Russia-Ukraine latest updates: NATO warns war could last years

Russia-Ukraine news from June 19: Warning of protracted war comes as Russia intensifies its assault on eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen fire with a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun Caesar towards Russian positions at a front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a French self-propelled 155mm/52-calibre Caesar gun towards Russian positions at a front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas [Aris Messinis/AFP]
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warns that the war in Ukraine could drag on for years and calls for the supply of more state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops.
  • TASS news agency says two top Ukrainian commanders who defended Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant have been transferred to Russia for investigations.
  • Luhansk’s Governor Serhiy Haidai says he is preparing “for the worst” as Russian forces intensify their assault on eastern cities.
  • Russia says its offensive against Severodonetsk was proceeding successfully after it took control of Metyolkine, a district on the eastern outskirts of the city.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the front lines in Mykolaiv and Odesa, declares Ukrainian troops “will definitely” win against Russia.


The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. These were the updates on Sunday, June 19:

Zelenskyy expects Russia to intensify attacks on Ukraine

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has said that he expects Russia to intensify attacks on Ukraine as Kyiv waits for the European Union’s decision to grant it the status of a candidate state.

“Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities, as an example,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“And not only against Ukraine, but also against other European countries. We are preparing. We are ready.”

Report: Vast majority of Russian munitions in Ukraine are ‘unguided’

The New York Times has identified more than 2,000 munitions used by Russian forces in Ukraine, “a vast majority of which were unguided”.

According to the newspaper, more than 210 weapons that were identified were types that have been widely banned under a variety of international treaties.

“All but a handful were cluster munitions, including their submunitions, which can pose a grave risk to civilians for decades after war has ended,” the report said. “More than 330 other weapons appeared to have been used on or near civilian structures.”

A man walks past an unexploded tail section of a 300mm rocket that appears to have contained cluster bombs launched from a BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher embedded in the ground after shelling in Lysychansk, Luhansk region on April 11, 2022 [Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]

Ukraine parliament bans publications from Russia

Ukraine’s parliament has adopted a slew of new laws on Sunday, including a ban on public performances of music “of the Russian region” as well as publications imported from Russia and Belarus.

Other laws adopted included the exemption of military personnel “involved in hostilities” from the country’s special war tax.

Morocco calls for ‘fair trial’ for citizen facing Ukraine war death penalty

Morocco’s national human rights body has urged Russian authorities to guarantee a “fair trial” for Brahim Saadoun, a young national appealing a death sentence imposed by a pro-Russian court in Ukraine.

The dual Ukrainian-Moroccan citizen, born in 2000, was sentenced to death on June 9 along with two British men by a court in Donetsk, a self-proclaimed statelet in eastern Ukraine.

The trio have been accused of acting as mercenaries for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

Amina Bouayach, president of the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH), has contacted the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, a source from the Moroccan rights council told AFP on Sunday.

She has urged the Russian body to take “the necessary steps to ensure Brahim Saadoun receives a fair trial during his appeal”, the source said.

UK to change visa rules for unaccompanied Ukrainian children

The United Kingdom will change visa rules to allow unaccompanied Ukrainian minors to enter the country, The Times has reported.

The existing rules bar children under 18 who are without a parent or guardian from traveling to the UK.

This change will allow hundreds of stranded children and teenage refugees to enter the country.

Report: Russia will likely seize Severodonetsk but make little progress on other fronts

The Institute for the Study of War has said that “Russian forces will likely be able to seize [the industrial city of] Severodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area”.

In a report, the Washington, DC-based think-tank said “The Russian military continues to face challenges with the morale and discipline of its troops in Ukraine.”

Gaining full control of the Luhansk region is a main strategic goal for Russian forces, as part of a campaign to try and take complete control of the Donbas.

Ukraine hails release of Yuliia Paievska, medic who filmed Mariupol horrors

Ukraine has celebrated the release of a Ukrainian medic whose footage was smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol by an Associated Press team, and was released by Russian forces, three months after being taken captive.

“I’m grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Taira is already home. We will keep working to free everyone,” President Zelenskyy said, referring to Yuliia Paievska, better known as Taira, a nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game.

Paievska’s release was greeted across Ukraine due to her longstanding reputation as a veteran medic who has trained the country’s volunteer medical force.

She founded a group of medics called Taira’s Angels and had served as a contact point between the military and civilians in front-line towns.

Paievska recorded more than 250 gigabytes of her team’s efforts over two weeks to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.

She transferred the clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in Mariupol, one of whom fled with it embedded in a tampon on March 15.

Yuliia Paievska
Ukraine hails release of Yuliia Paievska, a medic who filmed Mariupol horrors [File: Invictus Games Team Ukraine via AP Photo]

Germany to increase use of coal to conserve natural gas

Germany will restart coal-fired power plants in order to conserve natural gas, the country’s economy minister has said.

“To reduce gas consumption, less gas must be used to generate electricity. Coal-fired power plants will have to be used more instead,” the economy ministry said in a statement.

Robert Habeck, the minister for economic affairs and climate action, said bringing back coal-fired power plants was “painful, but it is a sheer necessity”.

The move was part of a series of measures, including new incentives for companies to burn less natural gas, announced by Germany as Europe takes steps to deal with reduced energy supplies from Russia.

Germany will restart coal-fired power plants in order to conserve natural gas, the country’s economy minister has said [Andreas Rentz/Getty Images]

UN in Ukraine calls for accountability for sexual violence

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, has said that Russia’s war on Ukraine has been marred by incidents of conflict-related sexual violence.

In a statement, Lubrani said that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified cases of sexual violence against both women and men in Ukraine.

“Due to active hostilities, mass internal displacement, the stigma associated with sexual violence and the breakdown of the referral pathways, survivors are often unable or unwilling to report to law enforcement authorities or service providers,” she said.

“We reiterate that conflict-related sexual violence is a crime under international human rights and humanitarian law,” Lubrani added.

Italian FM accuses own party of undermining Ukraine support efforts

Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio has accused his own Five Star Movement party of undermining government efforts to support Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The internal party feuding also creates problems for Prime Minister Mario Draghi as he faces an important vote in parliament on Tuesday over Ukraine, with some Five Star members looking to limit Italy from sending further weapons to Kyiv.

Italy, like many EU countries, has been dispatching arms to Ukraine to help it battle the Russian invasion.

In a statement, Di Maio said the government had to defend the values of democracy and freedom, adding that while everyone wanted peace, Russian President Vladimir Putin was pursuing war.

Luigi di Maio
Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio has accused his own Five Star Movement party of undermining government efforts to support Ukraine [Ciro de Luca/Reuters]

Japanese airline to change logo featuring letter ‘Z’

The Japanese low-cost carrier Zipair Tokyo has said it will ditch its logo featuring the letter Z, a pro-war symbol often seen on Russian military vehicles, to avoid misunderstanding, the Japan Times reported.

The president of the subsidiary of Japan Airlines Co told reporters at Narita Airport near Tokyo that some people might see the current logo – painted on the vertical tail of its B-787 planes – as indicating the company approves of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I think some people might feel that way when they see it without any explanation,” Shingo Nishida said.

The new logo will be a geometric pattern in green, black and white, the company said.

UN food agency cuts rations for refugees in east and west Africa

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has said it has been forced to reduce food rations for refugees in east and west Africa due to a surge in demand and insufficient funding.

The war in Ukraine has had a worsening impact on the global refugee crisis and heightened the risk of famine, as it drove up the price of commodities, especially grain.

Three-quarters of refugees in east Africa supported by the UN programme have seen their rations reduced by up to 50 percent, WFP said, with those in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda the worst affected.

“We are being forced to make the heartbreaking decision to cut food rations for refugees who rely on us for their survival,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

Russia says eastern attack is going well

Russia says its offensive against Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine is proceeding successfully after it took control of a district on the outskirts of the city.

“The offensive in the Severodonetsk direction is developing successfully,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video statement. He said the settlement of Metyolkine, on the eastern outskirts of the city, had been taken.

“The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue to strike military targets on the territory of Ukraine,” he said.

Konashenkov said long-range Kalibr cruise missiles hit a command centre in the Dnipropetrovsk region, killing Ukrainian generals and officers.

Russia says it hit Kharkiv tank repair plant

Russia’s Iskander missiles hit a Kharkiv tank repair plant in Ukraine, the Russian defence ministry has said.

The ministry also said it had destroyed 10 howitzers and up to 20 military vehicles in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv that had been supplied by Western countries over the past 10 days.

Italy’s Eni takes stake in giant Qatar gas project

Days after Russia slashed supplies to Italy, Eni was announced as a partner in Qatar Energy’s project to expand production from the world’s biggest natural gas field.

Eni joins France’s TotalEnergies, which has a 6.25 percent share worth an estimated $2bn in the $28bn North Field East project. More partners are set to be announced.

Russian, Ukrainian forces likely deserting: UK intelligence

Ukrainian and Russian units fighting in the eastern Donbas region are likely suffering desertions in recent weeks, UK Defence Ministry reports on the basis of information from the British intelligence services, adding that the Russian morale “highly likely remains especially troubled”.

“Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur,” read the statement. “The Russian authorities likely struggle to bring legal pressure to bear on military dissenters, hampered by the invasion’s official status as a ‘special military operation’ rather than as a war,” it added.

The ministry also said both sides have continued to conduct heavy artillery bombardments on axes to the north, east and south of the Sieverodonetsk pocket, but with little change in the front line.

Germany plans further measures to make up for Russian gas

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck is planning additional measures to reduce gas consumption and replace supplies in view of lower gas deliveries from Russia, according to plans seen by dpa news agency.

The use of gas for power generation and industry is to be reduced and the filling of storage facilities is to be prioritised before the winter.

The government is providing billions in funds to finance the measures, dpa learned from government circles.

Russian troops to advance towards Kharkiv: Ukraine official

The situation north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is quite difficult as Russian forces have been trying to get closer to shell the city again, a Ukraine interior ministry official has said.

“Russia is trying to make Kharkiv a front-line city,” Vadym Denysenko, a ministry adviser, told Ukraine’s national television.

A view shows a tram depot destroyed by a Russian missile strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine
A view shows a tram depot destroyed by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine [Vitalii Hnidyi/Reuters]

Zelenskyy promises to retake Ukraine’s south

The Ukrainian president promises to retake areas of southern Ukraine occupied by Russian troops.

“We will not hand over the south to anyone,” Zelenskyy said in an overnight video address, shortly after returning from a visit to the southern front lines. He said Ukrainian forces will take back “everything that belongs to us”.

Ukraine will also restore safe access to the sea in the process, he said.

Russian attacks intensified on Ukraine’s battlefields

The industrial city of Severodonetsk, a prime target in Moscow’s offensive to seize full control of Luhansk – one of the two provinces making up the Donbas – faced heavy artillery and rocket fire again, the Ukrainian military has said.

“The situation in Severodonetsk is very difficult,” said Haidai, the Ukrainian-appointed governor of Luhansk, adding that Russian forces, using drones for air reconnaissance, were adjusting strikes quickly in response to defence changes.

“Areas near the bridges have been heavily shelled again,” Haidai said in an online post, adding that the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of people had been sheltering, was hit twice.

Smoke and flame rise after a military strike on a compound of Sievierodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine June 18, 2022.
Smoke and flame rise after a military attack on a compound of Severodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine [Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

Two dead, 15 wounded in Novomoskovsk: Governor

At least one person has died and two wounded after a fuel tank exploded in the district of Novomoskovsk as rescue workers have been trying to extinguish a fire caused by a Russian rocket attack, Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on his Telegram channel.

On Saturday, at least 13 people were injured and one killed in the attack, Reznichenko said.

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Saturday, June 18, 2022, a Russian KA-52 helicopter gunship fires rockets on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.
In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Saturday a Russian KA-52 helicopter gunship fires rockets on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine [Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP]

Gazprom’s gas exports to Europe via Ukraine slightly up

Russian gas producer Gazprom says its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point has risen to 41.7 million cubic metres (mcm) from 41.4mcm on Saturday.

An application to supply gas via another major entry point, Sokhranovka, was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

Top Azovstal commanders transferred to Russia for investigation: Report

Two top Ukrainian commanders who defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have been transferred to Russia for investigation, according to TASS.

Citing an unnamed Russian law enforcement source, TASS said on Saturday that Svyatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of the Azov battalion, and Serhiy Volynsky, commander of the 36th Marine Brigade, had been moved to Russia.

Special forces officers transferred them from Donetsk “to conduct investigative activities with them”, TASS cited the source as saying. “Other officers of various Ukrainian units were also transported to Russia.”

Hundreds of fighters were captured by Russian forces in May after a months-long siege of Mariupol. Moscow said at the time they were moved to breakaway Russian-backed entities in eastern Ukraine.

NATO’s Stoltenberg warns of a years-long war in Ukraine

NATO chief Stoltenberg has warned that the war in Ukraine could last years as he called for state-of-the-art weaponry for Ukrainian troops.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” he told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices.”

Read more here.

Ukraine suffers military setback near Severodonestk

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces says Ukrainian forces have suffered a military setback in Metolkine, to the southeast of the city of Severodonetsk.

“As a result of artillery fire and an assault, the enemy has partial success in the village of Metolkine, trying to gain a foothold,” it said in a Facebook post.

But the military said Ukrainian forces had stopped the Russian advance near the village of Syrotyne.

Governor of Luhansk preparing ‘for the worst’

Luhansk Governor Haidai has told the AFP news agency that Russian forces are “shelling our troop positions 24 hours a day”.

“There’s an expression: prepare for the worst and the best will come by itself,” Haidai said from the town of Lysychansk, where preparations for street fighting are under way: soldiers digging in, putting up barbed wire and police using burned-out vehicles to slow traffic on roads.

Haidai called for supplies of “long-range weaponry to arrive as soon as possible”, adding: “The fact that the West is helping us is good, but it’s [too] late.”

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Go here for all the key developments from Saturday, June 19.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies