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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9:26 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Russian blockade could lead to famine in some regions of the world, Ukraine's foreign ministry warns

From CNN's Victoria Butenko and Bex Wright

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian seaports “could lead to a global food crisis and, in some regions, a famine,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Thursday.

“About 22 million tons of grain are stuck in ports and cannot reach consumers, especially in Africa and Asia,” Nikolenko said, 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.

“The Russian army has mined areas of the sea and is constantly trying to break through the defense of Odesa and other coastal cities on the Black Sea,” Nikolenko claimed.

The foreign ministry called on Russia to “withdraw its forces from the territorial waters of Ukraine” and provide security guarantees against attacks on ports and ships.

“We call on countries whose food security may suffer most from Russia's aggression against Ukraine to use their contacts with Moscow to force it to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports and end the war,” Nikolenko said.

Ukraine is also discussing with partners “ways to establish an international mission” under the United Nations to “take over the functioning of maritime routes,” Nikolenko said.

9:25 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Ukrainian and US officials held call about military aid, according to the Ukraine President's Office

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Bex Wright

Senior officials from Ukraine and the United States held a phone call on Wednesday about the new military aid package for Ukraine, according to Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

“Good news. Today, together with the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi, we had a telephone conversation with the US President's national security adviser Jacob Sullivan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley,” Yermak said.

“We discussed a new US military aid package for Ukraine, which includes HIMARS MLRS and ammunition, Mi-17 helicopters, Javelin missiles, tactical vehicles, radars and other ammunition,” he said.

“It's important that this is not the last US aid. We told about the needs of our army to win over Russia,” he added.

“We also discussed future surprises that the enemy definitely will not like,” Yermak said.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov publicly thanked US President Joe Biden and the US military for including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems in the next round of security assistance to Ukraine. In a statement on Wednesday, Biden formally announced the inclusion of the US-made HIMARS as part of the package to Ukraine.

The systems will have a range of about 70 kilometers (44 miles), a US defense official told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, which is further than anything Ukraine has been sent to date. Ukraine had sought longer-range weapons, but the US resisted due to concerns they would be capable of striking Russian territory, thereby potentially escalating the war.

6:05 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

20% of Ukraine is under Russian control, President Zelensky says

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

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.   

Zelensky also said fighting continues along the front line that is stretched over “more than a thousand kilometers” along the territories of Kharkiv region to Mykolaiv in the country’s south. He added Ukraine’s Donbas region is “simply devastated,” calling it “once one of the most powerful industrial centers in Europe.” 

Zelensky claimed that more than 30,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began over three months ago. CNN cannot verify those numbers. “That's greater than the death toll of the Soviet Union in 10 years of war in Afghanistan, greater than Russia’s death toll in two Chechen wars,” according to Zelensky.

In his remarks to the lawmakers, the Ukrainian president urged additional sanctions on Russia, asking for more weapons to support Ukraine’s fight along the front line. The Ukrainian president also invited Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to visit Kyiv and asked for the deputies to support Ukraine’s ambition to join the EU, calling Ukraine a “de facto part of the European Union.” 

Zelensky spoke to chamber on the 99th day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since February, the Ukrainian president has addressed dozens of parliament assemblies and institutions around the world, gathering support for Ukraine.

8:47 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law quit as Putin adviser, Kremlin confirms

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova in London

Valentin Yumashev, right, is seen with his wife Tatyana Yumasheva in Moscow in 2019.
Valentin Yumashev, right, is seen with his wife Tatyana Yumasheva in Moscow in 2019. (Irina Bujor/Kommersant/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP)

The son-in-law of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin has quit his role as an unpaid adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. 

When asked to comment on reports that Valentin Yumashev, who is married to Yeltsin's younger daughter Tatyana Borisovna Yumasheva, no longer serves as an adviser to Putin, Peskov said during a daily call with journalists that “indeed, yes, I can confirm that about a month ago he stopped being a pro bono adviser.”

“In terms of staff, this has been formalized," Peskov added. He also said "it was decided not to publish the document” on the Kremlin's website, which is not required. 

Peskov didn't say why Yumashev has left the post. 

Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin as prime minister in August 1999. When Yeltsin stepped down amid scandal on December 31, 1999, Putin became acting president.

In the intervening years, Putin has remained close to Yeltsin's family. 

Yumashev's daughter, Maria, posted a picture of the Ukrainian flag on February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine with the caption "no to war" and a broken-heart emoji. 

7:42 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Areas of Donetsk region “under constant rocket fire," says Ukrainian official

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll and Bex Wright

Several areas of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine are “under constant rocket fire,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk military administration, on Thursday.

The cities of Bakhmut and Slovyansk are among the areas under bombardment, Kyrylenko said via videolink at a press briefing in Kyiv.

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 that used to live in the region remain.

7:31 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Angela Merkel calls Russia's invasion "barbaric" in first public speech since leaving office

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seen at the farewell to German Trade Union Confederation Chairman Reiner Hoffmann in Berlin on June 1.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seen at the farewell to German Trade Union Confederation Chairman Reiner Hoffmann in Berlin on June 1. (Basil Wegener/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In her first public speech since leaving office in December, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia is waging a "barbaric war of aggression" in Ukraine.

Speaking to 200 people at the farewell ceremony for the outgoing head of a prominent trade union, Merkel said the invasion constitutes blatant breach of international law and ''a profound break'' in the history of Europe after the end of World War II.

''My solidarity is with Ukraine, which was attacked and invaded by Russia, and with supporting its right to self-defense," Merkel said. "Never should we take peace and freedom for granted."

Merkel said that now that she no longer holds office, she will not make political assessments from "the sidelines." She did, however, say that she supports the current efforts by the West -- including her successor, Olaf Scholz -- to find an end to the conflict.

Merkel said that the consequences of the war would be far-reaching, including in terms of human rights.

''Bucha is representative of this horror," she said, referring to the atrocities committed against civilians in the Kyiv suburb.

Merkel said she found a small ray of hope in the tremendous support being given to Ukrainians in neighboring countries such as Poland and Moldova.

7:08 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

It's just past 2 p.m in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

A woman inspects damage from an overnight missile strike in Sloviansk, Ukraine, on June 1.
A woman inspects damage from an overnight missile strike in Sloviansk, Ukraine, on June 1. (Andriy Andriyenko/AP)

Russia has taken control of most of the eastern city of Severodonetsk despite a series of counterattacks by Ukrainian forces, while at least seven people have been killed in Russian strikes on targets across Ukraine in the past 24 hours.

Here are the latest updates on Russia's war in 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.
  • Hundreds sheltering in chemical factory: Around 800 people are hiding in several Soviet-era bomb shelters underneath the Azot chemical factory in Severodonetsk, which has been targeted by Russian missile attacks, Hayday told CNN on Thursday.
  • Russian strikes across Ukraine: At least seven people have been killed and 26 more injured in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian officials said Thursday. In addition to attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces fired on targets in Mykolaiv in the south, Sumy in the northeast and Lviv in the west.
  • Ukrainian children sent to Russia: Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky says more than 200,000 Ukrainian children have been forcibly taken to Russia since the start of the war. The aim is “to steal people” and “make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return," he said. Meanwhile, Russian state news agency TASS reported that 1.6 million people from Ukraine and breakaway republics in the Donbas region have crossed into Russia since the start of the Kremlin’s invasion.
  • Ukrainian first lady rules out giving up territory to Russia: Conceding territory to Russia would be “conceding a freedom” and would not end President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, said Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska. “Ukrainians can’t take normally all those statements that we are sometimes hearing from leaders of countries — in some cases the leaders of big and influential countries," Zelenska said during an interview with ABC News previewed on Thursday. "You can’t just concede parts of your territory, it’s like conceding a freedom.”
  • Ukrainian football team one game away from World Cup: Ukraine's mens national football team will qualify for the World Cup in Qatar if they can beat Wales in Cardiff on Sunday. The team beat Scotland 3-1 on Wednesday night.
2:37 p.m. ET, June 2, 2022

Hundreds of people hiding in bomb shelters under chemical plant in Severodonetsk

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Bex Wright

Around 800 people are hiding in several bomb shelters underneath the Azot chemical factory in Severodonetsk, which has been targeted by Russian missile attacks, said Serhiy Hayday, the head of Luhansk region military administration.

Hayday told CNN Thursday that local residents have sought shelter in the Soviet-era bomb shelters under the factory.

“There are locals there, who were asked to leave the city,” Hayday said. “But they refused. There are also children there, but not many of them.”

In a separate update on Thursday, regional Ukrainian officials said the Russians have again fired on Azot factory and “hit one of the administrative buildings and a warehouse where methanol was stored,” although it’s unclear how much methanol remained there.

The Ukrainians still maintain control of the Severodonetsk industrial zone, the statement said, one of the remaining parts of the city Russia has not taken.

"Most" of Severodonetsk, one of the last cities to hold out in Luhansk, has been taken by Russia, Hayday said earlier.

Hayday said a Russian airstrike hit a tank of nitric acid at the Azot factory on Tuesday. Images that day showed a thick orange-colored cloud of smoke rising from the area. But Hayday said the people sheltering under the factory were not in danger.

“Thank God nothing threatened the people,” Hayday told CNN on Thursday. “As (the cloud) went up and moved at once, there’s no deadly danger.”

Hayday said that the factory is privately-owned, and the owners say there are only small amounts of chemicals left at the plant.

Hayday added that the factory is not significant from a military point of view, therefore “Azot is definitely not Azovstal” -- referring to the steel plant in Mariupol which Russia took after a weeks-long siege.

6:44 a.m. ET, June 2, 2022

More than 1.6 million people have crossed into Russia from Ukraine, Russian state media reports

From CNN's Anna Chernova

More than 1.6 million people from Ukraine and breakaway republics in the Donbas region have crossed into Russia since the start of the Kremlin’s invasion, Russian state news agency TASS reported Thursday, citing a law enforcement source.

"As of Wednesday morning, more than 1.6 million people, including almost 263,000 children, crossed the border," said the source.

CNN cannot independently confirm the number of border crossings, but the numbers are similar to official Ukrainian estimates.

Earlier Thursday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of pursuing a “consistent criminal policy of deporting [Ukrainian] people” into mostly remote areas of Russia, adding that more than 200,000 children had been taken to Russia so far.

The aim is “to steal people” and “make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return," said Zelensky. 

According to TASS, 33,000 people, including 11,000 children, are currently being kept in 559 temporary accommodation centers across Russia.

The rest “have been placed with relatives and privately," it added.

Four sources familiar with the latest Western intelligence assessments told CNN in late May that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have now been processed through a series of “filtration camps” in eastern Ukraine.

They were then sent across the border to Russia as part of a systemized program of forced removal and resettlement, the sources said.

Some context: In April a CNN investigation revealed that Russian forces and allied separatist soldiers were taking residents of the city of Mariupol to a so-called “filtration center” set up in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia, many against their will.

At the time, Mariupol's city council accused Russian forces of bringing Ukrainians to these centers as part of a broader effort to cover up potential war crimes by "destroying" potential witnesses.  

Zelensky has also alleged that Ukrainians have been forced to move to Russia.

"Their documents and means of communication are confiscated,” he said on May 6.   

According to Michael Carpenter, US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the practice "would be in violation of international humanitarian law, and a war crime if people were forcibly being displaced from Ukraine to Russia.”