- The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, says Ukrainian forces are “moving forward” near Bakhmut.
- Russia claimed to have captured the city last month after months of fighting.
- Russia has said its forces thwarted a major Ukrainian offensive in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk, killing 250 Ukrainian soldiers and destroying tanks and armoured vehicles.
- Two drones fell on a highway in Russia’s Kaluga region, which lies south of the Moscow region, with the governor saying on Monday that no explosives detonated.
- Italian cardinal Matteo Zuppi has travelled to Kyiv on a Vaitcan peace mission for two-day talks with the Ukrainian authorities.
Cross border attacks a distraction for offensive: Journalist
Journalist Yulia Shapovalova, reporting from Moscow, said military analysts have said that the recent cross-border attacks in Belgorod were a distraction for a larger attack in Donetsk.
“The main focus is on the border region of Belgorod now, and in the morning, the Ukrainian army fired more than 70 shells and launched multiple rocket systems at the village which borders the town of Shebikino in the Belgorod region,” Shapovalova said.
“Locals say the town of Shebikino has been wiped off the face of the earth now. There is no electricity, water or wifi service in the city right now.”
Shapovalova added that while some people in Shebikino have gone into temporary accommodation centres, many villagers and farmers have said they cannot leave their livestock behind.
Russia says it repels Ukrainian attempt to cross into Belgorod
Russia’s Defence Ministry says it repelled a Ukrainian attempt to cross into the Belgorod region on Sunday, Russian RIA news agency reported.
Moscow said “more than 10” Ukrainian fighters had been killed by air and artillery strikes.
On Sunday, an anti-Kremlin group said it had captured several soldiers during a cross-border raid into the Belgorod region and would hand them over to Ukrainian authorities.
The governor of Belgorod, Vyacheslav Gladkov, also reported fighting in the town of Novaya Tavolzhanka with “Ukrainian saboteurs”.
Ukraine says it has no information on Donetsk offensive
Ukraine’s military says it has no information about an offensive Russia said Kyiv had launched at five points along the front line in Donetsk.
“We do not have such information and we do not comment on any kind of fake [news],” a spokesperson for the Ukrainian armed forces’ general staff said in response to a question from the Reuters news agency.
No comment on Donetsk offensive: Kremlin
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did not answer questions about Ukraine’s counteroffensive during his daily press briefing, the Russian TASS news agency reported
Peskov told reporters that the Ministry of Defence could answer any questions about the “special military operation” and referred to the ministry’s statement on the alleged offensive.Earlier on Monday, the Russian defence ministry said its forces thwarted a “large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the South Donetsk direction”.
Ukrainian grain yields could fall by 20 percent
While most of Ukraine’s winter grain crops are in good condition, grain yields could fall by 20 percent if dry and hot weather persists, the APK-inform consultancy firm quotes agricultural scientists as saying.
Grain output decreased to about 53 million tonnes in 2022 from a record 86 million tonnes in 2021 after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
The government has said that in 2023 the harvest could decline to 44.5 million tonnes.
“In general, weather conditions for most of the spring period were sufficiently favourable for growth and development of winter cereal crops,” Ukraine’s National Academy of Agrarian Sciences said in a report.
“However, in case of continuation of dry weather in the period of grain filling, especially on the background of high air temperatures. … the share of lost yields can be from 15 percent to 20 percent.”
Wagner boss says settlement near Bakhmut retaken by Ukraine
Leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, says Ukrainian forces have retaken part of the settlement of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut.
“Now part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost; the troops are quietly running away. Disgrace!” Prigozhin said in an audio message published by his press service.
He urged Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, to come to the front to rally the troops.
“Come on, you can do it!” he said. “And if you can’t, you’ll die heroes.”
Prigozhin’s private army captured Bakhmut last month after the longest battle of the war and handed its positions there to regular Russian troops.
Earlier in the day, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said Ukrainian troops continued “moving forward” near Bakhmut.
Russia’s thwarting claims are ‘impossible to verify’: AJ Correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kyiv, says Russia’s claim that its military thwarted a Ukrainian offensive is “impossible to verify”.
“The Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian military, in the last few days, have started working on a campaign of silence. They released a video showing heavily armed Ukrainian soldiers putting their fingers to their lips, literally warning the public and warning the military to stay silent on any kind of information from the front line,” Stratford said.
Stratford explained that while there is no information from the Ukrainians, the timing of Zelenskyy’s announcement about an imminent counteroffensive is “very interesting”.
US statement on bilateral arms control is ‘positive’: Kremlin
A statement by United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan calling for bilateral arms control discussions was “positive”, says the Kremlin.
On Friday, Sullivan said the US would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START Treaty until it expires in 2026 if Russia did the same.
“This is an important and positive statement by Mr Sullivan. Of course, we expect it to be de facto confirmed by steps through diplomatic channels, and then the proposed formats for dialogue can be considered,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in the treaty in February.
Poland receives draft EU regulation on Ukrainian grain ban
Poland’s agriculture minister, Robert Telus, says he has received a draft regulation from the European Commission extending a ban on Ukrainian grain imports until September 15.
On May 2, the European Union set restrictions until June 5 on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to ease the excess supply of grains in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Those same countries previously complained that cheaper Ukrainian grain was making domestic production unprofitable.
“We have received from the EC a draft of a new regulation banning the import of 4 products to the 5 countries,” Telus wrote on Twitter.
“The effective date provided for in the draft is September 15 this year.”
“It’s a draft but I hope it will come into force from tomorrow,” he added.
Belgium investigating if its rifles were used in Belgorod
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo will ask Ukraine for clarification on reports that rifles made in Belgium had been used by pro-Ukrainian forces in Russia’s Belgorod region.
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that anti-Kremlin fighters in Belgorod used tactical vehicles originally given to Kyiv by the United States and Poland and carried rifles made in Belgium and the Czech Republic.
“Our defence ministry and its intelligence agencies have started an investigation and are asking for information to determine what has happened exactly,” De Croo said on Belgium’s Radio 1.
“European weapons are delivered to Ukraine under the condition that they are used on Ukrainian territory with the purpose of defending that territory. And we have strict controls in place to see that this is the case,” he said.
De Croo declined to comment on possible consequences if the reports were confirmed.
Ukraine forces ‘moving forward’ near Bakhmut: Ukrainian commander
The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said on Monday that Ukrainian forces continued “moving forward” near Bakhmut.
Syrskyi said Ukrainian forces were successful in destroying a Russian position near the city.
“We continue moving forward,” Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.
Two drones fell on highway near Moscow region
Two drones fell on a highway in Russia’s Kaluga region, which lies south of the Moscow region, with the governor saying on Monday that no explosives detonated.
“The area has been cordoned off,” the governor of the region, Vladislav Shapsha, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Based on the information provided by Shapsha, the drones fell some 280km-300km (174 miles-186 miles) from Moscow.
Last week, Russia said Ukrainian drones struck districts of Moscow. Kyiv has denied any involvement.
Russia claims to have thwarted Ukrainian offensive in Donetsk
Russia has said its forces thwarted a major Ukrainian offensive in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk, killing 250 Ukrainian soldiers and destroying tanks and armoured vehicles.
“On the morning of June 4, the enemy launched a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the south Donetsk direction,” the Russian defence ministry said on its Telegram channel early on Monday.
“During the day, the occupiers made 23 attacks, but all … were repulsed by units of the defence forces,” it said.
Envoy arrives in Kyiv to promote Vatican peace plan
Italian cardinal Matteo Zuppi will visit Kyiv on Monday and Tuesday on a peace mission, the Vatican said in a statement.
“This is an initiative whose main purpose is to listen in depth to the Ukrainian authorities on the possible ways to reach a just peace and support gestures of humanity that may help ease tensions,” it said.
Since the war started in February 2022, Pope Francis and the Vatican have tried to position themselves as possible peace brokers, but their efforts have not yet succeeded.
Zuppi, who became a cardinal in 2019, is a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Rome-based peace and justice group which brokered the 1992 peace treaty that ended the 15-year civil war in Mozambique.