- The European Union’s executive arm backs Ukraine’s bid to be granted EU candidacy status.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the European Commission’s recommendation will bring Ukraine closer to victory.
- Kyiv says its forces have struck a Russian navy tugboat transporting soldiers and ammunition to the occupied Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, off Ukraine’s southwestern coast.
- The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region says civilian evacuations from bunkers under the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk are impossible amid heavy fighting.
Here are the latest updates:
Eurovision 2023 cannot go ahead in Ukraine: Organisers
The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest cannot be held in Ukraine given the war, the European Broadcasting Union has announced.
“The security and operational guarantees required for a broadcaster to host, organise and produce the Eurovision Song Contest under the ESC Rules cannot be fulfilled by UA:PBC,” ESC said on Twitter, citing Ukraine’s public broadcaster.
“The EBU would like to thank UA:PBC for their wholehearted cooperation and commitment in exploring all scenarios in the weeks since Kalush Orchestra’s win on 14 May in Turin and share their sadness and disappointment that next year’s Contest cannot be held in Ukraine,” it added, noting it was in talks to host the annual event in the United Kingdom instead.
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won this year’s contest last month, with the UK’s entry coming second.
The EBU has issued the statement below regarding the hosting of next year’s Eurovision Song Contest
— EBU (@EBU_HQ) June 17, 2022
European Commission recommends EU ‘candidate status’ for Ukraine
The European Commission says it has recommended Ukraine be formally named a “candidate” for joining the EU, a move that could open up a years-long path towards joining the bloc.
“Yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country – this is based on the understanding that good work has been done but important work also remains to be done,” Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive arm, said.
Meanwhile, Moscow said it was closely following Ukraine’s efforts to become a member of the bloc, especially in the light of increased defence cooperation within the EU.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the issue “requires our heightened attention, because we are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defence component of the EU”.
Kremlin: Russia’s main goal in Ukraine remains protection of Donbas
The Kremlin says the goal of its “special military operation” in Ukraine remains the protection of the population of the eastern Donbas region.
In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s main objective in Ukraine was to “save and secure” the Donbas from what he called “barbaric attacks” by Kyiv’s armed forces.
France ‘no longer receiving any Russian gas via pipelines’
France has not received any natural gas from Russia via pipeline since June 15, network operator GRTgaz says, after Russian energy giant Gazprom warned this week it would sharply cut deliveries to Europe.
Gazprom said the supply reductions via the Nord Stream pipeline are the result of repair work, but EU officials believe Moscow is punishing allies of Ukraine.
France gets around 17 percent of its gas from Russia through network connections with Germany, which relies heavily on Russian supplies and has criticised Gazprom’s move as “political”. Supplies had already been reduced by 60 percent since the beginning of this year, sending prices soaring.
But GRTgaz said there was no risk to French supplies currently, with reserves at 56 percent capacity compared with 50 percent in June normally.
Slovak gas importer sees Russian deliveries cut by half
Slovakia’s gas importer SPP was informed by Russia that its deliveries of gas would be reduced by half, its chief executive was quoted as saying.
“Cutting the deliveries by a half does not hurt us at the moment. We are working with a realistic risk that they will be cut completely,” SPP boss Richard Prokypcak was cited as saying by Slovak news website Dennik N.
SPP was not immediately available for comment.
Macron sceptical on deal to get grain out of Ukraine’s Odesa port
French President Emmanuel Macron says he is open to talking to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as part of efforts to strike a deal to get grain out of the Ukrainian port of Odesa but that he sees little chance of an agreement.
“We have to talk with Russia on food security and it (discussions) can be justified by liaising directly with the UN secretary general to get grains out of Odesa,” Macron told BFM TV on his way back from Ukraine.
“But I don’t believe a lot in this path, because I already had talks a few weeks ago with President Putin, but he didn’t want to accept a UN resolution on this subject.”
Ukraine: Evacuation from Severodonetsk chemical plant ‘impossible’
The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region says the evacuation of 568 civilians sheltering in bunkers under the Azot chemical plant in the embattled city of Severodonetsk is currently impossible due to shelling and heavy fighting.
In a post on Telegram messenger, he said there were 38 children taking shelter in the bunkers at the chemical plant.
Evacuation from #Azot plant in #Severodonetsk now impossible. It is physically possible, but it is very dangerous due to constant shelling and fighting. If someone went out, they would have a 99% chance of dying. 568 people, including 38 children currently taking refuge in plant pic.twitter.com/xN5IgIPZc2
— Serhiy Hayday (@serhey_hayday) June 17, 2022
Ukraine says it hit Russian naval tugboat with missiles
Ukraine says it has hit a Russian naval tugboat transporting soldiers, weapons and ammunition to the Russian-occupied Zmiinyi Island south of the Odesa region with missiles.
