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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 20


A Ukrainian soldier flashes the victory sign atop a tank in Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 20, 2022.

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

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

11:45 p.m.:

10:28 p.m.: The Ukraine war is fueling not only a global food crisis but an energy crisis, Agence France-Presse reported. Hit by punishing sanctions, Moscow has turned up the pressure on European economies by sharply reducing gas supplies, which in turn has sent energy prices soaring.

The Netherlands lifted restrictions preventing its coal-fired power stations from operating at full capacity to counter the fall in Russian gas supplies, a day after Germany and Austria took similar steps, AFP reported. But Berlin insisted it still aims to close its coal power plants by 2030.

9:15 p.m.:

8:37 p.m.:

7:29 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the upcoming European Union decision on Ukraine’s candidacy.

“Step by step, we are going through a crucial week and we are doing everything every day so that no one has any doubts that Ukraine deserves the candidacy. We prove every day that we are already part of a united European, I would even say, value space,” he said.

6:45 p.m.: Inflation and the effects of Russia's war in Ukraine were top of the discussions between U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, The Associated Press reported..

"We are talking about price caps or a price exception that would enhance and strengthen recent and proposed energy restrictions by Europe, the United States, the U.K. and others that would push down the price of Russian oil and depress Putin's revenues while allowing more oil supply to reach the global market," Yellen said in Toronto, AP reported.

5:17 p.m.: According to a Reuters report, the Kremlin said Americans captured in Ukraine were "mercenaries" who had shot at Russian servicemen and were not covered by the Geneva convention, RIA reported, quoting Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying they should take responsibility for their "crimes."

4:15 p.m.: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked his country's lawmakers for ratifying the Istanbul Convention, and thereby supporting Kyiv's bid for membership in the European Union, The Associated Press reported.

The Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe measure to combat violence against women.

3:20 p.m.: Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk Monday urged residents to leave occupied Kherson Oblast ahead of counteroffensive, the Kyiv Independent reports.

Vereshchuk said that people can try to leave the region through occupied Crimea to Russia, as this is nearly the only way to escape. From there, she said, they can enter the EU or other countries, where they will be assisted by Ukrainian embassies. This will minimize the number of casualties during future hostilities.

3 p.m.: The Kremlin said on Monday that Americans captured in Ukraine were "mercenaries" engaged in illegal activities and should take responsibility for their "crimes," RIA news agency reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was also quoted as saying that the detained men were not covered by the Geneva Convention as they were not regular troops; they had shot at at Russian servicemen and put their lives in danger.

2:45 p.m.: Ukraine is engaged in “complex” negotiations to free its ports from a Russian naval blockade, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday, after the EU's top diplomat accused Russia of committing a "real war crime" by blocking grain exports from the ports, RFE/RL reports.

There has been no progress yet on “complex multilevel negotiations to unblock our Ukrainian ports,” Zelenskyy said, warning that the current global grain crisis would last as long as Russia's "colonial war."

Zelenskyy made the comments in a video address to the African Union. Earlier in the day, Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, commented on the grain export situation at the start of a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

"One cannot imagine that millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger. This is a real war crime," Borrell said at the start of a meeting. The ministers are scheduled to discuss ways to free millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine due to a blockade of its Black Sea ports by Russian forces.

2:25 p.m.: Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai said today that Ukrainian troops now control only the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk and that fierce fighting is now concentrated in the industrial area of Sievierodonetsk, Kiev Independent reports. He added there is an “extremely difficult” situation along the entire front line in Luhansk Oblast. According to Haidai, Russia has started a “large-scale offensive in the region.”

1:50 p.m.: More than half of humanitarian corridors have failed to open due to violations by Russia, Kyiv Independent reports. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that out of the 350 corridors Ukraine tried to open to evacuate civilians, only 165 successfully operated. Vereshchuk said that Russia used civilians as a human shield, “constantly violated its obligations, and did not fulfill its promises to the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

1:35 p.m.: Citing the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's office, the Kyiv Independent also reports that ex-Kyiv mayor Leonid Chernovetskyi is suspected of calling for recognition of Kremlin’s proxies in Donbas. Chernovetskyi, who served as the mayor of Kyiv from 2006-2010, published a post on Facebook on Feb. 25 calling for the recognition of the borders of the Russian-occupied territories in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The ex-official faces up to five years in prison.

1:30 p.m.: President Biden said Monday that he’s unlikely to visit Ukraine during a trip to Europe later this week, The Hill reports.

Biden told reporters in Rehoboth, Delaware, that any decision to go into Ukraine would depend on “whether or not it causes more difficulty for Ukrainians, whether it distracts from what’s going on.”

Asked if he would visit the country on his upcoming trip to Europe, Biden answered: “On this trip, not likely.”

Biden is scheduled to travel to Germany on Saturday for a Group of Seven (G-7) leaders’ summit and will from there head to Spain where is he attending a NATO meeting.

The White House has previously made clear that any presidential trip to Ukraine would not be announced ahead of time for security reasons.

1:15 p.m.: The European Union’s top diplomat insisted Monday it’s not the bloc’s sanctions that are responsible for the looming global food crisis and pledged to work out solutions to ensure exports of food and fertilizers could reach Africa.

As part of its economic sanctions, the EU has imposed several packages of sanctions but has not banned exports of food or fertilizers to non-EU nations.

The chairman of the African Union, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the fighting in Ukraine and Western sanctions had worsened food shortages. The war led by Russia against Ukraine has been preventing some 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain from getting to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia.

12:35 p.m.: The Kyiv Independent reports that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has secretly visited Lysychansk, a key town at the front line in Luhansk Oblast, amid heavy Russian shelling and intense fighting in the neighboring Sievierodonetsk. Zelenskyy has not yet commented on this alleged visit.

12:15 p.m.: Russian forces launched 14 missile strikes on Ukraine’s south in 3 hours, the Kyiv Independent reports. According to the Ukrainian military, the attacks hit Ochakiv, a town in Mykolaiv Oblast, the arm of the Danube River, as well as the town of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in Odesa Oblast and Odesa itself. As a result of the attack, a food warehouse in Odesa burned down, say Odesa authorities; they report there were no casualties.

11:45 a.m.: The Moscow City Court has rejected an appeal filed by Meta Platforms against a lower court's decision to label the company an extremist organization, in a move that effectively outlaws its Facebook and Instagram social media platforms, RFE/RL reports.

Judge Aleksandr Ponomaryov Monday upheld a ruling by the Tver district court on March 21, meaning it can come into force.

The court's March decision was made despite a plea by Meta's lawyers to postpone the hearing to give them more time to respond.

Prosecutors said at the time that the ruling would not affect Meta's WhatsApp messaging platform, since it is not a public platform.

State prosecutors filed the request after news surfaced that Meta Platforms was permitting Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers after Moscow launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

11:30 a.m.: Kyiv Independent reports that up to 500,000 people remain in Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast, according to Kerson governor Hennadiy Lahuta, representing about 50% of its population. He also says Russian occupiers hold captive more than 600 locals, including activists, war veterans, and people opposing the occupation.

11:15 a.m.: Several European Union countries are pushing to start work on a new package of sanctions against Russia and Belarus for the invasion of Ukraine and also want to grant more military support to Kyiv, according to diplomats and a draft document.

About one-third of the 27 EU governments, mostly Nordic and eastern states, want the EU Commission to begin work on a seventh round of sanctions, diplomats said.

The latest version of the draft conclusions of a summit of EU leaders to be held later this week does not include a reference to new sanctions, but diplomats said the text, dated June 15 and seen by Reuters, was likely to be tweaked after a meeting of EU envoys late on Monday.

Germany and a few other states prefer to focus now on applying existing sanctions and closing loopholes, rather than embark on the complex process of agreeing fresh measures, diplomats said.

11 a.m.: Ukrainian forces attacked drilling platforms in the Black Sea owned by a Crimean oil and gas company, the pro-Russian head of the annexed peninsula said on Monday, giving no details of what weapons were used.

Three people were wounded and a search was under way for seven workers from the Chernomorneftegaz energy company, Sergei Askyonov, the Russian-installed head of Crimea, said in a post on Telegram.

10:40 a.m.: Explosions rocked the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa Monday after the Russia-installed head of the annexed Crimea peninsula said Ukrainian forces had attacked drilling platforms owned by a Crimean oil and gas company.

A spokesperson for the regional administration confirmed there had been blasts in Odesa but gave no further details. He did not say whether there had been any casualties.

Oleksiy Honcharenko, a lawmaker from Odesa, said the city appeared to have come under attack in what he described as "revenge for our morning shelling of oil rigs near Crimea."

10:20 a.m.: Russia has demanded that Vilnius immediately reverse new restrictions on shipments of Russian goods that are subject to EU sanctions through Lithuanian territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, RFE/RL reports.

The Kremlin called the Lithuanian move "unprecedented" and "illegal," while the Russian Foreign Ministry said the restriction was "openly hostile" and suggested Moscow would "take actions to protect its national interests."

"The decision is indeed unprecedented. It violates every possible rule," said Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. "We understand that it stems from the European Union's decision to expand sanctions to the transit of goods. We believe that it is illegal, too."

10:10 a.m.: The death toll in Russia’s missile attack on an oil depot in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast has risen to three, Kyiv Independent reports. Thirteen others were injured in Russia’s June 18 attack on the oil depot in Novomoskovsk District in the northeastern part of Dnipropetrovsk, which caused a large-scale fire. According to Governor Valentyn Reznichenko, firefighters have been fighting the fire for more than 42 hours.

10 a.m.: Lithuania is defending its decision to bar rail transit from Russia to a Russian Baltic Sea exclave of goods hit by European Union sanctions, in a move that drew Moscow’s strong anger amid high tensions in the region. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Monday his country is simply implementing sanctions imposed by the EU, of which it is a member. He said the measures implemented Saturday were taken after “consultation with the European Commission and under its guidelines.”

9:45 a.m.: Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says Russia has gathered almost all its forces to storm the settlements surrounding Sievierodonetsk and aims to break through and surround Ukrainian defenses by June 26, according to the Kyiv Independent, quoting from a report in the Ukraine Pravda media outlet.

“Our troops are doing everything possible to hold these territories and prevent the encirclement,” Maliar said.

9:30 a.m.: Chinese imports of oil from Russia in May increased by more than half from a year earlier, RFE/RL reports. Chinese Customs Administration data shows the world's second-largest economy importing more than 8.4 million tons of Russian oil, up 55 percent on May 2021. The uptick made Russia China's main source of oil for the month, surpassing Saudi Arabia.

8:45 a.m.: Mariupol Mayor Vadyn Boychenko says more than 100,000 residents remaining in occupied Mariupol don’t have access to drinking water, Kyiv Independent reports. Boychenko says Russian occupiers provide Mariupol residents with drinking water once a week and that in order to get that water, residents must wait in lines for 4-8 hours. There is no gas or electricity access; the sewage system isn't functioning, and access to food is limited, Boychenko added, calling for humanitarian corridors to allow for residents' safe evacuation.

8:30 a.m.: Russia on Monday accused some members of the Group of 20 major economies of politicizing a meeting on global health, as it faced criticism over how its invasion of Ukraine in February had plunged its healthcare system into chaos.

The war in Ukraine has overshadowed G20 meetings this year, with current chair Indonesia struggling to keep the group united and resisting pressure from Western members to exclude Russia.

"We are asking our colleagues not to politicize G20 health platform and stay within our mandate and discuss healthcare," Russian health ministry official Oleg Salagay told a G20 health ministers' meeting in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

8 a.m.: A Ukrainian court has banned the Kremlin-linked Opposition Platform – For Life party, the Kyiv Independent reports. According to the political watchdog Chesno, whose analyst was present at the hearing, the court ruled to ban the party and confiscate all its property. The party was led by Viktor Medvedchuk, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin who is currently facing high treason charges. It is the eleventh pro-Russian party to be outlawed in Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion.

7:45 a.m.: Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine says they have taken a village beside the main southern road towards the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk.

Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai told the Associated Press Monday that the situation in Sievierodonetsk is “very difficult,” with the Ukrainian forces maintaining control over just one area — the Azot chemical plant, where a number of Ukrainian fighters, along with about 500 civilians, are taking shelter.

The Russians keep deploying additional troops and equipment in the area, Haidai said.

“It’s just hell there. Everything is engulfed in fire, the shelling doesn’t stop even for an hour,” Haidai said in written comments.

6:30 a.m.: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland are set to discuss sanctions and other ways to boost economic pressure against Russia in a meeting Monday in Toronto.

“They’ll also discuss joint efforts to mitigate the global consequences being felt because of Russia's aggression, including the need to boost production of fossil fuels in the short term to address high gas and energy costs, and reiterate the importance of adopting clean energy technologies that break our dependence over the medium-term,” the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.

5:45 a.m.: Fifteen European Union governments called on Monday for the bloc to accelerate the conclusion of free trade agreements to ensure its long-term economic growth and geopolitical standing in the world, Reuters reported.

In a letter to EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis seen by Reuters, 15 economy, foreign and trade ministers said the Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for resilient supply chains, strategic partnerships and open trade. With different powers vying for leadership and new alliances, the EU needed to accelerate its own trade push. One in seven EU jobs depend on trade, the ministers said.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest trade agreement including China, Japan and Australia entered into force at the start of 2022, just over a year after it was signed. “This should be a wake-up call for Europe,” the ministers said, adding the European Union was taking too long.

5:30 a.m.: Actor and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador BenStiller is in Ukraine for today's observance of World Refugee Day.

“Nobody chooses to flee their home,” he said. “Seeking safety is a right. And it needs to be upheld for every person.”

5:10 a.m.: The U.N. agency for refugees in Ukraine shares a story of a former refugee helping those impacted by the war.

4:10 a.m.: Germany supports Poland and Romania in adapting their railways to enable the export of millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine due to a Russian sea blockade, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday, Reuters reported.

“The railway tracks need to be modernized, we need the right cargo wagons — the German government is working on this with many other actors,” she said as she arrived for a meeting with her European Union counterparts in Luxembourg.

“It is clear that, in the end, we will certainly not be able to get out all grain but if we even just manage to free part of it, on various routes, then this will help as we are facing this global challenge.”

3:10 a.m.: Russia’s blockade of the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain is a war crime, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday according to Reuters.

“We call on Russia to deblockade the (Ukrainian) ports...It is inconceivable, one cannot imagine that millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger,” he told reporters.

“This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer,” he said on arriving to a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

2:12 a.m.: In its latest battleground intelligence report on Monday, the U.K. ministry of defense said Russian ground and tactical air operations remain focused on central Donbas over the weekend.

The ministry also made an assessment of Russia’s “air power” since the start of the war. “In the conflict to date, Russia’s air force has underperformed,” the ministry said in a Twitter post. “Its failure to consistently deliver air power is likely one of the most important factors behind Russia’s very limited campaign success.”

1:30 a.m.: Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov will auction off his Nobel Peace Prize medal on Monday The Associated Press reported. The proceeds will go directly to UNICEF in its efforts to help children displaced by the war in Ukraine.

Muratov, awarded the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor-in-chief when it shut down in March amid the Kremlin’s clampdown on journalists and public dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

12:01 a.m.: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy predicted Russia will escalate its attacks this week as European Union leaders consider whether to back his country’s bid to join the bloc and Russia presses its campaign to win control of east Ukraine, Reuters reported.

“Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities,” Zelenskiyy said in a Sunday nightly video address. “We are preparing. We are ready.”

Ukraine applied to join the EU four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. The EU’s executive, the European Commission, on Friday recommended that Ukraine receive candidate status. Leaders of the 27-nation union will consider the question at a summit on Thursday and Friday and are expected to endorse Ukraine’s application despite misgivings from some member states. The process could take many years to complete.

The EU’s embrace of Ukraine would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow’s southern neighbor outside of the West’s sphere of influence, the Reuters report added.

Putin on Friday said Moscow had “nothing against” Ukraine’s EU membership, but a Kremlin spokesperson said Russia was closely following Kyiv’s bid especially in light of increased defense cooperation among EU members.

For background on Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership, VOA’s Eastern Europe Chief Myroslava Gongadze has this report from Warsaw.

European Commission to Decide on Possible Ukraine Candidacy for EU Membership
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Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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