What happened today (June 23): NPR

What happened today (June 23): NPR

Ukrainian (top) and EU flags fly over poles in Kyiv on Thursday ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, considering Ukraine’s candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc.

Nariman Al-Mofty/AP

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Nariman Al-Mofty/AP

Ukrainian (top) and EU flags fly over poles in Kyiv on Thursday ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, considering Ukraine’s candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc.

Nariman Al-Mofty/AP

As Thursday comes to an end in Kyiv and Moscow, here are the key developments of the day:

EU leader Ukraine’s candidacy approved 27 countries to join the bloc, Ukraine applied soon after Russia invaded the country on 24 February. European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: “Our future is together.” This first official step towards membership, agreed at a summit in Brussels, would be followed by a lengthy process to reach a final decision on whether Ukraine could join the European Union. That process is expected to take years. The leaders of the European Union also approved Moldova’s candidacy for membership.

The Pentagon announced an additional $450 million In Security Assistance to Ukraine, This includes four additional high mobility artillery rocket systems. Ukraine considers long-range weapons systems critical to repel Russian forces. This latest wave of security aid comes on top of the $1 billion in weapons recently announced by the White House.

Russia’s military keeps grinding on Ukrainian defense in the east, Pushing east towards the city of Lysychansk, According to UK Ministry of Defence. Ukrainian regional authorities are conducting daily evacuation and humanitarian aid operations in the beleaguered city. Attacks in the north have also intensified, with local military officials reporting 100 incidents of Russian shelling in the Sumy and Kharkiv regions and cross-border shelling in the Chernihiv region. Russia initially attacked all of these locations at the start of its offensive, before retreating at the end of March.

Ukraine started preliminary hearing for this first trial A Russian soldier accused of rape during an invasionBut there is no suspect in custody. Mikhail Romanov will be tried in absentia for repeatedly raping a Ukrainian woman after her husband was killed by another Russian soldier in a village outside Kyiv in March. Reuters reports that prosecutors are investigating another 50 counts of sexual violence since the war broke out in February. Experts say there are signs that the Russian military has used rape as a weapon of war.

Nike is officially exiting Russia, joining other major businesses including McDonald’s, Starbucks and Ikea. Back in March, Nike said it would suspend operations in Russia. Now its Russian website says this and the mobile app will no longer be available in Russia, and that Nike stores will not reopen. Nike previously said that Russia and Ukraine account for less than 1% of total revenue, but symbolically, too, its departure from Russia marks the exit of one of the biggest global brands.

In an updated assessment, UNESCO raises the number of Ukrainian heritage sites Damaged in the Battle of 152. Of that total, about half are religious buildings. The rest include historic buildings, monuments, cultural centers, museums, and libraries. Most of the damaged sites are located in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions. UNESCO says Ukraine is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but none have been damaged so far. Destruction of heritage sites is considered a war crime.

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