June 9, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Matt Meyer, Sophie Tanno and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 8:15 p.m. ET, June 9, 2023
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5:45 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023

"Everything is just beginning," Kremlin-backed official says as Ukraine probes Russian defences in the south

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych and Jo Shelley

There is “fierce fighting” on Ukraine’s southern front as Kyiv’s troops continue to probe Russian defenses, a Kremlin-backed official in the Zaporizhzhia region has told Russian state media. 

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces are making new attempts to attack in different parts of the front. Our troops are doing everything possible to prevent a breakthrough deep into the defense line,” Vladimir Rogov told RIA Novosti. 

Rogov – who described what was happening as a “counteroffensive by the Ukrainian Armed Forces” – warned in separate comments on Telegram: “Everything is just beginning."

The Ukrainians have “not yet engaged its main reserves” in the fight there, he said. 

Kyiv has repeatedly said that the start of any large-scale counteroffensive will not be announced and has not commented on any moves on the southern front overnight. 

In another Telegram post on Friday morning, Rogov claimed that Russian units had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to push back Russian troops near Orikhiv, about 40 miles southeast of Zaporizhzhia. 

CNN is unable to verify the battlefield account and there is little, if any, independent reporting from the front lines. 

Russia’s ministry of defense reported heavy fighting in southern and eastern Ukraine in its update on Friday morning.

2:35 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023

Kherson floodwater levels fall following dam collapse, official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Volunteers evacuate residents from a flooded area in Kherson on Thursday.
Volunteers evacuate residents from a flooded area in Kherson on Thursday. Alina Smutko/Reuters

Water levels in the flooded area of the Kherson region have dropped overnight, according to a local Ukrainian commander. 

"On average, the water level on the west bank [of the Dnipro River] is 5.38 meters (17.7 feet), and in Kherson city it is 5.35 meters. We can already see that the water has dropped by 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) overnight," said Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson region military administration, on Telegram Friday.

Prokudin reiterated calls for affected residents to flee for safety. 

“If you are in the flood zone, leave immediately. To wait there is not an option, do not put yourself in danger. After the evacuation, you will be provided with everything you need,” he said. “The only thing we lack is time. 24 hours a day is not enough to solve all the issues.”

He added his team had received more than 400 unanswered calls in nine hours, but vowed to call everyone back. 

“We have no doubt that Kherson region will survive. Unbreakable people live here," he said.

Update on extent of flooding and rescue, according to Prokudin:

  • 3,624 houses in 32 settlements of the Kherson region have been flooded
  • 2,352 people have been evacuated
  • 550 animals have been evacuated
12:40 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023

Crimean Tatars have a history of persecution. This soldier is fighting to push Russia out of Ukraine

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Yulia Kesaieva

When Viktor Shevchenko was called forward to receive his medal from President Volodymyr Zelensky at a special ceremony in Kyiv earlier this year, his appearance seemed to come as a surprise to the Ukrainian leader. 

It was not the neck gaiter Shevchenko was wearing, pulled up to cover his nose and mouth, though that certainly made him stand out from the rest of the two dozen men present. Instead, it was his darker skin tone, dark brown eyes and jet-black hair.

“Are you really Viktor Shevchenko, or are you collecting a medal on behalf of someone else?” Zelensky asked.

Shevchenko laughed as he recalled the episode in Kyiv, and said the president was apologetic as soon as the penny dropped.

“He could see I was Tatar, that I wasn’t Slavic. I told him my parents are still in Crimea and he immediately understood,” he said.

The history of the Crimean Tatars has taught them to tread carefully. Periods of persecution and exodus, mainly at Russian hands, have characterized the Muslim ethnic minority’s story from at least as far back as 1783, when Russian Empress Catherine the Great annexed Crimea after wresting it from the Ottoman empire.

Read the full story.

1:43 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023

Evacuees under Russian fire in flooded areas of Kherson, officials say. Catch up here on the latest

From CNN staff

Ukrainian military personnel help an elderly woman to evacuate from a flooded area of Kherson on June 8.
Ukrainian military personnel help an elderly woman to evacuate from a flooded area of Kherson on June 8. Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA/AP

Russia continues shelling flooded areas in Kherson, including evacuation points, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday.

He said Russian forces "have completely abandoned people on the left bank of Kherson region to their fate," days after the collapse of Nova Kakhovka dam.

Rescuers are also facing resource challenges while carrying out evacuations in Ukrainian-controlled Kherson due to the scale of the flooding, an emergency services officer told CNN.

Here are other key developments in Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Evacuations ongoing: At least 2,339 people, including 120 children, have been evacuated from flooded areas following the dam collapse, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs. Zelensky said all levels of government and local authorities have been working nonstop to save as many people as they can. But the evacuations have been hindered by continued Russian shelling as well as a shortage of resources, officials said. Earlier Thursday, local officials said at least nine people had been injured by shelling as civilians evacuate Kherson city.
  • Landmines danger: The collapse of the dam has displaced landmines in the region, the head of the Red Cross Weapons Contamination Program told CNN. Landmines “in the water, on the surface, [and] buried under the ground” in the area flooded by water have “shifted location,” Erik Tollefsen said. The marking and mapping systems used by charities and NGOs to detect and locate landmines are no longer accurate, as so many landmines have moved in the water.
  • Nuclear plant impact: Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is still able to pump water from the Kakhovka reservoir following the dam collapse, even though water levels have reached the point where it was previously estimated pumps wouldn't be able to operate, according to the UN nuclear watchdog. The plant, which is occupied by Russian forces, lies upstream from the collapsed dam.
  • Civilian casualties: Ukraine's central city of Uman was hit by a missile attack on Thursday, according to Ihor Taburets, head of the Cherkasy region’s military administration. “We have two hits: on an industrial facility and a car wash. In the second case, a fire broke out as a result of the hit,” he said. Eight people were injured, two seriously, Taburets said, citing preliminary information.
  • Russian resistance: Ukrainian forces have suffered losses in heavy equipment and soldiers as they met greater-than-expected resistance in their first attempt to breach Russian lines in the east of the country in recent days, two senior US officials tell CNN. One US official described the losses — which include US-supplied MRAP armored personnel vehicles — as "significant."
  • Eastern advances: Troops are making progress and continue to advance in the Bakhmut area in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said Thursday. “The defensive operation continues, the enemy is trying to stop our forces but is getting beaten,“ the commander of Ukrainian Land Forces Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a Telegram post. He shared a video, purportedly showing soldiers of the 77th Air Assault Brigade destroying a Russian tank. 
  • US and UK reaffirm support: US President Joe Biden and his British counterpart, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, touted their "unwavering support" for Ukraine and shared condemnation of Moscow's "brutal aggression" as they met in Washington, DC, Thursday. Biden said he believes the US will have the funding necessary to support Ukraine against Russia for as long as it takes. Biden said he's confident in the continued funding despite what you hear from "some voices today on Capitol Hill," referring to lawmakers who have expressed skepticism about US aid to Kyiv.
1:02 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023

Russians "even shelling evacuation points" in flooded areas, Zelensky claims

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Mohammed Tawfeeq

Volodymyr Zelensky chairs a regional administration session in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 8.
Volodymyr Zelensky chairs a regional administration session in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 8. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP

Russian forces are maintaining attacks on flooded areas of Kherson, including evacuation points, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during his nightly address on Thursday.

"They continue to shell Kherson and the communities of the region, which have already been flooded by terrorists. They are even shelling evacuation points, which is a manifestation of evil that perhaps no terrorists in the world, except for Russian ones, have ever done," Zelensky said.

Ukrainian officials said earlier at least nine people were wounded by shelling in the southern region as thousands flee from floodwaters brought by the collapse of a major dam.

At least 2,339 people have been evacuated, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs. Zelensky said earlier that all levels of government and local authorities have been working nonstop to save as many people as they can. But the evacuations have been hindered by continued Russian shelling as well has a shortage of resources, officials said.

In his address Thursday, Zelensky said Russian forces "have completely abandoned people on the left bank of Kherson region to their fate."

"The catastrophe has been expanding there for two days now. And this is also an absolutely conscious choice of the Russian leadership," Zelensky said, claiming Moscow is trying "to further aggravate the situation they have caused with their ecocide."

"This is absolutely deliberate," he said.

Remember: It's not yet clear whether the dam collapsed because it was deliberately targeted or if the breach could have been caused by structural failure. Both Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the collapse.

1:01 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023

Ukraine is working nonstop to evacuate people in flooded areas after dam collapse, Zelensky says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Mohammed Tawfeeq

Rescuers and police evacuate local residents from a flooded area in Kherson, Ukraine on June 8.
Rescuers and police evacuate local residents from a flooded area in Kherson, Ukraine on June 8. Alina Smutko/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said all levels of government and local authorities have been working nonstop to save as many people as they can from flooded areas following Ukraine's catastrophic dam collapse.

"The evacuation is ongoing. Wherever we can get people out of the flood zone, we do so. The State Emergency Service, police, and military are doing a great job. I want to thank each and every one of you who is involved," Zelensky said during his nightly address Thursday.

He also thanked international organizations "who are present on our free territory and provide specific assistance," though he expressed concern that none of those groups have accessed Russian-occupied areas of the disaster zone. 

The effort so far: At least 2,339 people, including 120 children, have been evacuated from flooded areas following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a Telegram post Thursday.

The ministry said at least 563 people — including 28 children — were rescued from the flooding and that nine evacuation centers have been set up.

On the western bank of the Dnipro River, at least 3,426 houses are completely flooded, according to Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson region military administration.

10:50 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

With an election looming, UK prime minister says he's confident US support for Ukraine is secure

From CNN's Tara John and Luke McGee

Ukraine and its allies will be at the whim of American voters once again next year if the winner of the US election is not as enthusiastic about defending democracy on the European continent as President Joe Biden has been over the last 15 months.

Former President Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, has refused to say whether he believes Ukraine should win the war against Russia, and his main challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has hedged on the conflict, describing Russia’s unprovoked invasion as a “territorial” dispute.

Asked by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Thursday about Trump’s comments, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted “strong support” in the US for funding Ukraine, adding that his meetings with congressional leaders in both parties this week indicated a willingness to support the country’s ongoing efforts to defend itself amid Russian aggression.

“Obviously, it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on domestic politics here. But I did spend a good amount of time in Congress yesterday talking to leaders from both parties, and I think there is strong support for the efforts that America is putting in to support Ukraine,” Sunak said in an exclusive interview at the presidential guest residence Blair House, moments after meeting with Biden.
“I think there’s an acknowledgment, as I said, that the values that we’re fighting for are universal. They’re values that America has always stood up for, which is democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” he added.

Read more here.

1:06 a.m. ET, June 9, 2023

Russian air defenses shoot down targets over Belgorod region, governor says

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Hira Humayun

Cars drive past a stele displaying the city name in Belgorod, Russia, on June 8.
Cars drive past a stele displaying the city name in Belgorod, Russia, on June 8. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Russian defense systems have shot down targets over the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, the governor there said.

“Our air defense system was active over Belgorod, intercepting two air targets as they approached the city,” Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post on Thursday. “Currently, we have no reports of casualties. Wreckage damaged the roof of a private house and cars. Response teams are on site doing door-to-door patrols.”

Some background: Russia has seen the effects of its war on Ukraine increasingly reverberate back onto its own territory in recent months.

Belgorod has seen a series of drone attacks. Last week, a “massive” shelling attack injured four people in the region. Eight apartment buildings, four homes, a school and two administrative buildings were damaged during the shelling in Shebekino, a village in Belgorod.

More recently, Ukrainian forces carried out heavy shelling of the region overnight Wednesday, Gladkov said earlier.

8:38 p.m. ET, June 8, 2023

At least 8 people injured after missile attack hits Ukraine's central Cherkasy region, official says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

The city of Uman in Ukraine’s central Cherkasy region was hit by a missile attack on Thursday, according to Ihor Taburets, head of the Cherkasy region’s military administration.

“We have two hits: on an industrial facility and a car wash. In the second case, a fire broke out as a result of the hit,” he said.

Eight people were injured, two seriously, Taburets said, citing preliminary information.