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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 18

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the southern city of Mykolaiv, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, June 18, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

10:30 p.m.: Ben Stiller arrived in Poland to raise awareness about the need to help refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine. Stiller, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, posted a statement on Instagram: “I hope you'll follow along and share your own messages of support for people who have fled their homes in Ukraine and for people who have been forced to flee all over the world.”

9:12 p.m.:

8:25 p.m.: Roman Ratushny was a leading figure in Ukraine's pro-European Maidan movement, an anti-corruption activist who fought Russian forces with the Ukrainian army, Agence France-Presse reported. On Saturday, thousands of people in Kiev's Independence Square paid tribute to the "hero" who was killed in the country's east at the age of 24. Ratushny died on June 9 near Izium, in the Kharkiv region, where Ukrainian forces are confronting the Russian army.

7:12 p.m.:

5:54 p.m.: Boris Johnson has said Ukraine deserves to host next year’s Eurovision song contest and that he hopes it will be able to do so despite the ongoing war with Russia, The Guardian reported.

4:18 p.m.: Boris Johnson reaffirmed Britain’s support for Ukraine, cautioning against “Ukraine fatigue” as Russia’s invasion enters its fifth month, The Sunday Times reported.

In an article for The Sunday Times, Johnson said Ukraine's foreign backers should hold their nerve to ensure it has "the strategic endurance to survive and eventually prevail.” He also offered Ukraine a ramped up military training program to help in its fight against Russian forces, the paper reported.

3:38 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took a working trip to the Odesa region, where he inspected the trauma department of an Odesa hospital and talked to wounded servicemen undergoing treatment at a medical facility.

2:15 p.m.: Ukraine first lady Olena Zelenska gave an interview to the British newspaper The Guardian, in which she spoke, in particular, about the situation of Ukrainian families during the war.

1:48 p.m.: Western-supplied heavy weapons are reaching Ukraine's front lines. The Associated Press reports that it was given access to witness Ukrainian troops fire U.S.-supplied M777 howitzers on Russian positions in the eastern Donbas region. A Ukrainian military lieutenant told AP that the weapon is raising soldiers' spirits because it's easy to use, fires fast and is precise. However, Ukrainian officials said they still need more Western weapons to push back Russian forces.

12:18 p.m.: Ukraine and Russia exchanged five prisoners Saturday, The Kyiv Independent newspaper reports. Five Ukrainian civilians were traded for five Russian prisoners of war, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, the newspaper reported. Four of the civilians were captured during fighting in the Kyiv region.

11:46 a.m.: Ukraine's prime minister says a reconstruction plan for his country will be unveiled in July, The Kyiv Independent newspaper reports. The “Reconstruction Plan of Ukraine-United 24,” will see each partner country focus on rebuilding a particular region or industry, the newspaper quoted Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal as saying. "Denmark has already agreed to take charge of the restoration of Mykolaiv, the Baltic countries of the Zhytomyr Oblast, and Portugal of rebuilding Ukrainian schools," The Kyiv Independent tweeted.

10:21 a.m.: Russia's defense ministry said Saturday that they have destroyed oil refining and fuel storage facilities in the areas of Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine and Lysychansk, which is located across a river from the key city of Sievierodonetsk. Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the facilities were intended to supply equipment to the Ukrainian military in the Donbas region.

9:18 a.m.: A top EU official is the latest to warn that the world is at risk of famine due to Russia's blockade of Ukraine grain shipments and Moscow's decision to limit its own exports.

"Russia's conscious political choice is to weaponize grain exports and use them as a tool for blackmail against anyone that opposes its aggression in Ukraine," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote Saturday on his official blog, according to Agence France-Presse.

Borrell said that a "global food catastrophe" is possible if a solution isn't found soon.

7:53 a.m.: "Fierce battles" with Russia are raging in villages near the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, according to Ukrainian authorities, Agence France-Presse reported. Russian troops have been trying to take control of Sievierodonetsk for weeks.

"Now the most fierce battles are near Sievierodonetsk. They (Russia) do not control the city entirely," Sergiy Gaiday, the governor of the eastern Lugansk region, said on Telegram. "In nearby villages there are very difficult fights -- in Toshkivska, Zolote. They are trying to break through but failing. Our defenders are fighting Russians in all directions. Recently, they shot down a plane and took captives."

Gaiday also reported that Russian troops are heavily shelling Lysychansk, a city across a river from Sievierodonetsk, that is still controlled by the Ukrainians.

7:41 a.m.: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a rare trip outside of Kyiv on Saturday to visit the war-damaged city of Mykolaiv, Agence France-Presse reported. It was the Ukrainian leader's first visit to the southern city since Russia invaded Ukraine almost four months ago. The president's office published video of Zelenskyy surveying a badly damaged high-rise resident building and holding meetings with local officials.

5:52 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry says that Russian forces appear to be aiming to gain more ground in the Donetsk Oblast and to take the Sievierodonetsk Pocket.

As part of this, the Russians say they're trying to evacuate civilians through humanitarian corridors. The update notes, however, that Russia in the past has used such corridors to "manipulate the battlespace and impose the forced transfer of populations." And as a result of that, Sieverodonetsk civilians are likely to be wary.

If the civilians don't evacuate, the update warns, Russia "will likely claim justification in making less of a distinction between them and any Ukrainian military targets in the area."

5:11 a.m.: TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew was pressed by Republican senators over reports the social media site had allowed Russian state-approved media content but barred other videos, Reuters reported.

"Recent reports indicate TikTok… has allowed Russian state media to flood the platform with dangerous pro-war propaganda. No company should find itself in the position of amplifying the Kremlin’s lies, which fuel public support for Russia’s war of choice in Ukraine," said a letter signed by Steve Daines and signed by John Cornyn, Roger Wicker, John Barrasso, James Lankford and Cynthia Lummis.

The senators wrote they were "deeply concerned" that TikTok "is enabling the spread of pro-war propaganda to the Russian public, which risks adding to an already devastating human toll for both Ukrainians and Russians,” Reuters reported.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment. TikTok said in a statement to Reuters that the company was looking forward to continuing to engage with members on these issues and answer their questions.

4:10 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, says that Ukrainian forces are likely launching a counteroffensive north of Izyum. They aim to disrupt supply lines and pull Russian forces away from offensive operations toward Slovyansk.

Additionally, the institute's latest update notes, unconfirmed Ukrainian sources say that the Kremlin has fired Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov, head of the Russian airborne forces, due to poor performance.

3:15 a.m.: Russia has reduced natural gas to Europe for a third day as countries have worked to ease their dependence on Russian supplies amid the war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Friday saw significant reductions to the fuel that powers industry and generates electricity in Europe, which also have hit Germany and Austria. Russia told Slovakia's state-controlled gas company that it would reduce gas flow to the country by 50%, the AP reported. Russian energy giant Gazprom also told Italian gas company Eni that it would supply only 50% of the gas requested for Friday. France is no longer receiving any natural gas from Russia.

2:16 a.m.: VOA's Jeff Seldin reports that U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Defense One Tech Summit he fears Russia will turns to weapons of mass destruction.

"They don't seem like they're going to walk away" Turner said. "They seem like they're going to escalate." Turner said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "acting like a murderous thug," and that Moscow's demeanor is more akin to what one would expect from North Korea.

1:08 a.m.: Lithuania has told the Russian region of Kaliningrad that it will block the import and export of a large number of goods by rail because of Western sanctions, regional Governor Anton Alikhanov said, according to Reuters. The region -- home to the Russian Baltic Fleet and a deployment location for nuclear-capable Iskander missiles -- is sandwiched on the Baltic coast between Lithuania and Poland, both NATO members, and has no land border with Russia, Reuters reported.

Alikhanov said the clampdown would affect between 40% to 50% of the products that are imported to and exported from Russia through Lithuania. Among the goods that would be affected are building materials, cement and metal products, he said, according to Reuters.

12:02 a.m.: The eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk was heavily shelled by Russian forces on Friday and there were many dead, Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukraine's public broadcaster. Gaidai later said in an online post that a key highway out of the city was now impassable.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.