May 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Ben Church, Ed Upright, Sana Noor Haq, Jessie Yeung, Andrew Raine and Helen Regan, CNN

Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT) May 4, 2022
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9:01 a.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Pope Francis says Hungary's Viktor Orban told him Putin plans to end war on May 9

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London and Nicola Ruotolo in Rome

Pope Francis receives in audience H.E. Mr. Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary, at the Vatican, Italy, on April 21.
Pope Francis receives in audience H.E. Mr. Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary, at the Vatican, Italy, on April 21. (Vatican Media/Catholic Press Photo/Reuters)

Pope Francis said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told him when they met in late April that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to end the invasion of Ukraine on May 9 — Russia's Victory Day. 

The Pope made the comments to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday.

Orban, when I met him, he told me that the Russians have a plan, that everything will be over on May 9th," Pope Francis said.

"This would also explain the speed of the escalation of these days. Because now it's not just the Donbas, it's Crimea, it's Odesa, it's taking away the Black Sea port from Ukraine, it's everything.

"There is not enough will for peace," the Pope said. "I am pessimistic, but we must make every possible gesture to stop the war." 

The Pope expressed concern that Putin may continue the invasion of Ukraine and said his guess is that "the barking of NATO at Russia's door" may have prompted Putin to start the conflict. "An anger that I don't know if it was provoked," the Pope wondered, "but perhaps facilitated, yes."

He also repeated earlier statements that he is ready to travel to Moscow to meet with Putin and compared the war in Ukraine to the genocide in Rwanda. 

"We have not yet received an answer and we are still insisting, even if I fear that Putin cannot and does not want to have this meeting right now. But so much brutality, how can you not stop it? Twenty-five years ago we experienced the same thing with Rwanda," Pope Francis said. 

The Pope said he will not travel to Kyiv for now, instead sending a representative.

"First I have to go to Moscow, first I have to meet Putin. But I'm a priest too, what can I do? I'll do whatever I can. If Putin opened the door," he said.

3:26 a.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Ukrainian military says 12 Russian attacks repulsed across eastern regions 

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian servicemen adjust a drone at their position near the city of Izium, Ukraine, on May 2.
Ukrainian servicemen adjust a drone at their position near the city of Izium, Ukraine, on May 2. (EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The Ukrainian armed forces say they have repulsed 12 Russian attacks over the past day in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

They also claim to have brought down seven attack drones.

In its daily operational update, the General Staff said there are signs the Russians are taking equipment out of storage to replenish units. 

"According to available information, 17 tanks and 60 BMP-1s were taken out of storage in the city of Bohuchar of Voronezh region, between April 27 and May 2, 2022. They were sent to the Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied by Russian troops," it said.

CNN is unable to verify the claim.

On the battlefield: The General Staff said Russian forces had continued attacks from the Izium direction and efforts to take full control of the towns of Rubizhne and Popasna further east.

The General Staff also suggested that resistance is growing in occupied areas.

"The resistance movement is developing in the cities and villages temporarily occupied by the aggressor," it said.

In Luhansk: Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said shelling had damaged or destroyed homes in several towns that have been under weeks of bombardment, including Severodonetsk, Hirske and Orikhove. He did not give any casualty figures.

In Donetsk: Three people were reported killed in shelling of the town of Vuhleda. 

On the southern front: Authorities in the region of Zaporizhzhia say fighting continues, especially around the town of Hulyaipole. Russian units have been trying to break through in that area, which would bring them closer to the regional capital.

2:31 a.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Putin may soon officially declare war on Ukraine, US and Western officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Marquardt and Brad Lendon

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech as he hosts Russia's medal-winning athletes of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and members of the country's Paralympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on April 26.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech as he hosts Russia's medal-winning athletes of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and members of the country's Paralympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on April 26. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine as soon as May 9, a move that would enable the full mobilization of Russia’s reserve forces as invasion efforts continue to falter, US and Western officials believe.

May 9, known as “Victory Day” inside of Russia, commemorates the country’s defeat of the Nazis in 1945.

Western officials have long believed that Putin would leverage the symbolic significance and propaganda value of that day to announce either a military achievement in Ukraine, a major escalation of hostilities – or both.

Officials have begun to hone in on one scenario, which is that Putin formally declares war on Ukraine on May 9. To date, Putin has insisted on referring to the brutal monthslong conflict as a “special military operation,” effectively banning words such as invasion and war.

What it means: A formal declaration of war could potentially bolster public support for the invasion. It would also, under Russian law, allow Putin to mobilize reserve forces and draft conscripts, which officials say Russia desperately needs amid a growing manpower shortage. Western and Ukrainian officials have estimated that at least 10,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war since Russia invaded just over two months ago.

Read the full story:

2:23 a.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Analysis: The art of the Ukrainian drop-by meeting

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation on April 30, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation on April 30, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin couldn’t have been more clear that his aim in invading Ukraine was to end its right to exist as a free, independent nation.

So, the flow of high-profile Western visits to the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv – most recently by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the weekend – is about more than daring photo-ops.

Such trips by leaders who stand side-by-side with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky make an important statement that Ukraine remains a viable, functioning nation, notwithstanding Putin’s forces now trying to bite off a big chunk in the east.

And they are a reminder to the Russian leader and the world that the primary aim he laid out at the start of the war has not been achieved. From Ukraine’s point of view, the trips keep the country’s plight in the headlines and send visitors home fresh with the horrors of a vicious war as they deliberate over Western aid.

Pelosi’s trip will only create more speculation about whether US President Joe Biden will eventually make his own clandestine swoop into Kyiv – a prospect that is likely to perturb Secret Service planners since the US President travels with a far more visible security footprint than the speaker. 

Read the full analysis:

Editor’s Note: This story was excerpted from the May 3 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

2:39 a.m. ET, May 3, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 2.
Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 2. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

All eyes are on the steel plant in Mariupol, where civilians and the last Ukrainian defenders of the besieged city are sheltering against nonstop Russian assaults. Meanwhile, Russian forces continue to press in the east, with warnings from the West that Russia's formal declaration of war could come within a week.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Trapped in the steel plant: About 100 civilians, including women and elderly people, and about 20 children are still trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged southern city of Mariupol, according to a Ukrainian captain inside. They have faced constant bombardment from Russian forces, while running out of food and water inside, he said. About 100 civilians were evacuated from the plant Sunday, but a further planned evacuation for Monday did not take place.
  • Civilian evacuations planned: There will be a civilian evacuation early Tuesday morning in Mariupol, according to the city council's Telegram channel. The agreement was struck with assistance from the United Nations and the Red Cross. Although it will evacuate Mariupol citizens, the convoy will actually be leaving from a roundabout near Berdiansk, a Russian-occupied city to the west of Mariupol.
  • Strike in Odesa: A missile hit infrastructure facilities in the southern city of Odesa on Monday, including a church and a dormitory. Teenagers are among the casualties, with a 14-year-old boy killed and a 17-year-old girl wounded, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky’s claims have not been independently verified by CNN.
  • Russia may declare war: US and Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine as soon as May 9, which would allow for the full mobilization of Russia’s reserve forces -- which officials say Russia desperately needs amid a growing manpower shortage. May 9 is known as Russia’s “Victory Day,” marking Russia's defeat of the Nazis in 1945.
  • Annexing the east: The US has “highly credible” intelligence reports that Russia will try to annex the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk “some time in mid-May,” said a US ambassador on Monday. There are also indications that Russia could be planning to declare and annex a “people’s republic” in the southeastern city of Kherson.
  • Retaking Ukrainian territory: The Ukrainian military said its forces have won back control of several settlements to the north and east of Kharkiv, potentially making it more difficult for the Russians to launch missile and artillery attacks against the northeastern city.
11:56 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

US Olympic Committee offers support to get Brittney Griner released from Russia, USA Today reports

Photo of Brittney Griner at a Russian police station, shown on Russian state TV, in early March.
Photo of Brittney Griner at a Russian police station, shown on Russian state TV, in early March. (Russia 24)

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is lending its support to efforts to get basketball player Brittney Griner released from custody in Russia, according to USA Today.

