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June 10, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

New video shows Ukraine destroy Russian rocket launcher with US-provided weapon
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What we covered

  • Intense fighting continues in the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country’s forces are “holding on” to frontline cities in Donbas.
  • The city of Mariupol is at risk of a cholera outbreak while Kherson faces a shortage of medicine, according to a new UK intelligence report. Drinking water, internet connection and phone services remain inconsistent in Russian-occupied territories, the report said.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin compared himself to Peter the Great, likening the 17th-century monarch’s conquest of Sweden to his own invasion of Ukraine. Putin argued that Peter the Great was not conquering, but rather fighting over territory that rightfully belonged to Russia. 
  • The British government has condemned the death sentences of three men — two Britons and a Moroccan — by a pro-Russian court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
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27 Posts

Follow the latest news on Russia’s war in Ukraine here and read more about today’s developments in the posts below. 

Ukrainian officials strongly condemn "sham trial" of foreign combatants in pro-Russian Donetsk

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday strongly condemned the “sham trial” of the three foreign prisoners of war who have been accused of being mercenaries and sentenced to death by a court in the pro-Russian so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

DPR authorities have said the three individuals — British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune — were foreign fighters who had been captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol by Russian forces in April. 

Russian state media said the three prisoners have a month to appeal their convictions before being executed.

Kuleba tweeted on Friday, “As combatants, they are protected by international humanitarian law and must be treated accordingly,” adding that Ukraine will keep working with the UK to ensure their release.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova also commented on the plight of the men Friday, saying, “these people are the military who have the status of combatants. They took part in the theatre of war quite legally. We call them combatants. The Geneva Convention fully covers them.” 

Condemning the trial of the men as “showing the faces of very wild, dark tribes,” Venediktova said, “civilized people do not do that.” 

Venediktova said she cannot report all the information regarding what is being done to save the lives of the three men and bring them back safely to Ukraine, but she said the Ukrainian government is doing everything under its authority to free them.

Mariupol mayor: Russia demolished 1,300 high-rise buildings in city without removing dead bodies of residents 

Russian forces occupying the ruined Ukrainian city of Mariupol have demolished 1,300 high-rise apartment buildings without carefully removing hundreds of dead bodies buried under the rubble, Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol Vadym Boychenko said on Friday.

Speaking on the city council’s Telegram, Boychenko — who has fled Mariupol for Ukrainian controlled territory — said people remaining inside the city have told him, “Initially, the occupiers involved Mariupol residents in dismantling the rubble carefully.”

But Boychenko said when the Russians saw the actual number of bodies found under the rubble, they immediately moved the local residents away from the area.

“The real number of bodies under the rubble of destroyed houses is frightening. Almost 50 to 100 people were killed under almost every destroyed house, and 1,300 high-rise buildings were destroyed in Mariupol,” Boychenko said

Boychenko said that because demolition of buildings has been carried out indiscriminately, the bodies of Mariupol residents killed in the fighting have been removed to landfill together with the concrete rubble.

On May 25, an adviser to the mayor, Petro Andriushchenko — who has also moved to Ukrainian-held territory — told CNN that Mariupol town hall officials believe at least 22,000 residents of the city were killed during three months of war. 

Mayor Boychenko on Friday said “Unfortunately, the real numbers of those killed in the city may be much higher than we reported.

CNN is unable to independently verify the number of people killed in Mariupol, with the free press now unable to access the city and those still inside too scared to speak openly.

The Ukrainian presidency has described the number of civilians killed in the city as being in the “tens of thousands.”

France: 3 foreigners sentenced to death "must be treated under the respect of international humanitarian law" 

Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Brahim Saadoune, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, on June 9.

France said late Friday it was “extremely concerned” by the death sentences of three men — two Britons and one Moroccan — who were volunteer fighters for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

In a statement, the French Foreign Ministry described their trial as a “sham” and that the three foreigners “must be treated under the respect of international humanitarian law.”

France also called “on Russia and its proxies in Ukraine to respect their obligations in that regard.”

A court in the pro-Russian, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) sentenced Moroccan citizen Brahim Saadoune and British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner to death on Thursday after accusing them of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine.

Biden blames Russia's war in Ukraine for continued high inflation

US President Joe Biden reacted to Friday’s Consumer Price Index report revealing continued high inflation, promising that fighting inflation is his “top economic priority” while also blaming the continued high prices on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

“Even as we continue our work to defend freedom in Ukraine, we must do more—and quickly—to get prices down here in the United States,” Biden said in a statement. 

After releasing the statement, Biden made remarks at the Port of Los Angeles, where he was pausing from a regional summit to address inflation.

“Even as we continue our work to defend freedom in Ukraine, we must do more — and quickly — to get prices down here in the United States,” Biden said in a statement. 

“Today’s inflation report confirms what Americans already know. Putin’s price hike is hitting Americans hard,” he said.

Biden used similar language in a released statement:

“Putin’s Price Hike hit hard in May here and around the world: high gas prices at the pump, energy, and food prices accounted for around half of the monthly price increases, and gas pump prices are up by $2 a gallon in many places since Russian troops began to threaten Ukraine,” according to the statement.  

He also called out oil and gas companies in the statement and urged them not to take “excessive profit.”

“Prices at the pump are a major part of inflation, and the war in Ukraine is a major cause of that. The United States is on track to produce a record amount of oil next year, and I am working with the industry to accelerate this output. But it is also important that the oil and gas and refining industries in this country not use the challenge created by the war in Ukraine as a reason to make things worse for families with excessive profit taking or price hikes,” Biden said in the statement. 

And after he concluded his speech in Los Angeles, Biden went after major US oil companies for not helping bring down the price of gas.

“We’re going to make sure everyone knows Exxon’s profits,” he said. “Exxon made more money than God last year,” he said. 

He criticized the companies for not using the thousands of acres of land where they already have leases to drill more oil.

“They’re not drilling,” he said. “Why aren’t [they] drilling? Because they make more money not producing more oil. The price goes up, number one. And number two, the reason they’re not drilling is they’re buying back their own stock, buying back their own stock, and making no new investments.”

Biden also asked Congress to pass legislation to help Americans struggling with higher prices. 

“I call on Congress to pass a bill to cut shipping costs this month, and get it to my desk, so we can lower the price of goods,” Biden said in the statement. 

Russia "deliberately using starvation as a weapon," Germany's agriculture minister says

Cem Özdemir speaks at a press conference in Berlin on June 7.

By blocking Ukrainian ports, Russia is “deliberately using starvation as a weapon,” German Agricultural Minister Cem Özdemir said on Friday.

It is “a particularly disgusting kind of warfare that Russia is engaged in,“ Özdemir told CNN’s affiliate N-TV during a visit to Kyiv on Friday. “Alternative routes cost an insane amount of money,” he added.

Özdemir discussed alternative ways to export grain from Ukraine with his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Solskyi.

“It would be kamikaze for Ukraine to rely on Putin’s word without credible, effective military guarantees that the security of Ukrainian ports and ships is assured,” Özdemir said.

“I would not trust Putin’s word in any way; he has proven to be a notorious liar,” Özdemir told N-TV. 

Some background: In normal times, Ukraine would export around three-quarters of the grain it produces. According to data from the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped by sea, from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Russia is currently blocking maritime access to the Black Sea ports held by Ukraine, meaning that even the grain that is still under Ukrainian control cannot be exported to the many countries that rely on it.

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, according to the United Nations.

Separately, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach participated in a donor conference for the construction of a rehabilitation center for the war-disabled on Friday in Lviv. Germany will support container workshops for the manufacture of prosthetic limbs. 

Lauterbach said about 200 German doctors were ready to help in surgery and trauma therapy in Ukraine.

“It is upsetting to see how much this country is suffering from a war of aggression that borders on barbarism,” Lauterbach said. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not visited Ukraine. After German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was refused a visit to Kyiv by Ukrainian authorities over Germany’s hesitance to send military aid to Ukraine, Scholz had rejected to travel to Ukraine so far. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Bucha and Kyiv on May 10.

CNN’s Ivana Kottasová contributed reporting to this post.

EU membership candidate Serbia must support sanctions against Russia, German chancellor says

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, shakes hands with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic after a joint press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on Friday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he expects sanctions against Russia to be supported by all countries applying for EU membership, including Serbia. 

“It is a terrible, a senseless war that has been started for an imperialist vision of Russia. That is why it is so important that the European Union, and all of us, stand in solidarity with Ukraine and help it defend itself against this attack,“ Scholz told Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during a joint news conference in Belgrade on Friday.

“It is clear that an agreement must also ultimately clarify the question of Kosovo’s recognition, because it is inconceivable that two countries that do not recognize each other will become members of the EU,“ Scholz said during an earlier joint news conference with Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Pristina on Friday. 

“Today I ask both sides once again for a clear commitment to this dialogue. Everyone must approach each other, as difficult as it sometimes is,“ he added. Vucic has rejected “threats“ and “pressure“ against Serbia when it comes to the recognition and dialogue with Kosovo. 

Remember: Kosovo and Serbia are both aspiring EU membership. Scholz said the EU council will make a decision on Ukraine’s accelerated EU accession after the recommendation of the EU commission.

Macron could visit Ukraine after EU decision on Ukraine candidacy, Élysée source says

French President Emmanuel Macron could make his first visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion after the European Union decides at the end of June on Kyiv’s application to join the union, an Élysée Palace source told journalists at a briefing on Friday.

“We are waiting for the commission to give us its opinion. The decision could be to give Ukraine candidate status,” the source said.

“We will define the time of the visit according to these parameters,” the source added.

The Élysée source emphasized that Macron wants to visit Ukraine in a way most useful to the country.

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, many Western leaders have visited the country, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. But Macron has yet to visit Kyiv, despite the active role he has played throughout the crisis.

Macron was recently slammed by Ukrainian leaders for remarks in which he said “we must not humiliate Russia” in order to pursue diplomacy.

Former US President Barack Obama says "human costs will continue to mount" in Russia-Ukraine war

Former President Barack Obama speaks during the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Friday.

Former US President Barack Obama said the human costs in Russia’s war on Ukraine will “continue to mount.”

During the town hall event, he said Ukraine needs to remain strong until this conflict comes to an end.

“But we’ve also witnessed the Ukrainian peoples’ heroic resistance to Russian aggression. They’ve united to defend not just their sovereignty, but their democratic identity, and have rallied much of the world behind the values of self-determination and human dignity,” he said. 

He noted that what Putin is doing in Ukraine is not an isolated incident and commented on the parallels of what is happening in Russia, to what is happening within the United States.

“On every continent, we are seeing democratic backsliding … So if we want democracy to flourish, we will have to fight for it, nurture it, and demonstrate its value in improving the lives of ordinary people,” he said.

Obama praised countries for opening their arms to Ukrainian refugees and touched upon Finland and Sweden’s desire to join NATO

“Because of this courage and solidarity, Vladimir Putin is failing to achieve his aims inside of Ukraine and beyond … Russia is cut off from resources and revenue, and many of its best and brightest have left – a blow to its present and future,” he added.

McDonald’s replacement in Russia will open Sunday on Russia Day

Russia on Sunday plans to open its own fast-food restaurants replacing the iconic McDonald’s, a spokesperson for the new managing firm Sistema PBO told CNN Friday. 

The first 15 restaurants of the chain will open in Moscow and the surrounding region on June 12, she said, adding that “in the near future, openings of other points throughout Russia will follow.”

According to the press office, the new name of the chain and plans for the future will be announced later.

The company’s new logo shared with CNN has “the main symbols of the restaurant” depicted on it — what is supposed to be two sticks of yellow fries and an orange burger. The green background, the press office told CNN, symbolizes “the quality of products and service that guests are accustomed to.”

On Sunday, Russia will also celebrate its national day, originally known as Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty.

McDonald’s decided to leave the country and sell its Russia business following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in line with many other Western businesses.

Ukraine believes Russia can continue war "at its current pace" for a year 

Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate believes that Russia can continue the conflict for another year, warning that Ukraine is significantly outgunned on the frontlines. 

“The Kremlin leadership probably will try to freeze the war for a while in order to convince the West to lift sanctions, but then continue the aggression,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s Main Intelligence Directorate said via Telegram. “Russia’s economic resources will allow the occupying country to continue the war at its current pace for another year.”

“Ukraine has one artillery piece to 10 to 15 Russian artillery pieces,” Vadym Skibitsky of the Main Intelligence Directorate said in an interview with The Guardian, and distributed by the Main Intelligence Directorate. “Therefore everything now depends on what weapon the Western partners give us.”

Nonetheless, he said that Ukraine believes that Russia is running out of modern weaponry.

“We have noticed that Russia is carrying out far fewer missile attacks and it has used Kh-22 missiles,” Skibitsky said. “They are old 1970s Soviet missiles. This shows that Russia is running low on high-precision missiles.”

UK defense secretary vows to work "even more closely" with Ukraine during visit to Kyiv

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, right, who made an unannounced visit to Kyiv this week, agreed to work “even more closely” with Ukraine during meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who made an unannounced visit to Kyiv this week, agreed to work “even more closely” with Ukraine during meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.

“The three agreed to work even more closely going forward in support of their shared goal of enabling Ukraine to liberate itself from illegal Russian occupation,” according to a UK Ministry of Defence press release. “They also discussed the range of equipment and training the UK is currently providing and what further support we can offer to help Ukrainian forces to defend their country.”

It is unclear when the meeting took place. The defense ministry said that the two-day trip took place “this week,” and Zelensky posted video of the meeting on his official Telegram channel on Friday afternoon.

Zelensky told Wallace during the meeting that “war is a great manifestation of who our true friends are,” and that the UK had proven itself to be one.

“I am very grateful for such a truly united work. These words are constantly moving into action, and this is a very important difference between Ukraine’s relations with the UK and other countries,” Zelensky said. “Weapons, finances, sanctions are three things in which the United Kingdom has consistently shown its leadership.”

The British readout said that the meetings focused on how the UK could continue to provide “operationally effective lethal aid that meets the current and future threats facing Ukraine” as the war “enters a different phase.”

Russian Central Bank cuts interest rates for second time in 2 months

Russia’s Central Bank has cut interest rates for the second time in two months, reducing rates to 9.5% down from 11%. The bank said inflation is slowing faster than expected.

The bank also said “the decline in economic activity” is smaller than it forecast in April, though it added that the economic environment remains “challenging.” It comes after the bank cut rates from 14% to 11% on May 26. 

The central bank said inflation in Russia is currently 17%, compared to forecasts of 17.8% in April. It now predicts that the rate will drop to between 5% and 7% in 2023 and return to 4% in 2024.

The decline is “largely due to a correction in prices for a small group of goods and services, after they went up sharply in March,” according to the bank. It said that fall is in part due to a rise in the Russian ruble.

Some background: Rates were hiked as high as 20% in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February as the bank tried to prevent Western sanctions triggering a financial crisis.

The ruble crashed to a record low to the US dollar in the wake of the invasion as the West froze about half of Russia’s $600 billion foreign currency reserves. Hundreds of multinational companies have quit the country, and Russia has been banned from buying key Western technology and services.

Russia’s currency has since rebounded, propped up by capital controls aimed at forcing businesses and investors to buy rubles, plus soaring global energy prices.

But Russia’s economy is hardly on a solid footing. Capital controls and emergency reserves can last only so long, and a possible default looms. The Kremlin claimed on May 31 that Russia has the money and a willingness to pay its debt so there was no objective reason for a default.

CNN’s Mark Thompson and Clare Sebastian contributed reporting to this post.

UN “concerned” by the death sentences of the three foreign fighters in Donetsk

The United Nations says it is “concerned” by the death sentences of the three foreigners in Donetsk, adding that “according to the Chief Command of Ukraine, all men were part of Ukrainian armed forces and, if the case, should not be considered as mercenaries.”

