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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10:21 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:

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.