- Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz, President of France Emmanuel Macron, Prime minister of Italy Mario Draghi and Romanian President Romanian President Klaus Iohannis meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in their first trip to Kyiv since war started in February.
- The heads of state start their talks after a visit to war-damaged Irpin where Macron praised Ukrainian “heroism” and said there were signs of war crimes.
- Heavy fighting continues in the eastern city of Severodonetsk where battles are being “fought for every house,” a local authority says.
- The head of the UN refugee agency says the food crisis stoked by the Ukraine war is set to drive record displacement to more “staggering” levels.
- Washington has announced an additional $1bn in security assistance to Ukraine, including more artillery and coastal defence weapons.
- A UN official has warned that essential supplies are running out for thousands of civilians trapped in Severodonetsk.
- Ukrainian fighters inside Severodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant have ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender.
Here are the latest updates:
Russia to delay some climate projects
Russia will have to delay the implementation of some climate-related projects due to restrictions on supplies of foreign equipment, but will stay in the Paris climate accord, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko told Reuters.
Abramchenko said that Russia plans to harvest around 130 million tonnes of grain in 2023, on par with current year, while the government has no plans to change grain export duty. She added that the government does not plan to alter grain exports tax formula.
She also denied accusations that Russia was transporting grain from the Ukrainian territories it now controls.
European leaders meet Zelenskyy
The leaders of Italy, France, Germany and Rumania sit at the for a face-to-face talk with Zelenskyy. Images showed the four leaders in business suits sat around a wooden table with the Ukrainian leader in his customary khaki T-shirt.
Russia’s war of “unimaginable cruelty”: Scholtz
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 Olaf 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.”
Former Russian leader derides EU leaders’ visit
Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev has mocked three European heads of state visiting Ukraine: “European fans of frogs, liverwurst and spaghetti love visiting Kiev. With zero use,” he said on Twitter, referring to three stereotype linked to France, Germany and Italy.
Medvedev was president of Russia from 2008-2012 and is currently deputy chair of the National Security Council.
The leaders’ trip would have “zero use,” he wrote. They “promised EU membership and old howitzers to Ukraine, lushed up on gorilka [Ukrainian alcoholic drink] and went home by train, like 100 years ago.”
“Yet, it won’t bring Ukraine closer to peace. The clock’s ticking”.
European fans of frogs, liverwurst and spaghetti love visiting Kiev. With zero use. Promised EU membership and old howitzers to Ukraine, lushed up on gorilka and went home by train, like 100 years ago. All is well. Yet, it won’t bring Ukraine closer to peace. The clock’s ticking
— Dmitry Medvedev (@MedvedevRussiaE) June 16, 2022
Kremlin says Western arms ‘useless’
The Kremlin warns against new Western weapons supplies, saying it would be “absolutely useless”.
“I would like to hope that the leaders of these three states and the President of Romania will not only focus on supporting Ukraine by further pumping Ukraine with weapons,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that it would be “absolutely useless and will cause further damage to the country”.
Battles ‘fought for every house’ in Severodonetsk
Serhiy Haidai, governor of the eastern region of Luhansk says Russian forces have concentrated all their reserves to capture Severodonetsk.
“Fierce battles are fought for every house in the city,” Haidai said in his daily briefing, adding that Ukrainians need long-range artillery to push back Russian forces.
Russia says ready for peace talks, blames Kyiv for stalling: Interfax
Moscow is ready to restart peace talks with Ukraine but has yet to receive a response to its latest proposals, Interfax news agency cited Russia’s chief negotiator as saying.
Vladimir Medinsky said that Kyiv was to blame for the lack of progress.
Since intermittent talks between the two sides were held in March, including a high-profile meeting of delegations in Istanbul, negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have stalled.
In war-damaged Irpin, Macron praises Ukrainian ‘heroism’
Macron praises Ukrainian “heroism” in the face of Russia’s invasion while visiting Irpin.
