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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 24

A Ukrainian soldier looks through a binoculars during heavy fighting at the front line in Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, June 8, 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:

8:40 p.m.: Russia has intensified its offensive in the northern city of Kharkiv in the past days, Agence France-Presse reported.

An AFP team there heard explosions in the city center Thursday night, and in the morning saw that the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute had been hit by missiles, breaking windows and collapsing part of its roof.

According to an unidentified military official at the scene, the Russians "thought there might be something military in there but there was not."

7:30 p.m.: Russia has intensified its offensive in the northern city of Kharkiv in the past days, Agence France-Presse reported.

An AFP team there heard explosions in the city center Thursday night, and in the morning saw that the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute had been hit by missiles, breaking windows and collapsing part of its roof.

According to an unidentified military official at the scene, the Russians "thought there might be something military in there but there was not."

6:25 p.m.: The Canadian government passed a budget that allowed Canada to seize and dispose of assets of people and entities it sanctioned because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

5:55 p.m.: The U.N. nuclear watchdog is increasingly concerned about the welfare of Ukrainian staff at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, it said on Friday, Reuters reported.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has for months said that the situation at Zaporizhzhia, where Ukrainian staff are operating the plant under the order of Russian troops, poses a safety risk and that it wants to send a mission there.

One of those issues was that IAEA inspectors need to carry out verification work, including checking on the nuclear material there.

Although remote transmission of data on that material to IAEA headquarters was restored this month, physical inventory verifications must be carried out in person by inspectors within an interval that "cannot exceed a specified duration," the agency said.

5 p.m.: Ukrainians continue to crowdfund some of their weapons supply.

4:05 p.m.: Ukraine's main domestic security agency said on Friday it had uncovered a Russian spy network involving Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach who was previously accused by the United States of being a Russian agent, Reuters reported.

The State Security Service (SBU) said Derkach, whose whereabouts were not made clear, set up a network of private security firms to use them to ease and support the entry of Russian units into cities during Moscow's February 24 invasion.

Derkach could not immediately be reached for comment. He has previously denied wrongdoing and said he has been targeted for exposing corruption.

3:14 p.m.: Ukraine needs "fire parity" with Russia in order to stabilize the difficult situation in Luhansk, Ukraine's top general told his U.S. counterpart on Friday, Reuters reported.

"We discussed the operational situation and the delivery flow of international technical assistance," Ukraine's General Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on the Telegram app after a phone call with U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.

Ukraine has said Russia's artillery advantage on the Donbas frontlines is taking a significant toll on Ukrainian troops, and has called on its Western partners to supply more weapons to minimize the deficit.

U.S. officials said the United States will provide an additional $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including more long-range rocket systems, on top of the $1 billion in assistance it announced a week ago.

2:30 p.m.: Poles have generously welcomed refugees from the war in neighboring Ukraine in the past few months. But absorbing more than 3 million refugees is a big challenge for Poland, which has a population of about 38 million. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Warsaw, other European nations are providing help, but the burden could become untenable for Poles if the war continues much longer.

Poland Struggles to Assist Millions of Ukrainian Refugees
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2:06 p.m.: Ukraine will need at least a decade to clear all the mines and explosives from its land and territorial waters once its war with Russia is over, an emergency services official said on Friday, according to Reuters.

Ukraine has managed to clear 620 square kilometers of land that were littered with thousands of explosive devices, including 2,000 bombs dropped from the air, but nearly 300,000 square kilometers are still seen as "contaminated," the official said.

That is an area roughly half the size of Ukraine's territory, and about as large as Italy.

"Up to 10 years, that's the optimistic figure. Because we don't know what's happening on the territories where active combat is ongoing right now," Oleksandr Khorunzhiy, spokesperson for Ukraine's State Emergency Service, said.

1:53 p.m.: The U.N. Human Rights Office on Friday released the latest figures on civilian casualties in Ukraine following Russia’s military invasion four months ago. It noted that the actual toll of those who have been killed or injured is thought to be much higher.

1:41 p.m.: The Auschwitz-Birkenau museum alleged Friday that it was the target of “primitive” propaganda spread by Russian state agencies on social media, The Associated Press reported.

