May 4, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Adrienne Vogt, Brad Lendon, Andrew Raine, Jack Guy and Ben Church, CNN

Updated 0411 GMT (1211 HKT) May 5, 2022
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4:04 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Ukrainian commander at Azovstal says "enemy" broke into the plant complex during battles

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Roman Tymotsko

The commander of the Azov Regiment soldiers inside the Azovstal plant, Lt. Col. Denys Prokopenko, says there are heavy battles inside the complex after Russian forces breached its perimeter. 

“For two days now, the enemy has broken into the territory of the plant. There are heavy bloody battles," he said.

Prokopenko continued, "I am proud of my soldiers who are making superhuman efforts to contain the enemy's onslaught. I thank the whole world for the tremendous support of the Mariupol garrison. The situation is extremely difficult, but we continue to carry out the order to keep the defense."

3:48 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

US defense official: Russian forces attempted to hit "critical infrastructure" in Ukraine during airstrikes

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that during the most recent round of airstrikes on Ukraine, Russian forces were “attempting to hit what we assess to be critical infrastructure targets out towards the West” in Ukraine including “electrical power, transportation hubs, that kind of thing,”

Despite those strikes, the US is still able to “flow” military assistance into the region, including “weapons systems” and other materials, Kirby said.

The US knows weapons and other materials are still getting to Ukraine “because we talk to the Ukrainians every single day,” he added.

The US Defense Department is “still assessing the degree to which” the Russians hit what they targeted, Kirby said.

4:22 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Russia's defense ministry says it will open evacuation corridors from Azovstal plant Thursday 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy, Katharina Krebs and Zahra Ullah

A view shows damage at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 3.
A view shows damage at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 3. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Russian Ministry of Defense says it expects to open evacuation corridors for civilians out of the Azovstal steel plant near Mariupol starting Thursday.  

"On May 5th , 6th and 7th , 2022, from 08:00 to 18:00 (Moscow time), in accordance with the decision of the leadership of the Russian Federation, which is based on humane principles, the Russian Armed Forces will open a humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant to evacuate civilians (workers, women and children), whose presence in the underground facilities of the plant was once again announced by the Kyiv authorities," the Russian Ministry of Defense announced Wednesday. 

"During this period, the Russian Armed Forces and the military formations of the Donetsk People's Republic unilaterally will cease any hostilities, the military units will withdraw to a safe distance and ensure the evacuation of civilians in any direction they choose, both to the territory of the Russian Federation and to areas controlled by the Kyiv authorities," the ministry continued in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the steel plant where civilians and soldiers sheltered for two months from Russian attacks a "stronghold of Ukrainian resistance." 

Ukrainian parliament member David Arakhamia told Radio Svoboda Wednesday that Russian forces have reached the premises of the plant. Soldiers from the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Azov regiment continue to maintain that Russian forces have had "no success" in their attempts to storm the plant. 

A joint effort between the Ukrainian authorities, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross succeeded in evacuating more 100 civilians out of the steel plant last Sunday. 

3:15 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Russia revokes visa-free entry for many European diplomat passport holders

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the cancellation of visa-free entry for diplomatic passport holders and visa procedures for government officials from most European countries in its tweet Wednesday. 

"Russia has revoked visa-free entry for holders of diplomatic passports, as well as simplified visa procedures for members of official delegations, governments, parliaments, judiciaries, and journalists from the EU, Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland," the Russian Foreign Ministry wrote in a tweet.

2:55 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Azovstal steel plant still "holds," despite relentless Russian attacks, Ukrainian foreign minister says

From CNN's Anastasia Graham Yooll and Niamh Kennedy in London

The Azovstal steel plant still "holds," despite relentless attacks from Russian forces, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday.

"Despite all the statements by Russian officials that Mariupol is under their full control, this is not true. Azovstal, the stronghold — the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol — still holds," Kuleba said in a Twitter livestream Wednesday. 

In an interview with Radio Svoboda, Ukrainian parliament member David Arakhamia confirmed that Russian troops have already reached the premises of the Azovstal steel plant. Arakhamia, who has led Ukrainian delegation in talks with Russia, also confirmed that Ukrainian authorities had managed to regain communications with Ukrainian fighters at Azovstal after losing touch with them earlier on Wednesday.

The soldiers and civilians still in Azovstal continue to suffer "endless attacks" from Russian forces, Kuleba said, stressing that the sustained artillery fire and aerial bombardment are putting their lives at risk. 

3:04 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Ukraine retakes a Kharkiv region village and inches closer towards Russian border

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Tim Lister

(From Telegram)
(From Telegram)

Ukrainian forces have retaken another village in the northern Kharkiv region as a counteroffensive continues against Russian forces.

In a video circulating Telegram, troops were seen placing a flag on a building in the village of Molodova, just 13 miles southeast of the Ukraine-Russia border. CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the video.

"This is how we liberate," a soldier is heard saying in the video. "Step-by-step, village-by-village. Our land."

The counteroffensive to retake territory in Kharkiv has retaken a number of villages — about half a dozen in the area — in the last two weeks.

Not only are forces in the region nearing the Russian border, but they are also inching closer to vital Russian supply lines that run from the border down to Russian-occupied Izium and into the Donetsk region.

Resupplying forces in Izium and the northern Donetsk oblast is critical for the Russian advance in western Ukraine. The majority of the fighting, and shelling, in Ukraine is taking place in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 

Russian forces there are aided by Russian-backed separatists in both Donetsk and Luhansk. 

1:54 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Hungary will not agree to EU's current proposed ban on Russian oil imports, spokesperson says

From CNN's Eion McSweeney in London

Hungary won't get on board with the European Union's plan to ban Russian oil imports in its current form because it is "against Hungarian national energy security," according to the spokesperson for the prime minister.

"The proposal on behalf of Brussels is suggesting that it should be done by the end of next year. The shortest period — we've been clear on that, our oil companies have been clear on that — is three to five years," Zoltan Kovacs, spokesperson to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, told CNN's Eleni Giokos Wednesday.  "The very essence of decision-making in Europe is consensus ... We maintain and we've been telling Brussels and all the European states, that on Hungary's behalf, it simply cannot be done as they require."

The European Union is proposing to ban all oil imports from Russia by the end of the year and remove the country's biggest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT international payments network. In a sign of possible discord among EU member states following the announcement on proposals, Kovacs tweeted that Hungary —which heavily depends on Russian oil imports — does not see how an oil embargo transition would be manageable.

Kovacs confirmed in Wednesday's interview that tension exists between the European Union, Hungary and Slovakia, another country heavily reliant on Russian oil. He told CNN that the differences have "nothing to do with emotions, political like or dislike."

"We haven't received much assistance on behalf of the European Union so far, beyond the energy terminal in Croatia. So simply neither resources nor capacity, nor alternative resources, are available for Hungary for the moment and for the foreseeable future," he added.

When pressed on any energy alternatives Hungary may have at its disposal, Kovacs said that "it's a matter of hard physical fact on the ground."

"Hungary is a landlocked country. We have inherited a one-sided dependence on Russia after the fall of communism."

Kovacs also strenuously denied reports that long-serving leader Orban has the ear of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was pre-warned of the invasion of Ukraine. Hungary has "received information and intelligence with the same pace and the same time as other NATO allies," he said.  

2:47 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

"No success" for Russian troops at Azovstal, Ukrainian Armed Forces say

From CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

In this photo taken from video, smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday, May 3.
In this photo taken from video, smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday, May 3. (AP Photo)

Russian troops continue to storm the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Wednesday "with no success," according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

“Blockades and attempts to destroy our units in the Azovstal area in Mariupol continue. In some areas, with the support of aircraft, the Russian enemy resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant. There has been no success,” adviser to the Armed Forces of Ukraine Alexander Stupun said in a video update. 

New battles continue to rage at Azovstal where “hundreds of civilians remain trapped, including 30 children,” the mayor of Mariupol told Ukrainian TV.

The Interior Ministry of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic has published a video on showing ongoing bombardment, explosions and heavy plumes of smoke coming from the facilities within Azovstal. CNN analysis of the damage visible in the video confirms the footage was likely filmed this week. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Russian Armed Forces were not “storming” the Azovstal plant, and instead described them as suppressing “attempts by militants” to take new firing positions. 

1:27 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Russian military strike kills factory workers waiting for bus in Avdiivka, according to Ukrainian police

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Tim Lister and Josh Pennington

A crater from the Russian military strike is seen in this video from the Ukraine National Police.
A crater from the Russian military strike is seen in this video from the Ukraine National Police. (Ukraine National Police)

A Russian military strike on Tuesday killed and wounded a number of civilians waiting for a bus in the city of Avdiivka in Ukraine's Donetsk region, according to the National Police of Ukraine.

Authorities have not yet disclosed how many workers were killed or injured in the military strike.

Photos posted by the National Police on Telegram, which CNN has geolocated and verified, show the aftermath of the strike on a bus depot at a factory in Avdiivka. In one of the photos, at least three objects — presumptively bodies — were blurred by the police.

In an accompanying post, the police said the workers who were killed and wounded in the strike were boarding a bus after their work shift.

The Metinvest Group, which owns the plant, confirmed on its Telegram channel that the facility was targeted by Russian shelling, saying those still at the plant were specialists.

"Specialists of the company did not even have time to return to the plant to the bomb shelters, which today have become a shelter for employees and residents of Avdiivka," the company statement on Telegram read.

According to the company, the plant has seven storage facilities that can hold roughly 2,500 people.

"Shelters are provided with generators, medicines, drinking water, and food, in an amount sufficient for a long stay," the statement said. "Despite difficult logistics and hostile shelling, the Metinvest Group is ready to evacuate all employees and members of their families who wish to leave the dangerous place." 

Avdiivka has been on the frontlines for weeks, shelled almost daily by Russian forces trying to break through Ukrainian defensive lines.