Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky says the battle for eastern city of Severodonetsk is being waged street by street as blasts rock the capital Kiev. President Vladimir Putin warns Russia will strike new targets if the US supplies longer-range missiles.
Press TV correspondent Johny Miller told us from Donetsk in the eastern Donbas region on Sunday that Russia continues to strike areas all around Ukraine.
"They say they are attacking military instillations and weapons coming from NATO and they are trying to strike those weapons before they are able to get to the front line," he said.
According to Miller, a district of Donetsk was hit about 9 p.m. Saturday night with loud explosions. No one was killed in the strikes, but 10 people were wounded and one was a child.
"The truth in Donetsk is that the Ukrainian army is shelling civilian areas for the past eight years, targeting and killing its own civilians. Most people here at Donetsk say they no longer want to be part of Ukraine and they want to join Russia. This is one of the main reasons Ukraine kills its own people. Around 10,000 people have been killed during the last eight years," he said.
Cities in the eastern Donbas area are at the heart of the Russian offensive. President Zelensky late Saturday said they were under "constant airstrikes, artillery and missile fire" but Ukrainian forces were holding their ground.
Russia's army claimed some Ukrainian military units were withdrawing from Severodonetsk but Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said Ukrainian forces were fighting to retake the city.
"Our soldiers have managed to redeploy, build a line of defense," he said in an interview broadcast on Telegram Saturday. "We are currently doing everything necessary to re-establish total control" of the city.
Earlier, Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said the Russians had captured most of Severodonetsk, but that Ukraine's forces were pushing them back.
"The Russian army, as we understand, is throwing all its power, all its reserves in this direction," said Gaiday. "Russians are blowing up the bridges, so that we cannot supply reinforcements to our boys, who are in Severodonetsk."
Severodonetsk is the largest city still in Ukrainian hands in the Lugansk region of the Donbas, where Russian forces have been gradually advancing in recent weeks.
“They (Russians) have been pushing forward in recent weeks and they have air and artillery, superiority and dominance, so it’s more likely that the Russians are on top in that region,” Miller said.
“Both sides are claiming that they are winning there (Severodonetsk) and if Ukraine was to keep that town, that would be a major turning point in this war,” he added.
The fight is going on in Donetsk, with the Russians saying they captured the city and were cleaning it up from days ago, Miller said.
"The Ukrainian military is desperately trying to hold the town, sending back National Guard fighters. The Ukrainians are claiming they are having some success but Russia is denying it,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions forced to flee and towns turned into rubble since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an all-out assault on his pro-Western neighbor on February 24.
Western powers have imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Russia and supplied arms to Ukraine, but divisions have emerged on how to react.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday Putin had committed a "fundamental error" but that Russia should not be "humiliated" so that a diplomatic solution could be found.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted Saturday by saying such calls "only humiliate France" and any country taking a similar position. "It is Russia that humiliates itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place," he said.
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.— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) June 4, 2022
Macron said the role of France was to be that of “a mediating power”, adding he had put time and energy into ensuring the conflict did not escalate into a wider war, including negotiating with the Russian president.
Putin warns West: Russia will strike harder if longer-range missiles given to Ukraine
On Sunday, Putin was quoted as saying that if longer-range missiles are supplied to Ukraine, "we will strike at those targets which we have not yet been hitting".
in an interview with Rossiya-1 state television channel, Putin said the "fuss" around Western weapon supplies to Ukraine was designed to drag out the conflict.
Ukraine has been seeking Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) such as the M270 and M142 HIMARS to strike troops and weapons stockpiles at the Russian forces' rear.
US President Joe Biden announced plans this week to give Ukraine precision HIMARS rocket systems after receiving assurances from Kiev that it would not use them to hit targets inside Russia.
Although Russian officials have warned that the US decision to supply Ukraine with advanced rocket systems could exacerbate the conflict, Putin said it would not bring on any fundamental changes on the battlefield.
"We understand that this supply (of advance rocket systems) from the United States and some other countries is meant to make up for the losses of this military equipment," Putin said. "This is nothing new. It doesn't change anything in essence."
In an excerpt of the same interview aired on Saturday, Putin said Russian anti-aircraft forces have shot down dozens of Ukrainian weapons and are "cracking them like nuts."
Russian warplanes hit Kiev with missiles from Caspian Sea
Early Sunday, Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers launched missiles at Kiev from the Caspian Sea and two of the Ukrainian capital's eastern districts were rocked by explosions, Ukraine's air force and the city's mayor said.
The attack targeted railway infrastructure in Kiev, said Serhiy Leshchenko, an aide to President Zelensky’s chief of staff. At least one person was hospitalized though no deaths were immediately reported, Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said.
News agencies said dark smoke rose into the sky above the Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts where the explosions rang out.
Russia's defense ministry said its strikes destroyed tanks and other armored vehicles on the outskirts of Kiev that had been provided to Ukraine by European countries.
"High-precision, long-range missiles fired by the Russian Aerospace Forces on the outskirts of Kyiv destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by eastern European countries and other armored vehicles that were in hangars," ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Ukraine's state-run nuclear power operator Energoatom said a Russian cruise missile few "critically low" over a major nuclear power plant.
"It's probable that was the missile that was fired in the direction of Kyiv," the operator of the Pivdennoukrainska plant, also called the South Ukraine Nuclear Plant, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
The missiles were the first to hit the capital since late April.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called on the West to impose more sanctions on Russia to punish it for the strikes and to supply more weapons to Ukraine.
"The Kremlin resorts to new insidious attacks. Today’s missile strikes at Kiev have only one goal - kill as many as possible," he wrote.
The mayor of the historic town of Brovary some 20 km from Kiev's center, urged people to remain inside their houses as there had been reports of the smell of soot coming from the smoke.
Despite continuing Russian offensives in Ukraine and the widespread destruction, life in Kiev has been relatively attack-free in recent weeks, after Moscow turned the focus of its operation to the east and south.
On Monday, European Union leaders agreed in principle to cut 90% of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday Western sanctions would have no effect on the country's oil exports and predicted a big jump in profits from energy shipments this year.
"Considering the price level that has been established as a result of the West's policies, we have suffered no budgetary losses," the foreign ministry quoted him as telling a Bosnian Serb television station.
"On the contrary, this year we will significantly increase the profits from the export of our energy resources."
Lavrov said Russia had alternative sales markets, "where we are already increasing sales".
The Russian foreign minister also accused the West of "not allowing Ukraine to negotiate" peace talks with Russia.
Paper: Russian sanctions to cost Germany an extra €5 billion
Russia’s sanctions against Gazprom Germania and its subsidiaries could cost German taxpayers and gas users an extra 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) a year to pay for replacement gas, the Welt am Sonntag weekly reported.
In May, Russia decided to stop supplying Gazprom Germania, which had been the German subsidiary of Gazprom, after Berlin put the company under trustee management due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since then, the Bundesnetzagentur energy regulator, acting as trustee, has had to buy replacement gas on the market to fulfil supply contracts with German municipal utilities and regional suppliers.
Welt am Sonntag reported that Economy Minister Robert Habeck estimates an extra 10 million cubic meters per day are required, which would currently cost about 3.5 billion euros a year. Further costs arise from the filling of the Rehden natural gas storage facility which Habeck ordered on Wednesday, it said.
The paper also said the additional costs would be passed on to energy suppliers and end customers in the form of a gas levy from October.