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Ukrainian forces will have to leave key eastern city, Luhansk governor says; retired Russian major captured – CNBC

Ukraine is ‘not a pillow between the West and Russia, not a buffer,’ Zelenskyy says

Ukraine is not a “gray zone” or buffer between the West and Russia, its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on the messaging app Telegram, in a post celebrating Ukraine’s candidacy status for European Union membership.

“It is officially recognized that Ukraine is not a bridge, not a pillow between the West and Russia, not a buffer between Europe and Asia, not a sphere of influence, not a ‘gray’ zone, not a transit territory. Not the border between orcs and elves,” Zelenskyy wrote, according to a Google translation of the Telegram post on his official channel. Orcs and elves refer to the names many in Ukraine use for Russian troops and Ukrainians, respectively, drawing on terms from the Lord of the Rings series.

“Ukraine is a future equal partner for at least 27 EU countries,” Zelenskyy wrote. “Ukraine is a candidate for accession to the European Union!”

— Natasha Turak

Olaf Scholz: Europe needs to speed up efforts to cut reliance on Russian energy

Europe needs to speed up its work to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told press in Brussels.

“All together, we are very, very well prepared for the difficult challenge linked to Russian fossil fuel imports. This is an effort that we need to speed up further now – and of course this is linked to big challenges but we will support each other,” Scholz was cited by Reuters as saying.

The EU’s partial embargo covers Russian oil brought into the bloc by sea, with an exemption carved out for imports delivered by pipeline following opposition from Hungary.

Attila Kisbenedek | Afp | Getty Images

He made note of the sanctions the EU has already imposed to ban imports of Russian coal and oil, though the latter includes significant exemptions for Russian crude delivered by pipeline as some heavily dependent EU countries like Hungary and Slovenia protested the measure.

EU leaders are now worried about Moscow shutting off the gas taps to Europe this winter in retaliation to the sanctions. Many energy analysts say that completely ending reliance on Russian gas will be impossible in the immediate future and is likely to take years. The EU imported 41% of its gas and 36% of its oil from Russia in 2020, according to data from Eurostat.

— Natasha Turak

Russian pilot captured is a retired major, revealing Moscow’s struggles to staff air force: UK

A Russian pilot shot down and captured by Ukrainian forces confessed to being a retired major of his country’s air force, Britain’s Ministry of Defense wrote in its daily intelligence update. The pilot had joined Russia’s military contracting group Wagner and flown several missions in Ukraine, the update said, citing Ukrainian forces.

“The use of retired personnel, now working as Wagner contractors, to conduct close air support missions indicates that the Russian air force likely is struggling to support the invasion of Ukraine with sufficient aircrew,” said the intelligence update, published in a series of tweets.

“This is likely due to a combination of Russia’s insufficient numbers of suitably trained personnel and its combat losses.”

The Russian pilot “reportedly used commercial GPS devices rather than Russian military navigation equipment” while flying his missions, the Ministry of Defense added.

— Natasha Turak

Ukrainian troops will have to leave Severodonetsk, Luhansk governor says

Severodonetsk has been a prime target in the Kremlin’s pursuit to seize full control of Luhansk.

Aris Messinis | Afp | Getty Images

Ukrainian troops fighting a brutal battle for the strategically crucial city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine “will have to be withdrawn,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said on Ukrainian TV.

“Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense,” he said. Ukrainian forces have lost huge numbers of troops, as have Russian forces, in devastating fighting over a key territory that is one of two remaining Ukrainian-controlled cities in Luhansk, which is part of the eastern Donbas region that Russia has called an “unconditional priority” in its military pursuit.

Haidai added that Ukrainian troops have, however, pushed back an offensive on the outskirts of Lysychansk, the other remaining Ukrainian-controlled city in Luhansk.

— Natasha Turak

Biden approves $450 million security assistance package for Ukraine

John Kirby, U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, speaks to reporters during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2022. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Biden administration announced a 13th security assistance package for Ukraine worth $450 million.

“This package contains weapons and equipment including new high mobility artillery rocket systems, tens of thousands of additional rounds of ammunition for the artillery systems that have already been provided, as well as patrol boats to help Ukraine defend its coast and its waterways,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby at a daily White House press briefing.

The assistance package includes the following, according to a Pentagon release:

  • 4 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HMARS
  • 36,000 rounds of 105 mm ammunition
  • 18 tactical vehicles to tow 155 mm artillery
  • 1,200 grenade launchers
  • 2,000 machine guns
  • 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats
  • Spare parts and other equipment

The latest security package brings the U.S. commitment to $6.1 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine.

 — Amanda Macias

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova inch closer to EU member status

A national flags of Ukraine an EU flags outside the Town Hall in Lille, France, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

European Union leaders granted the countries of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia candidate status to join the bloc, a significant step on the long road to EU membership. The three countries applied for European Union membership in early March.

“Your countries are part of our European family. And today’s historic decision by leaders confirms that,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet.

Ukrainian President Voldomyry Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter that he was grateful for the support from European Union leaders.

Meanwhile, Kosovo and North Macedonia, among others, await their membership applications to progress.

 — Amanda Macias

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here: