Ukraine latest updates: 600 Ukrainians held captive in Kherson

Ukraine news from June 7: Presidential aide says prisoners held in ‘inhumane conditions’ and are victims of torture in the Russia-occupied region.

Russian service members patrolling at the Eternal Flame monument in Kherson, Ukraine.
Russian service members patrolling at the Eternal Flame monument in Kherson, amid the continuing Russian military action in Ukraine [File: Olga Maltseva/AFP]
  • Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu says Russian forces have fully “liberated” the residential quarters of Severodonetsk as its mayor says the situation was changing “every hour”.
  • Ukrainian official claims some 600 Ukrainians are being held captive and tortured in the Russia-occupied southern region of Kherson.
  • European Council President Charles Michel charges that Russia’s blocking of food exports from Ukraine is “pushing people into poverty and destabilising entire regions”.
  • UN official Pramila Patten says the “unprecedented” displacement of millions of Ukrainians is “turning into a human trafficking crisis”.
INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine War Who controls what in Donbas DAY 104
[Al Jazeera]

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These were the updates on Tuesday, June 7:

US bars investors from buying Russian debt, stocks on secondary market

The United States Treasury Department has banned American money managers from buying any Russian debt or stocks in secondary markets, on top of its existing ban on new-issue purchases.

“Consistent with our goal to deny Russia the financial resources it needs to continue its brutal war against Ukraine, Treasury has made clear that U.S. persons are prohibited from making new investments in the success of Russia, including through purchases on the secondary market,” a Treasury spokesperson said.

War on Ukraine ‘great tragedy’: Merkel

The invasion of Ukraine was “a brutal attack ignoring human rights for which there is no excuse”, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

She said the attack was a big mistake but also noted that there was never an option to create a security architecture that would have convinced Russia to seek an alternate path.

Russia returns bodies of 210 Ukrainian fighters to Kyiv: Military

Russia has handed over to Kyiv the bodies of 210 Ukrainian fighters, most of whom died defending the city of Mariupol from Russian forces at a vast steelworks, the Ukrainian military said.

“The process of returning the bodies of the fallen defenders of Mariupol is under way. To date, 210 of our troops have been returned – most of them are heroic defenders of Azovstal,” Ukraine’s defence intelligence directorate said on Twitter.

Stalemate with Russia ‘not an option’: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has told the UK’s Financial Times newspaper that a stalemate with Russia is “not an option”.

“Victory must be achieved on the battlefield”, he said as he repeated his call for Western military support.

“We are inferior in terms of equipment and therefore we are not capable of advancing,” he told the paper. “We are going to suffer more losses and people are my priority.”

Ukraine needs security guarantees to export: Expert

Head of defense for Ukraine’s independent anti-corruption commission Olena Tregub has told Al Jazeera that Ukraine was concerned Russia could use the opening of shipping corridors for exports to attack other regions such as the port city of Odesa.

“Ukraine would need some security guarantees before it can export,” she added, saying that any negotiations regarding export corridors must involve Ukraine.

Mariupol survivor: My young children asked me if it hurts to die

Halyna, a 28-year-old woman from the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, survived three weeks of Russian shelling with her husband, two young children and dog.

She is currently in Europe, but Al Jazeera is withholding her last name and any other details which could identify her, because her relatives are still in the Russia-occupied city.

Read more here.

Ukrainian forces holding strong in Donbas but need world support: MP

Speaking from the Donbas region, Sviatoslav Yurash, a member of Ukraine’s parliament has described the situation in the area as a “hell on Earth”, adding that while Ukrainian forces were holding strong against Russia’s assault, it needed world support in this “unfair fight”.

“They are killing people in the thousands and the reality is the millions of refugees fleeing from Ukraine is just the latest evidence of the hell Russia is causing Ukraine but also to the world,” he told Al Jazeera.

Yurash said in some of the war-torn villages he visited there was nonstop artillery shelling, with “explosions happening throughout the day, throughout the night”.

