June 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Aditi Sangal and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 3, 2022
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4:15 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Ukrainian forces claim significant progress in southern offensive

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechporenko

Ukrainian forces say they have made significant progress during an offensive against Russian positions in the occupied southern region of Kherson.

"In the Kherson region, the Armed Forces have liberated 8 kilometers (about 5 miles) of occupied territory," the Territorial Defence AZOV Dnipro unit posted on Telegram late Thursday.

Ukrainian forces launched the offensive into Kherson from several vantage points to the north last weekend. Since then, there has been little information about the operation, but Ukrainian forces appear to have taken a number of villages in the northern part of Kherson and consolidated a bridgehead across the river Inhulets.

On Wednesday, the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, Gennady Laguta, said 20 settlements had been liberated.

5:47 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

It's 10 p.m. in Kyiv. Here are the latest developments from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergiy Tarasyuk, 49, sits on his bed after a missile strike in the city of Sloviansk, the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on Wednesday. Tarasyuk survived since he felt asleep in the living room the night before.
Sergiy Tarasyuk, 49, sits on his bed after a missile strike in the city of Sloviansk, the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on Wednesday. Tarasyuk survived since he felt asleep in the living room the night before. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

One-fifth of Ukrainian territory is under Russia’s control, with Donbas “almost entirely destroyed,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said while addressing Luxembourg's lawmakers on Thursday.

“As of today, about 20% of our territory is under the control of the occupiers, almost 125 thousand square kilometers. This is much larger than the area of all the Benelux countries combined," Zelensky said to the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg via video link.  

If you're just joining us, here is what you need to know about Thursday's developments in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Severedonetsk holding out: Ukraine's army has carried a series of counterattacks in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, but Russian forces still control "most" of the city, said Serhiy Hayday, head of Luhansk regional military administration. Severodonetsk is one of the last remaining strongholds held by Ukraine in Luhansk.

Areas of Donetsk region “under constant rocket fire": The cities of Bakhmut and Slovyansk are among the areas under bombardment, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk military administration, on Thursday. Russian troops are also “moving along Lyman-Izyum direction to capture Sloviansk and Kramatorsk territories,” and the highway from Bakhmut to Lysychansk “remains under enemy fire," he said.

At least seven people have been killed and 10 more wounded in the last 24 hours in the Donetsk region, Kyrylenko said. Just 340,000 of the 1.6 million people who used to live in the region remain.

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian seaports could spark a global food crisis: “About 22 million tons of grain are stuck in ports and cannot reach consumers, especially in Africa and Asia,” said Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko on Thursday, adding that land routes alone won’t solve the problem. Russia is also “stealing Ukrainian grain in the occupied territories in order to sell it illegally to third countries,” Nikolenko said.

CNN has previously reported on multiple Russian ships carrying stolen Ukrainian grain.

US confirms it conducted offensive cyber operations in support of Ukraine: Cyber Command, the US military's hacking unit, has conducted offensive cyber operations in support of Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia's invasion, the head of the command has confirmed. The disclosure underscores how important projecting power in cyberspace has been to the Biden administration as it continues to avoid directly engaging Russia in a shooting war. 

It's a rare public acknowledgment from US military officials of hacking operations that are often shrouded in mystery. 

Angela Merkel speaks out for the first time since leaving office: Speaking to 200 people, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia is waging a "barbaric war of aggression" in Ukraine. The invasion constitutes blatant breach of international law and ''a profound break'' in the history of Europe after the end of World War II, she added.

2:23 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

US confirms military hackers have conducted cyber operations in support of Ukraine

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

Cyber Command, the US military's hacking unit, has conducted offensive cyber operations in support of Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia's invasion, the head of the command has confirmed. 

The disclosure underscores how important projecting power in cyberspace — in support of Ukraine's defenses and to potentially deter Russia from conducting cyberattacks against US infrastructure — has been to the Biden administration as it continues to avoid directly engaging Russia in a shooting war. 

"We've conducted a series of operations across the full spectrum: offensive, defensive, [and] information operations," Gen. Paul Nakasone said in an interview with Sky News. A spokesperson for the command did not dispute the accuracy of the article but declined to elaborate on what the command's operations in Ukraine have entailed. 

It's a rare public acknowledgment from US military officials of hacking operations that are often shrouded in mystery. 

Read more here.

1:58 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Oil prices climb after OPEC agrees to boost supply

From CNN’s Matt Egan

Oil prices moved solidly higher on Thursday as investors react to OPEC’s production hike with a collective shrug.

