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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3:51 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Moscow-backed administration in Kherson says it plans to join Russia in a referendum

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych 

A senior Russian-backed official installed to run the southern region of Kherson in Ukraine said the authorities there are preparing for a referendum to join the Russian Federation.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the military-civilian administration of the Kherson region, said in an interview on his Telegram channel: "Yes, we are preparing for the referendum, and we will hold it."

"The Kherson region will make a decision and will join the Russian Federation. It will become a full-fledged entity that can be like one single state in which the peoples of Russia live like one family," Stremousov said.

Stremousov has been collaborating with Russian officials for several months.

Addressing those anticipating Kherson's liberation by Ukrainian forces, Stremousov said on June 14: "We do not pay attention to it. All your attempts are useless and meaningless. […] We say once again that this is a waste of time."

He also warned those refusing to cooperate.

"All those who do not provide a specific, clear position in the villages on our future development as part of the Russian Federation, you will soon be removed. Many of you will simply be punished," Stremousov said.

On Tuesday, the elected mayor of Kherson city, Ihor Kolykhaiev, was arrested. He has remained in the city throughout the occupation. The deputy head of the interim administration of the Kherson region, Kateryna Gubareva, confirmed his arrest.

The Russian-backed administration is planning to offer Russian passports to residents of Kherson and begin introducing the ruble as its currency.

About 45% of the pre-invasion population has left the region, according to Ukrainian officials, but moving directly to Ukrainian-held parts of the country has become extremely difficult. 

3:32 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Analysis: Europe sees China through a Russian lens, and Beijing is not happy

Analysis from CNN's Simone McCarthy in Hong Kong

As leaders of major Western democracies and their allies meet in two back-to-back summits this week in Europe, their focus is clear: keeping pressure on Russia as its brutal assault on Ukraine enters its fifth month.

But another country has also been pulled into the spotlight in those meetings: China. And Beijing is not happy about it.

For the first time, the China “challenge” is expected to feature in NATO’s “Strategic Concept,” slated for release at the bloc’s summit in Madrid this week. The document, last updated in 2010, lays out the security challenges facing the alliance while outlining a course of action.

European leaders have grown increasingly wary of China in recent years and those views have hardened in recent months as Beijing has repeatedly refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and bolstered its ties with the Kremlin.

Read the full analysis here.

3:30 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Ukraine's first lady says her country "cannot see the end of our suffering"

From CNN's Emmet Lyons and Nicholas Pearce

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska speaks to CNN on June 28.
Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska speaks to CNN on June 28. (CNN)

Five months of war have forced Ukrainians to adjust their expectations. After readying for a conflict they thought would be a sprint, many are now grappling with the likelihood of a “marathon,” said Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady.

“It’s very difficult to hold on for five months. We need to accumulate our strength, we need to save our energy,” Zelenska told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"We cannot see the end of our suffering."

Zelenska spoke to CNN at a crucial moment in the fight. Though Kyiv racked up a series of early victories in the initial aftermath of Russia's invasion, the tide appears to be turning in the Kremlin’s favor, especially in the east.

Read the full story here.

2:55 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Indonesia's Joko Widodo heads to Ukraine following G7 meetings 

From CNN's Masrur Jamaluddin and Alex Stambaugh

Indonesian President Joko Widodo boards a train that will take him to Kyiv, Ukraine, at a railway station in Przemysl, Poland on June 28.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo boards a train that will take him to Kyiv, Ukraine, at a railway station in Przemysl, Poland on June 28. (Indonesian Presidential Palace/AP)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo departed Poland late Tuesday evening en route to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where he is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before traveling onto Moscow this week. 

The Indonesian President and his entourage are traveling on a train prepared by the Ukrainian government and used by state leaders who have previously visited the country, according to a statement from Indonesia's Presidential Secretariat. 

Their train departed Przemyśl, Poland around 9:15 p.m. local time on Tuesday and is expected to arrive in Kyiv on Wednesday.

Accompanying the President are his wife, First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo, Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi and Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, the statement said. 

Jokowi, as the President is popularly known, is expected to then hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, according to Russian state news agency TASS. 

Ahead of the start of his overseas tour, Jokowi said in a news conference on Sunday that his mission to Ukraine and Russia aims to "build dialogue, stop war and build peace," Indonesian national news agency Antara reported. 

"The mission is to invite the President of Ukraine, President Zelensky, to open a space for dialogue in the context of peace," Jokowi said, according to Antara.

The Indonesian leader has invited both Zelensky and Putin to the G20 Summit, which is scheduled to be held in Bali in November.

2:45 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

It's 9:45 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Turkey has dropped its objections to the NATO membership bids of Sweden and Finland, Ankara confirmed, removing a major hurdle to the two countries joining the alliance.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • NATO bids: NATO leaders will decide on Wednesday whether to invite Finland and Sweden to join the security alliance after Turkey agreed to support their membership bid. It comes after Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed a joint memorandum on Tuesday. Ankara had previously objected over concerns about terrorism and arms exports. Following Wednesday's decision, a ratification process will need to take place in all NATO capitals, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.
  • UN Security Council: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the UN Security Council, a day after a deadly attack on a shopping mall, to call for Russia to be expunged as a permanent member of the group. Zelensky said Russia's war demonstrates the meaning of the word "terrorist state" and the "urgent necessity to enshrine it legally" at the UN.
  • Ukraine uses HIMARS for first time: Ukrainian forces were able to strike an arms depot well within Moscow-controlled territory in the Luhansk region, with Russian-backed separatist forces in Luhansk saying Kyiv used the US-donated HIMARS Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to do it. Pictures of the aftermath of the strike, posted by Russian affiliated accounts, showed the remains of what looked like a Western-made missile.
  • Storming Lysychansk: The situation in Lysychansk remains "very difficult" as it suffers increased bombardments from Russian forces trying to storm the eastern Ukrainian city. "There is no central water supply, no gas, no electricity," the head of the Luhansk regional military administration said.
  • Captive Americans: The pro-Russian captors of two Americans seized during a battle near Kharkiv earlier this month are reportedly "willing to negotiate," one captive's mother said. Bunny Drueke said her son, Alexander John-Robert Drueke, spoke in recent days — under duress — with an official from the US State Department, and it was unclear what his captors were asking for in any negotiations.
  • US sanctions: The United States government took a slew of actions against Russia on Tuesday, sanctioning those whom it says support Russia's defense industrial base, designating Russian military units for human rights abuses in Ukraine and implementing a ban on new imports of Russian gold.
10:07 p.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Zelensky asks UN Security Council to expel Russia as permanent member

From CNN's Jen Deaton

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday urged the UN Security Council to expunge Russia as a permanent member of the group, the day after a deadly Russian attack on a shopping mall in central Ukraine.

In his address to the UN Security Council, Zelensky said that whereas the UN did not yet have a legal definition of the term “terrorist state” agreed on by all UN members, Russia’s war on Ukraine “demonstrates not only the meaning of the concept, but also the urgent necessity to enshrine it legally at the level of the United Nations, and punish any terrorist state.”  

He then listed attacks on Ukraine since last Saturday, including the strike on a residential building in Kyiv, a rocket in the yard of a kindergarten on Sunday, and a missile strike on a shopping center in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine. “Those who carried out the strike could not have been unaware it was on a shopping mall,” Zelensky said.  

Zelensky continued with a list of additional strikes in Ukraine this week, and named the victims, including children, elderly and women. “I want you to hear the names,” he said.  

He then asked the body, “who of you does not agree that this is terrorism? If in any other part of the world, any organization acted just like Russia who is killing Ukrainians, if a country killed any peaceful people, that would definitely be recognized as terrorism. Such an organization would become an enemy for all of humankind,” he said.  

“Therefore what is punished at the level of concrete criminals and criminal organizations must not go unchecked at the level of the state.”
2:57 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Turkey drops objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Niamh Kennedy, Sugam Pokharel, Kate Sullivan and Donald Judd,

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center left, meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid on June 28.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center left, meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid on June 28. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office/Reuters)

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said on Tuesday that Turkey has agreed to support Finland and Sweden's NATO membership bids, removing a major hurdle to the two countries joining the alliance.

Niinistö said in a statement that a joint memorandum on the matter was signed by Turkey, Finland and Sweden on Tuesday in Madrid ahead of what is shaping up to be a critical summit.

The joint memorandum underscores the commitment of Finland, Sweden and Turkey "to extend their full support against threats to each other's security," Niinistö said.

"The concrete steps of our accession to NATO will be agreed by the NATO allies during the next two days, but that decision is now imminent," he added.

Read more here.

2:30 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

US announces steps to ramp up NATO security against Russian threat

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden speaks during a joint press conference with Spain's Prime Minister after a meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, on the sidelines of a summit of The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on June 28.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a joint press conference with Spain's Prime Minister after a meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, on the sidelines of a summit of The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on June 28. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the United States will send two new destroyers to the Rota Naval Station in Spain. This brings the total number of US destroyers based there to six.

"As I said before the war started, if Putin attacked Ukraine, the United States would enhance our force posture in Europe and respond to the reality of a new European security environment," he said alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. "Together, the new commitments will constitute an impressive display of allied unity and resolve and NATO's 360 degree approach to our security."

The move comes as the US is expected to make announcements during this week's NATO summit in Madrid to ramp up the American force posture as it looks to counter a "more acute and aggravated Russian threat," according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

"The United States will be making specific announcements tomorrow on land, sea and air on additional force posture commitments over the long term beyond the duration of this crisis, for however long it goes on. Those will help increases the United States’ and NATO’s maritime presence," Sullivan said aboard Air Force One as Biden was flying to Madrid.
"By the end of the summit what you will see is a more robust, more effective, more combat credible, more capable and more determined force posture to take account of a more acute and aggravated Russian threat."

Sullivan said the whole of NATO was also planning to agree on specific targets for increased funding for the alliance from their national budgets.

300,000 troops: This follows NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg's announcement Monday that the US-led military alliance will enhance its battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance up to brigade levels, saying it would be the "biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defense since the Cold War."

"We will increase the number of high readiness forces to well over 300,000," he said, adding it will include "more pre-positioned equipment, and stockpiles of military supplies; more forward-deployed capabilities, like air defense; strengthened command and control; and upgraded defense plans, with forces pre-assigned to defend specific allies."

According to the NATO website, the NATO Response Force comprises about 40,000 troops.

"These troops will exercise together with home defense forces. And they will become familiar with local terrain, facilities, and our new pre-positioned stocks so that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency," Stoltenberg added.

CNN's Sharon Braithwaite contributed reporting.

8:35 p.m. ET, June 28, 2022

Situation in Lysychansk "very difficult" as Russian forces try to storm city, official says

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Vasco Cotovio

The situation in Lysychansk is “very difficult” as it suffers increased bombardments from Russian forces, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration said on Tuesday

“The situation [in and] around Lysychansk is now very difficult. There is no central water supply, no gas, no electricity,” said Luhansk military chief Serhiy Hayday. “The combat action constantly goes on.”

Hayday said Russian forces in the area are putting all their efforts into storming the eastern Ukrainian city.

“This whole Russian horde is aimed at storming Lysychansk,” Hayday said, accusing Russia of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure. “Schools, kindergartens, cultural facilities, hospitals, State Emergency Service bases where people gather for evacuation, humanitarian headquarters, they completely destroy everything. They have a scorched-earth policy.”

Hayday added Russian forces have suffered significant losses and have had to rely on older equipment to continue their assault.

“Today we already see that they use old weapons. That is, not only modern equipment like the T-80, but already the T-64 and even the T-62. These are already completely outdated models of tanks,” he said. “They use everything that's possible and impossible.”