June 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Jeevan Ravindran, Hafsa Khalil, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 2:31 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022
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9:41 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

Second known American killed while fighting in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

U.S. citizen Stephen Zabielski has died while fighting in Ukraine.
U.S. citizen Stephen Zabielski has died while fighting in Ukraine. (The Recorder)

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.

8:43 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

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.
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. (Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images/Cannes Lions)

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. 

“The end of this war and its circumstances depend on the world's attention. And that's why I need allies. We need people like you,” Zelensky said in a video statement on Tuesday. 

“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. 

8:38 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

Russian forces capture frontline village on outskirts of Severodonetsk

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

Toshkivka, Ukraine, which is now under Russian control.
Toshkivka, Ukraine, which is now under Russian control. (Twitter)

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. 

8:13 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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.”
8:07 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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

From CNN's Tim Lister, Anastasia Graham-Yooll, Teele Rabane and Stephanie Halasz

Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev attends a military parade in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9.
Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev attends a military parade in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

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."

Their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the Lithuanian population," he added.

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.

7:25 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin

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.
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. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

Freedom has its price. Democracy has its price. Solidarity with friends and partners has its price. And we are prepared to pay this price," 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.

7:11 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

Overnight shelling increases in Kharkiv as evacuations from occupied territories continue

From Olga Voytovich in London and Sam Kiley in Kharkiv

Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a fire at Kharkiv Housing and Communal College in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 21.
Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a fire at Kharkiv Housing and Communal College in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 21. (Sofia Bobok/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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.

As a result of Russian strikes at night the building of one of the educational institutions in the Kyivsky district of Kharkiv was significantly damaged, the premises were destroyed by 40%.” 

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.

7:01 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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

From CNN's Anna Chernova

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.

6:45 a.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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

From CNN's Tim Lister

A farmer uses an agricultural machine in a wheat farm in Odesa, Ukraine, on June 17.
A farmer uses an agricultural machine in a wheat farm in Odesa, Ukraine, on June 17. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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.

Obviously we couldn't sow in Luhansk, Donetsk regions, partially in Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions," Dmytrasevych said.

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.