Ukrainian official: Luhansk region not in complete Russian control yet
From CNN's Karen Smith
The eastern Luhansk region has not yet been completely occupied by Russian forces and fighting continues in a settlement on the outskirts of the region, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, Serhiy Hayday said on Wednesday.
Russian forces have suffered “enormous losses” in equipment and personnel, according to Hayday. Russian forces have been trying to take control of the Luhansk region for more than four months.
He added hospitals in the occupied area of the region are full of Russian soldiers who are severely wounded.
Hayday also said he believes Russian forces are trying to develop an offensive against the cities of Sloviansk and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
5:52 p.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Up to 8,000 people remain in Severodonetsk as conditions deteriorate, Ukrainian official says
From CNN's Karen Smith
Approximately 7,000 to 8,000 people remain in the eastern city of Severodonetsk but in the near future they will live in “awful conditions” with no water, gas or power supply, Oleksandr Striuk, the head of the military administration of Severodonetsk, said Wednesday.
Russian forces destroyed the material base of housing and utility services in this key city in the Donbas region, and they are looking for staff to help restore them but almost no staff members remain in Severodonetsk, according to Striuk.
Many utility and city workers had been evacuated previously, Striuk said.
He added that Russian forces who now occupy the city are working on organizing the Education Department for children to go back to school starting on Sept. 1.
12:02 p.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Zelensky thanks Ireland for its senate resolution recognizing Russia's invasion of Ukraine as genocide
From CNN's Karen Smith and Hande Atay Alam
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ireland for taking in Ukrainian refugees and for Ireland’s senate recently adopting a resolution that recognizes the Russian invasion of Ukraine as genocide.
At a joint news conference on Wednesday with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin in Kyiv, he said the two discussed a joint response to the threat to food security, the energy crisis and the preparation of the new seventh sanction package against Russia.
Martin said “Ukraine belongs to the European Union” and that Ireland will be with Ukraine “every step of the way."
“Russia's brutal war against this beautiful democratic country is a gross violation of international law. It is an affront to everything that Ireland stands for. It cannot and it will not be allowed to stand,” Martin continued and mentioned that he “witnessed at firsthand the horrific reality of war on the people of Ukraine” while visiting the towns of Borodianka, Irpin and Bucha.
Martin also pointed out that Ireland welcomed 40,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war and said, “They are welcome to stay in Ireland for as long as they need to. Our home is your home.”
11:20 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Ukraine says Russia's claims about destroying 2 US-supplied rocket systems is false information
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Olga Voitovych and Anna Chernova
Ukraine accused Russia of spreading false information after Moscow claimed it had destroyed two US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
“Russian propagandists are actively spreading false information about the alleged destruction of the American HIMARS artillery system,” Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force said in a statement Wednesday. “We emphasize that this message does not correspond to reality and is nothing but a fake.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed it has destroyed the HIMARS Multiple Launch Rocket Systems during an air strike in the Donetsk region.
“High-precision air-launched missiles destroyed two US-made HIMARS multiple launch rocket launchers and two of their ammunition depots,” the Russian defense ministry said in a briefing on Wednesday.
The ministry released footage of the alleged strike, but CNN could not identify any HIMARS MLRS in the video. CNN could not independently verify either claim.
The United States has committed to sending in eight HIMARS to Ukraine, and at least four of HIMARS have already entered the fight against Russia.
Use of not just the HIMARS, but also other Western-supplied weaponry has been linked to an increasing number of strikes deeper into Russian lines, as most have longer ranges and more precise accuracy than some of the Soviet-era equipment Ukraine was fielding at the start of the war.
“The HIMARS artillery systems provided by the American partners constantly inflict a devastating hit on strategically important points of the enemy, which leads to colossal losses of the equipment, personnel and support of the occupying forces,” Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force added in its statement.
9:04 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Ukraine expects to harvest 50 million tonnes of grain
From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva
Ukraine expects to harvest at least 50 million tonnes of grain in 2022 — well below the 85 million tonnes it produced the previous year but still above expectations, said Taras Vysotskyi, the first deputy minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine.
“Taking into consideration all circumstances and difficulties of the sowing campaign and the logistics during the wartime, we expect the harvest to be not that bad — higher than the average for the last five years,” Vysotskyi said. “At least 50 tonnes of grain, maybe more. It depends on corn harvest, the results of which we will see in October."
Vysotskyi went on to say that Ukraine would have to export at least a portion of that grain.
“We have internal consumption less than 20 million tonnes, meaning that at least 30 million tonne of harvest will have to be exported,” he said.
Vysotskyi added, “350,000 tonnes of agricultural products were exported in March, 1,000,000 tonnes in April. Now, in June, it was 2,100,000 tonne. This means that our alternative logistics ways, excluding the Black Sea Ports, have increased.”
He also said the wheat crop will be of a food consumption quality, meaning it can be used for flower and bread making, as opposed to feed livestock.
8:38 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Crowdfunded Bayraktar drone will arrive in Ukraine from Lithuania
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London
A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone, secured by Lithuania for Ukraine after a local crowdfunding campaign, is expected to be shipped to Kyiv in the coming hours.
The “Vanagas” (which means "Hawk" in Lithuanian), along with ammunition, arrived in the Baltic country on Monday, the country’s Defense Minister, Arvydas Anušauskas, tweeted. After a press introduction on Wednesday, Anušauskas added the drone would be transferred to Ukraine soon.
“Last hours of Bayraktar “Vanagas” in Lithuania. Very soon it will be delivered to Ukraine,” he tweeted.
The crowdfunding campaign was launched by Lithuanian online broadcaster Laisves TV last month and was able to secure around 6 million euros ($6.11 million) to purchase the drone.
The purchase was organized by the Lithuanian Defense Ministry, but it says that after learning it was being purchased via a crowdfunding campaign, the manufacturer donated the drone for free.
“Citizens of Lithuania collected funds for this aircraft, but inspired by the idea, the Turkish company 'Baykar', the manufacturer of 'Bayraktar', decided to donate it,” the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “1.5 million euros of the donated 5.9 million was allocated for arming the unmanned aircraft.”
It is not the first time Baykar has donated some of its drones to the Ukrainian armed forces. Last month, after a Ukrainian crowdfunding campaign secured enough funds to purchase three of the drones, the company said it would be donating them for free.
“We ask that the raised funds be remitted instead to the struggling people of Ukraine,” it said in a statement on June 27.
The Bayraktar TB2 drone has played a key role in Ukraine’s defense against Russia. The country had around 20 of the unmanned aerial vehicles before the start of the war on Feb. 24, but Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on June 28 that his office had been able to secure up to 50 drones since the invasion began.
“In the near future, almost all capacity of the Baykar Makina plant will be focused on meeting the needs of the Armed Forces. It's about ordering dozens more drones,” Reznikov added.
8:23 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Russia likely to attack Sloviansk, city official says
From CNN's Olga Voitovych
Russia is likely to try and mount an offensive towards Sloviansk, the head of the city's military administration, Vadym Liakh said, adding that Ukrainian forces are currently holding Moscow’s armies on the Siverskyi Donets river.
“Probably, they will [attack Sloviansk]. Probably, that is why the incoming hits have become more frequent,” Liakh said Wednesday. “I think that as soon as the enemy is able to carry out assault operations, it will begin the destruction of the infrastructure and the city itself.”
Liakh gave an update, saying that the frontline is now along the Siverskyi Donets river, a "natural obstacle" that Russia has already failed to surpass. He added that many fortifications were built near Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, making it possible for Ukrainian troops "to restrain the enemy for 4 months.”
So far, Russian forces have been stationed by the Siverskyi Donets river for a month, which he thinks "will continue to be this way. But, unfortunately, the civilian population will be shelled more and more often.”
Liakh also explained that the situation inside the city is “tense,” given the intensified shelling in the past few weeks, with several killed and wounded.
“Critical infrastructure is operating, but there has been no centralized water supply for more than a month,” he said. “There are also problems with electricity, about a third of the population periodically remains without electricity. We restore it, but the enemy destroys it again.”
7:35 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Brittney Griner case has "indisputable evidence," says Russian Foreign Ministry
From CNN's Anna Chernova
WNBA star Brittney Griner committed a “serious offense” that is supported by "indisputable evidence,” the deputy spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexey Zaytsev, said Wednesday.
“Basketball player Brittney Griner, who was taken into custody at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arrival from New York, is accused of smuggling and storing hash oil, which is classified as a narcotic drug," Zaytsev said.
"This is a serious offense, supported by indisputable evidence and liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, according to Art. 229 Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation," Zaytsev added.
Attempts to present Griner’s detention as “illegal” do not stand up to criticism, according to Zaytsev.
“The law has been violated, and arguments about the innocent nature of Griner's predilection -- which, by the way, is punishable in some US states -- are inappropriate,” Zaytsev said.
The spokesman added that “no one stops Brittney Griner from filing an appeal or asking for clemency” after the court issues a verdict.
Some background: Griner, 31, who has played in Russia during the WNBA's offseason, was arrested February 17 in Moscow, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine.
She went on trial at a court near Moscow on Friday on drug smuggling charges.
Griner's supporters and US officials say she has been wrongfully detained and have called for her release as fears mount that she is being used as a political pawn amid rising tensions between Russia and the US.
Earlier this month, she wrote a handwritten letter to US President Joe Biden saying she is "terrified" she will be detained in Russia "forever" and pleaded with the President not to forget about her and other American detainees.
6:18 a.m. ET, July 6, 2022
Irish prime minister to meet with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London
Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin has arrived in Kyiv for meetings with the Ukrainian government in a show of support from both his country and the European Union.
“On the visit he will engage with Ukrainian authorities on how Ireland and the EU can support the country’s current, and future, needs,” a statement by the Taoiseach’s office on Wednesday read.
Martin is expected to visit some of the areas around Kyiv worst affected by Russia’s invasion.
“The people of Ireland stand with Ukraine and its people in the face of Russia’s immoral and unprovoked war of terror,” he said ahead of the visit, according to the statement. “The bombardment and attacks on civilians are nothing short of war crimes, and I will use my visit to express Ireland’s support for moves to hold those behind these attacks fully accountable.”
Martin described the Ukrainian people's "spirit and resolve" as inspiring, and added that “Ireland will provide every support for Ukraine’s path to full EU Membership, and continue to welcome and support civilians fleeing this war.”