June 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Eliza Mackintosh, Jack Bantock, Sana Noor Haq, Helen Regan, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes and Kathleen Magramo, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
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9:52 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Russia claims it has opened a land corridor to Crimea through occupied Ukrainian territory

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Steel rolls are stacked on the dock before being loaded on board a cargo ship at the Port of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 30.
Steel rolls are stacked on the dock before being loaded on board a cargo ship at the Port of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 30. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russia's Ministry of Defense claimed on Tuesday that it had opened a land corridor to Russian-occupied Crimea, allowing civilians and goods to pass through the eastern Ukrainian territory now under its control.

Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said in a conference call on Tuesday that the military, working with Russian Railways, had restored 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) of train tracks and opened roads to allow "full-fledged traffic" between Russia, eastern Ukraine's Donbas region and Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russian forces from Ukraine in 2014. The supply of water through the North Crimean Canal -- a lifeline for Crimea -- had also resumed, Shoigu said.

According to an official readout of the call, the defense minister said that the land corridor allowed Russia to begin delivering goods to Mariupol, Berdiansk and Kherson, southeastern Ukrainian port cities that have been seized by Russia since it launched its invasion in late February. He claimed that the Mariupol and Berdiansk ports were operating normally and were ready to ship grain, amid international condemnation over Russia's months-long blockade of key ports that has left millions of tons of grain languishing in Ukraine.

As instructed by Supreme Commander (Russian President Vladimir Putin), we are ready to load grain in the ports,” Shoigu said on Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov restated that Ukraine must de-mine the coastal waters for grain ships to pass and ensured Russia will facilitate their passage and won't use the de-mined sea corridors to attack Ukraine.

“President Putin… said that Ukraine should de-mine the approaches to the ports, which will allow the ships, after being checked by our military to ensure that the ships do not import weapons, to enter the port, load with grain and then, if necessary, even with our help, proceed to the international waters,” Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.

Some background: The minister's comments come as global leaders have condemned a months-long blockade by Russian forces at key ports in Ukraine -- including Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and Odesa on the Black Sea -- which has left more than 20 million tons of grain stuck inside the country. In a United Nations Security Council speech Monday, European Council President Charles Michel accused the Kremlin of "using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries" by holding hostage millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and blockading Ukraine's ports.

CNN's Sana Noor Haq, Eliza Mackintosh, Maegan Vazquez and Sam Fossum contributed reporting to this post.

9:34 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Zelensky says he's glad "very important ally" Johnson will remain UK prime minister

From CNN's Mick Krever in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 9.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 9. (Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that he was “very happy” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had won a confidence vote on Monday, as he is “a true friend of Ukraine.”

“I am glad that we have not lost a very important ally,” Zelensky told the Financial Times in a broadcast interview. “This is great news.”

“I cannot comment on the internal situation. I do not know all the details. So I beg pardon to Mister Johnson about this. I think that he is much better informed about the details than I am.”

But “Boris is very concrete in supporting Ukraine,” Zelensky said.

Johnson met with Zelensky in Kyiv in April.

8:42 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Russia will be unable to maintain military strength due to West's sanctions, German chancellor says

From CNN's Inke Kappeler

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 7.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 7. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Russia will be unable to sustain its military capabilities due to tough Western sanctions, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday.

Western countries have hit Russia with a swathe of sanctions since its invasion of the Ukraine, with Scholz asserting that the "very effective, very-far reaching" injunctions would set the Russian economy back "by decades."

"It [Russia] will not be able to participate in the progress of the world, in economic and technical progress. That is becoming clearer every day, and it is a significant detriment,“ the Chancellor said at a press conference during his visit to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for a meeting with the heads of the Baltic states.

Scholz added that even if Russia abused imports of civilian goods for military purposes, Moscow will also not be able to retain its military capabilities the same way due to the sanctions.

In his first visit to a NATO country that borders Russia, the Chancellor also joined leaders from Estonia and Latvia in promising to strengthen NATO's eastern flank by pledging to bolster Germany's military support to Lithuania.

“As allies in NATO, we are committed to each other and will defend every inch of NATO territory in the event of an attack,“ Scholz added, speaking alongside Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins.

Read more of our coverage on Russian sanctions here:

8:35 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

"Very surprising": Zelensky criticizes Macron's comments that "we are not going to humiliate Russia"

From CNN's Mick Krever in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pictured in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 6.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pictured in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 6. (President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that he “simply cannot see the preconditions for ending the war.”

In a broadcast interview with the Financial Times, Zelensky​ said that while “any war should be ended at the negotiating table,” the position for “victory must be achieved on the battlefield.”

He conceded that “restoring the borders that we controlled before 24th of February” — the date of the massive Russian invasion — could be considered a “serious temporary victory.” But he insisted that it was a “war for independence.”

“Independence in my opinion, and in the opinion of most of our people, is regaining all of our territories, restoring all of our territorial integrity and inviolable sovereignty of Ukraine,” Zelensky said.  

“We have already lost too many people to simply cede our territory,” he said.

He reserved particularly harsh criticism for French President Emmanuel Macron over recent remarks he made that “we are not going to humiliate Russia."

“Some people want to be leaders. In order to be a leader, you do not need to consider yourself one, but to be behave as a leader,” Zelensky said. “How can we achieve a ceasefire in the territory of Ukraine without listening to the position of country, and without listening to position of the leader of this country? This is very, very surprising.”

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 28, the leaders of France and Germany “renewed their demand for a ceasefire” and called on Putin to have a direct exchange with Zelensky. 

In an interview published Saturday, the French President said, "We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means. I am convinced that it is France's role to be a mediating power."

“We are not going to humiliate anyone,” Zelensky said. “We are going to respond in kind.”

Zelensky said that Macron, as a leader of the Normandy Format of negotiations that existed before Russia’s expanded Feb. 24 invasion, “has a profound understanding of all the details, of all the details of all the arrangements made with the Russian Federation, and with Russia’s failure to comply with these accords.” 

He said that he was prepared for negotiations with Russia, but that the only person capable of discussing an end to the war was Putin himself.

“Any war should be ended at the negotiating table,” he said. “This is exactly how it has happened in history. I am still resolute and determined, whether I want it or not, I am ready for direct negotiations with President Putin if we are ready to discuss putting an end to this war seriously.”

Zelensky also said Russia's blockade of ports, which is preventing grain exports, “is a threat of global magnitude.”

“There is just one side to this threat; this is the Russian Federation. There is no dialogue here. This is a very concrete, tangible threat to Asia, Africa, and certain countries in Europe,” he said.

“We understand that the ensuing consequences might be famine and migration that is going to affect Europe. So the consequences might be very severe," he said. "And everyone knows for a fact that we are not going to let Russian ships to Ukrainian ports, because they attack us on a daily basis, and everyone knows that Ukraine is ready to export everything that we have. We are ready for a normal civilized conditions, but on safe terms.” 

8:15 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

UK foreign secretary says more sanctions on Russia are "in the pipeline"

From CNN's Lauren Kent and David Wilkinson in London

Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss arrives to attend the weekly Government cabinet meeting at Downing Street on June 7, in London, England.
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss arrives to attend the weekly Government cabinet meeting at Downing Street on June 7, in London, England. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the United Kingdom will not back down in its support for Ukraine and that more sanctions on Russia are "in the pipeline," according to a readout of Monday's cabinet meeting.

"She said the UK would not back down in its support, with further sanctions in the pipeline and continued work with global allies on how to help Ukraine rebuild in the future," the cabinet readout said. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also reiterated that the UK will remain at the forefront of supporting Ukraine. 

"He said it was vital that President Zelensky was not pressured into accepting a bad peace, noting that bad peace deals do not last," according to the cabinet readout. "He said the world must avoid any outcome where Putin’s unwarranted aggression appears to have paid off."

8:08 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Unburied bodies and contaminated drinking water spark fears of cholera outbreak in Mariupol

From CNN's Mick Krever, Maria Kostenko, Taras Zadorozhnyy, Kostan Nechyporenko, and Yulia Kesaieva

A grave is pictured in front of destroyed residential buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 31.
A grave is pictured in front of destroyed residential buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 31. (AFP/Getty Images)

In Mariupol, the ravaged southeastern Ukrainian port city now under Russian occupation, fears have shifted from relentless bombardment to deteriorating sanitary conditions: sewage seeping into drinking water and fears of a cholera outbreak.

On Monday, one of the city's exiled local officials said that Russian officials now in control of Mariupol were considering imposing a quarantine in the city, where decomposing corpses and garbage were contaminating drinking water, putting remaining residents at risk of cholera and other diseases.

“There are talks about quarantine. The city is being quietly closed," said mayoral adviser Petro Andriushchenko, a reliable source of information from residents remaining in the city.

“The city has really turned into one with corpses everywhere,” Andriushchenko said on national television. “They are piled. The occupiers cannot cope with burying them even in mass graves. There is not enough capacity even for this.”

CNN could not independently verify Andriushchenko’s claims.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alarm about the potential for a cholera outbreak in Mariupol and has pre-positioned vaccines in Dnipro, but it is not clear how they would get to residents. Cholera, an infection that causes acute diarrhea​, is linked to inadequate access to clean water and kills tens of thousands around the world every year, according to WHO.

Dr. Dorit Nitzan, WHO Europe's emergencies director, who visited Ukraine last month, said that the hygienic situation in Mariupol was a huge hazard. “We got information that there are swamps actually in the streets, and the sewage water and drinking water are getting mixed,” Dr. Nitzan said on May 17 in the capital Kyiv.

Andriushchenko said that it was "difficult to convey" how grim the situation had become in Mariupol, with natural water sources in the city waning as warmer months arrive and Russian evacuations stopping altogether.

“You can enter the city with a residence permit in Mariupol. But this is a one-way ticket, because you cannot leave," he said. "Of all the possible scenarios to fight the epidemic, in our opinion, Russia has chosen, as always, the most cynical one -- just to close the people in the city and leave everything as it is: Whoever survives, survives.” 

The deputy mayor of Mariupol, Serhiy Orlov, who is not in Mariupol either, said Tuesday that he believes around 150,000 people remain in the city out of a pre-invasion population of more than 400,000, with a further 30,000 to 40,000 in surrounding suburbs.

7:40 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Russia comes under fire at the UN for fueling global food crisis

From CNN's Sana Noor Haq and Eliza Mackintosh in London

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, speaks at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on May 31.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, speaks at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on May 31. (Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Russia is coming under increasing fire for its role in fueling a growing global food crisis.

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council on Monday, European Council President Charles Michel accused the Kremlin of "using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries," by holding millions of tons of Ukrainian grain hostage and blockading Ukraine's ports.

“The dramatic consequences of Russia's war are spilling over across the globe. And this is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilising entire regions. Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis, Russia alone,” Michel said in his speech at the UN headquarters in New York. 

The European Council chief refuted Russia's claims that Western sanctions were to blame for the food crisis, calling the narrative "disinformation" and saying that the EU had no sanctions on the agricultural sector in Russia. “Even our sanctions on the Russian transport sector do not go beyond our EU borders,” he continued. “They do not prevent Russian-flagged vessels from carrying grain, food or fertilizers to developing countries.” 

Michel's remarks, at a Security Council meeting convened primarily to discuss sexual violence and other alleged atrocities carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine, underlines the concerns in Brussels about the Kremlin's false narrative on the food crisis.

“The Kremlin is also targeting grain storage and stealing grain in Ukraine while shifting the blame on others. This is cowardly. This is pure and simple propaganda. Let's get to the facts,” Michel said. 

The comments prompted Russia's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, to storm out of the meeting, to which Michel responded: "You may leave the room, maybe it's easier not to listen to the truth Mr. Ambassador."

Since launching its invasion of Ukraine in late February, Russia has upended food production and distribution from the country, known to the world as Europe's breadbasket. A months-long barricade of key ports -- including Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and Odesa on the Black Sea -- have left more than 20 million tons of grain stuck inside Ukraine.

In May, satellite images of the Crimean port of Sevastopol appeared to show bulk carrier ships with Russian insignia docking and loading up what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain. The EU's High Representative, Josep Borrell, on Monday condemned a Russian missile strike that demolished a big grain storage terminal in the southern port city of Mykolaiv over the weekend.

US officials looking to salvage Ukrainian grain: The Biden administration is working to get temporary storage containers for Ukrainian grain into the country, a stopgap measure as it seeks to mitigate the food crisis, administration officials told CNN earlier this month. The storage containers -- such as bags or boxes -- could help salvage some of the grain stuck inside Ukraine, and ideally be loaded onto trains or trucks out of the country once overland routes are established. Still, the US and its international partners are no closer to finding a quick and absolute solution to lifting the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports that's raised global food prices and threatened to cause a catastrophic food shortage in parts of the world.

Read more of our coverage on the food crisis here:

9:26 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Ukraine accuses international nuclear chief of "lying" and legitimizing Russia's occupation of Zaporizhzhia plant

From CNN's Mick Krever, Denis Lapin and Maria Kostenko

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi attends a press conference at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on June 6.
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi attends a press conference at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on June 6. (Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Ukraine's nuclear energy operator on Tuesday accused the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of legitimizing Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNNP), and of “lying” in claiming that Ukraine requested he travel to the plant.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Monday that there was a "clear and present risk to the safety, security and safeguards” at the plant, adding that "at least five of the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security have been compromised."

Grossi said that he was "working actively to agree, organize and head an IAEA-led International Mission” to the plant, writing on Twitter that "Ukraine requested us, will we go there."

In response, Ukraine's state-run nuclear power station operator Energoatom accused Grossi of "lying again" in a post on Telegram.

"The Ukrainian side did not invite Grossi to visit ZNPP and had previously denied him such a visit, emphasizing that a visit to the power plant will be possible only when our country regains control over it," Energoatom wrote.

"We consider this message from the head of the IAEA as another attempt to get to ZNPP by any means to legitimize the stay of the occupiers there and in fact, to approve all their actions," it added.

The IAEA declined to comment on the Ukrainian nuclear energy operator’s accusation. “We have no comment on the statement you are referring to,” IAEA Spokerson Fredrik Dahl told CNN via email Tuesday.

It comes as the Ukrainian mayor of Russian-occupied Enerhodar, the town neighboring the power plant, said that plant employees and their families are coming under increasing pressure.

Mayor Dmytro Orlov, who is not himself in Enerhodar, said that the situation “is becoming more difficult every day.”

“For almost a week there is no mobile communication or Internet, so it is difficult to monitor the current situation,” he said. “For the last three weeks there have been mass kidnappings, mass robberies, and mass pressure on the population, which has a pro-Ukrainian views.”

CNN cannot independently verify his claims.

Some context: The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been under Russian control since early March. Grossi visited the now-defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant north of Kyiv, which was briefly occupied by Russian forces, at the end of April.

6:51 a.m. ET, June 7, 2022

UK intelligence: Russia plans to cut off Severodonetsk area from north and south

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

Pro-Russian troops ride an infantry fighting vehicle in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Region, Ukraine, on June 2.
Pro-Russian troops ride an infantry fighting vehicle in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Region, Ukraine, on June 2. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russia plans to cut off the strategic Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk and surrounding area from both the north and south, according to an intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) on Tuesday, as the Kremlin continues to fight for control of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces recaptured parts of Severodonetsk, the MOD said in its daily assessment of the situation on the ground, adding that Russian forces will likely continue to occupy eastern districts of the city. Ukrainian troops are locked in fierce street battles with Russian soldiers in the industrial city on Tuesday, while other towns were under increased air assault, according to Ukrainian officials.

Meanwhile, on the southern axis of fighting in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, the UK MOD said that Russian forces -- which have been advancing in the area since May, when they took control of the town of Popasna -- have stalled.

On the northern axis in Donbas, reports of heavy shelling near the Russian-occupied city of Izium suggest that Moscow is preparing to make a renewed push.

"Russia will almost certainly need to achieve a breakthrough on at least one of these axes to translate tactical gains to operational level success and progress towards its political objective of controlling all of Donetsk Oblast," the UK MOD said.