June 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 22, 2023
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6:51 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

US to send $1.3 billion more aid to Ukraine, Blinken says

From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21. Leah Millis/Pool/Reuters

The United States will send an additional $1.3 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday. 

Speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, he said the support will “overhaul its energy grid” and modernize other critical infrastructure.

"Recovery is about laying the foundation for Ukraine to thrive as a secure, independent country, fully integrated with Europe, connected to markets around the world,” Blinken said.

Breaking down the financial aid, Blinken outlined how $657 million will help modernize Ukraine’s rail lines, ports and other critical infrastructure, $100 million will be used to help digitize national systems "to boost speed and to cut corruption” and $35 million will go to Ukrainian businesses.

More than $520 million of the total amount will go toward helping Ukraine “overhaul its energy grid,” Blinken added.

This comes after the UK also announced additional financial aid, including a $305 million of bilateral assistance and up to $318 in an expansion of British International Investment in Ukraine.

Among the businesses pledging their support at the two-day conference are are Virgin, Sanofi, Philips, Hyundai Engineering and Citi.

6:24 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

European Union has “special responsibility” toward Ukraine, European Commission president says

From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21. Leah Millis/Pool/Reuters

The European Union has a “special responsibility” toward Ukraine, the European Commission president told a two-day donor conference Wednesday.

Speaking to more than 400 companies from 38 countries, Ursula von der Leyen told the conference that "we need the private sector to step in” to invest in Ukraine.

She also highlighted a proposal by the European Commission on Tuesday for a four-year financial assistance package for Ukraine, which she said would be financed with grants from the European budget, loans raised on capital markets and, eventually, with “proceeds from the immobilized Russian assets.”

Speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, von der Leyen said the Commission would make a proposal regarding these Russian assets “before the summer break, because the perpetrator must be held accountable.”

Von der Leyen added that she had “no doubt … [Ukraine] will be part of our union.”

Ukraine’s fiscal gap is about 60 billion euros ($65.5 billion), von der Leyen said, adding that she had proposed to EU member states that they “cover 45% of this gap – this is in total 50 billion euros ($54.6 billion) for Ukraine.” 

5:40 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

"Real projects" needed for Ukraine’s recovery, Zelensky tells London conference

From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on screen as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak applauds during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on screen as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak applauds during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21. Henry Nicholls/Pool/AP

Ukraine needs “real projects” to aid its recovery and reconstruction, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London by video link, he told the donor conference "we must move from vision to agreements, and from agreements to real projects."

Zelensky said the Ukrainian delegation in London – led by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal – would "present concrete things that we propose to do together during my [Zelensky’s] term” in office.

The two-day donor conference is being held in the UK capital.

Representatives of more than 60 states, 30 international organizations and 400 businesses are in attendance, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said as he opened the conference on Wednesday.

In April, Zelensky told a World Bank forum that it would take “hundreds of billions of dollars” to rebuild his country.

5:25 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

UK Prime Minister announces new war risk framework to help Ukraine rebuild 

From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers remarks at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on Wednesday.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers remarks at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on Wednesday. Henry Nicholls/Pool/Reuters

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new framework for war risk insurance in a speech to the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on Wednesday.

"This is a huge step forward towards helping insurers to underwrite investments into Ukraine, removing one of the biggest barriers and giving investors the confidence they need to act,” Sunak said. 

Sunak also said in his speech that Russia should pay for “the destruction they have inflicted” in Ukraine.

The UK prime minister went on to praise Ukraine’s "incredible spirit” and said the war, which “brought a 29% fall in Ukraine’s GDP last year,” had “only proved how much Ukraine has to offer.” 

5:05 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Hundreds of global businesses pledge financial support for Ukraine

From CNN’s Catherine Nicholls in London

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, England, on Wednesday, June 21.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, England, on Wednesday, June 21. Henry Nicholls/Poo//Reuters

Hundreds of global businesses have pledged their financial support for Ukraine ahead of a two-day donor conference in London on Wednesday.

More than 400 companies from 38 countries have pledged “to back Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction in the wake of Russia’s illegal invasion,” president of the World Bank Group, Ajay Banga, said.

Among the businesses pledging their support are Virgin, Sanofi, Philips, Hyundai Engineering and Citi.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told attendees at the Ukraine Recovery Conference on Wednesday that fast-tracking Ukraine's economic recovery was dependent on a "partnership of governments, international financial institutions, and business leaders."

“As we’ve seen in Bakhmut and Mariupol, what Russia cannot take it will seek to destroy. They want to do the same to Ukraine’s economy,” Sunak said.
“Together with our allies, we will maintain our support for Ukraine’s defense and for the counter offensive, and we’ll stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes as they continue to win this war," he added.

