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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11:40 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov offers to send his fighters to Belgorod to "deal with" incursions 

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ramzan Kadyrov attends an event in Krasnogorsk, Russia, on December 8, 2018.
Ramzan Kadyrov attends an event in Krasnogorsk, Russia, on December 8, 2018. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Sunday offered to send his troops to the Belgorod region to "deal with" cross-border incursions as the war spills onto Russian territory.

"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 in a Telegram post.
"In total, the number of Chechen fighters in battalions and regiments of power and military structures exceeds 70,000 people. That's three armies!” Kadyrov said, adding they are waiting on an order.  

Belgorod, a western Russian province that borders Ukraine, has seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks. Belgorod's governor said in a video posted Sunday that shelling had been reported as Russian dissident groups fighting under Ukrainian command ramp up pressure there.

Those groups, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom for Russia Legion, also claim to have captured Russian soldiers in Belgorod.

11:43 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Zelensky's plea to thank individual soldiers portends tough battle ahead

From CNN’s Josh Berlinger

Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, on June 2.
Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, on June 2. Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used his daily address Saturday to thank 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 soon launch.

Zelensky typically thanks specific units in his speeches, but yesterday he name-checked more than a dozen individuals, among them commanders, gunners, marines and infantrymen.

"We should all remember that our defense, our active actions, and the independence of Ukraine are not something abstract. These are very particular people, particular actions of particular heroes, thanks to which Ukraine exists and Ukraine will exist," Zelensky said.

The president ended his speech by calling upon all Ukrainians to personally thank servicemen and servicewomen.

Concerns over aerial superiority: Zelensky's address comes amid continuing speculation that Ukraine's much-anticipated counteroffensive, which has seemed imminent for weeks, could be launched in the coming days. The Ukrainian leader said Kyiv is ready to carry out the operation in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Saturday.

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

Last month, Zelensky said Ukraine needed a "bit more time" — likely to allow for the delivery of more Western military aid, including much-needed air defense systems.

Zelensky has spent months lobbying Western powers to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and weapons to help control the skies, as they would help limit the number of casualties to Ukrainian fighters during any potential counteroffensive.

In his interview with the Journal, Zelensky acknowledged that Russia retains aerial superiority on the front lines. He said a lack of protection from Russian air power meant “a large number of soldiers will die."

“Everyone knows perfectly well that any counteroffensive in the world without control in the skies is very dangerous," Zelensky said.
8:03 p.m. ET, June 4, 2023

Dissident Russian military units say they'll hand over captured soldiers to Ukraine

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Two dissident Russian military units that claim they have captured Russian soldiers say they'll transfer the prisoners to Ukraine's military.

The Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom for Russia Legion had demanded a meeting with the governor of Belgorod, the Russian border region where they said they captured the fighters. But, despite appearing to express openness to the meeting, the groups claim Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov was a no-show for a parley.

According to a video update from the Russian Volunteer Corps, the groups have now decided to hand the captured soldiers over “to the Ukrainian side for the exchange procedure.” 

The Russian Volunteer Corps claimed they have “more captured soldiers now,” without mentioning how many.

CNN cannot independently verify the dissident groups' claims.

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

7:55 p.m. ET, June 5, 2023

Ukrainian soccer star confronted by realities of war in first visit home since invasion

From CNN's Ben Church

Oleksandr Zinchenko plays for Arsenal in a Premier League match at St. James' Park, Newcastle, on May 7.
Oleksandr Zinchenko plays for Arsenal in a Premier League match at St. James' Park, Newcastle, on May 7. Mark Cosgrove/News Images//Sipa USA/AP

Ukrainian soccer star Oleksandr Zinchenko says his first trip back to his home country since the Russian invasion has been hard to comprehend.

The 26-year-old Arsenal star has been forced to watch from afar as devastation spread across Ukraine but he has continued to use his platform to raise awareness of his country’s plight.

Despite playing multiple times for his national team since the war started, the defender had been unable to return home amid the busy Premier League fixture list but with the English soccer season having now ended he has been able to witness the reality of war first hand.

“It’s completely different when you see all this news from your phone, from far away,” he tells CNN Sport, reflecting on his trip.
“First of all, I would like to say that I’m so happy to be back in my land where I’ve been born and raised, and where I feel the best inside of myself.
“To be honest, I’m not sure if I have enough emotions to show it to the other people when you see all these things. But in my head, there are a lot of thoughts.”

Motivated by making a difference, Zinchenko recently became an ambassador of UNITED 24 — a fundraising organization set up by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — and is fronting an initiative to rebuild a school, alongside legendary Ukrainian former soccer star Andriy Shevchenko.

The pair have organized a charity match which will be played at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium in London on August 5, with proceeds going towards the rebuilding project.

Read more here.

2:45 a.m. ET, June 5, 2023

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

From CNN's Sam Fossum

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.

Western help: Ukraine has delayed its counteroffensive as it awaits the arrival of Western military aid, including modern battle tanks.

Ukrainian forces have already begun training on US Abrams tanks and US officials have previously said they are working to speed up delivery to the battlefield.

Though the US had originally said it would send the newer M1A2 versions of the tanks, officials said in March that the Ukrainians would instead get the M1A1, dramatically accelerating the timeline for their delivery.

In January, Russia's ambassador to the United States said in a statement that Russian forces would destroy US-made M1 Abrams tanks and other NATO military equipment if they are supplied to Ukraine.

"If a decision to transfer to Kiev M1 Abrams is made, American tanks without any doubt will be destroyed as all other samples of NATO military equipment," said Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov.

In addition to tanks being provided by the US, Ukraine is also receiving German Leopard 2 tanks and British Challengers.

This post has been updated with additional information.