June 29, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Jack Guy, Hafsa Khalil, Aditi Sangal, Laura Smith-Spark and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2:04 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022
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9:45 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

NATO formally invites Finland and Sweden to become members of the alliance

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Sharon Braithwaite in London 

NATO has formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the US-led military alliance, according to a statement from NATO Heads of State and Government on Wednesday. 

"Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols," the statement said. 

“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure. The security of Finland and Sweden is of direct importance to the Alliance, including during the accession process,” the statement added.

Earlier today, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that following the invitation, "we need a ratification process in 30 parliaments; that always takes some time, but I expect also that to go rather quickly because allies are ready to try to make that ratification process happen as quickly as possible." 

9:15 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

“Has Ukraine not paid enough?”: Zelensky urges NATO to admit his country to the alliance

From CNN's Seb Shukla and Niamh Kennedy in London

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a giant screen as he delivers a statement at the start of the first plenary session of the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 29.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a giant screen as he delivers a statement at the start of the first plenary session of the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 29. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

“Has Ukraine not paid enough (to join NATO)?” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked leaders of the military alliance as they met Wednesday.

Addressing the NATO summit in Madrid via video link from Kyiv, Zelensky added: “Is our contribution to the defense of both Europe and the whole civilization still insufficient? What else is needed then?”

In a dig at the lack of a clear pathway to join the alliance, Zelensky used the analogy of the Kyiv metro system turnstiles, which are always open until you approach them and then they ask you to pay.

“We need security guarantees, and you need to find a place for Ukraine in the common security space," he added.

The president, dressed in his now famous military fatigues, also called for NATO to “revise” how it views its eastern flank.

“It is possible to get rid of the 'gray' zone, to guarantee security only together with Ukraine," he said.

"Just think about one fact now: today, a country that is not a member of NATO, albeit with your support, has been holding back a state for more than four months, which you all officially identify as the main threat to yourself. And we are holding back Russia from destroying us and from destroying you,” Zelensky said.

“Is it a coincidence that all Allies in the east, all our neighbors, are in favor of Ukraine's membership in NATO? No, this is not a coincidence. This is logic. This is the knowledge of life in our region,” he said.

Later on Wednesday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine can "count" on NATO allies for support "for as long as it needs."

Addressing a press conference in Madrid, the secretary general said he was "pleased" that Zelensky could virtually address the NATO summit and commended the president's "leadership and courage," calling him "an inspiration to us all."

8:31 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Norway says it will send long-range rocket artillery to Ukraine

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

Norway announced on Wednesday that it would donate three multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine, following similar decision made by the United States.

The donation is made possible by a close cooperation between Norway and the United Kingdom, Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said in a statement.

"We must continue our support so the Ukrainians can continue their fight for freedom and independence," the minister added.

US President Joe Biden announced recently that the US would provide Ukraine with "more advanced rocket systems and munitions" as its war with Russia grinds on.

8:26 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Russian troops are scattering anti-personnel mines in Lysychansk, Ukrainian regional military head says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Russian soldiers in the Luhansk city of Lysychansk are planting anti-personnel mines, according to the head of the region's military administration, Serhiy Hayday.

The mines – nicknamed "petals" — are extremely dangerous as “they lie anywhere and any child or civilian who has gone out for humanitarian aid may step on them and die or lose a limb," he told CNN in a phone interview.

The bombardment of the city is now “constantly” happening night and day, Hayday added. 

On the humanitarian front, his team is trying to deliver “as much” aid as possible, he said, adding that one humanitarian aid kit per person is designed to last for two weeks, but in reality, the supplies only last for a week. 

About 15,000 people are currently left in the city, and the majority of them are those “who refused to leave, despite us constantly urging them to leave,” the regional military head said. 

Hayday said it was hard to give a damage report on the city due to the shelling on multiple fronts by Russian troops.

He reiterated that Lysychansk is the last outpost of the Luhansk region. He added that “in the military sense, the loss of one city is like losing a battle, it is not a lost war.”

But he remained upbeat about the possibility of Ukrainian forces inflicting as many losses on the Russian troops as possible.

