May 6, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Nectar Gan, Jeevan Ravindran, George Ramsay, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT) May 7, 2022
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1:40 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

First on CNN: Russia excavating site of heavily bombed drama theater in Mariupol, new satellite images show

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Tim Lister

The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from May 6. 
The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from May 6.  (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

An extensive excavation of the bombed Mariupol drama theater is underway, new satellite images from Maxar Technologies show.

The area is now under Russian control, and the clearance of debris from the fighting is underway in several parts of the city. 

The site was bombed on March 16. Ukrainian officials believe at least 300 people who were taking shelter at the building were killed.

On April 29, a satellite image showed a crane at the side of the building. The sidewalks on the northern and southern side of the drama theater, which had been covered in debris from the bombing, were by then cleared.

The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from April 29.
The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from April 29. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

In a May 2 satellite image, the crane was behind the drama theater. Trucks were parked at the front, but it's unclear from the satellite images what their purpose was.

The latest satellite image, taken on May 6, shows even more activity at the theater. The crane is seen sitting next to the large hole in the theater's roof, the likely epicenter of the explosion that tore the building apart.

More trucks are seen outside and around the building. Some trucks are parked on top of the large sign that said "children" written before the bombing.

CNN has reached out to the Russian defense ministry for comment about the excavations.

CNN has also reached out to the Ukrainian government and the United Nations for comment. 

International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson Ewan Watson told CNN that they do not have a team in Mariupol and are not part of the excavation at the drama ​theater.

When it was bombed, the theater was being used as a shelter by women, children and the elderly.

The Ukrainian government has accused the Russians of conducting an airstrike on the theater. Russia has repeatedly denied that it hit the theater and has claimed without offering evidence that the Azov Regiment — one of the Ukrainian Army’s units in Mariupol — blew it up.

1:41 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

25 civilians have been evacuated from Azovstal, Russian state media reports

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv and Katharina Krebs in London

A bus carrying civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrives at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne, Ukraine on May 6, 2022.
A bus carrying civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrives at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne, Ukraine on May 6, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A total of 25 civilians were evacuated out of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Friday, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.

The news outlet reported that the first bus left the territory on Friday with 12 civilians, including four children. Another 13 civilians, including one child, were taken out of the territory on a second bus.

The first bus with people "held by the militants" at the plant had left through the checkpoint, RIA Novosti reported. Video posted by RIA Novosti shows a group of people transferring from one bus to a larger coach. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the video. CNN has reached out to the Ukrainian side for comment.

On Wednesday, the Joint Coordination Headquarters of the Russian Federation announced the opening of new humanitarian corridors from May 5 to May 7 for the evacuation of civilians from the plant.

It's unclear whether Friday's limited evacuation of a handful of civilians is connected to the proposed UN/International Red Cross evacuation from Azovstal, which was also due to begin Friday.

The second bus also evacuated two dogs with their owners. People were transferred to a larger bus, and video shows the bus later arriving at the village of after which it proceeded to the village of Bezimenne. Video geolocated by CNN shows the bus being escorted by the Russian military, but there is no evidence of UN or International Red Cross vehicles accompanying the transport.

There is a temporary camp for evacuees from Azovstal and other areas around Mariupol at Bezimenne.

The mayor of Mariupol's office told CNN it was not aware of the latest evacuations. 

1:32 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Biden is set to announce another assistance package to Ukraine soon, sources say

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC on May 5. 
US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC on May 5.  (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden in the coming days will announce another security assistance package to Ukraine, two sources say, with the total expected to be more than $100 million. 

Biden is set to speak with G7 leaders virtually Sunday ahead of expected Victory Day celebrations in Russia.

Reuters was first to report. 

1:10 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

White House says G7 call on Sunday is intentionally timed ahead of Russia's Victory Day

From CNN's Sam Fossum

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the timing of Sunday's G7 leaders call ahead of Russia's Victory Day is intentional.

May 9 is when some US and Western officials believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine and fully mobilize his reserve forces.    

"I think it should not be lost the significance, on anyone, the significance of when the timeline, of when this G7 meeting is happening, which is the day before Russia's Victory Day, which President Putin has certainly projected his desire to mark that day as a day where he is victorious over Ukraine. Of course, he is not," Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. 

May 9 commemorates the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. It is marked every year by a military parade in Moscow and a speech by Putin. At the end of the parade, Putin will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Psaki added: "Having this meeting and conversation on Sunday is an opportunity to not only show how unified the West is in a confronting the aggression and the invasion by President Putin, but also to show that unity requires work, requires effort requires blood, sweat and tears sometimes."

Asked about what further sanctions might come from Sunday's call, Psaki said she did not have anything to preview. 

12:22 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Zelensky: More than half a million Ukrainians deported to Russia

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

More than "500,000 Ukrainians have been deported to Russia" since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said during an address to the Parliament of Iceland on Friday.

"They were forced to go there. Their documents and means of communication are confiscated. They are sent to faraway regions of that foreign land in order to assimilate there," said Zelensky.

He underlined that the number of deported Ukrainian's even exceeds the total population of Iceland.

CNN is unable to independently confirm the number of Ukrainians who have been taken across the border into Russian territory. 

11:15 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Ukraine says 41 people were returned in latest prisoner exchange with Russia

From Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukraine said 41 people have returned to Ukraine in the latest exchange of prisoners with Russia.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there were 28 service personnel and 13 civilians in the group, which included 11 women.

The rector of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was also among the released, she said.

1:22 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Biden to meet virtually with Zelensky and G7 leaders Sunday

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

US President Joe Biden will meet virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his G7 counterparts on Sunday morning during a meeting of the G7 forum, a National Security Council spokesperson said.

“On Sunday morning, President Biden will participate in a G7 virtual Leaders meeting chaired by German Chancellor Scholz. The Leaders will be joined by President Zelenskyy of Ukraine,” according to the the NSC spokesperson.

Sanctions will be on the agenda for the meeting.

“They will discuss the latest developments in Russia’s war against Ukraine and its global impacts; showing support for Ukraine and Ukraine’s future; and demonstrating continued G7 unity in our collective response, including by imposing severe costs for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war,” the spokesperson said.

10:53 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Zelensky accuses Russia of using blockade of Mariupol as form of "torture" by starvation

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that Mariupol is one of the most complicated points of this war, accusing Russians of blockades and torture with starvation, during a virtual event held by policy institute Chatham House to discuss the war. 

When asked about the situation in Mariupol, Zelensky said all the international organizations — including Ukrainian ones — are prohibited from entering the area to provide water, food and other supplies to civilians. He added that the Russian military's treatment in Mariupol is "inhuman" and a "beastly attitude." 

Zelensky also emphasized the importance of Mariupol by saying that if Russia kills civilians that could be exchanged as prisoners of war, then Ukraine cannot have any diplomatic talks with Russia afterward.

12:00 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Kremlin declines to confirm if Victory Day parade will happen in Mariupol

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova

Service members of pro-Russian troops ride an infantry combat vehicle near the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 5.
Service members of pro-Russian troops ride an infantry combat vehicle near the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 5. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Kremlin declined to confirm Friday whether a Victory Day parade will take place on Monday in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, saying a wide celebration of Victory Day is currently impossible “for obvious reasons.”

“I can't tell on the behalf of the military if there are any plans,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN on a regular conference call with journalists, when asked if a Victory Parade is expected in Mariupol.  

First deputy head of the presidential administration of Russia, Sergei Kiriyenko, previously had said that a parade on Victory Day this year in Donetsk and Luhansk could not yet be held, but time for that would come soon, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

Some background: Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine as soon as May 9, a symbolic day for Russia, paving the way for him to step his campaign.

May 9, known as "Victory Day" inside Russia, commemorates the country's defeat of the Nazis in 1945.

More details from the Kremlin: Peskov said Friday that May 9 is a “sacred” day for Russians, and it won't be "overshadowed" by the events unfolding in Ukraine.

“Victory Day for all Russians, for almost all residents of the former territory of the Soviet Union, is a sacred day, the main holiday, which is filled with symbolism, a sense of pain for the sacrifices that we have suffered through, and a sense of pride for our country and our victory. Therefore, nothing will overshadow it,” Peskov told journalists during a daily call with the media, when asked if the war, people dying in Ukraine and rumors of upcoming mobilization in Russia may overshadow the solemn Victory Day mood. 

Peskov went on to say that "from the point of view of national pride, the significance of this holiday cannot be overestimated.” 

The Kremlin confirmed Friday that Putin will attend the traditional Victory Parade on May 9 held in Moscow’s Red Square and will make a speech. At the end of the parade, Putin will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

This year’s parade is expected to be of a smaller scale than in previous years. According to the Kremlin, international leaders have not been invited to attend the festivities. “We didn’t invite anyone to Victory Day,” Peskov said last week.

The display of the military equipment is also expected to be smaller. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, 11,000 people and 131 types of weapons will be involved in the military parade this year compared to 191 military vehicles and 12,000 people last year. The air show is expected to include 77 aircraft and helicopters, one additional aircraft compared to last year.