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Turkish President Discusses War In Ukraine With Belarus's Lukashenka

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Ankara in 2019.

The office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he has discussed Russia's invasion of Ukraine with Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the strongman leader of Belarus who is closely allied with Moscow.

The early morning phone call on March 1 centered on cease-fire negotiations held between Ukrainian and Russian officials in Belarus the previous day. While the talks failed to reach a breakthrough, negotiators have said another round of discussions will be held in the coming days.

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Erdogan reportedly said that NATO member Turkey would continue to play a role in trying to end the war that has entered its sixth day, that Ankara would maintain its ties to both Moscow and Kyiv, and that his country would implement an international accord to limit the passage of Russian warships through the Turkish straights to the Black Sea.

On February 28, Erdogan said Russia's invasion of Ukraine was "unacceptable" and that Turkey would honor its commitments to the Western NATO military alliance.

The Turkish president also said that his country, which shares a maritime border with both Ukraine and Russia and has good ties with each, would not turn its back on either country.

Ukraine earlier asked Ankara to implement the 1936 Montreux Convention that gives Turkey the right to bar warships from using the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus during wartime, and Erdogan said he would implement the pact after determining that the conflict in Ukraine was a war.

“Turkey is determined to use the authority given by the Montreux Convention on Turkish Straits in a manner to prevent escalation of the Russia-Ukraine crisis,” Erdogan said.

Ankara has forged close ties with Russia in the energy and defense sectors, but has also sold drones to Ukraine and, despite raising Moscow's ire, signed a deal to co-produce more.

Lukashenka has supported Russian President Vladimir Putin's military assault on Ukraine and said that Belarusian troops could take part in the Russian military campaign if needed.

With reporting by Reuters

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Russia Says It Stopped An Attack By 'Saboteurs' From Ukraine In Belgorod Region

A still image from a drone footage released by the Free Russia Legion shows what appears to be an explosion near the Novaya Tavolzhanka settlement in Russia's Belgorod region on June 1.

The Russian Ministry of Defense says its forces managed to repel an attempt by a "sabotage and reconnaissance group of Ukrainian terrorists" to enter the settlement of Novaya Tavolzhanka in Russia's Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine. "An artillery strike was carried out on the enemy. The enemy was dispersed and retreated," the ministry said in a statement on June 4. Earlier, fresh skirmishes were reported on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border. Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov acknowledged on June 4 that fighting was taking place in his region. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Ukraine Says It Thwarted Infiltration Attempt By Russia In Kharkiv Region

A Ukrainian soldier on duty in the Kharkiv region, where fighting has been reported in recent days. (file photo)

The Ukrainian military said its forces had detected and repelled an attempt by Russia to infiltrate a "sabotage and reconnaissance" group in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. "On the Siverskiy and Slobozhanskiy directions over the past day, the enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the state border of Ukraine in the area of the Zelene settlement of the Kharkiv region," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported in a message early on June 5. The Kharkiv region borders Russia's Belgorod region, where fighting was reported repeatedly in recent days. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Official: Almost 80 Schoolgirls Poisoned, Hospitalized In Northern Afghanistan

Afghan schoolgirls attend an open-air primary school in Khogyani district of Nangarhar Province.

Nearly 80 girls were poisoned and hospitalized in two separate attacks at their primary schools in Sar-e Pul Province in northern Afghanistan, a local education official said on June 4. It is thought to be the first time this kind of assault has happened since the Taliban swept to power in August 2021 and began their crackdown on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls. Girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade. The education official said the person who orchestrated the poisoning had a personal grudge but did not elaborate. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Popular Singer Zemfira Spotted In Russian Player's Box At French Open

Zemfiraperforms at the 2018 Afisha Picnic music festival in Moscow.

Popular Russian singer Zemfira, who left the country because of her opposition to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, was spotted at the French Open on June 4 sitting in the player's box of her compatriot Daria Kasaktina. Zemfira was placed on a Russian Justice Ministry list of "foreign agents" in February on the grounds that she supported Ukraine and criticized the invasion, which Russia calls a "special military operation." An ethnic Volga Tatar born in the central Russian region of Bashkortostan, Zemfira began performing in 1998 and gained popularity in Russia and other ex-Soviet states.

German Jailed In Iran's Life 'In Danger,' Fellow Prisoner Says

Nahid Taghavi was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail in August 2021 after being arrested at her Tehran apartment in October 2020.

The life of a German-Iranian detained in Iran is in danger and she is in such pain she can barely move, a fellow prisoner who is a prominent rights activist said on June 4. Nahid Taghavi, 68, was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail in August 2021 after being arrested at her Tehran apartment in October 2020, and is being held in solitary confinement at Tehran's Evin prison. "The life of Nahid Taghavi, a political prisoner, is in danger," her fellow inmate, the prize-winning campaigner Narges Mohammadi, wrote on an Instagram account run by family in France.

No Breakthrough In NATO-Turkey Talks Over Sweden After Stoltenberg, Erdogan Meet

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left) meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February in Ankara.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made no breakthrough on June 4 in talks about Sweden's membership in the military alliance with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with officials from the two countries to meet on June 12 to try to bridge their differences. NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time U.S. President Joe Biden and other allied leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the move. All 31 member countries must ratify a candidate's accession protocol for it to join the transatlantic alliance. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Rublev's Trinity Icon Transferred To Russian Cathedral Despite Protests Of Museum Community

Created by the Russian painter in the early 15th century, it has been at the Tretyakov since the 1920s.

Russia's most famous icon -- the Trinity by Andrei Rublev -- was moved from the Tretyakov Gallery Arts Museum to Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral despite protests by the museum community. The icon will be in the cathedral for a service starting on June 4, the Culture Ministry said. Museum officials and scientists opposed the transfer of the icon, saying the historic artifact will be damaged by the change in microclimate and vibrations during the transfer. Created by the Russian painter in the early 15th century, it has been at the Tretyakov since the 1920s. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Pakistani Ex-PM Openly Accuses Military Of Trying To Destroy His Party

Imran Khan gestures as he speaks to the media at his residence in Lahore. (file photo)

Pakistan's embattled former Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the powerful military and its intelligence agency of openly trying to destroy his political party, saying he had "no doubt" he would be tried in a military court and thrown in jail. Khan has hinted previously at the military's hand in a crackdown on his Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party but his comments in an interview at his Lahore home on June 3 were the most blunt yet. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Ukrainian Minister In 'Disbelief' At Closed Kyiv Bomb Shelters

A dog stands at the entrance to a bomb shelter in eastern Ukraine.

A senior Ukrainian government official expressed "disbelief" on June 4, warning that nearly half of Kyiv's bomb shelters inspected during an initial audit were closed or unfit for use. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ordered an inspection of all Ukrainian shelters on June 2, a day after three people were killed in Kyiv when they were unable to access one during a Russian air strike. Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine's minister of strategic industries, said that out of 1,078 shelters examined on the first day, 359 were unprepared and another 122 locked, while 597 were found to be usable.

Russian Governor Urges Residents Of Village Near Ukraine To 'Temporarily' Evacuate Amid Uptick In Shelling

A view shows destroyed vehicles following what was said to be Ukrainian shelling in the town of Shebekino in the Belgorod region in an image released on May 31.

Russian authorities on June 4 called on residents of an area on the Ukrainian border to leave their homes "temporarily." The town of Shebekino in the western Belgorod region has been hit by shelling, with casualties reported. In a Telegram post on June 4, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov urged residents to cooperate with the authorities and leave the area. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Drone Shot Down In Crimea's Dzhankoy, Moscow-Installed Official Says

A drone was shot down in Dzhankoy in Crimea, a Russian-installed official in the region that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014 said on June 4. "There is damage to windows in several houses in a residential district" from the overnight incident, Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser in the Moscow-installed administration of Crimea, posted on the Telegram messaging app. "All services are working. Official information -- in the morning," he said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Updated

Dozens Of Supporters Detained As Kremlin Foe Navalny Turns 47 In Prison

Aleksei Navalny is seen on a screen via video link during a court hearing in Moscow in April.

Aleksei Navalny, the Kremlin's biggest foe and Russia's most prominent political prisoner, marks his 47th birthday on June 4 in solitary confinement in prison, as supporters held rallies and individual protests to highlight his plight, leading to dozens of arrests and detentions.

Navalny is serving sentences that add up to 11 1/2 years for violating the terms of a parole, contempt of court, and embezzlement through fraud that he and his supporters have repeatedly rejected as politically motivated and designed to silence him.

He is currently in a punitive solitary confinement at a prison in the Vladimir region east of Moscow.

"As always, on my birthday, I want to thank all the people I've met in my life. The good ones for having helped and still helping me. The bad ones for the fact that my experience with them has taught me something. Thanks to my family for always being there for me!" Navalny wrote on Twitter.

"But the biggest thank you and biggest salute I want to give today goes to all political prisoners in Russia, Belarus, and other countries. Most of them ...have it much harder than me. I think about them all the time. Their resilience inspires me every day," he added.

Risking their own detention amid President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on any dissent, supporters held individual pickets in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere in the country.

A heavy security presence was seen in central Moscow, with National Guard troops stationed near Pushkin Square.

According to OVD-Info, an independent human rights defense and media group, several people were detained in the capital for holding signs in support of the activist, including a woman identified as Yekaterina Lubyanaya, who was holding a balloon with "Happy birthday!" written on it.

OVD-Info said that more than 100 people had been detained in 23 cities at rallies and individual pickets by late on June 4. At least four detainees were minors and one journalist was held, it said, adding that some were eventually released from custody.

Demonstrations were also reported in several European cities and in Japan and Australia.

A demonstration in support of Aleksei Navalny in St. Petersburg is stopped by police on June 4.
A demonstration in support of Aleksei Navalny in St. Petersburg is stopped by police on June 4.

Navalny has been in prison since February 2021 following his arrest one month earlier after he returned from Germany, where he was treated for a near-fatal poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin, which has denied any involvement.

He and his team have said the charges against him are trumped up for his efforts to expose corruption in the Russian government.

WATCH: Russia's most famous political prisoner spends most of his time in a 2.5-by-3-meter isolation cell. Supporters of Aleksei Navalny have created a traveling exhibition complete with a mock-up of the cell.

In Jail With Navalny: Mock-Up Shows Conditions In Russian Prison
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A Moscow court has set a June 6 date for a hearing for a new trial for Navalny on a charge of extremism, which could keep him in prison for 30 years. He also said an investigator told him that he would also face a separate military court trial on terrorism charges that potentially carry a life sentence.

On June 2, Navalny released excerpts of his correspondence with prison administrators detailing sarcastic demands for outlandish things such as a bottle of moonshine and a pet kangaroo.

Prison officials denied all of his requests, according to the correspondence, often in stilted, bureaucratic Russian.

"When you are sitting in a punishment isolation cell and have little entertainment, you can have fun with correspondence with the administration," Navalny said on Twitter in a series of tweets posted on June 2, apparently by his team.

Among the items he requested was a megaphone to be given to the prisoner in a nearby cell "so he can yell even louder." Another was a request for an inmate who "killed a man with his bare hands" to be awarded with the highest rank in karate.

"The question of awarding eastern martial-arts qualifications is not handled by the administration," the prison wrote back on April 28.

Prison officials also turned down requests for moonshine, tobacco for rolling cigarettes, a balalaika, and the kangaroo.

In response to his wish for a pet kangaroo, the prison wrote: "The animal identified in your request relates to the double-crested marsupial.... Your request is left without satisfaction."

In mock outrage over the refusal, Navalny said he would continue to fight for his "inalienable right to own a kangaroo." The politician said inmates can have a pet if the prison administration allows it.

With reporting by Current Time, Reuters, and AP

Taliban Claims Attack In Northwest Pakistan, Two Soldiers Killed

The army said in a statement that militants opened fire on a security checkpoint in the evening on June 3. (illustrative photo)

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack in northwestern Pakistan that left two soldiers and two militants dead. The army said in a statement that militants opened fire on a security checkpoint in the evening on June 3 in the Jani Khel area of Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, leading to a shoot-out with Pakistani troops. A search operation was under way to track the militants behind the attack. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Updated

New Skirmishes Break Out Along Ukrainian Border As Anti-Kremlin Forces Capture Russian Soldiers

Drone footage released by the Free Russia Legion shows what they claim is the destruction of Russian military targets near Novaya Tavolzhanka in the Belgorod region, Russia, in an image released on June 1.

Fresh battles broke out on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border on June 4, as anti-Kremlin fighters said they had captured several Russian soldiers and turned them over to Kyiv after the governor of the Belgorod region failed to show up for negotiations on a prisoner swap.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, acknowledged fighting was taking place in his region, which borders Ukraine, and that some soldiers had been taken prisoner by the pro-Ukrainian Russian fighters.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

He earlier vowed to meet with the fighters near the border and said he would "guarantee [their] security" to discuss a swap. But the anti-Kremlin fighters said the governor never arrived and that they were turning over their captives to the Ukrainian government.

The developments could not immediately be independently verified.

The self-styled Russian Volunteer Corps released a statement on Telegram making the claims and showed a video of what appeared to be 10-12 Russian soldiers being held captive, including two who were on hospital beds.

The military action inside Russia comes two weeks after the corps and another group, the Free Russia Legion, made a stunning cross-border incursion, attacking Russian forces in towns and villages in the Belgorod region. Ukraine has denied it is behind the attacks.

Gladkov acknowledged the new fighting in the region, saying that "there is combat" in the border town of Novaya Tavolzhanka. Gladkov blamed "sabotage groups."

"I hope they will all be destroyed," he said. He did not immediately comment on the report stating that he failed to show at a negotiation site.

Earlier, Ukrainian officials said a 2-year-old child had been killed in a Russian air strike on the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, while air defenses in the capital of Kyiv repelled a wave of Russian drones and missiles.

The Russian strike late on June 3 on a residential district of Dnipro also left 22 people injured -- including five children -- according to Serhiy Lysak, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration.

In a post on Telegram, Lysak said the attack damaged a pair of two-story buildings, as well as 10 homes, a shop, and a gas pipeline.

Russian air strikes over Ukraine have increased in recent weeks amid expectations that Ukrainian military forces will soon launch a much-anticipated counteroffensive to reclaim territory lost since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in published remarks on June 3 that Ukrainian forces were ready for the counteroffensive.

He later condemned Russia for the air strike on Dnipro.

"Once again, Russia proves it is a terrorist state. The Russians will bear responsibility for everything committed against our state and people,” Zelenskiy said in a post late on June 3 on Facebook.

Zelenskiy said on June 4 that Russia's war, now in its 16th month, had killed at least 500 Ukrainian children.

He said in a statement that "Russian weapons and hatred, which continue to take and destroy the lives of Ukrainian children every day," killed the hundreds who had perished since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, 2022.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat told local television that four of six cruise missiles had been shot down by air defenses but that two had struck an "operational airfield" near the central city of Kropyvnytskiy.

Meanwhile, the General Staff said in its daily report on June 4 that Russian invading forces had carried out two unsuccessful operations around Bakhmut and launched several air strikes and artillery shelling on nearby villages.


Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia's mercenary Wagner Group, said on June 3 that 99 percent of his fighters had left Bakhmut after their monthslong assault in the war's longest and bloodiest battle.

Ukraine said late last month that fighting had eased in the area, but General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of the ground forces, said on June 3 that Ukrainian forces continued their fight there.

"The enemy continues to suffer significant losses in the Bakhmut direction," Syrskiy said on Telegram after what he said was a visit to troops around Bakhmut. "Defense forces continue to fight. We will win."

Zelenskiy told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on June 3 that Ukrainian forces were ready to launch their counteroffensive, cautioning it could take some time and be costly.

"We strongly believe that we will succeed," Zelenskiy said. "I don’t know how long it will take. To be honest, it can go a variety of ways, completely different. But we are going to do it, and we are ready," he added.

Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian Army had not received "all the weapons it hoped for, but we can't wait any longer."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Thousands Protest In Serbia, Accusing Government Of Fostering Violence

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the center of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on June 3 for the fifth anti-government protest in recent weeks.

The protests were sparked by two mass shootings in early May that left 18 people dead and several wounded. Half of those killed were students at a Belgrade elementary school. That shooting was carried out by a 13-year-old student.

Protesters, marching under the slogan "Serbia against violence," accuse the government of fanning a culture of violence, as well as an atmosphere of hopelessness and division, in the country through state media outlets.

"The fact that you young people have taken to the streets with a clear message that you will no longer live in this diseased society gives hope that maybe we will lift ourselves up," popular actor Dragan Bjelogrlic told the rally.

Serbian Protesters Urge President To Resign
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They have demanded the revocation of the broadcasting licenses of television and radio outlets that promote violence, as well as the closure of government newspapers that have urged violence against political dissidents. They have called for the resignations of all the members of the regulatory agency that oversees broadcast media.

Protesters have also demanded the resignations of the interior minister, Bratislav Gasic, and the head of the national intelligence agency, Aleksandar Vulin.

The rally began outside the Serbian parliament building, after which protesters marched to the president's office. Organizers urged demonstrators to write messages to President Aleksandar Vucic, which were to be collected and presented to him.

Protesters also laid flowers outside the presidential office complex.

Opposition critics have accused Vucic, 53, of drifting toward authoritarianism for years, using harsh measures to fragment the opposition and exercising firm control over state media.

Vucic has dismissed the protests as a "publicity stunt" and has alleged without proof that they have been orchestrated by "foreign powers."

After the shootings, the government boosted the police presence in schools and urged the public to hand over weapons.

Education Minister Branko Ruzic later resigned.

Kyiv Protests To Hungary Over Map Missing Crimea

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on June 3 protested to the government of Hungary over an official video that used a map of Ukraine that did not include the Russian-occupied region of Crimea. The complaint called the incident a "provocation" and demanded that Hungary fulfill its commitment as a member of the UN, the European Union, and NATO to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Hungary, which published the video on May 30, has not responded to Kyiv's protest. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Three Europeans Return Home After Release By Iran In Prisoner Swap

Iranian opposition activists protest with a poster depicting Iranian official Asadollah Assadi in Brussels in October 2018.

Three Europeans returned home on June 3, a day after being released by Iran in a prisoner swap, and Tehran said there was no reason for Europeans to be arrested if they were not "exploited" by foreign security services. The three men -- two with dual Austrian-Iranian nationality and one Dane -- were released on June 2 by Iran in return for Iranian diplomat Asadollah Assadi as part of a swap in which Iran freed Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele last week, a Belgian government spokesperson said. Assadi was convicted in Belgium in 2021 in connection with a foiled bomb plot in France and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Iran said the charges against him were fabricated. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

EU's Top Diplomat Discusses Ukraine's Ammunition Needs With South Korea

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell (file photo)

The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said he met South Korea's defense minister on June 3 to discuss Ukraine's needs for ammunition. The meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's top security summit, came amid pressure from the United States and NATO countries for South Korea to provide weapons and ammunition for Ukraine. "Good meeting with Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup at #SLD23. Shared alarm at continued DPRK provocations and discussed Ukraine's needs for ammunition," Borrell wrote on Twitter. A U.S. ally and major producer of artillery ammunition, South Korea had so far ruled out sending lethal aid to Ukraine, citing business ties with Russia and Moscow's influence over North Korea, despite mounting pressure from Washington and Europe to supply weapons. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Turkey To Send Reinforcements For NATO Force In Kosovo

The unit has previously served under KFOR, the ministry said.

Turkey will send a battalion as reinforcements for the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR in Kosovo, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on June 3. A "reserve force" is scheduled to arrive on June 4 and 5, the ministry said. The unit has previously served under KFOR, it added. The deployment comes amid recently escalating tensions in the tiny Balkan country's north. Ankara urges restraint on both sides in "brotherly Kosovo" to help resolve the conflict that has "damaged regional stability," the Turkish statement read. Turkey has traditionally had good relations with predominantly Muslim Kosovo. There were serious clashes over the past week in northern Kosovo involving local Serbs and NATO soldiers.

Iran Says To Form Naval Alliance With Persian Gulf States To Ensure Regional Stability

Shahram Irani, commander of the Iranian Navy (file photo)

Iran's navy commander said his country and Saudi Arabia, as well as three other Persian Gulf states, plan to form a naval alliance that will also include India and Pakistan, Iranian media reported on June 3. "The countries of the region have today realized that only cooperation with each other brings security to the area," Iranian naval commander Shahram Irani was quoted as saying. He did not elaborate on the shape of the alliance that he said would be formed soon. Iran has recently been trying to mend its strained ties with several Persian Gulf Arab states. In March, Saudi Arabia and Iran ended seven years of hostility under a China-mediated deal, stressing the need for regional stability and economic cooperation. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Updated

Zelenskiy Says Ukraine Ready To Launch Its Long-Awaited Counteroffensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (file photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says his country is ready to launch its much-anticipated counteroffensive to liberate territory occupied by Russian forces while warning that it could take some time and be costly.

"We strongly believe that we will succeed,” Zelenskiy said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on June 3.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

"I don’t know how long it will take. To be honest, it can go a variety of ways, completely different. But we are going to do it, and we are ready,” he added.

Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian Army had not received "all the weapons it hoped for, but we can't wait any longer."

Zelenskiy said last month his country needed more weaponry, including armored vehicles, before it could launch its long-awaited counteroffensive.

The Ukrainian president has been pushing for more military aid and weapons from Western countries.

Russia has captured Ukrainian territory in the east, south, and southeast.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine urgently needed more U.S.- made Patriot missile-defense systems to protect its citizens from Russian air strikes and to shield troops fighting on the front lines.

He said a lack of protection from Russian aerial attacks means "a large number of soldiers will die”" in the counteroffensive.

Separately, Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrylov told Reuters on June 3 that the goal of an "unprecedented" wave of Russian missile and drone attacks across the country in recent weeks was to stop the counteroffensive.

Speaking on the sidelines of a top security conference in Singapore, Havrylov called Russia's heavy use of ballistic missiles in May a "last strategic resort" and said that his country's air-defense systems had been "more than 90 percent effective" against the attacks.

Meanwhile, Kremlin-connected Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who controls the notorious Wagner mercenary group, said on June 3 that Kremlin factions were weakening the state by trying to undermine him.

In a message posted by his press service, Prigozhin accused unnamed officials in the Russian elite of "playing dangerous games," adding that they had "opened Pandora's box."

Prigozhin repeated his past criticisms of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov, saying that the Defense Ministry was "not in a state to do anything at all."

With reporting by Reuters
Updated

Snap Inspection Faults One-Quarter Of Ukraine's Air-Raid Shelters

Forensic specialists load the body of a girl killed during a Russian missile strike in a van in Kyiv on June 1.

A rapid inspection of Ukraine's air-raid shelters on June 3 has found that nearly one-quarter of them were either locked or unusable.

The Interior Ministry reported that "over 4,800" shelters had been inspected and 252 were found to be locked, while 893 were deemed "unfit for use."

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

In a post on Telegram the same day, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the authorities had received "more than 1,000" complaints from the public about locked or inadequate air-raid shelters.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ordered the audit of all of Ukraine's air-raid shelters after a 9-year-old girl, her mother, and another woman were killed by falling fragments of a missile after being unable to enter a Kyiv shelter that was reportedly locked during a Russian attack.

The deaths caused a public outcry.

Zelenskiy said on June 1 he had ordered the industries minister and his interior minister to conduct a "full audit of bomb shelters."

Police opened a criminal investigation into the three deaths near a medical clinic in the Desnyan district of Kyiv amid intensified Russian attacks on the Ukrainian capital since the start of May.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said four people were detained in connection with the closed shelter of a medical facility. They face criminal charges.

In a video message released late on June 1, Zelenskiy said shelters "must be kept accessible. Never again should we see a repeat of the situation that occurred last night in Kyiv."

He suggested local authorities could be prosecuted for failing to make shelters available to residents.

"If this duty is not fulfilled at the local level, it is the direct duty of law enforcement bodies to prosecute,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video message.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said his government will make sure those who put people are risk due to "their negligence" will be punished.

"The punishment will be severe so that such egregious cases do not happen again," Shmyhal said on June 1.

Officials said they were also auditing shelters in Lviv, Vinnytsya, and Mykolayiv in southern Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa

Scholz Defends Ukraine Aid When Protesters Disrupt His Speech At Party Gathering

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (file photo)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz fiercely defended sending aid to Ukraine after protesters shouted at him during a speech at a gathering of his party in Falkensee near Berlin. The protesters shouted phrases such as "warmongers" and "Create peace without weapons" during Scholz’s speech on June 2. Scholz shouted back, telling the disruptors that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the true warmonger and if they "had any sense" they would be shouting at him. Scholz also made clear that he sees no alternative to supporting Ukraine, not just in principle but also with weapons, given Russia's full-scale invasion.

Report: Secretive Real Estate Holdings On Moscow's Outskirts Linked To Putin Family

Russia President Vladimir Putin (file photo)

Family members of Russian President Vladimir Putin quietly acquired several plots of real estate in Moscow’s tony western suburbs near his residence, where a series of luxury homes have been built, a new investigation found.

The findings, by the Russian news site Proyekt, were the latest documenting what some experts believe is a vast, secretive, and lucrative network of assets linked to Putin, his allies, and his family.

Putin officially earns an annual salary of around $140,000, while his publicly declared assets include a 75-meter foot apartment, a trailer, and three cars. But some analysts estimate his wealth -- hidden behind complex financial schemes organized by close associates -- at some $200 billion or more.

In its report released on June 1, Proyekt found that, in 2006, several plots of land near the official government residence of Novo-Ogaryovo, where Putin lives much of the time, were acquired by offshore companies based in Panama and elsewhere.

Putin’s two daughters from his now ex-wife Lyudmila later received the real estate as a form of dowry, Proyekt said.

Putin’s eldest daughter, Maria, settled in one of the locations. Maria, who has used the surname Vorontsova, was married to a Dutch man for several years, though they reportedly have since split and she remarried a Russian oil and gas executive.

Kirill Shamalov, the now ex-husband of Putin’s other daughter, Katerina Tikhonova, reportedly received title to another plot, Proyekt said, not long after he and Tikhonova married in 2013. The couple then conducted extensive renovations on the property worth millions of euros.

Among the refurbished house’s decorations were a handmade gilded chandelier with an estimated value of 72,000 euros ($77,576) and a 19th century painting by revered Russian artist Ivan Shishkin, Proyekt said.

Another plot that was titled to Shamalov was expected to have a house built on it for Lyudmila Putin. She and Putin announced in 2013 that they were ending their marriage, and she later remarried.

According to Proyekt’s findings, in 2013, Shamalov sent a power of attorney regarding the plot to the man whom Lyudmila ultimately remarried.

Shamalov and Tikhonova later separated, and Shamalov has since been hit with financial sanctions starting in 2018 by the United States, Britain, and other countries, for his close ties to Putin.

Shamalov then transferred ownership of the plots he owned to a firm allegedly associated with Arkady Rotenberg, a childhood friend of Putin and billionaire businessman.

Shamalov reportedly sold the properties for significantly less than their estimated land values, Prokyekt said.

Putin’s wealth and assets have been the subject of numerous investigations by Western governments, reporters, and other researchers.

Researchers at Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation have documented a massive mansion on the Black Sea that Putin uses regularly.

And the 2016 “Panama Papers” report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, found luxuries linked to Putin and his friends and families, including yachts and real estate inside and outside of Russia.

Navalny's Bizarre Requests, Including Pet Kangaroo, Denied By Russian Prison Authorities In Stilted Language

Imprisoned Russian politician and activist Aleksei Navalny (file photo)

Imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny on June 2 released excerpts of his correspondence with prison administrators, detailing sarcastic demands for outlandish things such as a bottle of moonshine and a pet kangaroo.

Prison officials denied all of his requests, according to the correspondence often in stilted bureaucratic Russian.

Navalny, 46, is serving sentences that add up to 11 1/2 years for violating the terms of a parole, contempt of court, and embezzlement through fraud that he and his supporters have repeatedly rejected as politically motivated and designed to silence him.

He is currently in a punitive solitary confinement at a penal colony in the Vladimir region east of Moscow.

“When you are sitting in a punishment isolation cell and have little entertainment, you can have fun with correspondence with the administration,” Navalny said on Twitter in a series of tweets posted on June 2 apparently by his team.

Among the items he requested was a megaphone to be given to the prisoner in a nearby cell “so he can yell even louder.” Another was a request for an inmate who “killed a man with his bare hands” to be awarded with the highest rank in karate.

"The question of awarding eastern martial arts qualifications is not handled by the administration," the prison wrote back on April 28.

Prison officials also turned down requests for moonshine, tobacco for rolling cigarettes, a balalaika, and the kangaroo.

In response to his wish for a pet kangaroo, the prison wrote: "The animal identified in your request relates to the double crested-marsupial.... Your request is left without satisfaction."

In mock outrage over the refusal, Navalny said he would continue to fight for his “inalienable right to own a kangaroo." The politician said inmates can have a pet if the prison administration allows it.

Navalny will mark his 47th birthday on June 4, and there have been calls by his team for protests to support him.

Navalny has been in prison since February 2021 following his arrest one month earlier after he returned from Germany where he was treated for a near-fatal poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin, which has denied any involvement.

He and his team have said the charges against him are were trumped-up because of his efforts to expose corruption in the Russian government.

A Moscow court has set a June 6 date for a hearing for a new trial for Navalny on a charge of extremism, which could keep him in prison for 30 years. He also said an investigator told him that he would also face a separate military court trial on terrorism charges that potentially carry a life sentence.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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