June 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Aditi Sangal and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 3, 2022
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10:50 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Resistance in Russian-occupied Melitopol is growing, according to Ukrainian mayor

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Underground resistance in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine is growing, Mayor Ivan Fedorov said, adding that a number of Russian soldiers have been killed.

Fedorov is no longer in the city himself but said that according to intelligence data, more than 100 Russians had been "eliminated by the Melitopol guerrilla movement and special services cooperation. But I’m sure that this number is higher."

There is no way to verify the figure, and there has been no visual confirmation of Russians being killed in Melitopol.

Fedorov claimed on Ukrainian television that, according to information he received, the Russians "abduct people and hold them captive, and very few people know how people are being treated while held captive."

Since the beginning of the occupation, around 500 people had been detained by Russian forces — some for weeks — Fedorov said.

"If we try to categorize those who are under the threat of captivity — first of all, these are the dissidents, those who do not want to become part of Russia, those who condemn the occupation and those who simply disagree. Some people voice their disagreement, some only talk about it in their kitchens at home, but everyone is under threat," he said.

He noted that people held by the Russians were forced to sign documents saying that they would no longer attend rallies against the occupation or make statements in support of Russian forces.

Some had been tortured, he claimed. "It’s not just dangerous to go out for the pro-Ukrainian rallies — it’s dangerous to simply stay in the city. So as of today, over 50% of residents have left Melitopol. That’s over 70,000 people."

The latest theft by occupying forces was of Melitopol's cherry harvest, Fedorov said.

"They are taking it from our farmers, promising that one day they will give them some money in exchange. They also tell our farmers, that according to Russian legislation, one cannot have more than four hectares of fruit trees; anything in excess, they will confiscate," he said.

10:43 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

US targets Russian elite, along with yachts and aircraft belonging to Putin associates, in latest sanctions

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond and Betsy Klein

The White House on Thursday announced the latest round of sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, targeting Russian government officials and elites with a slew of new financial and diplomatic sanctions. 

The latest sanctions, issued by the Treasury and State departments, take aim at the luxury assets of several prominent Russian elites – including several yachts and aircraft belonging to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associates – and “luxury asset management and service companies” working to evade US sanctions, according to a White House statement. The Commerce Department also issued new sanctions restricting Russia’s ability to secure military technologies. 

The sanctions target several prominent Russian elites and government officials, including Russian businessman God Nisanov, whom US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls “one of the richest men in Europe and a close associate of several Russian officials” and Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova. 

The White House said in a statement that the latest sanctions are designed “to crack down on evasion and tighten our sanctions to enhance enforcement and increase pressure on Putin and his enablers.” 

“President Putin’s war against Ukraine is also an attack on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, enshrined in the UN Charter. Ukraine is fighting valiantly to defend its people and its independence with unprecedented assistance from the United States and countries around the world. The United States will continue to support the people of Ukraine while promoting accountability for President Putin and those enabling Russian aggression,” Blinken said in a statement announcing the sanctions. 

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control identified two yachts, the “Russia-flagged Graceful and the Cayman Islands-flagged Olympia,” as “blocked property in which President Vladimir Putin has an interest.”  

Putin, according to Treasury, has “taken numerous trips” on the yachts as recently as last year. It also designated several management companies and other owners associated with the yachts, as well as other yacht brokerage companies associated with Putin. 

The sanctions also target two other yachts, the Shellest and the Nega, both owned by Russian companies. 

“Shellest periodically travels to the coast where President Putin’s infamous Black Sea Palace is located, and President Putin uses Nega for travel in Russia’s North,” the Department of Treasury said. 

Thursday’s sanctions also take aim at a “close friend” of Putin, Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin, who, according to the Treasury Department, is “the godfather to one of Putin’s daughters,” as well as Roldugin’s wife, Elena Yuryevna Mirtova. Roldugin is the artistic director of the St. Petersburg Music House and Mirtova is a soprano opera singer. 

The administration also sanctioned a series of other yachts and aircraft belonging to Putin associates. 

Five additional Russian government officials were placed on the Department of Treasury’s sanctions list, including Yury Slyusar, the president of a Russian state-owned aircraft company; Vitaly Savelyev, the minister of transport; Maxim Reshentnikov, the minister of economic development; Irek Envarovich Faizullin, the minister of construction, housing, and utilities; and Dmitriy Yuryevich Grigorenko, the deputy prime minister. 

Severgroup, a “multi-billion-dollar Russia’s investment company with holdings and subsidiaries in metallurgy, engineering, mining, tourism, banking, technology, media, and finance, among other sectors” is also being sanctioned, along with its leader Alexey Mordashov and three members of his family.

10:09 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Ukrainian helicopter pilot describes risky mission to fly into Azovstal plant to rescue the wounded

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 10.
Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 10. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

A Ukrainian helicopter pilot has given a detailed account of a daring mission to fly deep into Russian-held territory and rescue some of the injured in Mariupol's Azovstal plant.

The steel plant became the last bastion of resistance by Ukrainian forces in the eastern port city, but dozens of badly wounded people were trapped there for weeks.

The pilot, in an interview released by the Ukrainian military, said that there had been a number of flights to deliver badly needed supplies to Azovstal — and in some cases, the crews had received just a few hours notice. 

He said the main difficulty was layers of anti-aircraft defenses.

"There were three different anti-aircraft missile systems that covered the landing area," he said, and according to all calculations, the missions should have been impossible.

The pilot, whose identity is disguised during the interview, added that, like President Volodymyr Zelensky said, "In 90% of cases, everyone understands that they will not come back … But we all realized what was going on there. That people didn't even have medicine there to provide some basic care, there was no ammunition. It was extremely necessary to do it. That is why everyone took this risk.'"

Video of one mission showed views from the helicopter flight deck as the aircraft flew very low over the sea and Mariupol's docks, as well as a brief shot of a helicopter on the ground at the Azovstal plant. 

"At that moment, when we were already in Mariupol, and there was a landing, unloading of people and cargo, there was such a feeling of euphoria," the pilot said.

However, the pilot said that three minutes after takeoff on the return journey, his helicopter was hit by a man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) missile and one engine failed. But he decided against making an emergency landing with 20 wounded on board. "How to pick them up, how to evacuate them? We would need another helicopter," he said.

The pilot said he managed to fly to the designated landing site.

"Unfortunately, the other helicopter behind was less fortunate and the whole crew died," he said. 

More: A video was published Wednesday by a Telegram channel linked to the Ukrainian security services that showed helicopters flying supplies into Azovstal.  

"This unique special operation was carried out by specialists of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense and the Azov Regiment. 16 Mi-8 military helicopters loaded with the necessary equipment flew to the defenders of Mariupol blocked by Russia in Azovstal," it said.

"There were 7 such missions in total. Each time, helicopters successfully delivered food, drinking water, medicines and ammunition to the defenders of the city to a depth of more than 100 kilometers [from Ukrainian-held areas]," it added.

Zelensky referred to the previously undisclosed missions on May 20: "Unfortunately, a large number of people died, our pilots. Absolutely heroic people who knew that it was difficult, that it was almost impossible to fly to Azovstal and bring there medicine, food, water, pick up the bodies of the wounded."

"A large number of weeks pilots on helicopters [flew], knowing that 90% of them will not come back. Imagine what these people were doing — they were flying there. We lost a lot of pilots," Zelensky said. 

9:26 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Russian blockade could lead to famine in some regions of the world, Ukraine's foreign ministry warns

From CNN's Victoria Butenko and Bex Wright

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian seaports “could lead to a global food crisis and, in some regions, a famine,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Thursday.

“About 22 million tons of grain are stuck in ports and cannot reach consumers, especially in Africa and Asia,” Nikolenko said, adding that land routes alone won’t solve the problem.

Russia is also “stealing Ukrainian grain in the occupied territories in order to sell it illegally to third countries,” Nikolenko said.

CNN has previously reported on multiple Russian ships carrying stolen Ukrainian grain.

“The Russian army has mined areas of the sea and is constantly trying to break through the defense of Odesa and other coastal cities on the Black Sea,” Nikolenko claimed.

The foreign ministry called on Russia to “withdraw its forces from the territorial waters of Ukraine” and provide security guarantees against attacks on ports and ships.

“We call on countries whose food security may suffer most from Russia's aggression against Ukraine to use their contacts with Moscow to force it to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports and end the war,” Nikolenko said.

Ukraine is also discussing with partners “ways to establish an international mission” under the United Nations to “take over the functioning of maritime routes,” Nikolenko said.

9:25 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Ukrainian and US officials held call about military aid, according to the Ukraine President's Office

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Bex Wright

Senior officials from Ukraine and the United States held a phone call on Wednesday about the new military aid package for Ukraine, according to Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

“Good news. Today, together with the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi, we had a telephone conversation with the US President's national security adviser Jacob Sullivan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley,” Yermak said.

“We discussed a new US military aid package for Ukraine, which includes HIMARS MLRS and ammunition, Mi-17 helicopters, Javelin missiles, tactical vehicles, radars and other ammunition,” he said.

“It's important that this is not the last US aid. We told about the needs of our army to win over Russia,” he added.

“We also discussed future surprises that the enemy definitely will not like,” Yermak said.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov publicly thanked US President Joe Biden and the US military for including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems in the next round of security assistance to Ukraine. In a statement on Wednesday, Biden formally announced the inclusion of the US-made HIMARS as part of the package to Ukraine.

The systems will have a range of about 70 kilometers (44 miles), a US defense official told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, which is further than anything Ukraine has been sent to date. Ukraine had sought longer-range weapons, but the US resisted due to concerns they would be capable of striking Russian territory, thereby potentially escalating the war.

6:05 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

20% of Ukraine is under Russian control, President Zelensky says

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

One-fifth of Ukrainian territory is under Russia’s control, with Donbas “almost entirely destroyed,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said while addressing Luxembourg's lawmakers on Thursday.

“As of today, about 20% of our territory is under the control of the occupiers, almost 125 thousand square kilometers. This is much larger than the area of all the Benelux countries combined," Zelensky said to the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg via video link.   

Zelensky also said fighting continues along the front line that is stretched over “more than a thousand kilometers” along the territories of Kharkiv region to Mykolaiv in the country’s south. He added Ukraine’s Donbas region is “simply devastated,” calling it “once one of the most powerful industrial centers in Europe.” 

Zelensky claimed that more than 30,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began over three months ago. CNN cannot verify those numbers. “That's greater than the death toll of the Soviet Union in 10 years of war in Afghanistan, greater than Russia’s death toll in two Chechen wars,” according to Zelensky.

In his remarks to the lawmakers, the Ukrainian president urged additional sanctions on Russia, asking for more weapons to support Ukraine’s fight along the front line. The Ukrainian president also invited Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to visit Kyiv and asked for the deputies to support Ukraine’s ambition to join the EU, calling Ukraine a “de facto part of the European Union.” 

Zelensky spoke to chamber on the 99th day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since February, the Ukrainian president has addressed dozens of parliament assemblies and institutions around the world, gathering support for Ukraine.

8:47 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law quit as Putin adviser, Kremlin confirms

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova in London

Valentin Yumashev, right, is seen with his wife Tatyana Yumasheva in Moscow in 2019.
Valentin Yumashev, right, is seen with his wife Tatyana Yumasheva in Moscow in 2019. (Irina Bujor/Kommersant/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP)

The son-in-law of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin has quit his role as an unpaid adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. 

When asked to comment on reports that Valentin Yumashev, who is married to Yeltsin's younger daughter Tatyana Borisovna Yumasheva, no longer serves as an adviser to Putin, Peskov said during a daily call with journalists that “indeed, yes, I can confirm that about a month ago he stopped being a pro bono adviser.”

“In terms of staff, this has been formalized," Peskov added. He also said "it was decided not to publish the document” on the Kremlin's website, which is not required. 

Peskov didn't say why Yumashev has left the post. 

Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin as prime minister in August 1999. When Yeltsin stepped down amid scandal on December 31, 1999, Putin became acting president.

In the intervening years, Putin has remained close to Yeltsin's family. 

Yumashev's daughter, Maria, posted a picture of the Ukrainian flag on February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine with the caption "no to war" and a broken-heart emoji. 

7:42 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Areas of Donetsk region “under constant rocket fire," says Ukrainian official

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll and Bex Wright

Several areas of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine are “under constant rocket fire,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk military administration, on Thursday.

The cities of Bakhmut and Slovyansk are among the areas under bombardment, Kyrylenko said via videolink at a press briefing in Kyiv.

Russian troops are also “moving along Lyman-Izyum direction to capture Sloviansk and Kramatorsk territories,” and the highway from Bakhmut to Lysychansk “remains under enemy fire," he said.

At least seven people have been killed and 10 more wounded in the last 24 hours in the Donetsk region, Kyrylenko said.

Just 340,000 of the 1.6 million people that used to live in the region remain.

7:31 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Angela Merkel calls Russia's invasion "barbaric" in first public speech since leaving office

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seen at the farewell to German Trade Union Confederation Chairman Reiner Hoffmann in Berlin on June 1.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seen at the farewell to German Trade Union Confederation Chairman Reiner Hoffmann in Berlin on June 1. (Basil Wegener/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In her first public speech since leaving office in December, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia is waging a "barbaric war of aggression" in Ukraine.

Speaking to 200 people at the farewell ceremony for the outgoing head of a prominent trade union, Merkel said the invasion constitutes blatant breach of international law and ''a profound break'' in the history of Europe after the end of World War II.

''My solidarity is with Ukraine, which was attacked and invaded by Russia, and with supporting its right to self-defense," Merkel said. "Never should we take peace and freedom for granted."

Merkel said that now that she no longer holds office, she will not make political assessments from "the sidelines." She did, however, say that she supports the current efforts by the West -- including her successor, Olaf Scholz -- to find an end to the conflict.

Merkel said that the consequences of the war would be far-reaching, including in terms of human rights.

''Bucha is representative of this horror," she said, referring to the atrocities committed against civilians in the Kyiv suburb.

Merkel said she found a small ray of hope in the tremendous support being given to Ukrainians in neighboring countries such as Poland and Moldova.