“You never know when the shell will hit your house and when you will die. That’s the reality with which they’re living,” he said.

Lavrov in Turkey for talks on Ukraine grain exports

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has arrived in Ankara for a two-day visit to Turkey on for talks on unblocking grain exports from Ukraine.

This is Lavrov’s second trip to Turkey after meeting his Turkish and Ukrainian counterparts Mevlut Cavusoglu and Dmytro Kuleba in Antalya on March 10.

Russia further raises ceiling for cross-border transactions for individuals

The Russian central bank has said Russian residents and non-residents from “friendly” states will be able to channel foreign currency abroad equivalent to up to $150,000 a month, up from the previous limit of $50,000.

All the non-residents are still able to send foreign currency abroad to the value of their salaries, the bank said.

Ukrainian forces finding it hard to hold centre of Severodonestk: Governor

The governor of Luhansk region has said that while Ukrainian forces are finding it hard to stop Russian attacks in the centre of Severodonestk, Moscow’s forces do not control the city.

In an online post, Serhiy Haidai also said Russian troops were constantly shelling Severodonetsk’s twin city Lysychansk.

Hundreds of civilians sheltering in Severodonetsk factory: Lawyer

Some 800 civilians have taken refuge in a chemical factory in Ukraine’s strategic eastern city of Severodonetsk, according to a lawyer for Dmytro Firtash, whose company owns the facility.

“About 800 civilians have taken refuge in the bunkers of the Azot chemical plant, owned by Dmytro Firtash’s Group DF,” Lanny J Davis, said the American lawyer in a statement published on the company website.

“These 800 civilians include around 200 out of the plant’s 3,000 employees and approximately 600 inhabitants of the city of Severodonetsk,” he added.

The workers had remained at the factory in an attempt to “secure” the remaining part of “the plant’s highly explosive chemicals”, the statement said.

Russia, Turkey discuss Syria, grain exports from Ukraine

The Russian and Turkish defence ministers have discussed a potential grain exports corridor from Ukraine, as well as northern Syria, in a call, Turkey’s defence ministry has said, as Ankara and Moscow gear up for talks between their foreign ministers.

The call comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced two weeks ago that his country would launch new military offensives into northern Syria targeting the Kurdish YPG armed group.

During the call, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu that “the necessary response will be given to actions aimed at disrupting the stability achieved in the region and the presence of terrorists in the region is not acceptable”, Turkey’s defence ministry said in a statement.

Akar also “reminded that previous agreements on this issue need to be adhered to”, his office said.

Estonia, Lithuania slam French president’s call not to ‘humiliate’ Russia

The leaders of Lithuania and Estonia have hit back at a recent appeal by French President Emmanuel Macron that Russia should not be humiliated due to its invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia has humiliated itself with this war,” Lithuanian President Nauseda said after talks with German Chancellor Scholz and his Baltic counterparts in Vilnius.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, “I don’t think we should worry that much about what Putin or Russia feels. We should be more concerned about Ukraine holding out.”

Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda (R) welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) at the presidential palace in Vilnius
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda, right, welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, at the presidential palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 7, 2022 [Petras Malukas/AFP]

Ukraine presses to buy Israel’s Iron Dome

Kyiv’s ambassador is urging Israel to sell its Iron Dome rocket interception system and provide anti-tank missiles to defend civilians against Russia’s invasion.

At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Yevgen Korniychuk said Ukraine wants to buy the Iron Dome system, contending that the United States would not oppose such a sale.

Korniychuk also said that last week Israel declined a US request for Germany to deliver Israeli-licensed “Spike” anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Israel has limited its support for Ukraine to humanitarian aid and was the only country operating a field hospital inside the country earlier in the year.

Germany to boost military mission in Lithuania: Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his country is ready to ramp up its military mission in Lithuania amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are ready to strengthen our engagement and to develop it towards a robust combat brigade,” Scholz told reporters after meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and the prime ministers of Estonia and Latvia in Vilnius.

“We will defend every centimetre of NATO’s territory,” he added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz holds a news conference during European Union - African Union summit, in Brussels, Belgium
German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz [File: Johanna Geron/Pool/Reuters]

Road from Russia to Crimea open for drivers: Minister

Russia’s defence minister said on Tuesday that one can drive from Russia to Crimea via Moscow-occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine.

“Car movement from Russia’s territory via [Ukraine’s] mainland opened,”  Sergei Shoigu was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

After the 2014 annexation, Ukraine started an economic blockade of the annexed peninsula, and Moscow built the exorbitantly expensive Crimean Bridge from its southwestern region of Krasnodar.

A “land bridge” from southwestern Russia via the separatist-controlled Donbas and newly-seized areas was one of Moscow’s top goals in the war.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine.

Six hundred Ukrainians ‘tortured’ in Kherson: official

Some 600 Ukrainians are being held captive and tortured in the Russia-occupied southern region of Kherson, a Ukrainian presidential aide has said.

“They are held in basements, in specifically-designed torture chambers,” Tamila Tasheva said in televised remarks.

She said the captives who were detained for their pro-Ukrainian sympathies, suffer in “inhumane conditions” in the basements of police stations, government offices and schools throughout Kherson, a Belgium-sized region that was taken over in early March.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine.

Russian servicemen patrolling at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, Kherson Oblast
Russian servicemen patrolling at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, Kherson Oblast, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine [File: Olga Maltseva/AFP]

Russia claims partial control of Severodonetsk

Russia says its forces had taken full control of residential neighbourhoods in Ukraine’s flashpoint city of Severodonetsk, after Kyiv said its troops were fighting on in the eastern hub despite being outnumbered.

“The residential areas of the city of Severodonetsk have been fully liberated,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told a defence ministry meeting.

The Russian army was still seeking to establish control over the city’s “industrial zone and the nearest settlements”, he added, amid conflicting reports of who is in control of what.

Ukraine needs to demine ports for grain exports to resume: Peskov

Russia has said Ukraine needs to remove sea mines near its Black Sea port of Odesa to allow grain exports to resume.

Asked about a possible deal to allow grain shipments from Odesa, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters that Ukraine’s removal of the mines would allow commercial vessels to arrive at Odesa to take a load of grain.

“Ukraine must demine the approaches into the ports, which will allow the vessels – after undergoing a check by our military to make sure they don’t carry weapons – to enter ports and load up on grain, and then, with our help, if necessary, continue on towards international waters,” he said.

Allegations Russia is stealing Ukrainian grain must be investigated, says UK

Allegations that Russia is stealing grain from a wide variety of  areas in Ukraine are very serious and must be investigated immediately, Victoria Prentis, the United Kingdom’s farming minister has said.

Ukraine must not be pressured into a bad peace deal, says Johnson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy must not be pressured by world powers into accepting a bad peace deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told his top team of ministers.

At the cabinet meeting, British foreign minister Liz Truss also said London was readying further sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

Johnson told his ministers that the United Kingdom would “remain at the forefront” of support for Ukraine, the spokesman added.

“He said it was vital that President Zelenskyy was not pressured into accepting a bad peace, noting that bad peace deals do not last. He said the world must avoid any outcome where Putin’s unwarranted aggression appears to have paid off,” the spokesman said.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his ministers that the UK would ‘remain at the forefront’ of support for Ukraine [File: Alberto Pezzali/AP]

Mariupol’s population shrank four times, says official

A Ukrainian official has said that the population of the southern city of Mariupol occupied by Russia has shrunk from 460,000 to about 120,000.

While some 200,000 residents managed to get to Ukraine-controlled areas, up to 70,000 of those who left the city still linger in occupied areas, Mariupol mayor’s adviser Petro Andriyushchenko said on Telegram.

Some 47,000 were forced to leave for Russia or Moscow-friendly Belarus, and the remaining residents live without running water, electricity or natural gas, he said.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Scholz says sanctions prevent Moscow from retaining military capabilities

Moscow will not be able to retain its military capabilities due to tough Western sanctions imposed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“We have far-reaching sanctions now that will set back the Russian economy by decades, that means it will not be able to participate in global economic and technological progress,” Scholz told reporters during a visit to Vilnius.

“We know from reports that this means that Russia will not even be able to retain its military capacities at the same level,” he said, adding Moscow had in the past abused imports of civilian goods for military purposes.

German and Baltic leaders agree to strengthen defence

German and Baltic leaders have agreed that defence must be strengthened in the Baltic region by increasing troop numbers and adding air and maritime defences, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.

“We agreed that we must strengthen defensive capabilities in the Baltic countries, by increasing the number of deployed troops, adding to air and maritime defence,” Nauseda told reporters after meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Lithuanian capital.

Lavrov’s cancelled visit a ‘diplomatic scandal’ for Serbia

The recent European move against the Russian foreign minister, in which airspace closures forced him to cancel a visit to Belgrade, shows how isolated Serbia has become on the world stage, according to analysts.

Sergey Lavrov was scheduled to visit Belgrade on Monday for talks with top officials, including President Aleksandar Vucic, on a two-day visit.

Read more here.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, shakes hands with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic after a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia in 2021 [Darko Vojinovic/AP]
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, left, was scheduled to meet with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic for talks [File: Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo]

Belarusian army stages combat readiness training, says ministry

The Belarusian armed forces have begun taking part in combat readiness training, the country’s defence ministry has said.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and allowed it to launch the northern prong of its February 24 attack on Ukraine from Belarusian territory.

Ukraine slams planned IAEA mission to Russian-occupied nuclear plant

Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom has criticised an IAEA plan to send a delegation to a Russian-occupied nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, saying it “did not invite” such a visit.

“We consider this message from the head of the IAEA as another attempt to get to the [power plant] by any means in order to legitimise the presence of occupiers there and essentially condone all their actions,” Energoatom wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

On Monday, IAEA head Raphael Grossi said the organisation was working on sending an international mission of experts to the Russian-held nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, Europe’s largest.

Russians may siege key town of Sloviansk, says Ukraine official

A Ukrainian presidential aide has said that the Russian army may lay siege on the strategic Ukrainian town of Sloviansk in the southeastern Donetsk region, while Ukrainian forces would either face a “defeat” or may have to retreat.

“The siege of Sloviansk is coming up. And our forces to the north of the Seversky Donets river will either be defeated or will retreat to the southern bank,” Oleksiy Arestovich said in televised remarks.

Arestovich, usually known for his optimistic and humorous comments on the war, said that Russians have a strategic advantage because of constant delays with Western arms supplies to the Ukrainian military.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Fierce battle for key Ukraine city changing ‘every hour’

Street fighting raged for control of Ukraine’s flashpoint city of Severodonetsk, with the situation changing “every hour”, an official has said, as Kyiv warned its troops were outnumbered by Russian forces.

“The situation is changing every hour, but at the same time there’s enough forces and resources to repel attacks,” said the mayor of Severodonetsk, Oleksandr Striuk.

“We have hope, we have faith in our armed forces, no one’s going to abandon” Severodonetsk, he added.

Just days ago, Moscow seemed close to taking the strategic industrial hub in the east but Ukrainian forces have managed to hold out.

“Our heroes are holding their positions in Severodonetsk. Fierce street fights continue in the city,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address late on Monday.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 104
[Al Jazeera]

Ukraine agriculture exports rise 80 percent in May

Ukraine’s grain, oilseed and vegetable oil exports have risen 80 percent in May month on month to 1.743 million tonnes but the volumes are still significantly below the exports in May 2021, the agriculture ministry said.

The ministry said corn dominated the shipment with 959,000 tonnes, while exports of sunflower oil totalled 202,650 tonnes.

