By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN
Updated 12:22 p.m. ET, June 9, 2022
5:28 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
Norway donates 22 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine to "withstand Russian attacks"
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy
Norway has donated 22 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine to help it "withstand Russian attacks," according to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense (MOD).
In a statement Wednesday, defense minister Bjørn Arild Gram said that the "development in the war in Ukraine now suggests that it is necessary to also donate heavier artillery and weapons’ systems."
The Norwegian Army has donated the M109 artillery guns, which are long-range weapons, after recently replacing their stock with new artillery from South Korea, the statement said.
The guns were donated along with equipment, spare parts and ammunition, according to the Norwegian MOD.
Ukrainian soldiers were already trained in the use of the system by the Norwegian Army in Germany, the statement added.
Gram called Norway's donation a "substantial contribution" that is "very much in demand by Ukraine."
"The Norwegian government has waited to publicly announce the donation for security reasons. Future donations may not be announced or commented upon," the statement said.
The United States, the Netherlands and Germany are some of the other nations who have also provided Ukraine with supplies of howitzers.
5:13 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
Hundreds "being held hostage" in Kherson in "torture chambers" and "pre-trial detention," says Ukrainian official
From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie and Josh Pennington
Around 600 people are “being held hostage” in “rooms outfitted as torture chambers” and “pre-trial detention” facilities in the Russian-occupied Kherson region, according to a Ukrainian official.
Of the 600, half are “being held hostage in the Kherson regional state administration building, in a pre-trial detention center, and in vocational school No. 17 in the city of Henichesk,” said Tamila Tasheva, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's representative to Crimea, said during a televised address Tuesday, citing government agencies and activists who recently fled the occupied territory.
CNN cannot independently verify Tasheva’s claim and has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for a response to the allegations.
Those being held were described by Tasheva as “civilian hostages, activists, journalists and military prisoners of war (POWs),” some of whom she claimed have been taken from Kherson to Simferopol -- the second largest city in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Nearly all of Kherson -- located in southern Ukraine -- has been occupied by Russia since its invasion in late February.
Ukrainian officials estimate at least half the civilian population of Kherson has left the region during the war.
In late May, the Russian-installed administration in Kherson officially closed the region's boundaries to surrounding Ukrainian government-controlled areas.
The move came after exit points from Kherson had already been unofficially blocked for weeks, according to Ukrainian officials, who alleged that anyone wanting to leave the region was being sent to Crimea.
Efforts by the Russian-installed administration in Kherson to put in place military bases, and advance what US and Ukrainian officials say would be a sham referendum to make the region a “Republic,” mirroring other Russian-backed regions in eastern Ukraine, are ongoing.
4:48 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
Ukraine could pull back "to more fortified positions" in Severodonetsk, says official
From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva, Oleksandra Ochman, Olga Voitovych, Kostan Nechyporenko and Mick Krever
Ukraine could pull back its military “to more fortified positions” in Severodonetsk, a regional leader suggested on Wednesday, while insisting that Ukraine would not “give up” the key city.
“Fierce battles are taking place in Severodonetsk,” Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said on national television Wednesday morning. “Our defenders are fighting for every inch of the city.”
“Nobody is going to give up the city, even if our military will have to pull back to more fortified positions, as the city is constantly being shelled. Still, it wouldn't mean the city is given up," he added.
A leader in the Russian-allied so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, Rodion Miroshnik, said Wednesday that Ukraine has control “over only a small part” over the Azot chemical factory in Severodonetsk. Hayday said last week that around 800 civilians are sheltering under that facility.
“Ukrainian militants are firing indiscriminately at the quarters near the enterprise,” Miroshnik said on Telegram. “Snipers are working. The circle of allied troops around the remaining group narrows.”
Miroshnik also claimed that Severodonetsk airport had “already been cleared of Ukrainian formations.”
“The shelling that was carried out from there has stopped. The remaining militants [referring to Ukrainian forces] are hiding in forest plantations around the airport. Allied forces are searching for them and clearing," he added.
Hayday, the Ukrainian official, said that Russia has devoted huge resources to its attempt to cut the main road that links Severodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk to Bakhmut, further west.
“The strategic goal of the Russian army is to control the Bakhmut-Lysychansk route,” he said. “And by controlling, I mean putting their check points there and hold it under their control. As of now they are shelling the route, but not controlling it.”
