June 8, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:22 p.m. ET, June 9, 2022
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6:36 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Most of Severodonetsk is under Russian control, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Smoke and dirt rise from shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on June 7.
Smoke and dirt rise from shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on June 7. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Most of the eastern city of Severodonetsk is now controlled by the Russians, Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, announced on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian forces reported fierce battles taking place at several locations across the eastern city in Ukraine's Luhansk region.

"The Russians are destroying everything," Hayday said in a televised announcement, "They are firing tanks and artillery at residential buildings."

In an interview with news outlet RBC-Ukraine on Wednesday, Hayday said that earlier this week, Ukrainian special forces had managed to take control of almost half of the city.

But he said that when the Russian troops saw the Ukrainian advance, "they simply began to level it to the ground with air strikes and artillery."

Hayday explained that Ukrainian forces had no choice but to make a temporary tactical retreat from the central parts of the city due to the intense Russian bombardment.

The official said that despite the pullback, Ukraine has retained control of Serverodonetsk's industrial zone, a key area on the outskirts of city.

6:19 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Zelensky: Fate of Ukraine's Donbas is being decided in Severodonetsk as "fierce battle" continues

From CNN's Mariya Knight

(From Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)
(From Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the eastern city of Severodonetsk "remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas.”

“This is a very fierce battle, very difficult,’’ he said. “Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war. I am grateful to everyone who defends this direction. In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there.”

Zelensky also said that on Wednesday “the occupiers announced the absolutely crazy news that they are preparing to unite some football clubs from all occupied territories into one pseudo-championship — from Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Melitopol, Crimea, and even part of Georgia. “

He called this decision “a mockery” of the Ukrainian people. Only the return of Ukraine, Zelensky stressed, will mean “a normal life for these territories, for these cities — again... Peaceful, safe, open to the world. And of course — new matches of world-class teams at the Donbas Arena,” he added.

Zelensky also thanked President of Poland Andrzej Duda and President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová for the joint initiative to start “a special trip to European countries to support the European perspective of our country.” He says all Ukrainian diplomats are working on this issue in full.

The Ukrainian president also mentioned that he addressed the representatives of the world's largest investment funds at a private event on Wednesday and urged them to invest in Ukraine.

Zelensky talked to “members of the community of leaders of major American companies.” He prompted them “to leave the Russian market and not to support this war with their taxes.” He said it is very important for him to know that these leaders support strengthening the sanctions against Russia.

4:34 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Foreigners shown in court video charged with being "mercenaries" by pro-Russian separatists

From Oleksandra Ochman and Ivana Kottasová

Authorities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine have released propaganda video showing three foreigners in court over accusations they were mercenaries fighting for Ukraine.  

The video, released Tuesday by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, showed British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune.

The three men have been charged with “mercenarism, crimes aimed at forcible seizure and retention of power, as well as training in order to carry out terrorist activities on the territory of the DPR," said Vitalia Cherniavskaya, an official representative of general prosecutor of DPR, in a separate video released on the DPR Telegram channel.

Russia is the only country that considers the DPR independent. The international community does not recognize DPR and its institutions and considers the territory to be part of Ukraine.

DPR authorities said the three were foreign fighters who had been captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol by Russian forces in April. Independent watchdog groups have long accused the separatists of a dismal human-rights track record and ill-treatment of prisoners. 

The Ukrainian government said in a statement on Wednesday that it considers all foreign volunteers to be members of its armed forces and to be lawful combatants entitled to treatment as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. 

The family of Aslin said Tuesday it was working with the UK Foreign Office and Ukrainian government to get him home, according to PA media. In a statement released through the UK Foreign Office, the family said Aslin was “a "much-loved man and very much missed."

Pinner was previously member of the UK Armed Forces, according to a statement released by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in April. Several friends of Saadoune told CNN he initially came to Ukraine to study at a university and joined the Ukrainian armed forces in 2021.

9:20 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

US Treasury bans Americans from buying Russian stocks and bonds

From CNN’s Matt Egan

A statue of Albert Gallatin, a former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, stands in front of The Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. on April 22, 2018.
A statue of Albert Gallatin, a former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, stands in front of The Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. on April 22, 2018. (Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden's administration has issued new investment restrictions that prohibit Americans from buying Russian stocks and bonds.

The ban is the latest step by US officials to crank up the financial pressure on Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.  

According to new guidance issued Monday by the Treasury Department, US investors are prohibited from buying “both new and existing debt and equity securities issued by an entity in the Russian Federation.”

Up until now, Americans were able to buy Russian stocks and bonds that change hands in secondary markets. 

Americans will still be allowed to sell Russian stocks and bonds, although only to a “non-US person,” the Treasury said. Americans are not “required” to divest Russian securities and may continue to hold them, according to the guidance. 

And US investors can also still invest in US funds that own Russian securities, as long as those Russian holdings are not the bulk of the fund’s assets. 

9:13 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

German chancellor and Ukrainian president "agree to do everything" they can to enable grain exports 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Benjamin Brown

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have agreed "to do everything" to enable grain exports from Ukraine as concerns mount over a global food crisis. 

During a phone call Wednesday, Scholz briefed the Ukrainian leader on his calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron on May 28, according to a statement from the German Chancellery. 

"The Chancellor and the Ukrainian President also exchanged views on the current military and humanitarian situation in Ukraine. They agreed that everything must be done to enable grain export from Ukraine, especially by sea," according to the Chancellery. 

The leaders' call comes as Turkish and Russian foreign ministers met in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss issues related to grain exports from Ukraine.

In a tweet Wednesday, Zelensky said he raised the issue of Russia's "compliance with international rules of treatment of war prisoners" with Scholz. He also stressed the importance of decisions on Ukraine's integration into the European Union, according to the tweet.

8:40 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Economic organization slashes global growth outlook due to the war in Ukraine

From CNN's Chris Liakos

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has sharply downgraded its global growth forecasts for 2022 warning that “the world is set to pay a hefty price for Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

OECD now expects global growth to be 3% in 2022 — down from 4.5% in its December forecast — and to remain at similar pace for 2023.

“Inflation projections now stand at nearly 9% in OECD countries in 2022, twice what we were previously projecting,” said OECD Chief Economist and Deputy Secretary-General Laurence Boone, adding that “the extent to which growth will be lower and inflation higher will depend on how the war evolves, but it is clear the poorest will be hit hardest.”

The forecast is in line with the World Bank, which said yesterday that it expects global growth to be 2.9% in 2022.

Among the G20 countries, OECD expects the UK to be hit the most in 2023 besides Russia, projecting that the country will post zero growth in 2023 after growing by 3.6% in 2022. 

Boone called for global cooperation to avoid a food crisis. 

“Today, the world is producing enough cereals to feed everyone, but prices are very high and the risk is that this production will not reach those who need it most. Global cooperation is needed to ensure that food reaches consumers at affordable prices, in particular in low-income and emerging market economies,” Boone said.

9:13 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Lavrov says Russia's intentions are "clear" after being confronted by Ukrainian journalist 

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Ankara, on June 8.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Ankara, on June 8. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia's intentions and goals in Ukraine are "clear" and maintained that Moscow is not halting grain exports from Ukraine.

During a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, a Ukrainian journalist asked Lavrov: "Aside from the grain products, what [else] did Russia steal from Ukraine?"

He responded that "with regards to grains, there is no obstacle or challenge caused by the Russian Federation."

"Mr. Zelensky needs to give an instruction so that Ukrainian ports can become safe," Lavrov said, reiterating his earlier remarks that Ukraine needs to de-mine its waters to ensure the safe passage of ships. 

Lavrov said "we are not the ones to blame" for creating an issue and that "the ball is in their [Ukraine's] court."

The Russian foreign minister said Russia is discussing securing the safe passage of ships with the Turkish military. 

Lavrov said Russia has "clear intentions and clear goals" in Ukraine, which he claimed are to "liberate" the country from a "neo-Nazi regime," once again repeating a false claim from the Kremlin about Ukraine's government.

The spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry hit back at Lavrov’s statements.

“Lavrov’s words are empty,” Oleg Nikolenko said via Twitter, alongside photos of news headlines summarizing Lavrov’s statements.

“Ukraine has made its position on the sea ports clear: military equipment is required to protect the coastline and a navy mission to patrol the export routes in the Black Sea. Russia cannot be allowed to use grain corridors to attack southern Ukraine,” Nikolenko said.

CNN's Mick Krever contributed reporting to this post.

8:03 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

People sweep debris at a shopping mall destroyed by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine on June 8.
People sweep debris at a shopping mall destroyed by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine on June 8. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The battle for the key city of Severodonetsk continues to rage, while Norway has donated 22 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. Russia has been accused of keeping around 600 people "hostage" in the occupied Kherson region, and there is further controversy over blocked grain shipments.

Here are today's latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

Fight for Severodonetsk continues: Ukraine could pull back its military “to more fortified positions” but Ukraine will not “give up” the key city, said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration.

Norway ships artillery pieces: Norway has donated 22 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine to help it "withstand Russian attacks," according to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense (MOD).  

Deportations to Russia continue: 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. 

Further accusations of human rights violations: 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.

Controversy over grain shipments: A top Ukrainian official has accused Russia of “artificially creating obstacles” to gain control over the country’s grain market, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says grain shipments can resume when Ukraine removes mines from coastal waters.

Zelensky discusses cooperation with Germany: The Ukrainian President said he had a telephone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during which the pair discussed "enhancing defense support" and other issues.

More World Bank funding for Ukraine: The bank has approved $1.49 billion of additional financing for Ukraine, part of a support package worth more than $4 billion that will help pay the wages of government and social workers. 

7:30 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Food is now part of Russia's "arsenal of terror," says EU chief

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London  

Food has become part of Russia's “arsenal of terror,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.  

In an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, von der Leyen stressed the urgent need to restore Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, as a remedy to the looming global food crisis.

“This is a cold, callous and calculated siege by Putin on some of the most vulnerable countries and people in the world. And therefore now, Honorable Members, food has become now part of the Kremlin's arsenal of terror, and we cannot tolerate it,” von der Leyen told EU lawmakers.  

The EU’s sanctions against Russia “do not touch basic food commodities,” the EU Commission chief stressed.  

“They do not affect the trading of grain or other foods between Russia and third countries. And the port embargo specifically has full exemption on agricultural goods,” she added, highlighting the need to counter Russian "disinformation" about the food crisis.  

Her remarks come as Russian and Turkish foreign ministers held meetings in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss issues related to grain exports from Ukraine.

Von der Leyen thanked the United Nations for its “efforts” to help restore Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, reiterating that the “majority of Ukrainian grain can only be exported” through these routes. 

There is an expectation for the EU to show the “same solidarity” it has “shown to Ukraine when it comes to addressing the food crisis in the world,” she added, committing the bloc to this task.