Russia continues to bombard eastern Ukraine; France's Macron says world must not 'humiliate' Russia, draws criticism: June 4 recap

This page recaps the news from Ukraine on Saturday, June 4. Follow here for the latest updates and news from Sunday, June 5, as Russia's invasion continues.

Russia continued its deadly assault in Ukraine's east Saturday as the war stretched past the 100-day mark and experts warned of a grinding conflict with no end in sight.

Russia has targeted areas in the Donbas region using both guided and unguided munitions, according to an assessment released Saturday by the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry.

With its focus on the Donbas region, Russia has combined "airstrikes and massed artillery fires to bring its overwhelming firepower to bear” and support its “creeping advance” in that region.

Meanwhile, the war's impact on global food insecurity moved center stage, as the chairman of the African Union, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to discuss the effective blockade of Ukraine's sea ports from exporting the country's grain.

Major developments:

►The European Union on Friday formally approved an embargo on Russian oil and other sanctions targeting major banks and broadcasters. EU leaders say the move means that around 90% of Russia’s oil exports to Europe will be blocked by year’s end.

►Marriott Hotels will suspend operations in Russia after 25 years of operating in the country, the company announced Friday.

►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that Russia now controls almost 20% of the country's territory. Before the war, Russia controlled 7%, including the Crimea Peninsula and parts of the Donbas

►In the Kherson region, the ruble is an official currency, and Russian passports are being offered to residents there and in the Zaporizhzhia region. But Russian forces continue to face challenges "establishing societal control over occupied territories," according to a June 3 analysis by the Institute for the Study of War.

An Ukrainian serviceman mourns during the a funeral of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Friday, June 3, 2022. According to combat comrades Makhachek was killed fighting Russian forces when a shell landed in his position on May 30.
An Ukrainian serviceman mourns during the a funeral of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Friday, June 3, 2022. According to combat comrades Makhachek was killed fighting Russian forces when a shell landed in his position on May 30.

NATO addition of Sweden, Finland will be challenge for Russia, top US general says

Russia would be put in a tough spot militarily if Sweden and Finland join NATO, U.S. Gen. Mark Milley said Saturday ahead of a military exercise in Stockholm, Reuters reported.

Should the two Nordic nations join, that would mean the coastline of the Baltic Sea would almost be fully encircled by members of the global military alliance – an alliance in which Russia isn’t a member.

"From a Russian perspective that will be very problematic for them, militarily speaking, and it would be very advantageous to NATO," Milley said, according to Reuters.

Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners. They contribute to the alliance’s operations and air policing.After the invasion, they formally boosted information exchanges with NATO and sit in on every meeting on war issues.

Putin has demanded that NATO stop expanding and has promised a “military, technical” response if they join.

Ukraine investigating deportation of children to Russia as possible genocide

Ukraine is investigating whether allegations of children’s forcible deportations to Russia rise to the level of genocide, Ukraine’s top prosecutor told Reuters in an exclusive interview.

"From the first days of the war, we started this case about genocide," Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told Reuters, adding that the removal of children provides the clearest evidence of genocide by the term’s strict legal definition.

“Forcibly transferring children” is qualified as genocide under international humanitarian law cemented by the 1948 Genocide Convention, which banned the intentional destruction of national, ethnic, racial or religious groups.

Venediktova did not tell Reuters how many children had been forcibly transferred, but Ukraine human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said in May that Russia relocated upwards of 210,000 kids during the conflict, Reuters reported.

France's Macron draws ire for saying world must not 'humiliate' Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron warned against humiliating Russia, despite its “historic” mistake of invading Ukraine, in an interview published Friday by French press.

"We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means," Macron said. "I am convinced that it is France's role to be a mediating power."

The French president said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion is a “historic and fundamental mistake for his people, for himself and for history.”

Macron’s comments sparked outrage from Ukrainian and American officials alike, many calling the leader’s comments tone-deaf and embarrassing.

“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,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, wrote in a tweet Saturday. “We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place. This will bring peace and save lives.”

“Emmanuel Macron is humiliating himself,” U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., also tweeted Saturday. “Russia has already been humiliated, and true to their reputation the French are trying to raise the white flag.”

Macron previously warned against humiliating Russia in May, noting that the two warring nations would have to sit down together to negotiate peace and that high tensions would not help.

‘Butcher of Bucha,’ 64 others sanctioned by E.U.

Russian Col. Azatbek Omurbekov, dubbed the “Butcher of Bucha” for reportedly torturing, raping and killing Ukrainians living in the Kyiv suburb Bucha, was on Friday sanctioned by the European Union alongside 64 other individuals.

Omurbekov, named first on the list of newly sanctioned individuals, commanded an army unit that the E.U. says committed “atrocities” that “constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.” The E.U. wrote that Omurbekov had “direct responsibility” in the brutal attacks.

Other Russians sanctioned by the E.U. include Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, labeled the “Butcher of Mariupol,” the chairwoman of Russia’s National Media Group, Alina Maratovna Kabaeva, and the wife and children of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov.

More than 127,000 explosives cleared by Ukraine, U.N. says

As of this week, Ukraine has cleared more than 127,000 explosives in and around the nation’s regional north and its capital, Kyiv, a United Nations group said in a situation report released Wednesday.

“The retreat of the Russian Forces has offered space for considerable explosive ordnance clear-up operations,” the U.N. Development Program report reads, noting that most clearance efforts have been focused in urban regions like Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Zhytomyr.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Services has cleared 127,393 explosive devices across 28,714 square kilometers, which is about 12% of Ukraine’s land. Ukraine hopes to ramp up efforts by adding 80 more teams to help sweep the land for explosives, the report says.

Street fighting rages in eastern Ukrainian cities

Block-by-block fighting raged Friday in two key eastern Ukrainian cities Friday, the 100th day of Russia's war, slowly grinding them to rubble.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said fierce battles continued in Sievierodonetsk, where about 13,000 remaining residents took shelter in basements to escape relentless Russian bombardment. Ukrainian forces reclaimed 20% of city terrain that had been taken by Russian troops, he added later.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that there had been “some progress” in the battle for Sievierodonetsk but gave no specifics.

Zelenskyy criticizes US cities for maintaining sister ties with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a gathering of U.S. mayors on Friday that they should sever "sister city" ties with Russian cities.

"We should not let tyrants exploit their connections with the free world," Zelenskyy said, addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting. "What do those ties give to you? Probably nothing. But they allow Russia to say that it is not isolated, even after the start of this war."

Zelenskyy called out Chicago, Jacksonville, San Diego and Albany as some of dozens of U.S. cities that have ties to Russian cities.

Some cities, including Chicago, have suspended but not permanently severed their relationships with their Russian sister cities since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February. Others, like San Jose, California, chose to continue their relationships; the San Jose Spotlight reported that the City Council chose to send a letter to its sister city Ekaterinburg, urging residents to stand against Vladimir Putin.

-Jeanine Santucci

How the seizure of Russian superyachts helps the feds punish Putin and his oligarchs

A former U.S. Marshal said the United States' asset forfeiture under orders of President Joe Biden and Task Force KleptoCapture is wreaking havoc on Russian oligarchs and their ill-gotten gains.

The most recent seizures include $1 billion worth of superyachts, tracked down in ports from Europe to Fiji.

"Really, the power of asset forfeiture is that allows us to hit them where it hurts the most, which is in the pocket, and not let them keep things that were otherwise illegally acquired," said former U.S. Marshal Jason Wojdylo. "A Russian oligarch yacht is certainly a new level of vessel we've never seized before." Read more.

— Trevor Hughes

Contributing: Associated Press

Civilians evacuate the city of Slovyansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 4, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Civilians evacuate the city of Slovyansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 4, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy says Russia controls almost 20% of Ukraine