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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4:45 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

More fighting around Lysychansk and Russian forces advance south of Bakhmut, says Ukrainian military

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Russian forces are focusing their efforts on encircling the city of Lysychansk, the Ukrainian military's General Staff said early Thursday.

Russian forces already control the southern and eastern approaches to Lysychansk, and fighting continues close to the main highway southwest of the city, where a large oil refinery is situated.

The Russians are also trying to close in on the town of Bakhmut, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Lysychansk, and have made some gains south of the town, the General Staff said Thursday.

If successful, they would potentially trap Ukrainian forces still defending lines in a pocket of territory in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

"The enemy is partially successful, it is entrenching in the northern part of Klynove ​​and near the E-40 highway," said the General Staff. "In order to maintain the pace of the offensive in this direction, the occupiers strengthened the group with one battalion tactical group."

Some Ukrainian officials have called the E-40 "the highway of life" because of its importance in resupplying troops and evacuating civilians, which would be greatly complicated if the Russians interdict the highway. 

Elsewhere in Donetsk – near Sloviansk – the General Staff said that the Russians were still focused on assault operations north of the city and had moved more weapons and military equipment into the area.

Local Ukrainian officials have previously said that the Russians are reinforcing north of Sloviansk, one of several major cities in Donetsk that remain in Ukrainian hands.

The General Staff said that the Russians continued to shell Ukraine's northeastern Sumy region from across the border and had also brought a multiple launch rocket system into action.

Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, head of the Sumy region military administration, said three people had been killed.

The Russians had also carried out airstrikes, he said, using helicopters that shot missiles from the other side of the border. The town of Krasnopillya was "covered" with fire, he said.

In southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military says that the Russians have added one battalion tactical group to forces south of Kryvyi Rih.

Yevhen Sytnychenko, head of Kryvyi Rih district military administration, said that the city's thermal power plant had been shelled but continued to operate.

"The goal of the Russians is to intimidate the civilian population," he said, adding that one man had been injured in the shelling of a village south of the city.

In the city of Dnipro, the bodies of two people had been recovered from the rubble of a transport depot hit on Tuesday, according to local authorities.

4:38 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

NATO chief expects "quick" ratification of Sweden and Finland's bids to join the alliance 

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London 

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato Secretary General, makes remarks upon his arrival at the Nato summit in Madrid, Spain, on June 29.
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato Secretary General, makes remarks upon his arrival at the Nato summit in Madrid, Spain, on June 29. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance/Getty Images)

NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said he expects Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance quickly. 

"We will make a decision today or at least at the summit to invite Sweden and Finland to become members, that's unprecedented quick," he said on arrival at the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday, after both countries filed the application in mid-May.  

After 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," he said. 

NATO leaders meeting Wednesday in Madrid will "state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security," Stoltenberg also said.

On Monday, Stoltenberg announced that NATO would increase the number of high readiness forces to well over 300,000 in the eastern part of the alliance.  

Stoltenberg said Wednesday said he expects these forces to be ready by next year. 

4:15 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

"We need your help": All-Ukrainian clash at Wimbledon puts focus beyond tennis

From CNN's Issy Ronald

Ukrainian tennis players Anhelina Kalinina and Lesia Tsurenko have been drawn to play one another at Wimbledon on June 29.
Ukrainian tennis players Anhelina Kalinina and Lesia Tsurenko have been drawn to play one another at Wimbledon on June 29. (AP/Getty Images)

With its strawberries and cream, grassy slopes, and peaceful setting in a leafy part of London, Wimbledon is a world away from Ukraine, where the bombs still fall four months after Russia invaded.

For the Ukrainians competing at SW19, however, the war never truly leaves them.

On Wednesday, Anhelina Kalinina will face Lesia Tsurenko in an all-Ukrainian second-round match they hope can draw attention to the continued plight of their country.

Since Russia began its war in Ukraine in February, millions of refugees have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, and for Kalinina, her family is among the uprooted.

She confirmed to reporters on Monday that her parents' home in the Kyiv suburb of Irpinhad been bombed, saying “they are alive, they are safe” but “living on the bags and praying every day.”

Read the full story here.

4:36 a.m. ET, June 29, 2022

Spain's Pedro Sanchez says Russia has gone from NATO strategic partner to "main threat"

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid  

From left, NATO Secretary of the Council Jorgen Christian Jorgensen, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Spain's Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Albares arrive for the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, Spain, on June 29.
From left, NATO Secretary of the Council Jorgen Christian Jorgensen, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Spain's Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Albares arrive for the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, Spain, on June 29. (Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Wednesday that in just a decade, NATO’s relationship with Russia has changed from a partnership to considering it a key threat.  

"If we look back to 2010, the NATO strategic concept of the past decade was approved in Lisbon. It called Russia a strategic partner. Now, by contrast, the (NATO) strategic concept of Madrid will call Russia the main threat to the allies," Sanchez said in an interview with Spanish radio SER, shortly before the opening session of the NATO Summit in Madrid.  

Arriving at the summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recalled that in 2010, at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, Russia participated in meetings there. 

“This will not be the case now,” he told reporters.  

Stoltenberg said he thinks the NATO leaders in Madrid will agree “that Russia poses a direct threat to our security and that will be reflected” in NATO’s new strategic concept. 

"The strategic concept will also reflect a new reality," he added.  
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.