June 8, 2023 Russia-Ukraine war news

By Helen Regan, Caolán Magee, Rob Picheta, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023
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9:32 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Ukrainian troops trying to push through Russian lines in Zaporizhzhia, Kremlin-backed official says

From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London, Anna Chernova and Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Ukraine’s frontline troops are trying to break through Russian lines in the south of the country, a Kremlin-appointed official in the Russian-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region has told state news agency RIA Novosti. 

Vladimir Rogov said Ukraine’s armed forces were trying to advance but had not yet had any success, according to RIA. 

In a series of posts on Telegram on Thursday morning, Rogov said the Ukrainians had been “hitting the positions of our guys for many hours with artillery and HIMARS.” 

He said the assault was aimed at forcing Russian troops to “flee” their positions. 

Ukraine shelled the occupied town of Tokmak overnight, destroying two houses, Rogov said in a separate post. He urged civilians there to leave for the southern port of Berdyansk, which lies further into Russian-held territory. 

Later in the day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces repelled four overnight attacks in the region.

Shoigu said there was a two-hour battle after Ukrainian forces attempted to break through Russian defenses at 1:30 a.m. local time “with the forces of the 47th Mechanized Brigade, numbering up to 1,500 people and 150 armored vehicles.”

CNN cannot independently verify Shoigu’s claims, which were posted by the Russian Ministry of Defense on Telegram. 

Some context: Ukrainian officials have been tight-lipped about Kyiv's plans for its long-anticipated counteroffensive, though there have been signs in recent weeks that the effort is nearing.

Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, put a cryptic message on his Telegram channel on Thursday. 

“The weather for the Russo-fascists in the Zaporizhzhia direction is hot summer days and nights in the still occupied Tokmak,” Fedorov said. “The occupiers did not sleep today until two in the morning.” 

 

9:20 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

1 person has died in flooding in Ukrainian-held Mykolaiv region

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych

A 53-year-old man has died after refusing to be evacuated from floodwaters in the Ukrainian-held Mykolaiv region, police said on Telegram. 

"Due to the occupiers' blowing up of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, the territories of Snihurivka, Shyroke and Horokhivske communities in Mykolaiv region are flooded. So far, we have one victim – a 53-year-old man from the village of Vasylivka who refused to be evacuated yesterday," said Serhii Shaikhet, the regional police chief. 

Shaikhet urged people to evacuate flooded areas and said police were, "patrolling the area on boats to identify people in need of help."

More on evacuations: At least 1,854 people have been evacuated since Tuesday as rescue efforts to free people from their flooded homes in Ukrainian-controlled Kherson continued throughout Wednesday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said.

The ministry said it was also looking for ways to evacuate citizens from the Russian occupied-eastern bank of the Dnipro River.

“We are trying to do it as quickly as possible. We are hampered by a strong current and shelling by the Russian military,” said Internal Affairs Minister Ihor Klymenko.

CNN's Yulia Kesaieva, Fred Pleitgen, Radina Gigova, Sarah Dean and Helen Regan contributed to this post.

10:11 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Russian forces shelling "places of evacuation" in Kherson city, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Emergency workers take cover during a Russian military strike while they evacuate people from a flooded area in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 8.
Emergency workers take cover during a Russian military strike while they evacuate people from a flooded area in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 8. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Russian forces are shelling “places of evacuation” in Kherson city, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The ministry said three people have been injured in the shelling: “a civilian woman, a police officer and a rescuer.” 

“All are being provided with the necessary assistance. The shelling began during the evacuation of citizens whose homes were flooded,” the ministry said in a Telegram post on Thursday.

“Russia has left people in trouble in the occupied part of Kherson region. And it continues to prevent Ukraine from saving the most valuable - human lives,” it added.

Some context: Both Russia and Ukraine are accusing each other of shelling as evacuations continue in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region following the Nova Kakhovka dam collapse.

8:26 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Analysis: Ukraine dam collapse serves neither side well as war enters next crucial phase

From CNN's Sam Kiley

A satellite image shows the Nova Kakhovka Dam and hydroelectric plant after its collapse, in Nova Kakhovka, Ukraine, on June 7.
A satellite image shows the Nova Kakhovka Dam and hydroelectric plant after its collapse, in Nova Kakhovka, Ukraine, on June 7. Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Fish swept up and dumped by flood waters drive home Ukraine’s claims of Russian “ecocide” while Russian gunners attacked rescuers amid the chaos of the Nova Khakovka dam burst.

Apparently caught unawares, the Kremlin’s own troops were washed away, their trenches flooded, accommodation inundated and, as they ran into the open to save themselves, Ukrainian forces rained death down upon them from the opposite bank of the Dnipro River.

At first glance, this looks like an own goal, or two, by Russia. It controlled the dam that burst, is accused by many Western nations of actually blowing it up, and it engulfed its own troops plus Ukrainian civilians under its occupation.

But Moscow has form for sacrificing the lives of many for the motherland, in the same way, on the same river.

As Nazi troops advanced against the Russian army in 1941 across Ukraine, Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, were given an order of terrible ruthlessness. They were to blow up the Zaporizhzhia hydroelectric dam that bisected the eponymous industrial city, which stands 200 kilometers (125 miles) upriver from today’s Nova Kakhovka barricade).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has again blamed Moscow for the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam and said Russia should bear “criminal liability” for “ecocide.”

Both Kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of being behind the major breach of the dam, although it is unclear whether the dam was deliberately attacked, or whether the collapse was the result of structural failure.

Zelensky referred to a report by Ukrainian intelligence last year that claimed occupying Russian troops had mined the dam.

“The consequences of the tragedy will be clear in a week. When the water goes away, it will become clear what is left and what will happen next,” he said.

Any plans that Kyiv may have had for a cross-river assault are now much more complicated by a much wider body of water, more boggy landscape, and unmapped waters.

Russia has lost too.

“Their positions were fully destroyed. They are full of water. They have a lot of wounded people and dead people for now, we have information that it’s hundreds of them,” Ukrainian Army Captain Andrei Pidlisnyi told CNN on Tuesday.

Read more here.

8:08 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Kremlin claims rescue workers in flooded occupied areas under Ukrainian fire

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Occupied parts of the Kherson region are coming under Ukrainian fire as rescue workers try to help people out of flooded areas after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, Russian officials claim.

Speaking on a conference call with journalists, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov went on to praise rescuers in the Russian-occupied areas, who he said were working under, “ongoing shelling from Ukraine, and that makes the [rescue] job difficult.”

Asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was planning to visit communities affected by the flooding, Peskov said he had no such plans.

What Ukraine says: Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims that Ukrainian rescue workers have been shot at by Russian forces after he visited the region Thursday.

"When our forces try to get them [the residents] out, they are shot at by occupiers from a distance," he told German outlet Bild.

A volunteer taking part in the rescue efforts in Kherson told CNN that rescue workers face Russian shelling, while Ukraine’s regional military administration in Kherson said Russia was shelling territory still under its control.

8:04 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

At least 5 dead in Russian-occupied town of Nova Kakhovka, officials say

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Jo Shelley in London

Water flows over the collapsed Kakhovka dam in Nova Kakhovka, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, on June 7.
Water flows over the collapsed Kakhovka dam in Nova Kakhovka, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, on June 7. AP

At least five people in the Russian-occupied town of Nova Kakhovka, which sits some three miles from the dam that collapsed overnight on Monday, have died in the flooding, a Kremlin-backed official was quoted by state news agency TASS as saying. 

"It was reported that out of seven people who were grazing cattle, five drowned,” Vladimir Leontiev, head of the Nova Kakhovka city administration, told Russian television, according to TASS. “We are now engaged in the evacuation of the remaining two.” 

The breach of the Nova Kakhovka dam unleashed a mass of water down the Dnipro River and flooded towns and villages on either side. 

“The most difficult situation is in Aleshki [the Russian spelling of ‘Oleshky’] and Hola Prystan,” another official installed by the Kremlin in occupied territory on the east bank said on Telegram. 

Andrey Alekseenko, the Russian-backed head of the government of the Kherson region said: “The level of the Dnipro increased by up to 12 meters. At this moment 344 people have already been evacuated from roofs and upper floors with the help of watercrafts. There are many low-mobility people among them, as well as children.” 

Oleshky lies around 45 miles west of Nova Kakhovka, and Hola Prystan some 12 miles beyond that. 

Earlier, Oleshky’s exiled Ukrainian mayor said he knew of at least three people who died there and thought, “there might be many more.” 

The Russian-backed official, Alekseenko, said water in the area was unsafe to use and told people to be careful of mines. 

“The situation caused by the flooding of water intakes, erosion of cemeteries and burial grounds is currently alarming. Sanitary inspectors warn of the possible danger of water from any source. Only bottled water may be used for drinking and cooking,” he said. 

More than 300 people, including 70 children, have been evacuated from the flooded occupied areas so far on Thursday, the Russian Emergencies Ministry reported on Telegram.

9:22 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

It's mid afternoon in flooded Kherson, southern Ukraine. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited Kherson, the scene of widespread flooding after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam.

Meanwhile, evacuations are ongoing as the death toll rises across southern Ukraine. Zelensky has accused Russian forces of shooting at rescuers in parts under Russian control.

Here’s the latest:

  • Zelensky visit: The Ukrainian president visited Kherson after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam flooded vast swathes of the region. Zelensky discussed evacuations and relief for the flooded areas at a meeting, along with the “prospects for restoring the region's ecosystem and the operational military situation in the man-made disaster area,” a statement posted to his official Telegram channel said. 
  • Flood death toll rises: At least three people have drowned in the Russian-occupied town of Oleshky after waters unleashed by the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam flooded “about 90%” of the area, the town’s exiled Ukrainian mayor told CNN. Meanwhile, at least five people in the Russian-occupied town of Nova Kakhovka, have died in the flooding, a Kremlin-backed official was quoted by state news agency TASS as saying.
  • Russian attacks: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed Russian forces have been shooting at rescuers trying to reach flooded areas. "When our forces try to get them [the residents] out, they are shot at by occupiers from a distance," Zelensky told German outlet Bild.  “As soon as our helpers try to rescue them, they are shot at,” he added.
  • Rescue efforts: Evacuations have been launched across southern Ukraine after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam along the Dnipro River. Nearly 2,000 people have now been evacuated from the “danger zone” and were being housed and fed in temporary aid shelters, Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said in a statement on Telegram.
  • UN in Zaporizhzhia: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will strengthen its presence at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant next week, the UN nuclear watchdog said Wednesday. A new, larger team will replace the group currently at the plant in southern Ukraine when director Rafael Grossi visits the facility, according to an IAEA statement. 
  • Widespread flooding: At least 600 square kilometers (232 square miles) of Ukraine's southern Kherson region has been flooded following the Nova Kakhovka dam collapse on Tuesday, according to a regional military commander. The collapse of the dam and hydro-electric plant sent torrents of water gushing down the Dnipro River. Floodwaters have risen to an average level of 5.61 meters (18 feet), Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said in a statement on Telegram.
7:02 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

Rescue workers face “extreme danger” amid continued Russian shelling during flood evacuation efforts

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Residents are evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 7.
Residents are evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 7. Roman Hrytsyna/AP

Russia continues to shell Ukrainian-held parts of the Kherson region as rescue workers try to evacuate people from the floods, local Ukrainian officials report.

“Over the past day, the enemy made 34 attacks in the region… including one artillery attack on Kherson city,” a post on Telegram by the Kherson regional military administration said on Thursday.

“There were no civilian casualties or injuries as a result of the shelling," it added.

This comes after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant early Tuesday prompting mass evacuations, flooding and fears for large-scale devastation across southern Ukraine.

Both Moscow and Kyiv blame each other for the breach. CNN cannot independently verify either claim.

According to Ukrainian officials on Telegram, “20 settlements are flooded in the liberated territories. 2,629 residential buildings are under water, and 971 more homes were flooded yesterday."

Despite the extreme danger and constant Russian shelling, evacuations from the flooded area continue. As of 6a.m local time (11p.m E.T), 1,999 people have left the danger zone. Most people were evacuated from the Korabel microdistrict in Kherson city,” Ukrainian officials said.

Ukrainian police said on Telegram that they are, “patrolling the flooded streets of the regional center, villages and towns to prevent looting and identify those citizens who may be trapped in the water.” 

7:24 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023

3 people believed drowned in Russian-occupied town of Oleshky

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Satellite image shows Oleshky, Ukraine, after flooding, on June 7.
Satellite image shows Oleshky, Ukraine, after flooding, on June 7. Maxar Technologies/AP

At least three people have drowned in the Russian-occupied town of Oleshky after waters unleashed by the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam flooded “about 90%” of the area, the town’s exiled Ukrainian mayor told CNN.

Yevhen Ryshchuk said, "three people drowned there. We do not know how many more dead people there will be. I think there might be many more."

Between 3,500 and 4,000 people still lived in Oleshky, including “many pensioners and bedridden people,” Ryshchuk said.

Rescuers are now trying to evacuate thousands of people in the flood zone, while many have climbed onto the roof of their house to escape the floods.

“Not everyone had the opportunity to climb to the roof from inside the house,” when the floodwaters arrived, while others, “have been sitting on the roofs for two days,” Ryshchuk said.

This comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces have been shooting at rescuers trying to reach flooded areas in occupied parts of the Kherson region.

Meanwhile, in villages around Oleshky the situation is more complicated as "villages like Pravi Solontsi, for example, are 100% flooded. No one was allowed to go there... How could people be rescued?” Ryshchuk told CNN.