June 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Adrienne Vogt and Joe Ruiz, CNN

Updated 0413 GMT (1213 HKT) June 5, 2022
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5:16 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

UK Defense Ministry says Russian air activity over Donbas "high," causing "substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties"

From CNN's Dan Wright and Bex Wright

Russia’s air activity “remains high” over eastern Ukraine and has contributed to Russia’s “recent tactical successes,” but has “failed to have a meaningful impact on the conflict,” the latest intelligence assessment from the UK’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday. 

“Russia has been able to increase its employment of tactical air to support its creeping advance, combining airstrikes and massed artillery fires to bring its overwhelming firepower to bear,” the ministry said in one its regular updates on the situation in Ukraine.

Russian aircraft are "conducting strikes using both guided and unguided munitions,” it added.

Defense experts and analysts had raised concerns that Russia may increase its use of standoff weapons, including air strikes, as it intensifies its operation to capture the Donbas region. Such weapons tend to cause a higher number of civilian casualties.

“The increased use of unguided munitions has led to the widespread destruction of built-up areas in the Donbas and has almost certainly caused substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties,” the update said.

Russia has been conducting deep strikes using air and surface launched cruise missiles to “disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and supplies,” the statement said, adding that Russia’s supply of precision guided missiles “are likely to have been significantly depleted.”

Some background: The ministry's intelligence update comes a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that one-fifth of the country's territory is under Russian control, with Donbas "almost entirely destroyed."

“As of today, about 20% of our territory is under the control of the occupiers, almost 125 thousand square kilometers. This is much larger than the area of all the Benelux countries combined," Zelensky said to the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg via video link on Thursday.

He added that Ukraine’s Donbas region is “simply devastated,” calling it “once one of the most powerful industrial centers in Europe.” 

But on Saturday, head of the Luhansk region's military administration, Serhiy Hayday, said Ukraine is regaining ground in Severodonetsk, claiming to now control half the key city.

CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll contributed reporting to this post.

3:44 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

Ukraine now controls half of Severodonetsk after reclaiming ground, Ukrainian official says

From Julia Presniakova, Taras Zadorozhnyy and Bex Wright

A Ukrainian soldier walks past a part of a rocket near the front line in the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine on June 2.
A Ukrainian soldier walks past a part of a rocket near the front line in the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine on June 2. (Str/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Ukraine now controls around half the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine after reclaiming some ground from the Russians, Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration said.

Hayday was responding to a question about an intelligence assessment from the UK defense ministry, which predicted Russia would control all of the Luhansk region within two weeks.

Two weeks is unrealistic. It's just unreal,” Hayday said Friday. “Earlier there was a difficult situation, and somewhere around 70% [of Severodonetsk] was captured, now we have already moved them back somewhere around 20%.” 

The Russians “had previously managed to capture most of the city, but now our military has pushed them back. They are really suffering huge losses,” he said in further comments on Saturday.

“The difficult situation remains in the region as a whole, and Severodonetsk is now just a concentration of hostilities because the Russian army -- as we understand -- is throwing all its reserves into this direction,” Hayday said.

Currently the Ukrainian military lacks long-range artillery, which could be a game changer for the battle in the east, Hayday said.

“They are moving forward step-by-step. They are simply destroying everything with artillery, aircraft, mortars, tanks,” Hayday said. “But as soon as we have enough Western long-range weapons, we will push their artillery away from our positions. And then, believe me, the Russian infantry will just run.”

Street fights continue in Severodonetsk, and Ukrainian troops are still “trying to push back the enemy,” he said. 

On Friday, the Russians “tried to surround the Ukrainian troops” in the city and neighboring Lysychansk, but were unsuccessful. In total, Ukraine repelled a total of nine attacks by the Russians in the Donbas region in the past 24 hours.

Russia is also blowing up bridges to prevent Ukraine sending in reinforcements to the region, Hayday said.

“They are really afraid that the success of our defenders will develop, and this can be done if the ammunition, weapons and reinforcements are provided in time. This is the first thing they are afraid of,” Hayday said. “Luhansk region is a huge outpost for us, we are holding it now.”

Around 30 km (18.6 m) south of Severodonetsk, three people were killed on Friday, including a mother and child, in Hirske, Hayday said.

The humanitarian situation in Severodonetsk is “very difficult,” Hayday said, as they are currently unable to safely evacuate people or bring in humanitarian aid to the city.

2:53 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

Bond between Americans and Ukrainian forces they trained remains strong as war grinds on

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The war in Ukraine became real for Col. Robert Swertfager on day one.

A fighter pilot with the California Air National Guard, Swertfager has, by his count, 73 Ukraine entry stamps in his passport over 20 years, the result of a partnership between "The Golden State" and Ukraine that has created relationships both personal and professional.

"We have had official conversations on a regular basis," Swertfager told CNN, "but daily communications as friends, partners and brothers."

Swertfager and the other members of the 144th Fighter Wing are close to many pilots in the Ukrainian Air Force, exchanging phone calls, text messages and more every day since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

It's how Swertfager found out so quickly about the death of Col. Oleksandr Oksanchenko on the first day of the war. The two had played a major role in planning the 2011 Safe Skies exercise in Ukraine and had grown close over years of shared training.

"It was no longer just a war that you're seeing on the television," Swertfager said, "but it's hitting home because we just lost a very good friend."

Read more:

12:00 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

The UK Ministry of Defence expects Russia to take control of the entire Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine within the next two weeks, saying that after failing to take Kyiv, Moscow has changed its strategy to focus on the Donbas.

Here's the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Russia prepares for assault: The Ukrainian military says Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to Sloviansk, as they prepare to resume an offensive toward the eastern city. In nearby Severodonetsk, the Ukrainian military said battles continue and Russian forces had "partial success" in storming residential areas in the east of the city. 
  • Push for a ceasefire: The US and its allies are placing a renewed emphasis on the need for a negotiated settlement to end the war. US officials have in recent weeks been meeting regularly with their British and European counterparts to discuss potential frameworks for a ceasefire.
  • Biden's take: Asked whether Ukraine needs to cede part of its territory to achieve peace, US President Joe Biden said: “I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.” BIden added it “appears” at some point there will need to be a “settlement” between the two countries, but “what that entails, I don’t know.”
  • More EU sanctions: The European Council has formally adopted the sixth package of sanctions against Russia. Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said they are “banning the import of Russian oil into the EU.” The sanctions also impact areas including broadcasting, exports and consulting.
  • 100 days of war: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov assessed the results of the war in Ukraine, saying "certain results" have been achieved and work will continue until all goals are met. He continued to call it a "special military operation." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message that Ukrainians have been defending their country for 100 days against Russian aggression and that "victory shall be ours." 
  • Dolphins a casualty of war: Injured and dead dolphins have been washing up on the coast of the Black Sea after being hurt or killed by powerful military sonars, according to researchers in Ukraine. Several studies in the past have confirmed that these types of sonars are harmful to marine life.

Here's a look at the areas Russians control in Ukraine:

12:36 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

UN Secretary-General renews call for "immediate halt to violence" on 100th day of war in Ukraine

From CNN's Richard Roth

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks with the media in Stockholm on June 1.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks with the media in Stockholm on June 1. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement renewed his call for an end to violence as Ukraine marked 100 days of Russia's war.

"I renew my call for an immediate halt to violence, for unfettered humanitarian access to all those in need, for safe evacuation of civilians trapped in areas of fighting and for urgent protection of civilians and respect for human rights in accordance with international norms," Guterres said in a statement on Friday.

He said the conflict has already killed thousands of people and displaced millions of others, and that the war has "resulted in unacceptable violations of human rights and is inflaming a three-dimensional global crisis — food, energy and finance — that is pummeling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies."

Guterres said the UN is "committed to the humanitarian effort" but ultimately, negotiations and dialogue will be necessary to resolve the conflict.

"The sooner the parties engage in good-faith diplomatic efforts to end this war, the better for the sake of Ukraine, Russia and the world," he said.

8:37 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Western allies meeting regularly to game out potential framework for Ukraine ceasefire as war hits 100th day

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis, Barbara Starr and Jeremy Herb

Staring down the prospect of an extended stalemate in Ukraine, the US and its allies are placing a renewed emphasis on the need for a negotiated settlement to end the war as the conflict grinds into its 100th day with no clear victory in sight for either side.

US officials have in recent weeks been meeting regularly with their British and European counterparts to discuss potential frameworks for a ceasefire and for ending the war through a negotiated settlement, multiple sources familiar with the talks told CNN. Among the topics has been a four-point framework proposed by Italy late last month.

That framework involves Ukraine committing to neutrality with regard to NATO in exchange for some security guarantees, and negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the future of Crimea and the Donbas region.

Ukraine is not directly involved in those discussions, despite the US commitment to "nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine." US and Ukrainian officials said the US has not been pressuring Ukraine to commit to a certain plan or directly pushing them to sit down with the Russians.

Read more:

12:40 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

Russians are assembling larger force for new assault on Sloviansk, Ukraine's military says

From CNN's Tim Lister

Residents line up to evacuate Sloviansk, Ukraine on June 2.
Residents line up to evacuate Sloviansk, Ukraine on June 2. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian military says Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to Sloviansk as they prepare to resume an offensive toward the eastern city.

Neighboring Kramatorsk is the largest urban area in Donetsk still under Ukrainian control. 

The General Staff said Friday the Russians are concentrating a force of up to 20 battalion tactical groups in the area. The Russians had tried to launch an attack on two towns north and northwest of Sloviansk — Barvinkove and Sviatohirsk — but had been unsuccessful, the General Staff said.

It's unclear whether the Russians have taken further territory to the east of Sloviansk after winning control of the town of Lyman late last month. The Ukrainian side says Russian forces have used artillery in two areas closer to Sloviansk — Shchurove and Brusivka.

In Severodonetsk, the General Staff said battles continue: "Under cover of artillery fire, the [Russians] stormed residential areas in the eastern part of the city. [The enemy] has partial success." 

But the Russians had made no headway in their efforts to advance on other settlements in the pocket of territory that Ukrainian forces continue to defend — that includes Bakhmut, Soledar and Lysychansk. Once again, the General Staff said, the Russians had tried to cross the Siverskiy Donets River and "to create conditions for its crossing by the main forces of the force."

The river has proven to be a major barrier to Russian forces.

Fighting has picked up north of Kharkiv, where Ukrainian forces have regained territory in recent weeks. The General Staff reported that Russian forces were trying to "restrain the advance of our troops in the direction of the State Border. [The enemy] continued to fire on units of the Defense Forces using aircraft, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, mortars and tanks."

Russian action included an airstrike by Mi-8 helicopters at the positions of Ukrainian troops in the areas of the settlements of Slatyne and Dementiivka, rural settlements north of Kharkiv.

8:27 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Zelensky pledges "victory shall be ours" in video message on 100th day of war

From CNN's Katarina Krebs and Radina Gigova in London 

(Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)
(Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a brief video message Friday that Ukrainians have been defending their country for 100 days against Russian aggression and that "victory shall be ours."

"The leaders of parliamentary factions are here, the president's chief of staff is here, Prime Minister of Ukraine [Denys] Shmyhal is here, [presidential adviser Mykhailo] Podolyak is here, the president is here. Our team is much bigger. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are here. Most importantly, our people, the people of our country, are here," Zelensky said. 

"We have been defending Ukraine for 100 days. Victory shall be ours. Glory to Ukraine," he added.

The message echoes a video from the president shortly after Russia's invasion began in February, with Zelensky flanked by his staff on a street in Kyiv, saying "we are all here."

9:26 p.m. ET, June 3, 2022

Biden says it's up to Ukraine whether it should cede territory

From CNN's Allie Malloy

US President Joe Biden said it was up to Ukraine when asked whether the nation needs to cede part of its territory to achieve peace and end the Russian invasion, telling reporters Friday that “I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.”

“From the beginning, I’ve said — and not everyone’s agreed with me — nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do,” Biden said in Rehoboth, Delaware. 

Biden did add that it “appears” at some point there will need to be a “settlement” between the two countries, adding “what that entails, I don’t know.”

Biden said that in the meantime, the United States will continue to put Ukrainians in a position where they can defend themselves.