May 1, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Sana Noor Haq, Ivana Kottasová, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:31 a.m. ET, May 2, 2023
5 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:53 a.m. ET, May 1, 2023

Ukrainians under occupation should accept Russian passports for their safety, official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Dmytro Lubinets attends a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 20.
Dmytro Lubinets attends a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 20. (Hennadii Minchenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Ukraine’s human rights commissioner on Sunday advised Ukrainians living under Russian occupation to accept Russian passports for their safety.

“I would advise you to accept a Russian passport and make the decision for yourself to survive. This is the most important thing,” Dmytro Lubinets said in an interview with Ukrainian media. “We understand that this happens under pressure, under physical pressure. So, take your passport, survive, and wait for us to liberate this territory.”

Lubinets said citizens who obtain a Russian passport “will be able to officially abandon this passport and return to normal life” once Ukraine takes back its territories.

According to Lubinets, a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that allows the deportation of residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine who have not obtained Russian citizenship, "is not aimed at deporting Ukrainians," but at “legalizing forced passportization that takes place on the territories under Russian occupation.”

“In reality, I believe that all Ukrainian citizens who refuse a Russian passport will simply be arrested," Lubinets said. "And this will form a separate category of civilian hostages that the Russian Federation will hold captive, either imprisoned on its territory or on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine."

8:40 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Wagner boss threatens Bakhmut withdrawal unless his forces get more munitions

From CNN's Josh Pennington

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, 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.

1:58 a.m. ET, May 1, 2023

Pope says Vatican is involved in effort to end the war in Ukraine

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen

Pope Francis speaks to journalists traveling with him on the return flight to Rome from his Apostolic Journey to Hungary,  on April 30.
Pope Francis speaks to journalists traveling with him on the return flight to Rome from his Apostolic Journey to Hungary, on April 30. (Vatican Media/Getty Images)

Pope Francis told journalists Sunday that the Vatican is part of a mission to end the war in Ukraine.

“The mission is in the course now, but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,” Francis said during a news conference after a three-day trip to Budapest

During his trip to the Hungarian capital, the Pope met with a representative from the pro-Kremlin Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion. When the Pope was asked if that meeting and the meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could accelerate peace, he said, “I believe that peace is always made by opening channels; peace can never be made by closure.” 

A reporter asked if the Pope was willing to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia. “The Holy See is willing to act because it is right; it just is,” he said. 

Last week, the Pope met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who requested his help with the children’s return.

8:31 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Russia replaces its top logistics commander as Ukrainian counteroffensive looms

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Tim Lister

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.

5:56 a.m. ET, May 1, 2023

Analysis: A chaotic 72 hours show Russia's lacking readiness for Ukraine's counteroffensive

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

Ukraine's much-anticipated counteroffensive appears imminent — and the way each side is preparing speaks volumes about their readiness.

Kyiv’s frontlines are abuzz with vehicle movement and artillery strikes, with regular explosions hitting vital Russian targets in occupied areas.

Its defense minister has said preparations are "coming to an end" and President Volodymyr Zelensky has assured a counteroffensive "will happen," while demurring on any exact start date.

It may have already started; it may be weeks away. We don’t know — and that fact is a strong measure of Ukraine’s success as this begins.

Moscow, on the other hand, is in the closing-time bar brawl stage of their war. After losing Kharkiv and Kherson, they have had at least seven months to ready the next likely target of Ukrainian attack: Zaporizhzhia.

That has happened, with vast trench defense networks that can be seen from space. That recognition of their enormity is not necessarily a compliment in 2023. They are big, yes, but they are also something anyone can peruse on Google. That’s not great in an era of precise rockets and speedy armored advances.

But it's the last 72 hours that have perhaps most betrayed Russia's lacking readiness:

First, the apparent firing of the deputy defense minister in charge of logistics, Mikhail Mizintsev. The Russian Ministry of Defense has not spelled out his dismissal, merely issuing a decree that Aleksey Kuzmenkov now has his job.

The "Butcher of Mariupol," as Mizintsev is known, surely had enough failings over Russia’s disastrous war to merit his firing. But this fails to satisfy the question: Why now?

By removing key ministers in the moments before its army faces Ukraine's counter-assault, Moscow sends a message of disarray.

And then there's Yevgeny Prigozhin's new round of criticism. The Wagner mercenary warlord chose Sunday to give another long interview in which he laid bare the sheer extent of the issues his mercenaries face.

According to the Wagner head, his fighters are so low on ammunition that they may have to withdraw from Bakhmut — the strategically unimportant city they have squandered thousands of lives trying to take.

(A caveat: Prigozhin is not the most trustworthy source, and provides little evidence for what he says. But this sort of public spat isn’t something Moscow would encourage at this sensitive moment).

Russia’s eroding ammunition supplies were long known, but to suggest imminent failure just ahead of the counteroffensive smacks of a major bid to shift blame.

Bottom line: The hours before Ukraine moves are shrinking. The amount we know about their emotional state, or target, is almost zero. And the extent of Moscow’s internal indecision, rivalries and disunity only grows.