June 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine war

By Rhea Mogul, Hannah Strange, Ivana Kottasová, Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022
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2:38 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Putin: Russia does not stand in way of Ukrainian grain exports

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

Russia is not standing in the way of Ukrainian grain exports, President Vladimir Putin said, calling such accusations a “bluff” in an interview with the state TV channel “Russia-1."

“This is a bluff. And I will explain why. The world produces about 800 million tons of wheat per year. We are told that Ukraine is ready to export 20 million tons. It's only 2.5%,” Putin said in an interview. 

Some background: Leaders around the world have been sounding the alarm as Russia's months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports is increasing the risk of a global food crisis and famine in some parts of the world.

Two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, the prices of key agricultural products produced in the region have skyrocketed. The biggest problem is wheat, a pantry staple. Supplies from Russia and Ukraine, which together account for almost 30% of global wheat trade, are now at risk. Global wheat prices hit an all-time high earlier this week.

At the same time, Russia also appears to be ramping up its efforts to steal large quantities of Ukrainian grain, as CNN has previously reported. Russian forces are also stealing farm equipment and thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers in areas they have occupied, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, multiple sources have told CNN.

Russian units have tightened their grip on parts of the rich agricultural regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, the sources said. Sowing operations in many areas have since been disrupted or abandoned.

“We do not prevent the export of Ukrainian grain. It can be exported through ports that are under the control of Ukraine,” Putin said. 

“But we did not mine the approaches to the ports! Ukraine did. I have already said many times: let them clear the mines and let ships with grain go out,” he said. “We guarantee their passage without any problems."

Ukraine has accused the Russians of placing mines in the Black Sea.

Putin also suggested that the Ukrainian grain should be exported through Belarus, Romania, Hungary, and Poland, but any traffic through Belarus would involve the West lifting sanctions against its government, which is Russia’s closest ally. 

Putin also said that Russia has almost completed demining of the Ukranian ports under its occupation.

"There is another possibility (for the export of grain). These are through the ports of the Sea of Azov - Berdyansk, Mariupol which are under our control. We are ready to ensure the smooth export, including Ukrainian grain, through all these ports,” Putin told “Russia-1” state TV channel. 

“We are already completing mine clearance that Ukrainian troops have mined there. The work is being completed, we will create the necessary logistics," Putin said.

This week, for the first time since the Russian invasion, a merchant ship left Mariupol for the Russian port of Rostov-on-Don.

Putin also said that Russia is ready to increase its own grain exports to 50 million tons in 2022-2023. 

“In the current agricultural year 2021-2022, we will export 37 million tons of grain, and for 2022-2023, I think we will raise this export to 50 million tons,” he said in an interview with a state TV channel. 

2:37 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

In call with NATO chief, Turkish president expressed security concerns about Sweden and Finland's membership

From CNN's Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attends a ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, on June 1.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attends a ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, on June 1. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a phone conversation Friday with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg regarding the request of Sweden and Finland to join NATO. 

President Erdoğan stated that Turkey's security concerns regarding Sweden and Finland's membership requests are based on "legitimate grounds," according to the statement from the Presidency's Communications Directorate,

He also emphasized that both countries should make it clear that they have stopped supporting "terrorism," that they have lifted the sanctions against Turkey, and that they are ready to show alliance solidarity, the statement added.

Stoltenberg also drew attention to the need to meet the expectations of Turkey, an important ally, it said.

Turkey, which joined the alliance three years after it was established in 1949 and has the group's second-largest army, has said it won't support the membership bids unless its demands are met.

Erdoğan accused the two countries of harboring members of the separatist militant Kurdistan's Workers Party, also known as PKK.

The PKK, which seeks an independent state in Turkey, has been in an armed struggle with that country for decades and has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.

12:47 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

French citizen killed in Ukraine, according to foreign ministry

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Camille Knight in Paris

A French man has died during fighting in Ukraine, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.

The statement offered condolences to the man's family.

“We would like to recall that Ukraine, in its entirety, is a war zone. In this context, it is formally discouraged to go to Ukraine, whatever the reason,” the statement added.

The foreign ministry didn’t specify details on why the man was in Ukraine or when and where exactly he was killed.

He is the second French citizen killed in the war in Ukraine in less than one week. French journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was killed in eastern Ukraine on Monday.

3:09 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Putin and African Union chair discuss grain crisis during meeting in Sochi, according to Kremlin

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, who is also chair of the African Union, discussed the ongoing food and grain crisis, as well as economic and humanitarian cooperation, during a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi on Friday, according to the Kremlin. 

During the meeting, which took place at Putin's Sochi residence of Bocharov Ruchei, Putin told the AU chair that "Africa's political role in the international arena, in general, is growing" and "we believe that Africa as a whole and its individual states, with which we traditionally have very good, without any exaggeration, friendly relations, have great prospects."

"On this basis we intend to further develop our relations with Africa as a whole and with its individual states," Putin said, according to a transcript by the Kremlin. 

Sall told Putin "we have high hopes for our cooperation, including bilateral cooperation between Russia and the African continent, but we are also here today to talk about the crisis and its consequences," according to a transcript by the Kremlin. 

"As you know, a number of countries voted in favor of resolutions within the United Nations, and it should be noted that the position of the African continent is very diverse and, despite great pressure, many countries still did not condemn Russia's position," Sall said. 

"We have really high hopes, and I came here today to tell you that even countries very far from the site of the ongoing conflict are experiencing its consequences," Sall said. 

Sall also said that sanctions against Russia have further exacerbated the situation, as they have halted access to grains, and especially wheat, from Russia.

Sall said he hopes the AU and Russia can work together on resolving those issues, as they have "consequences for food security in Africa."

9:37 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Russians are assembling larger force for new assault on Sloviansk, Ukraine's military says

From CNN's Tim Lister

A woman walks amongst the destruction in Sloviansk, Ukraine, on June 1.
A woman walks amongst the destruction in Sloviansk, Ukraine, on June 1. (Andriy Andriyenko/AP)

The Ukrainian military says Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to Sloviansk as they prepare to resume an offensive toward the eastern city.

Neighboring Kramatorsk is the largest urban area in Donetsk still under Ukrainian control. 

The General Staff said Friday the Russians are concentrating a force of up to 20 battalion tactical groups in the area. The Russians had tried to launch an attack on two towns north and northwest of Sloviansk — Barvinkove and Sviatohirsk — but had been unsuccessful, the General Staff said.

It's unclear whether the Russians have taken further territory to the east of Sloviansk after winning control of the town of Lyman late last month. The Ukrainian side says Russian forces have used artillery in two areas closer to Sloviansk — Shchurove and Brusivka.

In Severodonetsk, the General Staff said battles continue: "Under cover of artillery fire, the [Russians] stormed residential areas in the eastern part of the city. [The enemy] has partial success." 

But the Russians had made no headway in their efforts to advance on other settlements in the pocket of territory that Ukrainian forces continue to defend — that includes Bakhmut, Soledar and Lysychansk. Once again, the General Staff said, the Russians had tried to cross the Siverskiy Donets River and "to create conditions for its crossing by the main forces of the force."

The river has proven to be a major barrier to Russian forces.

Fighting has picked up north of Kharkiv, where Ukrainian forces have regained territory in recent weeks. The General Staff reported that Russian forces were trying to "restrain the advance of our troops in the direction of the State Border. [The enemy] continued to fire on units of the Defense Forces using aircraft, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, mortars and tanks."

Russian action included an airstrike by Mi-8 helicopters at the positions of Ukrainian troops in the areas of the settlements of Slatyne and Dementiivka, rural settlements north of Kharkiv.

This post has been updated.

12:33 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

2 journalists injured and driver killed near Severodonetsk

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Two Reuters journalists were injured when they came under fire near the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, a Reuters spokesperson confirmed to CNN in a statement Friday. 

The driver of the vehicle they were traveling in was killed, the spokesperson said. 

“In the course of a reporting trip, two Reuters journalists sustained minor injuries when they came under fire while enroute to Sevierodonetsk. They were traveling in a vehicle provided by the Russian-backed separatists and driven by an individual assigned by the separatists. The driver of the vehicle was killed," the Reuters spokesperson said. 

"Reuters extends its deepest sympathies to the family of the driver for their loss,” the spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson didn't provide additional details about the incident.

The city of Severodonetsk, in Ukraine's Luhansk region, has seen some of the heaviest shelling in recent days. The Ukrainian military said Friday shelling of defensive positions continues and has reported Russian airstrikes in the area. 

11:47 a.m. ET, June 3, 2022

OSCE members call for another fact-finding mission into human rights abuses and war crimes in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler:

People shovel soil into an open grave in Buch on April 20 after Russian forces had retreated from the city.
People shovel soil into an open grave in Buch on April 20 after Russian forces had retreated from the city. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Forty-five member states in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have once again called for a fact-finding mission into human rights abuses, war crimes and potential crimes against humanity being committed in Ukraine.

This is the second time the Moscow Mechanism — the OSCE's procedure to investigate human rights abuses — has been invoked since Russia's war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

In a statement Thursday, French OSCE Permanent Representative Christine Fages said, the 45 member states "request that the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) inquire of Ukraine whether it would invite a new mission of experts to consider, follow up and build upon the findings of the Moscow Mechanism report received by OSCE participating States on 12 April."

"We also request that ODIHR provide any relevant information or documentation derived from any new mission to other appropriate accountability mechanisms, as well as national, regional, or international courts or tribunals that have, or may in future have, jurisdiction," she said.

The April 12 report found "clear patterns" of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in Ukraine and detailed numerous incidents that it says could constitute war crimes.

The report says it found "credible evidence" suggesting violations of "even the most fundamental human rights (right to life, prohibition of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment) have been committed, mostly in the areas under the effective control of Russia or entities under overall control of Russia."

In a statement at the OSCE at the time, US Ambassador Michael Carpenter said that "taken as a whole, the report documents the catalog of inhumanity perpetrated by Russia's forces in Ukraine." 

The 110-page report was the result of a three-week-long fact-finding mission by the three OSCE experts, and covered the time period from the start of the war on February 24 to April 1. 

11:33 a.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Biden says it's up to Ukraine whether it should cede territory

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Joe Biden speaks on Friday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
President Joe Biden speaks on Friday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

US President Joe Biden said it was up to Ukraine when asked whether the nation needs to cede part of its territory to achieve peace and end the Russian invasion, telling reporters Friday that “I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.”

“From the beginning, I’ve said — and not everyone’s agreed with me — nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do,” Biden said in Rehoboth, Delaware. 

Biden did add that it “appears” at some point there will need to be a “settlement” between the two countries, adding “what that entails, I don’t know.”

Biden said that in the meantime, the United States will continue to put Ukrainians in a position where they can defend themselves.

10:14 a.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Chef José Andrés says Ukrainian ports need to be opened to prevent global food shortages

Chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, told CNN that the war in Ukraine is not only a fight for freedom, but also a battle to prevent hunger around the globe.

"Ukraine will have food to feed its people. The big question is if we don't have Ukraine to win this war and to make sure that ports like Odesa are open again, what we're going to have is a big food shortage around the world," he said from Kyiv.

Russia has implemented a blockade of Ukrainian ports, and there are more than 20 million tons of grain that are currently stuck inside Ukraine.

Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department, and the United Nations’ program to fight food insecurity buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year.

"I think we're going to see bigger and bigger number, especially if all the grain that I've seen around Ukraine in the silos, that needs to reach faraway places in Africa and other parts of the world that are dependent on the grain that Ukraine produces. This is not only a war for freedom and democracy of the Ukrainian people, this is also a fight to make sure many around the globe will be able to eat in the coming months," Andrés said.

Andrés said a potential food crisis has already been compounded by issues from hurricanes and drought around the world over the past year.

"If we don't think about food in the same way we think about people, the economy, fuel, we are going to be up for a big problem in the year 2023," he said.

He said he and his team were able to bring food through the Danube River, but there is not enough capacity to have multiple grain ships there. He called on democracies around the world to help open all the Ukrainian ports to ship grain.