June 6, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner, Andrew Raine, Amy Woodyatt, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022
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4:56 p.m. ET, June 6, 2022

Zelensky: More than 2,500 prisoners from Mariupol's Azovstal plant may be held in Donetsk and Luhansk regions 

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

A view of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on June 2.
A view of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on June 2. (AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says there may be more than 2,500 prisoners from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol now detained in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine.

In a wide-ranging media availability in Kyiv, Zelensky said that regarding the treatment of these prisoners — including the intention to hold a so-called public tribunal — the Russian plans were changing constantly. Officials in the Donetsk People's Republic have spoken of putting some of the Azovstal defenders on trial where they are alleged to have carried out human rights abuses in Ukraine.

Asked whether he thought the prisoners were being tortured, Zelensky said he was convinced that it was not in the interests of the Russian side because they are "public prisoners" whose condition is monitored by the world community.

Zelensky said the first phase of the operation — getting the soldiers out of Azovstal alive — had been achieved.

"Today there is the second part — to bring them home alive," he said. 

"We know what can be agreed on with the Russians, we know this price. We know they can’t be trusted," he added.

Turning to the situation in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky said the situation was difficult. The president visited forward positions on Sunday in Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia.

"We are holding positions in the Severodonetsk direction. There are more of them [the Russians], they are more powerful, but we have every chance to fight in this direction," Zelensky said.

Asked whether it would be more appropriate to withdraw Ukrainian forces from Severodonetsk to better positions, the Zelensky said that returning to these positions could be more expensive in terms of losses. 

"As for Zaporizhzhia, the situation there is the most threatening because part of the region is occupied and the enemy constantly wants to occupy Zaporizhzhia," Zelensky said.

While front lines in Zaporizhzhia have moved little in the last two months, settlements beyond the front lines are shelled almost daily.

Earlier Monday, Zelensky presented awards to media workers and the families of journalists who had been killed since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

Ukraine's president thanked journalists for the work they did.

"You bring the truth and important information — very powerful, important meanings that can be a great advantage for our country in this fight, in which we will definitely win," he said.

More than 30 Ukrainian and foreign media workers have been killed since Russia's invasion began.

7:48 p.m. ET, June 6, 2022

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

From CNN staff

A Ukrainian soldier climbs out of an underground bunker after shelling in the Donbas region of Ukraine on June 6.
A Ukrainian soldier climbs out of an underground bunker after shelling in the Donbas region of Ukraine on June 6. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavy fighting is underway in the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. In Donetsk, Russian troops have resumed an offensive on the northern approaches to the key city of Sloviansk.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russia fired five cruise missiles toward the capital Kyiv on Sunday, according to the Ukrainian military.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that his forces will strike new targets if the United States supplies long-range missiles to Ukraine.

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

  • Situation changing "every hour" as heavy fighting continues in Severodonetsk: Heavy fighting continues in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, with the situation "changing every hour," according to Ukrainian officials. Oleksandr Striuk, the head of the city's military administration, said "there are enough [Ukrainian] forces and means to recapture the city. There are fierce battles and street fights." Striuk said Russian forces had a substantial numerical advantage.
  • Ukrainian Navy says Russian ships withdrew from coastal waters in Black Sea: The Ukrainian Navy says ships of the Russian Black Sea fleet have withdrawn to more than 100 kilometers (about 65 miles) from Ukrainian shores as a result of its attacks with missiles and drones. In an operational update Monday, the Navy said that in an effort to regain control of north-western parts of the Black Sea, the Russians had deployed coastal missile systems in the Crimea and Kherson regions.
  • Ukraine Ministry of Defense: Russian missile and air attacks increase on several fronts: Ukraine's Ministry of Defense says that Russian forces have launched missiles and air strikes against a number of targets across Ukraine, as they try to break down Ukrainian defenses and hit key infrastructure. Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the Defense Ministry spokesperson, said Russia was carrying out "intense fire and assault operations along the entire line of combat confrontation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions." Seven aircraft had launched guided missiles from above the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, while coastal missile systems in Crimea were also active. On the ground, Motuzyanyk said the Russians had made some advances, including north of Sloviansk, where they were advancing in the Sviatohirsk area toward the Siverskiy Donets River.
  • At least one dead after shelling of residential area of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine: At least one person is dead and several more injured after Russia shelled a residential area of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, according to the regional council. “This morning Mykolaiv was being shelled chaotically again,” Hanna Zamazieieva, head of Mykolaiv regional council, said on Telegram. “Civil residential houses in different districts of the city with no military objects were shelled.” Over the past week, Ukrainian forces have been pressing an offensive on Russian-occupied Kherson, to the southeast of Mykolaiv, reportedly retaking some previously occupied villages.
  • Russia loses another general in Donbas: A Russian general has died in Donbas, Russian state media said, citing the Telegram channel of a war correspondent Sunday. The Russian general was identified as Roman Kutuzov by Russian state media and Ukrainian Armed Forces. “According to military correspondent Alexander Sladkov’s Telegram channel, Kutuzov, a native of the Airborne Forces, led people into the attack and died in battle,” Russia 24 said. Ukrainian Armed Forces also said Kutuzov had died.
  • More civilians now ready to flee Donetsk with casualties suffered "almost every day," says official: An increasing number of civilians are now ready to evacuate from the Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region, the top regional official said on Monday. “People who didn't try, and didn't want, to leave in the beginning when it was safer are leaving now,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, said on Ukrainian television. “We evacuate them both from frontline settlements and from the cities of Bakhmut, Soledar, and Slovyansk. Now the pace has increased," he said.
  • UN watchdog warns of "clear and present risk" at nuclear power plant in Russian-controlled Ukraine: There is a “clear and present risk to the safety, security and safeguards” at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is currently controlled by Russia, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Monday. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that “at least five of the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security have been compromised at the site.”
  • UK intelligence: Russia’s attack on Kyiv likely an attempt to disrupt supply of Western arms: A Russian missile attack on Kyiv on Sunday was likely an attempt to disrupt the supply of Western military equipment to frontline Ukrainian units, the UK's Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence assessment on Monday. One of the missiles was intercepted by Ukraine’s air defense unit, but the rest hit “infrastructure facilities in the north of the Ukrainian capital,” the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces said on Sunday. Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs, said one military target was hit, and one civilian target.
  •  Zelensky's adviser praises UK's Prime Minister: Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, praised Prime Minister Boris Johnson, underlining what he described as his firm stance supporting Ukraine and how he stood by Zelensky “to protect the free world from barbaric invasion.” Johnson survived a confidence vote Monday by members of his own party — but the final count of lawmakers who rebelled against him was far higher than his supporters expected. "The world needs such leaders. The UK is a Great friend of Ukraine,” Podolyak tweeted on Monday.
3:32 p.m. ET, June 6, 2022

US takes action against 2 private planes owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich

From CNN's Kara Scannell

A US judge approved the seizure of two of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s private planes valued at over $400 million for violating US export and sanctions laws. 

The planes, a Gulfstream and Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, which is believed to be one of the most expensive private planes in the world, are currently in Russia and Dubai, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit to support the seizure warrant.

The US Department of Commerce also announced administrative charges against Abramovich. If found liable the maximum penalty could be as much as the value of the planes, an administration official said. 

The actions taken by the US are part of an effort to punish Russians known to be close to the Kremlin and apply pressure to Moscow’s economy to try to end the invasion in Ukraine. 

While Abramovich has not been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, a US Justice Department official said the seizure warrant indicates that “no one is above the law and not being on OFAC’s list doesn’t give you a license to evade sanctions or export controls.”

Authorities say the American-made planes were flown in and out of Russia without obtaining licenses from the US Commerce Department. Airplanes and aircraft parts are subject to export rules because of their potential military use and national security implications. 

More background: After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the US Department of Commerce tightened sanctions and began requiring licenses for the export of planes, which didn’t previously need approval. By early March, the department also prohibited an American plane owned by a Russian national from being exported to Russia.

In an unusual move, the seizure warrant was made public and not filed under seal. The US Justice Department official said the filing was public to reveal the names of shell companies the US believes were used to shield the actual ownership and to encourage dialogue with banks, insurance companies, and others to cooperate.

The official said it was also intended to send a message to anyone who helps those sanctioned or accused of violating US laws that they run “the risk of being viewed as obstructionists.” 

In the affidavit, the FBI agent outlined four layers of shell companies he unraveled to trace the aircraft to Abramovich. The filing indicated that the FBI located documents used to set up the companies offshore, in jurisdictions outside of the US’s control and beyond their subpoena power.

Those documents indicated that Abramovich was the owner of the companies that purchased the jets.

Authorities say in mid-March the Gulfstream jet flew into Russia twice, where it remains. In early March the Boeing aircraft flew from Dubai to Russia and back to Dubai, where it remains. The Boeing, which was originally bought for $93.6 million was customized and is now valued at about $350 million, according to the FBI affidavit.

Andrew Adams, the head of the US’s KleptoCapture task force, which has seized two luxury yachts and bank accounts, previously told CNN that they are taking a broad look at the laws they can apply and the types of assets they can seize, no matter where they are located.

"These seizures are, are going to continue apace, and people recognize that where the seizures are happening around the world are in pockets of the world that might not have been expected," he previously said, adding, "There are no safe havens."

 

1:46 p.m. ET, June 6, 2022

Situation changing "every hour" as heavy fighting continues in Severodonetsk, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

Smoke rises from Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on June 5.
Smoke rises from Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on June 5. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Heavy fighting continues in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, with the situation "changing every hour," according to Ukrainian officials.

Oleksandr Striuk, the head of the city's military administration, said "there are enough [Ukrainian] forces and means to recapture the city. There are fierce battles and street fights."

Striuk said Russian forces had a substantial numerical advantage. "They tried to attack the city, and it is happening now. They are throwing away more and more human resources, which of course complicates the situation," the official said.

"Now Severodonetsk is being leveled, because they can't capture it in one to two days. The city is being destroyed. It is impossible to say about the preservation of infrastructure because even before the acute phase of the attack on the city and its assault, the infrastructure was almost destroyed. Both gas and water supply will need almost complete reconstruction," he added.

The highway from the west along which supplies for the Ukrainian front lines travel is under increasing attack from Russian artillery, with Russian units getting closer to it. Striuk said that it "remains under the control of the Armed Forces, but it is still dangerous to move as enemy artillery is reaching [it.]".

The General Staff said that Ukrainian units were thwarting the enemy's attempts to take control of the highway.

The Russians have intensified artillery attacks on areas north of the city of Sloviansk and are shelling Ukrainian positions on the southern side of the Siverskiy Donets river. Russian forces appear to be close to the town of Sviatohirsk on the north side of the river — the site of a historic Russian Orthodox monastery. But there is no evidence that they have been able to cross the river in this area.

12:49 p.m. ET, June 6, 2022

UN envoy on sexual violence in Ukraine says she thinks situation "is turning into a human trafficking crisis"

From CNN's Laura Ly

UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence Pramila Patten addresses the UN Security Council in New York on June 6.
UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence Pramila Patten addresses the UN Security Council in New York on June 6. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence Pramila Patten said Monday that she believes the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is “turning into a human trafficking crisis.”

Women and children fleeing the conflict are being targeted for trafficking and exploitation – in some cases facing further exposure to rape and other risks while seeking refuge,” Patten told the UN Security Council in New York City on Monday.

She said addressing the issue will require “a coherent and coordinated response at the level of European institutions” and “a concerted, integrated and holistic cross-border response humanitarian partners, law enforcement agencies, border forces, immigration officials and political leaders.”

The UN special representative added that she visited reception centers at Ukrainian borders in Poland and Moldova. While there has been an outpouring of financial and moral support for Ukrainians from neighboring countries, there have also been a number of “credible anecdotal accounts from humanitarian staff” regarding suspected attempts of human trafficking, Patten said. She called the protection challenges related to the displacement of Ukrainians “unprecedented.” 

“The lack of consistent vetting of accommodation offers and transportation arrangements is a serious concern, as well as the limited capacity of protection services to address the velocity and volume of displacement. There are also concerns regarding the multiplicity of volunteers, with limited vetting, and little or no training or experience,” Patten said.

Per Patten, the “credible anecdotal accounts from humanitarian staff” at a reception center for Ukrainian refugees in Przemysl, Poland, regarding suspected, attempts at human trafficking include:

  • A male volunteer made contact with a 19-year-old woman, whom he later woke up in the sleeping hall at 2 am local time, offering a ride to France. Another volunteer became suspicious of the male volunteer roaming the sleeping quarters in the early morning hours, and intervened. 
  • Another male wearing a volunteer vest and standing with a sign at the train station hall, was seen offering free transport from Poland to Germany. Other volunteers became suspicious and informed local law enforcement when they noticed that the man was selecting only young women for transportation in his minivan.

“The prevalence of sexual violence in conflicts throughout history teaches us that reinforcing prevention, protection, and service-delivery is critical from the onset of any armed conflict,” Patten said. “To address this challenge, it is crucial to ensure that the level of political focus as well as the allocation of resources for a comprehensive response, is commensurate with the scale and complexity of the problem.”

CNN’s Richard Roth contributed reporting to this post.

10:19 a.m. ET, June 6, 2022

Ukrainian Navy says Russian ships withdrew from coastal waters in Black Sea

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and Tim Lister

The Ukrainian Navy says ships of the Russian Black Sea fleet have withdrawn to more than 100 kilometers (about 65 miles) from Ukrainian shores as a result of its attacks with missiles and drones.

In an operational update Monday, the Navy said that in an effort to regain control of north-western parts of the Black Sea, the Russians had deployed coastal missile systems in the Crimea and Kherson regions.

It said that the threat of missile strikes from the sea remains. "Since the beginning of the invasion, enemy ships and submarines have launched more than 300 cruise missiles on Ukrainian territory. Currently, the intensity of strikes with Caliber cruise missiles has decreased, while the enemy began to hit ground targets with anti-ship missiles....Probably, this indicates that Russia has used a significant amount of modern missile weapons and is forced to use out-dated types of missiles."

The Navy said that approximately 30 Russian ships and submarines continued the blockade of civilian shipping. "Currently, there are up to 12 large landing ships in the Black Sea, but more than a third of them are under repair," the Navy said.

"We deprived the Russian Black Sea Fleet of complete control over the north-western part of the Black Sea, which has become a "grey zone". At the same time, the enemy has adopted our tactics and is trying to regain control of the northwestern part of the Black Sea through coastal missile systems and air-based cruise missiles," the navy statement said. But it added there was still the risk of the Russians' landing tactical troops and sabotage and reconnaissance groups on the Odesa coast, especially in favorable weather conditions in summer.

9:55 a.m. ET, June 6, 2022

Ukraine Ministry of Defense: Russian missile and air attacks increase on several fronts

From CNN's Tim Lister

Ukraine's Ministry of Defense says that Russian forces have launched missiles and air strikes against a number of targets across Ukraine, as they try to break down Ukrainian defenses and hit key infrastructure.

Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the Defense Ministry spokesperson, said Russia was carrying out "intense fire and assault operations along the entire line of combat confrontation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions."

Seven aircraft had launched guided missiles from above the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, while coastal missile systems in Crimea were also active.

On the ground, Motuzyanyk said the Russians had made some advances, including north of Sloviansk, where they were advancing in the Sviatohirsk area toward the Siverskiy Donets River. He said the Russians were carrying out "engineering reconnaissance of the area, preparing for the possible forcing of a water barrier." But in other districts on this front they had been repulsed, he said.

Sloviansk is a key target of the Russian operation, and Russian forces have been edging closer to the city in recent weeks.

Further east in Severodonetsk, Motuzyanyk said Ukrainian units were holding back "the offensive of the Russian aggressor, who seeks to surround our troops in the area of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, as well as to block the main logistics routes.....Units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are fighting hard against the occupiers in the eastern and central parts of the city. The enemy spares neither people nor equipment. With the support of artillery, the enemy conducts assault operations to achieve its goal of taking control of the city," he said.

The Russians are also continuing efforts to break through Ukrainian lines defending the route between Lysychansk and Bakhmut, but had been repulsed, Motuzyanyk said.

Further south, an attempt to break through towards the border of Donetsk region had been thwarted. Ukrainian forces had "inflicted heavy losses and forced several enemy sabotage groups to retreat" as they tried to reach the settlements of Rivnopol and Novosilka, close to the regional border with Zaporizhzhia.

In the northern region of Kharkiv, Motuzyanyk said that enemy fire continued against settlements to the north and east of the capital city in an effort to prevent Ukrainian forces reaching the border with Russia.

In the south, the Russians appear to be trying to win back ground that had been lost to a Ukrainian offensive over the last week. Motuzyanyk said that Ukrainian troops were holding off a Russian counter-attack near the settlements of Lozove and Bila Krynytsia. In the same region, Russian troops were firing on Ukrainian positions along the entire line of contact between Mykolaiv and Kherson, he said.

9:19 a.m. ET, June 6, 2022

At least 1 dead after shelling of residential area of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva, Mick Krever, and Tim Lister

At least one person is dead and several more injured after Russia shelled a residential area of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, according to the regional council.

“This morning Mykolaiv was being shelled chaotically again,” Hanna Zamazieieva, head of Mykolaiv regional council, said on Telegram. “Civil residential houses in different districts of the city with no military objects were shelled.”

Over the past week, Ukrainian forces have been pressing an offensive on Russian-occupied Kherson, to the southeast of Mykolaiv, reportedly retaking some previously occupied villages.

On Sunday, a Russian missile destroyed a large grain storage facility in Mykolaiv, according to the spokesperson for the Ukraine’s Operational Command South.

8:44 a.m. ET, June 6, 2022

Russia loses another general in Donbas

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A Russian general has died in Donbas, Russian state media said, citing the Telegram channel of a war correspondent Sunday. 

The Russian general was identified as Roman Kutuzov by Russian state media and Ukrainian Armed Forces.

“According to military correspondent Alexander Sladkov’s Telegram channel, Kutuzov, a native of the Airborne Forces, led people into the attack and died in battle,” Russia 24 said. 

Ukrainian Armed Forces also said Kutuzov had died.

"Major General Roman Kutuzov, Commander of the 1st Army Corps (Orcs) of the [DPR], has been officially denazified and demilitarized,” the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Sunday in a Facebook post.

Prior to being sent to the Donetsk People’s Republic, Kutuzov served as chief of staff of the 29th combined-arms army of the Eastern Military District of Russia, according to Ukrainian independent news agency UNIAN journalist Roman Tsymbalyuk.