Ukraine latest updates: Russian reserves heading to Luhansk

Ukraine news from June 18: Luhansk governor says reserves are coming from other battle areas to the front-line at the eastern city of Severodonetsk.

A Ukrainian tank is seen in Severodonetsk
A Ukrainian tank is in position during heavy fighting on the front line in Severodonetsk [File: Oleksandr Ratushniak/AP Photo]
  • Governor of Luhansk says Moscow is sending a large number of reserve troops to Severodonetsk.
  • Russia is renewing its efforts to advance south of Ukraine’s eastern city of Izyum, British defence ministry says.
  • The United Nations estimates more than 10,000 civilians, including hundreds of children, have now been killed or injured in the war in Ukraine.
  • A Russian vessel that was delivering arms to the strategically important Snake Island has sunk after being hit with Western-supplied anti-ship weapons, according to a Ukrainian military official.
(Al Jazeera)

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These were the updates on Saturday, June 18:


Germany’s Scholz urges Russia to ease grain exports

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is urging Russia to ease the global food crisis by helping to facilitate grain shipments from blockaded Ukrainian ports.

“You have to hope for the world’s sake that an agreement is reached,” Scholz told the dpa news agency, referring to continuing negotiations about establishing an export corridor across the Black Sea.

“Russia must enable safe passage and at the same time give credible assurances that it will not use the corridor for an invasion,” he told dpa.

Prepare for the long haul: UK PM Johnson

UK Prime Minister Johnson has warned allies to prepare for a long war in Ukraine, urging sustained support for Kyiv or risk “the greatest victory for aggression” since World War II.

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”.

“Time is now the vital factor,” Johnson wrote in a 1,000-word article posted online on Saturday night.

“Everything will depend on whether Ukraine can strengthen its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia can renew its capacity to attack. Our task is to enlist time on Ukraine’s side.”

Zelenskyy visits Odesa

Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has inspected a building in Odesa damaged by a Russian missile attack that killed eight people.

The Ukrainian leader wrote in his Telegram channel that among those killed included a three-month-old baby, calling it “a terrible crime for which there are no excuses”.

Ukraine: Russia trying to stay on offensive around Kharkiv, other cities

The spokesman of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine says Russian forces were actively on the offensive across Kharkiv, Severodonetsk and Sloviansk.

Oleksandr Shtupun said that the Russian military had used artillery shelling across various settlements towards Kharkiv.

He added that Russians used mortars, artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers against various settlements in the direction of Sloviansk.

Meanwhile in Severodonetsk, “the enemy continues to fire from artillery and rocket artillery in the areas of the settlements of Met’olkine, Bila Hora and Ustynivka,” Shtupun said.

Russian missiles destroy fuel depot in eastern Ukrainian town: Official

Three Russian missiles destroyed a fuel storage depot in the eastern Ukrainian town of No

vomoskovsk, sending three people to hospital, the head of the regional administration has said in an online message.

Valentyn Reznichenko posted a picture of what he said was a large blaze at the depot.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the official’s claims.

A Ukrainian boy plays at the "Mariupol House of Mothers and Children" shelter, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the town of Novomoskovsk
A Ukrainian boy plays at ta shelter in the town of Novomoskovsk, Dnipro region [File: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Missiles hit gasworks in eastern Ukraine: Governor

Several Russian missiles hit a gasworks in the Izyum district in eastern Ukraine, Kharkiv region governor Oleh Synehubov has said.

“A large-scale fire broke out, rescuers localised the fire,” Synehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that some other buildings had also been damaged.

Blast rocks area near Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk: Separatists

A big explosion rocked an area near the besieged Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk and a large orange-coloured cloud could be seen rising into the air, a Russian-backed representative has said.

Rodion Miroshnik, an official in the self-styled separatist administration of the Luhansk People’s Republic, posted a video of what he said was the cloud on the Telegram messaging app.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the official’s claims.

Russia sending large number of reserve troops to Severodonetsk: Ukrainian governor

Russia is sending a large number of reserve troops to Severodonetsk from other battle zones to try to gain full control of the front-line eastern city, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region has said.

“Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, they will throw in all the reserves they have … because there are so many of them there already, they’re at critical mass,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said on national television.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the official’s claims.

An Unexploded Ordnance is embedded on a road in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine.
An unexploded ordnance on a road in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 7, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

Five civilians return in prisoner swap with Russia: Ukraine

Ukraine’s defence intelligence directorate has said five Ukrainian civilians had been returned in a five-for-five prisoner swap with Russia. It did not say whether the exchanged Russians were combatants.

The directorate said four of the five Ukrainian civilians had been taken prisoner during Russia’s occupation of parts of Kyiv region, from where Russian forces withdrew at the end of March.

Sanctions on goods to Russian city to take effect today: Lithuania

Lithuanian authorities say a ban on the transit through their territory to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad of goods that are subject to EU sanctions will take effect from Saturday.

