June 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

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

Updated 12:13 AM ET, Sun June 5, 2022
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3:14 p.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Mariya Knight, Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman

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."

1:49 p.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo in Rome and Radina Gigova in London

Pope Francis hugs a child refugee from Ukraine at the Vatican, on Saturday.
Pope Francis hugs a child refugee from Ukraine at the Vatican, on Saturday. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

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. 

1:11 p.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Tim Lister

A woman walks in front of a damaged apartment building after a missile strike in the city of Soledar, eastern Donbas, on Saturday.
A woman walks in front of a damaged apartment building after a missile strike in the city of Soledar, eastern Donbas, on Saturday. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

12:28 p.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Victoria Butenko, Julia Presniakova and Bex Wright

All Saints church burns in Sviatohirsk, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 4.
All Saints church burns in Sviatohirsk, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 4. (@GoncharenkoUa/Twitter)

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.

10:49 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

4 international fighters killed in Ukraine, international legion spokesperson says

From CNN's Victoria Butenko and Bex Wright

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.

 

11:20 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and French President Emmanuel Macron. (Getty Images)

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.

10:14 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Bex Wright

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.

“Negotiations must continue when our negotiating position is strengthened,” he said.

“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.

11:26 a.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Tim Lister

Residents look for belongings after a strike destroyed homes in Sloviansk, Ukraine on June 1.
Residents look for belongings after a strike destroyed homes in Sloviansk, Ukraine on June 1. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

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. 

3:18 p.m. ET, June 4, 2022

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

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Julia Presniakova, Taras Zadorozhnyy and Bex Wright

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.