Russia-Ukraine war: What happened today (June 23)
As Thursday draws to a close in Kyiv and in Moscow, here are the key developments of the day:
European Union leaders approved Ukraine's candidacy to join the 27-nation bloc. Ukraine applied shortly after Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24. "Our future is together," tweeted European Council President Charles Michel. This first official step toward membership, agreed at a summit in Brussels, will be followed by a long process to reach a final decision on whether Ukraine can join the EU. That process is expected to take years. The EU leaders also approved Moldova's candidacy for membership.
The Pentagon announced an additional $450 million in security assistance for Ukraine, including four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. Ukraine considers the long-range weapon system critical in beating back Russian forces. This latest wave of security assistance comes on top of $1 billion in weaponry recently announced by the White House.
Russia's military continues to grind away at Ukrainian defenses in the east, pushing toward the eastern city of Lysychansk, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry. Ukrainian regional authorities are carrying out evacuation and humanitarian aid missions every day in the embattled city. There's also been an uptick in attacks in the north, with local military officials reporting about 100 incidents of Russian shelling in the Sumy and Kharkiv areas and cross-border shelling in the Chernihiv region. Russia initially attacked all of these places at the start of its invasion, before retreating in late March.
Ukraine began preliminary hearings for its first trial of a Russian soldier accused of rape during the invasion, but doesn't have the suspect in custody. Mikhail Romanov will be tried in absentia for charges of repeatedly raping a Ukrainian woman after he and another Russian soldier killed her husband in a village outside Kyiv in March. Reuters reports that prosecutors are investigating 50 other cases of sexual violence during reported since the war began in February. Experts say there are signs Russian forces have used rape as a war weapon.
Nike is officially exiting Russia, joining other marquee businesses to have done so, including McDonald's, Starbucks and Ikea. Back in March, Nike said it would suspend operations in Russia. Now its Russian website says it and the mobile app will no longer be accessible in Russia, and Nike stores will not reopen. Nike had previously said Russia and Ukraine together accounted for less than 1% of its revenue, but even symbolically, its departure from Russia marks the exit of one of the biggest global brands.
In an updated assessment, UNESCO raised the number of Ukrainian heritage sites damaged in the war to 152. Of that total, nearly half are religious buildings. The rest include historical buildings, monuments, cultural centers, museums and libraries. Most of the damaged sites are located in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions. Ukraine is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites but none have been damaged so far, UNESCO says. The destruction of heritage sites is considered a war crime.
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