Responding to reporters during a press briefing in Geneva Friday, UN Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said: “The UN Human Rights Office is concerned that on 9 June, the so-called ‘supreme court’ of self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ sentenced to death three servicemen from Ukrainian armed forces, but citizens of foreign countries, captured in Mariupol, for being mercenaries and for the attempted seizure of power in the so-called ‘republic’.”

A court in the pro-Russian, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) sentenced Moroccan citizen Brahim Saadoune and British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner to death on Thursday, after accusing them of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine.

Shamdasani said that since 2015 the UN has observed that “the so-called ‘judiciary’ in self-proclaimed ‘republics’ has not complied with essential fair trial guarantees, such as public hearing, independence and impartiality of the court and the right not to be compelled to testify.”

“Such trials against prisoners of war amount to a war crime. In the case of the use of the death penalty, fair trial guarantees are all the more important,” Shamdasani said.

Putin’s statement on Peter the Great proves "bloody seizure under contrived pretexts," says Ukrainian official

A Ukrainian official on Friday responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that like Peter the Great, his fate was to “take back and fortify” what was rightfully Russia’s land.

“Putin’s confession of land seizures and comparing himself with Peter the Great prove: there was no ‘conflict,’ only the country’s bloody seizure under contrived pretexts of people’s genocide,” Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the Ukrainian President, said via Twitter.

“We should not talk about ‘saving [Russia’s] face,’ but about its immediate de-imperialization,” he said.

Podolyak was likely referring to French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks last week that the world “must not humiliate Russia,” to enable diplomatic talks.

Putin on Thursday argued that Peter the Great was not conquering, but rather fighting over territory that rightfully belonged to Russia.

“Why did he [Peter the Great] go there? He took back and fortified. And it looks like our fate is to “take back and fortify” too.”

In an interview broadcast on the BBC Thursday, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya insisted that “the aims of the operation were announced publicly.” “It was neutrality of Ukraine, demilitarization and Nazification of the country. And the liberation of Donbas was the primary goal, which is being implemented at the moment,” he said, repeating Russia’s claims to justify its invasion.

It's 3 p.m. in Ukraine. Catch up here

The battle for the city of Severodonetsk continues to rage on, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says its forces are “holding on” to key frontline cities in Donbas, namely Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Severodonetsk: Street fighting continues in the eastern city, with no major changes reported in the past day, according to Ukrainian officials. The head of the Severodonetsk district military administration said the situation is “very tense.”
  • Potential cholera outbreak: The city of Mariupol is at risk of a major cholera outbreak as Russia struggles to provide basic services amid deteriorating sanitary conditions in the city, according to a UK intelligence report published on Friday. Kherson also “likely faces a critical shortage of medicines,” according to the report.
  • Condemnation of death sentences: World leaders have criticized a pro-Russian court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic for sentencing three men — a Moroccan citizen and two British citizens — to death on Thursday after they were accused of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine. The UN said it is “concerned” by the death sentences, while the Ukrainian and British governments are calling for them to be entitled to treatment as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
  • “Peter the Great”: Russian President Vladimir Putin compared himself favorably to Peter the Great, a Russian monarch from the late 17th century. Putin drew parallels to Peter the Great’s conquest of Sweden — saying that the monarch was not conquering but rather fighting over territory that rightfully belonged to Russia — to justify the current invasion of Ukraine. 
  • Constant fire: The city of Kryvyi Rih, located in the central part of Ukraine, has been under constant fire by Russian forces. Villages and towns in the are “littered with cluster munitions due to shelling,” leaving a trail of gas, electricity and water supply problems as well.
  • Ukraine sanctions Putin: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday signed a decree imposing personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking officials. The restrictions include blocking assets, banning entry to Ukraine, and the cancellation or suspension of licenses and permits.
  • Slashed harvest: Next year’s harvest in Ukraine could be cut by up to 40% due to the ongoing Russian invasion, Ukraine’s Agrarian Policy and Food Deputy Minister Taras Vysotskyi told CNN Thursday.

Why are politicians calling for the foreign volunteers sentenced to death in the DPR to be treated as prisoners of war?

Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, on June 9.

The death sentences handed down Thursday by a court in the pro-Russian, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) to three British and Moroccan volunteers in the Ukrainian armed forces have drawn condemnation from politicians who insist they must be treated as prisoners of war.

British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune – were foreign fighters who had been captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol by Russian forces in April, according to DPR authorities.

The court in the DPR accused them of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

However, the Ukrainian government said in a statement on Wednesday that it considers all foreign volunteers to be members of its armed forces and to be lawful combatants entitled to treatment as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also said “they are prisoners of war,” and that the ruling was “a sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy.”

A spokesperson for British leader Boris Johnson said Friday that the Prime Minister was was “appalled” at the sentencing.

“We completely condemn the sham sentencing of these men to death. There’s no justification at all for this breach of the protection they’re entitled to,” the spokesperson said.

According to the 1949 Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are “members of the armed forces of a party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps,” or “members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps” who meet certain conditions, including: carrying arms openly; acting within the laws and customs of war; “being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;” and having “a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance.”

Some context: Russia is the only country that considers the DPR independent. The DPR government is not an internationally recognized government; therefore, the court’s decisions are not considered legitimate by the international community. Independent watchdog groups have long accused the separatists of a dismal human rights record and ill-treatment of prisoners.

Battle for Severodonetsk not substantially changed, street fighting continues, Ukrainian officials say

Black smoke and dirt rise above city of Severodonetsk during the battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas on June 9.

Intense fighting is ongoing for control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, with no major changes reported in the past day, according to Ukrainian officials.

“The situation in Severodonetsk is very tense,” Roman Vlasenko, head of the Severodonetsk district military administration, told Ukrainian national television.

“Fighting continues, street fighting continues. The dynamics are very great. The Russians are heavily using artillery. They have a certain advantage in terms of artillery, in terms of personnel. But they have no real success. They can’t beat the guys out of Severodonetsk.”

Vlasenko said that the Ukrainian military in Severodonetsk was “confident” in their defense.

On Wednesday, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Serhiy Hayday, said most of the city was now controlled by Russian forces, although Ukrainians had retained control of Severodonetsk’s industrial zone.

Hayday told Ukrainian television Friday that those fighting for Severodonetsk faced difficulty, “but they clearly understand that they are not threatened by encirclement.

“They clearly hold their positions and understand how things are developing,” he said.

In an address on Thursday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, and other cities in Donbas, which the occupiers now consider key targets, are holding on.”

UK report says Russia is struggling to provide basic services in occupied territories of Ukraine

A woman cooks in the yard of a house in the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on June 4.

Russia is struggling to provide basic public services to civilian populations in Russian occupied territories of Ukraine, according to a British intelligence report published on Friday.

The report claims that access to drinking water, internet connection and phone services remain inconsistent, while Kherson “likely faces a critical shortage of medicines” and Mariupol runs the risk of a cholera outbreak. 

Damage and disease: On Tuesday, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor, Petro Andrushenko, warned of a potential cholera outbreak amid deteriorating sanitary conditions in the city. Last week he said that damage done to Mariupol over two months of bombardment was so severe that most basic services including electricity, gas and water were cut off and yet to be restored by Russian-backed authorities. 

Last month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted that many occupied areas remained without electricity, water or sewerage services. 

In late May, Ukrainians in Kherson told CNN about critical shortages of medicine. Deputy head of the Kherson regional council, Yurii Sobolevskyi, said the Russians are “driving the Kherson region into a deeper humanitarian crisis.”

Putin likens himself to Peter the Great, suggests Russia is justified in invading Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin tours the Peter the Great: Birth of the Empire multimedia exhibition in the Russia – My History historic park at VDNKh on June 9. Ivan Yesin, chair of the Russia – My History Association of Historic Parks, left, and Alexander Myasnikov, chief editor of the project, explain the exhibits.

Russian President Vladimir Putin compared himself favorably to Peter the Great, a Russian monarch from the late 17th century, using the likening to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

During a visit Thursday to an exhibition dedicated to the first Russian Emperor, Putin attempted to liken Peter the Great’s conquest of Sweden in the 18th century to his own modern day military invasion of Ukraine. 

In his comments, Putin argued that Peter the Great was not conquering, but rather fighting over territory that rightfully belonged to Russia. 

He went on to draw a parallel to today’s war in Ukraine, suggesting Russia’s recent military actions — where his troops have destroyed Ukrainian cities, and killed thousands of innocent men, women and children — are justified, because Ukraine is not a legitimate sovereign nation, but in fact Russian territory.

Putin continued, adding that European countries didn’t recognize St. Petersburg as Russian at first, equating it to the current situation in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories, including Crimea, that the US and European allies don’t acknowledge as Russian. 

Ukraine is "holding on" to key frontline cities in Donbas, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 9.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the situation in key frontline cities in the Donbas region is the same “without significant changes.”

“We have a certain positive in the Zaporizhzhia region, where we manage to thwart the plans of the occupiers. We are gradually moving forward in the Kharkiv region, liberating our land. We are keeping defense in the Mykolaiv direction.”

Ukraine imposes sanctions on Putin and high-ranking Russian officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow, Russia, on April 26.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday signed a decree imposing personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a presidential decree.

Zelensky also announced sanctions targeting Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and his deputies, all ministers, and Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev.

The newly introduced restrictions include blocking assets, banning entry to Ukraine, and the cancellation or suspension of licenses and permits, according to the decree. The sanctions are being imposed indefinitely.

Ukrainian officials report dozens of civilians killed in Russian shelling

Valentyn Reznichenko, head of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region military administration, says the city of Kryvyi Rih, located in the central part of the country, is now under constant fire from Russian forces.

“The communities of Zelenodolsk and Shyrokiv suffer the most. Unfortunately, six people died there — 179 houses, two schools, a kindergarten and a hospital were destroyed or damaged,” Reznichenko said.

Reznichenko said villages and towns in Kryvyi Rih are “littered with cluster munitions due to shelling” and there is a problem with gas, electricity and water supply.

In Kharkiv: Five people were killed and 14 were injured in Russian attacks, according to Oleh Syniehubov, the head of Khakiv’s regional military administration.

“Today the enemy attacked Kharkiv region, in particular settlements in the northern and northeastern directions,” Syniehubov said, adding that attacks hit residential buildings in Zolochiv.

“Five houses were destroyed. The enemy also struck at Chuhuiv district today,’’ Syniehubov said Thursday in a live question and answer broadcast on Ukrainian national television.

Syniehubov said Ukraine’s armed forces “hold their positions in the northern and northeastern directions.”

Terror on civilians: When asked why the Russian military is shelling civilian infrastructure, even though there are no visible confrontations between Russian and Ukrainian armies in the Kharkiv region at the moment, Syniehubov replied that the Russian forces “concentrated their attention on the terror of the civilian population.” 

Fierce fighting continues in critical city of Severodonetsk, Ukrainian officials say

A damaged building is pictured in Lysychansk as black smoke and dirt rise from the nearby city of Severodonetsk during battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas, on Thursday.

Ukrainian forces said late Thursday that the battle for the city of Severodonetsk continues to rage.

“The situation is consistently difficult. Our defenders are holding the line of defense, leveling the line of defense,” Serhiy Hayday, head of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region military administration, said on national television.

Hayday accused the Russians of using “lies and propaganda” in claiming victory in Severodonetsk. 

While “the Russians had already reported that they had taken the city,” the official said, Russian forces had withdrawn some of their units.

Oleksandr Striuk, head of Severodonetsk’s military administration, said on television on Thursday that there is “constant street fighting.”

“The humanitarian situation in the city is critical. The bridge is under fire, so it is impossible to deliver goods. There is no water supply,” Striuk said.

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces controls approximately one-third of the city now,” he added, saying it will be “very difficult to liberate Severodonetsk [if it falls].” 

Hayday said there are no direct battles in the neighboring city of Lysychansk, but he accused Russian forces of heavily shelling the area. If Russian troops took control of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, it would place all of the Luhansk region under Moscow’s control.

Here’s a look at the areas under Russian control:

Next year’s harvest could be slashed by 40%, Ukrainian agriculture official says

A Ukrainian army officer inspects a grain warehouse earlier shelled by Russian forces on May 6 in Novovorontsovka, Ukraine. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Next year’s harvest in Ukraine could be cut by up to 40% due to the ongoing Russian invasion, Ukraine’s Agrarian Policy and Food Deputy Minister Taras Vysotskyi told CNN Thursday.

“We have lost 25% of the arable area. In terms of volumes, of course, it is more. We anticipate that the harvest will be around 35% less than previous years, which means around 30 million tons less, 35-40% less, almost half of the previous year harvest,” Vysotskyi said.

The deputy minister also said that an estimated 500,000 metric tons of grain have been stolen by Russia in territories controlled by Russian forces.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said issues related to grain exports from Ukraine could be resolved, but Ukraine needs to de-mine the waters to ensure the safe passage of ships.

Vysotskyi said Lavrov’s remarks are not true.

“It’s untrue. The problem is Russian military ships, it’s not the case of Ukraine. So far, they don’t allow safely really to keep the civilian ships move in and out of Ukrainian ports,” he said, noting that until safety guarantees on behalf of international partners are received by Ukraine, “we can’t talk about letting these ships out.”

The mines could be cleared quickly, but for that to happen, the war needs to end or there has to be some form of ceasefire, he added.

“If we receive the victory and the war is ended, of course we can clear it quite quickly,” he said, adding that the process physically is not complicated but it depends on other obstacles including the ongoing war.

“Ukraine is ready to fulfill all the obligations in order to supply necessary food for international food security. So the point is very clear, Russia should stop the war,” he said.

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

UK government is "deeply concerned" by death sentences for British citizens by pro-Russian court

The UK government is “deeply concerned” with the sentencing of British citizens by a pro-Russian court, the British prime minister’s deputy spokesperson said Thursday in a statement to CNN.

A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on Thursday sentenced to death three men — British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune — that it has accused of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

“We’ve said continually that prisoners of war shouldn’t be exploited for political purposes. Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity, and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities,” the British spokesperson said. 

“We will continue to work with Ukrainian authorities to try and secure the release of any British national who was serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and who are being held as prisoners of war,” according to the spokesperson.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday she “utterly condemns” the sentencing of Aslin and Pinner, calling them “prisoners of war.”

“This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy. My thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them,” she said on Twitter.

2 Britons and Moroccan sentenced to death by pro-Russian court in self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic

A court in the pro-Russian self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on Thursday sentenced three men to death that it has accused of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune appeared in court on Thursday, where they were handed down the death penalty. 

The three men — all foreign fighters for the Ukrainian military — were captured by Russian forces in mid-April in Mariupol. 

Saadoune, Aslin and Pinner were sentenced to death and will be shot, according to RIA Novosti’s reporting from the court in Donetsk.

The “head of the judicial board” in Donetsk said that the convicted men “can appeal the decision within a month,” according to RIA Novosti.

One of the defendants’ lawyers, Pavel Kosovan, said his client would appeal the verdict, Russian state media TASS reported.

On Wednesday, Pinner, Aslin and Saadoune pleaded guilty to acts of “seizing power by force,” state media reported at the time.  

“The relevant article of the Criminal Code of the DPR provides for the death penalty,” according to RIA Novosti.

Aslin also pleaded guilty under the article “training in order to carry out terrorist activities,” according to state media.

Some context: The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian area in the east of Ukraine, is not an internationally recognized government; therefore, the court’s decisions are not considered legitimate by the international community.

Go Deeper

Traitor or hero? Ukraine finds it tough to identify Russian collaborators
Russian soldiers smashed up a Ukrainian school. Then they purportedly left messages for pupils urging peace

Go Deeper

Traitor or hero? Ukraine finds it tough to identify Russian collaborators
Russian soldiers smashed up a Ukrainian school. Then they purportedly left messages for pupils urging peace