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June 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

What we covered

  • Ukrainian troops are locked in fierce street battles with Russian forces in Severodonetsk as other cities face increased air assaults in the eastern Donbas region.
  • Russia claims it has opened a land corridor to Russian-occupied Crimea, allowing civilians and goods to pass through the eastern Ukrainian territory.
  • Unburied bodies and contaminated drinking water are prompting fears of a cholera outbreak in the southern port city of Mariupol, according to an exiled local official.
  • The European Council president accused the Kremlin of "using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries" by blocking Ukrainian grain exports.
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10:07 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Chernobyl radiation detectors transmitting data for first time since Ukraine war began, says IAEA

Dozens of radiation detectors around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant have started transmitting radiation data for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA said the radiation monitoring network in the area stopped functioning when Russian forces occupied the Chernobyl site in February and held it for five weeks before withdrawing on March 31.

A step forward for nuclear safety: The agency’s Director General Rafael Grossi said the measurements the detectors are now transmitting are indicating radiation levels that are in line with those measured before the conflict.
“The resumption of radiation data transmission from the Exclusion Zone is a very positive step forward for nuclear safety and security in Ukraine. It ends a long period of virtual information blackout that created much uncertainty about the radiation situation in the area, especially when it was under Russian occupation,” Grossi said in the statement.
“I congratulate Ukraine for this important milestone, achieved with the help of the IAEA’s technical assistance.”
Is Chernobyl safe? More than 30 people died in the immediate aftermath of an explosion that tore through Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor on April 26, 1986. It remains the world's worst nuclear disaster.

In the years that followed, countless others died from radiation symptoms, according to the IAEA and World Health Organization. Ukraine's government evacuated some 135,000 people from the area and the 19-mile exclusion zone around the plant will remain uninhabitable for decades.

Grossi has previously voiced grave concerns about the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities since Russia's invasion began.

In April, radiation levels were higher than normal when CNN was given exclusive access to the Chernobyl plant for the first time since it came back into Ukrainian control.

Plant officials said the levels inside a room used by Russian soldiers were only slightly above what the World Nuclear Association describes as naturally occurring radiation. One-time contact would not be dangerous but continuous exposure would pose a health hazard.

9:35 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Zelensky says "Book of Torturers" will hold alleged war criminals accountable

A "Book of Torturers" documenting "war criminals and criminals from the Russian army" will be launched in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said during his nightly address on Tuesday.

"These are specific facts about specific people who are guilty of specific violent crimes against Ukrainians," he said.

“And such a ‘Book of Torturers’ is one of the foundations of the responsibility of not only the direct perpetrators of war crimes — soldiers of the occupying army, but also their commanders. Those who gave orders. Those who made possible everything they did in Ukraine. In Bucha, in Mariupol, in all our cities, in all the communities they have reached."

The creation of this system has been underway for some time, Zelensky added.

Some context: Last month, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed man in Ukraine's first war crimes trial since Russia's invasion began.

The trial came amid mounting evidence of alleged Russian war crimes as Ukrainians reclaimed areas previously occupied by invading troops.

In April, Ukraine's prosecutor general said her office was investigating nearly 6,000 cases of alleged Russian war crimes, with "more and more" proceedings opening every day.

Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians. But CNN journalists on the ground in Ukraine have seen firsthand evidence of atrocities at multiple locations across the country.
8:54 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Zelensky warns of "most difficult winter" to come

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Office of President of Ukraine)

The next winter would be very difficult for Ukrainians, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned during his nightly address on Tuesday.

"In the current situation due to Russia's aggression, this will indeed be the most difficult winter of all the years of independence," he said.

Zelensky said he had discussed in a meeting with government officials and representatives of the largest state-owned energy companies "setting up a headquarters to prepare for the next heating season.”

He said there are "issues of purchasing a sufficient amount of gas for the heating season, coal accumulation, and electricity production."
"At this time, we will not be selling our gas and coal abroad. All domestic production will be directed to the internal needs of our citizens," he added.
Ukraine's energy sources: Zelensky said that in light of "the historical accession of Ukraine to the unified energy network of Europe" it will be possible to reduce Russian energy consumption by the neighboring countries and increase Ukraine's "foreign exchange earnings."

Zelensky also said he was planning to repair heat and power plants damaged or destroyed by Russian attacks. "Implementation of this program in the coming months is one of the top tasks for the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine," he said.

10:07 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

"I hate them": Ex-Russian president threatens to make unnamed enemies "disappear"

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a profanity-laced Telegram post on Tuesday that his previous entries have been “harsh” because he hates “them” — without specifying who.

"I am often asked why my Telegram posts are so harsh. The answer is — I hate them," Medvedev said. "They're bastards and scum. They want to kill us, Russia. And as long as I'm alive, I'll do everything to make them disappear."
Who does he mean? Medvedev, currently deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, did not specify who he was referring to. However, he has previously been critical of Western government sanctions and responses to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Medvedev has previously warned the United States that Moscow has the "might to put all of our brash enemies in their place," has referred to Polish politicians as “imbeciles”, and slammed reports of war crimes in Bucha as Ukrainian propaganda.

8:35 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia made "a big mistake" invading Ukraine

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from journalist and author Alexander Osang at the Berliner Ensemble in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 7. (Fabian Sommer/dpa/AP)

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday there was no justification for Russia’s "brutal disregard" of international law in launching its invasion of Ukraine.

“The attack on Ukraine was a big mistake on Russia's part and an objective breach of all the rules of international law and everything that allows us to live together in peace in Europe,” Merkel said in an interview with German journalist Alexander Osang.
“If we go through the centuries and say which piece of territory belongs to whom, then we will only have war, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”

Merkel said she did not reproach herself for "not having tried hard enough" to prevent Russia's actions in the years leading up to the Feb. 24 invasion.

"It's a great sadness that it didn't succeed, but I don't blame myself now for not trying," she said. “I would feel very bad if we had said, 'oh with that man you don't need to talk at all,'" she said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia and Europe being neighbors conditioned certain relations, Merkel said. "You cannot ignore each other. That will not be possible in the future either."

Ukraine and NATO: Merkel said she was convinced that any plan to make Ukraine a candidate for NATO membership during her time in office would have been tantamount to a declaration of war, from Putin's perspective.

Merkel also said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is "incredibly courageous in his fight against corruption," but "at that time Ukraine was a country dominated by oligarchs," which would have prevented it from joining NATO.

"And that's why I was strictly against it," she explained.

Merkel also showed respect for Zelensky’s "will" to fight. 

"At the very beginning, not only did Russia make a serious miscalculation about conquering Kyiv, but his answer to the offer that he could leave the country, ‘I don't need a ride, I need weapons,’ was also very clear and also really inspired my respect," Merkel said. 

"Ultimately, Ukraine is a geopolitical hostage of the West. Putin's hatred, Putin's hostility is against the Western model. Putin's hostility goes against the Western democratic model."
European unity: Merkel said she was very glad that Germany recently decided to buy armed drones from Israel. “It's been a very tough struggle to invest in military deterrence. That's the only language Putin understands," she said.

"The annexation of Crimea was a deep cut," Merkel said. “For me it was then perfectly clear that we are not dealing with someone who wishes us well with our way of life. Nevertheless, we cannot get rid of him."

"Now it is very, very important that the European Union sticks together."

7:24 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

High-ranking Russian official visits Melitopol as referendum preparations are underway

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko visited the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Tuesday, according to the pro-Russian self-proclaimed Mayor Galina Danilchenko.

She announced his visit in a video posted on Telegram and added that Melitopol was starting preparations for a referendum.

The city is “very grateful to the Russian Federation for the help and support that we are receiving in building this life. We know that our future lies in unity with Russia. The Russian Federation is here forever. And now we are starting to prepare for the referendum," Danilchenko said.

Melitopol is a key city in southeastern Ukraine’s Zaporizhizhia region. It's also a neighbor to the Kherson region that has been under Russian control since the beginning of the invasion in late February.

Hennadii Lahuta, the Ukrainian head of the Kherson Military Administration who is a pro-Kyiv official, confirmed that preparations were underway for an upcoming referendum to be held "by autumn" in Russian-held areas of southern Ukraine.

The area was preparing for referendum on "the inclusion of the region into the Russian Federation," Lahuta said in a Tuesday telethon broadcast on Ukrainian television channels of the Russian-occupied city of Kherson.

After Russian-backed separatists took control in 2014 of parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, people's republics were declared in both areas. 

4:36 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

Bodies of 210 Ukrainian soldiers who died in Mariupol now repatriated, defense ministry says

Smoke rises following an explosion at a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 11. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

As of Tuesday, the bodies of 210 Ukrainian soldiers have been repatriated by Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense Main Intelligence Directorate. 

“The process of returning bodies of fallen defenders of Mariupol is ongoing,” due to the efforts of the POW Treatment Coordinating Staff, the statement said.

It said most of the bodies returned to Ukraine were those of the “heroic defenders of Azovstal," so Ukrainian soldiers at the massive Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, the last bastion of Ukraine’s defense in that southern port city, before it fell to Russian and Russian-backed forces.

The Coordination Staff on behalf of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is working to get the bodies of all the deceased returned, as well as some 2500 POWs believed held in the custody of Russian or Russian-backed forces.

“All fallen soldiers must return to the territory controlled by Ukraine. And each of them will be lead to the last journey with honors due to the heroes,” the statement said.

The statement adds that work continues to bring home “all captured Ukrainian defenders."

CNN’s Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman reported this week on workers at Kyiv’s central morgue examining the contents of scores of body bags containing the remains of those Ukrainian soldiers killed in the two-month siege of Mariupol. 

Ukraine and Russia have conducted an exchange of bodies as part of the agreement that ended that siege. 

3:38 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022

It's Tuesday night in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

Ukrainian troops fire with surface-to-surface rockets MLRS towards Russian positions at a front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 7. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian troops are locked in fierce street battles with Russian soldiers in the industrial city of Severodonetsk, while other towns are under increased air assault, as fighting rages in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Parts of the Ukrainian cities of Rubizhne and Severodonetsk are significantly destroyed, new satellite images taken on Monday by Maxar Technologies show.  

Constant, intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces has been happening for weeks in both cities. Ukrainian forces in the cities have held on, despite intense bombardments by Russian artillery. 

Russian forces continue to try to advance into — and past — the two key cities in Ukraine's Donbas region. 

A number of buildings in northern Severodonetsk have been destroyed by military strikes, satellite images show.

Russia claimed on Tuesday that it had opened a land corridor to Russian-occupied Crimea, allowing civilians and goods to pass through the eastern Ukrainian territory now under its control. 

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Mykolaiv regional governor reports continued shelling: Shelling continues in the southern Mykolaiv region, according to Vitalii Kim, the head of the Mykolaiv region military administration. Kim said two people were killed in the past 24 hours. An administrative building, outpatient clinic, stadium and district council in the city of Bashtanka were also shelled, he said. Kim said there are more than 3,700 damaged or destroyed properties in the Mykolaiv region.  
  • Unburied bodies and contaminated drinking water spark fears of cholera outbreak in Mariupol: In Mariupol, the ravaged southeastern Ukrainian port city now under Russian occupation, fears have shifted from relentless bombardment to deteriorating sanitary conditions: sewage seeping into drinking water and fears of a cholera outbreak. On Monday, one of the city's exiled local officials said that Russian officials now in control of Mariupol were considering imposing a quarantine in the city, where decomposing corpses and garbage were contaminating drinking water, putting remaining residents at risk of cholera and other diseases. “There are talks about quarantine. The city is being quietly closed," said mayoral adviser Petro Andriushchenko, a reliable source of information from residents remaining in the city.
  • War in Ukraine is impacting energy and food prices around the globe, US treasury secretary says: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen conceded on Tuesday that inflation is at “unacceptable levels,” but also sought to underscore it is not a problem exclusive to the United States. “Putin’s war in Ukraine is having impacts on energy and food prices globally,” Yellen told lawmakers. “We are not the only country experiencing inflation. You can see that in virtually every developed country around the world.” Speaking during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday, Yellen pointed to the Biden administration’s record-setting release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “Energy and gasoline prices, while very high, they would be higher without that,” Yellen said of the emergency oil release. 
  • Russia claims it has opened a land corridor to Crimea through occupied Ukrainian territory: Russia's Ministry of Defense claimed on Tuesday that it had opened a land corridor to Russian-occupied Crimea, allowing civilians and goods to pass through the eastern Ukrainian territory now under its control. Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said in a conference call on Tuesday that the military, working with Russian Railways, had restored 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) of train tracks and opened roads to allow "full-fledged traffic" between Russia, eastern Ukraine's Donbas region and Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russian forces from Ukraine in 2014. The supply of water through the North Crimean Canal -- a lifeline for Crimea -- had also resumed, Shoigu said.
  • Zelensky says he's glad "very important ally" Johnson will remain UK prime minister: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that he was “very happy” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had won a confidence vote on Monday, as he is “a true friend of Ukraine.” “I am glad that we have not lost a very important ally,” Zelensky told the Financial Times in a broadcast interview. “This is great news.” He added: “I cannot comment on the internal situation. I do not know all the details. So I beg pardon to Mister Johnson about this. I think that he is much better informed about the details than I am.” But “Boris is very concrete in supporting Ukraine,” Zelensky said.
  • UK foreign secretary says more sanctions on Russia are "in the pipeline": British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the United Kingdom will not back down in its support for Ukraine and that more sanctions on Russia are "in the pipeline," according to a readout of Monday's cabinet meeting. "She said the UK would not back down in its support, with further sanctions in the pipeline and continued work with global allies on how to help Ukraine rebuild in the future," the cabinet readout said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also reiterated that the UK will remain at the forefront of supporting Ukraine.