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Zelenskyy visits front-line city in southern Ukraine

June 18, 2022

The Ukrainian president visited soldiers on the southern front line during a working visit to the Mykolaiv area. Meanwhile, German investigators say they're examining hundreds of war crimes suspects. DW has the latest.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walks on a street during a visit to the southern city of Mykolaiv
Volodymyr Zelenskyy walks on a street during a visit to Mykolaiv, the front-line city in southern UkraineImage: UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/REUTERS
  • Zelenskyy has talked up the contribution his country would make to the EU
  • Kaliningrad faces Lithuanian blockade
  • Ukrainian filmmaker from Mariupol freed by Russian forces

These updates are now closed.

Moscow reveals about 2 million people taken from Ukraine so far

According to Russian General Mikhail Mizintsev, approximately two million Ukrainians have been brought to Russia since the invasion began on February 24.

Mizintsev said the number includes 307,000 children. On Saturday, 29,730 people were taken by Russian forces out of Ukraine.

Moscow claims the mass movement is to evacuate people from areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas where fighting is raging. Ukraine asserts that Russia is blocking access to lands controlled by Kyiv and in effect deporting people to Russia.

Many of those deported to Russia have reentered Ukraine through third countries after experiencing Russian "filtration camps" set up to process Ukrainians being "evacuated" to Russia.

Governor says civilians refuse to evacuate from Azot plant in Sievierodonetsk

Civilians sheltering at the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk refused to evacuate, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk region Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday.

He also said that despite the destruction of all bridges leading to Sievierodonetsk, there are ways to evacuate people from the city and bring needed goods.

According to Haidai, Russia is sending all of its reserve troops to Sievierodonetsk to try and take full control of the eastern front-line city, but to no avail.

The neighboring city of Lysychansk is fully under Ukrainian control, the governor said.

UK's Johnson thanks Zelenskyy after Friday Kyiv visit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for hosting him during a visit to Ukraine on Friday.

"It was incredibly moving to walk the streets of Kyiv with you once more, to pay tribute to your fallen soldiers whose sacrifice, unconquerable courage and bravery we will never forget," Johnson wrote on Twitter.

It was Johnson's second trip to Kyiv since Russian invasion. He came a day after the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania visited Kyiv where they offered their support for Ukraine's bid for EU candidate status.

Johnson said Britain would give Ukraine the "strategic endurance" needed to continue the war, by training up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers several times a year in an unspecified location outside the country.

323 children killed in Ukraine since beginning of war

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, 323 children have been killed and more than 583 have been injured, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office said on Saturday adding that the numbers are not final.

The prosecutor's office also reported recent cases of injuries or deaths of children. On Friday, a 7-year-old boy was injured in a shelling of Mykolaiv. And on Thursday, a 14-year-old boy died after a rocket exploded in one of the villages in the Zaporizhia region.

Children in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Luhansk and Kherson regions suffered the most during the war that began on February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine says 5 civilians were returned in prisoner swap with Russia

Ukraine's defense intelligence directorate said on Saturday that five Ukrainian civilians have been returned in a prisoner swap with Russia.

Four of the five Ukrainian civilians had been taken prisoner during Russia's occupation of parts of the Kyiv region.

According to statement, the dead body of a Ukrainian soldier was also recovered in the exchange.

The defense intelligence directorate did not say who the five exchanged Russians were.

Ukraine's PM says infrastructure damage has reached $104 billion 

Ukraine's prime minister estimates the total cost of damage to infrastructure since the start of the war at $104 billion (roughly €99 billion). Speaking on Saturday at the British-Ukrainian Infrastructure Summit, Denys Shmyhal outlined some of Ukraine and the EU's financial estimates for the costs incurred since Russia's invasion on February 24.

According to Shmyhal, at least 45 square kilometers of housing, 656 hospitals, more than 1,200 educational institutions, nearly 25,000 kilometers of roads, 300 bridges and 12 airports were destroyed or damaged in Ukraine because of Russian shelling.

The prime minister also said that the Ukrainian government, international experts, and the European Commission estimate the total volume of the Ukraine's reconstruction program at €500-600 billion ($525-630 billion).

Shmyhal announced that his government will present Ukraine's Recovery Plan next month.

"We rely on a regional approach, which involves the care of one of the partner countries over a particular region or industry. Denmark has already agreed to take care of the reconstruction of Mykolaiv region. The Baltic States will help restore Zhytomyr region. Portugal will rebuild Ukrainian schools. And everyone in Ukraine knows that the United Kingdom, as promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will take part in the reconstruction and development of Kyiv and its region," Shmyhal said.

Zelenskyy visited the frontline city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited soldiers on the southern front line during a working trip to the Mykolaiv region, he said on Saturday, without specifying when the visit took place.

In his trademark khaki T-shirt, the president handed out medals and posed for selfies with servicemen in what appeared to be an underground shelter, according to a video posted to his official Telegram account.

"Our brave boys and girls. Each one of them is working flat out," Zelenskyy said. "We will definitely hold out! We will definitely win!"

Zelenskyy visits troops in southern Ukraine

The president also visited the city of Mykolaiv and inspected the destroyed regional administration building, where 37 people were killed in a missile strike in late March. He visited a hospital in the city and held a meeting with local officials concerning the current situation in the region.

Russian forces reached the outskirts of the regional capital Mykolaiv in early March but were then driven back to the eastern and southern edges of the region, where fighting is ongoing.

After Mykolaiv, Zelenskyy also visited the neighboring city of Odesa where he inspected a hospital and held a meeting with local officials. The Ukrainian president also visited the base of the National Guard in the Odesa region.

Germany investigates political and military officials suspected of Ukraine war crimes

German police said they were investigating several hundred potential Russian war crimes in Ukraine including political and military officials suspected of being linked to the alleged offences.

"Up until now we have received a three-digit number of leads," Holger Münch, head of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The inquiry does not only cover suspected perpetrators of war crimes but also political and military officials, he said.

"Our clear goal is to identify those responsible for atrocities, to prove their actions through our investigations and bring them to justice," including in Germany, Münch said.

The country applies universal jurisdiction which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were committed or by whom.

However, Russia very rarely extradites its citizens to other countries, meaning that trying suspects in person in Germany could prove difficult unless they are apprehended in countries which do.

BP still Rosneft's largest private shareholder, says Rosneft CEO

Oil giant BP pledged to end its decades' long partnership with Rosneft over the Ukraine war in February, but the Western company remains Rosneft's largest private shareholder, said Rosneft's chief Igor Sechin.

The Russian oil producer recently transformed its ownership structure. Russian state holding company Rosneftgaz is believed to still control over 50% of the company with the help of subsidiaries.  BP's stake is believed to be just under 20%.

Sechin, a known ally of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, said BP also own stakes in several large-scale Rosneft projects.

"All these actions speak of a desire to remain an active participant in the Rosneft company and to wait out the disadvantageous geopolitical situation without real losses," Sechin said.

Speaking at an economic summit in Sankt Petersburg on Saturday, Sechin also said BP received $36 billion (€34.3 billion) from its Russian operation since 2003, while only investing $10 billion.

Berlin urges EU candidate status for Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said an EU candidate status for Ukraine is "necessary."

In a short video published on the government's website, Scholz said that many in Ukraine fight for "freedom and democracy" and "want to know that it will take them to Europe."

His remarks come after the European Commission recommended that Ukraine be granted the candidate status, with the Commission's chief Ursula von der Leyen saying that Kyiv had "clearly demonstrated its aspiration and determination to live up to European values."

Scholz said Berlin will work to get all 27 EU member states to agree on a European perspective for Ukraine at the upcoming talks in Brussels next Thursday.

The center-left politician also spoke about his visit to Ukraine on Thursday, and inspecting the "horrible" devastation in Ukraine's Irpin with France's Emmanuel Macron and Italy's Mario Draghi.

"We will continue to make funding available, we will help with the reconstruction, we will continue to deliver weapons that are urgently needed to defend Ukraine's independence," the German chancellor said.

UK's Boris Johnson says Ukraine should host next Eurovision contest

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would "love it" if Ukraine could organize the next Eurovision song contest after its Kalush Orchestra won the competition last month.

It is customary for the winner of the annual pan-European contest to host the event next year. Due to the ongoing war on Ukrainian territory, however, Eurovision officials said the tradition would not be followed this time, and that the UK might be asked step in instead.

Ukraine protested the decision.

On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Ukrainians "should have it."

"I believe that Kyiv or any other safe Ukrainian city would be a fantastic place to have it," he added. "It is a year away, it is going to be fine by the time the Eurovision Song Contest comes round," Johnson told reporters after coming back from his visit to Kyiv.

Ukraine to restart peace talks in August

Kyiv plans to conduct counterattacks against Russian forces and put itself in a better position for negotiations, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhima said. He told Voice of America that talks are likely to restart by the end of August.

Representatives of Russia and Ukraine started meeting just days after Russia launched the invasion of 24 of February. But negotiations have stalled last month, with Moscow pointing the finger to the US and saying American pressure prompted Kyiv to break off the talks.

Russian military wants to envelop Ukrainians in Donetsk

In the past 48 hours, Russia appears to have "renewed its efforts to advance" south of the town of Izium and deeper into Donetsk, UK military officials said. They believe Russian forces aim to envelop the pocket of territory still held by the Ukrainians from the north.

Russian officials also say they are trying to establish a humanitarian corridor for civilians trapped in Sieverodonetsk. The UK Defence Ministry said that the proposed evacuation route would take the evacuees deeper into occupied territory, and that the civilians are "likely to be suspicious" of using it.

However, if they refuse to use it, Russia will "likely claim justification in making less of a distinction between them and any Ukrainian military targets in the area," the British officials said.

Zelenskyy: Ukraine set to make the 'biggest contribution to future of Europe in many years'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country joining the European Union would be a gain for the economic bloc.

"Our rapprochement with the European Union is not only positive for us," he said during his latest video address. "This is the biggest contribution to the future of Europe in many years."

Zelenskyy said the EU could only secure its power, independence and future development with Ukraine as a member.

"We are one step away from the beginning of full integration into the European Union," the president told his country, adding that Ukrainian values were European values.

European integration would have a positive impact on Ukraine's citizens, he said. "The closer we are to other European countries, the more opportunities we will have to ensure a modern, secure life for all Ukrainians."

His comments follow the European Commission's decision on Friday to recommend that Ukraine and Moldova be granted EU candidate status.

At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday, Putin said Moscow "has nothing against" Ukraine joining the EU, because it "isn't a military organization, a political organization like NATO."

Poland calls for more sanctions against Russia

The Polish government has called for more sanctions against Russia ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

"From our point of view, a seventh sanctions package must be imposed as soon as possible. We have to keep up the pressure," Lukasz Jasina, the Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman, told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag

Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz told the same newspaper that the sixth package of sanctions hit Russia hard but "we have not yet been able to sufficiently weaken Putin and his military machine. We need further and tougher sanctions," he said.

Russian state TV social media airs video of captured Americans

Footage of two Americans who have been missing since last week aired on the social media accounts of a Russian state TV channel.

Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh are both veterans of the US military.

A US State Department spokesman said, "We are closely monitoring the situation and our hearts go out to their families during this difficult time."

Macron and Zelenskyy exchange becomes internet meme

An image showing an awkward-appearing exchange between French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has quickly become a meme on social media in Ukraine and beyond.

While it appears Macron is hugging Zelenskyy, he is in fact whispering in his ear.

The decisive moment took place at the conclusion of a joint news conference with Zelenskyy and four European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and French President Emmanuel Macron
The picture of Zelenskyy and Macron has become an overnight memeImage: Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP/picture alliance

Kaliningrad faces Lithuanian blockade

Anton Alikhanov, the regional governor of Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, said the region faces a blockade by Lithuania due to Western sanctions.

Kaliningrad is home to Russia's Baltic fleet as well as nuclear-capable Iskander missiles. 

Mariupol filmmaker freed by Russian forces

Yuliia Paievska, a celebrated Ukrainian medic whose footage was taken out of Mariupol by a team from the Associated Press, has been freed from Russian custody. Her release comes three months after she was abducted from the streets of Mariupol.

In Ukraine, Paievska is known as Taira, an alias chosen based on the World of Warcraft video game. She used a body camera to record 256 gigabytes of her team's work during two weeks trying to save Mariupol's wounded. 

Among the wounded in her recordings were Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced her release in a national address.

What happened in Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Friday

The European Commission recommended granting EU candidate status to Ukraine, denoting the start of a likely lengthy process toward joining the bloc.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Ukraine for a second time for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and pledged UK training of up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted that German weapons would arrive in time to help Ukraine fend off Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region.

Russian media published images of what they said were two US citizens captured while fighting for Ukraine. Family members said this week the two men had been missing in Ukraine for a week and said they feared they had been taken prisoner.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian economy had withstood Western sanctions. Putin accused the European Union of having lost its "political sovereignty" and was "printing money" in response to high inflation.

Ukraine denounced a decision to strip it of the right to host next year's Eurovision Song Contest. Organizers cited security concerns.

You can revisit our updates from Friday here.

ar, mm/jsi (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)