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European leaders visit Kyiv for talks on weapons, EU membership; UK announces new sanctions on Russia – CNBC

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This is CNBC’s live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. See below for the latest updates. 

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy are in Kyiv on Thursday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The need for more weapons, and Ukraine’s EU membership bid, are likely topping the agenda.

Zelenskyy has said he is grateful for a new $1 billion support package from the Biden administration as Russia presses home its advantage in eastern Ukraine.

“We are defending Donbas,” he said, saying that the Ukrainian army had proved itself “despite the significant advantage of the Russian army in the number of soldiers and equipment.”

“Of course, we will do our best to outmatch their advantages for now. Every day I fight for Ukraine to get the necessary weapons and equipment,” Zelenskyy said last night.

UN says at least 4,481 killed in Ukraine since start of war

A child watches grave diggers putting soil on the grave of the the fallen sniper, Maxim Mayevsky, age 34 mourn during his funeral at the Field of Mars of Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine on May 13, 2022.
Omar Marques | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 4,481 civilian deaths and 5,565 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Russian economy ‘won’t be as it was,’ central banker says

Russia’s Central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina attends a session of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg on June 16, 2022.
Olga Maltseva | AFP | Getty Images

The head of the Russian Central Bank 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 was hit by a wide array of sanctions after the start of the Ukraine military operation, including major banks being cut off from the SWIFT international payment system and Western bans on flights. Hundreds of foreign companies have suspended operations in Russia or pulled out entirely.

The consequences of those actions have yet to be fully assessed.

— Associated Press

In pictures: Zelenskyy meets European leaders in Kyiv

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania are in Kyiv on Thursday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

From left to right, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis are seen sitting around a large table.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis meet for a working session in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022. 
Ludovic Marin | Reuters

The need for more weapons, and Ukraine’s EU membership bid, are likely topping the agenda. Here is a selection of pictures taken today as the leaders meet.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz observes damages as he visits with French President Emmanuel Macron, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022.
Viacheslav Ratynskyi | Reuters

Earlier in the day and flanked by Ukrainian soldiers, the leaders visited ruined buildings and wrecked cars in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, where Ukraine has accused Russia of committing atrocities. Moscow denies the claims.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visit Irpin.
Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

European leaders visit Ukraine’s ruined Irpin

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy have walked around the ruined surburb of Irpin near Kyiv on Thursday as they seek to reinforce their support for Ukraine.

Walking around ruined buildings and wrecked cars, the tour showed the leaders the locations of what Ukraine has said were atrocities by Russian troops.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (C) attend a visit with German Chancellor (unseen) in Irpin on June 16, 2022.
Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

The leaders were shown the wreckage of a car which Ukraine says was targeted by Russian troops when a mother and children were inside, Reuters reported. Russia denies allegations that its forces committed atrocities or that it has targeted civilians during the conflict.

Macron told reporters that the city was “heroic” and had been marked by the “stigma of barbarism.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis stand for a photograph, outside the Mariyinsky Palace, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022.
Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

The visit to Irpin and Kyiv follows criticism of the leaders from some quarters that their support of Ukraine was sluggish, with Germany particularly reluctant to send weapons to Ukraine at the start of the war.

Responding to that criticism, Macron said Thursday that “France and Europe have been standing by Ukraine and its population since the beginning.”

UK sets out sanctions against ‘barbaric treatment of children’ in Ukraine

The U.K. has announced a new range of sanctions for “the barbaric treatment of children” in Ukraine.

The measures include the sanctioning of Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for her alleged involvement in the forced transfer and adoption of Ukrainian children, the U.K. said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 9, 2022.
Mikhail Klimentyev | AFP | Getty Images

The U.K. said, “Lvova-Belova has been accused of enabling 2,000 vulnerable children being violently taken from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and orchestrating a new policy to facilitate their forced adoptions in Russia.”

There has been no response from Lvova-Belova of Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Lvova-Belova herself told the Vedomosti newspaper back in May that more than 190,000 children had arrived in Russia from the Donbas region by early May, including about 1,200 coming from orphanages in the pro-Russian Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics.”

Commenting on the new sanctions, U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, “we are targeting the enablers and perpetrators of Putin’s war who have brought untold suffering to Ukraine, including the forced transfer and adoption of children.”

Patriarch Kirill, head of Russian Orthodox Church also sanctioned for his prominent support for Russia’s invasion.

— Holly Ellyatt

Macron, Scholz and Draghi are in Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have traveled to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today.

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives at Kyiv train station on June 16, 2022, after traveling from Poland with the German chancellor and Italian prime minister.
Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

The trio travelled to Kyiv by train from Poland for the high-profile visit, becoming the latest in a line of Western leaders to make the trip to the Ukrainian capital.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (center), Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron on board a train bound for Kyiv on June 16, 2022. The visit by the three European leaders has taken weeks to organize, with the three men looking to overcome criticism over their response to the war.
Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

The visit by the three European leaders has reportedly taken weeks to organize and comes as they look to rebuff criticism of their response to the war, with all being accused of being slow and somewhat reluctant to support Ukraine with weapons.

Ukrainian border authorities with the passports of the three leaders on board the train to Kyiv.
Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

Holly Ellyatt

UN says a food crisis would accelerate global displacement

Refugees from Donbas at the train station of Lviv, Ukraine. More than 100 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide by May 2022 due to persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations, the UN refugee agency said.
Rick Mave/SOPA Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

A food crisis on top of existing crises would exacerbate the increasing trend of global displacement, Reuters reported, citing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

At the end of 2021, 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced, well over double the number from 10 years ago, according to UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report.

That figure has swelled to over 100 million, driven in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which the agency said caused the fastest and one of the largest forced displacement crises since World War II.

Grandi also criticized the “monopoly” of resources given to Ukraine compared with other underfunded programs for the displaced, Reuters reported.

“Ukraine should not make us forget other crises,” he said, according to Reuters.

– Chelsea Ong

Russian forces using ‘all available firepower’ to pound Severodonetsk, Ukraine says

Russian forces are using “all available firepower” to pound the key target of Severodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk as well as Bilohorivka, a settlement to the west of the twin cities that are separated by the Siverskyi Donets river.

In the latest military update from Ukraine’s armed forces, spokesman Oleksandr Shtupun said that “the Russian occupiers continue to fire on the units of our troops with all available firepower.”

“The enemy does not stop trying to establish full control over the city of Severodonetsk” he said, adding that “the fighting continues.”

Russian forces have been throwing everything they can at seizing Severodonetsk, which was the last major Ukrainian-held city in the Luhansk province. Around 80% of the city was in Russian hands yesterday, with fierce street battles taking place for, as President Zelenskyy put it earlier this week, “every meter of the city.”

Zelenskyy says he’s grateful for new U.S. weapons aid

Zelenskyy has thanked Ukrainian forces for holding out in the face of Russia’s onslaught in the Donbas.
Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he is grateful for a new $1 billion support package including coastal defense, artillery and modern rocket systems as Russia presses home its advantage in eastern Ukraine.

“I am grateful for this support, it is especially important for our defense in Donbas,” he said in his nightly address Wednesday, adding that he had already discussed with President Biden “the tactical situation on the battlefield and ways to accelerate our victory. Sanctions, politics, economic cooperation — we are preparing for new steps.”

He said Russia was already responding to Ukraine’s foreign policy success, noting that “gas pressure on Europe is growing again. The shelling of Ukrainian positions and peaceful cities is intensifying again.”

“We are defending Donbas,” he said, saying that the Ukrainian army had proved itself “despite the significant advantage of the Russian army in the number of soldiers and equipment.”

“Of course, we will do our best to outmatch their advantages for now. Every day I fight for Ukraine to get the necessary weapons and equipment.”

 — Holly Ellyatt

No evidence China is supporting Russia amid sanctions, White House says

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon April 11, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

The Biden administration has yet to see China work with Russia amid punishing rounds of coordinated global sanctions in response to the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Beijing so far has not provided material support to Moscow, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House.

Kirby’s comments follow Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the past week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met separately with high-level Chinese officials and reiterated that the world’s second-largest economy should not alleviate economic pressure on Russia.

— Amanda Macias

Here’s a breakdown of the weapons in the latest $1 billion security package for Ukraine

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 65th Field Artillery Brigade fire a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during a joint live-fire exercise with the Kuwait Land Forces, Jan. 8, 2019, near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
Courtesy: U.S. Department of Defense

Since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Biden administration has deployed more than 100,000 U.S. troops to NATO-member countries and authorized $5.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.

Read more: Biden to send another $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine

The Pentagon said that the latest tranche of weapons for Kyiv, the 12th such installment, is valued at $350 million and includes:

  • 18 155 mm howitzers
  • 36,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition
  • 18 tactical vehicles to tow 155 mm howitzers
  • Ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HMARS
  • 4 tactical vehicles to recover equipment and spare parts.

The U.S. will also provide Ukraine with two Harpoon coastal defense systems, thousands of secure radios, night vision and thermal devices along with funding for training and maintenance support. That aid is collectively valued at $650 million.

— Amanda Macias

UN says at least 4,452 killed in Ukraine since start of war

People stand amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022. 
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The United Nations has confirmed 4,452 civilian deaths and 5,531 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Russia reduces natural gas through European pipeline again

Poland’s state-owned oil and gas company PGNiG said Russia’s gas giant Gazprom had informed it on Tuesday that it would halt gas supplies that are delivered via the Yamal pipeline on Wednesday morning.
Igor Russak | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Russia’s Gazprom announced a reduction in natural gas flows through a key European pipeline for the second day in a row, hours after Germany’s vice chancellor said its initial move appeared to be political rather than a result of technical problems.

The state-owned energy giant said on Twitter that deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany would be cut again Thursday, bringing the overall reduction through the undersea pipeline to 60%.

The new cut came a day after Gazprom said it would reduce flows by 40% after Canadian sanctions over the war in Ukraine prevented German partner Siemens Energy from delivering overhauled equipment. It blamed the same issue for the additional reduction.

Gazprom also told Italian gas giant Eni that it would reduce gas through a different pipeline by roughly 15%. The reason for the reduction has not been made clear, and the Italian company said it was monitoring the situation.

— Associated Press

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