June 5, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:48 a.m. ET, June 6, 2023
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7:51 p.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Russian reports about counteroffensive designed to divert attention from its own challenges, Ukraine says

From CNN’s Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar addresses a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 15.
Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar addresses a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 15. Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar has said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that Russia was spreading information about a Ukrainian counteroffensive “to divert attention” from what she said were challenges the invading army faced around Bakhmut in the east.

In Bakhmut – which Maliar said “remained the epicentre” of the fighting – Ukraine is having some “success” as it takes over the “dominant heights” around the city, she claimed.

In her Telegram post, Maliar also said Ukrainian troops are “switching to offensive actions in some directions,” but framed that as part of Ukraine’s overall “defense operation” that began after Russia launched its attempt at a full-scale invasion in February last year.

“We are continuing the defence we started on February 24, 2022. The defense operation contains everything, including counteroffensive actions. Hence, we are switching to offensive actions in some directions,” she said.

Earlier Monday, Maliar and other officials posted a social media video urging silence over any potential news of a counteroffensive.

11:29 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

US sanctions members of Russian intel-linked group for trying to destabilize Moldovan government

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

People take part in an opposition rally to protest against the recent countrywide increase of power rates and prices in Chisinau, Moldova, on February 28.
People take part in an opposition rally to protest against the recent countrywide increase of power rates and prices in Chisinau, Moldova, on February 28. Vladislav Culiomza/Reuters

The Biden administration on Monday imposed on “seven leading members of a Russian intelligence-linked malign influence group” for their roles in trying to destabilize the government of Moldova.

According to the US Treasury Department, those who were sanctioned Monday were involved in a plot involving anti-government protests in Moldova earlier this year in an effort “to foment a manufactured insurrection against the Moldovan government.”

“In February 2023, the group organized protest training, likely in support of a Moldova-focused destabilization plot,” the Treasury Department said in a press release. “During the protests, members of the aforementioned malign influence group oversaw the movement of some personnel to locations in Moldova, including Chisinau.”

The people hit with the sanctions Monday are Konstantin Prokopyevich Sapozhnikov, Yury Yuryevich Makolov, Gleb Maksimovich Khloponin, Svetlana Andreyevna Boyko, Aleksey Vyacheslavovich Losev, Vasily Viktorovich Gromovikov and Anna Travnikova.

In addition, the Treasury Department alleges that the actors sanctioned Monday “are part of a large global information operation connected to the Russian Federation that targets Ukraine, countries bordering Ukraine including Moldova, Balkan countries, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.”

“These actors provoked, trained, and oversaw groups in democratic countries that conduct anti-government protests, rallies, marches, and demonstrations. These malign influence operatives analyze countries vulnerable to exploitation and stoke fears that undermine faith in democratic principles in the targeted countries,” they said.

5:15 p.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Exclusive: Top US general says Ukraine is "well prepared" for its anticipated counteroffensive

From CNN's Haley Britzky

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley attends a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 14.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley attends a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 14. Johanna Geron/Reuters

While Ukraine is "very well prepared" for a counteroffensive against Russia, it is "too early to tell what outcomes are going to happen," the top US general told CNN Monday.

"They're in a war that's an existential threat for the very survival of Ukraine and has greater meaning for the rest of the world — for Europe, really for the United States, but also for the globe," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said in an in an exclusive interview with CNN in Normandy, France.

Milley, who is retiring this year, is in Normandy to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day invasion — a massive World War II operation — as the war continues to rage in Ukraine.

For months now, the US and its allies have been helping arm Ukraine for the counteroffensive.

Meanwhile, the war has also begun creeping into Russia, as suspected Ukrainian drone strikes hit inside Moscow and a shelling attack was carried out in Belgorod. Asked Monday if such attacks would risk escalating the conflict, Milley said there is "always risk" of escalation, and it's something the US is watching "very, very carefully." 

Read more of the interview here.

8:17 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Ukraine has taken back some territory north of Bakhmut, Wagner chief claims

From CNN's Sebastien Shukla

Ukrainian forces destroy Russian positions close to Bakhmut, near Klischiivka, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screengrab taken from a video released on June 4.
Ukrainian forces destroy Russian positions close to Bakhmut, near Klischiivka, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screengrab taken from a video released on June 4. Ukrainian Armed Forces Press Service/Reuters

Ukrainian Armed Forces have taken back some land north of the city of Bakhmut, according to Russian private military company Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Berkhovka has already been lost and the troops are getting out of there, he said in an audio message on Telegram.

Some context: Wagner forces are in the final stages of completing their withdrawal from Bakhmut following the capture of the city. In recent weeks, Ukraine has launched successful counteroffensives in the north and south of the city with some success. 

9:35 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

It’s mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know

From CNN staff

Russian officials have claimed that Ukraine has launched assaults on several fronts. The Ministry of Defense claimed to have repelled what it described as a “large-scale offensive” by Ukrainian forces. Elsewhere, Russian-appointed officials in Zaporizhzhia claimed they are facing intense shelling from Ukrainian forces along the Azov Sea.

Meanwhile, CNN has reported that Kyiv may be working with a network of pro-Ukrainian agents inside Russia to launch drone attacks on Russian targets.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Offensive in Donetsk: Russia’s defense ministry claimed to have thwarted a “large scale offensive” by Ukrainian forces, which it said was an attempt to break through Russian lines. Russian officials said the assault took place at “five sections of the front in the southern Donetsk direction.” The Ukrainian government has signaled in recent weeks that its troops are preparing to launch a major counteroffensive to reclaim its occupied territories.
  • Azov Sea strikes: Further south, Russian-appointed officials have also claimed the Ukrainian troops are attempting to break the lines of defense near the Vremivka ledge to reach the Azov Sea coast. Vladimir Rogov, the Russian-installed governor of Zaporizhzhia, said Ukraine launched “Storm Shadow and Tochka-U missiles” in “large quantities” on the region.
  • Network of saboteurs: Ukraine has cultivated a network of agents and sympathizers inside Russia working to carry out acts of sabotage against Russian targets, multiple people familiar with US intelligence on the matter told CNN. US officials believe these pro-Ukrainian agents inside Russia carried out a drone attack that targeted the Kremlin in early May by launching drones from within Russia.
  • Belgium rifle investigation: Belgium is investigating the possible use of Belgian-made rifles – donated to Ukraine – by Kyiv-aligned forces on Russian territory. Groups of anti-Putin Russian nationals, aligned with the Ukrainian army, launched a cross-border assault on the Belgorod region in May. Responding to reports that these insurgents used Belgian-made FN SCAR rifles, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the weapons were provided only “for the defense of Ukrainian territory on Ukrainian territory.”
  • Chechen leader’s offer: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said Sunday that he was prepared to send his troops to Belgorod to “deal with” cross-border incursions, following reports of continued fighting in the region. “I would like to remind you that the terrorists who invaded the Belgorod region could be dealt with by the forces of Chechen units,” Kadyrov said in a Telegram post.
  • US anticipates counteroffensive: The United States believes the highly anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive will result in Kyiv reclaiming “strategically significant territory,” Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “We believe that the Ukrainians will meet with success in this counteroffensive,” Sullivan said.

7:50 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Ukrainian Armed Forces say they have no information on “large scale offensive” in Donetsk region

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Ukraine does “not have information” on the “large-scale offensive” that Russian claims was launched against them in Donetsk region, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian armed forces Bohdan Senyk, told CNN.

On Monday, Russia claimed they have repelled, killed and captured multiple Ukrainian units in the region, but did not provide any evidence of the fact.

7:49 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Russia claims to thwart Ukrainian attempt to enter Russian territory

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed to have thwarted an attempt by Ukrainian forces to enter the Russian territory near Novaya Tavolzhanka in the bordering Belgorod region.

“Yesterday [Sunday], units of the Armed Forces and the Border Service of the FSB of Russia thwarted an attempt by two groups of Ukrainian terrorists to penetrate the territory of the Belgorod region near the settlement of Novaya Tavolzhanka, Belgorod region,” the ministry said in a statement Monday.

The statement claims that on Sunday at approximately 1 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET), the two unnamed groups tried to “force the Seversky Donets River and land on the outskirts of the Novaya Tavolzhanka settlement in the Belgorod Region under the cover of intensive artillery shelling of civilian targets.”

The formations were destroyed by air strikes and artillery fire from the cover units of the state border, the ministry added.

CNN cannot independently verify Russia’s claims.

This follows Belgorod region Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov saying a Ukrainian “sabotage and reconnaissance group” entered the territory of Shebekino in the Belgorod region. “Ukrainian terrorists wanted to cross the river near the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka, but our servicemen stopped them," he added.

9:48 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Russian air space is unlikely to reopen in the near term, airlines officials say

From CNN’s Chris Liakos

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, speaks during the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 5.
Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, speaks during the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 5. Moe Zoyari/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Airlines CEOs at the International Air Transport Association Annual General meeting have told CNN that they don’t expect any changes to Russian airspace restrictions any time in the foreseeable future. 

"The idea that we see Russian air space open in the near term, I don’t think that’s going to be possible so we’ll have to live with that. Airlines have had to adopt their schedule to recognize they are going to have to take a longer route between Europe and Asia and I think it will have some impact for some time," Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA told CNN.

He added that for Russian air space to reopen, the war would have to end with peace in Ukraine.

Russian airspace bordering Ukraine has been closed to all commercial airlines since the start of the invasion.

Not being able to fly over Russia has made the journey from Europe to Asia two to three hours longer, AirFrance KLM CEO Benjamin Smith said.

"So a plane that could have been optimal before this war in Ukraine started may not be the case today," he added.

When asked if he was writing off flying over Russia for the foreseeable future, he replied: “That is our assumption.”

7:15 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Ukrainian troops are trying to reach the Azov Sea, Russian-installed governor says

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

A Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhzhia has told Russian state media that Ukrainian troops are attempting to break the defense line near the Vremivka ledge to reach the Azov Sea coast.

“The goal of the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] militants is to reach the Azov Sea coast and cut the land corridor," Vladimir Rogov said, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

He added that Ukrainian troops have increased the intensity of the shelling, including the use of Storm Shadows missiles

"The shelling of the rear areas of the region has increased many times. Storm Shadow and Tochka-U missiles are being used. They are launched in large quantities, which means Ukrainian militants and terrorists have ammunition in sufficient quantity," he said.

Rogov said he didn't think a full-scale counteroffensive had begun. According to RIA Novosti, he is said to believe the Ukrainians are assessing the line of defense and the readiness of the Russian forces.

Storm Shadow missiles: The Storm Shadow is a long-range cruise missile with stealth capabilities, jointly developed by the United Kingdom and France, with a firing range in excess of 250 kilometers (155 miles).

The UK delivered “multiple” Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine in May. British defense secretary Ben Wallace told CNN that Ukraine had “successfully” used these missiles “to defend their country.”