May 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, Andrew Raine, Ben Church and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT) May 3, 2022
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10:44 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Top Russian general was in Ukraine last week, senior US defense official says

From CNN's Barbara Starr

Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of staff of the Russian military, was recently in Ukraine, according to a senior US defense official. 

“We know he was in Donbas for several days beginning last week. We don't know if he is still there,” the official said.

The official declined to say why the US was certain about the Russian general’s location or what intelligence it has that led to the US conclusion. 

There were some reports that Gerasimov was injured while in Ukraine but the US has no indication of him being injured, the source said.

The US is uncertain why Gerasimov traveled to the Russian frontlines and whether it signals a lack of Kremlin confidence in Gen. Aleksandr Dvornikov who was appointed to command all Russian operations in Ukraine just a few weeks ago, the official said. Gerasimov’s trip however signals he wanted to see operations directly.

10:46 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Ukrainian foreign ministry asks to further isolate Russia after Lavrov's Hitler comments

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed solidarity with Jewish people against the background of anti-Semitic statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and called on the governments of all countries to further isolate Russia.

In a statement published on Monday, it said Lavrov's comments are anti-Semitic attacks on the President of Ukraine and the Jewish people, and called it "absolutely unacceptable."

Lavrov asserted over the weekend that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood,” prompting a furious Israeli response on Monday.

"Russia is already too deep in its nonsense trying to justify the barbaric aggression against Ukraine. In fact, the Russian Foreign Minister questioned the existence of not only the Ukrainian nation but also the Holocaust. Lavrov deliberately insulted the memory of millions of Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis during World War II," the statement read.

Ukrainian foreign ministry called on the governments of all countries to take further steps to isolate Russian and impose an embargo on Russian oil and gas "that will deprive the Russian military machine of financial resources."

10:37 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Rubizhne is "on verge of humanitarian catastrophe" as Russia continues shelling, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Russian forces are continuously shelling the humanitarian headquarters in the Ukrainian town of Rubizhne in the Luhansk region, and the evacuation attempts were thwarted again, according to a Telegram post from Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region military administration.

"Now it is almost impossible to get there alive. It is dangerous to be in the humanitarian headquarters for even a few minutes. It is not possible to work there — to save people and distribute aid. Due to the constant shelling, the residents of Rubizhne are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe," Haidai said.

He noted that the last time the evacuation vehicles reached Rubizhne was a week ago. They have rescued people and brought several tons of food.

In the other towns of Luhansk region, the situation with delivery of humanitarian aid is under control, he added.

12:39 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Mariupol mayor describes evacuation process as very difficult, says Russians are "creating obstacles"

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

As uncertainty continues over the progress of civilian evacuations from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, its mayor has said that the process is "very difficult" and dependent on Russian cooperation.

"We managed to take more than 100 people out of the bomb shelters, who are now heading to the territory controlled by Ukraine. We are waiting in hope that Russian troops will allow us to do this," Vadym Boichenko told Ukrainian television.

CNN has confirmed that Boichenko was referring to the people evacuated Sunday from the Azovstal steel complex.

"The evacuation process is happening at a very high level, directly with the participation of the President of Ukraine and Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. I emphasize, it is very difficult," he said.

As for the evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers, at least several hundred of whom are still holding out at the Azovstal plant, Boichenko said, "the issue of military evacuation is a separate procedure and a separate negotiation process. It is a closed process, negotiations are underway."

He also spoke about the so-called "filtration" centers set up by Russian forces to screen people leaving Mariupol. "Everyone who wants to leave for the territory controlled by Ukraine must go through this humiliating procedure. You need to sign up and wait."

"On average, people wait a whole month for humiliating filtering," Boichenko claimed. "Now we see a decrease in the flow of people arriving in Ukraine. The reason is that the Russians are creating obstacles so that people cannot leave."

Boichenko went on to claim that at the filtration places, "men are deported to prisons and tortured. People are held there without food for two days or more, they sleep standing up."

10:21 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

US embassy in Ukraine hopes to return to Kyiv by end of May 

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

Acting United States ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, arrives for her press briefing in Lviv, Ukraine, on May. 2.
Acting United States ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, arrives for her press briefing in Lviv, Ukraine, on May. 2. (Mykola Tys/AP)

The US embassy in Ukraine hopes to return to Kyiv by the end of May if conditions permit, the charge d'affaires, Kristina Kvien, said in a news conference from Lviv Monday.  

"We very much hope that the conditions will permit us to go back into Kyiv by the end of the month," Kvien said. "We listen to the security professionals, and when they tell us we can go back, we will go back."

The US decided to close the US Embassy in Kyiv on Feb. 14 and temporarily relocated a small number of remaining diplomatic personnel in the country to Lviv, just 10 days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Kvien later told CNN in an interview this step would be "important symbolically" and also help "us do our jobs."

"We've been doing things through video conferencing and telephone and WhatsApp and that's useful but there's nothing like talking directly," she told CNN.

However, the entire embassy staff will not return together at once, Kvien said.

"We have a very large embassy normally in Kyiv. Obviously, we won't all be coming back at once. So, everyone that will be going back [in] the first group is very eager to go back. And of course, if someone had reservations, we would not force anyone to go," she said Monday.

8:09 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know today

A bus convoy carrying civilians from Mariupol, including evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant, on the way to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 2.
A bus convoy carrying civilians from Mariupol, including evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant, on the way to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 2. (Alexander Ermochenko

There is some hope for the residents of the besieged and embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after an evacuation convoy got underway this morning.

But the fate of city's vast Azovstal steel plant -- the last holdout for Ukrainian resistance there -- remains in the balance. While some evacuees left the plant over the weekend, shelling restarted overnight.

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:

Mariupol evacuations: An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol has said that a general evacuation of the city's residents has begun, albeit slowly. Mariupol city council said that buses had not reached the main assembly point by Monday morning. An evacuation from the besieged city had also been planned for Sunday afternoon but did not get underway.

"Turbulent" night: After a rare period of quiet that allowed people to be evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant, the facility came under fire again on Sunday, according to a Ukrainian soldier. A Ukrainian commander inside the plant said it was a "turbulent" night. As yet there is no word on whether a second phase of that evacuation will get underway Monday.

Evacuated to a Russian-held town: Footage and photos posted over the weekend show civilians from Mariupol arriving in the Russian-held town of Bezimenne. Russia's defense ministry said that dozens of people had been "rescued" from Azovstal, before they were taken to the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, which has been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. While the ministry said that civilians who wished to leave for Ukrainian-held areas were “handed over to representatives of the UN and the ICRC,” it is unclear whether all were given the choice of where to go next. A CNN investigation in April revealed that Russian forces and allied separatist soldiers were taking Mariupol residents to a so-called “filtration center” set up in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia 

Pelosi meets Polish President: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has met Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday. Pelosi met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Saturday, saying afterwards during a Congressional delegation’s visit to Poland that the visit sent “an unmistakable message to the world: that America stands firmly with our NATO allies in our support for Ukraine.”

Refugees continue to flee: At least 5.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, according to the latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data. In addition to the 5,563,959 registered refugees, at least 7.7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine having been forced to flee their homes, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Russia press to Sloviansk: Russian forces are pressing an offensive in the direction of Sloviansk, an important town in the Donetsk region, according to the Ukrainian military. The offensive involves heavy shelling of Ukrainian defenses, the General Staff said in its daily update. Some analysts say Russian forces have made modest territorial gains in this region over the past week, but the nearby city of Lyman remains in Ukrainian hands.

7:37 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Archbishop of New York meets with Ukrainian refugees in Poland and Slovakia

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, visited Ukrainian refugees in Poland and Slovakia over the weekend, according to the New York Archdiocese and tweets from Dolan’s verified account.

The Archdiocese said last week that the visit was meant to demonstrate solidarity with the refugees and show gratitude to their caregivers, express support for the leadership of local churches, and “[a]ssert the Christian commitment to support all those devastated by the evils of war, and to raise awareness of the human cost for this unprovoked aggression.” 

On Sunday, Dolan tweeted about visiting a family of refugees being cared for by a parish in Poland, a Knights of Malta care center, and a location offering hot meals. The Archbishop also said he visited a church in Slovakia and toured “one of the buildings that houses and distributes supplies to those in need in Ukraine.” 

Dolan is joined on the trip with a delegation of representatives from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and other church officials, the Archdiocese said.

12:39 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

An evacuation of Mariupol is underway, says adviser to mayor

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Mother and daughter Dina, right, and Natasha, left, from Mariupol, arrived in their own vehicle separate from a larger convoy expected later, at a registration and processing area for internally displaced people arriving from Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, on May 2.
Mother and daughter Dina, right, and Natasha, left, from Mariupol, arrived in their own vehicle separate from a larger convoy expected later, at a registration and processing area for internally displaced people arriving from Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, on May 2. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol has said that the evacuation of the city's residents has begun.

"According to our information, the buses left Mariupol. According to the preliminary agreement, buses will pick up people in the village of Mangush and Berdyansk," Petro Andriushchenko told RFE/RL, adding that people can join the column by their own transport.

"We hope that thousands of our Mariupol residents who were stuck on the way from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia ... will get to Zaporizhzhia tonight or tomorrow morning."

However, the evacuation appears to be making very slow progress.

Mariupol city council said that buses had not reached the main assembly point yet -- a shopping center on the northwest edge of the city.

An evacuation from the besieged city had also been planned for Sunday afternoon but did not get underway.

This general evacuation is different from that involving civilians who have been trapped at the Azovstal steelworks.

As yet there is no word on whether a second phase of that evacuation will get underway Monday.

12:38 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

"Two months of darkness": Mariupol residents arrive in Russian-held Bezimenne

From CNN’s Eliza Mackintosh in London

Evacuees, including civilians who left the area near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, arrive in the Russian-held town of Bezimenne, in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine, on May 1.
Evacuees, including civilians who left the area near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, arrive in the Russian-held town of Bezimenne, in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine, on May 1. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Footage and photos posted over the weekend show civilians arriving by bus in the Russian-held town of Bezimenne -- about 16 miles east of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol -- in a convoy of Russian tanks emblazoned with the letter Z and United Nations (UN) vehicles.

In the images, published by Reuters on Sunday, women, children and elderly people emerge from buses to an area lined with white tents. Some cling to bags of their belongings. One holds a cat carrier. Soldiers in unmarked fatigues, carrying rifles, patrol the area.

One woman, an employee at Mariupol's vast Azovstal steel plant, said that she spent weeks hiding out in the maze of Soviet-era bunkers below the facility -- the last remaining holdout in the embattled city. She said that she tried earlier to escape Mariupol in evacuation corridors but was unable to leave due to the relentless shelling. 

An Azovstal steel plant employee who was evacuated from Mariupol arrives in the Russian-held village of Bezimenne on May 1.
An Azovstal steel plant employee who was evacuated from Mariupol arrives in the Russian-held village of Bezimenne on May 1. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

"The shelling was so strong at it kept hitting near us. At the exit of the bomb shelter, on the top few steps one could breathe, as there was not enough oxygen. I was afraid to even walk out and breathe some fresh air," said the employee.

I can't believe it. Two months of darkness. When we were in the [evacuation] bus I told my husband 'Vasya, won't we have to go to the toilet with a flashlight? And not to use a bag, a bin [as a toilet] with a flashlight,” she added. “We did not see any sunlight. We were scared."

Over the weekend, both Ukrainian and Russian officials said dozens of civilians were evacuated from the plant and surrounding area by the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that about 100 people were rescued from Azovstal and headed to Zaporizhzhia, and there were hopes that more would be able to leave on Monday.

Russia's defense ministry reported that 46 people left the wider Azovstal complex on Saturday, and that 80 civilians were "rescued" from the works Sunday, before they were taken to the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). The ministry said that a number of these people had "voluntarily decided to stay in the DPR," which has been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

While the ministry claimed that civilians evacuated from Azovstal who wished to leave for Ukrainian-held areas were “handed over to representatives of the UN and the ICRC,” it is unclear whether all were given the choice of where to go next.

A CNN investigation in April revealed that Russian forces and allied separatist soldiers were taking Mariupol residents to a so-called “filtration center” set up in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia -- many against their will. Ukrainian government and local Mariupol officials say that tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly deported to the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia since the war began.

In April, CNN interviewed 10 people, including local Mariupol residents and their loved ones, who were taken by Russian and DPR soldiers to Russian-held towns against their will before being deported to the Russian Federation.

CNN spoke with two people who were brought to Bezimenne before being sent to Russia. They described a massive military tent, where Russian and DPR soldiers were processing hundreds of people -- they were fingerprinted, photographed, their phones searched, interrogated, passports reviewed and registered into databases.

Maxar satellite images show the tent camp in Bezimenne on March 22.
Maxar satellite images show the tent camp in Bezimenne on March 22.

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies reviewed by CNN show a tent encampment in Bezimenne. According to Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boichenko, it is one of four “filtration camps” that the DPR and Russia are operating around the city.

We have the official statistics which we have verified with the community registry — over 40,000 local residents who went through the filtration and turned out either in the so-called DPR or Russian Federation,” Boichenko said on April 25. “Some Mariupol residents have managed to get to Ukrainian controlled territories now and testify on the whole process.”

A day before, in his nightly address, Zelensky said that the government was continuing to monitor Russia’s “so-called filtration camps” near Mariupol. "The facts of deportation of our citizens to the Russian hinterland, to Siberia, and even to Vladivostok have been recorded," he said. "Children are also deported. They hope that kids will forget where their home is, but they are from Ukraine."

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from deporting or transferring civilian populations. Ukraine's prosecutor general and international rights monitors have said that Russia's forcible removal of civilians could amount to a war crime.

Moscow has continued to claim that it is evacuating civilians from dangerous regions of Ukraine. Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev said on Saturday that more than 1 million Ukrainians, including nearly 200,000 children, had been evacuated to Russia so far, according to TASS.

Read CNN's investigation into Russia deportations here: