Ukraine latest updates: German heavy weapons arrive in Ukraine

Ukraine news from June 21: Long-range precision weapons deployed after Berlin was criticised over its hesitation to send sophisticated arms.

Ukrainian soldiers move a howitzer into position to fire at Russian positions in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.
The West has sent weapons into Ukraine to help it fight the Kremlin forces, but Kyiv complains it has only received a fraction of what it needs and is clamouring for heavier weaponry [Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]
  • Ukraine reveals it “finally” deployed an advanced German artillery system, in the latest delivery of the long-range, precision weapons it has been calling for.
  • Moscow warns it will respond to Lithuania’s ban of certain goods transiting from mainland Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave.
  • The EU envoy to Moscow, who was summoned by the Russian foreign ministry over the issue, urged Russia to refrain from “escalatory steps and rhetoric”.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to strengthen the army and deploy newly tested Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles for duty by the end of the year.


This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us.

These were the updates on Tuesday, June 21:

Russian foreign minister to visit Iran on Wednesday

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to Iran on Wednesday, the state-owned Tass news agency has said, citing Russia’s ambassador in Vienna. It did not give further details.

Last month, Moscow said Russia and Iran – which are both under Western sanctions and sit on some of the world’s largest oil reserves – had discussed swapping supplies for oil and gas as well as setting up a logistics hub.

Zelenskyy says military situation in Luhansk region is very tough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the military situation in the eastern region of Luhansk was very difficult as Russia stepped up an effort to evict Ukrainian troops from key areas.

“That is really the toughest spot. The occupiers are pressing strongly,” Zelenskyy said in an evening video address.

Estonia protests to Russia over violation of national airspace by helicopter

Estonia summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the violation of its national airspace by a Russian helicopter on June 18, the Baltic nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Estonia considers this an extremely serious and regrettable incident that undoubtedly causes additional tensions and is completely unacceptable,” the ministry said, repeating calls for Russian troops to leave Ukraine.

Russia has not provided US additional details on whereabouts of Americans captured in Ukraine

Russian authorities have not provided the United States any additional details on the whereabouts of two Americans captured in Ukraine, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price has said.

Price told reporters the US is pursuing every channel and every opportunity to learn more and support the families of Americans missing in Ukraine.

At least 15 civilians killed in Kharkiv by Russian shelling: governor

At least 15 civilians were killed in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region by Russian shelling, regional governor Oleh Synegubov said in an online posting.

After weeks of relative calm, Russians have intensified shelling of the region. Synegubov said six people had died in and around Kharkiv and another six in Chuhuiv, some 40km (25 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, while three had died in Zolochiv, 40km (25 miles) to the northwest of the city.

US says NATO commitment to Lithuania ‘ironclad’ after Russia threat

The US has said it stood firmly behind Lithuania and NATO commitments to defend it after Russia warned the EU member country over restrictions on rail transit.

“We stand by our NATO allies and we stand by Lithuania,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

“Specifically our commitment to NATO’s Article Five – the premise that an attack on one would constitute an attack on all – that commitment on the part of the United States is ironclad,” he said.

White House: Putin is weaponising food by blocking Ukraine grain exports

Putin is weaponising food by blocking Ukraine grain exports and President Joe Biden is examining options on how to get the grain out, the White House has said.

“President Putin is, no kidding, weaponising food. Let’s just call it what it is, he’s weaponizing food,” John Kirby, a White House national security spokesperson, told reporters.

Italy’s Draghi promises continued support for Ukraine despite coalition unease

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy would continue to support Ukraine in its war with Russia, appearing to shrug off suggestions from one of his coalition partners that Rome should halt arms exports to Kyiv.

Addressing parliament, Draghi said pressure had to be put on Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, to make it stop fighting and seek negotiations.

“Only a peace that is mutually agreed and not imposed can last,” he said, adding that European Union sanctions against Russia were taking their toll.

“The Italian government together with the European Union and G7 partners intends to continue to support Ukraine as this parliament has told us to do,” he added, referring to a vote in March where legislators gave the go-ahead for arms shipments.

Russian forces capture several more settlements in Luhansk region

Russian forces have captured several settlements near the embattled cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, the regional governor and Ukraine’s general staff have said.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told Ukraine’s national broadcaster that Russian forces had captured the settlement of Toshkivka to the south of Severodonetsk, confirming previous reports.

“Unfortunately, the enemy threw at it huge amounts of armaments and soldiers and captured Toshkivka,” Haidai said.

US says conveyed to Russia detained Americas should be protected under Geneva Conventions

The United States disagrees “vigorously” with the Russian position that the US citizens captured in Ukraine are not covered by the Geneva Conventions, a senior Department of State official has said, adding that Washington has conveyed its stance on the issue to the Russian government.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, interviewed by the US television network NBC news on Monday, said two Americans detained in Ukraine while fighting on the Ukrainian side of the war were mercenaries who endangered the lives of Russian servicemen and should face responsibility for their actions.

Russia’s defence ministry to talk to Turkey about grain corridor

Russia’s defence ministry will hold talks with Turkey about the possible creation of a Black Sea corridor for Ukrainian grain supplies, the TASS news agency reported, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Putin does not plan to take part in these talks, Peskov was quoted as saying.

US attorney general vows help to prosecute war crimes in Ukraine

US Attorney General Merrick Garland has pledged during a visit to Ukraine to help prosecute war crimes committed since the Russian invasion in late February.

“I’m here to express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion,” Garland told reporters after meeting with Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova near the Polish-Ukrainian border.

“I’m here to continue our discussions, myself and the prosecutor general, of the actions that the United States is taking to assist the Ukrainian authorities in holding accountable those responsible for the atrocities or the war crimes that the entire world has seen,” he said in remarks broadcast on Fox News.

“The United States is sending an unmistakable message – there is no place to hide,” Garland said. “We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to ensure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable.”

Turkish team to discuss Black Sea grain corridor in Russia this week

A Turkish military delegation will travel to Russia this week to discuss details of a possible sea corridor in the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain exports, Turkish broadcasters have said, citing sources from Turkey’s presidency.

Broadcaster Haberturk said a four-way meeting between Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations would be held in Istanbul within 10 days, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could join the meeting.

The sources cited by Haberturk said three corridors would be created under the plan at four separate ports in Ukraine’s Black Sea city of Odesa, and that both Ukrainian and Russian food products would be shipped from there. They said 30-35 million tonnes of grain were expected to be shipped from there in 6-8 months.

Russia slashing EU gas flows for ‘illegal’ reasons: Ukraine

Ukraine has accused Russian energy giant Gazprom of illegally cutting natural gas supplies to European countries in a move that has seen EU member states scramble to fill the energy shortfall.

“Gazprom has limited gas supplies to Europe for far-fetched and illegal reasons, justifying this by saying Nord Stream 1 is not operating at full capacity,” said Yuriy Vitrenko, the head of Ukraine state energy company Naftogaz.

“This is unscrupulous behaviour on the part of Gazprom,” he added.

Kyiv says sophisticated German artillery now deployed in Ukraine

Ukraine said it had “finally” deployed an advanced German artillery system, in the latest delivery of the long-range, precision weapons that it has been calling for.

“Panzerhaubitze 2000 are finally part of 155 mm howitzer arsenal of the Ukrainian artillery,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote on social media, thanking his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht.

Germany said last month it would send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, ramping up deliveries of heavy weapons to help Kyiv battle Russia’s invasion.

‘Total consensus’ in EU on making Ukraine candidate: French minister

EU ministers have backed granting war-torn Ukraine “candidate status” to join the bloc, in advance of a summit expected to formally greenlight the move later this week, France’s Europe minister said.

Clement Beaune said after a meeting with his counterparts that there was “a total consensus on moving these issues forward, and in particular for Ukraine the possibility of confirming candidate status as soon as possible”.

Russia: Death penalty for captured US citizens cannot be ruled out

Moscow says the US citizens captured in Ukraine are subject to court decisions and did not rule out that they could face the death penalty.

“We can’t rule anything out, because these are court decisions. We don’t comment on them and have no right to interfere,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He said the Kremlin did not know where the men were now, after their families said they had not returned from a mission around the Kharkiv region.

On Monday, the Kremlin said that the two Americans detained in Ukraine were mercenaries not covered by the Geneva Conventions and should face consequences for their actions

UK to impose more sanctions on Russia: Foreign Secretary

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says the British government is determined to impose further sanctions on Russia.

“We are determined to provide more weapons, impose more sanctions and back Ukraine in pushing Russia out of their territory,” Truss told parliament.

Russia missiles ‘hit’ Ukrainian airfield near Odesa

Russia’s defence ministry says its missiles struck an airfield near the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, Russian news agencies reported.

It said it had carried out the attacks in response to a Ukrainian attack on gas production platforms in the Black Sea.

The Russian-installed leader of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, said on Monday that Kyiv had struck Black Sea drilling platforms owned by a Crimean oil company.

Russia’s Sarmat and China’s YJ-21: What the missile tests mean

In a public display of force, Russia’s newest heavy long-range missile blasted off on Wednesday from a test silo in Plesetsk, western Russia. Russian media said it flew nearly 6,000km (3,700 miles) before hitting targets in Kamchatka on the other side of the vast country.

The Sarmat Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM, has been in development for years and is designed to replace the older Soviet legacy S-18 missiles. These ICBMs were meant to fly around the planet showering strategic targets with multiple nuclear weapons in a nuclear war that no one wanted to fight.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union built these missiles in the hope that if they each had them then neither would be tempted to use them. This counter-intuitive logic was given impetus by the findings of scientists around the world who told their governments that any such war would mean the eradication of all human life on Earth.

These strategic missiles protected in silos and bunkers in both Russia and the US have sat there, thankfully silent and immobile. Decades-old, they need replacing if this deterrent is to remain credible, so the thinking goes. Both countries have embarked on modernisation drives to develop ways to defeat the increasingly potent missile defences their adversaries are developing.

Read more here.

FIFA extends right to suspend football contracts in Russia, Ukraine

FIFA says it is extending the right of foreign players and coaches to suspend contracts with clubs in Russia and Ukraine until June next year.

The world football governing body said following a decision by its ruling council, that it gave “players and coaches the opportunity to train, play and receive a salary, while protecting Ukrainian clubs and facilitating the departure of foreign players and coaches from Russia”.

The special rule was introduced on March 7, within two weeks of Russia invading Ukraine, initially to June 30 this year before being extended.

FIFA and European football ruling body UEFA have banned Russian teams from all international competitions.

Putin: Russia to strengthen armed forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will further strengthen its armed forces.

“We will continue to develop and strengthen our armed forces, taking into account potential military threats and risks,” Putin said in televised comments.

He added that Russia’s newly tested Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads and decoys, would be deployed for duty by the end of the year.

Russia says will to respond to Lithuania Kaliningrad ban

Moscow says it will respond shortly to Lithuania’s ban of certain goods transiting from mainland Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave, the Interfax news agency reported citing Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

“Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions. Relevant measures are being worked out in the interdepartmental format and will be taken in the near future,” Interfax cited Patrushev as saying.

He said that the countermeasures would have a serious negative effect on the Lithuanian population.

Lithuania has shut a rail corridor from Russia to its exclave to certain basic goods including construction materials, metals and coal in response to new EU sanctions that came into force on Saturday.

Blockade of Kaliningrad out of the question: EU envoy

The European Union ambassador to Russia says a blockade of Russia’s Kaliningrad region is out of the question as the transit of non-sanctioned goods there continues.

Markus Ederer was summoned by the Russian foreign ministry after Lithuania shut a rail corridor from Russia to its exclave for basic goods including construction materials, metals and coal in response to new EU sanctions that came into force on Saturday.

Ederer said after a meeting at the ministry that he had asked Russia to resolve the issue through diplomatic means.

Russia ‘angry’ about Lithuania Kaliningrad transit ban

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane reporting from the German capital Berlin says Moscow sees Lithuania’s ban on transit good to Kaliningrad as illegal and could retaliate.

“The Russian government has called in representatives of the EU but also of Lithuania to protest at what it believes is the denial of its ability to maintain contact via rail between Kalinigarad – which is not physically part of mainland Russia – and the rest of the Russian Federation,” Kane said.

“From the Lithuanian and EU perspectives what’s been done by the Lithuanian government is not some sort of a unilateral action against Russia and Russian interests, rather it is the decision to implement the sanctions at an EU level that the EU decided to impose on certain Russian items. The Russian government disagrees and is particularly angry about it,” Kane added.

UK’s The Telegraph newspaper website blocked in Russia

The website of British newspaper The Telegraph has been blocked in Russia, data from state regulator Roskomnadzor shows.

The move follows a request from Russia’s prosecutor general.

Since sending troops into Ukraine in February, Russia has cracked down on media coverage of the conflict, introducing 15-year prison sentences for journalists who spread intentionally “fake” news about what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

EU united in favour of Ukraine’s candidacy status: Luxembourg FM

Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn says European countries are united in their support for granting Ukraine the status of European Union member candidate.

“We are working towards the point where we tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends,” Asselborn told reporters before a meeting with other EU ministers.

Putin ally arrives in Russia’s Kaliningrad amid dispute with West: RIA

Nikolai Patrushev, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has arrived in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to discuss national security, state news agency RIA reports.

The trip comes amid a dispute between Russia and NATO member Lithuania, which stopped the transit of European Union-sanctioned goods to the Russian territory.

Patrushev, the powerful secretary of Russia’s Security Council, will chair a meeting about security in Russia’s northwest in Kaliningrad, RIA said.

RIA said the trip – which included a discussion about transport – was planned before Vilnius banned the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU through Lithuanian territory to and from the exclave, citing EU sanction rules.

Captured Americans are in Donetsk: Interfax

Two Americans who were captured in Ukraine are currently located in the Russian-backed Ukrainian region of Donetsk, the Interfax news agency reported citing a source.

On Monday, the Kremlin said that two Americans imprisoned in Ukraine were mercenaries not covered by the Geneva convention who should face responsibility for their actions.

Sweden activates emergency gas supply plan

Sweden’s energy agency says it has activated the first step of a three-stage emergency gas supply plan for western and southern parts of the country to prepare for possible disruptions of natural gas from Russia.

The move was made after neighbouring Denmark, which supplies Sweden with piped gas, issued a similar warning on Monday.

Poland drops Russian-based Rybus from World Cup plans

The Polish football association (PZPN) says it will not consider defender Maciej Rybus for the World Cup in Qatar after he signed a new contract with a Russian club.

The left-back, who has 66 caps to his name, has spent the past five years in Russia with Lokomotiv Moscow and moved to their city rivals – Spartak Moscow – on a free transfer on June 11.

“The coach informed the player that due to his current club situation, he would not be called up for the September training camp of the national team and would not be considered for the team that would go to the World Cup in Qatar,” PZPN said in a statement.

Maciej Rybus
Maciej Rybus has spent the past five years in Russia with Lokomotiv Moscow [John Sibley/Reuters]

Read more here.

Ukraine’s Kherson region ‘broadcasts’ Russian TV

Moscow says Russian television is now broadcasting in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, an area where Russia already introduced the rouble and began distributing its passports.

Russia’s army said its forces have “reconfigured the last of the seven television towers in the Kherson region to broadcast Russian television channels” for free.

Bordering the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, the Kherson region was occupied by Russian forces in the days following the Kremlin’s offensive in late February.

On Tuesday, one of the pro-Moscow officials in the region, Kirill Stremousov, said that the territory could join Russia “before the end of the year”.

Ukraine used Western donated missiles against Russia for first time: UK

The British Military Intelligence says Ukrainian forces last week claimed their first successful use of Western-donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles to engage Russian forces.

“The target of the attack was almost certainly the Russian naval tug Spasatel Vasily Bekh, which was delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island in the north-western Black Sea,” the defence ministry said in its daily Twitter update.

The war has entered a brutal attritional phase in recent weeks, with Russian forces concentrating on Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donbas, which Russia claims on behalf of separatists.

Lithuania worsening global food crisis through transit ban: Moscow

Lithuania is aggravating the global food crisis by banning the rail transit of European Union-sanctioned goods through its territory to Kaliningrad, the spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry has said.

“These are not only deliveries from Russia to the territory of EU countries. These are transit deliveries through the territory of the European Union … including to ports that then served various regions of the world,” Maria Zakharova said on the Soloviev LIVE programme on Tuesday.

“That is, a country of the collective West, a country that is a member of NATO, a country that is a member of all Euro-Atlantic ties today creates additional difficulties against the background of the fact that this community blames a country that has nothing to do with food security problems,” Zakharova said.

Sandwiched between EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad receives supplies from Russia via rail and gas pipelines through Lithuania.

School in Adviivka destroyed by shelling: Governor

Russian forces overnight shelled and destroyed a school in the town of Adviivka in the Donetsk region, the governor has said.

“This is the third school destroyed by the Russians in Avdiivka,” Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.

“In total, the invaders destroyed about 200 schools in the Donetsk region,” he added.

Textbooks lie scattered across the ground near a destroyed school after a morning shelling
Textbooks lie scattered across the ground near a destroyed school after a morning shelling near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 8, 2022 [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Ukraine has thwarted Russia’s efforts to control the northwestern Black Sea: UK

Ukraine’s coastal defences have largely neutralised Russia’s ability to establish control in the northwestern Black Sea, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

Ukraine’s forces reportedly destroyed a Russian naval tug delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island with Western Harpoon anti-ship missiles last week, the first successful use of the weapons, the ministry said.

“The destruction of the Russian vessel on a resupply mission demonstrates the difficulty Russia faces when attempting to support their forces occupying Snake Island,” it said.

Ukraine’s ability to defend its coast “has undermined the viability of Russia’s original operational design for the invasion, which involved holding the Odesa region at risk from the sea”, the ministry added.

Lysychansk shelled non-stop on Monday: Governor

Russian forces relentlessly shelled the eastern town of Lysychansk throughout Sunday night and Monday day, but Monday night, relative to two “heavy” nights that came before, was reasonably quiet, Luhansk’s governor has said.

“From what I understand they simply exhausted themselves and have stopped to regroup,” Serhiy Haidai said on television. He said there was no information yet about casualties as there had been no break in the shelling to safely enter the town.

In the city of Severodonetsk, across the river, Haidai said “fierce fighting” was continuing in the industrial zone. All critical infrastructure in the city has been destroyed, and there is no centralised water, electricity or gas, he said.

He said 568 civilians remained in the few bomb shelters of the Azot chemical plant – mostly employees of the factory – including 38 children. They all refuse to evacuate, he said.

Russian forces plan renewed attack on Kharkiv: Zelenskyy

The Russian army is preparing for a renewed attack on the region and city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

“Now the Russian army is trying to gather forces to attack Kharkiv again. We de-occupied this region. And they want to do it again, and we see it,” Zelenskyy said in a virtual speech at the opening of the ISPI Global Policy Forum in Italy.

He was speaking on World Refugee Day about the conditions Russian forces created which he said displaced approximately 12 million Ukrainians, of which nearly five million had to flee the country. Russia withdrew from Kharkiv in mid-May after weeks of heavy bombardment.

“Mykolaiv is constantly being bombed, with almost half a million inhabitants. They want to capture and completely destroy Sloviansk – there were 100,000 inhabitants before the war,” Zelenskyy added after listing other destroyed cities such as Mariupol and Severodonetsk.

More than 1,500 Ukrainian civilians held in Russian prisons: Kyiv

Moscow is holding more than 1,500 Ukrainian civilians in Russian prisons, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said, according to Ukrinform.

“They are in Rostov, Kursk, they are in jail, they are being held as prisoners of war, although they should not be,” Iryna Vereshchuk told journalists.

Imprisoned civilians included volunteers, activists, journalists, priests, deputies of local councils and heads of local government agencies, she said.

US citizen killed in combat in Ukraine: State Department

A United States citizen was killed in combat in Ukraine last month, according to an obituary and the State Department, after he joined thousands of foreign fighters who have volunteered to help Ukraine fend off Russian forces.

Stephen Zabielski, 52, was killed in fighting on May 15, according to an obituary published in The Recorder, an upstate New York newspaper, earlier this month. Media reports of his death circulated on Monday.

In a statement, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Zabielski’s death in Ukraine and said the agency has been in touch with his family and provided “all possible consular assistance”.

The spokesperson’s statement repeated earlier warnings that US citizens should not travel to Ukraine because of the conflict and the potential for the Russian government to single them out. It added that any citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately.

Kherson referendum to join Russia to be held this autumn: Russian-backed fighters

A referendum on Ukraine’s occupied region of Kherson becoming a part of Russia will be held this autumn, the Moscow-backed self-proclaimed authorities of the region have said, according to Russia’s RIA state news agency.

“We are preparing for the referendum … After the referendum, we will become a fully fledged subject of the Russian Federation,” RIA quoted Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the self-proclaimed military-civilian administration of the region, as having said.

“Before too long we will be able to feel ourselves as fully fledged citizens of the great country of Russia,” Stremousov added.

He did not give further details on the timing. Autumn in Russia runs from September to November.

Coming week decisive for Russia’s Severodonetsk offensive: ISW

The coming week is to be decisive for Russian efforts to take the eastern city of Severodonetsk, the Institute for the Study of War has cited Ukrainian officials as saying.

Deputy Ukrainian Defence Minister Hanna Maliar has said that Russian leadership set a June 26 deadline for its forces to reach the Luhansk region’s administrative border, “which will likely result in intensified efforts to take full control of Severodonetsk and move westward towards the border,” the ISW said.

The institute also said that the Luhansk governor’s reports that Russians controlled all of Severodonetsk aside from the industrial zone were “the first explicit Ukrainian confirmation that Russian forces control all of Severodonetsk with the exception of the Azot plant”.

“Russian forces will likely continue efforts to clear the Azot plant and complete encirclement operations south of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk by driving up the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway,” the ISW said.

Civil society group criticises conflict diamond watchdog over Russia stalemate

A civil society group has sharply criticised the Kimberley Process (KP), a coalition created to prevent the use of gems to fund conflict, for resisting efforts to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as this week’s international conflict diamond meeting began in Botswana.

In the run-up to the meeting, Ukraine, the European Union, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and civil society groups were pushing to place Russia on the agenda, as well as to broaden the KP’s definition of conflict diamonds to include state actors using the stones to fund acts of aggression. Russia’s partly state-owned company Alrosa is the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds.

Russia, backed by Belarus, Mali, Central African Republic and Kyrgyzstan, objected to the proposals, dashing any hopes of action by the KP, which makes decisions by consensus.

“The fact that the KP is unable to even discuss whether it should continue certifying Russian diamonds as conflict-free, reaffirms what we have been denouncing for years: That the world’s conflict diamond scheme is no longer fit for purpose,” the coordinator of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, Michel Yoboué, said in a speech at the gathering.

Russian Nobel Peace laureate sells medal for $104m to aid Ukraine children

The Russian co-winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, journalist Dmitry Muratov, has sold his prize medal for $103.5m at an auction to raise money for displaced children affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The full purchase price of Muratov’s medal will benefit UNICEF’s humanitarian response for Ukraine’s displaced children, Heritage Auctions, which conducted the auction, said in a statement.

Muratov, editor of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and fierce critic of the Kremlin, won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines.

Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s last remaining independent news outlets, said at the end of March that it would suspend operations until the end of the war in Ukraine after it received a second warning from the state censor for allegedly violating the country’s “foreign agent” law.

Dmitry Muratov holds a copy of his newspaper the Novaya Gazeta after his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal sold for 103.5 million dollars.
Dmitry Muratov holds a copy of his newspaper the Novaya Gazeta after his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal sold for $103.5m in New York City, New York, US, June 20, 2022 [David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Reuters]

Ben Stiller visits Kyiv, meets Zelenskyy

Actor Ben Stiller visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Monday, telling him: “You’re my hero.”

“What you’ve done and the way that you’ve rallied the country and for the world, it’s really inspiring,” Stiller told Zelenskyy.

Stiller’s visit included a stop in Irpin, the scene of heavy fighting early in the Russian invasion.

“It’s one thing to see this destruction on TV or on social networks. Another thing is to see it all with your own eyes. That’s a lot more shocking,” Stiller said according to a statement from Zelenskyy’s office.

Moscow to summon EU ambassador over Kaliningrad transit ban: Governor

Russia’s foreign ministry will on Tuesday summon the European Union’s ambassador to Moscow over Lithuania’s ban on the transit of goods under EU sanctions through Kaliningrad, the governor of Kaliningrad said on Monday.

“This is, of course, a situation, that can be resolved by diplomatic means,” Anton Alikhanov told Russian television.

“As far as I know, tomorrow Marcus Ederer, the European Union ambassador to Russia, will be summoned to the foreign ministry … and he will be told of the appropriate conditions involved here.”

Vilnius banned the transit of goods under EU sanctions through Lithuanian territory to and from the Russian exclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, citing EU sanction rules.

‘Most difficult’ fighting in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk: Zelenskyy

Two key cities in eastern Ukraine are witnessing the “most difficult” fighting, Zelenskyy has said, as Russian forces intensified pressure in the area and captured territory along a front-line river.

“We are defending Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, this whole area, the most difficult one. We have the most difficult fighting there,” Zelenskyy said during an evening address, after predicting Moscow would escalate attacks ahead of an EU summit expected to welcome Kyiv’s bid to join the bloc.

Moscow’s separatist proxies claimed to have captured Toshkivka, a town on the mostly Ukrainian-held western bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, south of Severodonetsk, which has become the main battlefield city in recent weeks.

Zelenskyy also said shelling in Kharkiv and Odesa continued, and described Russia’s offensive in Donbas, where forces have been concentrating their overwhelming artillery firepower, as “brutal”.

Ukraine governor: Russian troops enter Severodonetsk industry zone

Russian troops have entered the industrial part of the heavily besieged city of Severodonetsk, according to Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai.

“It’s just hell there. Everything is engulfed in fire, the shelling doesn’t stop even for an hour,” Haidai said on Telegram.

The Azot chemical plant is the only part of the area not yet taken by Russian troops, Haidai said. The villages nearby are also under constant fire. About 300 civilians are sheltering in the Azot plant, according to Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk, though the situation is constantly changing.

Haidai also said the road connecting Severodonetsk and its sister city Lysychansk to the city of Bakhmut was under constant shell fire.

Read all updates for June 20 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies