Ukraine moves closer to joining the EU; Zelenskky says historic decision will help to defeat Russia

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UPDATED FRI, JUN 17 20228:31 PM EDT

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Ukraine moves closer to joining the EU; Zelenskky says historic decision will help to defeat Russia

Sam Meredith

Amanda Macias

This is CNBC’s live blog tracking Friday’s developments on the war in Ukraine. See below for the latest updates.

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Two American veterans captured in Ukraine being held by Russia

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has proposed that Ukraine become a membership candidate to join the bloc — the first step on a long road to EU membership.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday that Ukraine should be welcomed by Europe.

It comes shortly after some of the most powerful EU leaders traveled to Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv in a show of solidarity with the war-ravaged country.

Serhiy Haidai, the head of Luhansk’s regional administration region, says the number of Russian bombings in Ukraine is “rising daily.”

Russian forces are continuing to launch ground assaults on the strategically important Donbas city of Severodonetsk in an attempt to establish control.

7 HOURS AGO

Russian superyacht arrives in Hawaii after U.S. seizure order

The yacht Amadea of sanctioned Russian Oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, seized by the Fiji government at the request of the US, arrives at the Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, June 16, 2022. - A Fiji court on June 7 handed the Russian superyacht to US authorities and said it can be removed from the Pacific nation, ending a contested eight-week stay. The $300 million Amadea, linked by the United States to billionaire Russian politician Suleiman Kerimov, a target of sanctions, was impounded on arrival in Fiji in April at W

The yacht Amadea of sanctioned Russian Oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, seized by the Fiji government at the request of the US, arrives at the Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, June 16, 2022.

Eugene Tanner | AFP | Getty Images

A superyacht seized in Fiji last month at the request of U.S. authorities, who say the $300 million Amadea is owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, has arrived in Hawaii, Refinitiv Eikon vessel tracking data showed.

The U.S. Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force has focused on seizing yachts and other luxury assets of Russian oligarchs in a bid to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

— Reuters

8 HOURS AGO

Germany’s Scholz says it’s necessary to keep talking to Putin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on before the weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/Pool

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany is looking to create closer ties with countries that share its values, naming Japan and India, among others.

Lisi Niesner | Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that it’s “absolutely necessary” for some leaders to talk directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid efforts to end the war in Ukraine, and he and France’s president will continue to do so.

Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have held several telephone conversations with Putin, separately and together, since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24. Those contacts have drawn some criticism — including from Poland’s president, who said recently that they achieve nothing and serve only to legitimize the Russian leader.

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

“There are some countries needed, and some leaders needed, that speak to him — and it is necessary that they are clear,” Scholz told dpa.

— Associated Press

9 HOURS AGO

Putin says Russian economy will overcome ‘reckless’ sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 17, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 17, 2022.

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said at Russia’s showpiece investment conference Friday that the country’s economy will overcome sanctions that he called “reckless and insane.”

Putin began his address to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum with a lengthy denunciation of countries that he contends want to weaken Russia, including the United States.

He said the U.S. “declared victory in the Cold War and later came to think of themselves as God’s own messengers on planet Earth.”

Russia came under a wide array of sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine in February. Hundreds of foreign companies also suspended operations in Russia or pulled out of the country entirely.

— Associated Press

10 HOURS AGO

The U.S. has committed $5.6 billion in security assistance for Ukraine’s fight

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 65th Field Artillery Brigade fire a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during a joint live-fire exercise with the Kuwait Land Forces, Jan. 8, 2019, near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 65th Field Artillery Brigade fire a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during a joint live-fire exercise with the Kuwait Land Forces, Jan. 8, 2019, near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

Courtesy: U.S. Department of Defense

From heavy artillery to tactical drones to armored vehicles, the U.S. has committed $5.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in late February.

The latest assistance package of $1 billion, which is the 12th installment of aid, comes as Russian forces ramp up their fight in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Read more about the weapons the U.S. has committed to Ukraine’s fight thus far.

 — Amanda Macias

11 HOURS AGO

‘We don’t know where they are,’ Biden says of missing Americans in Ukraine

A soldier of the Kraken Ukrainian special forces unit observes the area at a destroyed bridge on the road near the village of Rus’ka Lozova, north of Kharkiv, on May 16, 2022.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden said “we don’t know” where the three Americans reported missing in Ukraine are.

“Americans should not be going to Ukraine now,” he told reporters at the White House.

The State Department on Thursday said it was aware of reports that three U.S. citizens have gone missing in Ukraine, but said it could not verify if they were in Russian custody.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said he could not “speak to the specifics” of the third American reported missing in Ukraine. He added that “our understanding was that this individual has traveled to Ukraine to take up arms.”

Price’s comments follow various media reports that Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, two former American service members, were captured by Russian forces in Kharkiv last week. Those reports and details have not been confirmed by CNBC or NBC News.

Price told reporters that so far the Biden administration has not seen any evidence that Russian forces have detained Americans.

 — Amanda Macias

12 HOURS AGO

Approximately 15,000 Russian millionaires are attempting to leave Russia, UK intel says

A general view is seen of St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square ahead of the IAAF World Championships on August 6, 2013 in Moscow, Russia

Mark Kolbe | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Approximately 15,000 Russian millionaires are attempting to leave the country as the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine intensifies in the Donbas region, according to British intelligence assessments.

“Motivations highly likely include both personal opposition to the invasion and an intent to escape the financial impact of the sanctions imposed on Russia,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense shared in an intelligence update via Twitter.

“Should this exodus continue, it will likely exacerbate the war’s long-term damage to Russia’s economy,” the tweet continued.

 — Amanda Macias

12 HOURS AGO

U.K.’s Johnson arrives in Kyiv to meet with Zelenskyy

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Kyiv, following a visit from the leaders of France, Italy and Germany.

During the visit, Johnson offered to establish a training program for Ukrainian forces as they fight against Russian aggression. The new military program could train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days, a No. 10 Downing Street release said

“The UK-led program would train and drill the Armed Forces of Ukraine using battle-proven British Army expertise, allowing them to accelerate their deployment, rebuild their forces, and scale-up their resistance as they continue to defend their nation’s sovereignty against Russian invaders,” the release added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed Johnson’s visit on the social messaging app Telegram.

“Many days of this war have proved that Great Britain’s support for Ukraine is firm and resolute. Glad to see our country’s great friend Boris Johnson in Kyiv again,” Zelenskyy wrote.

Johnson, who recently survived a no confidence vote, made the visit after he canceled an appearance at a conference for his Conservative party.

— Amanda Macias

14 HOURS AGO

UN says at least 4,509 killed in Ukraine since start of war

Relatives of the fallen soldier Yurii Huk, age 41 pay their respects by his grave at the Field of Mars of Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine on May 16, 2022.

Omar Marques | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 4,509 civilian deaths and 5,585 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

16 HOURS AGO

Russia says Ukraine’s EU candidacy ‘requires increased attention’

Peskov says the EU’s decision to provide candidacy status to Ukraine requires the increased attention of Russia.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said the EU’s decision to provide candidacy status to Ukraine requires the increased attention of Russia.

“The possible entry of Ukraine into the EU requires increased attention of the Russian Federation in connection with the discovery of defense affiliation,” Peskov said in a statement, according to state news agency Interfax.

— Sam Meredith

17 HOURS AGO

Zelenskyy says historic decision to grant Ukraine EU candidacy status will help to defeat Russia

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed the EU’s recommendation to provide candidacy status to Ukraine a landmark move that will help Kyiv to defeat Russia’s onslaught.

“It’s the 1st step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our Victory closer. Grateful to [von der Leyen] & each EC member for a historic decision,” Zelenskyy said via Twitter.

Zelenskyy said he expects EU government leaders to approve the proposal in Brussels next week.

— Sam Meredith

17 HOURS AGO

European Commission recommends that Ukraine becomes an EU membership candidate

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine should be welcome as a candidate country.

Kenzo Tribouillard | Afp | Getty Images

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has proposed that Ukraine be given candidate status for EU membership.

The recommendation comes on the proviso that Ukraine carries out a number of important reforms.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine should be welcome as a candidate country — referring to a legal term that means a nation has officially started an accession path to full membership.

Wearing a yellow blazer over a blue shirt to represent Ukraine’s colors, von der Leyen said at a press conference that the commission had one clear message for Kyiv. “And that is, yes, Ukraine deserves [the] European perspective. Yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country.”

Read the full story here.

— Sam Meredith

19 HOURS AGO

EU to discuss fast-tracked opinion on Ukraine’s bid for candidacy

Italy’s Draghi, Ukraine’s Zelenskyy and France’s Macron pictured during a joint press conference in Kyiv.

Future Publishing | Future Publishing | Getty Images

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, will meet on Friday to offer its fast-tracked opinion on whether to grant Ukraine candidacy status.

The discussion comes just 24 hours after some of the bloc’s most powerful leaders visited Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv in a show of solidarity with the war-ravaged country.

The opinion given on Friday is widely expected to serve as the basis for talks at next week’s EU summit in Brussels, Belgium. Candidacy status is not the same as EU membership — a process that could take several years to complete.

Standing alongside Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France, Germany, Italy and Romania were all in favor of “immediate” candidacy status for Ukraine.

— Sam Meredith

19 HOURS AGO

Number of bombings by Russian forces in Ukraine rising daily, Luhansk regional governor says

Few residents remain in the Lysychansk as it experiences frequent shelling from Russian troops who are in a fierce battle for Severodonetsk, which sits across the river.

Scott Olson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Serhiy Haidai, the head of Luhansk’s regional administration region who has become a well-known voice amid severe fighting in the Donbas region, has said the number of shellings by Russian forces is “rising daily.”

“The Russians continue to destroy the region’s infrastructure,” Haidai said via Telegram, according to a translation.

“Thus, the shelling of the buildings of the Severodonetsk Plant of Chemical Non-Standardized Equipment was recorded, and the building of the Azot plant was damaged. In general, there are almost no [surviving] administrative buildings on the territory of the chemical plant giant,” he added.

Haidai said that over the last 24 hours, Russian forces had used artillery and multiple rocket launchers in the districts of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Ustynivka, Loskutivka, Metolkino, Borivsky, Mykolaivka and Novozvanivka, among others.

— Sam Meredith

THU, JUN 16 20224:58 PM EDT

State Department aware of third missing American in Ukraine, can’t confirm capture reports

A Ukrainian military vehicle drives to the front line during a fight, amid Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, near Izyum, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, April 23, 2022. 

Jorge Silva | Reuters

The State Department is aware of reports that a total of three U.S. citizens have gone missing in Ukraine but could not verify if they were in Russian custody.

“There are reports of one additional American whose whereabouts are unknown. I can’t speak to the specifics of that case. Unfortunately, we don’t know the full details,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a daily press briefing.

“Similarly, our understanding was that this individual has traveled to Ukraine to take up arms,” Price added.

Price’s comments come on the heels of various media reports that Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, two former American service members, were captured by Russian forces in Kharkiv last week. Those reports and details have not been confirmed by CNBC or NBC News.

Price told reporters that so far the Biden administration has not seen any evidence that Russian forces have detained Americans.

“At this moment, we have seen the open press reports, the same reports that you all have seen, but we don’t have independent confirmation of their whereabouts,” Price said.

— Amanda Macias

THU, JUN 16 20224:13 PM EDT

Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports will trigger higher food prices and ‘unrest and instability,’ U.S. Agriculture secretary says

Global prices for some grains have spiked since the Russia-Ukraine war started, with both countries contributing a significant percentage of the world’s supply for some of those commodities such as wheat.

Vincent Mundy | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports will lead to food shortages as well as higher food prices across the globe.

“The failure of Russia to allow and enable the ports to be opened and available is obviously causing some significant disruption to the extent that the grain, nearly 20 million metric tons, can’t get into the market,” Vilsack told reporters at the United Nations.

He added that potential shortages will likely trigger “unrest and instability” in countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Vilsack called on Russia to negotiate in good faith with international parties looking to create food corridors out of Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

THU, JUN 16 20223:48 PM EDT

A third of Sudan’s population faces hunger crisis, in part due to Ukraine war, UN agency says

Nyayiar Kuol holds her severely malnourished 1-year-old daughter Chuoder Wal in a hospital run by Medicines Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Old Fangak in Jonglei state, South Sudan Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

Sam Mednick | AP

A third of Sudan’ population is currently facing a food crisis due to the compounded impact of climate shocks, political turmoil and rising global food prices, the U.N. food agency said.

A joint report by the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said that 15 million people face acute food insecurity across all of the East African country’s 18 provinces.

“The combined effects of conflict, climate shocks, economic and political crises, rising costs and poor harvests are pushing millions of people deeper into hunger and poverty,′ said Eddie Rowe, WFP’s representative in Sudan.

Living conditions rapidly deteriorated across cash-strapped Sudan since an October military coup sent an already fragile economy into free-fall, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine compounding the economic pain.

Funding levels fall short of meeting humanitarian needs in Sudan, where 40% of the population is expected to slip into food insecurity by September, the report said.

— Associated Press

19 HOURS AGO

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

European leaders visit Kyiv for talks on weapons, EU membership; UK announces new sanctions on Russia

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