The EU sanctions list notably includes coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology, and the ban would cover about 50 percent of the items that Kaliningrad imports, the region’s governor Anton Alikhanov said.

Miners rescued after being trapped underground: Pro-Russia separatists

Seventy-seven miners have been rescued after being trapped underground during a power outage and shelling of territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, local officials said.

The miners were underground when power was lost in the Zasyadko coal mine in Ukraine’s Donetsk region but all were now safe and no one was injured, according to a statement by local separatist officials.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the claims of the separatists.

Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 115

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 115th day, we take a look at the main developments.

Read here.

Ukrainian soldiers
Soldiers ride in the back of a truck in Kramatorsk, Ukraine [Scott Olson/Getty Images]

EU says Russia putting world in danger of famine

Russia is putting the world at risk of famine through its blockade of Ukraine’s shipments of grains and restrictions on its own exports, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said.

“Russia’s conscious political choice is to ‘weaponise'” grain exports and “use them as a tool for blackmail against anyone that opposes its aggression” in Ukraine, Borrell said in an article published on his official blog.

The threat to food security and a “battle of narrative” with Russia on Western-imposed sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine will dominate European Union foreign ministers’ talks in Luxembourg on Monday.

Zelenskyy pays first visit to south Ukraine’s war-damaged Mykolaiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited the war-damaged southern city of Mykolaiv for the first time since the Russian invasion in a rare trip outside Kyiv.

Zelenskyy’s office published a video of him looking at a badly damaged high-rise residential building in the city and holding a meeting with local officials.

British PM says Ukraine ‘deserves’ to host Eurovision

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he hopes Ukraine will be able to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, saying the country’s people “deserve to have it”.

“The Ukrainians won the Eurovision Song Contest. I know we had a fantastic entry, I know we came second and I’d love it to be in this country,” Johnson said.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has ruled it could not go ahead in the war-torn country as planned and instead offered the chance to the UK.

“But the fact is that they won and they deserve to have it. I believe that they can have it and I believe that they should have it,” Johnson said.

Ukrainians bid farewell to activist killed in war

Hundreds of Ukrainians have gathered at a central Kyiv monastery for the funeral of a 24-year-old activist killed during fighting with Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Roman Ratushny, a well known figure of Ukraine’s 2014 pro-EU revolution, was killed on June 9 near Izyum in the eastern Kharkiv region.

Mourners attended his funeral at the golden-domed Saint Michael’s monastery.

‘Fierce battles’ outside Ukraine’s Severodonetsk: Governor

Ukrainian authorities say that “fierce battles” with Russia are raging in villages outside the eastern city of Severodonetsk, which Moscow’s forces have been trying to seize control of for weeks.

“Now the most fierce battles are near Severodonetsk. They [Russia] do not control the city entirely,” the governor of the eastern Luhansk region, Sergiy Haiday, said on Telegram.

“In nearby villages there are very difficult fights, in Toshkivska, Zolote. They are trying to break through but failing,” he said. “Our defenders are fighting Russians in all directions. Recently, they shot down a plane and took captives.”

He added that Lysychansk, a Ukrainian-controlled city across a river from battered Severodonetsk, was being “heavily shelled”.

UK must keep up support for Kyiv amid ‘Ukraine fatigue’: Johnson

It is important the UK continues to show it is supporting Ukraine for the long haul, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, warning of a risk of “Ukraine fatigue” as the war drags on.

“The Russians are grinding forward inch by inch and it is vital for us to show what we know to be true which is that Ukraine can win and will win,” Johnson told reporters on his arrival back in the UK from a visit to Kyiv.

Some members of his Conservative Party had criticised him for making the trip instead of attending a conference in northern England.

“When Ukraine fatigue is setting in, it is very important to show that we are with them for the long haul and we are giving them the strategic resilience that they need,” Johnson said.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shaking hands
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet in Kyiv [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]

Ukraine planning to resume peace talks with Russia in August

Ukraine plans to resume peace talks with Russia by the end of August, when counter-attack operations have been carried out.

The country will be in a better position to negotiate, Kyiv’s chief negotiator David Arakhamia told an interview with US broadcasters Voice of America. He believes Ukraine will conduct an operation with counter-attacks in different places, he said without giving details.

Shelling traps 77 miners in Donetsk region: RIA

Shelling has trapped 77 miners in a coal mine in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine after power to the mine was cut off, Russia’s state RIA news agency has reported.

“As a result of shelling by [Ukrainian forces], power to the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk was cut off, 77 miners remain underground,” RIA said, citing the Russian-backed separatist region’s territorial defence.

There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv. Ukraine routinely denies carrying out any attacks on the two regions that comprise the Donbas, the self-styled Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, where separatists seized large swaths of land in 2014.

Russian state TV airs videos of two missing Americans in Ukraine

A Russian state TV channel has aired videos on social media of two Americans who went missing last week while fighting alongside the Ukrainian army, stating they had been captured by Russian forces.

United States President Joe Biden had said on Friday he did not know the whereabouts of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, both US military veterans.

“Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and I hope to be back home as soon as I can be,” Drueke said in a video posted by Russian journalist Roman Kosarev, who works with RT channel, on messaging platform Telegram.

The missing Americans, including a third identified as a former US Marines captain, are believed to be part of an unknown number of mostly military veterans who have joined other foreigners to volunteer alongside Ukrainian troops.

Russian vessel en route to Snake Island sinks: Ukraine

A Russian vessel that was delivering weapons to the strategically important Snake Island has sunk after being hit by Ukrainian missiles, a military official has said.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s tug, named Vasily Bech, was damaged on Friday by anti-ship missiles provided to Ukraine by Denmark.

“Later it became known that it sank,” Odessa military governor Maxym Marchenko said in a video statement on his Telegram channel.

Russian officials have not confirmed the incident. Moscow had confirmed the loss of the landing ship Saratov and the flagship missile cruiser Moskva.

Russian forces renew bid to advance south of Ukraine’s Izium

Russia has likely renewed its efforts to advance south of Ukraine’s eastern city of Izyum in the last 48 hours, the British defence ministry has said.

Its goal is to penetrate deeper into the Donetsk region and envelope the pocket around the embattled city of Severodonetsk from the north, it said in an intelligence update on Twitter.

If trapped Ukrainian civilians do not take up an offer of leaving via a corridor, Russia is likely to claim justification in making less of a distinction between them and any Ukrainian military targets in the area, the ministry added.

China’s Xi addressed St. Petersburg economic forum

Russia invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to address the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday.

Speaking by video link, Xi told the forum that it was necessary to “build an open world economy and reject attempts at decoupling, supply disruption, unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure”, state media reported on Saturday.

China has urged talks to end the war in Ukraine and has not condemned Russia for the invasion.

Ukrainian defence remains ‘strong’ around Severodonestsk, Lysychansk: ISW

Russia is deploying more forces to support its offensive in the Severodonetsk and Lysychansk area, but Ukraine’s defences remain “strong”, according to the latest update from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

“The Russian military has concentrated the vast majority of its available combat power to capture Severodonetsk and Lysychansk at the expense of other axes of advance and is suffering heavy casualties to do so,” the US-based think tank said.

‘Milestone achievement’: Save the Children welcomes declaration on urban attacks

Save the Children has welcomed a political declaration designed to protect civilians in cities and towns with a commitment to avoid explosive attacks on urban areas.

After three years of negotiations, Ireland presented the final draft of the declaration in Geneva on Friday.

“This is a milestone achievement in recognising a trend in modern conflict that is having a devastating impact on the lives of children,” James Denselow, head of the conflict team at Save the Children UK, said in a statement. “It recognises the unique vulnerabilities children have to the weapons of modern war and their proximity to too many front lines. It could be a significant step forward in the push to stop the war on children”.

Russia frees medic who filmed horror of Mariupol siege

Russia has freed a Ukrainian medic whose footage was smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol by an Associated Press team, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced.

Yuliia Paievska, known in Ukraine as Taira, used a body camera to film her team’s efforts over two weeks to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.

She transferred the clips to the AP journalists, one of whom fled with it embedded in a tampon on March 15. Taira and a colleague were taken prisoner by Russian forces the next day.

Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, a celebrated Ukrainian medic was freed by Russia on Friday
Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, a celebrated Ukrainian medic who used a body camera to record her work during the Mariupol siege has been freed by Russia [File: Invictus Games Team Ukraine via AP Photo]

US high-tech drone sale to Ukraine hits snag: Reuters

The Reuters news agency is reporting that the United States’ plans to sell four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine have been put on hold because of concerns the sophisticated surveillance equipment could fall into enemy hands.

The technical objection to the sale of the armable drones was raised during a deeper review by the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration, which is charged with keeping high-value technology safe from enemy hands, Reuters said, citing two people familiar with the plan.

TikTok pressed on whether it allows ‘pro-war’ propaganda

Republican senators in the United States have written to TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew about reports the social media site had allowed Russian state-approved media content but barred other videos.

“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,” the letter said.

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.”

UN says civilian casualties exceed 10,000

The United Nations says more than 10,000 civilians, including hundreds of children, have now been killed or injured in the war in Ukraine.

Some 4,509 people had been killed and 5,585 injured as of midnight in Kyiv (21:00 GMT) on June 16, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in its daily update. The dead include 294 children, the OHCHR 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, and missile and air strikes,” the statement said, adding that the actual figures were probably much higher.

Read all the updates from June 17, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies