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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6:46 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.

4:09 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Ukrainian commander says "turbulent" night at Azovstal plant, 200 civilians remain

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

A satellite image shows an overview of the destruction at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 29.
A satellite image shows an overview of the destruction at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 29. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

A Ukrainian commander inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol said his men experienced a turbulent night after the first batch of evacuees were able to leave the plant on Sunday.

"As soon as the evacuation of civilians was completed yesterday, the enemy began using all kinds of weapons. The night was restless," said Denys Shleha, commander of the 12th Operational Brigade of the National Guard.
"The [Russian] naval artillery worked on Azovstal from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.. In the morning it became quieter."

It is unclear whether another batch of civilians trapped inside the complex will be able to leave on Monday.

"I will not say anything about the evacuation from Azovstal. We are trying our best to do it, we are begging for it," Shleha said.

He said there are about 200 people, including 20 children, left on the premises.

We beg that people should be removed from Azovstal. The enemy strikes with all kinds of weapons. Everything is very bad," he said.
"The biggest problem is wounded servicemen. Our field hospital was bombed a few days ago. Medical care is provided to the military in extremely difficult conditions. There are currently about 500 of them at Azovstal. Their injuries are of varying severity. This is the biggest problem that needs to be resolved," Shleha said.

Shleha also spoke of the need to get the remaining fighters out of the plant.

"After the evacuation of civilians and the wounded, it is necessary to resolve issues with the garrison. Our men did everything possible and impossible for the state of the world during these 68 days," he said.

3:30 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Ukraine says Russians pressing offensive towards Sloviansk

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian Army medical units unload a shell-shocked and concussed soldier at a medical facility in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on April 29.
Ukrainian Army medical units unload a shell-shocked and concussed soldier at a medical facility in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on April 29. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

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.

The enemy fired on the units of our troops on the Lyman-Siversk border in order to oust them from their positions and create conditions for the attack on Sloviansk," it said.

Some analysts say Russian forces have made modest territorial gains in this region over the past week, but Lyman remains in Ukrainian hands.

The General Staff said Russian forces were attacking a large number of towns in the Luhansk region, and had tried to improve their positions around the town of Popasna by moving one battalion tactical group from Mariupol.

Altogether 10 attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk had been repulsed and Ukrainian forces had destroyed a wide variety of Russian hardware, it claimed.

"The enemy deployed additional surface-to-air missile systems in the temporarily occupied territories of the Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions," it said.

Three people in Luhansk were killed as heavy shelling persisted in Lysychansk, Zolote and Popasna, according to Serhiy Hayday, head of Luhansk's military administration.

Heavy prolonged shelling prevented a full-fledged evacuation, he said.

In areas of southern Ukraine where fighting continues, Russian forces were looking for weaknesses in Ukrainian defenses to the south of Mykolaiv as they try to extend their control to the whole of the Kherson region, which borders Crimea, the General Staff said.

Parts of southern Zaporizhzhia have also seen heavy fighting. The regional command said Monday that "the enemy tried to break through in small groups with the support of armored vehicles, tanks and artillery, but failed."

The towns of Polohy and Orikhiv were among those targeted with shelling, it said.

It also claimed that Russian forces were forcing farmers "under the barrels of machine guns" to sell grain at a steep discount.

There has also been an uptick in attacks on grain stores and elevators.

Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional state administration, said Monday that a grain warehouse had been destroyed in the Synelnykove district.