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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 8

Firefighters work following a military strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on the outskirt of Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 8, 2022.
Firefighters work following a military strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on the outskirt of Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 8, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT.

11:45 p.m.: Ukraine and Russia exchanged bodies of soldiers. More than 30 of the bodies returned to Ukraine are those of Ukrainian soldiers who defended the Azovstal steel plant.

10:30 p.m.: The United Nations 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 fertilizers, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told U.N. correspondents, The Associated Press reported.

Guterres said that without the deal hundreds of millions of people in developing countries face the threat of an unprecedented wave of hunger, three months after Russia invaded its smaller neighbor. “Ukraine’s food production and the food and fertilizer produced by Russia must be brought into world markets, despite the war,” Guterres said, according to the AP.

9:11 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “According to the results of this day, the 105th day of the full-scale war, Sievierodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas. We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy.

“This is a very fierce battle, very difficult. Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war. I am grateful to everyone who defends this direction. In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there,” Zelenskyy said.

8:20 p.m.: U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that the consequences for the world of Russia's invasion of Ukraine are worsening, with 1.6 billion people likely to be affect, Agence France-Presse reported. "The war's impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe, and speeding up," the secretary-general said, presenting the U.N.'s second report into the repercussions of the conflict.

He said, according to AFP, “For people around the world, the war is threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake."

7:30 p.m.: Several European heads of military cyber defense forces agreed that Russia has been far less effective than expected in employing digital combat capabilities in their offensive against Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Among cybersecurity experts we were pretty sure that there would be a cyber Pearl Harbor based on past experience of Russian behavior and capabilities," said General Karol Molenda, head of Poland's National Cyber Security Center, according to AFP.

But Ukraine was prepared and "withstood attacks from Russia," Molenda told a meeting of the International Cybersecurity Forum (FIC) held in the northern France city of Lille, AFP reported.

6:56 p.m.: Japan on Wednesday criticized Russia’s announcement that it is suspending an agreement allowing Japanese to fish in waters near disputed islands, as relations between the countries deteriorate over the war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. The fishing deal has been in place since 1998 and allows Japanese fishing boats to operate around the Russian-held Kurils, which Japan also claims and calls the Northern Territories, in exchange for payments from Japan based on catch quotas and other conditions negotiated annually.

5:38 p.m.: Slovakia’s government has approved a long-term Defense Ministry plan to modernize and significantly increase the number of troops in its armed forces following Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. According to the plan announced Wednesday, the NATO member with a population of 5.5 million people should have 22,000 service members by 2035, up from 14,100 this year.

Slovakia also plans to acquire 228 various armed vehicles and will modernize its air force bases to be ready for the U.S. F-16 fighter jets whose delivery should start in 2024, with other deals to purchase new arms to follow. The government has also confirmed Slovakia’s commitment to spend 2% of its gross domestic product on the military by 2024.

4:52 p.m.:

4 p.m.: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Maryan Kushnir was embedded with Ukrainian troops as they ducked constant Russian artillery fire near occupied Svitlodarsk on Ukraine's eastern front in the Donetsk region. After they dodged the enemy shelling in neighboring Novoluhanske, Ukrainian defenders talked about the enemy's strategy.

3:42 p.m.: Up to 100 bodies found in the ruins of high-rise buildings in the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol are being transported to morgues and landfills, a mayoral aide said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. Petro Andryushchenko described the removal of the bodies as an “endless caravan of death” in a post on the Telegram app.

Ukrainian authorities estimate at least 21,000 civilians were killed and hundreds of buildings destroyed during a weekslong Russian siege of Mariupol. Reports have surfaced of mass graves holding thousands of bodies. Russia claimed full control of Mariupol last month.

The city has endured some of the war’s worst suffering and became a worldwide symbol of defiance after hundreds of Ukrainian fighters held out for months at a steel plant despite relentless bombardment.

3:23 p.m.: Two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine could face the death penalty after pleading guilty in a court of one of Russia's proxies in eastern Ukraine, Russia's RIA news agency reported, according to Reuters. Video published by RIA showed Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun in a courtroom cage with white bars. RIA said Pinner and Saadoun had pleaded guilty to actions aimed at the violent seizure of power.

3:02 p.m.: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Wednesday that he and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended a conference aimed at inviting foreign investment in Ukraine. Reuters reported that Zelenskyy said he had met U.S. philanthropist Howard Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, on Wednesday in Kyiv and discussed ways to help rebuild the country. "We discussed assistance that would be valuable for our state. I offered him the chance to join projects restoring irrigation systems in the Odesa region, supporting our people, [and] mine clearance," Zelenskyy said in a tweet.

2:31 p.m.: Russia's economy will be hit hard by Western sanctions, but President Vladimir Putin faces no immediate political risk and his government will likely weather the economic fallout, a prominent Russian economist and banker said. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, Andrei Movchan said the war in Ukraine - now in its fourth month - was a powerful drain on the Russian government coffers, as were the punitive sanctions imposed by the West in response. But he said that high global oil prices would buttress the government’s finances, and that even though the wider Russian economy - and average Russians, in particular - will suffer, that was unlikely to pose a threat to Putin’s rule.

2:15 p.m.:

2:02 p.m.: Ukraine hopes to make 1.5 billion euros from electricity exports to the European Union by the end of the year and earn to more in the future after obtaining the right to export its energy there, a Ukrainian energy ministry adviser said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Former Soviet Ukraine's electricity grid began planning to de-coupling itself from the Russian and Belarusian grid in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea. It was testing the system's autonomy in February when Russia invaded, which prompted Kyiv to fully disconnected 2.5 years earlier than planned.

1:53 p.m.:

1:35 p.m.: The Russian ruble climbed on Wednesday, firming past 60 per dollar, despite Russia's decision to ease some capital controls and expectations of an interest rate cut at an upcoming central bank meeting, Reuters reported. The ruble has become the world's best-performing currency so far this year, boosted artificially by capital controls and supported by high prices for commodities, Russia's key exports.

1:24 p.m.: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that his government remains committed to phasing out nuclear power despite concerns about rising energy prices and possible future shortages due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Germany shut down half of its six nuclear plants in December and the remaining three are due to cease production at the end of this year as part of the country’s long-running plan to phase out conventional power plants in favor of renewable energy. But the war in Ukraine has renewed fears that Germany’s power-hungry economy might be badly battered if Russia decides to suddenly cut natural gas supplies.

1:11 p.m.: The U.N. World Food Program announced Wednesday that it is partnering with transport company Uber to transport aid to those in need in Ukraine.

12:41 p.m.: The speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament made a vibrant plea Wednesday for his country to be named a candidate for European Union membership, a move that would bring the war-torn nation closer to the EU without guaranteeing its admittance, The Associated Press reported. Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, told EU lawmakers that failing to give Ukraine a sign of an open door would be a clear signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “he can be totally going forward without any punishment.” European heads of state and government are expected to consider Ukraine’s bid for EU candidate status at the end of June.

12:13 p.m.: Fertilizer shortages due to the war in Ukraine are hitting more than just food costs. On Wednesday lawn-care firm Scotts Miracle-Gro issued a sales and profit warning as higher commodity costs continued to squeeze margins, Reuters reported. It’s a warning of pain being spread across industries. A surge in fertilizer prices has shaken the global economy. Even in January before Russia invaded Ukraine, certain costs had more than doubled, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Then it went up by nearly 20% when the war began.

12:07 p.m.: Hard hit by sanctions since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s economy will shrink by 15% this year and another 3% in 2023, wiping out 15 years of economic gains, according to the Institute of International Finance, a global banking trade group, The Associated Press reported.

The resilience of the ruble — Russia’s currency — has partially shielded its economy from the full impact of sanctions. Propping up the ruble are strong oil and natural gas sales and the Russian central bank, which has raised interest rates and imposed capital controls to keep money from fleeing the country.

President Vladimir Putin said this week that unemployment and inflation are decreasing, backing up his frequent claims that Russia is succeeding despite Western sanctions. Still, the finance institute argued that the sanctions, partly by encouraging foreign companies to abandon Russia, “are unraveling its economy, wiping out more than a decade of economic growth, and some of the most meaningful consequences have yet to be felt.”

11:56 a.m.:

11:44 a.m.: Turkish efforts to ease a global food crisis by negotiating safe passage for grain stuck in Black Sea ports met resistance as Ukraine said Russia was imposing unreasonable conditions and the Kremlin said free shipment depended on an end to sanctions, Reuters reported.

The war between Russia and Ukraine, the world's third and fourth largest grain exporters respectively, has added to food price inflation and put global food supplies at risk.

Grain silos in Ukraine's government-controlled territory are about half full in the run-up to this year's harvest, meaning crops could be left in the ground if Russia continues its port blockade, the head of the Ukraine Grain Association said on Wednesday.

11:32 a.m: After weeks of searching, Lilia Borysovska discovered her brother was being held in a prison in a Russian-occupied part of Ukraine. But she's relatively lucky. Many Ukrainians are still desperately searching for loved ones who have disappeared without a trace. The police have registered 15,000 missing persons, and a volunteer online platform gets 100-150 new cases every day. Yulia Zhukova has this report for Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA.

11:03 a.m.: The Russian-installed administration in the occupied part of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region plans to stage a referendum later this year on joining Russia, Russian news agencies quoted one of its members as saying, according to Reuters. "The people will determine the future of the Zaporizhzhia region. The referendum is scheduled for this year," the official, Vladimir Rogov, was quoted by TASS as saying, giving no further details about the timing.

10:51 a.m.:

10:43 a.m.: The head of the Ukrainian grain traders group has dismissed Turkey’s effort to negotiate a deal with Russia to allow Ukrainian grain exports to resume, saying Ankara lacks the power to act as a guarantor, The Associated Press reported.

Ukrainian Grain Union head Serhiy Ivashchenko said Wednesday that “Turkey doesn’t have enough power in the Black Sea to guarantee security of cargo and Ukrainian ports.”

The blunt comment followed talks between Turkey and Russia at which they discussed creating a safe maritime corridor in the Black Sea for Ukraine to export grain amid an escalating world food crisis. Russia says the Ukrainian ports must be demined to allow safe shipping and insists on its right to check incoming ships to make sure they don’t bring weapons into Ukraine.

Ivashchenko said Ukraine would prefer if NATO ships entered the Black Sea and served as guarantors. He also said it was the Russians who have planted sea mines in the area, and it would take three to four months to remove them.

10:29 a.m.:

10:07 a.m.: The German government wants to temporarily keep additional coal-fired power plants on stand-by for almost two years to stave off a possible electricity shortage in case natural gas supplies from Russia are suddenly reduced, officials said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. Germany is trying to wean itself off Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine and expects to finish doing so in 2024. But the government fears that Moscow might cut off supplies suddenly in response to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Western nations, including Germany.

9:51 a.m.: President Joe Biden will meet with allies in Germany and Spain in late June as he tries to hold together the fragile coalition opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. The White House announced Wednesday that Biden will travel to southern Germany on June 25 to attend a Group of Seven summit of leaders of the world’s major industrialized nations. After the meeting in the Bavarian Alps, the president will go to Madrid on June 28 to participate in a gathering of NATO member countries.

9:34 a.m.: The inability of Ukraine to transport millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products amid Russia's invasion has aggravated a global food crisis. The country is a major exporter of seed oils, corn, and wheat, but the war and Russia's blockade of Ukraine's ports have effectively stopped a significant amount of that flow. While Ukraine's leaders seek ways to export the country's agricultural output, its farmers face perilous conditions as a result of the ongoing conflict. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has published this photo essay.

9:12 a.m.:

9 a.m.: Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it was making substantial cuts to its business in Russia, joining a string of companies that are reducing their exposure or pulling out of the country following its invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported. The company, however, said it would fulfill its existing contractual obligations with Russian customers, while the suspension of new sales that was announced earlier in March remains in effect.

8:41 a.m.: Moscow will respond to France's decision to ban some Russian television channels, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. "The Foreign Ministry will react to such actions, and a response to this will be given," Zakharova told reporters, without elaborating. Russia on Monday warned U.S. news organizations they risked being stripped of their accreditation unless the treatment of Russian journalists in the United States improves, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

8:36 a.m.:

8:29 a.m.: The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Western sanctions against Moscow must be lifted before Russian grain could be delivered to international markets, Reuters reported. "President (Vladimir) Putin said that in order for Russian grain volumes to be delivered to international markets, direct and indirect sanctions against Russia must be lifted," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. He said the sanctions, which the West imposed in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, were affecting shipping insurance, payments, and access to European ports."

8:25 a.m.:

8:18 a.m.: Russia's Orthodox Church has ousted its second most powerful bishop from his role in charge of foreign relations and sent him to Budapest, an abrupt decision indicating discord at the top of the Moscow Patriarchate over the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported. The Holy Synod, which met at the white-walled 13th century Danilovsky Monastery in Moscow on Tuesday, decreed to remove Metropolitan Hilarion as the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations.

7:35 a.m.: The Institute for Global Transformation, a Ukrainian organization, has collected and shipped artifacts from the battle for the town of Irpin to be displayed in Brussels, Belgium, as part of the “Irpin: Invincible” exhibition, the Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday.

7:32 a.m.: Europe’s leaders have the right intentions to tackle soaring energy bills – and the wrong remedies, Reuters Breakingviews reported. After gas prices quadrupled since last year, European Union governments had committed 0.6% of the bloc’s GDP, as of late April, to help their economies cushion the blow. That makes sense. Yet the way they do it enriches Russia and compromises an EU pledge to cut 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to their 1990 level.

7:11 a.m.: Ukrainian forces battling Russian troops in a key eastern city appeared on the cusp of retreat Wednesday, though the regional governor insisted they are still fighting “for every centimeter” of the city, The Associated Press reported.

The urban battle for Sievierodonetsk testified to the painstaking, inch-by-inch advance by Russian forces as they close in on control of the entire Luhansk region, one of two that make up the industrial heartland known as the Donbas.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai acknowledged the difficulties in Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday, telling The Associated Press “maybe we will have to retreat, but right now battles are ongoing in the city.”

7:01 a.m.: The town of Valuyki in western Russia has become a crucial staging post in the latest phase of Russia’s war over the nearby border in Ukraine. Throughout last month, helicopters buzzed overhead, military vehicles clogged the roads, and soldiers prepared for combat at a huge military base there, Reuters reported.

It's also a place where soldiers’ relatives and private citizens are working to provide supplies and equipment for troops based near the town to address shortages, including drones, radios and heat-detecting rifle sights, according to six volunteers and three soldiers Reuters spoke to, as well as a review of social media channels volunteers use to coordinate efforts.

6:56 a.m.: Turkey's foreign minister said on Wednesday a United Nations plan to ease a global food crisis by restarting Ukrainian grain exports along a sea corridor was "reasonable" and requires more talks with Moscow and Kyiv to ensure ships' safety, Reuters reported.

Speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu said their meeting in Ankara was fruitful, including a perceived will to return to negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv for a possible ceasefire.

Lavrov said the onus was on Ukraine to solve the grain shipments problem by de-mining its Black Sea ports and that Russia needed to take no action because it had already made the necessary commitments.

"We state daily that we're ready to guarantee the safety of vessels leaving Ukrainian ports and heading for (Turkish waters), we're ready to do that in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues," he said after the talks with Cavusoglu.

6:50 a.m.:

6:41 a.m.: Italy is demanding that Russia release grain from Ukrainian silos to ease the global food crisis, saying the continued blockade of Ukraine’s ports “is sentencing to death millions of children, women and men, far from the battleground,” The Associated Press reported.

Speaking at a conference in Rome on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio also warned that increased food insecurity in the developing world will trigger political instability and migratory flows.

Many countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Somalia, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, import much of their grain from Ukraine. Drought and high fuel prices even before the war in Ukraine already had threatened food availability for many developing countries.

Di Maio described the following weeks as crucial. “I want to say clearly that we expect a sign from Russia because blocking exports of wheat means holding hostage and sentencing to death millions of children, women and men far from the battleground.”

6:36 a.m.: Moscow's chief rabbi has left Russia after coming under pressure to support its invasion of Ukraine, according to a relative. Swiss-born Pinchas Goldschmidt had served as Moscow's chief rabbi since 1993, while also heading a large European rabbinical group, Reuters reported.

"Can finally share that my in-laws, Moscow Chief Rabbi @PinchasRabbi @Rebbetzin Dara Goldschmidt, have been put under pressure by authorities to support the 'special operation' in Ukraine - and refused," Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt tweeted on Tuesday.

5:49 a.m.: Norway said Wednesday it has donated heavy artillery with equipment, spare parts and munition to Ukraine, enabling the country to “withstand the Russian attacks,” said Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram, who called that “a substantial contribution,” The Associated Press reported.

The Scandinavian country’s Armed Forces recently has replaced M109 artillery guns with new artillery from South Korea, the defense ministry said, and 22 of them had been sent to Ukraine. Norway added that it trained Ukrainian forces to operate the guns in Germany.

The situation in Ukraine means “that it is now necessary to donate heavier materiel and weapons systems as well,” Arild Gram said in a statement.

5 a.m.: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to hold talks Wednesday with Turkish officials on a plan that could allow Ukraine to export its grain through the Black Sea to global markets amid an escalating food crisis, The Associated Press reported.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and a Russian blockade of its ports have halted much of that flow, endangering food supplies to many developing countries. Many of those ports are now also heavily mined. An estimated 22 million tons of grains are sitting in silos in Ukraine.

Turkey is involved in efforts for the establishment of a U.N.-led mechanism that would create a secure corridor for the shipment of the Ukrainian grain — and for Russia to export food and fertilizer. Turkey would facilitate and protect the transport of the grain in the Black Sea, Turkish officials have said.

4:53 a.m.: The World Bank has approved $1.49 billion in financial support for Ukraine to help pay wages for social workers and civil servants, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. "Funding will be used to pay wages for social workers & civil servants. Recovery & victory will be the victory of democracy & whole civilized world," the Ukrainian politician tweeted.

4:45 a.m.: Ukraine’s Minister of Health Viktor Liashko says millions of people in the country will need psychological support because of trauma experienced during the war, the Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday.

3:45 a.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says "whatever the occupiers plan for themselves, we must prepare for the next winter, in our state, on our land, for all citizens."

2:30 a.m.: Norway has shipped 22 M109 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine along with spare parts and ammunition. The Norwegian defense ministry said it conducted training sessions in Germany with Ukrainian soldiers on using the weapons.

1:30 a.m.: Britain's defense ministry said Wednesday morning the previous 24 hours had brought little significant gains for either Russia or Ukraine in the fight for the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, with Russia attacking from multiple sides but Ukraine's defenses holding.

12:01 a.m.: The Associated Press is reporting that Angela Merkel defended her approach to Ukraine and Russia during her 16 years as Germany's leader, saying that a much-criticized 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine bought Kyiv precious time. She won't apologize for her diplomatic efforts, AP reported.

FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference following her visit to the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, July 13, 2021.
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference following her visit to the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, July 13, 2021.

In her first substantial comments since leaving office six months ago, Merkel said there was no excuse for Russia's brutal attack on Ukraine and it was “a big mistake on Russia's part.”

Merkel, who dealt with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout her chancellorship, rejected a suggestion that she and others engaged in appeasement that ultimately enabled the invasion.

“It is a matter of great sorrow that it didn't succeed, but I don't blame myself now for trying,” Merkel said.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.