June 9, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

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New video shows Ukraine destroy Russian rocket launcher with US-provided weapon
02:38 - Source: CNN

What we covered

  • The key eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is now mostly controlled by Russian forces, according to local officials, after what they described as a “difficult” night.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the fate of the whole Donbas region is being decided in the fight for Severodonetsk.
  • A food crisis sparked by Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain threatens to “unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution” around the world, according to the UN secretary-general. Food has become part of Russia’s “arsenal of terror,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said.
  • Three men — two Britons and a Moroccan — were sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. They served as foreign fighters for the Ukrainian military and were captured by Russian forces in mid-April in Mariupol. 
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33 Posts

Ukrainian officials report dozens of civilians killed in Russian shelling

Valentyn Reznichenko, head of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region military administration, says the city of Kryvyi Rih, located in the central part of the country, is now under constant fire from Russian forces.

“The communities of Zelenodolsk and Shyrokiv suffer the most. Unfortunately, six people died there — 179 houses, two schools, a kindergarten and a hospital were destroyed or damaged,” Reznichenko said.

Reznichenko said villages and towns in Kryvyi Rih are “littered with cluster munitions due to shelling” and there is a problem with gas, electricity and water supply.

Meanwhile, in Kharkiv, five people were killed and 14 were injured in Russian attacks, according to Oleh Syniehubov, the head of Khakiv’s regional military administration.

“Today the enemy attacked Kharkiv region, in particular settlements in the northern and northeastern directions,” Syniehubov said, adding that attacks hit residential buildings in Zolochiv.

“Five houses were destroyed. The enemy also struck at Chuhuiv district today,’’ Syniehubov said Thursday in a live question and answer broadcast on Ukrainian national television.

Syniehubov said Ukraine’s armed forces “hold their positions in the northern and northeastern directions.”

When asked why the Russian military is shelling civilian infrastructure, even though there are no visible confrontations between Russian and Ukrainian armies in the Kharkiv region at the moment, Syniehubov replied that the Russian forces “concentrated their attention on the terror of the civilian population.” 

Fierce fighting continues in critical city of Severodonetsk, Ukrainian officials say

A damaged building is pictured in Lysychansk as black smoke and dirt rise from the nearby city of Severodonetsk during battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas, on Thursday.

Ukrainian forces say the battle for the city of Severodonetsk continues to rage late on Thursday. 

“The situation is consistently difficult. Our defenders are holding the line of defense, leveling the line of defense,” Serhiy Hayday, head of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region military administration, said on national television.

“The fiercest fighting continues in Severodonetsk,” Hayday said. The city has seen intense battles in recent days.

Hayday accused the Russians of using “lies and propaganda” in claiming victory in the Severodonetsk. 

While “the Russians had already reported that they had taken the city,” the official said, Russian forces had withdrawn some of their units.

Oleksandr Striuk, head of Severodonetsk’s military administration, said on television on Thursday that there is “constant street fighting.”

“The humanitarian situation in the city is critical. The bridge is under fire, so it is impossible to deliver goods. There is no water supply,” Striuk said.

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces controls approximately one-third of the city now,” he added, saying it will be “very difficult to liberate Severodonetsk [if it falls].” 

Hayday said there are no direct battles in the neighboring city of Lysychansk, but he accused Russian forces of heavily shelling the area. If Russian troops took control of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, it would place all of the Luhansk region under Moscow’s control.

Here’s a look at the areas under Russian control:

In call with Zelensky, Macron says France "will remain mobilized to meet Ukraine's needs"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed humanitarian and military support during a call Thursday, according to a statement from the French government, as troops continue to battle for a key eastern city.

Local Ukrainian officials say the city of Severodonetsk is now mostly controlled by Russian forces. Earlier in separate remarks, Zelensky said the region “remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas.”

According to the statement describing the nature of the call between Zelensky and Macron, the French president said his country “will remain mobilized to meet Ukraine’s needs, including heavy weapons.”

Macron also asked Zelensky about his needs “in terms of military equipment, political support, financial support and humanitarian aid.”

The statement said the two leaders agreed to stay in touch, “especially in light of the opinion that the European Commission is going to deliver on Ukraine’s application to join the European Union.”

UK government is "deeply concerned" by death sentences for British citizens by pro-Russian court

The UK government is “deeply concerned” with the sentencing of British citizens by a pro-Russian court, the British prime minister’s deputy spokesperson said Thursday in a statement to CNN.

A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on Thursday sentenced to death three men — British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune — that it has accused of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

“We’ve said continually that prisoners of war shouldn’t be exploited for political purposes. Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity, and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities,” the British spokesperson said. 

“We will continue to work with Ukrainian authorities to try and secure the release of any British national who was serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and who are being held as prisoners of war,” according to the spokesperson.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday she “utterly condemns” the sentencing of Aslin and Pinner, calling them “prisoners of war.”

“This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy. My thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them,” she said on Twitter.

Next year’s harvest could be slashed by 40%, Ukrainian agriculture official says

A Ukrainian army officer inspects a grain warehouse earlier shelled by Russian forces on May 6 in Novovorontsovka, Ukraine.

Next year’s harvest in Ukraine could be cut by up to 40% due to the ongoing Russian invasion, Ukraine’s Agrarian Policy and Food Deputy Minister Taras Vysotskyi told CNN Thursday.

“We have lost 25% of the arable area. In terms of volumes, of course, it is more. We anticipate that the harvest will be around 35% less than previous years, which means around 30 million tonnes less, 35-40% less, almost half of the previous year harvest,” Vysotskyi said.

The deputy minister also said that an estimated 500,000 metric tons of grain have been stolen by Russia in territories controlled by Russian forces.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that issues related to grain exports from Ukraine could be resolved, but Ukraine needs to de-mine the waters to ensure the safe passage of the ships.

Vysotskyi said Lavrov’s remarks are not true.

“It’s untrue. The problem is Russian military ships, it’s not the case of Ukraine. So far, they don’t allow safely really to keep the civilian ships move in and out of Ukrainian ports,” he said, noting that until safety guarantees on behalf of international partners are received by Ukraine, “we can’t talk about letting these ships out.”

The mines could be cleared quickly, but for that to happen, the war needs to end or there has to be some form of ceasefire, he added.

“If we receive the victory and the war is ended, of course we can clear it quite quickly,” he said, adding that the process physically is not complicated but it depends on other obstacles including the ongoing war.

“Ukraine is ready to fulfill all the obligations in order to supply necessary food for international food security. So the point is very clear, Russia should stop the war,” he said.

Ukraine has also accused the Russians of placing mines in the Black Sea.

2 Britons and Moroccan sentenced to death by pro-Russian court in self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic

From left to right: Aiden Aslin, Brahim Saadoune and Shaun Pinner were sentenced to death on Thursday.

A court in the pro-Russian self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on Thursday sentenced three men to death that it has accused of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune appeared in court on Thursday, where they were handed down the death penalty. 

The three men — all foreign fighters for the Ukrainian military — were captured by Russian forces in mid-April in Mariupol. 

Saadoune, Aslin and Pinner were sentenced to death and will be shot, according to RIA Novosti’s reporting from the court in Donetsk.

The “head of the judicial board” in Donetsk said that the convicted men “can appeal the decision within a month,” according to RIA Novosti.

One of the defendants’ lawyers, Pavel Kosovan, said that his client would appeal the verdict, Russian state media TASS reported after the death penalty was handed down.

On Wednesday, Pinner, Aslin and Saadoune pleaded guilty to acts of “seizing power by force,” state media reported at the time.  

“The relevant article of the Criminal Code of the DPR provides for the death penalty,” according to RIA Novosti.

Aslin also pleaded guilty under the article “training in order to carry out terrorist activities,” according to state media.

The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian area in the east of Ukraine, is not an internationally recognized government; therefore, the court’s decisions are not considered legitimate by the international community.

European Central Bank to hike rates for the first time since 2011 as inflation hits new record

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, right, speaks during a press conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands on June 9.

The European Central Bank (ECB) plans to raise interest rates from historic lows in order to counter record high inflation fueled by the war in Ukraine.

ECB kept rates unchanged in today’s meeting but confirmed plans to hike rates when it next meets in July. It said today it is looking at a 0.25% increase next month.

“The Governing Council intends to raise the key ECB interest rates by 25 basis points at its July monetary policy meeting. In the meantime, the Governing Council decided to leave the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility unchanged at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.50% respectively. Looking further ahead, the Governing Council expects to raise the key ECB interest rates again in September,” ECB said in an announcement Thursday adding that “beyond September, based on its current assessment, the Governing Council anticipates that a gradual but sustained path of further increases in interest rates will be appropriate.”

The announcement comes as annual inflation among the 19 countries that use the euro reached 8.1% in May, an all-time high.

“High inflation is a major challenge for all of us. The Governing Council will make sure that inflation returns to its 2% target over the medium term,” said ECB.

The European Central Bank also significantly cut its eurozone growth outlook compared to its March projections. It now expects annual real GDP growth at 2.8% in 2022 and 2.1% in 2023. In its March meeting it had projected that the economy would grow at 3.7% in 2022 and 2.8% in 2023.

“Russia’s unjustified aggression towards Ukraine continues to weigh on the economy in Europe and beyond. It is disrupting trade, is leading to shortages of materials, and is contributing to high energy and commodity prices. These factors will continue to weigh on confidence and dampen growth, especially in the near term,” said ECB. “Once current headwinds abate, economic activity is expected to pick up again.”

Russia has started paying Mariupol pensioners in rubles, according to Ukrainian official

Russian forces in Mariupol have begun paying pensions in Russian rubles, using cash, an adviser to that city’s Ukrainian mayor said on Thursday.

“It is now known that the occupiers have already delivered trucks with cash,” Petro Andrushchenko said on national television. “Russian pensions are being handed to pensioners in Russian rubles – which shows very well what the Russian economy is, that such a sum of money can be stupidly brought in cash and start handing out.”

“But you understand what’s going on there: Huge queues, fights, scandals, because of the heat, because there is no organization really. That is, no process is organized,” he said.

Andrushchenko is not in the city but has been a reliable conduit for information from Mariupol.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti has reported that around 46,000 applications for pension payments have been received, and that the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic has begun paying out those benefits.

Andrushchenko said that those figures can “more or less” be trusted.

“But we must add another 20 to 30 percent of our elderly Mariupol people who do not accept the occupation and deliberately did not submit documents, and another 5 percent who could not physically come and submit documents. This is a critical amount for the city in which it is located,” he said.

Zelensky calls for Russia to be expelled from UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits troops in Bakhmut, Ukraine on June 5.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for Russia to be expelled from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization over the impact its war in Ukraine has had on global food insecurity.

The call is likely largely symbolic. All 193 UN member nations are also members of the FAO.

“There can also be no question of Russia’s continued membership in the FAO – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,” Zelensky said during a speech Thursday to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. “What has Russia to do there if it is working for starvation of at least four hundred million and at most more than a billion people?”

The war in Ukraine could increase the number of “acute food insecure people” around the world by 47 million this year, to a total of 323 million, according to new projections in a joint report by the FAO and World Food Programme.

Russia says no agreement reached with Turkey or Middle East on grain exports, but "work is underway"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, speak after a news conference in Ankara, on June 8.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that no agreement had been reached yet on exporting Ukrainian grain to Turkey or the Middle East. 

“No agreements have been reached yet. Work is underway,” he said on a regular conference call with journalists, commenting on possible grain deals with Turkey or the Middle East.

Peskov couldn’t confirm to CNN that the first rail cars carrying Ukrainian grain from the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol have departed, saying he had “no information” about it. 

A leader in the Russian-backed military administration of the occupied portion of Zaporizhzhia region said Wednesday that the first railway wagons with grain had left from Melitopol and went through Crimea “in the direction of the Middle East.”

The Ukrainian Agrarian Council accused Russia of stealing about 600,000 tons of Ukrainian grain, which Russia denies.

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.

EU announces another 205 million euros in humanitarian aid for Ukraine

The European Commission has announced another 205 million euros ($220 million) in aid for Ukraine, due to the “soaring” humanitarian crisis in the country. 

“This brings the total EU humanitarian assistance in reaction to the war to 348 million euro, of which 13 million is dedicated to Moldova to support displaced people arriving in the country,” according to Balazs Ujvari, the EU Commission’s spokesperson for budget and human resources, humanitarian aid and crisis management.

Russia "continues to press by sheer mass," says Ukrainian defense minister

Acknowledging that Russia has the wherewithal to continue advancing on some parts of the frontline, Ukraine’s defense minister on Thursday said that he is dissatisfied with the “tempo and quantity” of weapons arriving to Ukraine.

“The situation at the front lines is difficult,” Oleksiy Reznikov said in a statement on Facebook

“The Kremlin continues to press by sheer mass. It stumbles and faces strong rebuff. It suffers huge casualties,” he said. “But yet still has forces to advance in some parts of the front.”

Echoing President Volodymyr Zelensky’s previous comments, Reznikov said that up 100 Ukrainian soldiers were being killed every day, and up to 500 wounded.

Ukraine, he said, had “already received, bought on the market, manufactured and handed over to the Armed Forces of Ukraine a significant number of weapons.”

“These numbers would have been enough for a victorious defence operation against any army in Europe. But not against Russia. The Russian Moloch still has a lot of means for devouring human lives for to satisfy its imperial ego,” said Reznikov. 

“That is why we emphasize: Ukraine desperately needs heavy weapons, and very fast. We have proved that, unlike many others, we do not fear the Kremlin,” he said. “But as a country we cannot afford to be losing our best sons and daughters.”

It’s mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know

Russia has taken control of most of the strategic city of Severodonetsk, say Ukrainian officials, while concerns are growing over a looming global food crisis caused by the war.

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

  • Key city largely under Russian control: The battle for the key eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk continues to rage, and local officials say that Russia is now largely in control. “Our armed forces control part of the city – the industrial zone, and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Oleksandr Striuk, head of Severodonetsk’s city military administration.
  • Russia integrating Kherson region: Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed leader of the region, claimed that “integration has begun and will continue intensively,” without providing any further details.
  • Global food crisis looms: The war threatens to “unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution” around the world, the United Nations Secretary-General said on Wednesday. The conflict may push 47 million people into acute food insecurity, according to a UN projection. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that millions of people around the world may starve if Russia fails to allow Ukraine to export grain from its ports.
  • Russia claims first grain exports: The first rail cars carrying Ukrainian grain from the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol have departed for Crimea, according to Eugeny Balitsky, a leader in the Russian-backed military administration of the occupied portion of Zaporizhzhia region. Balitsky said he hoped the grain would find its way to Turkey and the Middle East.
  • Russia making progress, says official: Russia’s ambassador to the UN said the country’s military is progressing according to plan in its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine. “The progress is being made, that’s clear,” Vasily Nebenzya told the BBC in an interview broadcast Wednesday.

War in Ukraine could push 47 million people into acute food insecurity, UN says

The conflict in Ukraine could increase the number of “acute food insecure people” around the world by 47 million this year, to a total of 323 million, according to new projections from the United Nations.

The war has disrupted vital agricultural production and exports, and increased energy prices, which all have an impact of the availability and price of food, according to a joint report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP).

Food prices have risen by 17% since January, according to the FAO price index. The price of cereals is up by more than 21%.

That 47 million would come on top of the 276 million people that WFP estimates were already facing acute hunger before the war. The largest increases are likely to be seen in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.

Ukraine and Russia account for a large portion of the world’s agricultural supply. More than half of the world’s supply of sunflower seed, important for cooking oil, came from Ukraine and Russia before the start of the war, according to the FAO.

In the five years before the war, the two countries on average were responsible for 19% of global barley production, 14% of wheat and 4% of maize. Africa and the Middle East are particularly dependent on Ukrainian and Russian wheat exports.

“In March 2022, almost half of the area planted with winter wheat and about 40 percent of area planted with rye for the 2022 harvest were in occupied or war-affected areas. While areas affected by direct fighting have shifted, the uncertainty about damages, losses and the actual harvestable area remains. Between 20 and 30 percent of these areas may remain unharvested in 2022,” according to the report.

Russian soldiers purportedly left propaganda messages for students after wrecking school

A note that was been found on a blackboard in a school in Katyuzhanka after the Russian troops left the area.

When Ukrainian forces regained control of Katyuzhanka, a village north of Kyiv that had been under Russian occupation for more than a month in March, they found the local school wrecked. Any equipment that hadn’t been stolen was smashed, there was a makeshift cemetery in the school yard and deep trenches had been dug across the football pitch.

Inside one of the destroyed classrooms, written in chalk on a big, green blackboard hanging on the wall just below a portrait of Isaac Newton, was a letter addressed to the pupils and signed “the Russians.”

It read: “Children, we’re sorry for such a mess, we tried to save the school, but there was shelling. Live in peace, take care of yourselves and don’t repeat the mistakes your elders made. Ukraine and Russia are one people!!! Peace be with you, brothers and sisters!”

The note, written in Russian, as opposed to Ukrainian — the school’s language of instruction — was one of several left on blackboards and whiteboards scattered around the building. “We are for the peace in the whole world,” another one said.

CNN cannot independently verify who wrote the notes.

Mikola Mikitchik, the principal of the Secondary School of Katyuzhanka, told CNN last month he felt disgusted when he found the notes.

“They wrote ‘Russians and Ukrainians are brothers’ and at the same time they robbed the school … they ruined computers, they took out hard drives, they took away laptops, printers, they left nothing at the school! It’s barbarism and hypocrisy,” he said.

Read the full story here:

08 Ukraine school notes from Russians

Russian soldiers smashed up a Ukrainian school. Then they purportedly left messages for pupils urging peace

The integration of Kherson into Russia has started, claims Russia-appointed leader

The integration of the Ukraine’s Kherson region into Russia is underway, the Russian-appointed leader of the region claimed on Thursday.

“We are sure that Russia is with us, and we are with Russia forever,” Vladimir Saldo said via Telegram. “Integration has begun and will continue intensively.”

Saldo offered no further details on what “integration” means.

Russian troops guard an entrance of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station, a run-of-the-river power plant on the Dnieper River in Kherson region, southern Ukraine, on May 20.

The city of Kherson, in the south of Ukraine, has been under Russian control since the early days of the invasion.

But the Ukrainian military has in recent weeks stepped up its counterattacks on Russian positions in the Kherson region.

A senior official in Russia’s governing United Russia party, Andrei Turchak, visited Kherson last week.

“We feel that we are already together with Russia,” Saldo said. “There is confidence that in a common big family all problems will be solved systematically and we will adequately respond to all requests of the time.” 

Battle for Severodonetsk "developing quite dynamically" after "difficult" night, say officials

The battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk continues to rage as local officials say that Russia now controls most of the key city.

“The night was difficult,” said Oleksandr Striuk, head of Severodonetsk’s city military administration, on national television Thursday morning. “Our armed forces control part of the city – the industrial zone, and the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Striuk said that around 10,000 people remained in the city. The industrial zone – which contains the Azot chemical plant, where last week some 800 people were said to be sheltering – came under heavy shelling overnight, he said.

There were no casualties at the chemical plant overnight and “the bomb shelter also survived,” said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration via Telegram on Thursday.

“The blasts damaged at least two plant shops in the chemical plant,” Hayday said. “One of them is a key one – for the ammonia production 1-B. However, no chemicals emissions were into the environment – all fertilizers and chemicals, according to the owner of the enterprise, were removed from the territory on the second day of the war.”

Earlier Thursday, in an interview on national television, Hayday said that “street fights” continue to rage in the city.

“Russia is constantly firing on the part that is controlled by the Ukrainians. They are constantly firing artillery, and very powerfully,” he added. “And they dismantle the houses floor by floor. In this sense, it is very difficult.”

Hayday said that he believed that Russia wanted to capture the whole city by the weekend, in time for Russia Day on Sunday, but that they would not achieve that goal.

“As soon as we have long-range artillery so that we can hold artillery duels with Russian artillery, our special forces can clear the city in two to three days,” he said.

A National Guard commander fighting for control of the city told national television on Thursday that his forces were “catastrophically short of artillery barrels.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday evening that “in many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there,” in Severodonetsk.

On Wednesday Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, said that his military is progressing according to plan in its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine. 

“You will see the liberation of all the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” he said. “That will hopefully take place soon.”

First rail cars with grain depart occupied Melitopol, says Russia-backed leader

The first rail cars carrying Ukrainian grain from the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol have departed, headed towards Crimea, a leader in the Russian-backed military administration of the occupied portion of Zaporizhzhia region said on Wednesday.

“I inform you with pride and joy that the first railway wagons, 11 wagons, went with grain from the Melitopol elevator in the direction of Crimea,” Eugeny Balitsky said on Solovyov live, an online video platform. “It can be predicted that in the near future these deliveries will be increased hundreds of times.”

Balitsky said he hoped the grain would find its way to Turkey and the Middle East in quotes cited by state-run broadcaster Russia-24.

“We send grain through the Russian Federation. The main contracts are being concluded with Turkey. The first trains have already gone through Crimea, went in the direction of the Middle East,” he said, noting that “it was a traditional market for Ukraine.”

Ukraine war threatens "unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution," says UN Secretary-General

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses reporters during a news conference to introduce the second report of the Global Crisis Response Group on June 8, at UN headquarters, New York.

The war in Ukraine threatens to “unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution” around the world, the United Nations Secretary-General said on Wednesday. 

“For those on the ground, every day brings new bloodshed and suffering,” Antonio Guterres said in New York. “And for people around the world, the war, together with the other crises, is threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake.”

This year’s crisis is about “lack of access,” he said. “Next year’s could be about lack of food.

“Make no mistake: no country or community will be left untouched by this cost-of-living crisis.”

Zelensky says "millions of people may starve" if Russia continues blockade of ports

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks via taped video address to the Time 100 Gala from Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 9.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is warning that millions of people around the world may starve if Russia fails to allow Ukraine to export grain from its ports.

“We cannot export our wheat, corn, vegetable oil and other products that have played a stabilizing role in the global market,” he said according to the prepared remarks of a taped video address to the Time 100 Gala.
“This means that, unfortunately, dozens of countries may face a physical shortage of food. Millions of people may starve if Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea continues.”

Some context: 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. The Ukrainian Navy said Monday that approximately 30 Russian ships and submarines continued the blockade of civilian shipping in the Black Sea.

Russian ambassador says "progress is being made" in its invasion of Ukraine

Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations is seen on Thursday, May 19.

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations said the country’s military is progressing according to plan in its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“The progress is being made, that’s clear,” Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the BBC in an interview broadcast Wednesday. “Nobody promised to deliver it in three or seven days, as some pundits are saying now.”

He claimed “the plan is developing according to the military plans that were initially envisaged — of course with minor tactical changes, because you cannot predict whatever happens on the front line.”

“You will see the liberation of all the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. That will hopefully take place soon,” he said.

Some context: More than three months into its bloody assault on Ukraine, Russia insists on referring to the Kremlin’s attack as a “special military operation,” effectively banning words such as invasion and war.

Ukrainian forces "catastrophically short of artillery barrels" in Luhansk, commander says

Ukrainian forces fighting for control of the twin eastern Ukrainian cites of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are “catastrophically” short of artillery pieces, a commander in the national guard fighting in that region said on national television. 

“There is no problem here that we have bad positions or we maneuver badly or choose a good position,” Petro Kuzyk, commander of the Svoboda battalion, said. “The problem is that we are catastrophically short of artillery barrels.”

Smoke and dirt rise from shelling in the city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 7.

Tactical retreat: The head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Serhiy Hayday, suggested on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces might stage a tactical retreat in Severodonetsk. Its sister city, Lysychansk, lies on strategic high ground across the Siverskyi Donets River. Later on Wednesday, Hayday said Russia now controls most of Severodonetsk.

“With all due respect to Serhiy Hayday, this is a political opinion,” Kuzyk said. “There is a certain strategy in maneuvering: Lysychansk is on the bank above. But this is completely absurd if the crucial key issue is not resolved, and it is that the occupier has an advantage in artillery.
“If, for example, there is an order to leave Severodonetsk and keep Lysychansk, then the artillery that is currently concentrated on the part of Severodonetsk that we are holding will join the part that fires on Lysychansk, and the concentration of artillery at the positions will double. And in fact such an advantage in height will be offset by a greater concentration of artillery.”

Ukrainian official accuses Russia of stealing 600,000 tons of grain

A satellite image shows an overview of bulk carrier ship loading grain at the port of Sevastopol, Crimea, on May 19.

A Ukrainian official on Wednesday accused Russia of stealing about 600,000 tons of grain from Ukraine that he claimed was later transported to the Middle East.

In a statement, Denys Marchuk, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council Public Union claimed the grain was stolen from occupied regions in the south of the country.

He claimed the grain was transported to the port of Sevastopol in the Russian-occupied territory of Crimea before onward shipment to the Middle East.

Criminal cases have been opened “to demand through the international courts of law that Russia compensates those who has been affected by these actions,” Marchuk said.
Marchuk called Russia’s actions “a well-planned operation by the occupiers.”

Russia has not yet responded to Marchuk’s accusation. 

Some context: CNN has previously reported that convoys of trucks have been seen carrying grain from farms and silos in southern Ukraine into Crimea. Ukrainian authorities estimated in May that Russian forces in occupied areas had seized more than 400,000 tons of grain.

CNN cannot independently verify how much grain Russia has transported out of Ukraine.

South Korea pledges more than $1 million to support Ukraine's nuclear power plants

South Korea will provide $1.2 million dollars to support the safe operations of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants that are under military threats amid the ongoing war with Russia, the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a news release.

The support will be provided through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to dispatch IAEA personnel and buy equipment needed to take safety measures at the facilities, it said.

“Our government will actively support IAEA’s effort for safe operations of the nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and participate in other international efforts related to peaceful usage of nuclear power,” the ministry added.

The decision was announced during an IAEA board meeting in Vienna.

In Seoul on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Park Jin expressed regret over the war as he met with Ukraine’s Vice Foreign Minister Dmytro Senik, according to the ministry.

Most of Severodonetsk is under Russian control, Ukrainian official says

Smoke and dirt rise from shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on June 7.

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.

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 the city.

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

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video message on Wednesday June 8.

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 Polish President Andrzej Duda and Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová for the joint initiative to start “a special trip to European countries to support the European perspective of our country.” He said 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.

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

Authorities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine have released a 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 a 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.