June 9, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Ed Upright, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Kathleen Magramo and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 2:54 a.m. ET, June 10, 2022
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4:00 a.m. ET, June 9, 2022

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

From CNN's Mick Krever

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

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.

3:38 a.m. ET, June 9, 2022

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

From CNN's Mick Krever

Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations is seen on Thursday, May 19.
Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations is seen on Thursday, May 19. (John Minchillo/AP)

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.

3:56 a.m. ET, June 9, 2022

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

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Mick Krever

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

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.”
3:49 a.m. ET, June 9, 2022

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

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

A satellite image shows an overview of bulk carrier ship loading grain at the port of Sevastopol, Crimea, on May 19.
A satellite image shows an overview of bulk carrier ship loading grain at the port of Sevastopol, Crimea, on May 19. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

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.

12:25 a.m. ET, June 9, 2022

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

From CNN’s Gawon Bae in Seoul, South Korea

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.

1:11 a.m. ET, June 9, 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 the city.

1:15 a.m. ET, June 9, 2022

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

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video message on Wednesday June 8.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video message on Wednesday June 8. (Office of President of Ukraine)

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.

10:19 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 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.

9:43 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

US Treasury bans Americans from buying Russian stocks and bonds

From CNN’s Matt Egan

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.