What Happened Today (June 23): NPR

The Ukrainian (above) and European Union flags flutter on poles in Kiev on Thursday ahead of an EU summit in Brussels to discuss Ukraine’s candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc.

Nariman El-Mofty/AP


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Nariman El-Mofty/AP


The Ukrainian (above) and European Union flags flutter on poles in Kiev on Thursday ahead of an EU summit in Brussels to discuss Ukraine’s candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc.

Nariman El-Mofty/AP

As Thursday draws to a close in Kiev and Moscow, here are the key developments from the day:

leaders of the European Union approved Ukraine’s candidacy join the 27 country bloc† Ukraine filed an application shortly after Russia invaded the country on February 24. “Our future is together,” tweeted European Council President Charles Michel. This first official step towards membership, agreed at a summit in Brussels, will be followed by a lengthy process to reach a final decision on Ukraine’s accession to the EU. That process is expected to take years. 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 weapons system to be crucial in striking back Russian troops. This latest wave of security assistance comes on top of $1 billion in weapons recently announced by the White House.

The Russian army continues to attack the Ukrainian defenses in the east, push to the eastern city of Lysychansk, according to the British Ministry of Defence. Ukrainian regional authorities carry out evacuation and humanitarian relief missions every day in the disputed city. There has also been an increase 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 beginning of its invasion, before withdrawing at the end of March.

Ukraine began preliminary hearings for its first try of a Russian soldier accused of rape during the invasionbut does not have the suspect in custody. Mikhail Romanov will be tried in absentia on charges of repeatedly raping a Ukrainian woman after he and another Russian soldier killed her husband in a village outside Kiev in March. Reuters reports that prosecutors are investigating 50 other cases of sexual assault since the war started in February. Experts say there is evidence that Russian troops used rape as a weapon of war.

Nike is officially leaving Russia, and joined other major companies to do so, including McDonald’s, Starbucks and Ikea. In March, Nike said it would suspend operations in Russia. Now the Russian website says so and the mobile app will no longer be accessible in Russia and Nike stores will not reopen. Nike had previously said that Russia and Ukraine together accounted for less than 1% of sales, but even symbolically, the departure from Russia marks the departure of one of the largest global brands.

In an updated assessment, UNESCO has increased the number of Ukrainian heritage sites damaged in the war to 152. Of that total, almost half consists of religious buildings. The rest includes historical buildings, monuments, cultural centers, museums and libraries. Most of the damaged sites are in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kiev 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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You can read more daily summaries here. For context and more in-depth stories, you can find more of NPR’s coverage here. Also listen and subscribe to NPRs State of Ukraine podcast for updates throughout the day.

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