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June 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

'An inflection point': How the next 100 days may look in Ukraine
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What we're covered

  • The Russian state news agency TASS said five civilians were killed and 20 were injured Saturday as a result of multiple explosions close to the city of Donetsk.
  • As Russia is “throwing all its reserves” into capturing Severodonetsk, a Ukrainian military official said Ukraine now controls half of the key eastern city after reclaiming some ground from Russian forces. Street battles continue in the city, another official said.
  • Russia’s air activity “remains high” over eastern Ukraine and its use of unguided munitions is causing substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties, according to the UK defense ministry’s latest intelligence update. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces have carried out missile and air attacks on several targets in the Donbas.
  • The Ukrainian military said Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to Sloviansk as they prepare to resume an assault on the city. Evacuation numbers have nearly doubled this week, the head of the city’s military administration said on Saturday. There is currently around a fifth of the pre-war population in the city.
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Our live coverage of the war in Ukraine has moved here.

President Zelensky says Russian shelling has destroyed 113 churches in Ukraine since start of war

An exterior view of a destroyed church on April 10,  in Lukashivka village, Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian artillery has “destroyed” 113 churches during “the full-scale war” with Ukraine.

In his nightly address on Saturday, Zelensky said, “Among them are the ancient ones - those that withstood World War II, but did not withstand the Russian occupation.” 
“There are also those that were built after 1991. Reconstruction of the Skete of All Saints of the Sviatohirsk Lavra began in 2001. June 10 would be another anniversary of the beginning of construction,” he said.

Earlier Saturday, CNN reported All Saints Church in Sviatohirsk Lavra was “destroyed” by Russian shelling.

Zelensky noted in his address it is “not the first shelling of the Lavra,” and “three Lavra monks were killed by the Russian shelling on Wednesday. Worship services are forced to be held in the basement.”

According to the President, the sounds of incoming Russian artillery are “constant” in the Lavra.

Zelensky pointed out Sviatohirsk Lavra “belongs to Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is still considered in Moscow to be connected with the Russian Orthodox Church, but even this does not stop the Russian army.”

In the light of “the support of the Orthodox hierarchs in Russia for the aggression against Ukraine,” Zelensky called on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church “to draw conclusions.”

“The Russian army can stop burning churches. The Russian army can stop destroying cities. The Russian army can stop killing children. If the same person in Moscow just gives such an order. And the fact that there is still no such order is an obvious humiliation for the whole world,” he said.

5 people reported killed in multiple explosions close to city of Donetsk

The Russian state news agency TASS said five civilians were killed and 20 were injured Saturday as a result of multiple explosions close to the city of Donetsk by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The city is held by the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, but is rarely shelled by Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian officials have not commented on the explosions. 

The DPR said on its Telegram channel 10 Grad rockets had been fired at the Kirov district of the city. The headquarters of the Territorial Defense of the DPR said, “as a result of the shelling in Donetsk, the number of wounded increased to 10 people.”

Ukrainian defense minister says 'optimistic' forecast sees war over by end of the year

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, at a conference for the Ukraine war in the United States, on April 26.

Oleksii Reznikov, the Ukrainian Defense Minister, said it is “hard to predict when the war will end, but my optimistic projection is that it may end by the end of the year.”

Reznikov was speaking at the GLOBSEC-2022 forum in Bratislava in Slovakia.

He said Ukrainian defense forces still “need heavy weapons, primarily MLRS, as well as other artillery, tanks, anti-ship systems, unmanned systems, missiles and air defenses.”

“We need them quickly and in quantities commensurate with the scale of the threats. Ukraine found itself in a state of war without adequate support from the democratic world,” he said.

“The situation is changing now, but slowly. We appreciate the contribution of each country which is currently with Ukraine, which has committed itself to increase the effectiveness of international support,” Reznikov said.
He added: “Ukraine has changed its philosophy in the supply of weapons. If in the first month of the war we focused on obtaining anti-tank and anti-aircraft portable systems, now the nature of the war has changed and we need more heavy weapons.”

“In the Kherson region, the Russian army is building a deeply echeloned defense. Our goal is to prevent Russian scenarios from being realized and to liberate our territories as soon as possible,” he said.

It's 11 p.m. in Ukraine. Catch up here

Russian forces are carrying out missile and air attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, according to Ukrainian military, as troops seek to capture the key cities of Severodonetsk and Sloviansk.

Here are the latest developments from Saturday.

Fighting in the east: 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,” according to the latest intelligence assessment from the UK’s defense ministry

The Ukrainian military maintains that the Russians are making little progress, particularly in Donetsk.

In Sloviansk, hundreds of people have fled as the Ukrainian military said Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to the city in preparation to resume an offensive. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Friday the Russians are concentrating a force of up to 20 battalion tactical groups in the area. Artillery was used against several settlements north of the city, according to a military spokesman.

The Russian army is “throwing all its reserves into” capturing the city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, according to the head of the regional military administration. The official said Ukraine controls about half of the city after regaining ground from Russian troops, and street battles continue to play out.

Church destroyed: The All Saints church in Sviatohirsk — whose original temple dates back to 1526 — was “destroyed,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday. Video shows a roaring fire coming out of the picturesque wooden building dotted with onion domes. Zelensky said it was first damaged during the Soviet era.

Ukrainian foreign minister slams Macron: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted angrily to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron that “we must not humiliate Russia.” Kuleba said that it is “Russia that humiliates itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place. This will bring peace and save lives.”

Video shows multiple explosions close to city of Donetsk

The city of Donetsk at dusk after explosions, on Saturday.

Video from the city of Donetsk at dusk local time on Saturday showed multiple explosions close to the city, apparently from incoming artillery or rocket fire.

The city is held by the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, but is rarely shelled by Ukrainian forces.

The DPR said on its Telegram channel that 10 Grad rockets had been fired at the Kirov district of the city. The headquarters of the Territorial Defense of the DPR said that “as a result of the shelling in Donetsk, the number of wounded increased to 10 people.”

Video on one Russian network purported to show people being evacuated from an apartment building. Other social media video showed cars on fire in the city.

Russia "throwing all its reserves" at Severodonetsk, according to regional Ukrainian official

The Russian army is “throwing all its reserves into” capturing the city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Luhansk region, according to Serhiy Hayday, the head of the regional military administration.

“They had previously managed to capture most of the city, but now our military has pushed them back,” Hayday told Ukrainian television, claiming the Russians are “suffering huge losses.”

Hayday also said Chechen forces who appear to have thought the battle was won had entered the city.

He said the Russians were trying to demolish bridges “so that we cannot provide reinforcements to our guys who are in Severodonetsk, who are defending the Luhansk region. … They are really afraid that the success of our defenders will develop, and this can be done if ammunition, weapons and reinforcements are provided in time. This is the first thing they are afraid of.”

Earlier Saturday, Hayday said Ukraine now controls about half of Severodonetsk. He was responding to a question about the latest UK intelligence assessment, which had predicted Russia would control all of the Luhansk region within two weeks.

The humanitarian situation is difficult in the area, he added.

“At present, we can neither evacuate people nor bring humanitarian aid, for example, to Severodonetsk. The only places where we can deliver humanitarian cargo — food, medicine — are Lysychansk and the Hirske community,” which are to the south of Severodonetsk, he said.  

“Even in Lysychansk, we are shelled, but daily we continue to transport humanitarian goods by trucks. We may even evacuate people, but quietly, without publicity, because the Russian army is shooting at evacuation buses,” Hayday claimed.

Oleksandr Striuk, head of the Severodonetsk military administration, said late Saturday that street battles continue in the city, and “our military is doing everything to drive the enemy out of the city.”

Striuk said that residential areas of the city are now “divided in half.” 

“Street battles are being fought, which is accompanied by constant artillery shelling. The situation is quite tense, but there is hope and confidence in our armed forces that everything will work out. The city remains Ukrainian,” he said.

He said there had been about 13,000 people in the city before it was stormed by Russian troops, but some had been “forcibly removed to the occupied territory.”

Pope Francis tells Ukrainian child he wants to visit Ukraine and will discuss possible trip with officials 

Pope Francis hugs a child refugee from Ukraine at the Vatican, on Saturday.

Pope Francis told a child from Ukraine on Saturday that he wants to visit Ukraine and will be discussing a potential trip to the country with Ukrainian officials. 

Pope Francis met with children at the Vatican as part of a teaching initiative. 

According to a transcript by the Holy See press office, a Ukrainian child named Sachar said, “I don’t have a question but rather a request: can you come to Ukraine to save all the children who are suffering there now?”

Pope Francis replied:

“I’m glad you are here. I think a lot about children in Ukraine, and that’s why I have sent some Cardinals to help there and be close to all the people, to the children. I would like to go to Ukraine; I just have to wait for the moment to do it, you know, because it’s not easy to make a decision that can do more harm to the whole world than good.”

“I have to look for the right time to do it. This next week I will be receiving representatives of the government of Ukraine, who will come to speak, also to talk about my possible visit there. Let’s see what happens,” the Pope added. 

Russian forces using missiles, combat aircraft against Ukrainian defenses in Donbas, Ukraine's military says

A woman walks in front of a damaged apartment building after a missile strike in the city of Soledar, eastern Donbas, on Saturday.

Amid heavy fighting on several fronts, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces have carried out missile and air attacks on several targets in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesman Oleksandr Shtupun said Russian troops fired four Tochka missiles in the areas of Bakhmut, Kramatorsk, Kostiantynivka and Lysychansk, as well as carried out airstrikes against Sloviansk and Soledar.

North of Sloviansk, a key target for Russian forces, artillery was used against several settlements, Shtupun said. The community of Sviatohirsk, which is 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) north of Sloviansk, appears to have seen heavy fighting. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier on Saturday said that a wooden church there, which was first ruined during the Soviet era, had been destroyed again.

Further east, “fighting continues for the establishment of full control over the city of Severodonetsk,” Shtupun said. 

Ukrainian officials say Ukrainian forces have recovered some ground in the city. But Russian combat helicopters and planes struck nearby towns and villages, including Hirske and Ustynivka, Shtupun said. 

There were air strikes against several other parts of the front line, Shtupun said, with Russian Su-25 aircraft active in the area.

The overall picture indicates intense Russian efforts to degrade Ukrainian defenses with missiles, rockets and aerial bombardment, but only modest incremental gains on the ground for Russian forces north of Sloviansk and a developing stalemate amid street fighting in Severodonetsk. 

On Friday, the Luhansk regional military administration predicted that Russian forces would not succeed in taking Severodonetsk in the next two weeks. Shtupun said that “Ukrainian defenders inflict losses on the Russian occupiers in all areas where active hostilities continue.”

According to the latest intelligence assessment from the UK’s defense ministry earlier on Saturday, 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.” 

In southern Ukraine, the military reported a Russian air strike in an area of Zaporizhzhia region that has seen ground fighting recently.

Maxim Marchenko, head of the Odesa regional military administration, said two people had been injured in a missile attack as well.

Zelensky says All Saints church in Sviatohirsk has been destroyed after Russian shelling

All Saints church burns in Sviatohirsk, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 4.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian artillery has “destroyed” the All Saints church in Sviatohirsk in eastern Ukraine on Saturday.

“It was first destroyed during the Soviet era,” Zelensky said in a Facebook post. “Later it was rebuilt. And so it was burned by the Russian army.”

“The occupiers know exactly which object is being shelled,” he said. “They do not care what to turn into ruins.”

Ukraine has been appealing to UNESCO to “deprive Russia of membership in the organization” because it has “destroyed so many monuments, cultural and social sites in Europe since World War II.”

“We expect a logical and fair response from the UN and UNESCO,” Zelensky said. “It is the United Nations, and its charter does not provide for association with terrorists. Russia’s isolation must be complete, it must be held accountable for its crimes.”

Some background: The original temple dates back to 1526, according to the official website for the church.

In a separate statement, the Donetsk diocese said the bigger temple was rebuilt in 2005, using the traditions of Russian wooden architecture of the 16th to 17th centuries.

4 international fighters killed in Ukraine, international legion spokesperson says

Four international fighters have been killed in Ukraine, the spokesperson for the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

The post by spokesperson Damien Magrou named the four men and showed the flags of France, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.

“We wish to remember and honour our fallen brothers, who travelled to Ukraine to join the bravest of the brave and fight shoulder to shoulder with the defenders of Ukraine,” Magrou said. “No words exist to express our gratitude for their service and ultimate sacrifice. These are the unsung heroes who came here to defend the values they believed in and stand up against tyranny.”

Magrou paid tribute to “the sacrifice of the foreign heroes who have come to protect the Ukrainian people from this barbarous invasion but also to defend freedom and democracy everywhere.” 

“They chose to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty. They chose to fight and show the enemy that the values of freedom and democracy that the civilised world now defends together, cannot and will not be erased by missiles or artillery,” he said.

“We lost our brothers in combat but their bravery, their memory and legacy will forever inspire us,” he added.

Ukraine foreign minister lambasts France's Macron for saying Russia should not be "humiliated"

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ukraine’s foreign minister reacted angrily to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron that “we must not humiliate Russia.”

Macron has kept a line of communication open with the Kremlin and flew to Moscow in February in a failed effort to deter Russia from invading Ukraine.

In an interview published Saturday, Macron said in an interview with regional newspapers in France: “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means. I am convinced that it is France’s role to be a mediating power.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Saturday that “calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it. Because it is Russia that humiliates itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place. This will bring peace and save lives.”

Ukrainian officials have been swift to reject any proposals suggesting territory be ceded to Russia as part of peace negotiations. Russia currently occupies about one-fifth of Ukraine. 

“I think, and I told [Putin], that he is making a historic and fundamental mistake for his people, for himself and for history,” Macron said in his interview. Macron has not been to Ukraine since the invasion but said he is open to the possibility.

Negotiations with Russia can continue after Ukraine's position is "strengthened," says Ukrainian negotiator

Negotiations with Russia will only continue after advanced weaponry arrives from Western allies and Ukraine’s position is “strengthened,” said David Arakhamia, a member of Ukraine’s negotiation group with Russia.

“So far, I see no reason to initiate further negotiations,” Arakhamia said Friday, “until there is really some big change at the front.”

He said the current situation is “one step forward, two steps back” as Ukraine tries to push the Russian forces out of occupied villages and Russia takes over new areas.

“And it can be strengthened now,” he said, when weaponry “constantly promised to us by international partners … will eventually arrive in sufficient quantities.”

“The armed forces are ready to use it, new brigades have already been trained and formed. And then we can initiate a new round of negotiations with an intensified negotiating position,” he added.

Why capturing the eastern city of Sloviansk has been a key goal for Russian forces

Residents look for belongings after a strike destroyed homes in Sloviansk, Ukraine on June 1.

The eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region is one of the few major areas in Donbas beyond the Russians’ grasp.

Hundreds of people are fleeing the city as the Ukrainian military says Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to Sloviansk in preparation to resume an offensive.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine 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 military 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 said Russian forces have used artillery in two areas closer to Sloviansk, Shchurove and Brusivka.

Evacuation numbers have nearly doubled this week in Sloviansk, the head of the city’s military administration, Vadym Lyakh, said on Saturday. There are currently around 22,000 people left in Sloviansk, around a fifth of the pre-war population of approximately 110,000, according to Lyakh.

Ever since Russia refocused its “special military operation” on the region, it has been a key goal to capture the city, along with the nearby city of Kramatorsk. Both are significant transport hubs with substantial heavy industry and manufacturing, even if much of it has fallen into disrepair.

Reaching and taking them would represent a significant achievement for the Russian forces — bringing them close to the border of Donetsk region and securing much of the north of it. The two cities are about 25 kilometers (about 15.5 miles) from the western border of Donetsk.

Both Sloviansk and Kramatorsk have a symbolic significance too. For several months in 2014, they were held by pro-Russian separatists who formed their own city administration. They were eventually driven out by the Ukrainian army. 

Here's where fighting stands across Ukraine, according to the military and officials

As Russia intensifies its assault on the eastern part of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military claimed that Russian troops are making little progress, particularly in the Donetsk region.

“The rate of advance of enemy units during hostilities in the Donetsk direction is low, due to the physical exhaustion of personnel and low morale and psychological condition,” Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Saturday.

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. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that one-fifth of the country’s territory is under Russian control, with Donbas “almost entirely destroyed.”

Here’s the status of battles across the country, according to the Ukrainian military.

The east

In the Bakhmut area of the Donetsk region, Russian forces were forced to retreat after “suffering the results of the fire damage from Ukrainian units.”

In the Sloviansk area of Donetsk, Russia failed in “assault operations” in two areas and “suffered losses,” the Ukrainian military said. Russia also “carried out artillery shelling” in three other areas.

The Ukrainian military has said that Russian units are being bolstered on the approaches to Sloviansk as they gear up for renewed assaults toward the city. Hundreds of people are fleeing Sloviansk every day, with evacuation numbers almost doubling this week, said the head of the city’s military administration, Vadym Lyakh, on Saturday. There are currently around 22,000 people left in the city, around a fifth of the pre-war population of approximately 110,000, according to Lyakh.

In total, Ukraine repelled nine attacks by the Russians in the Donbas region in the past 24 hours, the military said.

But Russia has “not stopped offensive operations” and “continue to launch missile and air strikes on military and civilian infrastructure,” the statement said.

In the Luhansk region, four people were killed and one person was injured after Russian attacks in six areas, regional officials said. In the battle for the city of Severodonetsk, street fights continue, and there were “assault actions in the industrial zone” of the city, which is still held by the Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine now controls around half of Severodonetsk after reclaiming some ground from the Russians, according to Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration.

The UK defense ministry on Friday said it expects Russia to take control of the whole of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine within the next two weeks, according to its latest intelligence assessment.

The northeast

In Sumy, the Russians fired six air-to-ground missiles on Saturday morning, and missiles were fired from a Russian plane overnight, according to Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, head of the Sumy regional military administration. Houses were damaged but there were no casualties in the attacks.

In the Kharkiv region, one person died and eight people were injured after shelling in Balaklia, including an 11-year-old girl, regional officials said. The military statement added that “intense fire continues” against Ukrainian troop positions.

The south

In Odesa, two people were injured after a cruise missile deployed by a Russian plane struck an agricultural warehouse on Saturday morning, said Serhii Bratchuk, spokesperson of the Odesa military administration.

Further east, the city of Mykolaiv was “fired upon with heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers” on Saturday morning. No one was injured, regional officials said.

In the Kherson area, the situation remains “stably difficult,” regional officials said. Russian troops continued shelling the area of Novovorontsovka. Phone and internet communications remain limited for “the vast majority” of the population of the region, and “urgent humanitarian aid” is needed in the Kakhovka and Beryslav districts along the Dnipro river, the statement said. 

3 killed after Russians open fire at residential areas of Mykolaiv, according to Ukrainian official

Three people were killed and four others were injured after Russian forces fired at residential areas of Mykolaiv on Saturday, Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych said.

Two of the victims died at the scene, and one died on the way to the hospital. 

“Doctors are fighting for their lives,” Sienkevych said of the four others injured.

Three high-rise buildings were damaged in the attacks on the southern city.

Fire engulfs main temple of monastery in eastern Ukrainian town of Sviatohirsk

Fire engulfed the main temple of the All Saints wooden monastery in Sviatohirsk in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said in a statement.

“As a result of hostilities, a large-scale fire broke out on the territory of All Saints skete of Sviatohirsk Lavra,” the statement said. “The flames engulfed the main temple.”

No casualties have been reported so far.

The original temple dates back to 1526, according to the official website for the church.

In a separate statement, the Donetsk diocese said the bigger temple was rebuilt in 2005, using the traditions of Russian wooden architecture of the 16th to 17th centuries.

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Smoke rises above Severodonetsk on June 2 in the Donbas region.

A Ukrainian military official has said its forces have reclaimed some ground in the key city of Severodonetsk, as Russia intensifies its assault and ramps up its air raids in the eastern part of the country.

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

Air activity remains key for Russian military: 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. “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 added.

Ukraine regains territory in the east: Ukraine now controls about half of Severodonetsk, said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration.

Hayday was responding to a question about the UK’s intelligence assessment, which also predicted Russia would control all of the Luhansk region within two weeks. 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.

Zelensky urges US mayors to cut Russian ties: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on US mayors to cut “brotherhood” ties with Russian cities and to take part in “the largest economic project of our time” by helping to rebuild Ukraine after the war, during a video address to the 90th Annual Conference of US Mayors.

Civilians flee Sloviansk: Hundreds of people are fleeing the city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine every day, with evacuation numbers almost doubling this week, said the head of the city’s military administration, Vadym Lyakh, on Saturday. “The number of people leaving (the city) has almost doubled, both by evacuation buses and their own vehicles, people are actively leaving,” Lyakh said. He said a missile strike that killed three people in the city on Tuesday had “pushed the citizens to leave.”

UN renews call for an end to violence: United Nations Secretary General António Guterres made a call for an end to violence as Ukraine marked 100 days of Russia’s war on Friday. “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. “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.”

Zelensky urges US mayors to cut ties with Russian cities and help rebuild Ukraine after the war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 3.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged US mayors to cut “brotherhood” ties with Russian cities and to take part in “the largest economic project of our time” by helping to rebuild Ukraine after the war, during a video address to the 90th Annual Conference of US Mayors.

“Dozens of American cities maintain the so-called ‘brotherhood’ with the cities of the Russian Federation,” Zelensky said, including Chicago and Moscow. “What do these connections give you? Probably nothing. But they give Russia the opportunity to say that it is not isolated, even after beginning such a war.”

“Therefore, call for even more pressure on Russia. Don’t help it justify itself. Don’t maintain ties with it. And please do not allow those who have become murderers to call you their brothers and sisters,” Zelensky said.

Since the war began, 3,620 settlements have “faced Russian occupation” and Russia has aimed almost 2,500 missiles at Ukraine, Zelensky said. He urged the mayors to take part in the vast reconstruction effort that will be needed after the war.

“I invite you – your cities, your companies, your business and professionals – to take part in this project. You can also become the people who choose to defend freedom and thus put an end to the history of tyranny,” Zelensky said.

“Take patronage over a city, region, or industry that has been destroyed by Russian strikes. And rebuild them with the latest technology,” he added. “This may be the largest economic project of our time, which will strengthen Ukraine, each country and each company that will participate in the post-war reconstruction.”

Hundreds fleeing Sloviansk daily and evacuations "almost doubled," says Ukrainian official

Residents prepare to evacuate the city of Sloviansk, Ukrainian on June 2.

Hundreds of people are fleeing the city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine every day, with evacuation numbers almost doubling this week, said the head of the city’s military administration, Vadym Lyakh, on Saturday.

“The number of people leaving (the city) has almost doubled, both by evacuation buses and their own vehicles, people are actively leaving,” Lyakh said. He said a missile strike that killed three people in the city on Tuesday had “pushed the citizens to leave.”

There are currently around 22,000 people left in Sloviansk, around a fifth of the pre-war population of approximately 110,000, according to Lyakh.

Around 70 to 100 people are evacuating to the city of Dnipro every day, and 100 to 200 people are leaving for other parts of Ukraine on a daily basis, Lyakh said. The flow of traffic leaving the city is “increasing,” he added.

The increased demand means they are adding more evacuation buses, which people can sign up for in advance, Lyakh said. Evacuees are provided with free food and accommodation by local volunteers.

So far, the evacuations have been carried out safely, with “no cases of shelling or any complications,” he said.

Some background: The Ukrainian military has said that Russian units are being bolstered on the approaches to Sloviansk as they gear up for renewed assaults toward the city.

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

The general staff of Ukraine’s military said Friday that Russia is 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.

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.

CNN’s Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.

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

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.

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

A Ukrainian soldier walks past a part of a rocket near the front line in the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine on June 2.

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.

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.

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

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.

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:

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:

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

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks with the media in Stockholm on June 1.

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.

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

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.

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Smoke and dirt rise in the city of Severodonetsk during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops at the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 2, 2022.

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

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

Residents line up to evacuate Sloviansk, Ukraine on June 2.

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.

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

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.”

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

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.