He said that Ukraine no longer uses that road, as anyone driving there has a “90% chance” of being shelled. “We have other routes to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate people,” he said.
Ukraine is expecting Russia’s offensive on Lysychansk and Severodonetsk to “increase multiple times,” he said. “We are expecting fierce battles.”
Nonetheless, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) said Wednesday morning that: “Our soldiers are successfully holding back the assault in the city of Severodonetsk, and hostilities continue.”
“Lysychansk is being shelled very hard,” Hayday said Tuesday evening. “They shoot purposefully at humanitarian headquarters, at schools [where people are sheltering]. Destroy the entire infrastructure completely.”
“Yes, it is very difficult to keep Severodonetsk,” he conceded. “Yes, they just destroy the city completely. But they do not control the city.”
He said that “fierce battles” also continue to rage in towns elsewhere in the Luhansk region, such as Zolote to the south.
“Settlements are shelled, simply completely erased from the face of the earth,” Hayday said. “But the enemy cannot pass them yet.”
4:35 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
More than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers from Mariupol transported to Russia, state media says
From CNN's Josh Pennington and Hannah Ritchie
More than 1,000 Ukrainian servicemen who recently surrendered in Mariupol will be transported to Russia for “investigation,” Russian state-run news agency TASS reported Wednesday, citing a source in law enforcement.
"Over 1,000 people from Azovstal were transported to Russia. Law enforcement agencies are working closely with them,” TASS reported the source as saying.
Russia also plans to transport a number of other Ukrainian prisoners of war to Russian territory, the source added.
Some context: In late May, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that roughly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered after weeks of fighting in Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant.
Shortly after, the Russian Investigative Committee — which operates as the Kremlin’s main investigating authority — said it would interrogate the Ukrainian “surrendered militants” evacuated from Azovstal.
Ukrainian authorities are yet to publicly respond to the TASS report.
4:33 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
World Bank announces nearly $1.5 billion in additional funds for Ukraine
From CNN's Teele Rebane
The World Bank has approved $1.49 billion of additional financing for Ukraine, the institution said in a statement Tuesday.
It's part of a support package worth more than $4 billion that will help pay the wages of government and social workers.
The latest round of funding is supported by financing guarantees from Britain, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Latvia, the statement said.
Nearly $2 billion of the total funds pledged have already been paid to Ukraine.
The statement said the funds will also help support the World Bank's portfolio of projects in Ukraine, including projects for “water supply, sanitation, heating, power, energy efficiency, roads, social protection, education, and healthcare.”
In late April, Ukraine’s Finance Ministry estimated it would cost $5 billion a month in the near-term to keep the country’s economy functioning.
4:31 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
It’s 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know
The next winter will be the "most difficult" in the more than three decades since Ukraine gained independence, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Tuesday, as Russia's invasion brings the threat of an energy crisis.
Here are the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:
"Most difficult winter": Zelensky said Ukraine was facing "issues of purchasing a sufficient amount of gas for the heating season, coal accumulation, and electricity production," with heat and power plants damaged or destroyed by Russian attacks needing repair. "In the current situation due to Russia's aggression, this will indeed be the most difficult winter of all the years of independence," he said.
War crimes records: Zelensky also said a "Book of Torturers" documenting "war criminals and criminals from the Russian army" will be launched in Ukraine. Russia has denied allegations of war crimes, but CNN journalists on the ground have seen firsthand evidence of atrocities at multiple locations across the country.
Crimea land corridor: Russia claims it has opened a land corridor to Russian-occupied Crimea, allowing civilians and goods to pass through the eastern Ukrainian territory. Russia's defense minister said the military, working with Russian Railways, had restored 1,200 kilometers 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.
Fighting in the east: Ukrainian troops are locked in fierce street battles with Russian forces in Severodonetsk as other cities face increased air assaults in the Donbas region. Satellite images by Maxar Technologies show military strikes have hit at least two hospitals in Severodonetsk and the city of Rubizhne.
Melitopol referendum: High-ranking Russian officials are visiting the occupied city in southeastern Ukraine as they prepare to hold a referendum for the remaining residents on becoming part of Russia. The key city in the Zaporizhizhia region neighbors the Kherson region that has been under Russian control since the beginning of the invasion in late February.
Remains repatriated: Ukrainian officials said the bodies of more than 200 soldiers have been repatriated to Ukraine, most of them "heroic defenders" of the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol. Ukraine and Russia have conducted an exchange of bodies as part of the agreement that ended that siege.
Maritime corridors: Russia's Defense Ministry said it has created two maritime humanitarian corridors to allow for the movement of ships in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, after facing international condemnation over its months-long blockade of key ports. The European Council president has accused the Kremlin of "using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries" by blocking Ukrainian grain exports.
Mariupol cholera risk: According to an exiled local official, Russian officials in control of the ravaged southeastern city of Mariupol are considering imposing a quarantine as decomposing corpses and garbage contaminate drinking water —putting remaining residents at risk of cholera and other diseases.
Merkel on Putin: Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia made "a big mistake" invading Ukraine, adding she was convinced that — from Russian President Vladimir Putin's perspective — any plan for Ukraine to join NATO during her time in office would have been tantamount to a declaration of war.
"Hateful" Medvedev: Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to make unnamed enemies "disappear" in a profanity-laced social media post. "I am often asked why my Telegram posts are so harsh. The answer is — I hate them," he said. "They're bastards and scum. They want to kill us, Russia. And as long as I'm alive, I'll do everything to make them disappear."
1:18 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
Zelensky says "Book of Torturers" will hold alleged war criminals accountable
From CNN’s Mariya Knight
A "Book of Torturers" documenting "war criminals and criminals from the Russian army" will be launched in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said during his nightly address on Tuesday.
"These are specific facts about specific people who are guilty of specific violent crimes against Ukrainians," he said.
“And such a ‘Book of Torturers’ is one of the foundations of the responsibility of not only the direct perpetrators of war crimes — soldiers of the occupying army, but also their commanders. Those who gave orders. Those who made possible everything they did in Ukraine. In Bucha, in Mariupol, in all our cities, in all the communities they have reached."
The creation of this system has been underway for some time, Zelensky added.
Some context: Last month, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed man in Ukraine's first war crimes trial since Russia's invasion began.
The trial came amid mounting evidence of alleged Russian war crimes as Ukrainians reclaimed areas previously occupied by invading troops.
In April, Ukraine's prosecutor general said her office was investigating nearly 6,000 cases of alleged Russian war crimes, with "more and more" proceedings opening every day.
Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians. But CNN journalists on the ground in Ukraine have seen firsthand evidence of atrocities at multiple locations across the country.
1:59 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022
Bodies of 210 Ukrainian soldiers who died in Mariupol now repatriated, Defense Ministry says
From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Ben Wedeman
As of Tuesday, the bodies of 210 Ukrainian soldiers have been repatriated by Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense Main Intelligence Directorate.
“The process of returning bodies of fallen defenders of Mariupol is ongoing,” due to the efforts of the POW Treatment Coordinating Staff, the statement said.
It said most of the bodies returned to Ukraine were those of the “heroic defenders of Azovstal," so Ukrainian soldiers at the massive Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, the last bastion of Ukraine’s defense in that southern port city, before it fell to Russian and Russian-backed forces.
The Coordination Staff on behalf of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is working to get the bodies of all the deceased returned, as well as some 2,500 POWs believed held in the custody of Russian or Russian-backed forces.
“All fallen soldiers must return to the territory controlled by Ukraine. And each of them will be lead to the last journey with honors due to the heroes,” the statement said.
The statement adds that work continues to bring home “all captured Ukrainian defenders."
CNN’s Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman reported this week on workers at Kyiv’s central morgue examining the contents of scores of body bags containing the remains of those Ukrainian soldiers killed in the two-month siege of Mariupol.
Ukraine and Russia have conducted an exchange of bodies as part of the agreement that ended that siege.
10:12 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022
At least 2 hospitals hit by military strikes in Severodonetsk and Rubizhne, new satellite images show
From CNN's Paul P. Murphy
Military strikes have hit at least two hospitals in the Ukrainian cities of Severodonetsk and Rubizhne, new satellite images taken on Monday by Maxar Technologies show.
Significant portions of Severodonetsk have been destroyed by fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces. The Ukrainians have maintained their defensive positions in the city, so far thwarting attempts by the Russians to take the city.
Even hospitals and their surrounding areas have not been spared by military strikes. In central Severodonetsk, a number of buildings in a hospital complex — a large red cross is seen painted on the roof — have been destroyed.
In southern Rubizhne, another hospital has been destroyed. The buildings surrounding it, including a pharmaceutical company, have also been destroyed.