June 4, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Eliza Mackintosh, Joshua Berlinger and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023
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3:04 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Belgorod governor reports more shelling from Ukraine, as Russian dissidents ramp up pressure

From CNN's Maria Kostenko, Darya Tarasova, Zahid Mahmood and Andrew Carey

Fresh shelling from Ukraine rocked Belgorod overnight, the governor said in a video posted Sunday morning, as Russian dissidents ramp up pressure on the western border region.

Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said there had been Ukrainian attacks in several locations under his administration.

“The night was rather turbulent," Gladkov said. "There is a lot of destruction. There is no information about casualties."

Due to the violence, 4,000 people are being housed in temporary accommodations. Children in the area are being moved to a camp in Crimea for their own safety, Gladkov added.

Dissidents appear near shelled area: Also Sunday, the Freedom for Russia Legion, one of two dissident Russian units fighting under Ukrainian command, posted a video which they said showed their fighters on the streets of a village on the outskirts of Shebekino, one of the areas Gladkov said was attacked.

The footage appeared to show the legion in Novaya Tavolzhanka, according to geolocation by CNN, and groups of people moving through the streets as a unit.

“We’re going in! The advance assault group of the Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corp entering the suburb of Shebekino,” the group said in the clip's caption.

CNN cannot verify the legion’s claim, but the video’s release will be seen as a further attempt to destabilize Russia in the information space, as well as disrupting its military plans.

Meetings requested: In another bold move, the legion posted a video in which its leader and that of a second dissident group, the Russian Volunteer Corps, request a meeting with Gladkov. In exchange, they offered to release two Russian soldiers allegedly in their custody.

The video shows the purported soldiers giving their names and those of their hometowns in Russia. The dissident leaders — who have made no secret of their opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin — say they want to talk to Gladkov about the fate of the country and the war. No threat is made to the lives of the men they are holding.

5:04 a.m. ET, June 4, 2023

5 drones shot down over Crimean railway hub town, Russian-installed official claims 

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova and Allegra Goodwin

Five drones were shot down over the town of Dzhankoi in Crimea overnight, a Russian-installed official said in a statement on Sunday.

In addition to the five interceptions, four other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) jammed and failed to hit their targets, according to Sergey Aksenov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea's administration. 

There were no casualties as a result of the incident, though “windows were broken in three private houses and two cars,” Aksenov said. He added one unexploded UAV was found on the territory of a private household, resulting in the temporary evacuation of around 50 people. 

Dzhankoi is a key railway junction on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014 in violation of international law.

Earlier this year, Ukraine said its forces were responsible for explosions in the same location. Officials said they were targeting cruise missiles while Russia was transporting them.

 

3:58 a.m. ET, June 4, 2023

The body of a 2-year-old girl was found in the rubble of a small town after a Russian attack

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Irene Nasser in Hong Kong

Rescue workers recovered the body of a 2-year-old girl from the rubble of a building following a Russian strike on the small riverfront town of Pidhorodne, in southeastern Ukraine, on Saturday, a Ukrainian military official said.

The official, Serhii Lysak, head of Dnipropetrovsk region military administration, added that the number of people wounded in the attack rose to 22, including five children.

Ten private houses, several gas pipelines, a two-story building and a store were damaged, Lysak said.

To the south, the city of Nikopol was struck by Russian artillery, though no casualties have been reported. A three-story building, gas pipelines and one restaurant were damaged, Lysak said.

Lysak added that the Ukrainian military had intercepted two cruise missiles and a drone over the region.

4:23 a.m. ET, June 4, 2023

3 injured in strikes on Russian-occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia region

From Josh Pennington, Mariya Knight and Yulia Kesaieva 

Three people were injured and received medical treatment in the village of Mirny, near the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, in the Zaporizhzhia region, a Russian-backed official said on Sunday, as both sides reported strikes in the area.

The official, Vladimir Rogov, who is on the council of the Russian-backed civil-military administration of Zaporizhzhia region, and Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, said that explosions had struck the cities of Melitopol and Berdiansk on Saturday.  

The Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, including the massive nuclear plant there, is partially occupied by Russian forces. The region is expected to be a major target in a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive this summer.

On Saturday, Rogov said that “6 rockets were shot down” by air defense systems in Berdiansk, and blamed Ukraine's Armed Forces for the attack. A day later, he said that residential structures sustained some damage due to debris from an intercepted rocket.

The Russian-installed Berdiansk civil-military administration said on Saturday that even though "the enemy missiles were destroyed in the sky," fragments of one of them fell "in the area of the Catholic Church and the bus station" and damaged a car. 

4:23 a.m. ET, June 4, 2023

"Not a single air target" reached Kyiv overnight despite Russian missile launches, Ukrainian official says

From Josh Pennington

Initial reports suggest that "not a single air target reached" the Ukrainian capital Kyiv overnight despite Russian missiles being launched, Serhiy Popko, head of the city's military administration said Sunday.

"Our air defense shot down everything heading towards the city in its distant outskirts. For the second night in a row, Kyiv residents have not heard the sound of explosions over their heads," Popko said.
9:11 a.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been a "strategic failure," US Polish ambassador says

US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski speaks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 21.
US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski speaks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 21. Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Finland's accession to NATO highlights that Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been a "strategic failure," according to US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski.

"What's changed in the last week is that NATO has expanded in a way that just emphasizes the strategic failure of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's decision to invade Ukraine," he said in an interview with CNN's Michael Smerconish on Saturday.  

"What we are seeing is an amplified total failure on the part of Putin regarding his decision to invade poor, weaker Ukraine. And there is no way, no way, Putin's war in Ukraine has improved the lives and the futures of the Russian people," he said.

His remarks echo those of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Finland on Friday. Blinken also called Russia’s war a "strategic failure," saying it has diminished the country's influence and interests "for years to come."

Finland officially became the 31st NATO member in early April. The Russian invasion drove traditionally non-aligned Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutrality and seek to join the alliance.

When asked if any possible peace negotiations are ongoing, Brzezinski said:

"Every minute of every day, the American government stands ready to advance the path of diplomacy. But instead, Russia is advancing the path of aggression. What I thought was particularly important that Sec. Blinken emphasized yesterday is that we're going to make sure not only that the Ukrainian people win this war and survive, but that they thrive."

"We're committed to a path of making sure a lasting peace includes a complete reconstruction of Ukraine and a drawing into it — as it wants — into the Western institutional orbit. And that's the opportunity here: to have a renaissance, emerge out of this crime of a war in central and eastern Europe," he said.

Brzezinski also said he believes the majority of US lawmakers remain committed to providing assistance to and showing solidarity with Ukraine. He noted that he's hosted over 150 members of Congress from both parties, including former House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and current Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

9:13 a.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Growing number of attacks bring the war to Russian territory

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko, Darya Tarasova and Andrew Carey

Smoke rises after shelling in Belgorod, Russia, on June 2.
Smoke rises after shelling in Belgorod, Russia, on June 2. Anatoliy Zhdanov/Kommersant/Sipa/AP

Russian officials have reported deadly attacks in at least four locations in the Belgorod region and Ukrainian-aligned Russian units are ramping up their incursions, bringing the war to Russian territory.

At least seven people have been killed by shelling in Russian border regions since Friday, according to Belgorod's regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov.

Two men and a woman were killed in a barrage of 18 rockets fired on the village of Sobolevka, Gladkov said in a series of posts on his Telegram channel. A gas pipeline and a power line were also damaged in the strike.

Sobolevka, which is located in the Valuisky city district, is the easternmost location to have been struck over the past two weeks. A rail line runs through the village and enters Ukraine in Russian-occupied territory south of the attack, suggesting it may have been targeting Russia’s supply lines.

To the northwest along Russia's border with Ukraine, two women were killed in the village of Maslova Pristan when their car was hit by fire, Gladkov said. Two other women were killed in separate shellings on nearby villages.

Anti-Kremlin Russian fighters: Two units responsible for recent assaults on the border regions – Freedom for Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps – are made up of Russian soldiers opposed to President Vladimir Putin. Though not officially part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, they effectively fall under the command of Ukraine’s security forces.

While the cross-border attacks have a military impact, forcing Russia to consider redeploying resources to protect what have been shown to be weak borders, they also appear designed to have an impact on Russian morale.

Legion spokesperson Alexei Baranovksiy appeared on Ukrainian television Saturday and was asked about the aims of the incursions. 

It was not about trying to “die heroically,” he said.

“This is a task to distract the Russian army from other directions; it is a task to gain combat experience, to show Russia that resistance (against Putin) is possible, and it is necessary to join it,” Baranovskiy said.

4:25 a.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Ukraine is ready to launch counteroffensive, Zelensky says in Wall Street Journal interview

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Allegra Goodwin in London

Zelensky is seen during a press conference at the European Political Community Summit in Moldova on Thursday.
Zelensky is seen during a press conference at the European Political Community Summit in Moldova on Thursday. Carl Court/PA Images/Getty Images/FILE

Ukraine is ready to launch its much-anticipated counteroffensive in the war against Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an exclusive video interview with The Wall Street Journal published Saturday. 

“I think that, as of today, we are ready to do it. We would like to have certain things, but we can't wait for it for months,” Zelensky said of the long-awaited military maneuvers.

The president said he believes the counteroffensive will be successful, but he's not sure how long it will take. 

“Everyone knows perfectly well that any counteroffensive in the world without control in the skies is very dangerous. Imagine what a military man feels, knowing he does not have a ‘roof’ and he can't understand how neighboring countries have that," Zelensky said about his dogged campaign for allies to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets

According to the WSJ, Zelensky acknowledged Russia’s superiority in the skies, adding that a lack of protection against Russian air power means “a large number of soldiers will die” during the counteroffensive. 

“If everybody knows we need the protection for our skies, then what's the issue with (giving us) the modern jets? What is the issue?” he implored. 

On NATO: Zelensky also told the newspaper he understood Ukraine would not be able to join NATO while its war against Russia is ongoing, saying, “We do not want to be in NATO during the war. It’s too late now. We should have been there before.”

All NATO allies agree that "Ukraine will become a member of the alliance," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday ahead of the alliance’s next summit, which is set to take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11 and 12. 

Zelensky, who hopes to secure a pledge at the summit that Ukraine can join NATO after the war, told the WSJ, “If some countries do not see us in NATO and we do not get a signal in Vilnius, I think there is no point for Ukraine to be at this summit.”

Asked if he thought that signal would be given, Zelensky replied, “I don’t know. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know.”