June 1, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Andrew Raine, Lianne Kolirin, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022
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12:23 p.m. ET, June 1, 2022

Russian troops have "consolidated in the city center" of Severodonetsk, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Bex Wright

Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine during heavy fighting on May 30.
Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine during heavy fighting on May 30. (Aris Messings/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian troops are “storming” the eastern city of Severodonetsk and have “consolidated in the city center,” said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration on Wednesday.

Russia carried out assaults on Tuesday in the “northern, southern and eastern districts of Severodonetsk,” Hayday said.

And Russians now control “most” of the city, he said.

“The Russians are storming, consolidating in the center of Severodonetsk, while continuing to destroy infrastructure and industrial facilities,” and also destroying residential homes in and around the city, he said.

Hayday said a Russian air strike hit a tank of nitric acid at a chemical plant in Severodonetsk at 6:55 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The militia of the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic has blamed Ukrainian forces for the explosion.

1:11 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

Ukraine pins hopes on national team playing on "football’s front line" in World Cup quest to lift spirits

From CNN's Ben Church

It’s approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) from Severodonetsk to Glasgow.

As Russian pressure increases in the strategic eastern Ukraine city, an international football match in the Scottish city would seem somewhat irrelevant.

Ukrainian Taras Berezovets, who worked as a political analyst before the Russian invasion started on Feb. 24 but has since joined Ukraine’s special forces, would disagree.

Like many other of his "brothers in arms" – given football has always been the number one sport in Ukraine – Berezovets will be doing his best to keep across developments in his country’s World Cup playoff against Scotland on Wednesday.

If Ukraine does get past Scotland at Hampden Park and then beats Wales in Cardiff on Sunday, the country will have remarkably secured qualification for the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Berezovets says fighters are keen to find a broadcast of the match. But even if watching is impossible for those on the front line, he says those fighting will still gather together and listen on the radio if they can.

When the football team is playing, the whole country is watching. Football is the number one sport in Ukraine, it’s extremely popular,” Berezovets told CNN Sport over the phone from the country’s embattled south.

Read the full story:

12:00 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

US President Joe Biden has pledged more advanced rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine that would "enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield," Biden wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

Here are the latest developments on Russia's war in Ukraine:

New US rocket systems: Following Biden's op-ed, senior US administration officials confirmed the US will send Ukraine US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, as part of the country's 11th package of security assistance. The officials said the HIMARS will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometers (49 miles). That is far less than the maximum range of the systems but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.

Russians control "most of Severodonetsk": Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said Russian troops now control most of the city of Severodonetsk — but he has dismissed suggestions that Ukrainian troops in the area will be surrounded. If Russian forces gain control of Severodonetsk, the neighboring city of Lysychansk will be the only urban area of any size in Luhansk to remain under Ukrainian control. Hayday earlier said a Russian air strike in Severodonetsk had hit a tank of nitric acid at a chemical plant and warned people in the city to stay in shelters. 

Ukrainian progress: Ukrainian forces have made progress in the regions of Kherson and Kharkiv and are holding back Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday. “Our defenders show extreme bravery, despite the fact that Russia has a substantial advantage in force and weapons,” Zelensky said.

NATO chief visit: Jens Stoltenberg is traveling to Washington, DC, on Tuesday for a working visit, the alliance said in a statement. Stoltenberg will be in the US capital until Friday and is expected to meet top US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

US welcomes Ukrainian refugees: More than 23,000 Ukrainians have been authorized to come to the US as part of the Biden administration’s streamlined process for Ukrainian refugees seeking to enter the country, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The Biden administration has committed to accepting up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Playing "hunger games with the world": Ukraine is working on an “UN-led naval operation” with navies of partnering countries to ensure a safe trade route for exporting its agricultural products, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. Zelensky previously said 22 million tons of grain, accounting for nearly half of Ukraine’s grain export supply, is being held up by Russia's blockade of the main export routes.

Moscow cuts more gas supplies: Danish energy firm Ørsted has confirmed that Russian state energy giant Gazprom will halt gas supplies starting on June 1 after Ørsted refused to pay for gas in rubles. Finland, Poland and Bulgaria have already been cut off from Russian gas supplies for the same reasons.

11:50 p.m. ET, May 31, 2022

Ukraine is losing up to 100 soldiers every day, Zelensky says

Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffins of the fallen during the funeral in Lviv, Ukraine on May 26.
Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffins of the fallen during the funeral in Lviv, Ukraine on May 26. (Adri Salido/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine is losing 60 to 100 soldiers every day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Newsmax in an interview that aired on Tuesday.

The situation in the east [of Ukraine] is very difficult. We are losing 60 to 100 soldiers every day and something like 500 wounded in combat,” Zelensky said.

The President also told Newsmax that shipments of grain are being blocked by Russia in the Black Sea.

"Currently, 22.5 millions tons of grain are blocked by Russia," Zelensky said. "In order to de-block this territory with an exit to the sea, with an exit to water, with an exit to our people, we need to fight and we need to have weapons with effective range as far as 120-140 kilometers."

Some context: Earlier on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden announced a new package of rocket systems to be sent to Ukraine. Senior administration officials said the rocket systems would have the capability to launch rockets as far as 80 kilometers, far less than the long range weaponry Zelensky has asked for, but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.

In the interview with Newsmax, Zelensky was adamant the rockets would be used in Ukraine – not on Russian soil.

"I know some of the people in the United States are saying, or people in the White House are saying, we might be using them to attack Russia: Look, we're not planning to attack Russia. We're not interested in the Russian Federation. We're not fighting on their territory,” Zelensky said.
“We have the war on our territory. They came to our country. We want to de-block our cities. For that purpose, we need ammo that can reach as far as 100 kilometers."

11:48 p.m. ET, May 31, 2022

New US rocket systems will enable Ukraine to hit targets 50 miles away — its greatest range yet, US administration officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during a live-fire training mission in Florida on May 10.
A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during a live-fire training mission in Florida on May 10. (Senior Airman Joseph P. LeVeille/U.S. Air Force)

Senior US administration officials confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that the United States will be sending Ukraine US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, as part of the country's 11th package of security assistance to Ukraine. 

The officials said the HIMARS will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometers (49 miles).

Some context: That is far less than the maximum range of the systems, which is around 300 kilometers (186 miles), but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date. The M777 Howitzers the US sent to Ukraine last month, for example, marked a significant increase in range and power over previous systems, but even those top out at around 25 kilometers (18 miles) in range.

Further weapons: The new security assistance package, to be announced officially on Wednesday, 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 maintenance of the equipment, the officials said.

CNN previously reported that US officials were debating for weeks whether to send Ukraine the advanced rocket systems, because they can strike so much further than any weapons they already have. The weapons’ long range, technically capable of striking into Russian territory, raised concerns that Russia might view the shipments as provocative. 

The officials said on Tuesday that the US is “not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” and is “not seeking to prolong the war.”

They also said they had received assurances from Ukraine that they would not use the systems to launch attacks inside Russia. But they emphasized that as the conflict evolves, the US will “continue to tailor” its assistance to Ukraine’s most urgent needs. 

The officials also said the new rocket systems will help put Ukraine “in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table” with Russia, and reiterated that the US will “not pressure the Ukrainian government in public or in private to make any territorial concessions.” 

11:48 p.m. ET, May 31, 2022

Biden announces new rockets and munitions to Ukraine in op-ed

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden said the United States 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 in Ukraine 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."

Biden sought to spell out clearly 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 that Putin "cannot remain in power."
"So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces," he wrote.

He went on to say that the US is "not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia."

Biden said that US officials "currently see no indication that Russia has intent to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible."

"Let me be clear: Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences," Biden wrote.

11:48 p.m. ET, May 31, 2022

Ukrainian forces are making progress in Kherson and Kharkiv, Zelensky says

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

A rescuer inspects a flat where the bodies of civilians were collected from a shelled residential building in Kharkiv on May 31.
A rescuer inspects a flat where the bodies of civilians were collected from a shelled residential building in Kharkiv on May 31. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Ukrainian forces have made progress in the regions of Kherson and Kharkiv and are holding back Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address on Tuesday night.

“Our defenders show extreme bravery, despite the fact that Russia has a substantial advantage in force and weapons,” Zelensky said, “We want all of our people liberated but it needs to be done with caution.”

Zelensky also applauded the new sanctions package approved by the European Council, which would cut down on imports of Russian oil, as well as suspend Russia propaganda channels and remove Sberbank from SWIFT, the international bank messaging system.

“I am thankful for everyone to reach this agreement,” Zelensky said, “It will leave Russia at the outskirts of the world economy. Russia will not be able to adapt and this means it will be defeated.”

11:48 p.m. ET, May 31, 2022

Ukrainian official says Russians control "most of Severodonetsk"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

Serhiy Hayday, the Head of Luhansk region military administration, says that Russian troops now control most of the city of Severodonetsk — but he has dismissed suggestions that Ukrainian troops in the area will be surrounded. 

"We are constantly communicating," he said. "There is an opportunity to maneuver, so the military is now calmly holding the defense in the positions they occupy now. The city at this stage has 90% of all houses damaged. Of these, 60% are almost impossible to restore. And all the critical infrastructure is completely destroyed."

Hayday said: "Now there is no possibility to leave Severodonetsk. It's very risky and the chances are very small to actually escape [unharmed]. Therefore, there is simply no point in risking people's lives."

Hayday added that the Russian goal was to surround all our troops. Of course, they would like to capture the entire Luhansk region much faster. Or just cut the route "Lysychansk - Bakhmut" or capture Severodonetsk as soon as possible. But they do not manage to capture the whole area."

If Russian forces gain control of Severodonetsk, the neighboring city of Lysychansk will be the only urban area of any size in Luhansk to remain under Ukrainian control. 

11:48 p.m. ET, May 31, 2022

Zelensky welcomes new EU sanctions against Russia but calls the delay "unacceptable"  

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday welcomed the new European Union sanctions package against Moscow, but criticized the bloc for the gap of more than 50 days between the fifth and sixth round of sanctions.   

"It's more than 50 days since the fifth package of sanctions, this is unacceptable for us," Zelensky said while addressing a joint new conference alongside Slovakian Prime Minister Zuzana Caputova in Kyiv on Tuesday.  

More on the sanctions: The EU agreed to ban 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of the year, the leaders of the European Council said Monday.

Russian oil delivered by tankers would be banned, while an exemption will be made for the southern segment of the Druzhba pipeline, said Ursula von der Leyen — president of the European Commission — in a news conference.

The northern segment of the pipeline serves Poland and Germany — who have agreed to the embargo. The southern part goes to Hungary, Slovakia and Czech republic.

Von der Leyen said an exemption will be made for the southern segment, which accounts for 10% of imports on Russian oil.