June 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Rob Picheta, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 1:02 a.m. ET, June 23, 2022
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3:01 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Ukraine loses territory near Lysychansk

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Julia Kesaieva

A man stands by a barricade made with destroyed police cars in Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 21.
A man stands by a barricade made with destroyed police cars in Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 21. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian officials have acknowledged the loss of several communities near the city of Lysychansk, the only conurbation in Luhansk region they still control.

"The Russians are approaching Lysychansk, entrenching in nearby towns. The city is being shelled by aircraft," said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration.

Hayday said it was "difficult" in the area south of Lysychansk. "The enemy entered Toshkivka, which allowed it to increase fire on other settlements."

Russian forces were entrenched in several villages immediately to the south of Lysychansk, including Ustynivka, Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna, and were advancing at Bila Hora.

"It is not easy for our soldiers to keep the defense," Hayday said

His comments suggest that Ukrainian defenses around Lysychansk have begun to succumb to much greater Russian firepower, after weeks of bombardment.

Hayday said "street fights continue in Severodonetsk," where Ukrainian defenders still occupy a part of the Azot chemical plant.

But he said the Russians were trying to surround Ukrainian units in some localities (such as Borivske) near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Military analysts have said the risk of a Russian advance from the south is that some Ukrainian troops could be cut off.

"Lysychansk is under heavy fire now. The city is shelled from artillery, tanks and aircraft. There are at least three wounded civilians there, several policemen were injured," Hayday said. Police and security service buildings were also hit by missiles.

Some context: Throughout its campaign, Russia has used the tactic of intense bombardment before trying to take territory.

2:30 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

It's 9:30 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

The Ukrainian Army said it has launched "aimed strikes" on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, where Russian forces and infrastructure are stationed.

Here are the latest headlines on Russia's war in Ukraine.

  • Snake Island strikes: Large burn marks and a damaged tower have appeared on the island after the Ukrainian Army said it conducted "aimed strikes," a new satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows. In the past two months, Ukrainian forces have repeatedly hit Russian forces and infrastructure stationed on the island.
  • Kaliningrad could be new flashpoint: Tensions are mounting around the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, an isolated but strategically significant territory on the Baltic coast. Russia reacted furiously after Lithuania banned the passage of sanctioned goods across its territory and into Kaliningrad. But Lithuania says it is merely upholding EU sanctions, and the European bloc has backed Vilnius.
  • Zelensky calls for more sanctions: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a "seventh package of European Union sanctions is needed as soon as possible" as the 27 EU leaders meet this week to make a final decision on formally giving Ukraine candidate status.
  • Deaths in Kharkiv: The Military Administration of Kharkiv said 15 people were killed and 16 others injured in Russian attacks across the region. Russian forces shelling Ukraine’s second largest city have targeted residential and industrial zones, according to a police official in Kharkiv.
  • War crimes team: US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a war crimes accountability team during a trip to Ukraine, which will work to identify and prosecute anyone who committed war crimes in the country. The team will be led by the department's best-known Nazi Hunter, Eli Rosenbaum.
  • Battle for key city: Russian troops have captured the frontline village of Toshkivka in the Donbas region as they try to seize the strategic city of Severodonetsk. Toshkivka is located south of the city, where Ukrainian forces have mounted fierce resistance to Moscow’s armies. 
2:58 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Large burn marks appear on Snake Island after Ukrainian "aimed strikes," satellite image shows

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A satellite image shows an overview of Snake Island, Ukraine, on June 21.
A satellite image shows an overview of Snake Island, Ukraine, on June 21. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

Large burn marks and a damaged tower have appeared on Snake Island after the Ukrainian Army said they conducted "aimed strikes," a new satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows.

The burn marks are visible in three parts of the island in the satellite image, taken on June 21. One is near a tower structure on the southern side of the island. The other two are closer to the main building complex.

In the past two months, Ukrainian forces have repeatedly hit Russian forces and infrastructure stationed on the island. They've also knocked out a Russian helicopter and a number of naval craft located offshore.

