Russia-Ukraine updates: Heavy fighting ongoing in Severodonetsk

Russian-Ukraine news from June 4: Russian forces are blowing up bridges to prevent Ukraine from bringing reinforcements to Severodonetsk, Luhansk governor says.

A service member of pro-Russian troops rides on top of an armoured personnel carrier during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Region, Ukraine.
Heavy fighting is under way in the contested Luhansk region [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • Ukrainian forces have recaptured about 20 percent of territory lost in the city of Severodonetsk, according to the head of the eastern region of Luhansk.
  • Russian forces are blowing up bridges across the Seversky Donets river to prevent Ukraine from bringing in military reinforcements in Severodonetsk.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia will continue its “military operation” in Ukraine until all its goals have been achieved.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells country: “Victory will be ours.”
  • UN aid chief Martin Griffiths “had frank and constructive discussions” with Russian officials on facilitating exports of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports, a UN spokesperson says.
INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 101
(Al Jazeera)

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These were the updates on Saturday, June 4:

One injured in Russia’s Bryansk region after Ukrainian shelling

In Bryansk, one man was injured in the shelling of the village of Sluchevsk, the governor of the region, Alexander Bogomas, announced on his Telegram news channel.

He accused the Ukrainian armed forces of firing on the village. The injured resident had to be taken to hospital, he said.

The village, with a total of 150 inhabitants, is located about one kilometre (0.6 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

Moscow: big jump in profits from energy exports in 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Western sanctions would have no effect on the country’s oil exports and predicted a big jump in profits from energy shipments this year, TASS news agency reported.

“Considering the price level that has been established as a result of the West’s policies, we have suffered no budgetary losses. On the contrary, this year we will significantly increase the profits from the export of our energy resources,” TASS quoted Lavrov as telling a Bosnian television station.

Pope says he will meet Ukraine officials to discuss possible trip

Pope Francis said he would soon meet Ukrainian officials to discuss the possibility of a visit to their country.

“It is not easy to make a decision that could do more harm than good to the rest of the world. I have to find the right moment to do it,” he said.

“Next week, I will receive representatives of the Ukrainian government, who will come here to talk, to talk even about an eventual visit of mine there. We’ll see what happens,” Francis continued. He gave no further details.

Putin: Russia has destroyed US weapons in Ukraine by the dozen

Russian President Putin, in comments about a US decision to send new arms to Ukraine, said Russia was easily coping and was already destroying American-supplied weapons by the dozen, state-run news agency RIA reported.

Putin made the remarks in an interview with national television, RIA said. It is due to be shown on Sunday.

Russia says some Ukrainian units pulling out of Severodonetsk

Russia’s army said that some Ukrainian military units were withdrawing from the key city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

“Some units of the Ukrainian army, having suffered critical losses during fighting for Severodonetsk, are pulling out towards Lysychansk,” Severodonetsk’s twin city, which sits just across a river, the defence ministry said in a statement.

It added, however, that some Ukrainian fighters remained in the city.

“The Ukrainian authorities, having realised that it was impossible to resist further and to hold on to the industrial zone of Severodonetsk, ordered a mixed tactical unit to mine the tanks containing nitrate and nitric acid in the Azot factory,” it said.

Smoke and dirt rise in the city of Severodonetsk
Smoke and dirt rise in the city of Severodonetsk during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 2, 2022 [Aris Messinis/AFP]

Sweden, Finland joining NATO would be tough for Russia, top US general says

Finland and Sweden joining NATO would put Russia in a difficult military position in the Baltic Sea, top US General Mark Milley said during a visit to Stockholm in advance of a military exercise.

The two Nordic neighbours, which both have long borders on the Baltic Sea, applied last month to join the military alliance. Once approved, their membership would mean the Baltic Sea’s coastline would, bar short strips around Russian cities Kaliningrad and St Petersburg, be encircled by NATO members.

“So from a Russian perspective that will be very problematic for them, militarily speaking, and it would be very advantageous to NATO,” said Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Ukraine blames Russia for blaze at revered Orthodox church in east

A wooden Orthodox church on one of Ukraine’s most sacred Orthodox sites was set ablaze, church authorities said, amid fierce fighting in the Donbas between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

“As a result of hostilities, a large-scale fire broke out on the territory of the All Saints Skete of the Holy Dormition Sviatogirsk Lavra,” their statement said, adding that the main church of the monastery was “completely engulfed” in flames.

Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko blamed Russian forces for the blaze in a post on social media. He said about 300 displaced Ukrainians had been seeking shelter there, including 60 children.

Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run TASS news agency that its military was not conducting military operations in the region.

Ukraine announces deaths of four foreign military volunteers

Ukraine announced the deaths of four foreign military volunteers fighting Russian forces, whose invasion has spurred a wave of solidarity abroad including from experienced combat veterans.

The International Legion of Defence of Ukraine, an official volunteer brigade, announced the men from Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and France had died but did not specify when or under what circumstances.

“We lost our brothers in combat but their bravery, their memory and legacy will forever inspire us,” it said in a statement.

Russian official hits back at Germany over restrictions on Russian media

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman has criticised Germany over its “ban of Russian media”,

Commenting on a statement by the German Embassy in Russia denying that there were any restrictions on Russian journalists in Germany, Maria Zakharova said on Telegram that she had received a message from a German citizen who sent her a photo of their television showing on screen that the Russian Rossiya TV channel was “temporarily unavailable”,

“The reason of the problem – the ban of Russian media in Europe. This man wanted to watch Rossiya TV channel. I am looking forward to a comment of the German Embassy in Moscow about the freedom of speech,” said Zakharova.

Russia deploying reserve troops in Severodonetsk: Report

Russia is pursuing its siege of the city of Severodonetsk with fresh reserve troops, according to a situation report by the Ukrainian military.

“The enemy is undertaking attacks on the city of Severodonetsk with artillery support, it has strengthened its troops with the mobile reserves of the 2nd army corps, the fighting in the city continues,” the report said.

Military experts of the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that Russia had gathered around 20 tactical battalions in the Izium region in order to advance on the Sloviansk region, home to half a million people before the war, an important target in the Donbas for Russia.

Russian governor says Ukraine hits border village, one man injured

The governor of Russia’s western Bryansk region has said that one man was slightly injured by shrapnel and two houses were set on fire after Ukraine’s forces carried out attacks on a village.

Alexander Bogomaz, the governor, said the man was treated in a local hospital.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for sporadic attacks on its border regions, including Bryansk, since the start of what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

EU adopts temporary trade liberalisation with Ukraine

An EU regulation allowing for temporary trade liberalisation and other trade concessions on certain Ukrainian products has gone into force, suspending import duties on all Ukrainian exports to the European Union for one year.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has expressed gratitude and said the move “will provide producers with additional opportunities, boost Ukraine’s economy and contribute to the EU integration”.

EU countries can tap recovery fund to boost LNG capacity: Commissioner

European Union countries will be allowed to use money coming from the EU recovery fund, created to support post-pandemic economic growth, to boost their liquefied natural gas capacity (LNG), EU Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has said.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU countries have been scrambling to cut their dependence on Russian gas imports. Building new infrastructure to import additional LNG is part of the EU strategy.

Russia ‘throwing all its power’ at Severodonetsk: Ukraine governor

Russia is using all its available forces to capture the industrial city of Severodonetsk in a bid to control the entire eastern Donbas region, the Luhansk regional governor has said.

“The situation in the region as a whole is extremely difficult. Fighting is now concentrated in Severodonetsk because, as we understand it, the Russian army is throwing all its power, all its reserves in this direction,” Serhiy Haidai said in an interview posted on his official social media.

Ukraine wants to bolster military position before resuming talks with Russia: Official

Ukraine wants to strengthen its positions on the ground with the help of new weapons deliveries from the West before it resumes peace talks with Russia, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia has said.

“Our armed forces are ready to use [the new weapons] … and then I think we can initiate a new round of talks from a strengthened position,” he told Ukraine national television.

Ukraine said it had recaptured a chunk of the industrial city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, the focus of a Russian offensive to take the eastern Donbas region.

Russia says it shot down Ukrainian military plane with weapons

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane carrying weapons and munitions near the Black Sea port of Odesa.

The ministry said Russian missiles also struck an artillery training centre in Ukraine’s Sumy region where foreign instructors worked. Another attack destroyed a “foreign mercenaries'” outpost in the Odesa region.

Zelenskyy addresses United24 platform presentation in Washington

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has addressed the United24 platform presentation in Washington, saying that “ruins are all that is left behind by the Russians” and calling for international donations to help rebuild destroyed cities.

“People need to have somewhere to return. Right now. Today. That is the reason I initiated the special United24 platform. It is not just fundraising. It is also one of the ways to prove to Russia that evil will not win,” Zelenskyy said.

Kyiv had announced the launch of the United24 global initiative in May. On its website, the platform is presented as “the main venue for collecting charitable donations” for Ukraine.

Russia blowing up bridges in Severodonetsk to thwart Ukrainian reinforcements: Governor

Russian forces are blowing up bridges across the Seversky Donets river to prevent Ukraine from bringing in military reinforcements and delivering aid to civilians in the town of Severodonetsk, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.

In a TV broadcast, Serhiy Haidai said the Ukrainian military continued to hold its positions inside Severodonetsk and was pushing back Russian forces in several locations.

Second ship sent to take metal to Russia arrives in Mariupol: Report

A ship sent to load metal and transport it to Russia has entered the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, Moscow’s TASS news agency has reported, citing a port authority representative.

The ship was the second vessel to arrive in the southeastern city since Russia completed its capture last month.

Earlier this week, another vessel left Mariupol for Russia with a cargo of metal. Ukraine said the shipments amounted to looting.

Ukraine clears more than 127,000 explosive devices from urban areas

Ukraine’s State Emergency Services have removed 127,393 explosive devices, mostly from urban areas in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Zhytomyr regions.

The retreat of the Russian forces has offered space for considerable explosive ordnance clear-up operations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said in a report.

Plans are to increase this capacity by a further 80 teams, UNDP said, with international organisations working alongside Ukrainian state entities.

Russia using air and artillery strikes to advance in Donbas: UK

The British defence ministry has said that Russia is using air and surface cruise missiles to disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and supplies in the eastern region of Donbas.

The increased use of unguided munitions has caused “widespread destruction” as well as civilian casualties, the ministry said in its regular intelligence update.

The attacks, however, have “failed to have a meaningful impact on the conflict” and Russia’s artillery stock has been significantly depleted.

Two Reuters journalists wounded, driver killed near Severodonetsk

Two Reuters journalists have been injured and a driver killed after the vehicle they were travelling in came under fire while heading to Severodonetsk.

Photographer Alexander Ermochenko and cameraman Pavel Klimov were travelling on Friday in a car provided by Russia-backed forces on the Russian-held part of the road between Severodonetsk and the town of Rubizhne.

They were taken to a hospital in Rubizhne where they received initial treatment, Ermochenko for a small shrapnel wound and Klimov for an arm fracture. Reuters said it could not immediately establish the identity of the driver, who had been assigned by the separatists for the reporting trip.

Ukraine’s intelligence in communication with captured Azovstal fighters: Minister

Ukraine’s intelligence services are in communication with the captured Azovstal steelworks fighters and Kyiv is doing all it can to ensure their release, Ukrainian interior minister Denys Monastyrsky has said.

“It is through them [intelligence services] that we are learning about the conditions of the detention, nutrition and the possibility of their release,” Monastyrsky said on Ukrainian television.

“We all know that they will all be here, in Kyiv, and we are doing everything possible to do so.”

Russia said in May that almost 2,000 Ukrainians had surrendered after making a last stand in the ruins of Mariupol. Uncertainty has surrounded their fate after they were taken into custody.

Japan’s Kishida may join NATO summit to discuss Ukraine crisis

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is leaning towards attending a summit of leaders from NATO in late June to spur coordination with the West over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kyodo News reported, citing unnamed government sources.

The move would mark an unusually aggressive stance for a Japanese leader although Kishida has repeatedly condemned Russia over what he has described as a “war crime” against Ukraine.

The NATO summit takes place on June 29-30 in the Spanish capital, Madrid, likely overlapping with the campaign ahead of elections in Japan on July 10.

Reports of fierce fighting in Severodonetsk on Saturday

The Reuters news agency is reporting fierce fighting in Severodonetsk on Saturday morning.

Russia had reinforced its troops and used artillery to conduct “assault operations” in the city, Reuters said, citing Ukraine’s military.

But Russian forces had retreated after failed attempts to advance in the nearby town of Bakhmut, it added.

UN chief calls for end to violence, diplomatic initiatives

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called an immediate end to violence in a statement to mark 100 days since Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, and said the UN was ready to support diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

“As we mark this tragic day, 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.

“As I have stressed from the beginning, resolving this conflict will require negotiations and dialogue. The sooner the parties engage in good-faith diplomatic efforts to end the war, the better for the sake of Ukraine, Russia and the world. The United Nations stands ready to support all such efforts.”

‘Partial success’ for Russia in Severodonetsk: Think-tank

In its latest update on the fighting in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Russia continued ground assaults in Severodonetsk on June 3 with “partial success” and while it could not confirm the exact control of terrain “Russian forces likely control much of the city”.

The US-based think-tank said there had also been significant fighting around Popasna and Izium, but that Russia had been unable to make any significant advances.

In the south, ISW said Moscow was stepping up efforts to consolidate its control of the Ukrainian territories it has occupied – including the distribution of Russian passports – and create the conditions for eventual annexation.

However, the institute said the push to issue Russian passports had also triggered increased activity from the Ukrainian resistance.

‘War crimes, shame and hatred’: Zelenskyy dismisses Russian military

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has dismissed the danger posed by the Russian military.

“At first it looked threatening. Then dangerous … And now probably just a bitter smile,” he said in his nightly video address.

“Because what’s left of it? … War crimes, shame and hatred,” he said.

He earlier promised his people victory, in a video released to mark 100 days since the Russian invasion.

“Victory will be ours,” Zelenskyy said, adding that he expected more “good news” on weapons shipments.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in black t-shirt in a still from a video speech on the streets of Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv in an address to mark 100 days since Russia invaded the country [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP Photo]

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine weighs on weary US market

United States companies from Walmart to Delta Air Lines have recently warned that inflation is eating into their profits, which has upped the pressure on markets because stock prices tend to track profits over the long term.

The warnings are layering on top of the market’s worries about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and about business-slowing, anti-COVID measures in China.

“There are just so many uncertainties,” said John Lynch, chief investment officer for Comerica Wealth Management. “You can’t put Ukraine on a spreadsheet and you can’t put lockdowns in China on a spreadsheet,” he said.

Trudeau reiterates support for Ukraine

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his country’s support for the Ukrainian people “has not wavered” since Russia invaded Ukraine 100 days ago, “and it never will”.

“We’ll continue to provide assistance, and make sure they have what they need to defend themselves,” Trudeau said in a tweet.

Ukraine’s defence minister thanks army, asks for more weapons

Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksii Reznikov has called on allies to continue to arm Ukraine after “100 days of resistance, bravery and fortitude”.

“I want to thank our military, volunteers and the entire Ukrainian nation,” Reznikov said in a tweet.

“We appreciate the support of our foreign partners & ask for reinforcement of arms supply, artillery & MLRS, aircraft & air defence systems. Let’s win this war!”

Ukraine war ‘aggravating’ existing global food crisis, UN warns

As the cost of food soars around the world, the United Nations warns that the war in Ukraine risks aggravating inflating prices and causing a full-on global food crisis.

Luca Russo, lead analyst for food crises at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), told Al Jazeera that as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sends energy prices higher, the cost of delivering aid has increased as well. The risk of a severe food crisis is particularly felt in the developing world, he warned.

Read more here.

Russia summoning heads of US media outlets

Russia’s foreign ministry has said it plans to summon the heads of United States media outlets in Moscow to a meeting next Monday to notify them of tough measures in response to US restrictions against Russian media.

“If the work of the Russian media – operators and journalists – is not normalised in the United States, the most stringent measures will inevitably follow,” ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said. “To this end, on Monday, June 6, the heads of the Moscow offices of all American media will be invited to the press centre of the Russian Foreign Ministry to explain to them the consequences of their government’s hostile line in the media sphere.”

A spokesperson for the US State Department said Washington supports access to media and the internet for Russians, who are being subjected to censorship by their own government.

Washington has imposed sanctions against the most highly viewed state-run Russian TV stations, accusing them of spreading disinformation to bolster Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Waning interest online in Ukraine war: Axios

After 100 days, the war in Ukraine has seen a significant drop in interest online, Axios has reported, citing a study conducted by social media monitoring platform NewsWhip.

According to the report, news articles on the Ukraine war have decreased to 70,000 this week from 520,000 articles in the first week of the war.

The figures also showed a 22-fold decrease in social media interactions on news articles published about Ukraine. According to the report, there were 4.8 million likes, comments and reshares this week of articles about the war, down from 109 million interactions the first week.

Putin blames West for food, energy crises

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the West for emerging global food and energy crises and repeated his government’s offers of safe passage for ships exporting grain from Ukraine if mines are removed from the waters.

“Of course, we are now seeing attempts to shift the responsibility for what is happening on the world food market, the emerging problems in this market, onto Russia,” he told Russian TV, as reported by the state-run TASS news agency. “I must say that this is an attempt, as our people say, to shift these problems from a sick to a healthy head.

Putin also said Western sanctions against Russia would only worsen world markets – reducing the harvest and driving up prices.

Ukraine has retaken about 20 percent of territory lost in Severodonetsk

Ukrainian forces have recaptured about 20 percent of the territory they lost in the city of Severodonetsk during fighting with Russia, the head of the eastern region of Luhansk has said.

“Whereas before the situation was difficult, the percentage [held by Russia] was somewhere around 70 percent, now we have already pushed them back by approximately 20 percent,” Serhiy Haidai told national television.

Haidai said the Russians were shelling Ukrainian positions for hours and then advancing, only to be driven back by defenders who had not been hurt, before repeating the pattern.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Read all the updates from Friday, June 3 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies