflowers sharply down

A farmer uses an agricultural machine in a wheat farm in Odesa, Ukraine, on June 17.

Ukrainian farmers have sown about 25% less land than was in cultivation in 2021, according to officials and independent estimates.

According to Markiyan Dmytrasevych, deputy minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, a total of 13.5 million hectares had been sown with a variety of crops – 80% of the territory that was sown last year.

In addition, rich agricultural land in southern Ukraine is now under Russian control. This area also produced much of Ukraine’s vegetables.

Another senior official at the Agrarian Policy Ministry, Taras Vysotskyi, said more spring wheat had been sown this year that last, but there had been sharp declines in in the sowing of corn and sunflowers.

As for the expected harvest, Vysotskyi said “there may be about 48-50 million tons of grain. It is less than previous years, when it reached 85 million.” Dmytrasevych gave a similar forecast, saying “We hope to harvest approximately 60 million tons of grain and oilseed crops – a little over a half of what we harvested last year.”

Separately, Maxar Technologies examined satellite imagery of agricultural areas in Ukraine and concluded that Ukrainian farmers planted 30% less spring acreage in 2022.

Maxar predicted that 2022 production of corn will be down 54% and production of sunflowers down 40% when compared with the 2021 growing season.

The conflict has destroyed dozens of grain storage facilities at ports and in rural areas, with around 10 million tonnes now under Russian control while others have been destroyed in missile and artillery attacks. In May, multiple sources also told CNN Russian forces were stealing farm equipment and thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers in areas they had occupied.

Some Ukrainian officials say that storage difficulties have led farmers to switch crops.  Marchuk additionally cautioned that shortages of fuel could hamper the harvest. And he said farmers faced a financial crisis, with interest on loans rising by up to 35%.

“A compromise needs to be reached to reduce the interest rate. In conditions when there are no exports, when there is no working capital, it is very difficult to repay credit with very high interest, as opposed to the rates that existed before.”

Exporting grain and oilseed crops has been complicated by the blockade of Odessa and other Black Sea ports.

Dmytrasevych said that since the Russian invasion, Ukraine had exported 4 million tons of grain and oilseed crops, compared to a pre-war forecast of between 5 and 6 million tons. Various options for road and rail transport have been developed, with grain traveling by rail to the Romanian port of Constanta, and across the land border into Poland. But the alternatives are more cumbersome than shipping to world markets through the Black Sea.

Ukrainian refugees find help in a Russian priest

Vladimir Shishkin and Victoria Shishkina.

Four months ago, Viktoria Shishkina and her husband Vladimir were preparing for the birth of their first child. Now, they sit in an unassuming apartment turned hostel in the center of St. Petersburg, Russia, where they are refugees. They escaped from Mariupol, the Black Sea port city now under Russian control, but are permanently scarred by all they have lost.

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Shishkina was in a maternity hospital in Mariupol, resting. She remembers being in a ward full of women approaching their due dates when the bomb struck the hospital.

On March 9, Mariupol’s Maternity Hospital No. 3 was bombed killing four and wounded scores more. For Shishkina, everything changed.

“Whoever caused that explosion, I took a direct hit in the belly – right to my baby – and they weren’t able to save him,” she told CNN, keeping her voice strong even as tears welled in her eyes.

Vladimir had been injured the day before the hospital bombing, and was being treated nearly 70 miles away (112 km) in the separatist-run city of Donetsk.

It was there that Shishkina finally caught up with him and where help came from Reverend Mikhnov-Vaytenko, Archbishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church, in St. Petersburg, who arranged their passage to St. Petersburg and paid for their shelter, medical care and needs.

Mikhnov-Vaytenko estimates he and his network of volunteers have helped thousands of Ukrainian refugees since the conflict began, from paying for travel and housing for refugees to medical care or information about where they can go and what they are entitled to in Russia, all often with a kind word or prayer.

Read the full story here.

The Kremlin says it doesn't know where the detained American fighters are being held

Alexander John-Robert Drueke, left, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huyn, right.

Russia does not know where the two American volunteers fighting for Ukraine are being held or who will be judging on their case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Tuesday.

“I don’t know where they are being held and who is going to judge them. But the only thing that goes without saying is that they are going to be prosecuted and they will be able to stand in court,” Peskov said in a voice message.

According to Russian state media, the two American volunteers fighting for Ukraine were taken into detention by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk after being captured last week.

US citizens Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama, were interviewed by Russia’s RT channel at a detention center in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on June 17, according to a report published on RT.

The two Americans went missing on June 9 during a battle north of Kharkiv and it was feared that they may have been captured by Russian forces, according to their families and a fellow fighter.

Explosions in southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv

There have been several explosions in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, according to the regional administration. Details on casualties and locations have not been released.

Witnesses reported hearing three large blasts and images from the city showed at least one large column of black smoke.

The explosions follow missile attacks on the area around Mykolaiv on Monday.

The area along Mykolaiv’s border with the Kherson region continues to see shelling by Russian forces defending the territory they have seized, according to the Ukrainian military. 

The regional administration said the town of Shyroke, 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Mykolaiv, was shelled Monday night and Tuesday morning.

“According to preliminary information, there are no victims,” it said.

The front lines in the Mykolaiv-Kherson regions have changed little in the past month, although Ukrainian forces made some modest gains in a counter-offensive that began early in June.

Intense combat in Luhansk as Ukraine resists Russian offensives, Ukrainian military says

In the Luhansk region, the Ukrainian General Staff said Russian units were focused on preventing Ukrainian attacks against “the rear of the Russian group of troops operating in the Sloviansk direction,” and were using artillery against civilian infrastructure in the area. 

Izium: This area, to the west and southwest of Izium, has seen more intense combat in recent days as Ukrainian troops try to carry out a counter-attack against Russian supply lines. 

Sloviansk: Ukrainian forces along the Siverskyi Donets river, north of Sloviansk, continue to resist Russian efforts to break through (around Bohorodychne and Dolyna), according to the General Staff.

Bakhmut: The Ukrainian military also reported Russian offensive operations in several areas south of the town of Bakhmut, a critical supply node for Ukrainian defenses. The Russians appear to have made incremental gains south of Bakhmut recently.

Kherson: In southern Ukraine, the General Staff said Russian units were trying to contain Ukrainian forces that have gone on the offensive along the border of the Kherson region, and had carried out numerous artillery and rocket attacks on settlements behind the front lines.

Ukrainian forces under constant fire in Luhansk but hold positions, military says

Ukrainian troops are resisting a heavy Russian offensive in and around the city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, despite continued shelling from several directions, according to the Ukrainian military. 

The General Staff said on Tuesday that “shelling of units of our troops from artillery of various calibers continues.”  

Russia aiming for full control: The Russians were also carrying out airstrikes in several areas south of Severodonesk, and “the enemy does not stop the assault in order to establish full control over the city,” the General Staff said.

Location of fighting: Ukrainian resistance in Severodonetsk is mainly from the large Azot chemical plant on the western edge of the city, where several hundred civilians are also sheltering. 

“Fierce fighting continues in the Severodonetsk industrial zone. The Russians hit the building