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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2:35 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Dissident military groups claim they've captured two Russian soldiers in the Belgorod region

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov talks to the media on June 2.
Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov talks to the media on June 2. Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Two dissident Russian military units said Sunday that they had captured two Russian soldiers in the Belgorod region and demanded a meeting with the local governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

The Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom for Russia Legion, which are not officially part of Ukraine's military but fight under Ukrainian command, have made several recent incursions in Belgorod that have helped bring the war to Russian soil.

Gladkov responded to the groups' demand in a video message on his Telegram channel Sunday, saying he is prepared to talk to the units if the two soldiers they claim to have captured are still alive. 

“The only thing that stops me from negotiating with them is our guys who are in their hands. Most likely they killed them, as hard as it is for me to say. But if they are alive, from 17:00 to 18:00 Shebekino International Automobile Checkpoint. I guarantee safety. That's it,” Gladkov said, apparently offering a meeting.

The head of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed in a Telegram post Sunday that “he is ready to send one of his high-ranking deputies” to pick up captured Russian soldiers if no one comes to their rescue.

Prigozhin, who frequently needles the Kremlin establishment, challenged Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov to come to the soldiers' rescue as well. 

Read more about the Russian fighters who have aligned with Ukraine here.

2:59 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

It's past 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire on Russian positions in Donetsk, Ukraine, on June 2.
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire on Russian positions in Donetsk, Ukraine, on June 2. Muhammed Enes/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukrainian forces achieved two small victories in the country's east, the commander of the Ukraine's Land Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, wrote on an official army website.

One of those included an advance of 400 meters (1,300 feet) toward the town of Svatove in Donetsk. Svatove sits along key Russian supply routes, so its capture would have important strategic implications.

Here are other top headlines from Ukraine:

  • Zelensky gives thanks: In his daily address on Saturday, the Ukrainian President thanked more than a dozen troops by name and asked that Ukrainians take time to do the same with individual soldiers. Among those Zelensky name-checked were troops on the front lines or battling to control the skies above them — the fighters that would be particularly key in the counteroffensive that Kyiv is expected to launch.
  • A deadly strike in Pidhorodne: Rescue workers have recovered the body of a 2-year-old girl from the rubble of a building hit by a Russian strike Saturday on the small riverfront town of Pidhorodne in the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, a Ukrainian military official said. Twenty-two people were wounded in the attack, including five children.
  • The battle comes to Belgorod: The western Russian province, which borders Ukraine, continues to see violence as the war spills over the border. Belgorod's governer said in a video posted Sunday that shelling had been reported as Russian dissident groups fighting under Ukrainian command ramp up pressure there.

12:33 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Ukraine reports two advances along the front line in the east

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Andrew Carey in Kyiv, Ukraine

The head of Ukraine's Land Forces said the country's troops achieved two small victories along the front line of the battlefield with Russia in the contested provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The commander, Oleksandr Syrskyi, wrote on an official army website that Ukrainian forces had advanced 400 meters (1,300 feet) closer to the town of Svatove in Luhansk region. Svatove is situated along key Russian supply routes, so any eventual re-capture of the town would have important strategic implications.

While the front line has been static for months, hostilities in northern Donetsk and several parts of Luhansk "continue almost around the clock," Syrskyi said.

Syrskyi said Russia had launched fresh offensives in several locations in Luhansk region and the northern part of the Donetsk region partially using former prisoners who had been specifically trained for assault operations.

While Russian troop reinforcements have given their forces a numerical advantage, Syrskyi suggested that Ukraine’s superior agility gives Kyiv the edge on the battlefield.

“Not even superiority in numbers helps the enemy,” he said.

Luhansk and Donetsk make up Ukraine’s Donbas region, an industrial heartland when Russian-backed separatists seized control of two territories and declared breakaway republics in 2014. Shortly before the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two separatist territories as independent states, ordering the deployment of Russian troops there in defiance of international law.

The latest from Bakhmut: Syrskyi also said that Ukrainian troops had successfully liberated some territory to the south of Bakhmut, the city in Donetsk where some of the war's fiercest fighting has taken place.

Another Ukrainian official, army spokesman Serhii Cherevatyi, said Kyiv's forces were mostly engaged in “preparatory activities" and "reconnaissance."

"We are trying to preserve our personnel and counterattack only when we believe there are opportunities to achieve success,” Cherevatyi said.

12:59 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

The US believes Ukraine's counteroffensive will see Kyiv take back "strategically significant territory"

From CNN's Sam Fossum

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. CNN

The United States believes the highly anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive will result in Kyiv taking back “strategically significant territory," Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden's national security adviser, told CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

“Exactly how much, in what places, that will be up to developments on the ground as the Ukrainians get this counteroffensive underway,” Sullivan said. “But we believe that the Ukrainians will meet with success in this counteroffensive.”

Asked if this meant he expected some form of negotiations by the end of this year, Sullivan wouldn’t provide any sort of timetable but said that developments on the battlefield will have a “major impact” on any future negotiation.

“But what I will say is this: President Zelensky himself has said that this war will end ultimately through diplomacy,” Sullivan said.

Read more from Sullivan's interview here:

3:03 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Two Russian missiles struck an operational airfield in central Ukraine, military says

From CNN’s Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Darya Tarasova and Allegra Goodwin in London 

Two Russian missiles struck an operational airfield near the central Ukrainian city of Kropyvnytskyi, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force said Sunday.

Four missiles headed for the airfield were intercepted, according to the official, Yurii Ihnat.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said earlier Sunday that it had attacked a Ukrainian military airfield using "long-range precision-guided air-launched weapons," though the Kremlin did not say where the strike took place.

Ihnat declined to share the consequences of the attack, but said the incident showed the necessity of strengthening air defenses across Ukraine. He said Kyiv needed more than the US-made Patriots, an advanced long-range air defense system, but also medium-range and short-range anti-aircraft missile systems.

Echoing Zelensky: Ihnat’s call for more air defense systems comes amid similar pleas by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky has continually urged western leaders to provide Ukraine with air defense equipment in part to protect its cities from Russian drones and strikes. These systems successfully shot down all of the missiles heading for Kyiv overnight Sunday, according to the head of the Ukrainian capital's military administration, Serhiy Popko,

“For the second night in a row, Kyiv residents have not heard the sound of explosions over their heads,” Popko said on the messaging app Telegram.
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.