Odesa region governor Maksym Marchenko named the tugboat as the Vasiliy Beg.
There was no comment from Moscow on the Ukrainian claim.
Italy’s Eni faces further squeeze on Russian gas supplies
Italy’s Eni says it will receive only half of the gas supply volumes it had requested from Russia’s Gazprom on Friday after experiencing a shortfall in the two previous days.
“Against a daily gas demand by Eni of around 63 million cubic meters, Gazprom announced that it will only supply 50 percent of what was requested, with actual quantities delivered almost unchanged from yesterday,” the energy giant said on its website.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that reductions in supply were not premeditated and were related to maintenance issues, but Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi dismissed his explanation.
“Both Germany and us, and others, believe these are lies. In reality they are making a political use of gas like they are using grain for political use,” Draghi told a news conference during a visit to Kyiv with his German and French counterparts.
Russian superyacht Amadea arrives in Honolulu from Fiji
A Russian-owned superyacht seized by the United States arrived in Honolulu Harbor on Thursday flying an American flag.
The US last week won a legal battle in Fiji to take the $325m vessel and immediately sailed it to Hawaii. The FBI has linked the Amadea to the Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.
The ship became a target of Task Force KleptoCapture, launched in March to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs to put pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine war accelerating Russia’s authoritarianism trajectory: UK
The war in Ukraine has accelerated Russia’s long-term internal trajectory towards authoritarianism, the UK’s defence ministry has said.
“In recent weeks, the Duma has started the process to introduce a 20-year sentence for Russians who fight against the Russian Federation,” the ministry said in its intelligence briefing on Twitter.
Although speaking out against the invasion is being criminalised and despite the majority of Russians saying they support what Moscow calls its “special military operation”, many Russians are passively and actively showing opposition, the UK said.
“Migration applications suggest that 15,000 Russian millionaires (in US dollars) are likely already attempting to leave the country,” it said, adding that were this exodus to continue, it would exacerbate the war’s damage to Russia’s economy.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 17 June 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/pljjAjMaRI
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) June 17, 2022
‘We didn’t invade Ukraine’: Russia’s FM
Russia’s foreign minister has said that his country “didn’t invade Ukraine”.
“We declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the West that dragging Ukraine into NATO was a criminal act,” Sergey Lavrov told the BBC.
When asked about Russia’s relationship with the United Kingdom, Lavrov said there was no room for manoeuvre any more.
“Because Johnson and Truss claim publicly that ‘we must defeat Russia’, ‘We must bring it to its knees’. Well, go on, do it,” he said.
“Russia isn’t squeaky clean. Russia is what it is & we’re not ashamed of showing who we are.” In an exclusive interview, I question Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Producers @BBCWillVernon @LizaShuvalova Cameras @AntonChicherov @LizaVereykina pic.twitter.com/yFccy6Vtiu
— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) June 16, 2022
One dead, six injured in Mykolaiv: Governor
One person has been killed and six more injured in a morning missile attack on Mykolaiv, the region’s governor has said.
A child is among those injured, Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram, adding that four residential high-rise buildings and an infrastructure facility were damaged by the attack.
Russia says reports it is taking stolen Ukraine grain to Syria are fake: RIA
Moscow’s representative to Syria has labelled as “fake” reports that Russian-flagged ships had been seen taking Ukraine’s grain to ports in Syria, state news agency RIA reports.
Reuters had earlier reported on satellite images from Maxar Technologies showing that Russia had been transporting Ukraine’s grain, harvested last season, to Syria over the last couple of months.
“This is more fake, unconfirmed and unrealistic information,” RIA quotes Alexander Lavrentyev as saying.
“The main reserves are located in the Nikolaev [Mykolaiv] and the Odesa regions. Russian ships do not have access to these ports, because they are under the control of Ukraine,” Lavrentyev added.
Air strikes hit Mykolaiv: Mayor
Russian forces struck Mykolaiv with rockets on Friday morning, the port city’s mayor has said.
“Houses were damaged. Rescuers, medics and communal workers are working on the spot. I will inform you more about the consequences of the shelling later,” Oleksandr Syenkevych wrote on Telegram.
Air raid sirens were activated in the Mykolaiv region early on Friday and several residents reported explosions on social media.
Ukraine Siren Alert [17/06/2022]
— Ukraine Siren Alerts (@UkraineAlert) June 17, 2022
Russian spy caught seeking to infiltrate ICC: Netherlands
The Dutch intelligence service has uncovered a Russian military agent attempting to use a false identity to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is investigating accusations of war crimes in Ukraine.
Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov created an elaborate cover story dating back years to attempt to enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian national for an internship at the Hague-based ICC in April, the agency’s head told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.
Read more here.
Russian economy ‘won’t be as it was’: Central bank head
The head of the Russian central bank has warned that the country’s economy faces pressure from abroad that could persist indefinitely, dampening hopes that conditions could return to what they were before Russia sent troops into Ukraine.
“It seems to me that it’s obvious to everyone that it won’t be as it was before,” Elvira Nabiullina said at a session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual showpiece gathering aimed at investors.
“External conditions have changed for a long time indeed, if not forever,” she said.
Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, Maxim Reshetnikov, told the same session that the prognosis is for Russia’s gross domestic product to fall by 7.8 percent this year, but “in the last month, there’s been a wave of improving assessments and prognoses”.
UK sanctions Russia’s minister responsible for forced ‘transfer and adoption’ of Ukraine’s children
The United Kingdom’s new round of sanctions on Russian officials includes Moscow’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, for her role in the “forced transfer and adoption of Ukrainian children”, a statement from the foreign ministry says.
The statement describes Russia’s treatment of children in Ukraine as “barbaric” and says that “Lvova-Belova has been accused of enabling 2,000 vulnerable children being violently taken from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions”.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in mid-May that more than 190,000 children had arrived in Russia from Ukraine’s Donbas region, including about 1,200 coming from orphanages in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.
Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly and illegally deporting more than 200,000 children – some with families, others who had lost their parents in the war and others from orphanages.
💬 Russia’s Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova: More than 190,000 children had arrived in Russia from Donbass by early May, including about 1,200 coming from orphanages in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) May 12, 2022
Moscow-sanctioned leader of Australian state says he won’t be bullied by Putin
The head of the state of South Australia has responded to Moscow’s latest set of sanctions, which ban him among more than 200 Australian citizens from dealings with Russia, by saying he will not be bullied by Putin.
“Overnight I became the first Premier blacklisted by Vladimir Putin,” Peter Malinauskas wrote on Twitter.
“While travelling to Russia wasn’t on my bucket list, it appears this decision has been made in response my government’s strong stance in standing up for Ukraine,” he said.
“Vladimir Putin, I won’t be bullied, the State Government won’t be bullied and I will continue to stand up for democracy,” he added.
Overnight I became the first Premier blacklisted by Vladimir Putin.
It means I cannot visit Russia.
While travelling to Russia wasn’t on my bucket list, it appears this decision has been made in response my government’s strong stance in standing up for Ukraine.
— Peter Malinauskas (@PMalinauskasMP) June 16, 2022
Ukraine says Russian peace talks proposals are an attempt to deceive world
Ukrainian peace talks negotiator dismissed Russia’s latest comments about being ready to resume negotiations as “an attempt to deceive the world.”
Mykhailo Podolyak said in an online post on Thursday that Russia wanted to give the impression of being ready to talk while planning to stab Ukraine in the back.
Kyiv would definitely return to the negotiations but only at the right time, he added.
A satellite image shows fields of artillery craters near Slovyansk
Maxar Technologies has released a satellite image showing fields peppered with artillery craters northwest of the city of Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region.
Russian forces resumed advancing towards Slovyansk in the past week aiming to take the city as well as nearby Kramatorsk. The photograph was taken on June 6.
The Institute for the Study of War said on Thursday that Moscow’s troops launched “unsuccessful assaults northwest” of the city.
Europe energy security at no immediate risk: EC
Europe’s energy security is not at immediate risk as a result of Russia reducing gas supplies to more European countries on Thursday, a European Commission spokesperson has said.
“Based on our exchange with the national authorities this morning via the Gas Coordination Group, there is no indication of an immediate security of supply risk,” the spokesperson said, adding that Brussels and countries’ national authorities were monitoring the situation closely.
Russian ships taking Ukraine’s grain to Syria: Satellite image company
Russian-flagged ships have been carrying Ukraine’s grain that was harvested last season and transported to Syria over the last couple of months, US satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies has said.
Air strikes in Lysychansk kill at least four: Governor
The death toll after an air strike hit a building in Lysychansk, where civilians were sheltering, has risen to four, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.
“The rescue operation is still ongoing,” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram on Thursday evening. At least seven people were injured in the attack, he said.
Haidai said a separate air strike on Thursday hit a sanatorium building in Lysychansk and collapsed it, possibly causing further casualties.
“It is likely that there are people trapped under the rubble,” he said of the second strike, adding that a rescue effort was also under way there.
Australia’s PM won’t say if he will visit Kyiv: Sky News
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has remained coy over whether he would accept Zelenskyy’s invitation to visit Ukraine later this month, Sky News reports.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia previously said Zelenskyy had extended the invitation when he congratulated Albanese on the Labor Party’s election win on May 21. But Albanese told Sky News he had only read about the invitation in the paper.
“That’s the information, the extent to which it’s come at this point in time,” he said.
“Look, I’m going to NATO as a priority because Australia is actually the largest non-NATO contributor to the efforts to support sovereignty in Ukraine and support the people of Ukraine standing up against this thuggish illegal behaviour of Russia,” he told Sky News.
Russian separatists in Luhansk ready to open corridor for Azot evacuation: Interfax
Pro-Russian militia in Luhansk say that they, together with the Russian Federation, are ready to discuss opening humanitarian corridors for civilians to exit the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, subject to a ceasefire from Ukraine, the Russian Interfax news agency has reported.
The self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic’s (LPR) Ambassador to Russia, Rodion Miroshnik, said Ukrainian militants disrupted the humanitarian corridor on Wednesday by shelling from a mortar and tank, according to Interfax.
Luhansk separatists say evacuation efforts failed in Severodonetsk
The pro-Russian militia of the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) has said efforts to evacuate people to safety from the eastern front line city of Severodonetsk have failed, in a video released on Thursday.
The Reuters news agency was able to geolocate the video to damaged shopfronts in central Severodonetsk. One shot showed a woman dragging luggage outside a damaged supermarket, and another showed a man walking by a storefront with an insurance company logo.
Russia had told Ukrainian forces holed up in the city’s Azot chemical plant to lay down their arms from Wednesday morning – an ultimatum ignored by Kyiv’s soldiers.
Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside the chemical factory, sheltering from weeks of Russian bombardment. Russian-backed separatists say up to 1,200 civilians may be inside.
Russia’s Ukraine invasion shows aggression against all of Europe: Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy has said that Russia’s invasion amounted to aggression against all of Europe and that the more weapons Ukraine receives from the West, the faster it will be able to liberate its occupied land.
“Every day of delay or postponed decisions is an opportunity for the Russian military to kill Ukrainians or destroy our cities,” he said at a news conference on Thursday.
“There is a direct correlation: the more powerful weapons we receive, the faster we can liberate our people, our land.”
Putin says government must support domestic car industry
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to come up with new measures to support the domestic car industry, which has seen sales tank since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Amid a crunch on demand from Russian buyers and severe logistics problems as a result of Western sanctions slapped on Moscow, car sales slumped a record 83.5 percent in May, according to figures from the Association of European Businesses (AEB).
Mariupol ‘deadliest place in Ukraine’: UN
At least 1,348 people have been killed in Mariupol since the beginning of the war, making it the “deadliest place in Ukraine”, Michelle Bachelet has said, adding the death toll is likely “thousands higher”.
UN’s top human rights official also said that nine out of 10 residential buildings and six out of 10 private houses have been damaged or destroyed, citing the attack on the theatre in March as an emblematic example.
Bachelet raised concern over the “filtration” process in the city where arbitrary determinations, intimidation and humiliation, which may amount to ill-treatment, have been reported.
The Ukrainian coordinator of the humanitarian corridor effort, Tetiana Lomakina, said her hometown “is purposefully turned into a ghetto for the Ukrainians where the genocide takes place at an accelerated pace”. She said the civilian death toll is at 22,000 and that “47,000 have been forcefully transferred to Russia or other occupied territories.”
Macron asked French manufacturer to increase howitzer production: Reuters
Emmanuel Macron has asked French arms manufacturer Nexter to increase the production of Caesar howitzers as he promised to send six more of the weapon systems to the Ukrainian army, a source close to France’s defence ministry said, the Reuters news agency reports.
Macron, ahead of his visit to Kyiv on Thursday, urged Nexter “to review its organisation to be able to work in a ‘wartime’ mode to be able to produce Ceasars much more quickly for the French army”, the source told Reuters.
Macron on Thursday pledged to send six more Ceasar howitzers out of French army stocks to Ukraine, adding to the 12 previously delivered. The French army in total holds less than 80 such artillery weapon systems.
UK to host Ukrainian leaders to discuss reconstruction
The United Kingdom will welcome representatives from Ukraine and business leaders on Friday to discuss how UK companies can help rebuild key infrastructure in Kyiv.
Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will seek to promote collaboration between British companies in infrastructure, energy and transport, and Ukrainian public and private organisations to help repair damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
Trevelyan will also announce changes to trade remedy measures, including reallocating ring-fenced market access for steel imports from Russia and Belarus to other countries including Ukraine.
Russian pranksters posing as Ukraine president trick J.K. Rowling
A pair of Russian pranksters have revealed fragments of an interview they conducted with British writer J.K. Rowling while posing as people with sympathies towards neighbouring Ukraine.
Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stoliarov, who are also known as ‘Vovan and Lexus’ on their show on the Russian video platform Rutube, revealed the video at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
The pranksters told their audience they had questioned Rowling on “cancel culture” and her opinions towards Russia, while also pretending to ask questions on behalf of Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Harry Potter author, who received widespread criticism on social media and beyond after making comments about transgender rights, said she supported tougher sanctions on Russia during the interview.
Macron decries ‘war crimes’ on ‘Ukraine’s soil’
Emmanuel Macron has decried the war crimes committed in Ukraine and promised to hold accountable the perpetrators.
“The whole world has witnessed the war crimes committed on Ukraine’s soil,” Macron said in a tweet.
“We will remain mobilised to ensure the perpetrators of those crimes are held accountable and punished in line with international law. Our experts are on the front line to gather the evidence,” he added.
The whole world has witnessed the war crimes committed on Ukraine’s soil. We will remain mobilized to ensure the perpetrators of those crimes are held accountable and punished in line with international law. Our experts are on the front line to gather the evidence.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 16, 2022
US has not asked Russia about two missing Americans
The United States has said it has not asked Russia about two US citizens reported missing after travelling to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces and said there are reports of a third missing American.
“As of today, we have not raised this yet with the Russian Federation … (We) haven’t seen anything from the Russians indicating that two such individuals are in their custody,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, describing reports about the two men as unconfirmed.
Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, went to Ukraine as volunteer fighters against Russian forces, have been missing for a week, and are feared captured, family members have said.
EU leaders’ visit to Ukraine was ‘historic’: Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the visit to Kyiv by the leaders of Germany, France and Italy — all criticised in the past by Kyiv for support viewed as too cautious — as “historic” and said “big steps” were made during their meeting.
“Today is a truly historic day. Ukraine has felt the support of four powerful European states. And in particular support for our movement towards the European Union. Italy, Romania, France and Germany are with us,” he said, during his evening address.
“All four leaders … support Ukraine’s candidacy. Of course, all relevant procedures must be followed, all EU member states must join. But at our meeting today a big step was made,” Zelenskyy said.
The leaders, who were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, toured Irpin, a town northeast of the capital devastated soon after the invasion began on February 24, where withdrawing Russian forces left behind bodies littering the streets.
‘Gross violations’ took place in Mariupol: UN
The intensity and extent of the death and destruction in Mariupol suggested that “serious violations” of international humanitarian law and “gross violations” of international human rights law occurred during the battle for the Ukrainian city, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said.
Michelle Bachelet made the observation as she presented her agency’s report on the situation in Mariupol before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
She said that the “tragedy of Mariupol” was far from over and explained that the full picture of the devastation was not yet clear.
European leaders back Ukraine’s EU bid
The leaders of France, Germany and Italy back “immediate” European Union candidate status for Ukraine amid their ongoing visit to Kyiv.
“All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for accession,” French President Macron told a joint news conference with his EU colleagues.
Moreover, he said Ukraine must “resist and win” the war and has announced that France will donate six additional long-range artillery systems.
Russia’s war of ‘unimaginable cruelty’: Scholz
The Ukrainian town of Irpin, like Bucha before it, has become a symbol of the “cruelty” of Russia’s war in Ukraine and its senseless violence, German Chancellor Scholz said on a visit to the Kyiv suburb, adding that the war must end.
“Irpin, like Bucha, has become a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war, of senseless violence,” Scholz wrote on Twitter. “The brutal destruction of this city is a warning: this war must end.”
#Irpin ist wie #Butscha längst ein Symbol für die unvorstellbare Grausamkeit des russischen Kriegs geworden, für sinnlose Gewalt. Die brutale Zerstörung in dieser Stadt ist ein Mahnmal – dieser Krieg muss zu Ende gehen. pic.twitter.com/DEPZUfh9OY
— Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz (@Bundeskanzler) June 16, 2022
Read all the updates from June 16 here.