Latest Ukraine updates: Putin likens himself to Peter the Great

Ukraine news from June 9: President speaks of Russia’s need to ‘take back [territory] and defend itself’, in speech comparing himself to Peter the Great.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian young entrepreneurs and specialists ahead of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Moscow
Speaking at a meeting with young entrepreneurs in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin drew parallels between the conquering monarch’s founding of St. Petersburg and his government’s annexation of territory [Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via Reuters]
  • Moscow-backed Luhansk region in Ukraine says it will soon start rail shipments to Russia of grain that its troops have “liberated”, Tass news agency reports.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks of Russia’s need to “take back [territory] and defend itself” in a speech in which he compares himself to Peter the Great.
  • A court in the separatist People’s Republic of Donetsk sentences two British nationals and one Moroccan to death, the Donetsk News Agency reports.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warns that millions of people can starve because of a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports.

INTERACTIVE- Which countries have sanctioned Russia - June 8

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for June 9:

Russian forces continue to shell Lysychansk: Governor

In a Telegram post, the Ukrainian governor of the eastern Luhansk region Serhii Haidai has said Russian forces continue to shell the city of Lysychansk using large-caliber weapons which “pierce even concrete”.

“It is extremely dangerous for civilians to remain, even in shelters,” Haidai said.

Ukraine: Russia still attacking eastern city

The Ukrainian army says Kyiv’s forces continue to frustrate Russian attempts to take the fiercely contested eastern city of Severodonetsk.

“The occupiers, with the help of motorised rifle units and artillery, conducted assault operations in the city of Severodonetsk. They were not successful; the fighting continues,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a regular operational update.

It added that Ukrainian forces had successfully repelled a Russian attack on the village of Toshkivka, on the northwestern outskirts of Severodonetsk.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine War Who controls what in Donbas DAY 106

Ukraine condemns ‘show trial’ of foreigners

The death sentences handed by a pro-Russian separatist court to British and Moroccan nationals fighting for Ukraine should be considered null and void, a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman has said.

“The so-called ‘trial’ of the military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the occupied Ukrainian territories is of no significance,” Oleh Nikolenko told the Interfax Ukraine agency.

“Such show trials put the interests of propaganda above the law and morality; they undermine the mechanisms for the return of prisoners of war. The Ukrainian government will continue to make every effort to release all the defenders of Ukraine,” Nikolenko added.

Service members of pro-Russian troops walk across a road before the expected departure of Ukrainian soldiers
Members of pro-Russian troops walk across a road before the expected departure of Ukrainian soldiers, who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

More bad news for wheat stocks from drought-hit Argentina

With wheat prices skyrocketing due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, major producer Argentina faces its “worst planting scenario in 12 years” of the crucial grain, a major trade forum has said.

The Rosario Board of Trade said the area planted with wheat in Argentina for the 2022-23 season would be a lower-than-expected 6.2 million hectares.

This was 700,000 hectares smaller than the preceding season, which yielded a record harvest of 23 million tons of wheat.

Kyiv in ‘no danger’ but prepared: Ukraine minister

Ukraine’s interior minister has said there is no imminent risk of Russians marching on Kyiv, but the capital would not let its guard down.

“There is no danger of an attack on Kyiv today,” Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said.

“There is no concentration of troops near the Belarusian border, but we understand that any scenarios are possible tomorrow,” he told AFP, dressed in a black military sweater, a Ukrainian flag on its right sleeve.

“Therefore, serious training is under way – preparation of the line of defence, training of troops who will remain” in Kyiv and around the city. The minister also said Russian air strikes could hit at any time.

Moscow-backed Luhansk region in Ukraine to send ‘liberated’ grain to Russia: Tass

One of two breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions backed by Moscow has said it would soon start rail shipments to Russia of grain that its troops had “liberated”, Tass news agency has reported.

Yuri Pronko, agricultural minister of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, said that until now, the grain had been sent by truck in relatively small amounts.

“Tomorrow is a historical moment – the first wagons of grain will go Russia, 50 wagons, more than 3,000 tonnes,” Tass cited him as saying.

Putin says ‘Made in Russia’ no remedy for sanctions

Putin has said that producing goods locally to circumvent Western sanctions over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine was not a cure-all and that Russia is looking for new trading partners.

“The substitution of imports is not a panacea,” Putin told a group of young entrepreneurs who complained of a lack of hitherto imported goods in their quest to develop vaccines.

“We are not trying to completely replace imports,” Putin said. Russia “must collaborate with those it is possible to collaborate with”.

Putin likens himself to Peter the Great

Putin has spoken of Russia’s need to “take back (territory) and defend itself” in a speech in which he compared himself to Peter the Great.

Speaking at a meeting with young entrepreneurs in Moscow, Putin drew parallels between the conquering monarch’s founding of St. Petersburg and his government’s annexation of territory.

“When he founded the new capital, no European country recognised it as Russia. Everybody recognized it as Sweden,” Putin said. “And Slavic people had always lived there along with Finno-Ugric people, and the territory was under the control of the Russian state.”

“What was he doing? Taking back and reinforcing. That’s what he did. And it looks like it fell on us to take back and reinforce as well,” he said.

People walk past wrecks of military vehicles in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 30, 2022.
People walk past wrecks of military vehicles in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 30, 2022 [Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo]

Zelenskyy imposes sanctions on Putin and his allies

Zelenskyy has signed a decree imposing sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on Putin and dozens of other top Russian officials, his website has said.

The sanctioned officials included Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, veteran Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The sanctions, imposed in the fourth month of Russia’s February 24 invasion, appeared unlikely to have much practical impact beyond the symbolic.

FEATURE: Is Russia inching towards victory in Ukraine’s Donbas region?

In the battle for the Donbas, the fight over Severodonetsk has entered a crucial stage. Ukrainian units are locked in a desperate struggle with Russian infantry and armour intent on taking the city, which is at the eastern end of a Ukrainian defensive pocket now in serious danger of being cut in two.

While maintaining a grip on the city, Russian forces to the south of this salient are also slowly advancing north in an attempt to cut the roads leading to the town of Bakhmut.

Read more here.

A Ukrainian service member holding a shell for an M777 Howitzer on his shoulder with other Ukrainian service members preparing shells for a M777 Howitzer in the background.
Ukrainian service members in the Donetsk region prepare shells for an M777 howitzer near a front line on June 6 [File: Stringer/Reuters]

War shrinks Ukraine economy by 15 percent: stats office

The war with Russia caused Ukraine’s economy to contract by 15.1 percent in the first three months of this year, the state statistics agency has said.

The International Monetary Fund is forecasting a contraction in Ukraine’s gross domestic product of 35 percent across the whole of 2022, and Ukrainian finance minister Sergiy Marchenko told AFP news agency in mid-May that he was anticipating a decline of as much as 45-50 percent.

An aerial view of a residential area destroyed
An aerial view of a residential area destroyed by Russian shelling in Irpin close to Kyiv, Ukraine [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

Ukraine: Russia still using Belarus airfields for attacks

Russia continues to use Belarus for attacks against Ukraine, according to an official from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the main operational directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Russian aircraft launched from Belarus to deploy missiles in Ukraine.

Hromov said the Russian army continued an “assault operation” to establish control over Severodonetsk, but without results.

Russia says West risks ‘direct military clash’ over cyberattacks

Russia has warned the West that cyberattacks against its infrastructure risk leading to direct military confrontation, and that attempts to challenge Moscow in the cyber-sphere would be met with targeted countermeasures.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said Russia’s critical infrastructure and state institutions were being hit by cyberattacks and pointed to figures in the United States and Ukraine as being responsible.

“Rest assured, Russia will not leave aggressive actions unanswered,” it said. “All our steps will be measured, targeted, in accordance with our legislation and international law.”

UK PM warns over pushing Ukraine into peace deal

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that increasing costs of fuel and wheat as a result of the war in Ukraine must not be used as a reason to encourage the Ukrainians to accept a Russian peace deal that is not in its interest.

In a speech aimed at moving on from questions of his leadership, Johnson said some may argue that “the price of supporting the Ukrainians is now too high and they should be encouraged to accept whatever terms Putin may ask. I don’t believe that option is really open to us. Never mind that abandoning the Ukrainians would be morally repugnant.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas at 10 Downing Street, London, Monday, June 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, Pool)
In a speech, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned over pushing Ukraine into a peace deal [Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo]

Putin says Russia will not mothball oil wells amid row with West

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russian companies will not block off their oil wells despite the West’s efforts to lessen its dependence on energy supplies from Moscow.

UK foreign minister condemns death sentences on British men

UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss has condemned the death sentences passed down to two British men, calling it a sham judgement.

“I utterly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine,” she said on Twitter. “They are prisoners of war. This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy.”

Russia energy revenues may be higher now: US official

Russia may be getting more revenue from its fossil fuels now than before its invasion of Ukraine, as global price increases offset the effect of Western efforts to restrict its sales, US energy security envoy Amos Hochstein told lawmakers during a hearing.

“I can’t deny that,” Hochstein told the Senate Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation in response to a question about whether Moscow was making more money now off its crude oil and gas sales than before the war.

UK ‘deeply concerned’ over death sentences for British fighters in Ukraine

The UK is deeply concerned by the death sentences passed down to two British men by a court of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic and will work to try to secure their release, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

“We’re obviously deeply concerned by this. We’ve said continually that prisoners of war shouldn’t be exploited for political purposes,” the spokesman told reporters.

“Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity, and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities. So 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.”

Russia destroys training centre for ‘foreign mercenaries’

Russia’s defence ministry has reportedly claimed to have destroyed a training centre for “foreign mercenaries”.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was quoted as saying that a strike of high-precision missiles destroyed the centre in the northwestern Zhytomyr region.

There have been no comments from Ukrainian authorities on his claim.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine

Relatives of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek mourn during his funeral in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Friday, June 3, 2022.
Relatives of Ukrainian army Col Oleksander Makhachek mourn during his funeral in Zhytomyr, Ukraine on June 3, 2022 [File: Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo]

‘I had no idea we were surrounded’: Captured foreign fighter

In a video report released in early May by the Kremlin-funded RT broadcaster, Briton Shaun Pinner, who has been sentenced to death by a court in the separatist People’s Republic of Donetsk, is seen talking about how he was captured in the “industrial zone” of Mariupol.

“Everyone started running in different directions, my commander seemed to have evaporated, I still don’t know what happened to those who were with me,” he said, according to a Russian translation of his words. His speech is barely discernible.

He said his military unit received an order to leave on an unspecified “Tuesday, at 4am”.

“It was dark, we took the wounded with us. Mortar and artillery shelling began, military aviation worked, panic began. I had no idea we were surrounded,” he said according to the translation.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine

Residents chat in front of a destroyed building in Borodianka, as Russia's attacks on Ukraine continue, Kyiv Region, Ukraine June 4, 2022.
Residents chat in front of a destroyed building in Borodyanka, Kyiv Region, Ukraine [Edgar Su/Reuters]

EU to provide Ukraine with $219.3m in humanitarian aid

The European Commission has announced the bloc will provide another $219.3m to Ukraine to combat the humanitarian crisis in the country.

“With this funding our humanitarian partners are providing food, water, health care, shelter, protection and cash assistance,” EU Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarcic said in a statement during a visit to Ukraine.

Lenarcic said the commission is “working closely with the Ukrainian authorities to ensure the assistance provided by the EU member states is aligned with the constantly evolving needs”.

An elderly woman walks next to a building damaged by an overnight missile strike in Sloviansk, Ukraine,
An elderly woman walks next to a building damaged by an overnight missile attack in Sloviansk, Ukraine [Andriy Andriyenko/AP Photo]

Military chiefs of Russia, France discuss Ukraine: TASS

Russian military chief Valery Gerasimov and his French counterpart, Thierry Burkhard, have held a phone call and discussed the situation in Ukraine and West Africa’s Sahel region, the Tass news agency reports.

Defendants to appeal death sentence within a month: Report

A court in the separatist “People’s Republic of Donetsk” has sentenced two UK nationals and one Moroccan to death.

The charges faced included attempts to “forcibly seize or hold on to power” and “training in order to conduct terrorist activity” in accordance with the Stalinist-era criminal code that allows capital punishment, the report has said.

The defendants pleaded guilty, judge Alexander Nikulin was quoted as saying but added that “the evidence yet again proved that the charges were not simply based on their admission of guilt”.

The defendants said they would appeal the sentence within a month, the report said.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine War Who controls what in Donbas DAY 106

Separatists in Donetsk sentence 3 foreigners to death: Report

A court in the separatist “People’s Republic of Donetsk” has sentenced two UK nationals and one Moroccan to death.

Britons Shaun Pinner, Aiden Aslin and Moroccan Saadun Brahim served in the 36th Paratroopers’ Brigade and were captured while fighting in the southeastern Donbas region, the Donetsk News Agency reported.

It claimed that “the mercenaries’ actions led to deaths and wounds of civilians”.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine

Four killed in Azot chemical plant shelling in Severodonetsk

Four people have been killed in the shelling of the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.

Hundreds of civilians are seeking safety in the plant in eastern Ukraine that is currently being used as an air raid shelter, according to Ukrainian sources.

So far, however, it is not surrounded by Russian troops as was the case in Mariupol, when residents and Ukrainian fighters sought cover in the Azovstal steelworks and were surrounded for weeks before.

Scholz reaffirms Germany’s NATO resolve

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has discussed updating NATO’s strategic aims in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a phone call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, according to a German government spokesperson.

In the call, laying the ground for NATO’s June-end Madrid summit, Scholz reaffirmed the German government’s resolve to contribute to the alliance to help it achieve its aims in the next decade, the spokesperson said.

The two were set to meet in person in Berlin on Thursday but had to switch to speaking remotely after Stoltenberg was diagnosed with shingles.

Ukraine needs assurances on ports to ship grains: Draghi

Ukraine needs assurances that its ports will not be attacked in order to ship out grain cargoes, according to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

“We need to unblock the millions of tonnes of cereals that are stuck there because of the conflict. The United Nations and Turkey’s mediation efforts are significant steps,” Draghi said in a speech at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ministerial meeting in Paris.

“We have to offer President Zelenskyy the assurances he needs that the ports will not be attacked,” he added.

Mario Draghi delivers his speech
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi delivers his speech [File: Jean-Francois Badias/AP Photo]

Russia says no agreement with Turkey on Ukrainian grain exports

The Kremlin has said no agreement was reached with Turkey on exporting Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that work was continuing.

Turkey has been pushing for an agreement between Russia and Ukraine on a plan to resume grain exports from Ukrainian ports, although prospects for a deal look dim, with each side blaming the other for disrupting global food supplies.

Volkswagen offers payoffs for employees who quit Russia plant

Volkswagen is offering payoffs to its employees at a car assembly plant in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, if they agree to quit voluntarily, according to the carmaker.

The offer of financial compensation and medical insurance until the end of 2022 was available to the about 200 people working at the Nizhny Novgorod plant, a Volkswagen spokesperson said, confirming an earlier report by Kommersant paper.

Volkswagen announced in March that production at its Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod sites would be suspended until further notice because of Western sanctions, and vehicle exports to Russia would be stopped with immediate effect.

Kremlin: No more gas cuts to European customers expected

The Kremlin has said it does not expect Gazprom to cut gas supplies to any more European customers, adding that its scheme to make buyers pay for their gas in roubles was functioning as intended.

Gazprom has cut supplies to some European countries for refusing to make payments for Russian gas in roubles under a new scheme the Kremlin set up in response to Western sanctions.

gas pipeline Bulgaria
Gazprom has cut supplies to some European countries for refusing to make payments for Russian gas in roubles [File: Lubomira Filipova/AP Photo]

Zelenskyy: Millions could starve due to Russian blockade of ports

Zelenskyy has warned that millions of people could starve because of a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports which he said has left the world “on the brink of a terrible food crisis”.

Russia has seized large parts of Ukraine’s coast, blocking farm exports and driving up the cost of grain.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was now unable to export large amounts of wheat, corn, vegetable oil and other products that had played a “stabilising role in the global market”.

Western arms would end Severodonetsk fight ‘in 2-3 days’

Western long-range artillery would enable Ukraine to beat back Russian forces and capture Severodonetsk within days, according to a regional Ukrainian official.

“As soon as we have long-range artillery to be able to conduct duels with Russian artillery, our special forces can clean up the city in two to three days,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said in an interview distributed on his official social media channels.

Moscow’s forces are concentrating their firepower on the strategically important industrial hub as part of efforts to capture a swath of eastern Ukraine.

List of key events in the war, day 106

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 106th day, we take a look at the main developments here.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 106

Ukraine sees threat of pollution to water basins after Russian invasion

Zelenskyy has said Russia’s invasion of his country posed a huge threat of pollution to water basins, including the Sea of Azov.

In an address to a ministerial meeting of OECD, he also underlined the need for green energy to replace Russian natural gas supplies following Russia’s invasion on February 24.

Evacuation impossible, 10,000 trapped in Severodonetsk: Mayor

Ukrainian forces still hold the industrial zone and adjacent areas in the city of Severodonetsk, and the situation is “difficult but manageable”, according to Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk.

He said defence lines were holding despite intense Russian artillery fire but that it was now impossible to evacuate people from Severodonetsk. He said about 10,000 civilians remained in the city, which is now the main focus of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

Russia shells Severodonetsk, street fighting rages: governor

Fighting has raged on the streets of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine and Russian forces have been destroying “everything that can be used for defence”, according to the regional governor.

Luhansk Governor Haidai said Russia was shelling areas of the city that are still controlled by Kyiv but that Ukrainian forces would be able to “clean up” in the city once they received long-range artillery.

Russia resumes Izyum offensive: UK

Russian forces have resumed their efforts to advance to the south of the town of Izyum, an offensive that has been stalled since April, the UK’s defence ministry says.

The ministry says Russia likely tried to reconstitute its eastern ground forces from the Izyum operation after they “suffered very heavy casualties in the failed advance on Kyiv, but its units likely remain understrength.”

“Russia likely seeks to regain momentum in this area … to put further pressure on Severodonetsk, and to give it the option of advancing deeper into the Donetsk Oblast,” the ministry says.

British American Tobacco says talks to transfer Russia business continuing

British American Tobacco says it is still working towards transferring its Russian business and that it is confident in delivering its financial targets irrespective of how long it takes to offload the unit.

The maker of Lucky Strike and Newport cigarettes, which stuck to its 2022 revenue and earnings forecast, says annual global tobacco industry volume is down three percent due to the uncertainty over the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Russia’s deputy PM says economy growing despite sanctions: Tass

Russia’s deputy prime minister says the country’s economy has been growing despite sanctions, Tass news reports.

“Thanks to the measures taken by the President of the Russian Federation, the government and the Bank of Russia, the economic war against our country did not go according to the plan of those who unleashed it,” Alexey Overchuk said at a conference on cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan in the latter’s capital Nur-Sultan.

