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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2:46 p.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Ellie Kaufman

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.

1:51 p.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Ellie Kaufman and Michael Conte

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.
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. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

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.

1:14 p.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday, May 31.
President Joe Biden speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday, May 31. (Evan Vucci/AP)

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.

12:44 p.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

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.

12:29 p.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

 From CNN’s Gabby Gretener in London 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

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.” 

11:56 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova  

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."

12:03 p.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Michael Conte and Jennifer Hansler

Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers a reporter's question on Wednesday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers a reporter's question on Wednesday. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

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.”

11:40 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From CNN's Michael Conte

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hold a joint press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hold a joint press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

11:26 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

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

From Tim Lister and Anastasia Graham-Yooll

Smoke rises from Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on May 30.
Smoke rises from Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on May 30. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

"We maneuver, we try to destroy the occupier as much as possible. The night went more or less well. Our units took prisoners," Petro Kuzyk, commander of the Svoboda battalion and a captain of the National Guard, told Radio Liberty.

Kuzyk said that his unit did not plan to retreat from Severodonetsk, but was trying to push the Russian military as far as possible outside the city.

Russian forces "minimized contact with us. They have an advantage in artillery, in tanks in this direction, so they use it," he added.

The Russian army used infantry only to determine the positions of the Ukrainian military are. "Then the work of artillery is turned on for hours, tanks and aircraft are used," he said. "They are fighting like a Russian war machine – they are trying to grind our positions, as they fought in Syria, Rubizhne [a town near Severodonetsk.]

"They completely destroyed the city of Rubizhne. They are trying to do the same with Severodonetsk, but our counter-artillery is already working here, although at a much slower pace than I would like," he continued.

Elsewhere on the front lines, the defense ministry said Russian attacks around Lyman — supported by assault helicopters — had been beaten back. And Ukrainian units had also resisted efforts by the Russians to dislodge them from Bilhorivka, Motuzyanyk said.

However, he acknowledged that along frontlines south of the town of Bakhmut, "as a result of assaults near Vozdvizhenka, the enemy had partial success, which allowed him to capture the southwestern part of this settlement."

Russian forces have made incremental gains in the last week in rural parts of Donetsk bordering Luhansk and are trying to encircle Ukrainian forces that have been defending the region's border in three directions — north, east and south.