- US vows to hold Ukraine war criminals accountable
- Powerful explosions heard over Kyiv
- Russians partially retreat from Sievierodonetsk, according to Luhansk governor
- NATO to hold BALTOPS 22 maritime exercises
This article was last updated at 19:32 UTC/GMT
Zelenskyy visits front-line troops
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited front-line troops in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, his office has said.
He gathered a situation report, talking to servicemen and presenting them with awards.
“I want to thank you for your great work, for your service, for protecting all of us, our state. I am grateful to everyone. I want to wish you and your families good health. Take care of yourselves!” he said.
Those present held a moment’s silence in memory of fallen soldiers.
Insight from DW’s reporter in Ukraine on the battle for Donbas
As Russia’s fight to take complete control of the Donbas region, Western analysts’ predictions that Russian forces will capture the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk have failed to materialize, says DW correspondent in Kyiv, Nick Connolly.
The Ukrainian claim that it has captured a swathe of Sievierodonetsk was difficult to verify, he said. Regional governor Serhiy Haidai said in an interview that Ukrainian forces had “cleaned half” of the industrial hub of Russian troops.
He said he expected a major counter-attack from Russian forces in the coming days, as they seek to take control of the city and a key road in the region..
“In the next five days, there will be a large increase in the number of shellings from heavy artillery,” Haidai said.
However, the fact that Russia has been unable to raise its flag and that Ukrainian troops have successfully maintained a presence “will be seen as a victory in Kyiv,” said Nick Connolly
He pointed to several signs that suggested Russia’s military is “not doing too well on the battlefield.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats to strike new targets if the West supplies Ukraine with longer-range missiles reflected Moscow’s concern over such missiles potentially being able to “hit Russia’s supply chains.”
That could give Ukrainian troops the option to “push Russian forces back while staying at a safer distance,” Connolly said. He added that Russians seem worried this could “allow Ukraine to move forward in the battle field.”
Ukraine misses out on World Cup after loss to Wales
Ukraine’s World Cup dreams are over following a loss to Wales in the final European World Cup playoff in Cardiff on Sunday.
A win over Scotland in midweek raised hopes that, despite a war with Russia at home, Ukraine’s national team could qualify for the Qatar World Cup. But despite 20 shot attempts in rainy conditions, the Ukrainians couldn’t match a first-half own goal from Andriy Yarmolenko, who headed in a free kick from Gareth Bale shortly before halftime.
DW spoke to football fan Alexander, who watched the game at a bar in Kyiv. He said the missle strikes had woken him up at 5 a.m. in the morning and he had not been back to sleep. Against the backdrop of the war, many Ukrainians were full of hope for the match and World Cup qualification. The loss had left him with “an emptiness inside that I don’t know how to fill.”
Ukraine’s defense minister says his ‘optimistic’ stance is that the war could end this year
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov believes the war in Ukraine could end before the end of 2022.
“It is still impossible to predict when the war will end, but according to my optimistic forecast, it is realistic for this to happen before the end of the year.”
His comments come a day after presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak also said it was hard to talk about deadlines for ending the war, but judging by the “stockpiled weapons, this could drag on for a period of two to six months.”
Putin warns of Russia hitting new targets if US gives missiles to Ukraine
Russia will respond to the West delivering long-range missiles to Ukraine, said Russian President Vladimir Putin. His remarks come after the US pledged to supply Kyiv with M142 systems armed with precisions-guided missiles. The range of the missiles, according to media reports, would be between 70 to 80 kilometers (43.5 to 50 miles).
In comments broadcast on Sunday, Putin said the systems were “nothing new” and their range depended on the missiles that the US decided to provide.
“But, if they will be delivered, we will draw appropriate conclusions and use our own weapons, of which we have enough, to strike objects that we haven’t struck before,” Putin told Russia’s state broadcaster.
The Russian president did not specify which targets he had in mind.
‘Don’t bring the world to ruins,’ urges Pope Francis
The head of the Catholic Church on Sunday urged a cease-fire and negotiations amid the war in Ukraine, while calling on world leaders to prevent the world being destroyed.
“Don’t bring the world to ruins, please. Don’t bring the world to ruins,” Pope Francis said during his traditional Sunday blessing at the Vatican.
He called on the world to hear “the desperate cries of the people” who are suffering amid Russia’s invasion, though he again declined to mention that country by name as he has since the start of Moscow’s assault.
The Catholic Church has tried to offer its services as a mediator in the conflict, and the pontiff himself has declared his willingness to travel to Ukraine “at the right moment,” saying his visit should not do more harm than good.
The pope, seen here at Whitsunday Mass, made his strongest appeal yet for a cease-fire
Russia says missiles destroy donated tanks, armor in Kyiv
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that tanks and other armored vehicles supplied to Ukraine by Eastern European countries had been destroyed by Russian forces in a barrage of missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital.
It said high-precision, long-range air-launched missiles were used in the strikes on the outskirts of Kyiv, with T-72 tanks among the weaponry hit in the attacks.
The damage has not been immediately confirmed by Ukraine’s military.
The Ukrainian air forces said in a statement, however, that Russia had launched missiles at Kyiv from Tu-95 aircraft from the Caspian Sea. Ukrainian officials also said Russian missiles had hit railway infrastructure sites in the capital.
Earlier on Sunday, Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, had said Kyiv had been hit by several explosions in the Darnytsky and Dniprovsky districts of the city. The missile attacks are the first such strikes on the capital since April 28.
Russian missile flies ‘critically low’ over major nuclear plant: operator
A Russian cruise missile that was possibly aimed at the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, flew over the South Ukraine Nuclear Plant at a dangerously low altitude on Sunday, the state nuclear power operator Energoatom has said.
Accusing Russia of “nuclear terrorism,” Energoatom wrote on Telegram that Moscow’s invading forces “still do not understand that even the smallest fragment of a missile hitting a working power unit can cause a nuclear catastrophe and radiation leak.”
The report has not yet been independently verified.
The facility, also known as the Pivdennoukrainska plant, is located 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of the capital. It is Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear power plant.
In April 1986, Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, was the site of a major nuclear catastrophe when a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant went into meltdown. The disaster is considered the worst-ever such incident in the world in terms of costs and casualties.
Ukrainian counterattacks in Sievierodonetsk slowing Russia’s momentum: UK military intelligence
Counterattacks carried out by Ukrainian forces in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk might be negating some of the advances made by attacking Russian troops, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has said in an intelligence update.
“Over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have counterattacked in the contested city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, likely blunting the operational momentum Russian forces previously gained through concentrating combat units and firepower,” the update says.
According to the update, Russia is using some soldiers from the reserve of Russian-led separatist forces of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic in its clearance operations in the city. It said these troops were less well-equipped and more poorly trained than Russian army units and were likely being deployed to limit casualties among regular Russian military personnel.
The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said on Sunday that the city was now divided in half between Ukrainian and Russian forces after Russian troops were forced back from some areas they previously held.
Ukraine must win back its freedom: German Greens co-leader
Ukraine must win back its sovereignty in the war against the Russian invaders, one of the two leaders of Germany’s co-ruling Green Party has said.
“The Ukrainians must regain their sovereignty, their territory and their liberty,” Omid Nouripour told papers from the Funke media group in an interview published on Sunday.
“We won’t recognize a single square centimeter of occupied Ukrainian soil,” he added, while saying that Ukraine must remain free in its decision whether to retake territory captured by the Russians or to negotiate with Moscow over possible concessions.
Nouripour also responded with a “yes” to the question of whether Ukraine should win the war.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, a fellow Greens member, on Wednesday also clearly affirmed on television that Germany wanted a Ukrainian victory in the war.
Explosions heard in Kyiv
Ukrainian media and Reuters report explosions were heard in Kyiv early Sunday. The reports were confirmed on Telegram by Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko.
Klitschko wrote, “Several explosions in Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts of the capital.”
Hromadske Radio journalists reported “black smoke seen this morning within Kyiv boundaries, or in close proximity to Kyiv.”
Katerina Sergatskova, the editor-in-chief of Ukrainian news website Zaborona, wrote on Twitter that there were four booms and it sounded “like it was on the first day of the #RussianInvasion.”
Russian sanctions could cost Germany an extra €5 billion
Gas industry representatives told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the cost of the sanctions regime against Russia could be an extra €5 billion ($5.4 billion) annually for replacement gas.
Last month, Russia halted supplies to Gazprom Germania, the German subsidiary of Gazprom, after Berlin placed the company under trustee management by regulators.
Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck estimates an additional 10 million cubic meters per day are needed, costing €3.5 billion annually at current cost.
US ambassador vows to hold war criminals accountable
The US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the US will back an international war crimes probe during a trip to the Kyiv suburb of Borodyanka, which was under siege in the earliest phase of Russia’s invasion.
On Twitter Brink wrote, “Bearing witness to atrocities committed in Russia’s brutal war, including families killed in their own homes, only strengthens my resolve to do everything we can to hold the perpetrators of these awful crimes to account.”
NATO’s annual Baltic Sea exercise kicks off
The BALTOPS 22 naval exercise involving 14 NATO countries plus Finland and Sweden kicks off and will run until June 17. Finland and Sweden have applied to join NATO but are facing opposition from Turkey within the military alliance.
The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley was in Stockholm for a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and to visit the USS Kearsarge, a US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship currently docked in the Swedish capital.
Milley said his visit and the presence of the USS Kearsage “demonstrates commitment in a common cause, in the rules-based international order, in the idea that large countries cannot invade small countries at no cost.”
Milley noted the purpose of BALTOPS 22 is to train for “amphibious assaults and scenarios that would involve attacking land that is seized by an adversary or an enemy country.”
While BALTOPS 22 is an annual exercise, it takes on renewed significance due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has an exclave on the Baltic Sea, the highly militarized region of Kaliningrad which was seized from the Germans after the Second World War.
Summary of Saturday’s events in Ukraine-Russia crisis
The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said Russia had retreated in the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk — now one of only two settlements in the province that aren’t under Russian control. Haidai’s claim of Ukrainian advances could not immediately be verified.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Telegram that Russian forces had struck the All Saints Monastery in Svyatohirsk Lavra in the Donetsk region again with artillery. He also posted a video of the church engulfed in flames and said 300 civilians, 60 of them children, had been sheltering there amid intense fighting.
Zelenskyy also called for “barbaric” Russia to be expelled from UNESCO, the United Nations (UN) cultural agency, saying, “Every church burned by Russia in Ukraine, every school blown up, every destroyed memorial proves that Russia has no place in UNESCO.”
The monastic settlement of Svyatohirsk Lavra dates back to 1627 and the wooden church is one of the country’s most sacred Orthodox sites. The monastery was consecrated in 1912 and first destroyed during the Soviet era and later rebuilt prior to its destruction by the Russian army.
Russia’s tactics have changed on the battlefield, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak, adding that Russian losses had now decreased to around 100 to 200 casualties per day — a figure he said was “roughly comparable” with Ukrainian losses.
Ukraine’s official volunteer brigade, the International Legion of Defense, has paid tribute to four foreigners from Germany, France, the Netherlands and Australia who were killed in recent weeks.
The deaths of the Frenchman and the Australian had been confirmed by their respective governments, while reporters from French news agency AFP were present for the burial of the Dutch fighter in Kharkiv on May 21.
Kyiv on Saturday announced that Ukraine and Russia exchanged the bodies of 320 soldiers — 160 each — on June 2. The exchange took place at the front in the southeastern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhya.
Ukraine has repeatedly called on Moscow to take possession of the bodies of its fallen soldiers and to give them a dignified burial. Kyiv accuses the Kremlin of using its young as “cannon fodder” to be simply left to rot on the battlefield after they are killed.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied involvement in the incident, instead deflecting blame to Ukrainian troops, whom it claims set the blaze themselves as they retreated from advancing Russian forces.
The UK Defense Ministry has accused Russia of launching unguided airstrikes over the Donbas region.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday told a Bosnian-Serb television broadcaster that Western sanctions would actually benefit Russia by driving up energy prices.
“Oil, generally speaking, is not subject to politics, there is a demand for it,” Lavrov said, adding, “We have alternative sales markets, where we are already increasing sales.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine after Vladimir Putin “isolated himself” on the world stage.
The European Union is set to introduce special regulations that will recognize Ukrainian driver’s licenses, according to the German government.
You can revisit our live updates from June 4 here.
ar/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)