June 1, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

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Ukrainian villager: 'I'll never forgive Russians'
03:05 - Source: CNN

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Villagers north of Kyiv say they're still finding bodies more than a month after Russian troops left

More than a month after Russian soldiers were pushed from the area, people in villages north of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv say they are still finding their neighbors buried in shallow graves.

“Sometimes, I have nightmares and can’t sleep at night,” village resident Serhiy Yudenko told CNN’s Matthew Chance. “And I pray they won’t ever come back.”

Yudenko said he was shot by Russian troops and left for dead. He now has scars from the bullets but says the emotional scars run deeper.

Officials say more than 300 people are still missing from that region.

Yevhen Yenin, Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, said he thinks of the families every time they find a new body.

“You cannot imagine the eyes of mothers whose children they lost. You cannot imagine the eyes of relatives whose beloved have been captured or have been killed on the front line,” Yenin said, standing next to a grave.

Russian cruise missiles strike railway in western Ukraine, Ukrainian officials say 

Russian missiles have hit a railway in western Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

The strikes occurred close to the Beskyd tunnel in the Carpathian mountains — not far from the border with Slovakia.

It’s the second time the route has been targeted by Russian cruise missiles.

Maksym Kozytskyi, the head of the Lviv region military administration, said two people had been injured.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister said the goal of the strikes was to “disrupt rail traffic and stop the supply of fuel and weapons from our allies.”

“We are checking out the level of infrastructure damage. There are no victims among the railway workers. Three passenger trains are delayed. They are in safe places, and passengers are safe,” Oleksandr Kamyshin, CEO of state-owned Ukrainian Railways, said.

19 EU nations are speeding up their renewables transition 

The sun rises between wind turbines and high voltage power lines in the Hannover region of Germany on March 8.

Despite concerns that Russia’s war in Ukraine might mean a return to more fossil fuels, most countries in the European Union are laying out more ambitious plans to boost renewables.

Nineteen of the EU’s 27 member states have announced more ambitious medium-term plans in response to the war and soaring fossil fuel prices, according to a new report from Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an independent research group based in Finland, and Ember, a UK energy think tank.

The report, published Thursday, said that compared to their plans in 2019, EU countries have slashed the total amount of power they are aiming to source from fossil fuels by 2030 by almost a third. 

Instead of sourcing 55% of electricity from renewables, as previously planned, EU countries are now aiming to achieve a 63% share by 2030, the report said. As of January 2022, the EU was sourcing 22% of its energy from renewables. 

“The electricity transition is not solely an issue of climate concerns, but also one of ensuring stable supplies of energy for European households and businesses,” the report said. “This is especially obvious for the biggest importers of Russian fuels, with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands scaling up wind and solar ambitions, France subsidising housing insulation, and others ramping up heat pump installations and electrifying transport.”

The report said that Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark are on a path to source almost all of their electricity from renewables by 2030. 

Germany, the largest importer of oil and gas from Russia, is now planning to source 80% of its electricity from renewables by 2030, up from 62% it has previously announced. Italy, Ireland and Greece are all coming for up to a 70% share of renewables in electricity production, the report added.

The EU has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, and become carbon neutral by 2050. Being carbon neutral means emissions are dramatically reduced and any that remain are offset, whether using natural methods like tree planting or technology to “capture” emissions. 

Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, the three countries with the lowest planned shared of renewables, have not updated their plans since 2019, the report said. 

The report comes just days after Hungary negotiated an exemption from the EU’s ban on Russian oil imports. The oil embargo, which is a part of a new EU sanction package against Russia over its war on Ukraine, includes around 90% of Russian oil imports, but not the roughly 10% that flows to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.

Poland has agreed to the embargo and will stop importing Russian oil, but it is still planning to source 67% of its electricity from fossil fuels in 2030, because of its large reliance on coal. 

UK will give Ukraine rocket systems capable of hitting targets about 50 miles away, defense secretary says 

An M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System of the Finnish military is tested during exercises near Rovaniemi, Finland on May 23.

The United Kingdom will send multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine to help defend itself against Russia, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Wednesday.

Britain will send M270 launchers able to strike targets up to 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) away, offering “a significant boost in capability for the Ukrainian forces,” according to a statement from the British Foreign Office.

The move has been “coordinated closely” with the United States decision to provide Ukraine with its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) – a variant of the multiple-launch rocket systems that will be gifted by the UK, the statement added.  

“The UK stands with Ukraine and has taken a leading role in supplying its heroic troops with the vital weapons they need to defend their country,” Wallace said.

“As Russian’s tactics change, so must our support to Ukraine. These highly capable multiple-launch rocket systems will enable our Ukrainian friends to better protect themselves against Russia’s brutal use of long-range artillery, which Putin’s forces have used indiscriminately to flatten cities,” he added.

The British government also said that Ukrainian troops will be trained on how to use the launchers in the UK, so the effectiveness of the launchers can be maximized.

Biden will meet NATO secretary general at the White House on Thursday

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg answers a reporter's question on Wednesday, June 1, during a news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the State Department in Washington, DC.

US President Joe Biden will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House on Thursday as the alliance considers the next steps of the war in Ukraine.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would join a meeting between Stoltenberg and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, in part to discuss NATO’s next meeting in Spain. 

They will “discuss preparations for the NATO summit in Madrid and the strength of the transatlantic alliance,” Jean-Pierre said. The Madrid summit is scheduled for the very end of June.

Biden has endorsed applications by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

NATO doesn't foresee Russia retaliating against US decision to send Ukraine advanced weapons, chief says 

NATO does not foresee any Russian retaliation to the decision by the United States to supply advanced weapons to Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN on Wednesday. 

“No, I don’t foresee that because what NATO allies and NATO is doing is to provide support to Ukraine to uphold the right for self-defense, and this is a right which is enshrined in the UN treaty,” Stoltenberg said.

US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday the US is providing Ukraine “more advanced rocket systems and munitions” as its war with Russia grinds on.

Writing in a New York Times op-ed, Biden said the US goal is “to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.” 

He said the new shipment of arms would “enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

Stoltenberg held a news conference alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, DC, on Wednesday and is set to meet with Biden at the White House on Thursday.

Ukraine is now one win away from men's FIFA World Cup after emotional 3-1 victory over Scotland

Ukraine fans celebrate after Andriy Yarmolenko of Ukraine scored their first goal during the FIFA World Cup playoff semifinal against Scotland at Hampden Park on June 1.

Ukraine beat Scotland 3-1 at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, in the World Cup playoff semifinal on Wednesday. The result leaves them one win away from officially qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 

Ukraine enjoyed the better of the first half, creating good chances and forcing Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon into action on multiple occasions in the opening 20 minutes. The visitors made that pressure tell after West Ham forward Andriy Yarmolenko expertly controlled a pass from Ruslan Malinovskyi and chipped Gordon to score in the 33rd minute.

Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko scores the first goal against Scotland.

Ukraine’s aggressive play was rewarded once again within five minutes of the second half starting, as striker Roman Yaremchuk doubled their lead with a cushioned header and provoked wild scenes of celebration amongst the supporters. 

Ukraine's Roman Yaremchuk celebrates after scoring their second goal with fans.

Scotland worked hard to get back into the game, with manager Steve Clarke making a number of substitutions to try and inspire a comeback. That intent paid off when Callum McGregor’s bouncing shot crept over the goal line to set up a nail-biting final 10 minutes.

However, Ukraine sealed the result with a third goal of Artem Dovbyk in the closing moments to end Scotland’s hopes of reaching the tournament in Qatar.

The Ukraine team took to the field before the start of the match with every player draped in their country’s flag. Fans in the stadium, some of them refugees, could be seen holding signs reading “Stop War” as the team and supporters alike passionately sang the national anthem.

The Ukraine team lines up prior to the FIFA World Cup playoff semifinal match at Hampden Park on June 1.

The last competitive match played by Oleksandr Petrakov’s team was a 2-0 win away against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Nov. 16, 2021. The match was originally due to take place on March 24, but was postponed in the wake in of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Ukraine now face Wales in Cardiff on June 5 to determine which team will compete in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The 2022 World Cup is scheduled to begin on Nov. 21 and run through Dec. 18 in Qatar.

Ukraine players celebrate with fans after their win against Scotland at Hampden Park on June 1.

Ukrainian official says about 80% of Severodonetsk is occupied by Russian forces

Serhiy Hayday, the head of Luhansk’s regional military administration, says street fighting continues in the eastern city of Severodonetsk but Russian forces now occupy about 80% of the city.

“On some streets, our defenders are successful,” Hayday said. Six Russian soldiers have been captured, he said.

Hayday said the remaining parts of Luhansk region still under Ukrainian control were under constant shelling but local volunteers had gotten trucks with humanitarian cargoes to many settlements and also evacuated people.

The Ukrainian official said the neighboring city of Lysychansk “is under Ukrainian control. This is a militarily advantageous position. The location of the city on a hill gives many opportunities. The city’s defense is strong.”

Hayday said that heavy fighting continued in settlements to the south and west of Severodonetsk as Russian forces try to encircle the Ukrainian defenses.

“Despite the simply constant, daily shelling, it is still possible to bring humanitarian supplies both to the Hirske community and to Lysychansk,” Hayday said.

It's late Wednesday night in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during a live-fire training mission in Florida on May 10.

As he previewed in a New York Times op-ed Tuesday, US President Joe Biden announced today a new package of aid to Ukraine.

“I am announcing a significant new security assistance package to provide timely and critical aid to the Ukrainian military. Thanks to the additional funding for Ukraine, passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, the United States will be able to keep providing Ukraine with more of the weapons that they are using so effectively to repel Russian attacks,” Biden said in a statement. 

He continued, “This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances. We will continue to lead the world in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”

Senior administration officials confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that the US will send Ukraine US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems as part of the United States’ 11th package of security assistance to Ukraine.

The officials said the systems that the US is sending Ukraine will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 49 miles. That is far less than the systems’ maximum range but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.

Today also marked Children’s Day in Ukraine. More than 240 children have died in the war, Ukrainian officials say.

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Ukrainians say Russians control eastern districts of Severodonetsk but have been repelled elsewhere: According to the Ukrainian military, Russian forces have tried without success to advance on several fronts Wednesday but have met resistance and fallen back. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that the Russians “continue to storm Severodonetsk and establish control over the city’s eastern part.” Ukrainian forces still appear to control western sections of the city. Social media video showed Russian soldiers around the city’s Square of Peace, which is in the northern part of the city. Several bodies, apparently of civilians, could be seen lying in the square. Earlier Wednesday, Serhiy Hayday, the head of the regional military administration, said that some Ukrainian units had fallen back to more defensible positions but others remained in the city. Russian artillery was used against Ukrainian defenses in the towns of Ridne and Sviatohirsk, which is north of Sloviansk, the military said. Russian troops had tried to take two villages in the area but withdrew.
  • Russian foreign minister says Ukraine’s demand for US advanced rockets is a “direct provocation”: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Ukraine’s demands to the West regarding the supply of advanced rocket launchers go beyond “all limits and decency” and is a “direct provocation.” He continued: “Such risks [of involving third countries in the Ukrainian conflict], of course, exist, what the Kyiv regime demands so categorically, in a business-like way, I would say, from its Western patrons, firstly, goes beyond all the limits of decency and diplomatic communication, and secondly, this is a direct provocation aimed at drawing the West into hostilities. Of course, sane Western politicians understand these risks. Not all.”
  • Ukraine says it won’t use US weapons to strike in Russia: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Ukraine has assured the US that they will not use weapons systems provided by the US “against targets on Russian territory.” Appearing at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Blinken said, “There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States, as well as with our allies and partners.” Blinken also said that regarding concerns about Russia interpreting the US sending these new weapon systems to Ukraine as escalatory, that President Biden had been clear with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the consequences of the Russian invasion, including sending security assistance to Ukraine.`
  • Ukraine defense ministry reports a “very difficult” situation in Severodonetsk: The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says fighting continues in the city of Severodonetsk, where Russian forces and their allies are edging forwards. “The enemy reached central Severodonetsk and is trying to establish positions. The situation is very difficult,” Defense Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said at a briefing Wednesday. “I don’t want to estimate or give any percentage ratios of what we control and don’t control,” Motuzyanyk added. “We know the enemy’s goals and we are doing everything to stop them from achieving them.” One officer involved in the defense of Severodonetsk has spoken more optimistically about the situation.
  • Russian officials talk up integration of occupied Ukrainian areas into Russian Federation: More Russian officials have been talking about integrating Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine into the Russian Federation. Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti quotes Sergei Tsekov, a member of the Federation Council, as saying that referendums may be held this year in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Russian forces occupy much of Kherson, where fighting is continuing, and a part of Zaporizhzhia region. “I think that all the territories controlled by Russia have a very good chance of being reunited with the Russian Federation. These are originally Russian territories, ” Tsekov said. Kherson was annexed by Tsarist Russia in the late 18th century but has been part of Ukraine since independence in 1991. 
  • Ukrainian military: At least 7 killed and 16 injured by Russian attacks in last 24 hours: At least seven people have been killed and 16 others injured in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian military officials said on Wednesday. In eastern Ukraine, where the heaviest fighting is taking place, four people were killed and at least 10 others injured after Russian troops targeted air strikes, missiles and artillery shelling on several cities including Severodonetsk and Sloviansk, a statement from Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force said. In Luhansk and Donetsk, Russian troops shelled 21 areas on Tuesday, and destroyed 46 “civil objects,” the statement said.
  • It’s now over 30% higher to fill up your gas tank in the US than it was the day before Russia invaded Ukraine: Pump prices just took another big step in the wrong direction. The US national average for regular gasoline climbed by five cents on Wednesday to a fresh record of $4.67 a gallon, according to AAA. That leaves gas prices up by 48 cents in the past month alone. It is now 32% higher to fill up your tank than it was the day before Russia invaded Ukraine. Seven states now average $5 or higher, with Illinois becoming the latest to join that unpopular club, according to AAA. New York and Arizona are just pennies away from the $5 threshold. The average in California now stands at $6.19 a gallon. No states have an average of $4.15 or lower, with George coming in at the lowest with $4.16.  

US and allies are looking for solutions to free up millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine

The Biden administration is working to get temporary storage containers for Ukrainian grain into the country, a stopgap measure as it seeks to mitigate a growing food crisis caused by Russia’s months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports, administration officials told CNN.

These storage containers – such as bags or boxes – could help salvage some of the more than 20 million tons of grain that are currently stuck inside Ukraine. They could also help Ukraine load the grain onto trains or trucks out of the country once overland routes are established, a senior administration official explained.

Still, as these efforts are underway the US and its international partners are no closer to finding a quick and absolute solution to lifting the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports that’s raised global food prices and threatened to cause a catastrophic food shortage in parts of the world.

The work that the US is doing to open up overland routes for the grain to get into neighboring countries, get containers into the country, and implement long-term changes meant to drive down global reliance on Ukrainian grain could collectively have an impact on the crisis. But many view the efforts as marginal fixes to a much larger problem that can’t be completely resolved until Russia eases its blockade, particularly of Ukraine’s biggest port in Odesa, which has been surrounded by Russian warships for months.

“From a practical perspective, the only option is still try and see how to unblock Odessa,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told CNN on Tuesday. “Every option should be explored and if possible, every option should be used … but unfortunately, without exploring and going forward with the Odessa option, I don’t think that there’s any other way.”

“If Russians don’t allow it, we need to, as a global community, we need to find a solution how to do it without Russian agreement,” Landsbergis said.

UN and Turkish officials are preparing for separate rounds of diplomatic talks with Moscow coalescing around a new plan to try to open up sea routes for Ukrainian grains, sources say.

Meanwhile, millions of tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine, stored in silos and at the port in Odesa, leading to a dramatic spike in global food prices that’s likely to worsen as the war continues. Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the State Department, and the UN’s program to fight food insecurity buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year.

As CNN reported last week, Russia also appears to be ramping up its efforts to steal large quantities of Ukrainian grain.

Read the full story here:

The Medusa S general cargo ship is loaded with grain, destined for Turkey, at the UkrTransAgro LLC grain terminal at the Port of Mariupol in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the city, just miles from the front lines in Ukraine, is turning into the country's"shop front window" to show how a reintegrated Donbas could be rebuilt. Photographer: Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg via Getty Images

US officials looking to salvage Ukrainian grain with no good solution yet to Russia's export blockade | CNN Politics

The US is mindful of escalation risk in providing Ukraine with weapons systems, top defense official says

The US is “mindful of the escalation risk in everything we’re doing associated with” the conflict in Ukraine, including the latest decision to provide Ukraine with four HIMARS systems, but ultimately “Russia doesn’t get a veto over what” the US sends to Ukrainians, Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Dr. Colin Khal told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon Wednesday.

“President Biden has made clear we have no intention of coming into direct conflict with Russia. We don’t have an interest in the conflict in Ukraine widening to a broader conflict or evolving into World War III so we’ve been mindful of that, but at the same time, Russia doesn’t get a veto over what we sent to the Ukrainians,” Kahl said. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave US President Joe Biden assurances Ukraine would not escalate the conflict if the US did provide HIMARS systems to Ukraine, Kahl added.

“The assurances have been given at multiple levels of Ukrainian government. Secretary Austin has raised these issues with Minister Reznikov in their numerous calls. They’re talking to each other once or twice a week, that has been true since the beginning of the conflict, but this particular assurance goes all the way to the top of the Ukrainian government to include President Zelensky,” Kahl said.

The United States decided to send Ukraine four HIMARS systems, or high mobility artillery rocket systems, with about 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) range instead of a target with a longer range as Ukrainians had requested, Kahl told reporters at a briefing at the Pentagon Wednesday. 

“As we looked at the targets that they were looking to be able to go after on Ukrainian territory and have some additional standoff, we thought the HIMARS with the GMLRS rounds — these guided long-range rounds with about 70km range could service any target that they needed precisely — so we settled on the HIMARS with the GMLRS round as the appropriate round at this time,” Kahl said.

Ukraine had sought longer range weapons, but the US clearly had resisted due to concerns Ukraine would strike inside Russia thereby potentially escalating the war.

The US agreed to provide Ukraine with these weapons as long as Ukraine assured the US they would not target locations inside Russian territory with the US weapons systems.

“We don’t assess that they need systems that range out hundreds and hundreds of kilometers for the current fight, and so that’s how we settled on it,” Kahl added.

US secretary of state announces new $700 million drawdown of military assistance for Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, attend a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, June 1.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday announced a $700 million drawdown in arms and equipment to Ukraine.

This drawdown, the 11th, is part of the $40 billion supplemental appropriations.

“US military assistance will strengthen Ukraine’s position to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, secure victories on the battlefield, and ultimately strengthen Ukraine’s position at the negotiating table,” Blinken said in a statement.

“The Kremlin has succeeded only in devastating communities, brutalizing civilians, disrupting Ukraine’s agriculture, and threatening global food security by blocking Ukrainian ports. The will of Ukraine’s courageous forces to defend their country is admirable, and Ukraine has shown it will never be subjugated to Russia,” Blinken added.

Blinken ended his statement by vowing that the US and its allies “will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The latest package of security assistance for Ukraine from the Biden administration includes HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, as well as 1,000 more Javelin missiles and launch pads for those missiles, according to the Department of Defense states.

These weapons will give Ukraine “critical capabilities to help Ukrainians repel the Russians,” Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Colin Kahl said at a briefing at the Pentagon Wednesday.

The Defense Department also announced that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Tuesday “to discuss Ukraine’s military requirements.”

“Secretary Austin highlighted the success of the Ukraine Contact Group held on May 23 and noted the unity of the international community in supporting Ukraine as it repels the Russian invasion,” Kahl said.

This is the first presidential drawdown authority security assistance package announced by the Biden administration since Congress passed the $40 billion supplemental funding bill for Ukraine aid in May.

Overall, the US has now committed “approximately $5.3 billion dollars in security assistance to Ukraine” since the beginning of the Biden administration and $4.6 billion since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, Kahl added.

Biden officially announces new Ukraine aid package he previewed in op-ed

President Joe Biden speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday, May 31.

As he previewed in a New York Times op-ed last night, US President Joe Biden has announced a new package of aid to Ukraine.

“I am announcing a significant new security assistance package to provide timely and critical aid to the Ukrainian military. Thanks to the additional funding for Ukraine, passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, the United States will be able to keep providing Ukraine with more of the weapons that they are using so effectively to repel Russian attacks,” Biden said in a statement. 

He continued, “This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances. We will continue to lead the world in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”

More context: Senior administration officials confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that the US will send Ukraine US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems as part of the United States’ 11th package of security assistance to Ukraine.

The officials said the systems that the US is sending Ukraine will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 49 miles. That is far less than the systems’ maximum range, but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.

The new security assistance package will also include air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank weapons, anti-armor weapons, artillery rounds, helicopters, tactical vehicles and spare parts to help the Ukrainians continue maintaining the equipment, the officials said.

Still, Biden sought to spell out clearly in the op-ed what the US aims in Ukraine were and was careful to note the US is not looking to directly engage Russia.

“We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow,” Biden said, roughly two months after declaring in Warsaw, Poland, that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”

In response to Biden’s announcement, the Kremlin said earlier Wednesday the US was “adding fuel to the fire” by supplying weapons to Kyiv.

Read more about the aid package here.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Natasha Bertrand contributed reporting to this post.

Ukrainian military says Russians control eastern districts of Severodonetsk but have been repelled elsewhere

According to the Ukrainian military, Russian forces have tried without success to advance on several fronts Wednesday but have met resistance and fallen back. 

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that the Russians “continue to storm Severodonetsk and establish control over the city’s eastern part.” 

Ukrainian forces still appear to control western sections of the city. Social media video showed Russian soldiers around the city’s Square of Peace, which is in the northern part of the city. Several bodies, apparently of civilians, could be seen lying in the square. Earlier Wednesday, Serhiy Hayday, the head of the regional military administration, said that some Ukrainian units had fallen back to more defensible positions but others remained in the city.

Russian artillery was used against Ukrainian defenses in the towns of Ridne and Sviatohirsk, which is north of Sloviansk, the military said. Russian troops had tried to take two villages in the area but withdrew.

Similarly, the military said, attempts by the Russians to break through from the south toward Bakhmut had been repelled. 

In southern Ukraine, according to the military, “the Russians also continue to fire on civilian infrastructure and residential areas” in Mykolaiv, a city that is regularly shelled. 

Vitalii Kim, the head of Mykolaiv regional military administration, said one person had been killed in the latest shelling. 

“Two weeks ago, around 60% of all Mykolaiv population remained in the city. But now people tend to come back, regardless of the recommendation to wait for another two to three weeks. As the intensity of the shelling has grown, people still come back,” Kim added.

NATO chief says he is "confident" progress will be made with Finland and Sweden membership bids

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that he will be meeting with senior officials of Turkey, Finland and Sweden in the coming days and is “confident we will find a way forward” with intentions to make progress on Finland and Sweden’s application status before the next NATO Summit, which is scheduled to take place in Madrid at the end of June.  

Speaking at a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, DC, Stoltenberg went on to explain his confidence in the decision “because all allies agree NATO enlargement has been a great success.” 

The NATO chief touched on the significance of the bids of the two Nordic countries, calling it “historic” and that their membership “will only strengthen our alliance.” 

Stoltenberg also addressed the “nuclear saber rattling rhetoric” used by Russia, saying it only increases tensions, but that they “have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture.”  

The secretary general went on to remind Russia they agreed on a UN statement in January that clearly stated “nuclear war cannot be won and should not be fought,” indicating Moscow “knows that any use of nuclear weapons would totally change the nature of a conflict” and reiterated “nuclear weapons should not be used.” 

When discussing the war in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said Putin made a strategic mistake by launching the war, and underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian people and unity of NATO. “President Putin wanted less NATO, he is getting more NATO, more troops and more NATO members,” he said.

He also pointed to the unity of allies and partners implementing the EU’s sanctions packages. 

Stoltenberg also touched on NATO’s security strategy to “prepare for an age of increased strategic competition with authoritarian powers like Russia and China.” Stoltenberg further referred to why Ukraine must continue to receive support. If Putin wins the war, then “the price we have to pay would be higher than to now invest in support for Ukraine.” 

Russian foreign minister says Ukraine's demand for US advanced rockets is a "direct provocation"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Ukraine’s demands to the West regarding the supply of advanced rocket launchers go beyond “all limits and decency” and is a “direct provocation.” 

“Such risks [of involving third countries in the Ukrainian conflict], of course, exist, what the Kyiv regime demands so categorically, in a business-like way, I would say, from its Western patrons, firstly, goes beyond all the limits of decency and diplomatic communication, and secondly, this is a direct provocation aimed at drawing the West into hostilities. Of course, sane Western politicians understand these risks. Not all,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Saudi Arabia.   

He continued: “In the European Union, especially in its northern part. There are politicians who are ready to go into this madness in order to satisfy their ambitions. But serious countries in the European Union, of course, are well aware of the unacceptability of such scenarios, and we recently heard signs of reasonable assessments from Washington.”

Blinken: Russia risks "what’s left of its reputation" blockading Ukrainian food

Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers a reporter's question on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russia risks “what’s left of its reputation” by not allowing food to get out of Ukrainian ports. 

“It seeks relationships with countries around the world, including many countries that are now the victim of Russian aggression because of growing food insecurity resulting from that aggression,” said Blinken at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Blinken said that an additional 40 million people are estimated to be food insecure as a result of the Russian invasion.

“I think there’s a growing recognition of countries around the world that the challenges that they’re facing now, compounded by conflict, compounded by Russia’s aggression, are due to what Russia is doing,” said Blinken.

Blinken said that after the food security summit held at the UN, UN Secretary General António Guterres has been working “to see if he can find a way forward on this to allow the ships out to end this blockade.”

He also referred to exceptions in sanctions imposed on Russia to allow it to export food.

“We’ve had one of our senior officials go around the world to make that very clear to other countries and to help them with any questions they may have,” said Blinken. “This is on Russia.”

Blinken: Ukraine says it won't use US weapons to strike in Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hold a joint press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Ukraine has assured the US that they will not use weapons systems provided by the US “against targets on Russian territory.” 

“There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States, as well as with our allies and partners,” said Blinken at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Biden administration has announced it will be sending Ukraine US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, with munitions with a range that fall shorter than what Ukraine had requested.

Blinken also said that regarding concerns about Russia interpreting the US sending these new weapon systems to Ukraine as escalatory, that President Biden had been clear with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the consequences of the Russian invasion, including sending security assistance to Ukraine.`

“There was no hiding the ball. We’ve been extremely clear about this from day one with President Biden communicating that directly to President Putin. So we have done exactly what we said we would do,” said Blinken.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that “it’s not so much a question of deterring Russia at this point,” but rather making sure that Ukraine has the equipment to push back Russian aggression and therefore have the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.

Blinken noted that Russia has “committed the aggression and they’re pursuing it.”

“What we’re working to do, and the Secretary General said this very eloquently, is to make sure that the Ukrainians have in hand what they need to defend against this aggression, to repel it, to push it back. And as well, and as a result of that, make sure that they have the strongest possible hand at any negotiating table,” he said.

He reiterated that the US will continue to provide defensive capabilities to Ukraine.

Ukraine defense ministry reports a "very difficult" situation in Severodonetsk