July 6, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan and Kathleen Magramo, CNN

Updated 2:35 a.m. ET, July 7, 2022
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7:35 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022

Brittney Griner case has "indisputable evidence," says Russian Foreign Ministry 

From CNN's Anna Chernova

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, center, is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, on July 1.
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, center, is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, on July 1. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

WNBA star Brittney Griner committed a “serious offense” that is supported by "indisputable evidence,” the deputy spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexey Zaytsev, said Wednesday.

“Basketball player Brittney Griner, who was taken into custody at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arrival from New York, is accused of smuggling and storing hash oil, which is classified as a narcotic drug," Zaytsev said.

"This is a serious offense, supported by indisputable evidence and liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, according to Art. 229 Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation," Zaytsev added.

Attempts to present Griner’s detention as “illegal” do not stand up to criticism, according to Zaytsev.

“The law has been violated, and arguments about the innocent nature of Griner's predilection -- which, by the way, is punishable in some US states -- are inappropriate,” Zaytsev said.

The spokesman added that “no one stops Brittney Griner from filing an appeal or asking for clemency” after the court issues a verdict.

Some background: Griner, 31, who has played in Russia during the WNBA's offseason, was arrested February 17 in Moscow, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine.

She went on trial at a court near Moscow on Friday on drug smuggling charges.

Griner's supporters and US officials say she has been wrongfully detained and have called for her release as fears mount that she is being used as a political pawn amid rising tensions between Russia and the US.

Earlier this month, she wrote a handwritten letter to US President Joe Biden saying she is "terrified" she will be detained in Russia "forever" and pleaded with the President not to forget about her and other American detainees.

6:18 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022

Irish prime minister to meet with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin has arrived in Kyiv for meetings with the Ukrainian government in a show of support from both his country and the European Union.

“On the visit he will engage with Ukrainian authorities on how Ireland and the EU can support the country’s current, and future, needs,” a statement by the Taoiseach’s office on Wednesday read. 

Martin is expected to visit some of the areas around Kyiv worst affected by Russia’s invasion.

“The people of Ireland stand with Ukraine and its people in the face of Russia’s immoral and unprovoked war of terror,” he said ahead of the visit, according to the statement. “The bombardment and attacks on civilians are nothing short of war crimes, and I will use my visit to express Ireland’s support for moves to hold those behind these attacks fully accountable.”

Martin described the Ukrainian people's "spirit and resolve" as inspiring, and added that “Ireland will provide every support for Ukraine’s path to full EU Membership, and continue to welcome and support civilians fleeing this war.”

2:34 p.m. ET, July 6, 2022

Residents in Donetsk region urged to evacuate as fighting in eastern Ukraine rages

From CNN's Olga Voitovich, Yulia Kesaieva and Vasco Cotovio

People walk through the damage caused to the central market in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on July 6.
People walk through the damage caused to the central market in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on July 6. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian officials are urging the remaining residents in the Donetsk region to evacuate to safer areas, as Russian forces inch closer to the eastern territories.

“Russia has turned the entire Donetsk region into a hot spot where it is dangerous to remain for civilians,” the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko said, commenting on a missile strike in Toretsk on Wednesday.

“I call on everyone to evacuate. Evacuation saves lives,” he added.

Ukraine still controls 45% of Donetsk, but after taking over Lysychansk in the neighboring Luhansk region, Russian forces are now pushing toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. Renewed strikes have increased the pace of evacuations but most people have already left the city, according to the head of the Sloviansk military-civilian administration, Vadym Liakh.

(Slovyansk Military Administration)
(Slovyansk Military Administration)

“Those who saw (what happened in Severodonetsk or Lysychansk) left a long time ago. Now there are approximately 23,000 residents of Sloviansk (out of around 100,000) which remain in the city,” Liakh said. “The number of people willing to leave has increased. We are working on evacuation in two directions: to Lviv, Dnipro or Rivne.”

Due to the increase in the flow of passengers leaving Donetsk, Ukrainian Railways said it would add additional wagons to facilitate the movement of people.

Although some are resisting calls from officials to evacuate, most people have already left the Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region. Only around 340,000 people — out of 1,670,000 before the war — remain, according to Kyrylenko.

“It is difficult to persuade people to evacuate,” Kyrylenko said on Friday, “We are working on that all the time. People are starting to leave more actively, as there is chaotic shelling of civilian infrastructure.”

Some background: The General Staff of the Ukrainian military said on Monday that after taking over the last remaining Ukrainian-controlled city in the Luhansk oblast, Russian forces were preparing to continue their move toward cities in Donetsk still controlled by Kyiv. 

Sloviansk and Kramatorsk are the two largest population centers in the area. 

After taking Lysychansk, Russian forces now control nearly the entirety of the Luhansk region, barring a few pockets of resistance. 

4:22 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022

Ukraine says it's fighting back in Donbas, inflicting significant casualties on Russia

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian servicemen are seen riding on top of an armored personnel carrier in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on July 5.
Ukrainian servicemen are seen riding on top of an armored personnel carrier in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on July 5. (Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine says its military is putting up fierce resistance to Russian forces trying to advance through the eastern Donbas region, inflicting significant losses on Moscow's armies.

The head of the Luhansk region military administration, Serhiy Hayday, says Ukrainian fighters are putting up stiff resistance.

“We restrain the enemy on the border of Luhansk region and Donetsk region — the occupiers are suffering significant losses, as they themselves admit,” Hayday said. “Every day, the Russians receive an order to advance further, but they do not always carry it out, because the losses in personnel are very significant.
“During the assault of Lysychansk alone, the enemy lost thousands of dead and wounded. Yes, they have more forces and means, but the Ukrainian army is better prepared and motivated.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense does not regularly report the number of dead and injured among its forces and CNN could not independently verify Hayday’s claims about Russian casualties. However, independent analysts and observers, including some pro-Russian bloggers, have criticized the effort made by Moscow to capture the city of Lysychansk, saying it was too costly.

Ukraine needs weapons support: Hayday called for additional supplies of Western weapons to help balance the fight.

“When there is more long-range weapons, the advantage of the enemy in personnel will be leveled,” he said.

Russian forces now occupy most of the Luhansk region, barring a few pockets of resistance, and are pressing toward the Donetsk cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Pushback against Russia: Russian shelling targeted Ukrainian military positions in Luhansk “near Lysychansk in the direction of Bakhmut,” according to the Ukrainian military General Staff. In the neighboring Donetsk region, “the entire territory of the region,” was targeted, including Sloviansk, killing six civilians and wounding 21, the General Staff added.

Hayday said Russian attempts to push toward Donetsk and to cut the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway that passes by Bilohorivka, were repelled by Ukrainian forces.

“The enemy was forced to retreat under the pressure of our fighters,” Hayday said.

4:03 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022

Ukraine's grain export crisis is escalating. Here's what you need to know

Farmers harvest grain in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 4.
Farmers harvest grain in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 4. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

For months, Ukraine and allied countries have been trying to mitigate a growing food crisis caused by Russia’s months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports, with Moscow being accused of using food as a weapon of war.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said up to 60 million tons of grain could be stuck in the country by the fall if it continues to face blocked exports.

Here's what you need to know about the situation:

  • Grain blocked: Zelensky said 22 million tons of grain are currently blocked in Ukraine but that number could triple in the next few months. "Then we will be in a really difficult, very difficult situation," he said. The President said he was working with the United Nations to try to open a safe corridor that would allow Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports. 
  • Why Ukrainian grain matters: Ukraine has long been described as one of the world’s breadbaskets. But Kyiv accuses Moscow of blocking its ports and trying to steal its grain. The UN has said Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports has already raised global food prices and threatens to cause a catastrophic food shortage in some parts of the world. Russia has repeatedly denied it is blocking the ports or stealing grain.
  • Finding alternative routes is vital: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the international community will need to find “alternative routes” to transport grain supplies out of Ukraine. Johnson suggested using railway lines or the Danube River if the Bosporus Strait in Turkey cannot be relied on. 
  • Ship in Turkey: Kyiv has appealed to Ankara to detain a Russian-flagged ship carrying grain from Ukraine. Ukraine's Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar said the Zhibek Zholy ship was loaded in the southeastern port of Berdiansk. "It is possible that the grain was delivered from neighboring areas, but the loading point was Berdiansk, that is, the occupied territory," he said. According to Bodnar, Turkey's Ministry of Trade responded to the initial appeal saying the ship will remain anchored near the port of Karasu without being allowed to unload nor go back, while Turkey evaluates Ukraine's request. 
  • Russia harvesting grain: About 2 million metric tons of grain are being harvested from fields in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, which is controlled by Russian forces, according to Yevgeniy Balitsky, military head of the Russian-occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia. “The grain supply is facilitated by close cooperation with the Crimean authorities, who ensured unimpeded passage through customs and border checkpoints,” Balitsky said. Ukraine has accused Russia of appropriating last year’s grain supply from the occupied territories in the country’s south.
  • Warnings of famine: The UN has said Russia's war in Ukraine could push up to 49 million people into famine or famine-like conditions because of its devastating impact on global food supply and prices. Last month, Zelensky said Africa has been "taken hostage" by Russia's war and warned the global food crisis will continue “as long as this colonizing war goes on,” affecting the lives of up to 400 million people who depend on Ukrainian exports.
3:53 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022

Zelensky calls for modern air defenses following Russian missile strikes

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Olga Voitovych and Kostan Nechyporenko

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his nightly address from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 5.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his nightly address from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 5. (President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Western allies to supply his country with a modern, effective air defense system after Russia struck targets in the Khmelnytskyi region of western Ukraine on Tuesday evening, causing air raid sirens to ring across the country.

“The Russian army does not take any breaks. It has one task — to take people's lives, to intimidate people — so that even a few days without an air alarm already feel like part of the terror. And this evening, Kyiv and again almost the whole of Ukraine heard the air alarm,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday.
“Some of the missiles were shot down by our air defense forces. And we have not reduced and will not reduce our diplomatic activity for a single day to obtain modern anti-missile systems for Ukraine in sufficient quantity.
“This is a maximum task for our state — to provide basic security for Ukrainians, basic protection against missile attacks already this year. But the fulfilment of this task depends not only on us, but also on the understanding of our fundamental needs by our partners.”

Missiles fired: The head of the Khmelnytskyi region military administration, Serhii Hamalii, said four missiles had been fired at the territory. One of the projectiles was intercepted by Ukraine’s air defenses, with debris falling in the Shepetiv district. The remaining three landed on civilian infrastructure, Hamalii said.

“The target of the strikes was a water tower that fully supplies the community with water,” he said on Tuesday evening. “As a result of the explosions, one person was injured.”

According to Zelensky, there were also Russian strikes in Sumy, Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk on Tuesday.

1:30 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022

It's 8:30 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Moscow is throwing "all the reserves they now have" as Russian and Ukrainian forces engage in “heavy battles” on the outskirts of the eastern Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday, the head of Luhansk region military administration said.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Russia attacks Donetsk: Russian and separatist forces are setting their sights on the Donetsk cities still under Ukrainian control — namely Sloviansk and Kramatorsk — after securing Lysychansk to take over nearly all of the Luhansk region, barring a few pockets of resistance. At least one person was killed and seven injured when Russian forces shelled Sloviansk on Tuesday, the city’s military administration said.
  • Foreign leaders talk Ukraine: Russia's war will be a priority at the G20 foreign ministers meeting this week, with the US warning it is not a time for business as usual with Moscow. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is not planning to have a one-on-one meeting with his Russian counterpart, breaking with tradition. He will, however, meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for a "candid exchange" on Beijing’s response to the war in Ukraine.
  • Food crisis: About 2 million metric tons of grain are being harvested in the southern Zaporizhzhia region controlled by Russian forces, according to the military head of the Russian-occupied areas there. It comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that up to 60 million tons of grain could be stuck in Ukraine by the fall if the country continues to face blocked exports. The food security issue will also feature as a prominent topic of discussion at the G20 foreign ministers meeting.
  • Russia's war economy: A new set of economic measures aimed at supporting the Russian military passed the first vote in Russia's lower house of parliament. If the measures are adopted, legal entities in Russia will not be able to refuse contracts with the Russian armed forces, effectively reshaping Russian industry in support of the Ukraine invasion and placing the country on a war economy footing.
  • Energy strike averted: Norway has intervened to end a strike by oil and gas workers, the country's government said, citing concerns about Europe's energy crisis amid Russia's war in Ukraine. Norway is Europe’s second-largest energy supplier after Russia and the strike had pushed gas prices to their highest level in four months.
  • NATO's "historic moment": NATO has formally begun the process of Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, with members signing the protocols of accession in what its secretary general called a "historic moment." The move will bring the US-led military alliance up to Finland's 830-mile border with Russia.
  • Post-war vision: Zelensky has said the reconstruction of Ukraine should go beyond "the restoration of the walls that we had and that were destroyed by shelling." He said Ukraine "must become the freest, most modern and safest country in Europe — in every sense of the word, in particular, in terms of our environment. I'm sure we will."
1:59 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022

At least 2 killed, 7 injured as Russia pummels Sloviansk, regional military chief says

From CNN's CNN’s Cameron Hubbard and Josh Pennington

Firefighters work to control flames at the central market of Sloviansk, following a suspected Russian missile attack on July 5.
Firefighters work to control flames at the central market of Sloviansk, following a suspected Russian missile attack on July 5. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

At least two people were killed and seven others injured when Russian forces shelled Sloviansk in the Donetsk region, a regional military chief said on Tuesday.

“The Russians are once again deliberately attacking places where civilians are gathered,” the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post. “This is pure terrorism.”

Kyrylenko called for residents to evacuate, saying “the most important thing is to save your lives.”

Some context: After Russian and separatist forces secured Lysychansk — effectively taking over nearly all the Luhansk region, barring a few pockets of resistance — they are now setting their sights on the Donetsk cities still under Ukrainian control, namely Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

10:19 p.m. ET, July 5, 2022

Norway steps in to end oil and gas strike, averting a fresh energy shock for Europe

From CNN Business' Gayle Harrington and Anna Cooban

Norway has intervened to end a strike by oil and gas workers, the country’s government said in a statement late Tuesday, citing concerns about Europe’s energy crisis amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Natural gas prices spiked after Norwegian oil and gas workers went on strike over a pay dispute Tuesday, shutting three fields in the North Sea and threatening to escalate action over the course of the week.

Some context: Norway is Europe’s second-largest energy supplier after Russia and the strike had pushed gas prices to their highest level in four months.

The Norwegian oil and gas employers’ lobby had said the strikes could have halted almost 60% of Norwegian gas exports to Europe from July 9.

What this means: The closure of the three fields resulted in the loss of the equivalent of about 89,000 barrels of oil a day, Norway’s state-owned energy company Equinor said in a statement.

How significant was the closure: Europe is trying to reduce its reliance on Russia’s exports, which are already being curtailed by Moscow. Any sustained drop in Norway’s output could deal a big blow to efforts to replenish gas stocks ahead of the winter, as well as raise the risk of a catastrophic energy shortage.

What is being done: The Norwegian government has proposed a compulsory wage arbitration to settle the dispute, the statement said.

Read the full story here.