Kremlin spokesperson twice ducks question of whether Putin apologized to Israel's PM
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov twice declined to answer questions from journalists on Friday about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized to Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over anti-Semitic remarks his foreign minister made this week.
An Israeli summary of a phone call between the two leaders on Thursday said Bennett accepted Putin’s apology; a Russian summary made no mention of any contrition.
“At the moment, we have nothing to add to what was said in the readout,” Peskov said on his regular press briefing call.
Israeli leaders responded with fury earlier in the week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that Adolf Hitler had Jewish ancestry. The assertion has no basis in fact.
Asked on Friday by a journalist if Lavrov should apologize, Peskov replied: “I’m not sure I understand your question.”
Some context: On Sunday, Putin's top diplomat Lavrov sought to justify Moscow's absurd goal of "de-Nazifying" Ukraine -- a baseless portrayal of the country, which is led by a Jewish president -- by claiming Adolf Hitler had "Jewish blood" and that "the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews."
Bennett called the assertions "lies" and Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid described them as "unforgiveable and outrageous," warning that Israel had "tried to maintain good relations with Russia, but there is a line, and this time the line has been crossed."
6:20 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022
Putin's reputed girlfriend Alina Kabaeva included in proposed EU sanctions list, sources say
From CNN's Luke McGee
Alina Kabaeva, a woman romantically linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been included in the sixth proposed package of EU sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, according to two Europeandiplomatic sources.
At this stage names can be taken off or added at member state discretion, an EU Commission source said.
The EU has not officially signed off on the draft proposal but could do so as early as this morning at a meeting of EU ambassadors -- currently underway in Brussels.
“Discussions are going on. It’s not a piece of cake, but we have to wait and see,” said one of the diplomatic sources.
Kabaeva was first linked to Putin more than a decade ago, while she was a medal-winning gymnast. Putin has denied a relationship with her.
In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that US officials had been debating whether or not to place sanctions on Kabaeva over concerns that the move might escalate tensions even more because it could be seen as an extreme personal blow to Putin.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is also among the individuals who are included in the proposed sixth round of EU sanctions, according to two sources who have seen the full documents.
8:40 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022
From medals to road signs, Russians try to put their stamp on Mariupol
From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Julia Presniakova
Medals, road-signs and statues have served as some of the early symbols of Russia's seizure of parts of southern Ukraine, and especially Mariupol.
This week, medals were awarded "for the Liberation of Mariupol" by the leader of self-styled Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, and a senior official in Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, Andrei Turchak.
The DPR has been hard at work changing road signs from Ukrainian into Russian -- especially those at the entrance to Mariupol.
The southeastern port city has been under siege for several weeks, with efforts now concentrated on the Avostal steel plant. On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces were "not stopping" their shelling of the plant.
The plant is now being evacuated as civilians and soldiers remain trapped inside, with the "next stage" underway, according to Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian President's office. More than 300 evacuees from the Mariupol area arrived in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Transport of the DPR promised Thursday that work on the replacement of road signs in what they call liberated territories will continue. A statue has also gone up in Mariupol, depicting an elderly woman grasping the Soviet flag.
Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the elected mayor of Mariupol, spoke bitterly about the rising number of Russian officials visiting Mariupol, including the Sergey Kiriyenko, a senior official at the Kremlin -- describing them as "curators of Mariupol's integration into Russia."
Referring to the new statue, Andrushcheko said the Russians had opened a monument "to an old lady with a flag on Warriors Liberators Square, which they stubbornly call the Leninist Komsomol."
Andrushchenko also distributed new photographs Friday, saying that "in recent days, all the monuments of the Soviet period have been 'restored': the so-called 'fists' with eternal fire — and the signs that say 'To victims of Fascism' in the Russian language. [Also the] monument to 'Komsomol members and communists' in the Primorsky district."
Although he is not in Mariupol, Andruschenko maintains links with people still there and says the Russian flag has also gone up at the city hospital, and posted a photo.
"The occupiers allowed doctors to work for the people of Mariupol. Medical staff and doctors live directly in the hospital, there is only outpatient treatment. The hospital is provided with light through generators, water — by water carriers."
He also posted a brief video shot from a vehicle on Prospect Myru showing the collection of debris. Like other Ukrainian officials, Andrushchenko claimed that "the work of retrieving corpses from the rubble is entrusted to Mariupol residents. Their payment — food."
On the road to Zaporizhzhia from Mariupol, a road most of those trying to escape Mariupol must take, is the town of Tokmak, also under Russian occupation. The entrance sign to the town has been repainted in the Russian tricolor.
Elsewhere in the south of Ukraine, the ruble is gradually being introduced, According to a community group on Facebook, government employees in the town of Yakymivka have been told that if they want to be paid in Ukrainian hryvnia "the occupiers will take two-thirds of the salary."
5:24 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022
Kherson official claims Russians abusing civilians who want to leave
From Tim Lister in Lviv
Civilians trying to leave Russian-occupied Kherson are being harassed and blocked by Russian forces, according to Ukrainian officials.
Yurii Sobolevskyi, the deputy head of Kherson regional Council, told Ukrainian television Friday: "The way out of city has been complicated. There are some cases when people managed to get out, even by a bus, but most people get turned back. All the junctions are blocked."
Sobolevskyi claimed that "there are cases when they [Russian forces] commit abuses at the check-points: very thorough frisking, forcing men to undress, looking for tattoos."
Russian soldiers frequently check Ukrainian civilians for what they see as nationalist and neo-Nazi tattoos.
Sobolevskyi said that mobile connections and internet access had been restored so that people in Kherson could communicate with their families in other parts of Ukraine.
He said the Russians were trying to introduce the ruble on an experimental basis in some communities.
Germany to supply Ukraine with 7 self-propelled howitzers
From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin
Germany has reached an agreement to supply Ukraine with seven self-propelled armored howitzers 2000, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht announced Friday during a visit to Silac, Slovakia.
The artillery system, which resembles a tank, has a reported firing range of up to 40 kilometers (24.8 miles), according to the German military. Lambrecht said Germany will also offer training on the armored howitzers to Ukrainian troops.
Over the past months, the German government and Chancellor Olaf Scholz have come under pressure from Ukraine and politicians at home for not doing enough in providing heavy military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion.
At the end of last month, Germany agreed to deliver Gepard tracked anti-aircraft vehicles to Ukraine -- a move that underscored a major shift in its approach to providing military help to Kyiv.
4:59 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022
"Next stage" of Azovstal steel plant evacuation underway, Ukrainian official says
From CNN's Tim Lister
The "next stage" of evacuation of Ukrainian civilians from Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant is underway, according to Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president's office.
"The results will be reported later," Yermak said.
The United Nations said Thursday it hoped that a joint convoy from the UN and the International Red Cross would be able to evacuate more civilians from Azovstal Friday. There are no details about the location of that convoy as of 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. Eastern Time) Friday.
Some 500 civilians had recently been evacuated from both the Azovstal plant and the city of Mariupol, according to tweets by Yermak and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres early Friday. But CNN understands that they were referring to the cumulative effort to help people leave since Sunday.
More than 300 evacuees from the Mariupol area arrived in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday.
"Ukraine will continue to do everything to save all civilians and the military servicemen. Thank you UN for help," Yermak said.
Separately, the Ukrainian military said early Friday that "the blockade of units of the Defense Forces in the Azovstal area continues. In some areas, the enemy has resumed assault operations with the support of combat aviation in order to take control of the plant."
3:08 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022
Ukrainian forces report fewer Russian ground attacks, but shelling continues
From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv and Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv
The Ukrainian military reported fewer Russian ground attacks in the last 24 hours, but it said there was still persistent shelling of many places along the frontlines in the country's east and south.
The overall picture suggests relatively static frontlines, with Russian forces still unable to take towns and villages they first attacked as long as a month ago.
In its operational update for Friday, the General Staff indicated that Russian forces seemed to be regrouping and efforts to take territory were confined to a few areas such as the Popasna in Luhansk region.
Serhii Hayday, head of the military administration in Luhansk, said Popasna "is bombed around the clock. The enemy attacks daily in whole battalions. The city is almost destroyed." He said some civilians were still in Popasna but contact with them had been lost. He added that fierce battles had continued around Voyevodivka, where "the settlement has passed from the Russians and back to us a few times."
Listing a range of other towns in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, such as Severodonetsk and Avdiivka, the General Staff said "the enemy did not conduct active hostilities."
In the south, the General Staff said that the Russian "did not conduct active hostilities and kept the occupied frontiers, strengthened their air defense systems and electronic warfare; fired on the positions of our troops."
In the area where the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions meet, the Russians had conducted air reconnaissance, according to the General Staff. Both sides have tried to take territory in this area, with the Russians trying to push north and the Ukrainians trying to threaten Russian control of Kherson city, an important link to Crimea.
On Thursday, Russian journalists reported that the Russian flag had been raised in the town of Snihurivka in the Mykolaiv region.
Reports from the regions also suggest that most Russian activity has been in the form of missile and artillery attacks.
In the Dnipropetrovsk region, the Kryvyi Rih district had been subject to shelling, but there were no casualties, according to Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the military administration.
Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the Kryvyi Rih city military administration, said "the enemy fired intensely throughout the night along the entire line of contact."
Meanwhile, a cruise missile has hit Pokrovsky, which is deep inside Dnipropetrovsk, damaging the local power line, according to the regional council.
Russian forces have sporadically aimed missiles at infrastructure in the Dnipropetrovsk region but don't hold any part of the region, according to the Ukrainian forces.
1:36 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022
Fiji court refuses stay of execution of US warrant to seize Russian-owned superyacht
From CNN's Teele Rebane in Hong Kong
The Suva High Court in Fiji on Friday refused an application by Millemarin Investments Ltd, which owns the $300-million superyacht Amadea, for a stay of execution of a US warrant to seize the yacht.
A stay of execution is a court order to temporarily suspend the implementation of a court order or judgement.
The $300-million yacht belonging to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov was seized by Fijian authorities on Thursday at the request of the US Department of Justice.
1:18 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022
US did not provide "specific targeting information" for Russian warship, Pentagon says
From CNN's Oren Liebermann
The Pentagon denied providing "specific targeting information" to Ukraine to sink the Moskva, a Russian guided-missile cruiser that was the flagship of Moscow's fleet in the Black Sea.
"We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva," said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby in a statement Thursday night. "We were not involved in the Ukrainians' decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out. We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine's intent to target the ship."
Ukraine claimed to have struck the ship with two Neptune anti-ship missiles in mid-April.
The ship then sank as it was being towed back to port for repairs. Russia said the damage to the ship was the result of the detonation of ammunition.
"The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case," Kirby added.