US crude jumped 1.9% to $117.45 a barrel in recent trading. That’s about $5 to $6 above where oil was trading at in the hours before the announcement by OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+. 

Brent crude, the world benchmark, gained 1.5% to $118 a barrel, up from around $113 a barrel earlier in the day.

This comes after OPEC+ announced it will increase supply by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, about 200,000 barrels per day more than scheduled.

Yet the reaction in the market underscore a sense that the extra supply from OPEC+ won’t be enough to solve the supply crunch.

“It’s too small to move the needle,” said Robert McNally, president of consulting firm Rapidan Energy Group. 

McNally said the shift from OPEC+ — and Saudi Arabia in particular – is very important symbolically. But it won’t be enough to arrest the upward move in oil prices. 

“It’s 90% symbolic and 10% fundamentally important,” he said. “It’s a concrete gesture. It’s just not a lot of concrete.”

More is needed given the scale of the problem. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and sanctions from the West – has distorted global energy markets. Russia is not just the world’s largest oil exporter, but the biggest natural gas exporter. 

New numbers released Thursday from the Energy Department show that US commercial oil inventories tumbled by 5 million barrels last week, nearly four times more than expected and another sign of the supply-demand imbalance. 

Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, described the OPEC decision as a “diplomatic triumph” for both Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration.

However, the former CIA analyst is skeptical that this OPEC production hike – or any OPEC production hike, for that matter – will significantly ease strained energy markets.  

“The problem is I’m not sure OPEC can solve for a war involving a global commodity superstore,” she said. “This is probably beyond OPEC’s ability to solve. The burden is too high.”

2:29 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

NATO chief says he believes war will "end at the negotiation table" after meeting with Biden

From CNN's Betsy Klein

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the media following a meeting with President Joe Biden on June 2, in Washington, DC.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the media following a meeting with President Joe Biden on June 2, in Washington, DC. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday he had a “great meeting” with US President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Stoltenberg commended the US for its leadership and support of Ukraine and leadership in support of the Transatlantic alliance. US support is “making a difference on the battlefield every day,” he said. 

“President Putin wanted less NATO and therefore he invaded Ukraine, but he’s getting more,” Stoltenberg told reporters after the meeting. 

They also discussed preparations for the late June NATO summit in Madrid, which he said “takes place at a pivotal time for security.” He said he looked forward to welcoming Biden to Spain. 

Asked by CNN’s MJ Lee about his assessment of the endgame of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, he said, “wars are, by nature, unpredictable and therefore we just have to be prepared for the long haul.” He added that it has become a “war of attrition,” where the Ukrainians are “paying a hard price for defending their country on the battlefield” but also “Russia is taking high casualties.” 

He said he believes the war will “end at the negotiation table,” and Ukraine continues to need NATO’s support. 

When asked about Turkey’s block on Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership applications, Stoltenberg expressed confidence it will get resolved.

“When an ally, Turkey, raises concerns, we have to do what we always do and that is to sit down, address those concerns, then find a united way forward. We are in close contact with Ankara, leadership there,” he said, as well as close contact with Sweden and Finland. 

Stoltenberg said he would be convening a meeting with senior officials from Stockholm, Helsinki and Ankara in the coming days. 

Turkey, he noted, is an “important ally.” 

4:09 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Ukrainian military reports heavy fighting north of Sloviansk as Russians continue bombardments

From CNN's Tim Lister

The Ukrainian military said Thursday that fighting continues in multiple parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, with Russian forces trying to advance from several directions as they seek to take more of the area. 

Much of the fighting has been on the approaches to the city of Sloviansk. The nearby town of Sviatohirsk — which is home to a historic monastery on the banks of the Siverskiy Donets river — was shelled, and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine said three monks were killed. 

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that three other settlements in the area were under fire, and there was fighting underway in several more places. The locations named by the Ukrainians — Studenok, Sosnove and Yarova — suggest that Russian forces have made modest progress toward reaching the river. Observers said, however, that Ukrainian forces have prepared defenses around Sloviansk.

The military said that "in the Severodonetsk direction, the occupiers continue to fire on the Armed Forces positions in the districts of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk."

There has also been Russian airstrikes in adjacent communities. Ukrainian troops continue to hold the western edges of Severodonetsk, but the rest of the city is now in Russian hands.

The military said Russians were also continuing efforts to close in on the town of Bakhmut, a supply hub for Ukrainian forces, and fighting continued around settlements to the east and south of the town.

Oleksandr Zaika, head of Lysychansk City Military-Civil Administration, said that Thursday was "very difficult" in the city, which is across the Siverskiy Donets river from Severodonetsk. 

"The shelling has become more powerful. They are firing all over the city. They are firing continuously. Almost every minute, something arrives, so the situation is very difficult," Zaika told Ukrainian television.

He said that the highway linking Lysychansk with Bakhmut is under Ukrainian control, but said "they fire there all time, so it is very difficult to drive there, but it is possible. There is an alternative road on which you can move, but it is also dangerous."

He said 80,000 people — out of a population of about 100,000 — had left Lysychansk, and that 60% of the infrastructure and housing had been destroyed.

1:06 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Russian invasion could contribute to 1970s-style energy crisis, current and former energy officials say

From CNN's Matt Egan

The world is grappling with gravity-defying energy price spikes on everything from gasoline and natural gas to coal. Some fear this may just be the beginning.

Current and former energy officials tell CNN they worry that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the wake of years of underinvestment in the energy sector have sent the world careening into a crisis that will rival or even exceed the oil crises of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Unlike those infamous episodes, this one is not contained to oil.

“Now we have an oil crisis, a gas crisis and an electricity crisis at the same time,” Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency watchdog group, told Der Spiegel in an interview published this week. “This energy crisis is much bigger than the oil crises of the 1970s and 1980s. And it will probably last longer.”

The global economy has largely been able to withstand surging energy prices so far. But prices could continue to rise to unsustainable levels as Europe attempts to wean itself off Russian oil and, potentially, gas. Supply shortages could lead to some difficult choices in Europe, including rationing.

Joe McMonigle, secretary general of the International Energy Forum, said he agrees with this depressing forecast from the IEA.

“We have a serious problem around the world that I think policymakers are just waking up to. It’s kind of a perfect storm,” McMonigle, whose group serves as a go-between for energy producing and consuming nations, told CNN in a phone interview.

The extent of that perfect storm — underinvestment, strong demand and supply disruptions from the war — will have wide-reaching consequences, potentially threatening the economic recovery from Covid-19, exacerbating inflation, fueling social unrest and undermining efforts to save the planet from global warming.

Birol warned of supply bottlenecks of gasoline and diesel, especially in Europe, as well as rationing of natural gas next winter in Europe.

“It is a crisis for which the world is woefully unprepared,” said Robert McNally, who served as a top energy adviser to former US President George W. Bush.

Continue reading the full story here:

11:58 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

African Union chief will hold talks with Putin on Friday over food security

From CNN's Benjamin Brown and Niamh Kennedy in London and Bethlehem Feleke in Nairobi 

Senegalese President Macky Sall speaks during a press conference on May 1.
Senegalese President Macky Sall speaks during a press conference on May 1. (John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is also the head of the African Union, is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Friday to discuss the "liberation of the stocks of grain and fertilizers," Sall's office said Thursday. 

Sall is traveling to Russia as "the blockage of [grain and fertilizer exports] particularly affects African countries," his office added. The talks were also set to center on the African Union's efforts "to contribute to the lull of the war in Ukraine." 

The Kremlin said that Sall and Putin would discuss Russia's interaction with the African Union, "including the expansion of political dialogue and economic and humanitarian cooperation." 

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that 22 million tons of grain, accounting for nearly half of Ukraine's grain export supply, was being held up by Russia's blockade of the main export routes through the Black Sea and Azov Sea.   

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the accusations that it has blocked grain supplies from Ukraine and has accused the West of actions that have led to this crisis.   

5:53 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Ukrainian military says there are no immediate plans for withdrawing forces from Severodonetsk

From Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

A senior officer in the Ukrainian military said that fierce fighting continues in the city of Severodonetsk in Luhansk region. 

Speaking at a briefing in Kyiv, Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the Operations Directorate of the General Staff, said, "Regarding the withdrawal of our troops. At the moment, our troops, which are engaged in the defense of Severodonetsk, do not face such a task. The units will carry out tasks with all the available forces and means, with the available resources."

Hromov acknowledged that the danger of Severodonetsk falling to the enemy exists. "In case of the taking of Severodonetsk, we will be forced to defend along the river bank and will also fight from urban areas." The river Siverskiy Donets runs close to Severodonetsk, dividing it from the nearby city of Lysychansk. 

"The enemy is trying to encircle our troops," Hromov said. "All activities, all actions carried out by both military personnel and units as a whole, consist in the implementation of a single plan. At this time, in the plans of the command, the General Staff, there is no need for our military units to withdraw from the [Severodonetsk] area."