He said Russia’s economy grew by about 1.7 percent over the last four months and that, “in May, inflation practically stopped, the last week of May its level was 0 percent, last week we went into deflation,” Overchuk said.

No legal obligation for Russia to help export Ukraine’s grain: Official

Russia has no legal obligation to facilitate the export of grain from Ukraine, a top official from Russia’s committee on constitutional legislation and state-building says.

“Russia simply has no legal obligations to build logistics chains for the export of grain from Ukraine or somehow facilitate this export,” Andrey Klishas wrote on Telegram.

Four killed, 11 injured in Donetsk: Governor

Russian forces have killed four civilians and injured another 11 in Donetsk on Wednesday, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Kyrylenko said on Telegram that three civilians died in the town of Kurakhove and one in Avdiivka and that there had been “four victims in Mariupol, including two children”, without specifying whether they were killed or injured.

He added that the exact number of victims in occupied Mariupol and Volnovakha was currently unknown.

Drawings by Ukrainian children decorate a sleeping area in a trench near the front lines in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Drawings by Ukrainian children decorate a sleeping area in a trench near the front lines in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022 [Bernat Armangue/AP]

Four killed, at least six injured in Luhansk: Governor

Russian attacks have killed at least four people in the Luhansk region, the governor said.

Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram that Russians fired on the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where he has previously said many civilians have been sheltering.

Haidai said one man in Severodonetsk died on Wednesday after having been injured on Monday and that three people died in Lysychansk after Russia fired “mortars, artillery, and rocket-propelled grenades” on the town and its surrounds. He added that at least six people were injured in the attacks.

China’s Huawei closing retail stores in Russia: RIA

China’s telecommunications giant Huawei has begun closing retail outlets in Russia in part due to a drop in demand, Moscow’s state news agency RIA reported, citing a source close to the company.

According to RIA, four out of Russia’s 19 stores have now closed and RIA says it is likely the rest will soon follow.

A shortage of products in warehouses was another reason given by the source.

US, China to clash on Ukraine at Shangri-La Dialogue: Reuters

The US and China are expected to use the upcoming Shangri-La Dialogue – which attracts the world’s top-level military officials, diplomats and weapons makers – to spar over everything from Taiwan’s sovereignty to the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

On the sidelines of the summit, to take place June 10-12 in Singapore, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe are expected to hold their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office more than two years ago.

Although the summit is focused on Asian security issues, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be central to discussions. Ukraine will send a delegation to the meeting but Russia will not be attending, a source familiar with the list of attendees told Reuters.

Russian troops trying to lower Ukrainian soldiers’ morale: ISW

Russian forces are using psychological tactics to damage the morale of Ukrainian soldiers, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says.

ISW cited several sources, including Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), which said Russian forces were sending threatening messages to Kyiv’s soldiers, “calling on them to … surrender, or defect to Russia”.

According to the GUR, the messages were being sent on a number of platforms including SMS, Telegram, Viber, Signal, and WhatsApp.

The ISW also cited Ukrainian military expert Dmytro Snegirov who noted that Russian propagandists were disseminating information that the battle for Severodonetsk would become the “next Mariupol.”

Russia ‘pounding’ Severodonetsk: Adviser

An adviser to Zelenskyy’s office says Russian troops changed tactics in the battle for Severodonetsk.

Oleksiy Arestovych said Wednesday that Russian soldiers had retreated from the city and were now pounding it with artillery and air attacks. As a result, he said, the city centre is deserted.

In his daily online interview, Arestovych said: “They retreated, our troops retreated, so the artillery hits an empty place. They are hitting hard without any particular success.”

Arctic Council decisions without Russia ‘illegitimate’: Ambassador

Decisions taken by the Arctic Council without the participation of Russia will be illegitimate and violate the principle of consensus, Russia’s ambassador to the US says, according to state-owned Tass news agency.

Antonov was speaking in relation to Wednesday’s statement from the council that it was resuming “limited” activities without Russia’s participation.

On March 3, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the US – the “Arctic 7” – suspended their work in the council due to Russia’s Ukraine invasion.

Russia still feels too strong to negotiate: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy says that Russia will not join negotiations to end the war now “because Russia can still feel its power”.

Speaking via video link to US corporate leaders Wednesday through a translator, he added: “We need to weaken Russia and the world is supposed to do it.”

Zelenskyy said Ukraine is doing its part on the battlefield and called for even tougher sanctions to weaken Russia economically.

Russia, Turkey support safe corridor for grains shipments

Russia and Turkey say they support a safe corridor in the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain exports, but Kyiv rejected the proposal, saying it was not credible.

This came after a meeting between Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara. Lavrov repeated earlier promises by Putin that Moscow would not use the safe corridors to launch an attack, but Ukrainian and European Union officials cast doubt on Putin’s pledge.

Turkey said it would facilitate and protect the movement of grain in the Black Sea, but the head of Ukraine’s grain traders group responded with: “Turkey doesn’t have enough power in the Black Sea to guarantee security of cargo and Ukrainian ports.”

Ukrainian Grain Union Chief Serhiy Ivashchenko said Wednesday it would take three to four months to remove sea mines and also alleged that, contrary to their claims, it was Russia that mined the area.

 Scattered grain sits inside a warehouse damaged by Russian attacks.
Scattered grain in a warehouse damaged by Russian attacks in Cherkaska Lozova, outskirts of Kharkiv, May 28 [Bernat Armangue/AP]

Volkswagen offers pay-offs to employees who quit Russia plant: Reports

Volkswagen is offering pay-offs to employees at one of the company’s two plants in Russia if they agree to quit voluntarily, the Kommersant newspaper has said, citing union sources.

The paper said the offer – which in some cases would amount to six months’ salary – was aimed at the 200 people working at the Nizhny Novgorod plant.

Volkswagen announced in March that production at its Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod sites would be suspended until further notice because of Western sanctions, and vehicle exports to Russia will stop with immediate effect.

Ukraine’s PM thanks EU for vote in favour of candidate status

Ukraine’s prime minister has thanked Europe’s parliament for voting in favour of making his country a candidate for EU membership.

“Deputies approved the resolution also calling for providing weapons to #Ukraine to fight the aggressor. Grateful to @EP_President & @Europarl_EN for solidarity with Ukrainian people. We will win together!,” Denys Shmyhal wrote on Twitter.

Some 438 members voted in favour of the resolution to make Ukraine a candidate, 65 voted against and 94 abstained.

Ukraine parliament speaker pleads for EU candidate status

The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament has made a plea for his country to become a candidate for EU membership, which would bring his nation closer to the EU without guaranteeing membership.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, told EU legislators on Wednesday that not giving Ukraine a sign of an open door would indicate to Putin that “he can be totally going forward without any punishment”.

European heads of state and governments are expected to consider Ukraine’s bid for EU candidate status at the end of June. The European Parliament already passed a resolution in favour of making Ukraine a membership candidate.

Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) Ruslan Stefanchuk delivers a speech at the European Parliament.
Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk delivers a speech at the European Parliament, June 8, in Strasbourg, France [Jean-Francois Badias/AP]

Millions hurting as Ukraine war hikes prices

A UN report says the war in Ukraine is increasing the suffering of millions by escalating food and energy prices, coming on top of ills from a growing financial crisis, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

The UN Global Crisis Response Group report said the war “has exacerbated a global cost-of-living crisis unseen in at least a generation” and is undermining the UN goal of ending extreme poverty around the world by 2030.

The group was appointed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to assess the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia launched at least 2100 missiles at Ukraine: Visegrad

Russia has launched at least 2,100 missiles against Ukraine since the start of the invasion, according to information collected by Visegrad. More than 600 were launched from Belarus.

Visegrad, a cultural and political alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, published a timeline video with a map of Ukraine showing where the missiles landed.

Two Britons, Moroccan risk death penalty in Donetsk court

Two British nationals and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine could face the death penalty after pleading guilty in court in one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s RIA state news agency reported.

Video published by RIA showed Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun in a courtroom cage. RIA said Pinner and Saadoun had pleaded guilty to actions aimed at the violent seizure of power.

The video appeared to show Aslin pleading guilty to a lesser charge involving weapons and explosives. He was seen standing in the cage and leafing through a sheaf of legal documents as the charge was translated to him.

Severodonetsk largely under Russian control: Governor

The eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk is now “largely” under Russian control after fierce fighting, while its twin city of Lysychansk suffers enormous destruction, the region’s governor says.

Moscow’s forces “control a large part of Severodonetsk. The industrial zone is still ours … The fighting is only going on in the streets inside the city”, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.

Severodonetsk, which had a pre-war population of 100,000, and Lysychansk are wedged between Russian forces in Luhansk province.

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‘Endless caravan of death’ in Mariupol, says local official

Workers are removing bodies from the ruins of high-rise buildings in the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, transporting them in an “endless caravan of death”, a mayoral aide said.

Petro Andryushchenko said on Telegram that the searchers have found 50 to 100 bodies in about two-fifths of the buildings. They are taking the bodies to morgues and landfills.

Ukrainian authorities estimate at least 21,000 civilians were killed and hundreds of buildings destroyed during a weeks-long Russian siege of Mariupol. Reports have surfaced of mass graves holding thousands of bodies.

Russia claimed full control of Mariupol last month.

Severodonetsk defenders are inflicting big losses, Zelenskyy says

Zelenskyy says defenders in the city of Severodonetsk are inflicting major losses on Russian troops during what he called a “fierce and difficult” battle.

“In many respects, the fate of the Donbas is being decided there,” he said in an online address.

Russian economy to shrink by 15 percent: Trade group

Hit by sanctions, Russia’s economy will shrink by 15 percent this year and 3 percent in 2023, wiping out 10 years of economic gains, the Institute of International Finance, a global banking trade group, said in an analysis.

Earlier this week, Putin said unemployment and inflation are decreasing, backing up his frequent claims that Russia is succeeding despite Western sanctions.

Still, the institute argued, the sanctions “are unravelling its economy, wiping out more than a decade of economic growth, and some of the most meaningful consequences have yet to be felt”.

UN pursuing deal on Ukraine grain, Russian fertilisers

The UN says it is pursuing a deal that would allow grain exports from Ukraine through the Black Sea and unimpeded access to world markets for Russian food and fertilisers.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told UN correspondents that hundreds of millions of people in developing countries face the threat of an unprecedented wave of hunger without the deal.

“Ukraine’s food production and the food and fertiliser produced by Russia must be brought into world markets despite the war,” Guterres said.

Russia escalates pressure on domestic opponents

Russia has stepped up its campaign against domestic opponents of its invasion, extending the detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr, a journalist accused of spreading “false information” about the military.

Russia previously adopted a law criminalising “false information” about the war, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Some public figures, pressured to support the war, have fled Russia. Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow, fled to Israel after pressure to make public statements in support of the invasion.

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Ukraine files eight more war crime cases

Ukraine has filed eight more war crimes cases in court in addition to three sentences already handed down to Russian soldiers.

To date, Ukraine has opened more than 16,000 investigations into possible war crimes during Russia’s invasion, Prosecutor Iryna Venediktova said in televised remarks.

“Every day we see an increase [in investigations],” she added. “We are talking about people who didn’t just come as military combatants … but also came to rape, kill civilians, loot, humiliate.”

Moscow denies allegations its troops have committed war crimes.

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

Read all the updates from Wednesday, June 8, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies