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Ukraine war update: Russia withdraws from Snake Island, but gains in Donbas region

The Black Sea corridor has been reestablished, Ukraine cuts ties with Syria and Europe denounces civilian casualties

SHARE Ukraine war update: Russia withdraws from Snake Island, but gains in Donbas region
Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a U.S.-supplied M777 howitzer in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a U.S.-supplied M777 howitzer in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Momentum has shifted in favor of Russian troops in Ukraine, taking the city of Severodonetsk this week, while more civilian casualties stoke outrage internationally.

Efrem Lukatsky, Associated Press

Momentum has shifted in favor of Russian troops in Ukraine, taking the city of Severodonetsk this week, while more civilian casualties stoke outrage internationally.

On the ground

Russia has withdrawn from Snake Island, the outpost seized on the first day of the invasion, according to Reuters. The island in the Black Sea sits in strategically important waters and is vital for protecting grain shipments to Ukraine.

Russia claims it withdrew from the island as a “gesture of goodwill” to establish a corridor for food imports and humanitarian aid. Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, claimed the victory was due to the heavy artillery and air strikes overnight.

Russian forces are constantly shelling Lysychansk, a city on the opposite bank of the Donets River from Severodonetsk, which was captured this week after a drawn-out fight. The hilltop city is being slowly encircled by a large number of vehicles and troops, in Russia’s continuing effort to capture the Donbas region.

Airstrike on mall condemned

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the air strike on a crowded shopping mall, calling the act a “war crime” according to The Associated Press. Speaking to the United Nations Security Council, Zelenskyy asked for a tribunal to investigate crimes against civilians. Russia denies targeting civilians.

In March, the bombing of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol killed over 600 civilians, in “the single deadliest known attack against civilians to date,” per AP. Many other instances of civilian casualties have been reported, including the bombing of a maternity hospital and a missile attack on a crowded train station.

International relations

Ukraine cuts ties with Syria Thursday, with an announcement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Syrian government made the decision to recognize the sovereignty of “occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.”

In a press release from the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it will reach out to the governments of both regions to “agree on frameworks for strengthening relations.”

The U.S. has announced an increased U.S. military presence in Europe, including naval destroyers in Spain, two jet squadrons in the United Kingdom and “permanent headquarters in Poland for the U.S. 5th Army Corps,” per NPR.