June 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Aditi Sangal, Lianne Kolirin and Hafsa Khalil, CNN

Updated 2:47 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022
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3:49 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

France to send Ukraine "significant quantities" of armored personnel carriers

From CNN's Dalal Mawad in Paris

French soldiers patrol in an armored personnel carrier (VAB) in Bangui, Central African Republic, on December 1, 2013.
French soldiers patrol in an armored personnel carrier (VAB) in Bangui, Central African Republic, on December 1, 2013. (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)

France will send Ukraine “significant quantities” of French-made armored personnel carrier and support vehicles, known as VAB, according to the country's armed forces minister.

“To move quickly in areas under enemy fire, armies need armored vehicles,” Sébastien Lecornu said in an interview Monday evening in Le Parisien newspaper.
“France will deliver, in significant quantities, transport vehicles of this type, VAB, which are armed.”

The VAB is a wheeled armored personnel carrier and support vehicle. It was developed in the early 1970s by French manufacturers Saviem and Renault and first used in 1976. 

The minister did not say when these vehicles would be delivered.

Lecornu added that France was also examining the possibility of delivering to Ukraine French-built anti-ship Exocet missiles.

3:10 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Death toll from Russian missile attack on mall rises to 18, regional official says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on June 28.
Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on June 28. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The number of people killed in a missile strike on a shopping center in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk has risen to 18, a regional official said on Tuesday, as search and rescue operations continue.

Dmytro Lunin, head of Poltava region military administration, said rescuers continued to work at the site.

"Another 36 people are missing. We continue the search," Lunin said. 

Hundreds of people had been at the mall minutes before the strike, which Ukrainian officials say was by a Russian KH-22 missile. The KH-22 can carry an explosive warhead weighing up to 1 ton (2,240 pounds). 

Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on June 27.
Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on June 27. (Anna Voitenko/Reuters)

"The dismantling of damaged building structures is ongoing with the help of heavy engineering equipment and small machines," Lunin said.

He added that 25 people were admitted to intensive care at the hospital in Kremenchuk.

"More than a thousand people worked all night — rescuers, police, medics and volunteers," he said.
2:45 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Russian efforts in Donetsk focus on settlements around Sloviansk

From CNN's Tim Lister 

In another area where Russian forces are trying to take territory — north of the city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region — the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said Russian efforts are focused on the settlements of Dovhenke and Dolyna.

"It fired at the positions of our troops with artillery and MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System), conducted aerial reconnaissance with UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle)," the General Staff said.

It added that "our defenders stopped the enemy's attempt to advance."

Elsewhere, Russian attacks took the form of artillery and mortar fire, with little movement on the ground.

A Ukrainian deminer examines a crater caused by missile strikes that struck the yard of a school in a residential area of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 27.
A Ukrainian deminer examines a crater caused by missile strikes that struck the yard of a school in a residential area of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 27. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

Kharkiv: The General Staff said that north of Kharkiv, the Russians continued to use artillery to prevent Ukrainian forces from advancing to the Russia-Ukraine border. An attempt by Russian troops to cross the Siverskiy Donets river in the south of Kharkiv region had been repelled. 

Sumy: The General Staff also said there had been more cross-border shelling into the northeastern Sumy region, without providing details of casualties or damage.

2:36 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Heavy fighting near Lysychansk as Russian forces seek to encircle key city, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister 

Scores of Ukrainian evacuees from the embattled city of Lysychansk board an evacuation train to safer cities to the west, from the train station in Pokrovsk, Ukraine, on June 24.
Scores of Ukrainian evacuees from the embattled city of Lysychansk board an evacuation train to safer cities to the west, from the train station in Pokrovsk, Ukraine, on June 24. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian military said its forces have held back Russian assaults in several areas along the front lines in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, while fighting continues around the city of Lysychansk.

Serhii Hayday, head of Luhansk region military administration, said the Russians were attacking Lysychansk from the southern and southwestern directions. 

"Fighting is underway between Vovchoiarivka and the oil refinery. They are trying to block the city from this side and take control over the transport connection with Donetsk region," he said Tuesday. 

Some context: The Ukrainian military has said the area around Vovchoiarivka — adjacent to the main highway — is the focus of current battles. Were the Ukrainians to lose this area, Lysychansk would be virtually surrounded.