“The resources between us, between USA Basketball, the NBA as a league, the WNBA — all of us have leaned on every friendship and resource we have from the State Department to the people that we all work with,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in an interview with USA Today on Monday.

“If we felt like there was something we could do to be helpful, we would, in a heartbeat,” she said.

Hirshland said USOPC has had talks with the International Olympic Committee regarding Griner. Hirshland said she hasn’t spoken with IOC president Thomas Bach, but added that "the IOC has an acute focus on her and her health and safety as well."

When reached by CNN, a USOPC spokesman verified USA Today's reporting but declined to comment further.

Some context: Griner, who plays for Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, was arrested by Russian authorities in February at a Moscow airport and accused of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance – an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

11:57 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Ukrainian fighter trapped in steel plant: "If we run out of food, we'll be catching birds"

From CNN's Erin Burnett

Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment.
Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment.

Civilians and Ukrainian forces sheltering at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are facing "nonstop" bombardment, with basic supplies running low as Ukrainian officials race to evacuate those inside, according to a captain in the plant.

"The strikes (are) going on nonstop, it's been tank artillery, volley artillery, and every three to five minutes there were air bombardments," said Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment. "There are still civilians sheltering in the plant, and yet the enemy continues this bombing."

About 100 civilians were evacuated from the plant Sunday, but a further planned evacuation for Monday did not take place. Meanwhile, the mood inside is grim, with the regiment reporting low supplies of water and food.

"I cannot tell you for sure how much is left for how many days, but I can assure you that we are saving -- very fearful without water and food, and especially ammunition," Palamar said. He added that the regiment was sharing "whatever we have with the civilians."

"If (worst) comes to worst and we run out of food, we'll be catching birds, and we'll be doing everything just to stand firm," he said.

Last site of defense: Russia has claimed that its soldiers have reached the outskirts of the plant and are carrying out a “step by step clearing mission," which Palamar denied.

“As of now, the entire plant territory is under our control and our defense is along the perimeter of the Azov steel plant, we are holding the defense,” he said.

11:56 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Zelensky: Teenager killed in Russian strike on Odesa, 220 Ukrainian children dead since war began

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

Firefighters spray water on a building after a missile strike in Odesa on May 2.
Firefighters spray water on a building after a missile strike in Odesa on May 2. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

A Russian missile strike on a dormitory in Odesa killed a 14-year-old boy and wounded a 17-year-old girl, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly address on Monday.

For what? What did these children and the dormitory threaten the Russian state with?” Zelensky said.

Zelensky said 220 Ukrainian children have been killed since the start of the Russian invasion.

At least 1,570 educational institutions have been destroyed or damaged by shelling, he added.

CNN has not independently verified Zelensky’s claims.

11:55 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

President Zelensky: Russia has "forgotten all the lessons of World War II"

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (YouTube)

Russia has “forgotten all the lessons of World War II,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly address on Monday, following comments from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Sunday alleging that Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood” and that “the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.”

Such an anti-Semitic thrust by their minister means Russia has forgotten all the lessons of World War II. Or maybe they never studied those lessons,” Zelensky said.

Lavrov’s remarks also prompted a furious response from Israel, with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid calling them “unforgivable and outrageous,” adding that “Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust.”

“Of course, there is a big scandal in Israel today as regards [to] these words. However, no one hears objections or excuses from Moscow. There is silence,” Zelensky said.

“How could this be said on the eve of the anniversary of the victory over Nazism? These words mean that Russia's top diplomat is blaming the Jewish people for Nazi crimes. No words,” Zelensky said.