The museum said that social media posts falsely claim to show anti-Russian stickers placed around the memorial at the former site of the Auschwitz death camp site in southern Poland, an area under German occupation during World War II.

“Russia and Russians,” the stickers appearing in fake images say, “the only gas you and your country deserve is Zykon B.” That is a reference to the gas the Germans used in the mass murder of Jews and others at the camp, which operated during 1940-1945.

The Auschwitz Museum said no such stickers were found at the places depicted in the images, and that security cameras did not capture anyone affixing anything to the locations on or before June 22. It said an analysis showed the photos were manipulated and the stickers added digitally.

1:28 p.m.:

1:13 p.m.: Swiss customs authorities said Friday that they are tracking about 3 tons of gold of Russian origin that entered Switzerland from Britain last month to watch for potential violations of economic sanctions against Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. The gold is worth 194 million Swiss francs ($202 million), officials said.

The Federal Office for Customs and Border Security said it consistently monitors imports of gold from Russia, which it said are not prohibited under a raft of Swiss sanctions against Moscow imposed over Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

However, exports of gold to Russia are barred under Switzerland’s sanctions, the customs office said in a statement. Gold bars manufactured in Russia since March 7 can not be traded in Switzerland, but ones created before then can, the office said. There are no commercial restrictions in Switzerland on other forms of gold, such as jewelry or coins, from Russia, the office said.

12:56 p.m.:

12:42 p.m.: Poland is getting a loan of 450 million euros ($474 million) from a bank linked to a European human rights group to help it cope with the influx of refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Poland and the Council of Europe Development Bank signed the loan agreement Friday.

The Council of Europe has 46 member countries, including EU nations, and aims to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Paris-based bank was founded in 1956 and finances projects with a social mission.

Some 4.3 million refugees crossed into Poland after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Poland is providing them with free shelter, social and medical care, education and job opportunities. Many have moved on to other countries and some have decided to go back home, but an estimated half of the number remain in Poland.

12:33 p.m.:

12:18 p.m.: The lawyer defending one of two Britons sentenced to death in a Russian-backed breakaway territory of Ukraine said on Friday that they had not yet submitted an appeal because they seemed to be holding out for intervention from London.

A court in the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, which is armed and financed by Russia, found Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun guilty on June 9 of "mercenary activities" and attempting to "overthrow the constitutional order of the DPR."

Russia's TASS news agency on Thursday quoted Pinner's lawyer, Yulia Tserkovnikova, as saying the defense attorneys were preparing an appeal, which must be lodged by July 8.

12:09 p.m.:

11:58 p.m.: The Associated Press on Friday analyzed some of the key issues and themes on the table as U.S. President Joe Biden prepared to join both the updcoming G7 and NATO summits.

Back-to-back world leader summits in Europe opening this weekend will focus on uniting Western nations behind Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion and overcoming Turkey’s opposition to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden.

The Group of Seven leading economic powers — the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — are set to hold their annual gathering Sunday through Tuesday in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, which holds the G-7′s rotating presidency this year.

After the G-7 concludes, leaders of the 30 countries in the NATO alliance will then gather for their annual summit, which is being held Wednesday through Thursday in Madrid.

11:41 a.m.: Here are some of the key developments in Russia over the past week and some of the takeaways going forward, as compiled by correspondent Steve Gutterman of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

11:15 a.m.: Consumers should think twice when buying diamonds that could be funding Russia's war, a Ukrainian diplomat said on Friday as a fraught international conflict diamond forum in Botswana came to an inconclusive end, Reuters reported.

The Kimberley Process (KP), a coalition of governments, the diamond industry and civil society representatives responsible for certifying diamonds as conflict-free, is split over a push to expand its definition of conflict diamonds to include those funding aggression by states.

Russia - which invaded Ukraine four months ago - holds a 33% stake in Alrosa, which accounted for about 30% of the world's diamond output last year.

11:03 a.m.: The International Energy Agency has warned that Russia could cut gas supplies to Europe entirely in order to boost its political leverage following its invasion of Ukraine. As VOA’s Henry Ridgwell reports, Europe is scrambling to avoid an energy crisis this winter.