Russian advance held back: The Ukrainian General Staff said Tuesday that Russian efforts to reach the highway in an area where Luhansk and Donetsk regions meet had been thwarted.

"Ukrainian soldiers successfully suppressed all these attempts and forced the enemy to retreat," the General Staff said.

Lysychansk destruction: Hayday said there had been widespread destruction in Lysychansk due to Russian shelling on Monday and confirmed that eight people were killed in a rocket strike while queuing at a water tank.

"There was a lot of damage to high-rise buildings and private houses on June 27," he said. "Some areas of the city were shelled several times."

Bakhmut: There was also heavy shelling by Russian forces trying to advance toward the town of Bakhmut, a key position for Ukrainian defenses some 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of Lysychansk.

1:36 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Biden officials privately doubt that Ukraine can win back all of its territory

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

White House officials are losing confidence that Ukraine will ever be able to take back all of the land it has lost to Russia over the past four months of war, US officials told CNN, even with the heavier and more sophisticated weaponry the US and its allies plan to send.

Advisers to US President Joe Biden have begun debating internally how and whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should shift his definition of a Ukrainian “victory” — adjusting for the possibility that his country has shrunk irreversibly.

US officials emphasized to CNN that this more pessimistic assessment does not mean the US plans to pressure Ukraine into making any formal territorial concessions to Russia in order to end the war.

There is also hope that Ukrainian forces will be able to take back significant chunks of territory in a likely counteroffensive later this year.

And not everyone in the administration is as worried — some believe Ukrainian forces could again defy expectations, as they did in the early days of the war when they repelled a Russian advance on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Read the full story here.

12:26 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Biden will travel to NATO summit in Spain after final G7 meetings in Germany

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

US President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Spain on Tuesday for the start of a NATO summit that is expected to focus heavily on Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine after wrapping up final meetings with G7 leaders in Germany.

After meeting on Tuesday morning with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom on the margins of the G7, Biden will head to Madrid.

Leaders attending the NATO summit are expected to endorse a new "Strategic Concept" that outlines the defense alliance's goals for the next decade.

The summit comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stretches into its fifth month and as the US looks to keep allies united in its support for Ukraine and sustain the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Read the full story here.

12:01 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

A Russian airstrike that struck a bustling shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine on Monday, killing at least 15 people, sparked international outrage and calls for a meeting of the UN Security Council.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • "War crime" accusations follow strike: G7 leaders condemned the “abominable” attack on a shopping mall in Ukraine, saying, "indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the strike "one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history," and Ukrainian representatives have requested a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday to discuss the attack.
  • Putin visits Tajikistan: Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel on an international visit for the first time since the Ukrainian invasion. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin is traveling to Tajikistan on Tuesday and will meet with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.
  • Rocket hits crowd in Lysychansk: At least eight people were killed and 42 wounded when a Russian Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) rocket hit a crowd that was collecting water from a tanker, a local military administration official said. The alleged attack happened as Russian forces concentrate their efforts on trying to take Lysychansk, the last remaining city in the Luhansk region still under Ukrainian control.
  • Gas disruption: A "serious disruption" to the EU's gas supplies from Russia is “likely,” the bloc's energy chief said Monday, urging countries to step up their preparedness. "While the gas supply to the member states is currently guaranteed, the security of supply risks are greater than ever,” EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said.
  • Russia relations forever damaged: There can be no return to how ties were with Russia before the war in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on the sidelines of the G7 summit, adding the war waged by Moscow is a "deep, deep cut in international relations." He said "there can be no going back to the time before the Russian invasion of Ukraine."
  • Rise in Russian strikes: Russia has launched more strikes into Ukraine in the past week than the US has seen in recent weeks, according to a senior US defense official. “It could be related to the G7. It certainly could be related to the Ukrainian movement of HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) into theater. Or it could be a larger portion of their long term battle strategy here,” the official said.
  • NATO upgrade: NATO will enhance its battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance up to brigade levels and increase the number of high readiness forces "to well over 300,000," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said. It comes ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid this week.
2:22 a.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Russian airstrike hits busy shopping mall in central Ukraine, sparking fears of mass casualties

From CNN's Rob Picheta

In this image made from video provided by Ukrainian State Emergency Service, firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping center after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on June 27.
In this image made from video provided by Ukrainian State Emergency Service, firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping center after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on June 27. (Ukrainian State Emergency Service/AP)

A Russian airstrike struck a bustling shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine on Monday, setting the building ablaze and prompting concerns of mass casualties.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after the strike that up to 1,000 people were in the mall before the air raid was announced.

"Fortunately, as far as we know, at that time, many people managed to get out, they managed to get out, but there were still people inside — workers and some visitors," he said.

At least 15 people were killed, according to a Telegram post from Dmytro Lunin, the head of the Poltava region military administration, who said earlier that the death toll could rise. At least 58 people were injured, Ukraine's State Emergency Services said.

Zelensky said in his nightly video address Monday that the rescue operation was ongoing and that "we must be aware that the losses can be significant."

Video from the scene showed heavy smoke billowing from the building, which was engulfed by fire. The mall measures about one hectare — roughly the size of two football fields — and the strike occurred around 4 p.m. local time, Solohub said.

"We don't know how many more people might be under the rubble," said Volodymyr Solohub, a regional official in the Poltava Oblast local administration.

Zelensky called the strike "one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history," in his evening video address.

"A peaceful city, an ordinary shopping mall with women inside, children, ordinary civilians inside," he said.

"Only totally insane terrorists, who should have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object. And this is not an off-target missile strike, this is a calculated Russian strike — exactly at this shopping mall."

The attack targeted a site in central Ukraine far away from the epicenter of Russia's war, which has recently been focused in the east of the country.

Read more here.

8:29 p.m. ET, June 27, 2022

Putin's language on nuclear-capable missiles is "irresponsible," a senior US defense official says

From CNN's Michael Conte and Barbara Starr

A senior US defense official called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “cavalier” language around the nuclear-capable missile systems pledged to Belarus “pretty irresponsible.”

“Our strategic forces are always monitoring things in that regard,” said the official in a background call with reporters. “We are certainly taking that seriously and have taken that threat seriously from the very beginning.”

Here's the full quote:

“Certainly any time anybody uses the word nuclear, you have concerns. Quite honestly it seems pretty irresponsible of a national leader to talk about the employment of nuclear weapons and to do so in a generally cavalier fashion. In terms of my concerns, other than the fact that they talk about, again, I mean the way that that statement read from Putin was, hey we’re going to give them Iskanders, and oh by the way they can hold nuclear weapons. And everybody takes that very seriously when you use that language. So we are certainly taking that seriously and have taken that threat seriously from the very beginning. And as you know our strategic forces are always monitoring things in that regard.”

Some context: Russia will transfer nuclear-capable Iskander-M missile systems to Belarus over the coming months, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

“In the next few months, we will transfer to Belarus the Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which, as you know, can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions," Putin told Lukashenko, according to the Kremlin.

In a transcript of the meeting, Lukashenko expressed to Putin his "stress" and concerns over what he alleged are flights by the United States and NATO planes "training to carry nuclear warheads" close to Belarus' border.

Lukashenko asked Putin to consider “a mirrored response" to the flights or to convert Russia's Su-35 fighter jets, which are currently deployed to Belarus, so that "they can carry nuclear warheads."

Putin replied that although it is possible to match the US flights, "there is no need," and suggested that because Belarus' military has a large number of Su-25 aircraft that can be converted to nuclear-capable instead.

“This modernization should be carried out at aircraft factories in Russia, but we will agree with you on how to do this. And accordingly, start training the flight crew,” Putin said.

The Iskander-M is a Russian-built short-range ballistic missile system that can carry conventional or nuclear warheads with a maximum range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles), according to Janes Defense.

The weapon uses both optical and inertial guidance systems to strike its targets, hitting them with a range of warheads, such as cluster munitions, vacuum bombs, bunker-busters, and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warheads, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. 

The Iskander-M was first used in 2008 during the Russia-Georgia conflict, when the Russian Army used it to hit targets in Gori, according to the alliance.

Mariya Knight and Jonny Hallam contributed to this report