Sunak also announced a “landmark package of financial support” from the UK. The package will include $3 billion of World Bank loan guarantees, $305 million of bilateral assistance and up to $318 in an “expansion of British International Investment in Ukraine.”

This money will be used to support public services in Ukraine, such as schools and hospitals.

According to Downing Street, this package “brings the UK’s non-military assistance to Ukraine to more than £4.7 billion ($5.9 billion).”

10:39 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Ukrainian pilots plead for F-16s as they struggle to contain Russian aviation

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, William Bonnett and Daria Markina Tarasova

A US Air Force F-16 fighter jet is displayed at the Paris Air Show on June 20.
A US Air Force F-16 fighter jet is displayed at the Paris Air Show on June 20. Lewis Joly/AP

Two Ukrainian jets roar just above the trees, flying in formation as they make their way toward the front lines of Ukraine’s counteroffensive

The Soviet-era Su-25s glide slowly, loudly, spewing thick black smoke as they go. They seem to hug the ground — flying as low as possible to avoid Russian radars, air defenses and more importantly, enemy jets. 

The Su-25s are ancient aircraft, first introduced in the 1980s, and they’re no match for Russia’s Su-35s and their advanced radars and long-range missiles.

One of the main issues Kyiv’s ground forces have faced as the counteroffensive gets underway is Russian air power holding them back. Russia still maintains air superiority, which makes it difficult for ground forces to advance.

“Their aviation works in waves, as it was in Vietnam, Afghanistan,” says a deputy battalion commander with the 128 Separate Territorial Defense Brigade. “Continuously, all day long, they work either by helicopters or by airplanes,” says the commander, who goes by the call sign “Spas.” “In general, aviation support is sorely lacking.”

In total, Ukraine has received 45 Su-25s and Mig-29s from NATO and allied nations in Europe — but it’s not just a numbers game. A Mig-29 pilot, with the call sign “Juice,” acknowledges the difficulties facing the Ukrainian air force and says Western nations could help by providing Ukraine with the coveted F-16s.

"At the moment we can’t do anything," Juice says. "We can’t fight them at all with our missiles, with our radars.
"The F-16 will definitely help with that."

Read more here.

3:07 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Russian military takes out 2 drones near Moscow, governor says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Two drones were taken out near a military base at Kalininets village, Naro-Fominskiy district, Russia, on June 21.
Two drones were taken out near a military base at Kalininets village, Naro-Fominskiy district, Russia, on June 21. Andrey Vorobyov/Telegram

The Russian military took out two drones near a military base outside of Moscow, the region's governor, Andrey Vorobyov, said on Telegram.

“Two aircraft-type vehicles crashed at approximately 5:30 and 5:50 a.m. on approach to the depots of one of the military units as a result of military counteraction," Voryobov wrote. “Fragments were found, there was no damage or casualties,” he added. “Special services are investigating and the area is cordoned off at the moment.”

Voryobov asked residents of the village of Kalininets to stay calm following the incident.

Some context: Ukraine rarely comments on attacks on Russian soil, which have ramped up in recent months as the war increasingly comes home to the Russian people.

Multiple people familiar with US intelligence on the matter told CNN earlier this month that Kyiv has cultivated a network of agents and sympathizers inside Russia working to carry out acts of sabotage against Russian targets and has provided them with drones to stage attacks.

This post has been updated with a more accurate translation of the governor's remarks.

12:40 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

At least 1 dead after Ukrainian shelling in Donetsk, Moscow-backed official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Alexei Kulemzin in Donetsk, Ukraine on March 30.
Alexei Kulemzin in Donetsk, Ukraine on March 30. Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

At least one person was killed after Ukrainian forces shelled occupied Donetsk city in eastern Ukraine, a Russia-backed official said Tuesday.

In a Telegram post, Alexei Kulemzin, head of the Moscow-installed city administration, said three others were injured after the area was hit 11 times by Ukrainian shelling.

Kulemzin said the Kuibyshevsky, Petrovsky, and Kyivsky districts came under fire.  

“Several apartment buildings and private residential buildings were damaged,” he added.
12:27 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Japan to give $5 million in aid to Ukraine for flood response after dam collapse

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it would provide $5 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in response to the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam.

The collapse of the dam earlier this month has killed dozens, destroyed villages, flooded farmland and cut off power and clean water supplies to tens of thousands of people.

The aid package will consist of food, water, sanitation and health materials provided through the UN World Food Programme, the UN Children's Fund, the International Organization for Migration, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

According to Tokyo, the aid package was "strongly requested" by Ukraine's government and President Volodymyr Zelensky.