"It is possible that during the assault of Lysychansk, they will lose so much equipment and troops that they will no longer be able to fully conduct offensive operations, during which we will get more Western weapons which will defeat our enemy. And we will not only stop, we will start the de-occupation," he told CNN.

1:15 p.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Ukrainian mayor of Kherson detained as Russian-run region prepares for referendum

From CNN's Tim Lister and Sanyo Fylyppov

The elected Ukrainian mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhaiev, was arrested Tuesday, according to pro-Russian officials in the city, hours before the region's Russian-backed administration announced plans for a referendum. 

Kolykhaiev's arrest came amid growing efforts by the Russian-appointed authorities in the region to strip it of Ukrainian associations. 

An official in the interim administration of the Kherson region, Kateryna Gubareva, confirmed that Kolykhaiev had been detained. Kolykhaiev has remained in the city throughout the occupation, though the Russian-backed authorities removed him from office.  

Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-backed deputy head of the military-civilian administration of the Kherson region, said Kolykhaiev had "posed as a benefactor" but "made every effort to ensure that some people continued to believe in the return of neo-Nazism," repeating claims echoing Russian President Vladimir Putin's baseless justification for the war. Stremousov also claimed without offering evidence that Kolykhaiev "stole millions, and gave people a penny."

First word of Kolykhaiev's detention came from his adviser, Halyna Liashevska, who posted on Facebook on Tuesday that he had arrived "at one of the municipal institutions where the remaining employees of the city executive committee worked. As soon as he got out of the car, he was immediately detained by armed Russian guards."

"They seized hard drives from computers, opened all safes, searched for documents," Liashevska said. "All this time, Kolykhaiev was kept in a separate room in handcuffs under armed guard. After the search, Kolykhaiev was put into bus Z and taken away." Z is the letter on many Russian vehicles in occupied parts of Ukraine.

Liashevska added: "I am sure that the arrest of Kolykhaiev is connected with his refusal to cooperate with the occupying authorities. A few days ago, Kolykhaiev received a letter from the 'newly-appointed' mayor, inviting him to discuss the future 'organization of interaction.' For refusing to meet, he was threatened with arrest."

On June 13, Kolykhaiev said that he and the heads of different city departments were still in the city and continued to work for it, after the man appointed by the Russians as regional governor, Hennadii Lahuta, said that Kolykhaiev had made the wrong choice by remaining in Kherson.

Serhii Khlan, an adviser to the head of the Kherson civil military administration, told CNN that Kolykhaiev had an ambivalent relationship with the Russian occupation.

"For a while, the Russians even allowed him to sit under Ukrainian flags," he said.

Khlan said the occupying authorities had then insisted that officials enter into contracts with the Russians and be paid in rubles. "Kolykhaiev had a choice: either sign the betrayal of Ukraine and finally openly work with the occupiers, or refuse to cooperate," he said.

Kolykhaiev had continued in office for more than two months after the Russian invasion. In April, he told Ukrainian television: "I have no information about the so-called Kherson People's Republic. Representatives of local authorities in Kherson are at their workplaces in the city administration."

Kolykhaiev's arrest followed a visit on Monday to Kherson by a member of the Russian parliament, Alexandr Boroday, a former prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

Boroday said he had left "with an ambivalent impression, because we understand that somewhere, of course, the city is ours, and somewhere not quite ours."

"There is our mayor in Kherson, and there is also the pro-Ukrainian mayor. Kyiv's mayor makes meetings, and our mayor makes meetings," he said, adding, "It seems there is our administration with Vladimir Saldo [the Russian-appointed mayor], but at the same time Kherson lives a very double life."

Boroday said the city was peaceful, "but it is not entirely clear whether our power is there or not. And this needs to be done as quickly as possible," he said.

Within 36 hours of Boroday's visit, the pro-Russian authorities announced plans for a referendum for the Kherson region to join the Russian Federation.

