June 30, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 9:41 p.m. ET, June 30, 2023
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2:21 p.m. ET, June 30, 2023

White House acknowledges Ukrainian counteroffensive has not met expectations but pledges continued US support

From CNN's DJ Judd


The Biden administration acknowledged Friday that the early stages of Ukraine’s counteroffensive have fallen short of expectations but reiterated the United States will continue to provide support in the ways of training, equipment and advice.

“We are in constant touch, as I said, with our Ukrainian counterparts,” White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters Friday. “And they're keeping us apprised — and we continue to do what we will what we can do to help them in counteroffensive, whether that's through training, and as you know, they are still getting brigade level training, or the additional capabilities and certainly, advice and information. I mean, we continue to provide support to them as they work their way through these offensive operations but where they go and how fast they go, that's really going to be up to them to decide.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Friday that the slower pace is “part of the nature of war.” 

“What I had said was this is going to take six, eight, 10 weeks. It's going to be very difficult. It's going to be very long, and it's going to be very, very bloody. And no one should have any illusions about any of that,” Milley said at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Friday.  

“This is literally a fight for their life,” he said. “So yes, sure, it goes a little slow, but that is part of the nature of war.”

Some background: Last week, CNN reported that officials believed the counteroffensive is “not meeting expectations on any front,” while Russian lines of defense have been proving well-fortified, making it difficult for Ukrainian forces to breach them. In addition, Russian forces have had success bogging down Ukrainian armor with missile attacks and mines and have been deploying air power more effectively. Ukrainian forces are proving “vulnerable” to minefields and Russian forces “competent” in their defense, one Western official said. 

On the counteroffensive, Kirby acknowledged Ukrainian forces “have made some progress—and they have themselves spoken to the fact that it’s not as much as they would have liked, but again, we’re focused on making sure that they have what they need and will continue to do that.” 

He declined to offer a timeline on how much longer the conflict could be expected to last.

Possible cluster munitions: Milley also said that the US has been “thinking about” providing cluster munitions to Ukraine “for a long time” but that he did not know that a decision has been made yet.  

CNN reported Thursday that the Biden administration is strongly considering approving the transfer of the controversial warheads to Kyiv with a final decision expected soon from the White House. 

CNN's Haley Britzky contributed reporting to this post.

1:13 p.m. ET, June 30, 2023

White House: Not enough reliable intel to identify whereabouts of Prigozhin following mutiny 

From CNN's Sam Fossum

Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group, leaves the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday, June 24.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group, leaves the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday, June 24. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters/File

The United States government does not currently have great insight into the current whereabouts of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin or the fighters that took part in the rebellion last weekend, John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said Friday.

"We don't have information that we consider — deem reliable enough to be able to confirm his whereabouts," Kirby said, adding later: "We don't have perfect visibility here on where Mr. Prigozhin is or where all of his fighters are. I think you heard the Pentagon talk yesterday that they, that they had indications that at least some Wagner fighters were in Ukraine, but it's not clear how many or what they're up to."

The United States officially declared Wagner a transnational criminal organization in January and this week the Treasury issued sanctions against front companies helping the group fund its efforts with illegal gold.

12:08 p.m. ET, June 30, 2023

Fighters who decide to stay with Wagner won't be ordered to go to Ukraine, Russian media says

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

Members of Wagner group stand on the balcony of a building in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24.
Members of Wagner group stand on the balcony of a building in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24. Roman Romokhov/AFP/Getty Images

Fighters who decide to stay in the private paramilitary group Wagner will not be sent to the conflict in Ukraine, Russian daily Vedomosti reported Friday, citing Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the State Duma Defense Committee.

“If a structure does not sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense, it cannot participate in a special military operation. Because it must fulfill the tasks [set by the military command], it must be provided by the [Ministry of Defense]," Kartapolov told Vedomosti. 

The head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had refused to sign a contract with the defense ministry, a dispute that culminated in his brief rebellion last weekend.

However, Wagner fighters can sign up for the conflict in Ukraine after they have attended a training camp, Kartapolov said. 

“They are sent to training camps for several weeks, where they undergo training,” Kartapolov told Vedomosti. “And then they have a choice – either sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense, or go home and sign a contract with another [security] structure,” he said. 

The main power structure will be the National Guard, according to Vedomosti.

More on Wagner: Earlier this week, the US Defense Department said that members of the paramilitary organization were still inside Ukraine after the weekend mutiny.

11:20 a.m. ET, June 30, 2023

Kazakh prosecutor warns people against being recruited into Russian military for Ukraine war

From Maria Kostenko

A prosecutor in Kazakhstan has warned that efforts to recruit Kazakhs to join the Russian military are unconstitutional and illegal.

The Prosecutor’s Office of the Kostanay region said in a statement Thursday that “attempts to recruit [the] local population to the territory of the Russian Federation to participate in the armed conflict in Ukraine have been recorded in our region. Such actions are prohibited by the Constitution of Kazakhstan as well as universally recognised international legal documents to which our country is a party.”

The statement continued: “In order to ensure public safety, protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, and prevent any destabilisation of the social and political situation, we urge you not to respond to such provocative statements and appeals in the media and social networks.”

Some key context: Such official statements are unusual in Kazakhstan, which has tried to retain historically close relations with Russia without getting involved in the conflict. Last year, thousands of Russian men trying to avoid military mobilization crossed into Kazakhstan. 

The prosecutor said that social media platforms included “calls for the participation of citizens of Kazakhstan in the conflict, deliberately provocative statements and deliberately false information with indications of inciting ethnic hatred, insulting the national honor and dignity of citizens of both sides.”

The statement said that “the intentional unlawful participation of a Kazakh citizen in military actions in a foreign country, as well as intentional actions aimed at inciting ethnic hatred, public calls for violations of the integrity of Kazakhstan, the inviolability and inalienability of its territory, using the media or telecommunications networks are criminal offences.”

10:49 a.m. ET, June 30, 2023

Professional athlete suspected of spying for Russia is arrested in Poland

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen and Niamh Kennedy

Poland has arrested a Russian professional athlete suspected of spying for Russia.  

In a statement Friday, the Polish Internal Security Agency said it initially detained the athlete on June 11 in connection with an investigation into an alleged Russian spy ring.

The agency said that 14 other suspects had already been arrested as part of the investigation into the alleged spy ring.

On June 13, the District Court in the city of Lublin issued a decision allowing the suspect to be held in pretrial detention for a period of three months.  

According to the security agency statement, evidence gathered indicates that the suspect is “a professional sportsman” belonging to a first league club. 

For foreign intelligence, he carried out commissioned tasks in the territory of the Republic of Poland, including identifying critical infrastructure,” the statement added.  

The athlete has been in Poland since October 2021 with evidence showing that he was “systemically rewarded” for providing information.  

The Internal Security Agency stressed that that it is continuing to work intensively on the “dynamic” case.

10:24 a.m. ET, June 30, 2023

Russia urges Colombia to avoid “war zone” visits after citizens injured in Kramatorsk attack

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova, Claudia Rebaza and Florencia Trucco

Search and rescue efforts continue after a Russian missile attack hit a restaurant in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on June 27.
Search and rescue efforts continue after a Russian missile attack hit a restaurant in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on June 27. Wojciech Grzedzinski/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Colombia’s ambassador in Russia, Héctor Arenas Neira, was invited to a meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday to discuss the circumstances of Tuesday's attack in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, where three Colombian citizens were injured, according to a statement released by the Russian ministry.

“The legitimate target of the strike of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation was the point of temporary deployment of the commanders of the 56th motorized infantry brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. At the moment of hitting the target, Colombian civilians were in a restaurant located in the same building. According to available information, they were aware of being in close proximity to the line of fire in the SVO zone and the risks associated with this. We wish Colombian citizens a speedy recovery and return to safety," the statement says.

“We drew the Ambassador's attention to the urgent need to recommend that Colombian citizens refrain from visiting territories located in the war zone,” it added. 

Colombian member of parliament and former High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo, writer Hector Abad and journalist Catalina Gomez were injured during the missile attack. The three Colombians were having dinner along with Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina at a pizzeria on Tuesday evening. Amelina is in critical condition as a result of a skull injury, according to a statement issued by Jaramillo and Abad.

CNN has reached out to Colombia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Colombia’s embassy in Moscow for comment. 

President Gustavo Petro has condemned the strike. 

“Russia has attacked three defenseless Colombian civilians. It has violated the protocols of war," he said. 

More about the attack: The strike left 12 dead, the deadliest attack against civilians in months. The area around Ria Lounge, the restaurant that was struck, is a particularly popular spot with a busy post office, a jewelry store, a cafe and a pharmacy all within a stone’s throw from Ria. One of Kramatorsk’s biggest supermarkets is just down the road.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region military administration, said Russia used Iskanders – high-precision, short-range ballistic missiles.

The Ukrainian Security Service has alleged that the attack was premeditated, saying that it had detained a man who allegedly scouted the restaurant and sent a video to the Russian Armed Forces prior to the strike.

9:46 a.m. ET, June 30, 2023

The EU and allies want to make Russia foot part of the bill to rebuild Ukraine. Here's how it could happen

From CNN's Hanna Ziady

Anders Ahnlid, head of the EU working group on Russian frozen assets and Director-General of the National Board of Trade Sweden, on March 24, Stockholm, Sweden.
Anders Ahnlid, head of the EU working group on Russian frozen assets and Director-General of the National Board of Trade Sweden, on March 24, Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Russian assets frozen in European accounts could generate billions of dollars a year for rebuilding Ukraine. But can that money be used without breaching international law or damaging the euro’s international standing?

European Union leaders grappled with that question in Brussels Thursday.

“The European Council took stock of the work done regarding Russia’s immobilized assets,” the leaders said in a statement after the meeting, adding that they would continue to work on the issue “in accordance with EU and international law, and in coordination with partners.”

The World Bank estimates Ukraine will need at least $411 billion to repair the damage caused by the war. And the EU and its allies are determined to make Russia foot part of the bill.

One idea put forward in the EU is to draw off the interest on income generated by Russian assets while leaving the assets themselves untouched.

This approach would probably deliver about 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) a year, according to Anders Ahnlid, the director general of the Swedish National Board of Trade and head of the EU working group looking into frozen Russian assets.

“It’s the best way of using these assets in accordance with EU and international law,” Ahnlid told CNN, noting that was also the view of lawyers at the European Commission, which has promised to propose a way to tap frozen Russian assets within weeks.

But some EU member states, and the European Central Bank, have concerns that it could shake confidence in the euro as the world’s second biggest reserve currency. The EU has been at pains to contrast the illegality of Russia’s invasion with its own strict adherence to the rule of law.

“We have to respect the principles of international law,” said a senior EU diplomat, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss closed-door meetings. “It’s a matter of reputation, of financial stability and trust.”

The ECB declined to comment.

Read more about how it would work here.

8:56 a.m. ET, June 30, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's everything you need to know

From CNN staff

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence unit has said that he understands that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has been "charged with a task to assassinate" Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. 

Meanwhile, at least three people have been killed and four wounded after Russia shelled Ukraine's Kherson region.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Grain deal concerns: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that there’s “no need to worry” about Russia after the short-lived Wagner rebellion. "Russia has always come out of any troubles stronger and stronger," he added. Lavrov also called the West's attitude towards the Black Sea grain deal "outrageous." Russia has threatened not to agree another extension to the deal, which expires on July 18.
  • Zaporizhzhia departures: Russians stationed at the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in southern Ukraine are “gradually leaving,” the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate said Friday.“The occupiers are reducing their presence at the ZNPP,” it said in a Telegram post.
  • Prigozhin's fate: Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's military intelligence chief, told online magazine 'The War Zone,' that: "We are aware that the FSB was charged with a task to assassinate him (Prigozhin). Will they be successful in doing that? We'll see with time."
  • Kherson shelling: Three people have died and four have been wounded after Russia attacked the Ukrainian region of Kherson on Thursday and Friday, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said in a post on Telegram. 

Here's the latest map of control:

7:37 a.m. ET, June 30, 2023

Ukraine claims it hit Russian military "headquarters" in Berdiansk 

From CNN's Mari Kostenko in Kyiv

Ukraine has claimed it hit the Russian military “headquarters” and storage facility in the occupied port city of Berdiansk in the Zaporizhzhia region on Friday. 

“An enemy headquarters and a fuel depot on the outskirts of temporarily occupied Berdiansk were destroyed this morning as a result of a successful strike by Defense Forces,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a post on Telegram.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-installed official in the occupied Zaporizhzhia region, earlier said that air defenses had downed the missiles Ukraine fired at Berdiansk.

CNN is unable to verify either claim.