Russia-Ukraine live updates | Zelensky pays first visit to south Ukraine’s war-damaged Mykolaiv

The European Union executive recommended on June 17 that Ukraine and Moldova nominate Ukraine and Moldova for membership, a milestone in their potential path from ex-Soviet republics to developed economies in the world’s largest trading bloc. If the European Commission’s decision is ratified at a summit next week as expected, it will be a morale boost for Kiev and further Western stultification for Russian President Vladimir Putin after his invasion of Ukraine in February.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter that the Ukrainians’ courage had given Europe the opportunity to “create a new history of freedom and finally remove the gray zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia”. As diplomacy progressed with Brussels, intense fighting continued in the eastern region of Donbas, where Russia is looking to cement and expand recent gains, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid a surprise visit to the capital Kiev.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin scolded the West, especially the United States, in a grievance-filled speech in St Petersburg, but tried to downplay the EU issue. “We have nothing against it,” he said. “It is not a military bloc. It is every country’s right to join the economic union.”

Kiev

Zelensky makes first visit to war-damaged Mykolaiv. in Southern Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the war-damaged southern city of Mykolaiv on June 18 for the first time since the Russian invasion on a rare trip outside of Kiev.

The office of Mr. Zelensky published a video in which he looks at a badly damaged high-rise house in the city and meets with local officials. His visit comes a day after a Russian strike killed two people and injured 20 in the city. Mykolaiv has been targeted by Russian forces since the start of their invasion on February 24. In the video, Mr. Zelensky the damage to a residential building shown by local governor Vitaliy Kim. The tall building had a gaping hole, with the insides of apartments exposed.

Estonia

Russia releases jailed medic who filmed Mariupol’s horror

A celebrated Ukrainian medic whose statues had been smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol was freed by Russian troops on Friday, three months after she was captured on the city’s streets.

Yuliia Paievska is known in Ukraine as Taira, a nickname she chose in the video game World of Warcraft. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s efforts to rescue the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers, over two weeks.

She handed the clips over to an Associated Press team, the latest international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom fled the tampon in a tampon on March 15. Taira and a colleague were captured by Russian forces on March 16, the same day a Russian airstrike struck a theater in the city center, killing about 600 people, according to an Associated Press investigation.

“It was such a great sense of relief. Those sound like such ordinary words, and I don’t even know what to say,” her husband, Vadim Puzanov, told The Associated Press late Friday, taking a deep breath to control his emotion. Puzanov said he spoke to Taira by phone, who was on his way to a hospital in Kiev, and feared for her health.

Initially, the family had kept quiet, hoping that the negotiations would go ahead. But The Associated Press spoke to him before the smuggled videos were released, which eventually had millions of viewers around the world, including on some of the largest networks in Europe and the United States. Puzanov expressed his gratitude for the coverage, which showed that Taira was trying to save Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Taira’s release in a national speech.

“I am grateful to everyone who has worked for this result. Taira is already home. We will continue to work to free everyone,” he said. – AP

Donetsk

Shelling captures 77 miners in Donetsk region: reports

Shelling has trapped 77 miners at a coal mine in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region after power to the mine was cut, Russian state RIA The news agency reported this on June 18.

“As a result of shelling by (Ukrainian troops), power to the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk was cut, 77 miners remain underground,” RIA said, citing the territorial defense of the Russian-backed separatist region. † Reuters

Britain

Russian troops renew bid to advance south of Izium in Ukraine, Britain says

Russia has likely renewed its efforts in the past 48 hours to move south of Ukraine’s eastern city of Izium, the Defense Ministry said on June 18.

The aim is to penetrate deeper into the Donetsk region and envelop the pocket around the disputed city of Severodonetsk from the north, it said on Twitter.

If detained Ukrainian citizens do not accept an offer to leave via a corridor, Russia is likely to claim justification by making less distinction between them and any Ukrainian military targets in the area, the ministry added. † Reuters

Ukraine

Zelensky applauds EU support while Donbas . is hit by heavy shelling

President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Brussels’ support for Ukraine’s bid for the European Union as a historic achievement, as his country’s eastern Donas region faced heavy Russian shelling. Brussels made a strong statement of European solidarity on Friday by backing Kiev’s bid for EU candidate status, an endorsement that could add Ukraine to the list of countries vying for membership next week.

The European Commission will meet at their summit in Brussels on Thursday with all 27 leaders who already support Kiev’s candidacy and the heads of the bloc’s biggest members – France, Germany and Italy – who fully support the idea. † AFP

United States

Russian state TV broadcasts videos of two Americans missing in Ukraine

A Russian state television broadcast on social media videos of two Americans who went missing last week while fighting alongside the Ukrainian army, stating that they had been captured by Russian troops.

US President Joe Biden had said earlier Friday that he did not know the whereabouts of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, both US military veterans whose relatives lost contact with the couple.

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

Ukraine

Deadly airstrike hits Ukraine’s frontline city as it gears up for street fighting

A local resident walks in front of a building destroyed by a military attack in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine on June 17, 2022, as the Russian attack on Ukraine continues.

A local resident walks in front of a building destroyed by a military attack as the Russian attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Ukraine’s Luhansk region on June 17, 2022. | Photo credit: Reuters

Ash lay in a square in the war-ravaged eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk on June 17 when smoke rose from a cultural center after a Russian airstrike that killed four people hiding there. The disputed city prepares for a possible street battle, with Russian troops fighting Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Severodonetsk, across the river.

The bombing on Thursday set off a fire that raged overnight through the blue-and-white painted Stalin-era Diamond Palace of Culture and was still burning Friday. The building contained a library and post office, as well as a stage for art events. After the war started, it was used as a bomb shelter by the locals and a makeshift refuge for those who lost their homes. † AFP

Germany

German leader says it is necessary to keep talking with Putin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday it is “absolutely necessary” for some leaders to speak directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid efforts to end the war in Ukraine, and he and the French president will continue to do so.

Mr Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have had several telephone conversations with Mr Putin, separately and together, since the invasion of Russia began. Those contacts have drawn some criticism, including from the Polish president, who recently said they accomplish nothing and only serve to legitimize the Russian leader.

“It is absolutely necessary to talk to Mr Putin, and I will continue to do so – as the French president will,” Mr Scholz told the German news agency. dpa in an English-language video interview a day after he, Mr Macron and the leaders of Italy and Romania held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev. † AP

Russia

Putin says he has ‘nothing against’ Ukraine joining EU

Russia has “nothing against” Ukraine’s possible membership of the European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday after the European Commission recommended granting Kiev candidate status to the 27-member bloc.

“We have nothing against it. It’s their sovereign decision whether or not to join economic unions… It’s their business, the business of the Ukrainian people,” Putin told Russia’s annual economic showcase, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. † AFP

Ukraine

EU commission backs candidate status for Ukraine

The executive branch of the European Union on Friday recommended that Ukraine be granted candidate status to one day join the 27-nation bloc.

The European Commission’s recommendation is the first step on the long road to membership and comes a day after four European Union leaders pledged to support Kiev’s candidacy. The recommendation will be discussed by leaders of the 27-nation bloc at a summit in Brussels next week. Launching accession negotiations requires unanimous approval from all member states.

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