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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12:44 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.

9:59 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

White House says new security assistance to Ukraine meets the country's needs

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House defended its decision to send Ukraine new rocket systems that fall short of the 200-mile range Ukrainians requested, saying the US assessed that the 49-mile-range systems were what the country needs at this time in a new phase of battle. 

"We have tried to get the Ukrainians exactly what we think they needed to be able to fend off this Russian assault on their country. That worked in the early days, the Ukrainians were able to win the battle for Kyiv and drive the Russians away from their capital, now the conflict has shifted to a different phase in the south and east of the country," deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told CNN’s John Berman. 

The new weapons will add to Ukraine’s capability, Finer said, and it “will give them the ability to strike with precision Russian targets on the battlefield.”

As CNN has reported, the Biden administration will be sending Ukraine US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS. The HIMARS will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometers, or 49 miles. That is far less than the maximum range of the systems, which is around 300 kilometers, but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.

“We believe that this does meet their needs,” Finer said when pressed on Ukraine’s request for longer-range systems. 

The US, he added, has asked Ukraine “for assurances that they will not use these systems to strike inside Russia” and instead to defend Ukrainian territory. 

Finer also reacted to reaction from Russia Wednesday morning that the US action is “adding fuel to the fire.”  

The US, he said, does not negotiate its security systems packages to Ukraine. 

“Russia has brought this on itself by launching an invasion into a sovereign country from its territory. So we've been very clear and transparent about what we're going to be doing. It has been effective for the Ukrainians thus far and we will continue,” he said. 

He declined to comment on Russian gains in the eastern Donetsk region, calling this a “very difficult phase of fighting.” This phase, Finer predicted, will play out “over a period of weeks and months and perhaps even longer.” 

The Russians have made “incremental gains,” he said, but declined to “handicap the play-by-play.”

10:58 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

Russian officials talk up integration of occupied Ukrainian areas into Russian Federation

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Tim Lister

A replica of the Soviet Banner of Victory flies by a WWII memorial in Kherson, Ukraine, on May 20.
A replica of the Soviet Banner of Victory flies by a WWII memorial in Kherson, Ukraine, on May 20. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP via Getty Images)

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. 

Another member of the Federation Council, Andriy Turchak, said that the Kherson region and the liberated territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics would become part of Russia. But at the same time, he said the decision would be made by the residents of these regions themselves. 

"A referendum should be organized as soon as the situation is ready for this, as soon as the shelling stops and a security zone appears," said Turchak, a senior member of the governing United Russia party. "I'm sure the residents of Zaporizhzhia will also express their opinion in support of such a decision."

In April, CNN reported that fear of the impending vote and its implications — a possible strengthening of Russia's control — has led many residents to flee fast.

9:18 a.m. ET, June 1, 2022

Sweden's prime minister says dialogue with Turkey over NATO membership will continue

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrive for a news conference in Stockholm on June 1.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrive for a news conference in Stockholm on June 1. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Wednesday that dialogue with Turkey regarding Sweden's NATO membership will continue, and Sweden will respond directly to Turkey to "sort out" any possible "misunderstandings."

"We have had discussions, dialogue with Turkey, and this dialogue will continue going forward, and I am looking forward to further constructive meetings together with Turkey in the near future," Andersson said at a news conference in Stockholm after a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 

"Our responses to demands and also questions from Turkey, we will take directly with Turkey and also of course sort out any issues or misunderstandings that there might be," she added. 

During their meeting, Andersson and Guterres discussed "Russia's brutal aggression against Ukraine," the security situation in Europe and the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, she said. 

"Sweden will continue to pressure on Russia and to be a strong supporter of Ukraine," Andersson said, as the world is "witnessing shocking brutality and attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure."

"Russia must be held accountable for its action and I'm grateful for the secretary-general's clear stance on this," she said.