Snake Island, or 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 warship to Ukrainian defenders to surrender. They replied, infamously, with "Russian warship, go f**k yourself” — a phrase that become a motif of Ukrainian resistance.

1:14 a.m. ET, June 22, 2022

Zelensky calls for 7th EU sanctions package as bloc considers Ukraine for candidate status

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video address on Tuesday June 21.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video address on Tuesday June 21. (Office of President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a “seventh package of European Union sanctions is needed as soon as possible,” in his nightly address on Tuesday. 

It came as the 27 EU leaders are meeting this week to make a final decision on formally giving Ukraine candidate status.

I will do my best to ensure that the historic decision of the European Union is adopted. This is important for us," Zelensky said. 

Zelensky also spoke of Russia’s “anti-European policy,” and Moscow's response to Lithuania blocking sanctioned goods from Europe into Russia's European exclave of Kaliningrad.

“Russia must feel a constant increase in pressure for the war and for its aggressive anti-European policy,” he said.
“Another Russian threat to Lithuania, another wave of energy pressure, another batch of lies from Russian officials about the food crisis are all arguments to agree on the seventh package of sanctions."

Where is Kaliningrad? The exclave is Russia's westernmost territory, and the only part of the country surrounded by EU states. Lithuania stands between it and Belarus, a Russian ally, while Poland borders it to the south.

CNN reported on Monday that Lithuanian Railways, the state-owned railway company, had notified Russia that transit trains with goods subject to EU sanctions would no longer be allowed to pass through.

Russia's reaction: Moscow has responded furiously to Lithuania’s move.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday called the action unprecedented and illegal.

It is part of a blockade, of course," he said. 

The Charge d'Affaires of Lithuania in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry and told that if freight transit to the Kaliningrad region was not fully restored, Russia reserved the right to take action to protect its national interests.

But the EU, whose sanctions Lithuania is enforcing by blocking transit, has backed its member state.

Read more on the situation here.

11:51 p.m. ET, June 21, 2022

Luxembourg commits 15% of its defense budget to support Ukraine: Zelensky

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Luxembourg has committed 15% of the nation’s annual defense budget to support Ukraine’s war efforts, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“15% of the defense budget of this state — this was a contribution to the defense of Ukraine. Both the greatness and the nobility of the state are immediately felt,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday.

According to NATO figures, Luxembourg spent $462 million on defense in 2021.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel visited Kyiv on Tuesday to show "Luxembourg’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine."

“Mr. Bettel visited the cities of the Kyiv region that had been liberated from the occupiers,” Zelensky said.
“I am grateful to him for his sincere understanding of our people and for Luxembourg's readiness to take part in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.” 

Bettel visited Bucha, Borodyanka and Irpin, all places that have been heavily impacted by the war. 

The Prime Minister called Borodyanka “a symbol of senseless cruelty and violence.”

Nothing can convey the horror of what has happened here,” he tweeted on Tuesday. 
8:56 p.m. ET, June 21, 2022

Biden says Russia's war in Ukraine a "waiting game" as he prepares to meet with allies in Europe

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

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 at next week's NATO summit in Madrid

"I’m not afraid," he said, when asked 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. What the Russians can sustain and what Europe is going to be prepared to sustain," he added.
"That’s one of the things we’re going to be speaking in Spain about."

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

8:53 p.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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

The Military Administration of Kharkiv said 15 people were killed and 16 others injured in Russian attacks 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 shelling Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv targeted residential and industrial zones across the city, according to Serhii Bolvinov, head of the Investigative Department of National Police in Kharkiv.

8:49 p.m. ET, June 21, 2022

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

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

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 Moscow on the issue of detained Americans, because the Russians put convoluted processes in place that prevent any quick contact with the detainees.

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 there were more than 1,000 US companies that did business in Russia last year and "it's a fraction of that now."

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

US attorney general announces team to prosecute war crimes in Ukraine

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova today in Krakovets, at the Ukraine border with Poland.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova today in Krakovets, at the Ukraine border with Poland. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

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 the country.  

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 who previously served as director of human rights enforcement strategy and policy, helped the department in 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 Ukraine and follows a previous effort by the 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.