- The head of the UN refugee agency says the food crisis stoked by the Ukraine war is set to drive record displacement to more “staggering” levels.
- US President Joe Biden says Washington will provide an additional $1bn in security assistance to Ukraine including more artillery and coastal defence weapons.
- The Russian military claims it destroyed a depot in the western Lviv region where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was stored.
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi are expected to visit Kyiv Thursday.
- Ukrainian fighters inside the Severodonetsk Azot chemical plant have ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender.
- Russia’s defence ministry has accused Ukrainian forces of disrupting efforts to allow civilians to escape the chemical plant on Wednesday.
Here are the latest updates:
German energy regulator says Gazprom cuts could spell trouble in winter
Russian Gazprom’s move to cut supplies of gas to Germany is a warning signal that could cause problems for Europe’s biggest economy in winter, the head of Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur energy regulator has said.
Gazprom on Wednesday announced a further cut in the amount of gas it can pump through the Nord Stream 1, meaning the pipeline will run at just 40% capacity.
“We could perhaps get through the summer as the heating season is over. But it is imperative that we fill the storage facilities to get through the winter,” regulator chief Klaus Mueller told the Rheinische Post daily.
Asked if he feared that Russia was serious about freezing gas supplies, Mueller said: “It has so far been Russia’s logic to want to continue selling gas to Germany. But we can’t rule anything out.”
US military package includes 18 howitzers, two coastal defence systems
The $1 billion package of US military aid for Ukraine announced on Wednesday includes 18 howitzers and 36,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as 18 tactical vehicles to tow the howitzers.
The US will also send ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) it had previously announced; four tactical vehicles to recover equipment; spare parts and other equipment; two harpoon coastal defence systems; and thousands of secure radios, night vision devices, thermal sights and other optics.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday Kyiv needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones, among other heavy weapons. In addition, Zelenskyy has called for more modern anti-missile systems.
The total cost of the US package includes $350 million in rapid, off-the-shelf deliveries by the Pentagon and $650 million in other longer-term purchases. All combined, the US has now committed about $6.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $5.6 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
As authorized by @POTUS, I am directing the drawdown of $350 million in additional U.S. arms, equipment & supplies for Ukraine—part of $1 billion in U.S. support announced today to reinforce Ukraine’s defenses against Russia’s senseless war of choice. We stand #UnitedwithUkraine.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) June 15, 2022
Food crisis to drive global displacement to ‘staggering’ level: UN refugee chief
A food security crisis stoked by the Ukraine war is set to push more people to flee their homes in poorer countries, driving record levels of global displacement even higher, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says.
A report by the UN body shows that some 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, abuse and violence at the end of 2021. Since then, millions more have fled Ukraine or been displaced within its borders, with price hikes linked to blocked grain exports set to stoke more displacement elsewhere.
“If you have a food crisis on top of everything I have described – war, human rights, climate – it will just accelerate the trends I’ve described in this report,” Filippo Grandi told journalists on Monday during a news conference under embargo, describing the figures as “staggering”.
Grandi also criticised what he called a “monopoly” of resources given to Ukraine, should not “make us forget other crises,” he said, mentioning a two-year-old conflict in Ethiopia and a drought in the Horn of Africa.
Zelenskyy in ‘constant’ talks with UK’s Johnson
Zelenskyy is in “constant contact” with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ukraine’s president has said, after the two shared a phone call on Wednesday.
“Coordinated positions on the eve of important international events. Discussed the situation on the battlefield, Ukraine’s defence needs and threats to food security,” Zelenskyy said in a Tweet.
Johnson said the G7 and NATO summits later this month were an opportunity to demonstrate the West’s unity and resolve to support Ukraine for the long-term according to a statement from his office.
The continued determination of Ukrainian forces to win is evident to the entire world, and Ukraine can count on the UK’s full and steadfast support until its eventual victory, Johnson said.
In constant contact with @BorisJohnson. Coordinated positions on the eve of important international events. Discussed the situation on the battlefield, Ukraine’s defense needs and threats to food security.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 15, 2022
Albania, Montenegro PMs visit Kyiv
The prime ministers of Albania and Montenegro visited Kyiv on Wednesday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a show of solidarity for Ukraine.
The Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, joined Albania’s Edi Rama and Montenegro’s Dritan Abazovic by video link. The leaders put together a statement in support of Ukraine becoming a candidate state for European Union membership.
The three western Balkan nations are officially candidates for EU membership but progress on ascension has been stalled amid regional issues.
“Our states – Ukraine, the Republic of Albania, Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia – must become full members of the EU. And we agree that our countries are not competitors on this European path, they complement and strengthen each other’s capabilities,” Zelenskyy said.
No immediate need for additional Ukraine aid from Congress: White House
The White House does not believe it currently needs an additional Ukraine aid package from the United States Congress after just tapping a recently approved $40bn measure.
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters on Wednesday.
Russia’s first deputy PM says rouble overvalued: Tass
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov says the rouble is overvalued and industry would be more comfortable if it fell to between 70 to 80 against the US dollar from the current 57, the state-owned Tass news agency has said.
Belousov, speaking to the agency in an interview, said year-on-year Russian inflation by the end of the year would be somewhere around 15 percent. As of June 10, it was 16.69 percent.
NATO weapons depot destroyed near Poland border: Russia
The Russian military said it used long-range missiles to destroy a depot in the western Lviv region of Ukraine where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was stored.
Near the border with NATO-member Poland, Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv, Russian Defence Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.
Konashenkov said shells for M777 howitzers, a type supplied by the US, were stored there. He said four howitzers were destroyed elsewhere and Russian air raids also destroyed Ukrainian “aviation equipment” at a military aerodrome in the southern Mykolaiv region.
Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment.
German, French, Italian leaders expected in Kyiv to signal solidarity
The leaders of the European Union’s three biggest countries, Germany, France and Italy, are expected in Kyiv on Thursday to show their backing for Ukraine.
The visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has taken weeks to organise with the three looking to overcome criticism within Ukraine over their response to the war.
“We are at a point when we need to send clear political signals, us Europeans, towards Ukraine and its people when it is resisting heroically,” said Macron, without giving details.
The trip, which has not been announced for security reasons, comes a day before the European Commission makes a recommendation on Ukraine’s status as an EU candidate, something the biggest European nations have been lukewarm about.
Ukraine ignores Severodonetsk ultimatum to surrender
Ukraine has ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Severodonetsk, which now largely lies in ruins after weeks of heavy bombardment.
Russia told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant there to lay down their arms. Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical factory.
Moscow said it opened a humanitarian corridor from Azot to allow civilians to escape to Russian-controlled territory. It accused Ukraine’s forces of disrupting that plan and using civilians as human shields, which Kyiv denied.
West must stay focused on Ukraine: Pentagon chief
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was at a “pivotal” moment and the US and its allies cannot not lose focus on the three-month-long conflict, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said.
Austin was speaking at a meeting of dozens of defence ministers on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial gathering.
“We can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high,” Austin said at the start of the meeting in Brussels. “Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield … Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions.”
.@SecDef: I’m personally grateful for the significant security assistance that this [Ukraine Defense Contact Group] has provided thus far, but we can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high. pic.twitter.com/xlpSuLTrLO
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) June 15, 2022
You can read all updates for June 15 here.