May 5, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 10:33 p.m. ET, May 5, 2023
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4:38 a.m. ET, May 5, 2023

"The blood is still fresh. Film all of them!": Wagner chief slams Kremlin officials in graphic new video

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Hira Humayun

Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin speaks next to the bodies of what he says are Wagner fighters killed in Russia-Ukraine conflict, in an undisclosed location, in this still image taken from video released on May 5.
Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin speaks next to the bodies of what he says are Wagner fighters killed in Russia-Ukraine conflict, in an undisclosed location, in this still image taken from video released on May 5. (Concord/Reuters)

The head of Russian private military company Wagner has launched an expletive-filled verbal attack on Kremlin officials in a graphic new video in which he appears beside what he says are the bodies of his mercenaries killed fighting in Ukraine.

“These guys here are Wagner PMC [men] who died today. The blood is still fresh. Film all of them!” Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin says in the video posted to social media.

Prigozhin last month threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut if they don't receive more munitions to continue the fight.

In the new video, he reiterated his call for munitions, urging Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed forces Valery Gerasimov to look at the bodies.

“These are someone's f**king fathers and someone's sons. And you f**kers who aren't giving [us] ammunition, you b*tches, will have your guts eaten out in hell!”, Prigozhin says in the video. “You sit there in your luxury clubs, your kids are addicted to shooting clips for YouTube. You think you are the masters of this life? You think you can dispose of their lives? If you have warehouses full of ammunition, then you do.”

Prigozhin, whose forces have played a key role in Russian assaults on Ukrainian territory, has often clashed with Putin’s generals and other defense officials in Moscow.

He has complained for well over a month of receiving insufficient support from the Kremlin in the grueling fight for Bakhmut.

“This is simple math," he says in the video. "If you give the normal amount of ammunition, there would be five times less [dead]. They came here as volunteers and are dying so you can sit like fat cats in your luxury offices.”

12:31 a.m. ET, May 5, 2023

Russia and the US "are on the verge of an open armed conflict," Russian official claims

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Jennifer Z. Deaton

Sergei Ryabkov attends a session of the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, April 12.
Sergei Ryabkov attends a session of the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, April 12. (The Federal Assembly of The Russian Federation/AP)

Russia and the United States are on what Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called "the verge of an open armed conflict." But Ryabkov told Russia's state-owned First Channel that "Moscow is working to make sure it doesn't happen," according to state news agency TASS. 

Ryabkov said Moscow and Washington are in contact as needed, including at a high level, but also added that "Washington has long been a direct party to the Ukrainian conflict and aims to destroy sovereign Russia," TASS reported.  

Some context: The news comes on the heels of Russia's unsubstantiated claim that the US was involved in an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin and an assassination attempt against President Vladimir Putin. Both allegations drew sharp denials from Kyiv and Washington.

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications, called Russia’s allegation that the US directed Ukraine to carry out such an attack “ridiculous.”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the US did not know who was responsible.

“I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt,” he said at a Washington Post event Wednesday.
8:54 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

Downed drone over Kyiv was an Ukrainian asset that appeared to have malfunctioned, Ukraine's Air Force says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) shot down Thursday night over Kyiv was a Ukrainian asset that appeared to have malfunctioned, according to Ukraine's Air Force. It was taken out by Ukraine’s military in order to prevent any incident or accident, the air force said on Facebook.

A Bayraktar TB2 UAV lost control during a scheduled flight in the Kyiv region at about 8 p.m. local time on Thursday night, the agency said in a statement.

Because the “uncontrolled presence” of a UAV in the sky above the capital “could lead to undesirable consequences, It was decided to use mobile fire teams” to destroy the drone, the statement read.

The statement also said the incident was likely due to a technical malfunction, adding the cause was being investigated.

“There were no casualties or injures as a result of the combat operation and the fall of the UAV wreckage,” the Ukraine Air Force said.

The agency called the downing of the UAV a “pity,” adding “but this is technology, and such cases do happen.”

8:51 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

Here's what we know so far about the alleged Kremlin drone strikes

From CNN's Rob Picheta, Anna Chernova and Allegra Goodwin

The tight ring of security that surrounds the seat of the Russian presidency was punctured in dramatic fashion by what appeared to be two attempted drone strikes in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Many details about the incident remain murky. Here’s what we know — and the questions that remain:

  • What happened? Moscow said the alleged attack took place in the early hours of Wednesday. Two “unmanned aerial vehicles” were intercepted and destroyed before they caused any damage or injury, the Kremlin said. Russian President Vladimir Putin was not in the building at the time, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Videos then emerged on social media appearing to show the incident. CNN analysis of these videos supports Moscow’s claim that two drones were flown above the Kremlin.
  • Who's saying what? The Kremlin blamed Ukraine, describing the purported drone attack as an “attempt on the President’s life.” On Thursday, Russia also claimed the US was involved in the attack. Both allegations drew sharp denials from Kyiv and Washington.
  • Who else could be responsible? One possibility is that the incident was the work of Russian partisans — as claimed by former Russian lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev who's linked with militant groups in Russia. Others speculate that the incident could have been a false flag operation to either rally the public or escalate Russia’s military mobilization. US officials have also said they were still assessing the incident, and had no information about who might have been responsible.
  • What happens next? Moscow already launched a wave of missiles at Kyiv following the incident, a move in line with its playbook after previous flashpoints in the war. And messages written on Russian drones launched at Odesa overnight read “for Moscow” and “for the Kremlin,” according to the Ukrainian military, an apparent reference to the alleged attack. US and Ukrainian officials have in the past warned that Russia has planned so-called “false flag” attacks along Russia’s border with Ukraine as a pretext for military escalation and Moscow has also been embarrassed in recent months by symbolic incidents, such as the sinking of the guided-missile cruiser Moskva. Moscow is also looking to project strength by following through with its planned Victory Day parade. Peskov reiterated that the parade would go ahead as planned. But while Russia has on occasion used missile bombardments around Ukraine to show its anger following flashpoints in the conflict, the ground fighting in eastern Ukraine has been bogged down in stalemate for months and it appears unlikely that Wednesday’s incident will have a material impact on momentum.
12:53 a.m. ET, May 5, 2023

Russia denies deploying military equipment and explosives at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

From CNN's Mariya Knight

A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, on March 29.
A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, on March 29. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russia has dismissed claims that it deployed military equipment and explosives at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate accused Russia of placing weapons, explosives and military equipment in one of the power plant’s units. The body said it received the information during its weekly meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency representatives a day earlier.

“In the event of an emergency situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP with a potentially possible release of radioactive substances into the environment, the consequences will be felt not only by Ukraine — but they will also have a cross-border nature,” the inspectorate said. 

It called on the international community “for a consolidated and decisive response to the actions of the aggressor country.”

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-appointed military-civilian administration in occupied Zaporizhzhia, called the claims “a lie.”

“We do not use the nuclear power plant as a military facility — this has already been proven by everyone and confirmed more than once,” Rogov told Russian state news agency TASS. 

Where things stand at the facility: Russian forces control the Zaporizhzhia plant, but it is still physically operated by Ukrainian staff. The plant has frequently been disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid due to intense shelling in the area, raising fears of a nuclear accident.

12:50 a.m. ET, May 5, 2023

US ambassador visits detained American Paul Whelan at Russian prison camp

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Lynne Tracy speaks to the press outside a court in Moscow in Russia on April 18.
Lynne Tracy speaks to the press outside a court in Moscow in Russia on April 18. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy visited Paul Whelan on Thursday — her first visit to the wrongfully detained American since taking up the post in Moscow.

“Today, Ambassador Tracy visited #PaulWhelan at IK17 prison in Mordovia,” the US Embassy in Moscow posted on Twitter. “Paul has been wrongfully detained in Russia for more than 4 years, and his release remains an absolute priority,” the post said. “The U.S. government will continue to engage Russian authorities on his case so Paul can come home as soon as possible.”

Paul Whelan was detained in Russia in December 2018 and later sentenced to 16 years in prison on an espionage charge he vehemently denies.

Read more here.

8:42 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

US intelligence chief: Russia unlikely to be able to mount a "significant offensive" this year in Ukraine

From CNN's Michael Conte

Russia will likely not be able to mount a “significant offensive operation this year” due to munitions and manpower shortages — whether or not the Ukrainian counteroffensive is successful, according to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

“In fact, if Russia does not initiate a mandatory mobilization and secure substantial third-party ammunition supplies beyond existing deliveries from Iran and others, it will be increasingly challenging for them to sustain even modest offensive operations,” Haines testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Putin “probably” has scaled back his near-term ambitions in Ukraine to consider a victory “to consolidate control of the occupied territory in eastern and southern Ukraine, and ensuring that Ukraine will never become a NATO ally,” Haines added.

Despite this assessment, Haines said it wasn't very likely that Russia negotiates a pause this year unless political factors "alter his thinking."

Haines also noted that Russian forces are preparing “new defensive positions” for the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and have “gained less territory in April than during any of the three previous months.”

Here's where the state of Russian control in Ukrainian territory stands:

12:47 a.m. ET, May 5, 2023

Russian claim that US was behind alleged drone attack on Kremlin is "ludicrous," Pentagon spokesperson says

From CNN's Allie Malloy and Anna Chernova

John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., on May 4.
John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., on May 4. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

A Pentagon spokesperson denied US involvement in the purported drone attack on the Kremlin and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson of lying. 

"I would just tell you Mr. (Dmitry) Peskov's lying. I mean, it's obviously a ludicrous claim. The United States had nothing to do with this. We don't even know what happened here," said John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications. "But I can assure you the United States had no role in it whatsoever."

The White House still has no indication who was behind the drone attack and said the White House does not "endorse, we do not encourage, we do not support attacks on individual leaders," Kirby added. 

Russia has accused Washington of being behind what it says was a drone attack on the Kremlin and an assassination attempt against Putin, the latest in a series of extraordinary allegations over Wednesday's incident.

“We are well aware that decisions on such actions and such terrorist attacks are not made in Kyiv, but in Washington. And Kyiv is already executing what it is told to do," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, without providing any evidence.

12:44 a.m. ET, May 5, 2023

Wave of Russian attacks on Kyiv worst in a year, Ukrainian military says

From CNN's Josh Pennington, Olga Voitovych, Helen Regan, Vasco Cotovio and Anna Chernova

A cloud of smoke rises on the horizon after Kyiv's air defense systems downed a drone in the central Pecherskyi district, on Thursday, May 4.
A cloud of smoke rises on the horizon after Kyiv's air defense systems downed a drone in the central Pecherskyi district, on Thursday, May 4. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Russia unleashed its worst attacks on Kyiv in a year, Ukraine’s military said, as for the third time in four days missiles and drones hit the city.

The barrage came after Moscow accused Ukraine of attempting to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin in a drone strike at the Kremlin overnight on Wednesday, allegations Kyiv has vehemently denied.

“Our city has not experienced such a heavy intensity of attacks since the beginning of this year! Last night, the aggressor launched another large-scale air strike on the capital,” Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, wrote on Telegram.

All Russian missiles and drones “were destroyed in Kyiv airspace by our air defense forces,” Popko said after Moscow attacked the city with “Shahed-type barrage munitions and missiles, presumably ballistic.”

There were no civilian casualties or damage to residential buildings and infrastructure, he added.

Iran has given Russia hundreds of Shahed drones to use in its war in Ukraine. Known as “loitering munition,” the drones are capable of circling for some time in an area before flying their explosive payload toward a chosen target.

Air raid sirens sounded for more than three hours in Kyiv during the attack, Popko said, and explosions were heard in the capital and the southern port city Odesa early Thursday morning, according to Ukrainian parliament member Oleksii Honcharenko.

Ukraine says the drones that struck the city of Odesa had "for Moscow" and "for the Kremlin" written on them, suggesting the overnight strikes across Ukraine may have been retaliation for the explosions in the Russian capital.

Read more here.