“It’s here … that the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army descending onto Kyiv,” the French leader said. “It represents the heroism of the army, but also of the Ukrainian population,” he said, adding that there are signs of war crimes following “massacres” by Russian forces.
Responding to a question on his previous remarks that Russia must not be humiliated, Macron said “we stand with the Ukrainians without ambiguity. Ukraine must resist and win”.
EU leaders visit Irpin
Three European leaders are visiting war-scarred Kyiv’s suburb of Irpin, where residential buildings and civilian infrastructure were damaged by Russian troops’ attempts early in the invasion to capture the capital.
Nearly 300 civilians were found in the district after Russian forces withdrew from the area at the end of March.
Fighting continues in Severodonetsk
Heavy fighting continues in Severodonetsk, Luhansk, where an estimated 1,000 civilians are sheltering inside the Azot chemical plant, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reported.
Interfax news agency quoted a separatist leader as saying that Russia-backed forces will reopen a humanitarian corridor for those civilians.
Leonid Pasechnik, head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said separatist forces had entered the plant but had been unable to dislodge Ukrainian fighters from the factory.
‘A message of unity’
“It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians, of support, to talk both about the present and the future, since the coming weeks, as we know, will be very difficult,” Macron said as he arrived in Kyiv. Soon after his arrival, together with Draghi and Macron, air raid sirens sounded in the city.
BFM TV said the leaders were headed to Irpin, where Ukraine says Russia committed large-scale atrocities. Russia denies the allegations.
Romania’s president arrives in Kyiv
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is now in Kyiv, joining the three other European leaders.
Iohannis wrote on Twitter that he was there to show his “full solidarity” with Ukraine and that the “illegal Russian aggression must stop!”
Just arrived in Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/fFJhyMd0tK
— Klaus Iohannis (@KlausIohannis) June 16, 2022
Weaponry to EU membership: Three leaders to discuss a range of topics in Kyiv
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kyiv, said the visit of the three European leaders is important to address a wide range of issues, from weapons delivery to Ukraine’s EU membership.
“Germany has come under criticism by Ukraine and Eastern European NATO members for what they say was foot-dragging on the supply of German weapons to Ukraine,” Stratford said. “There has been a delivery of German anti-aircraft tanks, but a plan for Germany to supply Eastern European NATO members with relatively new German kits, so they can supply Ukraine with old soviet heavy weaponry for which Ukrainians wouldn’t need training for, has not been implemented yet,” he said.
France has also not been spared criticism in the past months, Stratford noted, after Macron said Russia should not be humiliated if there was going to be a potential diplomatic settlement to the war.
Another talking point will concern Ukraine joining the EU, especially in light of an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels next week: “[Germany and France] are also accused of being reluctant to grant Ukraine that candidacy status,” Stratford said, adding that France used “ambiguous language” over the creation of a European political community Ukraine can join as full EU membership would take years.
Russia not considering withdrawing from WTO
Russia is not considering dropping out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Interfax news agency reported citing a deputy Russian foreign minister.
The diplomat’s comment came a month after the Russian Duma’s Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said Moscow was starting to unilaterally withdraw from a series of international bodies, including the WTO.
France wants Ukraine victory that establishes full territorial integrity: source
A French diplomatic source has told Reuters news agency that France wants a Ukrainian military victory against Russia that reestablishes the territorial integrity of the country, including Crimea, which was seized by Russia in 2014.
The source added it was up to Zelenskyy to define what a military victory could be.
Scholz vows support for Ukraine for ‘as long as necessary’
The German leader, now in the capital, Kyiv, pledges enduring support for Ukraine, along with Draghi and Macron.
“We want to show not only solidarity but also assure that the help that we’re organising – financial, humanitarian … weapons – will continue,” Scholz told Bild daily. “And that we will continue it as long as it is necessary for Ukraine’s fight” against Moscow, he said.
The chancellor added that EU sanctions imposed on Russia “contribute to the chance that Russia will abandon its plan and withdraw its troops – because that’s the goal”.
German rocket launchers to be delivered to Kyiv by August: Minister
Three multiple-rocket launchers that Germany pledged to Kyiv can be delivered in July or August after Ukrainian troops have been trained on the weapons, Germany’s defence minister has said.
“The training on these multiple-rocket launchers can begin at the end of June, meaning they can be delivered at the end of July or the start of August,” Christine Lambrecht told reporters as she arrived for a second day of talks with her NATO counterparts in Brussels.
‘An important moment’: Macron, Sholz and Draghi in Kyiv
The French president, German chancellor and Italian prime minister have arrived in Kyiv, Emmanuel Macron’s office has said.
The three leaders are on their way to meet with Volodymyr Zelenskyy in what Macron told reporters was “an important moment”.
The French president said he would pass on the message of “European solidarity” to Zelenskyy.
— Catherine Colonna (@MinColonna) June 16, 2022
Russia-US relations at ‘zero’: Kremlin
Russian-American relations are at “zero”, the Kremlin’s spokesman has told RIA news agency.
Dmitry Peskov said there was virtually no dialogue between the two countries.
Russia losing advantage in fight for key towns: UK
For both Russian and Ukrainian forces, fighting for key towns and cities such as Severodonetsk is “devolving to small groups of troops typically operating on foot,” the UK’s defence ministry has said.
“Some of Russia’s strengths, such as its advantage in numbers of tanks, become less relevant in this environment,” which is “likely contributing to its continued slow rate of advance,” the ministry said in an intelligence briefing on Twitter.
It also said the situation continues to be “extremely difficult” for Ukraine’s forces and civilians who remain on the east side of the Siverskyi Donets river in Severodonetsk. This is because all bridges linking the city with Ukrainian-held territory “have now highly likely been destroyed”.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 16 June 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/mUcMIcLHxU
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) June 16, 2022
Air strike kills six in Sumy overnight: Governor
An overnight Russian air-launched rocket strike hit a suburb of the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy, killing four and wounding six, the region’s governor has said.
Dmytro Zhyvytskyy did not specify the target of the strike on the suburb of Sad.
He said another rocket strike hit the Dobropillia district, which lies next to the Russian border, at 5am on Thursday, followed by 26 mortar rounds fired from across the border.
Macron, Scholz and Draghi on their way to Kyiv
The leaders of France, Germany and Italy have taken the night train to Kyiv, Italian daily La Repubblica has reported.
France’s ambassador to Kyiv, Etienne de Poncins, published on his Twitter account a photo taken in the Repubblica paper of the three leaders in a train en route to Ukraine’s capital.
Kyiv has criticised France, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Italy, for alleged foot-dragging in their support for Ukraine, accusing them of being slow to deliver weapons and of putting their own prosperity ahead of Ukraine’s freedom and security.
— Alexis Karklins-Marchay 🇫🇷+🇺🇸 (@alexiskarklins) June 16, 2022
Russia, US must discuss nuclear treaty extension: Kremlin spokesman
Russia and the United States must discuss the extension of the START nuclear arms reduction treaty, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA news agency.
The matter was important for global security and Russia’s military operation in Ukraine was no reason to avoid its discussion, Peskov added.
Russia and the US hold more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Romanian port becomes key transit hub for Ukrainian grain
The Black Sea port in the Romanian city of Constanta has become one of the main transit hubs for Ukrainian grain exports. Ukraine is racing to export about 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in its silos in time to accommodate the harvest of its new crops, which is set to start next month.
“Before the war, there was absolutely no Ukrainian cereal transiting the Constanta port. Now, it amounts to approximately 30 percent of our activity,” said Dan Dolghin, director of the cereal operation at Comvex, one of the main grain operators in the Constanta port.
Read more here.
Jailed Putin critic confirms move to maximum-security prison
Russia’s opposition politician Alexey Navalny has confirmed that he is now in a maximum-security prison after his allies raised an alarm on Tuesday that he had been transferred from the prison where he was serving his sentence to an unknown location.
Navalny wrote on Telegram that he was moved to the IK-6 prison in the Vladimir region village of Melekhovo, about 250 kilometres east of Moscow.
“My space travel continues,” Navalny wrote on Wednesday. “I’ve moved from ship to ship.” He said he was confined in a “strict regime” and in quarantine, but didn’t say why or what his conditions were.
Japan’s Zipair ditching ‘Z’ logo
Japan’s low-cost airline, Zipair Tokyo, has said it will replace its logo featuring the letter “Z” to avoid confusion after the letter became a symbol of Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, the Japan Times reports.
Shingo Nishida, president of the Japan Airlines subsidiary told reporters some people might see the current logo, which appears on the aircraft tail, as indicating that the company approves of Russia’s invasion.
The new logo will be a geometric pattern in green, black and white, the company said.
UN says essential services running out in Severodonetsk: BBC
Essential supplies are running out for the thousands of civilians trapped in Severodonetsk, many sheltering in the Azot chemical plant, the UN warns.
“The lack of water and sanitation is a big worry … people cannot survive for long without water,” UN Humanitarian Affairs Office spokesman Saviano Abreu told the BBC.
He said food supplies and health provisions were also running out in Severodonetsk, adding that continued fighting meant the organisation and its agencies cannot reach civilians still there – including women, children and the elderly.
The governor of Luhansk has said approximately 12,000 civilians remain in the city, with about 500 sheltering at the Azot plant with some Ukrainian fighters.
German energy regulator says Gazprom cuts could spell trouble in winter
Russian Gazprom’s move to cut gas supplies to Germany is a warning signal for Europe’s biggest economy next winter, the head of Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur energy regulator says.
Gazprom on Wednesday announced a further cut in the amount of gas it can pump through the Nord Stream 1, meaning the pipeline will run at just 40 percent capacity.
Asked if he feared Russia was serious about freezing gas supplies, regulator chief Klaus Mueller told the Rheinische Post daily: “It has so far been Russia’s logic to want to continue selling gas to Germany. But we can’t rule anything out.”
US military package includes 18 howitzers, two coastal defence systems
The $1bn package of US military aid for Ukraine announced on Wednesday includes 18 howitzers and 36,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as 18 tactical vehicles to tow the howitzers.
The US will also send ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) it previously announced; four tactical vehicles to recover equipment; spare parts and other equipment; two harpoon coastal defence systems; and thousands of secure radios, night vision devices, thermal sights and other optics.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday Kyiv needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones, among other heavy weapons. In addition, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for more modern anti-missile systems.
The total cost of the US package includes $350m in rapid, off-the-shelf deliveries by the Pentagon and $650m in other longer-term purchases. All combined, the US has now committed about $6.3bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $5.6bn since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
As authorized by @POTUS, I am directing the drawdown of $350 million in additional U.S. arms, equipment & supplies for Ukraine—part of $1 billion in U.S. support announced today to reinforce Ukraine’s defenses against Russia’s senseless war of choice. We stand #UnitedwithUkraine.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) June 15, 2022
Food crisis to drive global displacement to ‘staggering’ level: UN refugee chief
A food security crisis stoked by the Ukraine war is set to push more people to flee their homes in poorer countries, driving record levels of global displacement even higher, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says.
A report by the UN body shows that some 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, abuse and violence at the end of 2021. Since then, millions more have fled Ukraine or been displaced within its borders, with price hikes linked to blocked grain exports set to stoke more displacement elsewhere.
“If you have a food crisis on top of everything I have described – war, human rights, climate – it will just accelerate the trends I’ve described in this report,” Filippo Grandi told journalists on Monday during a news conference under embargo, describing the figures as “staggering”.
Grandi also criticised what he called a “monopoly” of resources given to Ukraine, which should not “make us forget other crises,” he said, mentioning a two-year-old conflict in Ethiopia and a drought in the Horn of Africa.
Zelenskyy in ‘constant’ talks with UK’s Johnson
Zelenskyy is in “constant contact” with United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ukraine’s president has said, after the two shared a phone call on Wednesday.
“Coordinated positions on the eve of important international events. Discussed the situation on the battlefield, Ukraine’s defence needs and threats to food security,” Zelenskyy said in a tweet.
Johnson said the G7 and NATO summits later this month were an opportunity to demonstrate the West’s unity and resolve to support Ukraine for the long term, according to a statement from his office.
“The continued determination of Ukrainian forces to win is evident to the entire world, and Ukraine can count on the UK’s full and steadfast support until its eventual victory,” the statement said.
In constant contact with @BorisJohnson. Coordinated positions on the eve of important international events. Discussed the situation on the battlefield, Ukraine’s defense needs and threats to food security.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 15, 2022
Albania, Montenegro PMs visit Kyiv
The prime ministers of Albania and Montenegro visited Kyiv on Wednesday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a show of solidarity for Ukraine.
The Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, joined Albania’s Edi Rama and Montenegro’s Dritan Abazovic by video link. The leaders put together a statement in support of Ukraine becoming a candidate state for European Union membership.
The three western Balkan nations are officially candidates for EU membership but progress on ascension has been stalled amid regional issues.
“Our states – Ukraine, the Republic of Albania, Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia – must become full members of the EU. And we agree that our countries are not competitors on this European path, they complement and strengthen each other’s capabilities,” Zelenskyy said.
No immediate need for additional Ukraine aid from Congress: White House
The White House does not believe it currently needs an additional Ukraine aid package from the US Congress after just tapping a recently approved $40bn measure.
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters on Wednesday.
Russia’s first deputy PM says rouble overvalued: Tass
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov says the rouble is overvalued and industry would be more comfortable if it fell to between 70 to 80 against the US dollar from the current 57, the state-owned Tass news agency has said.
Belousov, speaking to the agency in an interview, said year-on-year Russian inflation by the end of the year would be somewhere around 15 percent. As of June 10, it was 16.69 percent.
NATO weapons depot destroyed near Poland border: Russia
The Russian military said it used long-range missiles to destroy a depot in the western Lviv region of Ukraine where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was stored.
Near the border with NATO-member Poland, Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv, Russian Defence Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.
Konashenkov said shells for M777 howitzers, a type supplied by the US, were stored there. He said four howitzers were destroyed elsewhere and Russian air raids also destroyed Ukrainian “aviation equipment” at a military aerodrome in the southern Mykolaiv region.
Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment.
German, French, Italian leaders expected in Kyiv to signal solidarity
The leaders of the European Union’s three biggest countries, Germany, France and Italy, are expected in Kyiv on Thursday to show their backing for Ukraine.
The visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has taken weeks to organise with the three looking to overcome criticism within Ukraine over their response to the war.
“We are at a point when we need to send clear political signals, us Europeans, towards Ukraine and its people when it is resisting heroically,” said Macron, without giving details.
The trip, which has not been announced for security reasons, comes a day before the European Commission makes a recommendation on Ukraine’s status as an EU candidate, something the biggest European nations have been lukewarm about.
Ukraine ignores Russian ultimatum to surrender in Severodonetsk
Ukraine has ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Severodonetsk, which now largely lies in ruins after weeks of heavy bombardment.
Russia told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant there to lay down their arms. Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical factory.
Moscow said it opened a humanitarian corridor from Azot to allow civilians to escape to Russian-controlled territory. It accused Ukraine’s forces of disrupting that plan and using civilians as human shields, which Kyiv denied.
West must stay focused on Ukraine: Pentagon chief
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was at a “pivotal” moment and the US and its allies cannot lose focus on the three-month-long conflict, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said.
Austin was speaking at a meeting of dozens of defence ministers on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial gathering.
“We can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high,” Austin said at the start of the meeting in Brussels. “Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield … Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions.”
.@SecDef: I’m personally grateful for the significant security assistance that this [Ukraine Defense Contact Group] has provided thus far, but we can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high. pic.twitter.com/xlpSuLTrLO
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) June 15, 2022
You can read all updates for June 15 here.