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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6:17 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Russia's Sergey Lavrov asserts Hitler "had Jewish blood," prompting Israeli government fury

From CNN’s Hadas Gold in Jerusalem and Radina Gigova in London

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on April 27.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on April 27. (Yuri Kochetkov/AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said over the weekend that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood,” prompting a furious response from Israel on Monday.

“Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said.
“Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism.”

Lavrov made the comments on Italian television on Sunday, repeating Russia’s claim that its invasion of Ukraine is to “de-Nazify” the country.

He shrugged off the fact that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.

“He [Zelensky] puts forward an argument: what kind of Nazism can they have if he is a Jew. I may be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. It means absolutely nothing. The wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews," Lavrov said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian Ambassador to Israel on Monday over Lavrov’s remarks.

Dani Dayan, who chairs the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance site in Israel, said it was “completely unfounded” to say Hitler was of Jewish descent.

And he slammed Russia’s labelling of Ukrainians as Nazis.

“Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President Zelensky in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of the history and a serious affront to the victims of Nazism,” Dayan said on Twitter. 

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the remarks made by his Russian counterpart were "heinous."

"FM Lavrov could not help hiding the deeply-rooted antisemitism of the Russian elites," Kuleba said Monday on his official Twitter account.
"His heinous remarks are offensive to President [Zelensky], Ukraine, Israel, and the Jewish people. More broadly, they demonstrate that today’s Russia is full of hatred towards other nations."
6:17 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

UK says a quarter of Russian battalion groups that invaded Ukraine are likely "ineffective"

A car drives past a destroyed Russian tank on a road west of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 7.
A car drives past a destroyed Russian tank on a road west of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 7. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

A quarter of the Russian battalion groups that invaded Ukraine have likely now been rendered "ineffective," according to the UK's Ministry of Defence.

According to its figures, Russia committed over 120 battalion tactical groups, approximately 65% of its entire ground combat strength, at the start of the invasion.

"It is likely that more than a quarter of these units have now been rendered combat ineffective," the Ministry of Defence said in its latest update.
"Some of Russia’s most elite units, including the VDV Airborne Forces, have suffered the highest levels of attrition. It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces."

Read more on Russian military problems here:

6:46 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Russians only advancing in areas they've destroyed, Luhansk official says

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv and Eliza Mackintosh in London

Smoke rises across the skyline following a shelling in Rubizhne, Ukraine, on April 23.
Smoke rises across the skyline following a shelling in Rubizhne, Ukraine, on April 23. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian forces are putting intense pressure on the front lines in Luhansk, Ukraine's easternmost region, as part of its renewed offensive.

Fighting raged over the weekend in Luhansk, with intense gunfights breaking out street after street and towns pounded by artillery shelling. The Ukrainian military said on Sunday that it was continuing to reinforce the east amid heavy assaults and as Russia continues its two-week-old push in the country's industrial heartland -- pouring in more weapons and military equipment.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, told Ukrainian television on Monday that Russian forces were laying waste to villages along the front lines of the region and then pressing forward.

Strategically speaking, the only place they [Russians] can advance in is the areas they have completely destroyed. So they completely destroyed the whole of Novotoshkivka, there was no place to hold the defense -- and they occupied it," Hayday said. Novotoshkivka fell on April 25, according to Ukrainian officials. 

That scorched-earth strategy has forced Ukrainian military forces to pull back in some places, to avoid significant losses of life.

"In Kreminna, we understood that if we just held on to the land, the boys would die, and there would be no harm to the enemy, so we regrouped and left," Hayday said.

Kreminna was abandoned in mid-April by Ukrainian forces. Hayday also ackowledged that most of the town of Rubizhne was now in Russian hands. 

"Rubizhne was destroyed very badly, but it cannot be said that they completely occupied the city, because there are lines of defense on the outskirts and our guys not only keep the defense there, but also constantly harm the enemy. "

5:49 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Large explosion near Russian-held airfield in southern Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Video and images posted Monday appear to show the aftermath of a large explosion close to an airfield in a Russian-occupied part of southern Ukraine.

The footage shows thick, dark smoke rising from the vicinity of a Russian-held airport just outside the city of Kherson at Chornobaivka.

There's been no comment from the Ukrainian or Russian military on the cause of the explosion, but Russian positions and equipment at Chornobaivka have been hit on several previous occasions.

Last week, the Ukrainian military said that Russian forces had retreated towards Chornobaivka after suffering heavy losses.

5:28 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

More than 5.5 million refugees have now fled Ukraine

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

Ukrainian refugees board the train to Poland from Ukraine's port city of Odesa on April 25.
Ukrainian refugees board the train to Poland from Ukraine's port city of Odesa on April 25. (NurPhoto/Reuters)

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).

A projected 8.3 million refugees are expected to flee Ukraine, the UNHCR said Tuesday.

5:15 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

A missing Ukrainian soldier returns to marry his girlfriend

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the Russian navy attacked Snake Island off the Ukrainian coast -- an episode immortalized by a captured radio exchange in which the defenders told a Russian warship to "go f*** yourself" after being ordered to surrender.

Several of the defenders were thought to have been killed and were even given posthumous military awards by President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Among those whose fate was unknown was a young soldier of the 35th Marine Brigade called Valeriy.

It later transpired that Valeriy had been taken prisoner by the Russians, but he was then sent back to Ukraine in a prisoner exchange.

Once home, Valeriy was given leave and went immediately to Kharkiv where he proposed to his girlfriend of two years, Vladislava. 

They were married at the weekend in a ceremony attended by Valeriy's commanding officer, Maksym Zinchenko.

The Facebook page of the military unit announcing their wedding said their feelings for each other "were strengthened by distance and time, and the separation and uncertainty gave them a real understanding that life is fragile."

4:56 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets Polish President in Warsaw

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stands next to Polish President Andrzej Duda as they meet in Warsaw, Poland, on May 2.
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stands next to Polish President Andrzej Duda as they meet in Warsaw, Poland, on May 2. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday to discuss further support for Ukraine.

Images show the pair shaking hands and sitting down for talks alongside a Congressional delegation.

The visit comes shortly after Pelosi made an unannounced trip to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Saturday, becoming the most senior US official to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky since the war broke out more than two months ago.

In a statement on Sunday, Pelosi said the meetings with Duda would be "focused on further strengthening our partnership, offering our gratitude for Poland’s humanitarian leadership, and discussing how we can further work together to support Ukraine."

6:09 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Ukrainian drone destroys Russian patrol ships off Snake Island, says defense ministry

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie in Hong Kong 

Two Russian Raptor patrol boats were destroyed near Snake Island by a Ukrainian Bayraktar drone Monday morning local time, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reported, citing the head of the Armed Forces General. 

Two Russian Raptor patrol boats were destroyed in the early hours of this morning near Snake [Zmiinyi] Island. #Bayraktar works! Together to Victory!” the MOD tweeted. 

Video of the drone targeting one of the Raptor patrol boats near the island in the Black Sea was included in the MOD post. 

The Bayraktar TB-2 is a Turkish-designed armed drone that has been used to considerable effect by the Ukrainian Armed Forces against Russian targets.

Moscow is yet to confirm or react to the claim.

Read more on Snake Island here:

4:12 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

New Zealand imposes further sanctions on Russia

From CNN's Lizzy Yee

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 7.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 7. (Mark Mitchell/AP)

New Zealand’s government announced further sanctions against Russia on Monday, targeting members of the political elite, as well as the country’s defense sector. 

The new round of sanctions target 170 members of the Federation Council — the upper house of Russia’s parliament.

They also include six companies and organizations, “which have contributed to the assault” in Ukraine, according to a government statement on Monday.

“As President (Vladimir) Putin’s war machine continues its illegal attacks and as further revelations of atrocities come to light, we are determined to impose costs on those involved,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.
“We support the people of Ukraine, and we are committed to holding President Putin and his cadre of warmongers to account.”

The country also extended the “full suite" of prohibitions to over 400 people previously captured by its travel bans, without specifying details. 

“This will further prohibit those we have already sanctioned from carrying out activity in New Zealand, and prevent New Zealand from becoming a financial safe haven for those involved with Russia’s illegal activities in Ukraine,” Mahuta added.