Some officials in Kherson previously detained have been released. On Wednesday, a nongovernmental organization, the Association of Cities of Ukraine, said the heads of two communities of Kherson — Oleksandr Babych of Hola Prystan and Ivan Samoilenko of Stanislav — were released from captivity.

Ukrainian authorities said earlier this month that "more and more people [in Kherson] refuse to cooperate with the occupiers and local collaborators."

Read more here.

8:34 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Opinion: The last time Moscow used food as a weapon in Ukraine, 4 million died

Opinion by Daria Mattingly

Growing up in Ukraine, one learns not to leave breadcrumbs on the table, Daria Mattingly writes for CNN.

Mattingly is a Ukrainian historian who teaches Soviet and Russian history at Cambridge University in the UK.

Her generation of Millennials was taught this pious reverence to bread by their grandparents who survived the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine known as the Holodomor, Mattingly writes.

Many a time she heard the story of how a soup with wild sorrel, a plant, saved her grandmother and her siblings while the grain collected from her village was left to rot at the train station. That wheat could have saved so many lives, but "the state" did not allow it. Her grandmother, Mattingly explains, could not stand the sight of sorrel for the rest of her life, and always kept her cupboard well stocked with salt and flour.

The history of the Holodomor prompted Ukrainians to see their country as the victim of the Soviet empire. And in recent years, the annexation of Crimeaconflict in Donbas and now all-out war where food is being used as a weapon, fit that picture, she opines.

As a scholar of the Holodomor, Mattingly sees many parallels between the artificial famine of almost a century ago and today's war, with the aim of the 1932-1933 famine and the current war being to bring Ukraine under Russia's control.

In March, The Washington Post reported that the Holodomor killed 4 million Ukrainians.

By controlling the export of Ukrainian wheat, Mattingly says Russia can influence the prices on grain just as it does with oil and gas, which will give them leverage over the countries relying on the grain, including China, India and Turkey. Moreover, if grain supply is limited, poor countries in Asia and Africa will be left with limited supplies and millions will face starvation.

Read more here.

8:39 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Germany moving to “swiftly” ratify plans for Finland and Sweden to join NATO, officials say

From CNN’s Chris Stern in Berlin  

Germany is doing everything it can to “swiftly” ratify plans for Finland and Sweden to join NATO, said German foreign ministry spokesperson Christofer Burger.

"There is no concrete timeline but it will be fast," Burger added at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday. 

NATO leaders will decide at a summit in Madrid whether to invite Finland and Sweden to join the security alliance, after Turkey agreed to support their membership bid on Tuesday.

Following that, a ratification process will need to take place in all NATO capitals, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said. 

7:28 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Pope calls the airstrike at a Kremenchuk shopping mall the latest “barbarous” attack

From CNN's Hada Messia in Rome

Pope Francis leads Angelus prayer from his window at the Vatican, Italy, on June 29.
Pope Francis leads Angelus prayer from his window at the Vatican, Italy, on June 29. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Pope Francis called the Russian airstrike that struck a bustling shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk the latest “barbarous” attack in the country.

"Every day, I carry dear and tormented Ukraine in my heart, which continues to be drawn out by continuous barbaric attacks like the one that hit the Kremenchuk shopping center," the Pontiff said Wednesday in his Angelus prayer, celebrating the Catholic feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.

"I pray that this mad war will soon see an end. And I renew the invitation to persevere without tiring in the prayer for peace," he added. 

At least 18 people were killed in the mall attack on Monday, Ukrainian officials said, with another 58 people injured.

7:23 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Death toll rises to 4 in Mykolaiv apartment strike, with 5 people injured 

From CNN's Julia Kesavia

A damaged residential building is seen at the site of the missile strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on June 29.
A damaged residential building is seen at the site of the missile strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on June 29. (Julie Akimova/news.pn/Reuters)

The number of dead in an attack on a Mykolaiv apartment block has risen to four, according to Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych.

Five people had been injured, he said, adding that emergency services are on site.

Early on Wednesday eight missiles hit an apartment block, apparently using KH-55 missiles.

In total, 114 people have died in Mykolaiv since the war began, the mayor added. The city is situated near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine.