April 30, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Thom Poole, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 1:15 a.m. ET, May 1, 2023
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4:22 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Ukrainian fighters describe close-contact battles and heavy Russian shelling in Bakhmut

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Stephanie Halasz

Smoke rises above Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 26.
Smoke rises above Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 26. (Libkos/AP)

Fighting in the long-contested eastern city of Bakhmut is “very intense," Ukrainian military press officer Mykyta Shandyba said Sunday on national TV.

“The Russian military is trying to take the city by May 9. They are currently failing," Shandyba said. "They are using artillery, mortars and tank shelling to destroy the city. Often, battles with them are close-contact battles. Destroying the enemy with small arms and grenades, not artillery."

The military spokesperson said Russian forces are constantly shelling Ukrainian positions: 

“There are no pauses — the enemy is firing nonstop. First, the enemy artillery works, and then they try to break through our defense. When they fail, they start firing from artillery again.”

CNN cannot independently verify battlefield developments in Bakhmut.

A sprint to capture the city: A Ukrainian fighter in Bakhmut named Yurii Syrotiuk — call-sign “Mamai” — told national TV that Russian fighters seem pressed to conclude the battle quickly. 

“The enemy is in a rush; the enemy is trying to put pressure, trying to attack the areas of high-rise buildings in Bakhmut,” he said.

Syrotiuk claimed Moscow's troops are running out of supplies and faith in their mission, so they have turned more destructive, demolishing homes and buildings.

Russia's fighters cannot attack along the entire width of the front line in Bakhmut, so battles focus on narrow areas, he continued. Syrotiuk claimed his team had managed to advance almost half a mile in one sector.

Ukrainian servicemen run to take cover during shelling near Bakhmut, on April 30.
Ukrainian servicemen run to take cover during shelling near Bakhmut, on April 30. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AAFP/Getty Images)

Perilous supply routes: Ukraine's troops struggle to carry out logistical operations under the cover of dark, hoping to avoid shelling on the roads in and out of town, the military spokesperson Shandyba said.

The most danger comes from a key supply route between the towns of Chasiv Yar and Khromove, where Ukrainian military officials have previously described constant Russian shelling.

“Only armored vehicles can get to Bakhmut. So it is complicated,” Shandyba said.

Wagner's call for supplies: Syrotiuk also addressed a claim from Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private military company that has played a key role in Bakhmut, who says his mercenaries are running out of ammunition.

The Ukrainian fighter said Wagner forces seem to have an "unlimited number" of shells, but "their artillery is firing every minute, every few seconds."

"The do not choose targets, they just cover the squares," he said.

Despite the constant barrage, Syrotiuk claims Prigozhin's fighters are now having a hard time penetrating high-rise buildings occupied by Ukraine's forces.

4:38 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Russia replaces its top logistics commander as Ukrainian counteroffensive looms

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Tim Lister

Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, pictured in 2018, will be replaced by Aleksey Kuzmenkov.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, pictured in 2018, will be replaced by Aleksey Kuzmenkov. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

The Russian Ministry of Defense has replaced its deputy defense minister for logistics, making a change in military leadership just as Russian forces gear up for a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The ministry announced the move in a Telegram post Sunday, saying Aleksey Kuzmenkov — a colonel-general who has held a variety of leadership roles in Russia's military — has been appointed to the position, which was previously held by Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev.

Moscow did not immediately provide a reason for Mizintsev being replaced. The move comes as Ukrainian officials signal their spring counteroffensive could be launched imminently.

More on Mizintsev, "The Butcher of Mariupol": Russia's outgoing logistics commander developed a reputation for brutality and an ominous nickname among Western officials for his role in the siege of Mariupol, the site of some of the invasion's most notorious strikes and alleged atrocities.

Why the logistics role is important: Moscow's logistical chains will likely play a key role in its attempted defense of occupied Ukrainian territory, with Kyiv's forces seeking to disrupt supply lines with long-range fire.

The Russian military has struggled to keep frontline forces consistently supplied with both weapons and other equipment, and recent reports have indicated that officials are bringing older tanks out of storage.

Despite that, and its heavy consumption of shells and rockets, analysts say Russia has so far been able to keep munitions flowing to the front.

More on Kuzmenkov: The incoming logistics chief graduated from the Volsk Higher Military School of Logistics in 1992, according to Russian officials.

Over the years, Kuzmenkov served in Russia's armed forces as head of logistics headquarters, as a commander for logistics in the Southern Military District, and in a deputy director position for the Russian National Guard.

4:38 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Meet the Ukrainian veterinarians risking their lives to care for pets in the war zone

From CNN's Gabriel Kinder

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a flood of refugees. Many of them were pet owners who had to leave their dogs and cats behind, hoping it would only be a matter of days before they were able to return to them.

But as that exodus grew longer for many families, Ukrainian veterinarians Valentina and Leonid Stoyanov soon learned of pets locked in nearby homes.

After one or two weeks, neighbors started to hear "a lot of different animals around them screaming," Valentina told CNN.

At the time, the couple specialized in exotic animal and wildlife rescue. With the invasion came a new mission: caring for these beloved but abandoned pets.

The Stoyanovs began working with local police to access homes to rescue dogs and cats. Within a week of the invasion, Leonid said they were caring for some 400 animals in their Odesa clinic.

“Each animal for us, it’s like members of our family,” Valentina said.

For the last decade, the couple has worked together treating more unusual animals and wildlife. Before the war, their videos of the monkeys, snakes, owls, and other creatures they rescued and cared for found a growing audience on their “Vet Crew” TikTok and Instagram feeds.

Valentina said their “simple life” has changed drastically.

“All our family – mother, father – have to leave Ukraine,” Leonid said. “But we decided we stay here and help animals – a lot of animals.”

Read more about the vets' story here.

3:44 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Russia vows retaliation after Poland seizes embassy school

From CNN's Xiaofei Xu and Darya Tarasova

Police and city authorities are seen at the Russian embassy school in Warsaw on Saturday.
Police and city authorities are seen at the Russian embassy school in Warsaw on Saturday. (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Russia's foreign ministry warned it will retaliate after Polish authorities seized a Russian embassy school Saturday, marking a new chapter in diplomatic tensions that have intensified during the war in Ukraine.

Polish police and staff from the Warsaw city hall entered the campus Saturday morning, asking employees to leave the premises, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

Moscow described the action as “controversial, illegal and provocative," in a statement.

A Polish foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters that while Russia had a right to protest the seizure, the government was acting within the law.

“Our opinion, which has been confirmed by the courts, is that this property belongs to the Polish state and was taken by Russia illegally,” Lukasz Jasina said.

The school will continue to operate from a different part of the Russian embassy, RIA Novosti reported, quoting Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergei Andreev.

Some context: Since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Poland has been a staunch ally to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the charge on supplying advanced weaponry to Kyiv.

Warsaw's relationship with Moscow has soured in turn, and the two countries have traded diplomatic slights, including each government expelling 45 diplomats from the other's country shortly after the full-scale invasion in 2022.

Read more about Poland's relationship with Ukraine and Russia here:

1:33 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Biden calls for the release of US journalist Evan Gershkovich at White House Correspondents' Dinner

From CNN's Lauren Koenig

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents' dinner on Saturday, April 29.
President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents' dinner on Saturday, April 29. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

US President Joe Biden advocated for press freedom and called for the release of wrongfully detained journalists during his remarks at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

"We all stand with you," Biden said, acknowledging the family of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich during his remarks in Washington, DC, Saturday.

“The free press is a pillar — maybe the pillar — of a free society, not the enemy,” the president added, calling for the release of Gershkovich and another journalist detained abroad, Austin Tice, who has been imprisoned in Syria for nearly eleven years. 

Biden also invoked Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who the Biden administration says is wrongfully detained in Russia.

“I am working like hell to get them home,” he said, adding that he was glad to see Brittney Griner, who was released after spending ten months in Russian detention, in attendance at the event.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden also participated in a pull-aside meeting with Gershkovich's family at the annual dinner.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.
The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. (The Wall Street Journal/Reuters)

Russian detainees: Gershkovich's detention signaled a significant ratcheting of both Moscow’s tensions with the United States and its campaign against foreign news media, which has been under intense pressure since President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.

Detentions of other Americans have led to lengthy and difficult negations between Washington and Moscow, and raised fears that they could be used as pawns in the geopolitics surrounding Russia's war.

CNN's Sarah Dean, Julia Horowitz and Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this report.

1:34 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Ireland voices support for Ukraine after Russian embassy accuses it of "promoting anti-Russian propaganda" 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Sharon Braithwaite in London

Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin speaks to the media on April 18.
Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin speaks to the media on April 18. (Niall Carson/Press Association/AP)

Ireland voiced its "unwavering support" for Ukraine after the Russian embassy in Dublin took issue with an Irish government official paying tribute to an Irishman killed fighting in Ukraine.

Earlier this week, Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin expressed his condolences to the family of Finbar Cafferkey, who was killed fighting Russian forces in Ukraine, saying he was "obviously a young man of clear principles." 

This sparked ire from the Russian embassy in Ireland, which responded in a statement Friday, saying it is the Irish government and media "who bear responsibility for the death of Finbar Cafferkey."

The statement accused Irish institutions of "promoting anti-Russian propaganda" and "misleading" people like Cafferkey.

The Russian Embassy said it wasn't clear "if Mr. Martin’s remarks signify support for the Irish to take part in combat in Ukraine," adding that, if that is the case, "then Ireland would be the direct participant of the conflict with all the ensuing consequences."  

The chair of the Irish parliament's foreign affairs committee, Charlie Flanagan, called it a "threatening, intimidating & chilling statement," in a tweet Friday.  

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said in its own statement Saturday that the Irish government's "position in respect of Russia’s brutal and illegal aggression against Ukraine is crystal clear." 

"Ukraine has a right to defend this attack on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter ... Ireland’s support for Ukraine is unwavering. Russian Disinformation will have no impact on this," the statement said. 

Controversial ambassador: As some Irish politicians call for Russian Ambassador Yuriy Filatov to step down, the Irish government said it holds the view that "diplomatic channels between Ireland and the Russian Federation should remain open," calling it in the interest of Irish citizens in Russia.

Filatov made headlines last year after a journalist with the Irish national broadcaster asked him why the Irish government should allow him to remain in Ireland when he is acting "as an apologist for slaughter."

"You might ask your government," Filatov responded. "It's up to them. I can leave any time."

9:42 a.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Ukrainian shelling kills 4 people in Russian village, local governor says

From CNN's From Josh Pennington and Stephanie Halasz

The death toll has increased to four people following Ukrainian shelling on a village in the Bryansk region in Russia, Alexander Bogomaz, the local governor said.

"According to initial information, one residential building was completely destroyed and another two houses were partially damaged. Response teams continue to work at the site," Bogomaz said on his Telegram channel early Sunday.

The Ukrainian military's attack hit residential buildings in the village of Suzemka, the governor said. The Bryansk region shares a border to its south with Ukraine, and to its west with Belarus. 

Bogomaz posted a video on Telegram showing people emerge from a damaged building at night. "They pulled a woman out. They're still checking for a kid. Not sure. Horrible," a person speaking in the video says.

CNN has not verified this video at this time. 

The news comes amid warnings from Ukraine that its preparations are almost complete for a spring counteroffensive, which many experts believe could mark a pivotal moment in the conflict.

3:48 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Russian forces hit center of town in northern Kharkiv region with rockets, regional leader says 

From CNN's Josh Pennington and drafted by Sharon Braithwaite in London

Rockets hit the center of Kupyansk, the northern part of the front line in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, Sunday morning, according to Oleh Syniehubov, head of the regional military administration. 

"A private house and garages were damaged, and fires broke out. Four cars were destroyed," Syniehubov said on Telegram. "Fortunately, there were no casualties." 

The Ukrainian official said the attack was fired from multiple rocket launchers and hit the city around 6:45 a.m. local time (11:45 p.m. ET Saturday).

The assault comes a day after Russian forces fired on the Kharkiv, Chuhuiv and Kupyansk districts of the region, Syniehubov said.

Crews are working through liberated areas of Kharkiv to clear the ground of mines, with pyrotechnic crews defusing some 123 explosive devices over the past day, the regional leader added.

Russia also shelled Nikopol in southern Ukraine overnight, damaging seven private houses, a power line, a minibus, a greenhouse and a car, Serhii Lysak, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said on Telegram Sunday. Lysak said there were no casualties. 

4:21 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Head of Wagner mercenary group threatens to withdraw from Bakhmut if he doesn't receive more ammunition

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Yevgeny Prigozhin attends a funeral in Moscow, Russia, on April 8.
Yevgeny Prigozhin attends a funeral in Moscow, Russia, on April 8. (AP)

The head of the Russian private military company Wagner has threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut if they don't receive more munitions to continue the fight.

Those responsible for weapons procurement in Russia “stopped giving us ammunition,” Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed in an interview with the Russian pro-Kremlin blogger Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the alias WarGonzo.

The pointed warnings for Russian defense officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, come as Bakhmut remains heavily contested.

"I am appealing to Sergei Shoigu with a request to issue ammunition immediately. Now if this is refused ... I deem it necessary to inform the commander-in-chief about the existing problems, and to make a decision regarding the feasibility of continuing to station units in the settlement of Bakhmut, given the current shortage of ammunition," Prigozhin said.

The mercenary leader has a track record of misleading statements and did not provide evidence for his statements. CNN cannot independently verify the situation on the ground in Bakhmut.

“Do we go on with our assaults or not? Do we stay or go?" Prigozhin continued, vowing that his fighters will defend Bakhmut "until the very last round of ammunition," but saying their supplies have dwindled to a matter of days, not weeks.

Prigozhin and Moscow: Prigozhin, whose forces have played a key role in Russian assaults on Ukrainian territory including Bakhmut, has often clashed with Putin's generals and other defense officials in Moscow.

He has complained for well over a month of receiving insufficient support from the Kremlin in the grueling fight for the eastern city.

Prigozhin, who often speaks sarcastically, in the interview suggested his rifts with Moscow have not healed.