Ukraine exported 2.245 million tonnes of corn and 501,800 tonnes of sunflower oil in May 2021.

Ukrainians learn to collect evidence for possible war crime trials

Take a 360-degree panoramic shot. Hold your cell phone camera steady. Close up on details. Comment on what you are filming.

These are not instructions on the basics of filming. This is how a Ukrainian broadcaster has been instructing average Ukrainians to collect evidence on possible Russian war crimes.

“People don’t keep the original videos. They edit them, add certain marks, there’s a risk that a court won’t accept such a video. You must keep the original,” lawyer Anna Vishnyakova told the TSN broadcaster.

Authorities have for weeks urged Ukrainians not to post videos or photos of explosions, casualties and damage caused by Russian shelling so that Russians can not use them to perfect their targeting or claim success.

In a video shared on social media, Vishnyakova also urged Ukrainians not to make visual evidence public – and, instead, keep it for future war crime trials.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Russia may hold ‘referendum’ in occupied Kherson, says official

A Moscow-appointed official in occupied Kherson has said that a referendum was likely to be held to declare the southern region’s secession from Ukraine.

“Most likely, there will be a referendum that will be held in the Kherson region on [its] self-determination,” Kirill Stremousov, a former fish inspector and pro-Russian blogger who became Kherson’s deputy governor, told the RIA Novosti news agency.

In 2014, the Kremlin held a “referendum” in Crimea that paved the way for the annexation, despite being unrecognised by the international community. Pro-Russian separatists held similar votes to declare their “independence” from Ukraine.

Stremousov said elections would be the “next step,” but declined to specify the specific dates.

Russian troops advancing from Crimea seized Kherson by early March, ensuring energy, food and water supplies to the annexed peninsula.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Bodies of Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol handed over to Kyiv

The bodies of some Ukrainian fighters killed defending the city of Mariupol from Russian forces at a vast steelworks have been handed over to Kyiv, the families of Ukraine’s Azov unit of the national guard said.

Ukrainian forces defending Mariupol were holed up in the Azovstal steelworks for weeks as Russian forces tried to capture the city.

The Ukrainian soldiers eventually surrendered last month and were taken into custody by Russian forces.

Gazprom: Gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine remain steady

Russian gas producer Gazprom has said its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point was seen at 40.9 million cubic metres (1,444.3cu feet) on Tuesday versus 40.1 mcm (1,416.1cu feet) on Monday.

EU chief decries Russia’s attack on grain terminal

The EU’s foreign policy chief has condemned a Russian missile attack on a Ukrainian grain terminal at the weekend in the southern port city of Mykolaiv, saying it contributed to the global food crisis.

Russian forces have destroyed the second biggest grain terminal in #Ukraine, in #Mykolaiv,” Josep Borrell wrote on Twitter.

“In light of such reports, the disinformation spread by Putin deflecting blame becomes ever more cynical,” he added.

US must remove Russian superyacht from Fiji, court rules

A Fiji court has ruled a Russian-owned superyacht be removed from the Pacific island nation by the United States because it was a waste of money for Fiji to maintain the vessel amid legal wrangling over its seizure.

Fiji authorities seized the 106-metre Amadea, which arrived in the country on April 13, after Fiji’s High Court granted a US warrant last month that linked the yacht to sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.

The FBI said the $300m luxury vessel had running costs of $25m to $30m per year, and the US would pay to maintain the vessel after it was seized. But the Fiji government has been footing the bill while an appeal by the vessel’s registered owner, Millemarin Investments, worked its way through Fiji’s courts.

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that public interest demands the yacht “sail out of Fiji waters”, because having it berthed in Fiji was “costing the Fijian Government dearly”, according to the judgement.

A screen grab from a drone video footage shows Russian-owned superyacht 'Amadea' docked at Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji May 3, 2022
A screen grab from drone video footage shows Russian-owned superyacht ‘Amadea’ docked at Queens Wharf in Lautoka, Fiji, on May 3, 2022 [Reuters TV via REUTERS/File Photo]

Ukraine says some 263 children killed amid war

Ukraine says 263 children have been killed as a result of Russia’s invasion and subsequent conflict, while more than 467 have been injured.

Work is still under way to establish the number of casualties in “places of active hostilities, temporarily occupied and liberated territories,” the office of the prosecutor general said.

The highest number of children who suffered were in the Donetsk region (190), followed by Kyiv (116), Kharkiv (112), Chernihiv (68), Luhansk (53), Kherson (52), Mykolaiv (47) and Zaporizhia (29), the office added.

Russia’s progress on Popasna axis stalled over last week: UK

Russia’s progress made through May on the southern Popasna axis has stalled over the last week, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

Reports of heavy shelling near the city of Izium suggests Russia is preparing to make a renewed effort on the northern axis, the ministry also said in its latest intelligence briefing.

The ministry said Russian forces likely occupied the eastern districts of Severodonetsk and Moscow’s broader plan was to cut the off the main city area from both the north and the south.

“Russia will almost certainly need to achieve a breakthrough on at least one of these axes to translate tactical gains to operational level success and progress towards its political objective of controlling all of Donetsk Oblast,” the ministry said.

Battle for Severodonetsk continues: Governor

Russian forces are maintaining their attack on Severodonetsk as the battle for the key eastern city continues, the governor of Luhansk has said.

Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces shelled the town of Zolote on Monday morning and destroyed 13 houses in one go.

“In the afternoon, the Russians hit the town of Hirske – 11 damaged houses,” he added.

Haidai also said that two people were injured in the shelling of a school, and a market in Lysychansk caught fire. He mentioned that three more people were injured in Lysychansk but did not specify whether these injuries were related to the fire or a separate incident.

Kyiv theatre reopens with sold-out performance

A theatre in Ukraine’s capital has reopened for the first time since Russia invaded the country, and tickets sold out for Sunday’s performance.

Theatre on Podil was the latest cultural institution in Kyiv to resume operations; cinemas and the National Opera opened their doors at the end of May.

“We were wondering how it would be, whether spectators would come during the war, whether they think at all about theatre, whether it’s of any interest,” said one of the actors, Yuriy Felipenko. “And we were happy that the first three plays were sold out.”

Filipenko said the theatre is putting on plays with just a few actors.

Washington ‘harassing’ Russian journalists: Ambassador

Russia’s ambassador to the United States has accused Washington of harassing Russian journalists in the US, state news agency RIA has reported.

“Russian journalists sent to the United States are being harassed. They face direct bans on broadcasting on American soil. They have limited access to official events. The process of obtaining work visas is complicated. Bank accounts are blocked. Special services approach employees of our media, persuading them to cooperate” Anatoly Antonov wrote on Telegram, according to RIA.

“Numerous attempts by the embassy to convey to ordinary US citizens our position on topical issues of international politics, with rare exceptions, are immediately rejected by local publications as ‘malicious propaganda’. There is no possibility to publish materials even on a commercial basis,” Antonov added.

Russia likely retains control over most of Severodonetsk: ISW

Russian forces likely retain control over most of Severodonetsk as of Monday, although the exact situation in the city remains unclear, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said, adding that the city was likely frequently changing hands.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had managed to retake large parts of Severodonetsk and controlled half the city. Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov, however, denied this claim, saying Kyiv’s forces only controlled the city’s Azot industrial sector, the ISW said.

“Haidai amended his claims on June 6 and reported that the situation in Severodonetsk has deteriorated significantly, adding that Ukrainian forces were indeed fighting within the Azot industrial site on June 6,” the institute said.

“The reason for Haidai and Butusov’s conflicting reports is unclear, and heavy urban fighting is ongoing in the city,” the ISW added.

Ukraine’s first lady says 60 percent of country needs psychological help

About 60 percent of Ukrainians need psychological help as a result of the war, Ukraine’s first lady has said, adding that Kyiv was working on establishing a national support system.

Olena Zelenska said that the figure was mentioned in a working group of the National Program for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, which she said had gone from negotiations with first ladies of various countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) to the creation of a specific action plan at the state level.

She said the action plan included having representatives of WHO helping Ukraine establish a model for a system of care, and delivering training to family doctors, psychologists, social workers and teachers in rapid methods of psychological support.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s health minister said up to 15 million Ukrainians may face mental problems caused by the continuing war with Russia.

“With every passing day, the number of people who will face consequences for their mental health, will keep growing,” Viktor Lyashko was quoted by the RBC Ukraine newspaper as saying.

“Mental exhaustion awaits even those who could firmly face the first months of war,” he was quoted as saying.

A resident injured in a Russian strike sits at a hospital in Pokrovsk, Ukraine.
A resident injured in a Russian attack sits at a hospital in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, on the day two rockets struck the eastern Ukrainian town in the Donetsk region [Francisco Seco/AP]

Japan imposes more Russian sanctions

Japan will freeze the assets of two more Russian banks and one more Belarusian bank as part of additional sanctions for Russia’s Ukraine invasion, Japan’s foreign ministry has said.

Not in Russia’s interests to torture Azovstal POWs: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said he did not believe it would be in Russia’s interests to torture Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered from the Azovstal steel plant and were being held as prisoners of war in Russian-occupied territory.

Zelenskyy told journalists there were more than 2,500 prisoners from Azovstal in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions, adding that they were “public prisoners” whose condition was being monitored by international organisations.

The president said Ukraine’s intelligence directorate was dealing with the prisoner swap and that he trusted the negotiators to achieve results.

“We know what can be agreed on with the Russians, we know this price. We know they can’t be trusted. The Main Intelligence Directorate must deal with this issue and provide the result. The only result is to bring people home,” he said.

Russians kill five, injure nine in Donetsk: Governor

Russian forces killed five civilians in the Donetsk region on Monday and wounded nine others, the governor has said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said two people were killed in the village of Niu-York, one in the city of Lyman, one in the village of Vremenny Yar and one in the village of Pisky.

He did not specify whether the deaths were due to shelling or other means.

Ukraine may give English business language status: PM

The Ukrainian government is working on legislation that would designate English as the language of business communication, the prime minister has said.

“English is now used in business communication throughout the civilised world, so giving it such a status in Ukraine will promote business development, attract investment and accelerate Ukraine’s European integration,” Denys Shmyhal wrote on Telegram without detailing what the law would entail.

Washington accuses Moscow of conducting ‘full assault on media’

The US has accused Russia of trying to “intimidate” American correspondents in Moscow who were summoned by the Russian foreign ministry and threatened with reprisals because of US sanctions.

“The Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs summoned your colleagues to quote, ‘explain to them the consequences of their government’s hostile line in the media sphere,'” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters in the US capital.

“Let’s be clear, the Kremlin is engaged in a full assault on media freedom, access to information and the truth,” he added, slamming what he called “a clear and apparent effort to intimidate independent journalists”.

Russia’s offensive an ‘unambiguous act of aggression’: US’s Milley

The United States and its allies will keep providing “significant” support to Ukraine out of respect for the legacy of D-Day soldiers, whose victory over the Nazis helped lead to a new world order and a “better peace”, the top US army general has said.

In an interview with The Associated Press news agency overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, Mark Milley, US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Russia’s war in Ukraine undermines the rules established by Allied countries after the end of World War II.

He spoke on the 78th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Allied troops onto the beaches of France, which led to the overthrow of Nazi Germany’s occupation.

One fundamental rule of the “global rules-based order” is that “countries cannot attack other countries with their military forces in acts of aggression unless it’s an act of pure self-defence”, Milley told the news agency. “But that’s not what’s happened here in Ukraine. What’s happened here is an open, unambiguous act of aggression.”

Zelenskyy thanks UK for providing ‘exactly the weapons’ Ukraine needs

Zelenskyy has thanked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for sending Ukraine “exactly the weapons” it needs to fight the war with Russia.

Earlier, the United Kingdom said that in coordination with the US, it will supply Ukraine with multiple-launch rocket systems that can attack targets up to 80km (50 miles) away as part of a new military aid package for Kyiv.

“I am grateful to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the complete understanding of our demands and preparedness to provide Ukraine with exactly the weapons that it so needs to protect the lives of our people,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits an area damaged by Russian military strikes.
Zelenskyy has called on Ukraine’s allies to provide heavy weaponry to defend against Russia’s eastern offensive [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]

Blinken says reports of Russian theft of Ukrainian grain ‘credible’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said there are “credible reports” that Russia is “pilfering” Ukraine’s grain exports to sell for profit.

Speaking during a virtual roundtable with philanthropists, non-governmental organisations and private-sector entities, Blinken said the alleged theft was part of broader Russian actions during the war that have hit Ukraine’s ability to export its wheat and worsened a global food crisis.

“There are credible reports, as we saw in one of our leading newspapers today, that Russia is pilfering Ukraine’s grain exports … to sell for its own profit,” Blinken said, an apparent reference to a New York Times story that said Washington last month warned 14 countries, mainly in Africa, that Russia was trying to ship stolen Ukrainian grain to buyers overseas.

‘Donbas stands strong,’ Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his troops are not giving up positions in Severodonetsk, a city where some of the war’s biggest ground battles have been taking place.

“Our heroes do not give up positions in Severodonetsk. In the city, fierce street fighting continues,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Referring to the broader Donbas region where Severodonetsk is located, Zelenskyy said: “And the Ukrainian Donbas stands, stands strong.”

Russia handing over bodies of Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol

Russia has begun turning over the bodies of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks, the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol.

Dozens of the dead taken from the bombed-out mill’s now Russian-occupied ruins have been transferred to Kyiv, where DNA testing is under way to identify the remains, according to both a military leader and a spokeswoman for the Azov Regiment.

Top EU official says Russia alone to blame for food crisis

European Council President Charles Michel has accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries” and blamed the Kremlin for a looming global food crisis, prompting Moscow’s UN ambassador to walk out of a Security Council meeting.

Michel addressed Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia directly at a council meeting, saying he saw millions of tonnes of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships at the Ukrainian port of Odesa a few weeks ago “because of Russian warships in the Black Sea”.

He said Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s transport infrastructure and grain storage facilities, as well as its tanks, aerial bombings and mines, are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.

“This is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilising entire regions,” Michel said. “Russia is solely responsible for this looming food crisis.”

US moves to seize jets owned by Russian billionaire Abramovich

US authorities are pushing to seize two luxury jets linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich after a federal magistrate judge signed a warrant approving the move.

“Today’s action reflects the global scope of the United States’ response to illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine,” said Andrew Adams, who is leading a task force in the US Justice Department targeting Russian oligarchs.

One of the planes is believed to have been in Moscow since March 15, according to a Justice Department affidavit. The other, meanwhile, is believed to be in Dubai following a round-trip flight from the United Arab Emirates to Russia, the affidavit said.

The jets are worth more than $400m, the Justice Department said.

UN official: Russia’s invasion ‘turning into human trafficking crisis’

The UN special representative on sexual violence, Pramila Patten, has said the “unprecedented” displacement of millions of Ukrainians following Russia’s invasion is “turning into a human trafficking crisis”.

“Women and children fleeing the conflict are being targeted for trafficking and exploitation – in some cases facing further exposure to rape and other risks while seeking refuge,” Patten told the UN Security Council.

No change in posture of US embassy in Kyiv: State Department

There has been no change in the US Embassy posture in Kyiv, the State Department has said, after Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital for the first time in more than a month.

The US embassy in Kyiv resumed operations last month, nearly three months after removing its diplomats and suspending work there over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Read all the updates from Monday, June 6, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies