June 30, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Simone McCarthy, Helen Regan, Jeevan Ravindran, Hafsa Khalil, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 3:12 a.m. ET, July 1, 2022
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10:20 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

NATO officials say plan to boost high response force to 300,000 is "still a work in progress"

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, on June 30.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, on June 30. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

NATO military officials are walking back the secretary general’s announcement earlier this week that 300,000 troops “will” be placed on high alert across the alliance, now saying the high number is a “concept” the bloc aims to enact by mid-2023. 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that NATO “will increase the number of our high readiness forces to well over 300,000.” 

But it now appears that number is more aspirational, and is based on a new model NATO believes will take at least another year to accomplish. 

The initial announcement appeared to be a seven-fold increase from the 40,000 troops NATO currently has on high alert, and two NATO officials told CNN that number caught many NATO countries’ defense chiefs off guard. 

It was not clear to them, for example, which troops from each member state would need to contribute to that new high-readiness force, or whether enough countries had even been asked or agreed to provide the sufficient forces for it. It was a point of apparent confusion and disjointedness in an otherwise highly choreographed show of unity among the allies. 

Two senior NATO officials told reporters in a briefing on Thursday that the new high-readiness model will eventually replace the NATO Response Force model, but that it is “still a work in progress.”

“We know from nations, through our planning process, the number of forces that nations have at their disposal, the readiness that they have,” one of the officials said. “So there will be several iterations of populating this model, but we would not be giving figures for a model if we were not extremely confident that we could deliver on those things. But it's a work in progress.”

The officials indicated that under the new model, many of the troops would remain in their home countries rather than move under the command of NATO’s Allied Command Operations. But they would be quickly available to NATO should a security crisis arise, such as if Russia were to attack a member country. 

Asked what the trigger would be to move those forces to high alert under NATO command, one of the officials would only say it will involve “indications and warnings” of a potential attack. 

8:22 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Food crisis not caused by NATO sanctions, NATO secretary general says

From CNN's Chris Liakos

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference on the second and final day of the NATO 2022 Summit at the IFEMA Trade Fair Center, Madrid, Spain, on June 30.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference on the second and final day of the NATO 2022 Summit at the IFEMA Trade Fair Center, Madrid, Spain, on June 30. (E. Parra/EUROPA PRESS/Getty Images)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday denied that sanctions against Russia by NATO members are to blame for the worsening food crisis.

“Contrary to what President Putin and also China are now telling the world through different disinformation campaigns, this food crisis is not caused by NATO sanctions. It is caused by President Putin’s war and the best way to end the food crisis is to end the war,” Stoltenberg said.

“The impact is severe, including on some of the world's most vulnerable people. Food prices are hitting record highs, and many countries depend on Ukraine for substantial wheat and other food imports,” he added, noting that NATO allies discussed efforts to mitigate the crisis and get grain out of Ukraine.

The NATO chief said that Turkey is trying to facilitate some kind of agreement and that Greece announced “that they are ready to make available ships to get grain out of Ukraine.”

Lithuania and Romania are making efforts “to expand their own land capacity by railway to transport more food," he added.

8:11 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Ukraine begins energy exports to European Union

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman

Ukraine has begun exporting electricity to the European Union, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and the EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen announced on Thursday.

“Just three months after receiving the energy certification, the long-awaited export of Ukrainian electricity to Europe has begun! Today [Thursday], from the first hour of the night, such exports went to Romania. The initial volume is 100 MW,” Shmyhal said in a post on his official facebook account.

“In the first day alone, the state-owned enterprise Ukrenergo earned UAH 10 million from the sale of access to the interstate crossing,” he added. “The export potential of Ukrainian electricity to Europe is up to 2.5 GW. Under this scenario, the state will be able to receive more than UAH 70 billion a year.”

The President of the European Commission welcomed the move, saying it serves both Ukraine’s and the EU’s needs.

“It will provide an additional source of electricity for the EU. And much-needed revenues to Ukraine,” von der Leyen tweeted on Thursday. “So we both benefit."

8:06 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

First merchant ship leaves Berdyansk port, according to military head of Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia

From Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

The first merchant ship has left the occupied Berdyansk port on the Azov sea on Thursday, according to Yevgeniy Balitsky, head of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia military administration. 

“After several months of standstill, the first merchant ship left the Berdyansk commercial sea port,” Balitsky posted on his Telegram channel. "The safety of the dry cargo vessel is ensured by ships and boats of the Novorossiysk Naval Base of the Black Sea Fleet."

Ukrainian officials say millions of Ukrainian grain exports are still on hold as Russia continues to block the country’s main export routes on Black and Azov sea. Russian officials have claimed the seaports of Mariupol and Berdyansk have been demined and operating normally since early June.

Balitsky reiterated claims by Russia that the waters surrounding the occupied port have been demined by the engineering units of Russia’s Novorossiysk Naval Base.

“The Berdyansk Bay and the port itself are fully secure. And the port workers and port equipment are ready for cargo handling operations,” he claimed in his Telegram post. 

10:03 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

If you're just joining us, here are the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine.

  • Russian forces withdraw from Snake Island: The Ukrainian Armed Forces said Thursday it was after they carried out a "successful" operation. However, Moscow gave a slightly different narrative, with the Russian army spokesperson saying that Russian forces left the island "as a gesture of goodwill."

  • Mall search continues: Search for survivors in the aftermath of the Russian missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk continued overnight Wednesday and into Thursday, according to the mayor of the city. Vitalii Maletskyi added that he feared more bodies may be found. The number of dead remains at 18, but 21 people are still missing, he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin denied Moscow was behind the strike. "The Russian army does not attack any civilian site," he claimed. Russia's Defense Ministry previously said it hit military targets but video from the city of Kremenchuk shows the mall obliterated by a missile.
  • Mykolaiv under attack: The number of people who have died as a result of a bombing on a five-storey apartment building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv has increased to six, according to the emergency services. Eight missiles hit the city early on Wednesday, according to regional officials. Separately, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 10 Russian missiles hit "civilian targets" in the southern city on Wednesday, killing at least five people. The assault "proves for absolutely everyone in the world that the pressure on Russia is not enough," he said in his nightly address.
  • NATO enlargement: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called the formal invitation from the alliance to Sweden and Finland to join the defense bloc "a historic decision." The invitation sparks a seven-step accession process. Meanwhile, Putin issued a fresh warning over Finland and Sweden's bids to join NATO, saying while Russia was not bothered if the two countries joined the bloc, it would "respond symmetrically" to any military or infrastructure build up.
  • "Constant shelling" of Lysychansk: Russian forces attempting to storm the eastern Ukrainian city — where some 15,000 people remain — are maintaining "constant shelling," the head of the Luhansk region military administration said. "Now the density of fire is so strong. So much that we can only put 30 people on a bus," the military chief said.

7:36 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Nearly 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid, says UN

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman

Volunteers distribute humanitarian aid in the town of Lyubotyn, Ukraine, on June 29.
Volunteers distribute humanitarian aid in the town of Lyubotyn, Ukraine, on June 29. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly 16 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations resident coordinator for Ukraine has said.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance -- water, food, health services, roof over their head and protection,” Osnat Lubrani said in a press conference Thursday.

“These are conservative numbers which United Nations is revising now.”

Lubrani added that at least six million people have so far been displaced internally by the conflict and another 5.3 million have fled abroad since the invasion on February 24.

7:18 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Sweden to supply anti-tank weapons and demining equipment to Ukraine

From CNN’s Benjamin Brown in London

Ukrainian servicemen study the Swedish made the Carl Gustaf M4, a shoulder-launched weapon system, during a training session near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 7.
Ukrainian servicemen study the Swedish made the Carl Gustaf M4, a shoulder-launched weapon system, during a training session near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 7. (Andrew Marienko/AP)

Sweden will donate anti-tank weapons and demining equipment worth 500 million Swedish Krona ($49 million) to Ukraine, a Swedish official has said.

Talking to CNN on Thursday, Swedish defense ministry spokesperson Toni Eriksson said the equipment was requested by the Ukrainian government, and would be delivered “as soon as possible.”

Sweden has already donated military equipment to Ukraine on four previous occasions, he said, adding that they will also be providing further support weapons.

Eriksson did not give any details on further specifics of the equipment Sweden was giving.

7:05 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

People “dream of at least half an hour of silence” in Lysychansk, official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

The Russian barrage has continued on the eastern city of Lysychansk, according to Serhii Hayday, the head of Luhansk's region military administration.

“People dream of at least half an hour of silence, but the occupiers do not stop firing from all available weapons,” Hayday said, giving a sense of what life is like in the beleaguered city.

In a Thursday morning update on the fate of the city, he said that Russian forces had destroyed the police headquarters and had begun targeting the oil refinery in the city. Russian attacks on the refinery continued on to Thursday morning.

He added that the body of a woman was found in a basement of a house that was also hit.

On Wednesday, Hayday reported that "around 15,000 people" still remained in the besieged city, despite being urged to evacuate over the past few weeks. Now, he says it is harder for people to leave.

“Now the density of fire is so strong. So much that we can only put 30 people on a bus,” he said.

7:02 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Putin says Russia is "open to dialogue" on strategic stability and nuclear non-proliferation

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Russia is open to a dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear non-proliferation, as well as improving the situation with arms control, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday in his video address to the participants of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

“Russia is open to dialogue on ensuring strategic stability, maintaining the non-proliferation regimes for weapons of mass destruction, and improving the situation in the field of arms control,” Putin said.

Russia is developing relations with everyone who is interested in this, he added.

The Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier in June it is essential to continue communication between Russia and the US on the “principles of mutual respect, the indivisibility of security, consideration of mutual concerns and mutual benefit.”