June 22, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, June 23, 2023
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10:26 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

UN adds Russia to global list of offenders for killing children in Ukraine 

From CNN's Mariya Knight 

The United Nations added Russia to a global list of offenders for killing 136 children in Ukraine in 2022, according to a report to the UN Security Council seen by Reuters and confirmed to CNN by a UN diplomat on Thursday.

Reuters cited the UN report saying Russian forces and affiliated groups “maimed 518 children and carried out 480 attacks on Ukrainian schools and hospitals.” Russia's military also used 91 children as human shields, according to the report. 

Russia has previously denied targeting civilians.

The UN also accused the Ukrainian military of killing 80 children, injuring 175, and carrying out 212 attacks on schools and hospitals. 

Ukraine wasn't added to the global list of offenders. 

The report was written by Virginia Gamba, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' special representative for children and armed conflict, according to Reuters. Last month, Gamba reportedly visited Ukraine and Russia, where she met with Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian official wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia. 

According to the Ukrainian government's portal Children of War, Russia's full-scale invasion has killed 490 children and wounded 1,028 as of June 2023. 

6:15 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

It's past midnight in Kyiv. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

A key bridge was damaged by Ukrainian shelling, a Russian-backed official said Thursday.

The Chonhar ("Chongar" in Russian) bridge connects the Russian-held parts of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region with the Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Here's what else you should know:

Ukrainian aid. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Thursday he was “sure” Ukraine will get the money it needs to help the recovery of the country. Ukraine is also carrying out the "largest ever repair campaign" to shore up its power system ahead of winter and potential Russian attacks on infrastructure. And on Thursday, US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a joint statement where both leaders expressed their concern over the conflict in Ukraine and pledged continued humanitarian assistance.

Strikes. Four missiles were fired at the Chonhar road bridge Thursday morning, with one hitting the structure, a representative of Russia’s Investigative Committee said in comments reported by Russian state news agency RIA. Russia also launched attacks on populated areas of Ukraine on Thursday destroying infrastructure and causing civilians to suffer, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Volunteer corps. More than 20 Russian "volunteer corps" fighting in Ukraine have signed contracts with Russia’s Defense Ministry, according to a statement published by the ministry on Thursday. It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin backed an order, which was signed by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on June 10, that said mercenary groups fighting in Ukraine must sign contracts with the ministry by the start of July. 

Military developments. Russia will allocate money to ramp up production of domestic aircraft, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced Thursday, citing the need to reduce dependence of the aviation industry on foreign parts in the face of sanctions pressure on Russia. Russia also expects to have enough recruits to form a reserve army to bolster its armed forces by the end of the month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday.

Counteroffensive updates. Ukraine's advance on Russia will "take time," Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said, while expressing optimism for the counteroffensive. Shmyhal called on Ukrainians to be patient while speaking in London at the Ukraine Recovery Conference. Meanwhile, Putin reiterated that Ukraine has not depleted its "offensive potential," adding that it has a "number of strategic reserves that have not yet been activated," while addressing members of his Security Council in Moscow Thursday. In exclusive comments to CNN, a senior Ukrainian official said Thursday that the main thrust of the counteroffensive against Russia “has not even begun in earnest,” and that it is too early to assess its success.

8:06 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Zelensky dismisses Belarus ambassador in published order

From CNN's Mariya Knight 

Volodymyr Zelensky attends the 11th International Book Arsenal Festival in Kyiv, on Thursday.
Volodymyr Zelensky attends the 11th International Book Arsenal Festival in Kyiv, on Thursday. Les Kasyanov/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed Ihor Kyzym from the post of ambassador to Belarus on Tuesday, according to an order published on Ukraine’s presidential website. 

Last week the Ukrainian Parliament registered a draft resolution on recognition of Belarus as an aggressor country, Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, first deputy chairman of the anti-corruption committee of the Ukrainian Parliament, said in a Telegram post Monday. 

The text of the resolution registered is not yet available, but an explanatory note published on the parliament’s website specifies that the Ukrainian Parliament should designate Belarus as an aggressor state, “taking into account the reluctance of the Republic of Belarus to stop allowing the Russian Federation to use its territory, airspace and infrastructure for invading the sovereign territory of Ukraine contrary to international obligation.” 

In addition, an explanatory note urged the Ukrainian government "to immediately work on the issue of severing diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus" and to call on the international community to increase sanctions pressure on Minsk in order to “force the Belarusian leadership to stop allowing the use of its territory for committing war crimes.” 

5:05 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Biden and Modi release joint statement pledging support for Ukraine but don't mention Russia

From CNN's DJ Judd

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi after introducing Modi during an official State Arrival Ceremony held at the start of Modi's visit to the White House in Washington DC, on Thursday.
US President Joe Biden shakes hands with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi after introducing Modi during an official State Arrival Ceremony held at the start of Modi's visit to the White House in Washington DC, on Thursday. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a joint statement Thursday where both leaders expressed their concern over the conflict in Ukraine and pledged continued humanitarian assistance.

“Our cooperation will serve the global good as we work through a range of multilateral and regional groupings — particularly the Quad — to contribute toward a free, open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific,” a statement released, following bilateral meetings between Biden and Modi at the White House, said. “No corner of human enterprise is untouched by the partnership between our two great countries, which spans the seas to the stars.” 

Both leaders also “expressed their deep concern over the conflict in Ukraine and mourned its terrible and tragic humanitarian consequences," according to the statement. “Both countries further pledge to render continuing humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine. They called for respect for international law, principles of the UN charter, and territorial integrity and sovereignty. Both countries concurred on the importance of post-conflict reconstruction in Ukraine."

The statement conspicuously made no mention of Russia, or its role in the conflict, with the two leaders instead writing that the two countries “affirm that the rules-based international order must be respected,” in a general sense.

More background: India is historically a major purchaser of Russian weaponry and has long-standing ties to Moscow. It has also ramped up purchases of Russian energy – providing a key economic lifeline to leader Vladimir Putin’s government, even as the West slaps extensive controls on this key revenue source.

Though New Delhi has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine throughout the course of the war, it has abstained from UN resolutions calling for its withdrawal and condemning its invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Modi on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan last month, the first in-person meeting between the two since Russia’s invasion began.

CNN's Simone McCarthy contributed reporting to this post.

4:03 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Ukraine says counteroffensive "has not even begun in earnest," pushing back on remarks from Western officials

From CNN’s Matthew Chance in Kyiv

In exclusive comments to CNN, a senior Ukrainian official said Thursday that the main thrust of the counteroffensive against Russia “has not even begun in earnest,” and that it is too early to assess its success.

The official was responding to CNN’s reporting earlier Wednesday that Western officials believe that the counteroffensive is having less success than expected and “not meeting expectations on any front.” 

It is “way too early to assess the overall trajectory of the counteroffensive,” the Ukrainian official told CNN. “The main thrust of the counteroffensive has not even begun in earnest.”

The official said that “shaping operations” were still underway, and the counteroffensive would not be able to be judged until fall or winter.

Some more context: In CNN's reporting, the officials cautioned that the counteroffensive is still in its early stages – and that the US and its allies “remain optimistic” Ukrainian forces will be able to make territorial gains over time. The US and its allies are likely to wait until at least July for a fuller assessment of the progress of the counteroffensive which was gradually launched over the last few weeks.

In addition, these officials note that Ukrainian forces have themselves been adapting to Russian tactics and defenses, including carrying out more dismounted operations. In recent days, Ukrainian forces have also had more success targeting and shooting down Russian aircraft.

Ultimately, the counteroffensive is proving a “tough drive” for Ukraine and Russia, one of the Western official said, with both sides incurring heavy losses.

CNN's Jim Sciutto contributed reporting to this post.

3:01 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Ukraine's military claims gradual advances in the south as heavy fighting continues in the east

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Lindsay Isaac

Russia launched attacks on populated areas of Ukraine on Thursday destroying infrastructure and causing civilians to suffer, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russia launched 44 air strikes and fired about 30 multiple rocket launcher systems over the last day.  

In the south, Russia continues to be on the defensive, focusing its "main efforts" on preventing the advance of Ukrainian troops in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, the military said.

Ukraine has also claimed "partial success" in the south against Russia where the Ukrainian offensive continues, though the "situation has not changed significantly over the past day," Hanna Maliar, deputy defense Minister of Ukraine, said in her latest update.

"We are gradually advancing, having partial success, pushing the enemy back and leveling the front," she said. "The Ukrainian defense forces continue their offensive on the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions. In some areas, we have advanced and are consolidating our positions."  

Ukraine's air force carried out seven strikes on Russian military personnel and four on anti-aircraft missile systems, striking a command post and ammunition depots, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said. 

Heavy fighting continues in the east, especially in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka directions — where Russia continues its main assault, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.

Ukrainian forces conducted both offensive and defensive operations over the day but continue to "effectively restrain the offensive of Russian troops" in those eastern sectors, Maliar said.

"The enemy has not advanced a single meter," she claimed. 

Russia conducted "unsuccessful" attacks and an air strike in the Kharkiv region as well as air strikes in the Luhansk and Donetsk region, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said, adding that Russia was also unsuccessful in its offensives in the area of Sieverne and Avdiivka and in the Donetsk region.

2:33 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Ukrainian prime minister says counteroffensive will "take time" and calls for patience

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Lindsay Isaac

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal speaks at a conference in London on June 22.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal speaks at a conference in London on June 22. Andy Rain/EPA/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Ukraine's advance on Russia will "take time," the Ukrainian prime minister said, while expressing optimism for the counteroffensive.  

Denys Shmyhal called on Ukrainians to be patient while speaking in London at the Ukraine Recovery Conference.

Shmyhal said there will be "results of the counteroffensive" but added that "Ukraine values the lives of its soldiers, so it does not plan to lead them mindlessly under fire," according to Ukrainian state media Ukrinform. 

"We must all understand that every life is important to us. We will not lead our people under fire, as the Russian army does, which has not counted and does not count people's lives. We are working according to NATO standards; we are taking care of each of our soldiers, and we are taking steps forward. It will take time, but we intend to advance, and we are advancing with a counteroffensive. We all have to be patient and we will see the results," he said.

More context: CNN reported earlier Thursday that the early phases of Ukraine’s counteroffensive is having less success and Russian forces are showing more competence than Western assessments expected, according to two Western officials and a senior US military official.

The officials cautioned that the counteroffensive is still in its beginning stages – and the US and its allies “remain optimistic” Ukrainian forces will be able to make territorial gains over time. In addition, these officials note that Ukrainian forces have themselves been adapting to Russian tactics and defenses, including carrying out more dismounted operations. In recent days, Ukrainian forces have also had more success targeting and shooting down Russian aircraft.

And while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted Wednesday in a BBC interview that progress had been "slower than desired," he added that "nevertheless, those who fight shall win and to those that knock, the door shall be opened."

CNN's Jim Sciutto contributed reporting to this post.

1:15 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Putin says Ukraine has not exhausted its "offensive potential"

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Lindsay Isaac

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in Moscow, Russia, on June 22. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in Moscow, Russia, on June 22.  Contributor/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Ukraine has not depleted its "offensive potential," adding that it has a "number of strategic reserves that have not yet been activated," while addressing members of his Security Council in Moscow Thursday.   

Despite having claimed that Ukrainian forces are losing ground, Putin cautioned that Russian armed forces need to "proceed for the realities" when "building combat work."

Ukraine's Western allies have made it clear they have "really decided to fight with Russia to the last Ukrainian," he added.

On Wednesday, Putin told reporters that there is a "certain lull" in fighting, with no active offensive operations being carried out by Ukraine yet. He claimed Ukraine is suffering heavy losses on the battlefield.

CNN is not able to independently verify Putin's claims about Ukrainian loses or the course of the operations on the ground. 

"But today we see that this (Ukraine's) offensive potential has not yet been exhausted, there are also reserves that the enemy is thinking about where and how to introduce," he said. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine claimed Wednesday that Russian forces are on the defensive in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson region directions, while the Armed Forces of Ukraine are advancing.

Here's the latest map of control:

CNN's Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova contributed reporting to this post.