10:57 a.m.: The U.N. nuclear watchdog is increasingly concerned about the welfare of Ukrainian staff at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe's largest, it said on Friday. It added that it must go there as soon as possible, Reuters reported.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has for months said that the situation at Zaporizhzhia, where Ukrainian staff are working operating the plant under the order of Russian troops, poses a safety risk and that it wants to send a mission there.

"The IAEA is aware of recent reports in the media and elsewhere indicating a deteriorating situation for Ukrainian staff at the country's largest nuclear power plant," a statement by the Vienna-based United Nations agency said.

It added that it was "increasingly concerned about the difficult conditions facing staff..., and it must go there as soon as possible to address this and other urgent issues."

10:46 a.m.:

10:23 a.m.: The European Union’s decision to make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership offered war-weary Ukrainians a morale boost and hope of a more secure future Friday as the country’s military ordered its fighters to retreat from a key city in the eastern Donbas region, The Associated Press reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the decision of EU leaders as vindication of his nation’s four-month fight against Russia’s aggression and said he was determined to ensure Ukraine retained the ability to decide if it belonged in Europe or under Moscow’s influence.

“This war began just when Ukraine declared its right to freedom. To its choice of its future. We saw it in the European Union,” Zelenskyy told the nation in a televised address late Thursday. “That is why this decision of the EU is so important, motivates us and shows all this is needed not only by us.”

10:18 a.m.:

10:01 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met in Germany ahead of the Berlin Ministerial Conference “Uniting for Global Food Security” on Friday, and the State Department released some of their remarks.

“We do not accept that the Russian war of aggression is making the world suffer from starvation. As the most powerful industrialized nations, we have a special responsibility,” Baerbock said. “Russia is waging a cynical grain war, using it as a tool to make food prices skyrocketing and destabilize entire countries.”

Blinken said the G7 group of nations is “intensely focused” on the consequences of Russia’s aggression. “So the combination that we’ve seen of COVID, of climate, and now conflict is creating an even graver crisis of food insecurity,” Blinken said. “And let’s be very, very clear… the only reason for this now is Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and Russia’s blockade against grain and other foodstuffs moving out of Ukraine.”

9:42 a.m.: A Ukrainian company in the Ivano-Frankivsk region has produced almost 80 rifles that can jam aerial drones used by Russian forces for reconnaissance. With a price tag of $12,000 per rifle, the defensive weapon isn’t cheap. But since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, demand has jumped, with charities buying the anti-drone rifle for Ukraine’s military. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

9:13 a.m.: The West should not underestimate Russia’s military capabilities in Ukraine, Estonia’s leader told The Associated Press, saying that as the war enters its fifth month, Moscow’s forces are in it for the long haul.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in an interview that Europe should ensure that those committing war crimes and attempted genocide are prosecuted, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin escaped punishment for annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and supporting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region that killed over 14,000 people even before this year’s war began.

“I’ve heard talks that, you know, there is no threat anymore because they have exhausted themselves. No, they haven’t,” she said of the Russian military, which failed to take Kyiv in the early stages of the war and is now concentrating its firepower in the east.

8:56 a.m.:

8:31 a.m.: EU leaders met on Friday to prepare for further cuts in Russian gas, limit the impact on inflation and seek alternative supplies, accusing Moscow of "weaponizing" energy via a supply squeeze that Germany warned could partly shut its industry, Reuters reported.

A day after celebrations over setting Kyiv on the road to membership of the bloc, Friday's summit in Brussels was a sober reflection on the economic impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The notion of cheap energy is gone and the notion of Russian energy is essentially gone and we are all in the process of securing alternate sources," Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said, adding governments must "support those portions of society that suffer the most".

Leaders of the 27 EU nations will, according to a draft summit statement seen by Reuters, place the blame for a huge spike in prices and sagging global growth on the war that began exactly four months ago.

"It is only a matter of time before the Russians close down all gas shipments," said one EU official ahead of Friday's talks.

8:05 a.m.:

7:52 a.m.: A car bomb has killed a Moscow-imposed official in Ukraine's southeastern city of Kherson, which is occupied by Russian troops, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

According to preliminary information, the official who died after his car exploded on Friday was Dmytro Savluchenko, who led the Directorate for Family, Youth, and Sports for the city's so-called military and civilian administration established by the occupying forces.

Two cars were damaged in the blast, which also shattered windows in nearby apartment blocks. No other casualties were reported. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Representatives of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and military intelligence have said that guerilla groups are operating in the country’s territories occupied by Russia.

There have also been assassination attempts against Russian-imposed officials in the Ukrainian cities of Melitopol and Enerhodar recently. No casualties were reported in those attacks.

7:43 a.m.:

7:27 a.m.: Ukraine said Russian forces had "fully occupied" a town south of the strategically important city of Lysychansk in the eastern Luhansk region as of Friday, and Moscow claimed it had encircled about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area, Reuters reported.

The loss of Hirske and several other settlements around it leaves Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-controlled city in Luhansk, in danger of being enveloped from three sides by advancing Russian forces.

"Unfortunately, as of today... the entire Hirske district is occupied," Hirske's municipal head Oleksiy Babchenko said in a television broadcast. "There are some insignificant, local battles going on at the outskirts, but the enemy has entered."

Russia's defense ministry said on Friday it had encircled up to 2,000 Ukrainian troops, including 80 foreign fighters, at Hirske. Reuters could not independently verify the report.

7:13 a.m.: Russian forces are edging closer to seizing the last pocket of resistance in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. The Russian gains have been costly, analysts say, with high casualties and equipment losses, leading British defense intelligence to predict that Moscow’s momentum will slow over the next few months.

Despite the predictions of lost momentum, the war seems far from over. To find out more, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty spoke with Margarita Konaev, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, and published this interview exploring why Ukrainian and Russian Forces are preparing for a long war.

6:57 a.m.:

6:49 a.m.: The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe, The Associated Press reported.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices. Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

6:34 a.m.:

6:07 a.m.: Friday marked four months since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops over the border to Ukraine, unleashing a conflict that has now killed thousands of combatants and civilians, uprooted several million people, and has seen Ukrainian cities blasted to bits by Russian artillery and air strikes. The war has also fueled a global energy and food crisis.

Analysts say the Russian forces are taking heavy casualties and face problems in leadership, supplies and morale. Nonetheless, they are grinding down Ukrainian resistance and making incremental gains in the east and south.

Ukraine signaled on Friday its troops were withdrawing from the city of Sievierodonetsk, the scene of weeks of intense bombardments and street fighting, in a move that would be a significant setback in its struggle to defeat Russian forces.

5:50 a.m.:

5:28 a.m.: The U.K. defense ministry's latest intelligence update says Ukrainian forces have shot down and captured a Russian pilot. He's a former air force major now working as a military contractor for Wagner.

The update says the use of contractors suggests Russia lacks enough aircrew. The update attributes this shortage to Russia's combat losses and lack of trained personnel. Additionally, the update notes, the pilot's equipment seems to indicate Russia's not giving its contractors its most up-to-date gear.

4:31 a.m.: The governor of Luhansk, Ukraine, says Russian forces have captured the village of Mykolaivka, near Lysychansk, Al Jazeera reports.

3:37 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that Russia's defense ministry is recording Ukraine's use of weapons provided by the United States to ensure they aren't being used to strike inside Russia.

2:27 a.m.: The Washington Post reports that Ukrainian troops will retreat from the key eastern city of Severodonetsk. Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops in Lysychansk may be surrounded by the Russians.

1:22 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, says in its latest assessment that Belarusian forces are conducting exercises along the Ukrainian border but are unlikely to enter the war.

Meanwhile, Russian forces are on the outskirts of Lysychansk and aim to capture both it and Severodonetsk, the update says.

Russian forces are also trying to take control of the settlements of Hirske and Zolote, the update says.

12:02 a.m.: The European Union should stop adding sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, a senior aide to the Hungarian prime minister said Thursday, and instead push for a ceasefire and the start of negotiations.

"At the end of the day Europe will be on the losing side of this war because of the economic problems. Our recommendation would be that we should stop the sanction process," Balazs Orban told Reuters. He is not related to Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Hungary is one of the most pro-Russian EU countries, heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil. Russia is also building a nuclear reactor for Hungary. Budapest had held up the latest package of sanctions against Moscow that included a ban on Russian oil imports until it negotiated an exemption for itself.