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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8:12 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Ukraine suffering "significant losses" in Donbas, says Russian military

From CNN's Olena Makerovska, Zahra Ullah, and Mick Krever

Ukrainian troop members repair an army's Main Battle Tank (MBT) in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 7.
Ukrainian troop members repair an army's Main Battle Tank (MBT) in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 7. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine is suffering “significant losses” in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the Russian military claimed Wednesday.

“The Ukrainian force in the Donbass [‘Donbas’ in Ukrainian] suffers significant losses in manpower, weapons and military equipment,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a press release.

“Only during the liberation of Svyatogorsk [‘Sviatohirsk’ in Ukrainian] in the Donetsk People's Republic, over three days of fighting, the losses of Ukrainian troops amounted to more than 300 nationalists, six tanks, 15 armored combat vehicles of various types, 36 field artillery guns and mortars, four Grad multiple rocket launchers and over 20 automotive units," it said.

The Donbas has seen intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces for weeks.

Parts of the Ukrainian cities of Rubizhne and Severodonetsk in the region have been significantly destroyed by fighting, satellite images taken on Monday by Maxar Technologies show. 

Ukrainian forces there have held on despite intense bombardments by Russian artillery and jets. Russian forces are continuing to try to advance into, and past, the two major Donbas cities. 

7:01 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Ukraine files eight more war crimes cases, says prosecutor general

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Mick Krever

Ukraine has filed eight more war crimes cases involving Russian soldiers, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said on national television on Wednesday.

“We are not just talking about combatants who came to the theater of operations, but about those who came to rape, loot, kill civilians,” Venediktova said.

On May 23, 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.

Another two Russian soldiers were convicted for “violating the laws of war” by the Kotelevsky district court of Poltava region on May 31.

Venediktova said that prosecutors are investigating about 16,000 war crimes cases.

6:51 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Zelensky says he discussed "enhancing defense support" with German leader

From CNN's Mick Krever

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that he had discussed improving his country's defenses during a phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“Had a phone conversation with Olaf Scholz,” Zelensky said on Twitter. “Discussed enhancing defense support for [Ukraine] & ensuring global food security. Raised the issue of RF [The Russian Federation]'s compliance with international rules of treatment of war prisoners. Stressed the importance of decisions on the integration of [Ukraine] in [The European Union].

In recent months, the German government and Chancellor Scholz have come under pressure from Ukraine and politicians at home for not doing enough to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion.

But at the end of April, Germany agreed to deliver Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, and last week it said it will supply Ukraine with seven self-propelled howitzers.

While relations between the two countries have improved, ''we have to make sure that the positive dynamic is maintained and we all move forward and that right decisions are being taken,'' Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on May 12.

6:41 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

New ground is possible for grain and peace negotiations, says Turkish foreign minister

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Stationary cargo ships and bulk carriers in the Black Sea wait to enter the Sulina Canal, a river channel that provides access to the Danube River, offshore from Sulina, Romania on June 4.
Stationary cargo ships and bulk carriers in the Black Sea wait to enter the Sulina Canal, a river channel that provides access to the Danube River, offshore from Sulina, Romania on June 4. (Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

"There could be new ground for negotiations" between Ukraine and Russia on halting the fighting and securing safe corridors for grain exports, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Turkey believes the war should be ended through a diplomatic process "as soon as possible" for "the sake of the whole region and the whole of humanity," said Cavusoglu, speaking at a joint press conference in Ankara with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.

Turkey is willing to take a facilitating role, said Cavusoglu.

The halt of grain exports is one of the negative consequences of the war and a plan for the resumption of exports should be established," he added.

"There are multiple ideas" about how to establish an open corridor for grain exports from Ukraine, said Cavusoglu, who added that a UN plan was "reasonable and can be implemented " but requires more talks. 

Also speaking at the joint press conference, Lavrov said issues related to grain exports from Ukraine could be resolved, but Ukraine needs to de-mine its waters to ensure the safe passage of ships. 

"If Ukraine is ready to kick off de-mining activities, then we are ready for that [resolving the issues] as well," he said.

Lavrov reiterated that Russia is portrayed in the wrong light, and that every ship and vessel that wishes to use the corridors is free to act in "whatever way they please." 

6:08 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Russia "artificially creating obstacles" to seize grain market, says Ukrainian official

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Mick Krever

A top Ukrainian official has accused Russia of “artificially creating obstacles” to gain control over the country’s grain market.

“Our position on the supply of grain is clear: security first,” said Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, via Twitter on Wednesday.

“Russia is artificially creating obstacles to seize the market and blackmail Europe over food shortages," he added. 

The Turkish and Russian foreign ministers are meeting in Ankara Wednesday to discuss the re-establishment of grain exports from Ukraine.

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

This photograph taken on May 10, 2022, shows an Ukrainian Army's self-propelled howitzer loading on a tank transporter near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
This photograph taken on May 10, 2022, shows an Ukrainian Army's self-propelled howitzer loading on a tank transporter near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

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

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows destroyed buildings in Rubizhne, Ukraine near Severodonetsk, on Monday, June 6.
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows destroyed buildings in Rubizhne, Ukraine near Severodonetsk, on Monday, June 6. (Maxar Technologies/AP)

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 

A view shows the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol on May 10, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
A view shows the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol on May 10, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. (AFP/Getty Images)

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.