Russia wants to ‘destroy the whole Donbas step by step,’ Zelenskyy says; Russian forces look to take control of Severodonetsk – CNBC

UNESCO lists 152 destroyed or damaged sites in Ukraine

Seventy religious buildings, 30 historical buildings, 18 cultural centers, 15 monuments, 12 museums and seven libraries: That’s the number of buildings of cultural interest that have been destroyed or damaged in Ukraine so far in the war, according to UNESCO.

“These repeated attacks on Ukrainian cultural sites must stop,” Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO (a specialised agency of the United Nations aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture) said Thursday.

Museum workers carry the sculpture of Ukrainian philosopher Hryhorri Skovoroda from the destroyed building of the Hryhoriy Skovoroda National Literary Memorial Museum in the village of Skovorodynivka, in Kharkiv Region, on May 7, 2022, on the 73rd day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

“Cultural heritage, in all its forms, should never be targeted. I reiterate my call for respect for international humanitarian law, in particular the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict,” she said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian forces showing ‘improved performance’ in Donbas assault, UK says

Russian forces are highly likely to have advanced over 5 kilometers (around 3 miles) toward the southern approaches of the city of Lysychansk in the Donbas region in east Ukraine over the last few days, the British Ministry of Defense said on Thursday.

The ministry said that progress, made since June 19, probably reflected the fact that some Ukrainian units have withdrawn to avoid being encircled.

Black smoke and dirt rise from the city of Severodonetsk during battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas on June 9, 2022.

Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

In addition, the ministry noted that “Russia’s improved performance in this sector is likely a result of recent unit reinforcement and heavy concentration of fire.”

Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure, the ministry said on Twitter, “with this creeping advance around the fringes of the built-up area.”

However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast (or province) remain stalled, it added.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian forces showing ‘improved performance’ in Donbas assault, UK says

Russian forces are highly likely to have advanced over 5 kilometers (around 3 miles) toward the southern approaches of the city of Lysychansk in the Donbas region in east Ukraine over the last few days, the British Ministry of Defense said on Thursday.

The ministry said that progress, made since June 19, probably reflected the fact that some Ukrainian units have withdrawn to avoid being encircled.

Black smoke and dirt rise from the city of Severodonetsk during battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas on June 9, 2022.

Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

In addition, the ministry noted that “Russia’s improved performance in this sector is likely a result of recent unit reinforcement and heavy concentration of fire.”

Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure, the ministry said on Twitter, “with this creeping advance around the fringes of the built-up area.”

However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast (or province) remain stalled, it added.

— Holly Ellyatt

EU set to deliver decision on Ukraine’s candidate status

Tackling corruption and reforming the judicial system are key changes that the EU will want to see if Ukraine’s application is to proceed.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The European Union is expected to deliver its decision later today on whether Ukraine will be granted the status of a candidate country to join the bloc. EU leaders are meeting on Thursday and the issue will be high on the agenda.

Granting EU candidacy is seen as a huge act of solidarity with Ukraine but, if granted as widely expected, the process to join the political and economic union could take years and Ukraine would be expected to make deep reforms.

Tackling corruption and reforming the judicial system are key changes that the EU will want to see if Ukraine’s application is to proceed.

Two other former Soviet Union states, Georgia and Moldova, have also submitted applications to join the EU. Kosovo and North Macedonia, among others, have been waiting years for their membership applications to progress.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia wants to ‘destroy the whole Donbas step by step,’ Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the Donbas region of east Ukraine is continuing to see what he called “massive air and artillery strikes.”

“The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same — they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step,” he said.

“Lysychansk, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk — they aim to turn any city into Mariupol. Completely ruined.” He said the southern port of Mykolaiv and the northeastern city of Kharkiv were hit by missile strikes yesterday.

 Zelenskyy said he continues to press for weapons supplies for Ukraine, noting that “parity is needed on the battlefield as soon as possible to stop this devilish armada and move it beyond the borders of Ukraine.”

The destroyed storage facilities of private company Nika-Tera in the southern city of Mykolaiv on June 12, 2022, which were bombed on June 4, according to the military administration.

Genya Savilov | Afp | Getty Images

A number of cities, towns and villages in the Donbas region, and in the province of Luhansk in particular, have been the focus of severe fighting for several weeks, with Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in street battles while Russian artillery fire destroys infrastructure and homes in the region.

Separately, Zelenskyy said he expects a decision to come on whether Ukraine will be granted candidate status by the EU on Thursday evening. He said he’s been holding calls with various EU leaders to press Ukraine’s case for joining the bloc.

Holly Ellyatt

Russians pushing to establish full control over Severodonetsk, official says

The governor of Luhansk, the area which has seen the fiercest fighting in recent weeks, has said that Russian forces are continuing to try to establish full control over Severodonetsk, a city he said was under constant shelling, as well as trying to surround Ukraine’s troops in the area of Lysychansk and to block the route out of the city to nearby Bakhmut.

“The enemy has taken over the settlements of Loskutívka and Rai-Oleksandrivka,” Serhiy Haidai said on Facebook Thursday, in his latest update on the military action in his province. He said Russian forces were “storming” an orphanage in the area.

A destroyed Community Art Center in the wake of a strike in the city of Lysychansk in the Donbas on June 17, 2022.

Aris Messinis | Afp | Getty Images

He added that Russian forces are approaching other villages in the area too and that they “continue to annihilate the settlements of the region every day. Yesterday, enemy aviation struck the regional center, Sirotynom, Verkhnyokamyantsi, Girsky.”

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the information.

Russia increased propaganda in Ukraine by 216%, Microsoft says

Russia has increased the spread of propaganda through cyber influence operations by 216% in Ukraine and 82% in the United States since the war began, according to a Microsoft report.

Silas Stein | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Russia has increased the spread of propaganda through cyber influence operations by 216% in Ukraine and 82% in the United States since its invasion of Ukraine began in late February, according to a Microsoft report.

The Russian military has also launched multiple waves of “destructive” cyberattacks against 48 Ukrainian agencies and enterprises, the report added.

Outside of Ukraine, Russian intelligence agencies have also stepped up espionage and network intrusion activities, targeting 128 organizations in 42 countries, Microsoft said.

Russia prioritized government targets, especially among NATO members, Microsoft president Brad Smith added.

— Chelsea Ong

Germany’s Scholz says G-7 to discuss ‘Marshall plan’ for Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a press statement about the war crimes discovered the day before in Bucha, Ukraine, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany April 3, 2022. 

Hannibal Hanschke | Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that he wants to discuss the outlines of a “Marshall plan for Ukraine” with the leaders of the Group of Seven countries at their upcoming summit in Germany.

Scholz hopes for a united front on long-term support for Ukraine when he hosts the annual G-7 summit in Bavaria next week. The group of the world’s leading economic powers is made up of the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., Canada and Japan.

The chancellor told Germany’s parliament that “rebuilding Ukraine will be a task for generations.” Recalling his visit last week to Irpin, a Kyiv suburb that saw intense fighting, he said that “some things there remind not just me of the pictures of German cities after World War II.”

Like Europe then, “Ukraine today needs a Marshall plan for its rebuilding,” Scholz said — referring to the U.S.-sponsored plan that helped revive European economies after WWII.

— Associated Press

Stoltenberg says Sweden and Finland should join NATO alliance ‘as soon as possible’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 16, 2022. 

Yves Herman | Reuters

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will address Turkey’s concerns about Finland and Sweden’s applications to join NATO next week in Madrid.

“We are now working actively on the next steps in the accession process of both Finland and Sweden. And addressing Turkey’s security concerns, including in the fight against terrorism,” Stoltenberg said during a discussion hosted by Politico.

“My aim is to find a common way forward so that both countries can join our alliance as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the addition of Sweden and Finland will “make them safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure.”

In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to the NATO alliance. President Joe Biden welcomed leaders from both countries to the White House and pledged to work with Congress — which has to ratify U.S. approval of NATO bids — and the other 29 members of the world’s most powerful military alliance to swiftly bring Sweden and Finland into the group. 

 — Amanda Macias

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Russia wants to ‘destroy the whole Donbas step by step,’ Zelenskyy says; Russian forces look to take control of Severodonetsk – CNBC

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