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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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.

10:46 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

"No doubt" that Russia plans to "stay forever" in Kherson region, Russian official says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Russia has come to the Kherson region to "stay forever," and there should be "no doubt about that," according to a senior official in Russia's governing United Russia party, Andrei Turchak.

Russian state media RIA-Novosti said Turchak made the remarks while on a visit to Kherson, an important Ukrainian region north of Crimea that has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of its invasion of Ukraine.

“There will be no return to the past. We will live together, develop this rich region, rich in historical heritage, rich in the people who live here," said Turchak, addressing Kherson residents. 

He added that the status of the Kherson region will be determined by its residents.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. In any case, the status will be determined by the residents," Turchak said.

There had been reports that Russia would organize a referendum in the region, but no plans have been announced. 

According to Russian state media, Turchak and the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin visited Kherson on Friday and met with the head of the new Russian-appointed administration of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo.

9:53 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Zelensky says Russia believes it won't be held accountable for war crimes because of its nuclear capability

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam ​

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that Russia believes that it won't be held responsible for alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine because of the threat of nuclear weapons. 

Speaking at a virtual event held by policy institute Chatham House to discuss the war, Zelensky said:

"Russia believes that their responsibility can be postponed for decades, and they don't think they will be responsible for the war crimes because they have the power of the nuclear state and nuclear blackmail after many decades." 

Zelensky also claimed that Russia is calculating how much time is needed for nuclear missiles to hit European capitals.  

On Thursday, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova testified at the hearings of the Helsinki Commission on alleged war crimes of Russia in Ukraine, telling the US government commission that the Russian army had committed more than 9,800 war crimes in 70 days of war.

9:38 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Nearly 25 million metric tons of grain unable to leave Ukraine, according to UN food agency official

From CNN's Amy Cassidy and Radina Gigova in London

The blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, along with infrastructure challenges, are preventing nearly 25 million tonnes of grain from being exported, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official said Friday. 

"It's an almost a grotesque situation we see at the moment in Ukraine,” said Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of FAO's markets and trade division, at a media briefing in Geneva. “There are nearly 25 million tonnes of grain that could be exported but that cannot leave the country simply because of the lack of infrastructure, the blockade of the ports.”

Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain-producing countries.

At the same time, in the months of July and August, the new crop will be coming in, Schmidhuber said, and "despite the war, harvest conditions don't look that dire." 

But, he continued, “that could really mean that there is not enough storage capacity going forward in Ukraine particularly if there is no ‘wheat corridor’ opening up for exports from Ukraine.” 

CNN previously reported that Russian forces are stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, according to multiple sources. Ukraine's defense ministry said Thursday an estimated 400,000 tons of grain had been stolen to date.

The theft of grain on such a huge scale — combined with the dislocation of war — could affect world markets. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov said: "If we do not harvest (the) next crop, the effect of hunger can be significant. And the main export route is ports which are currently blocked."

CNN's Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.

9:28 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Ukrainian soldier describes surviving as a wounded prisoner and being subject to "a distortion of reality"

(CNN)
(CNN)

A Ukrainian marine who fought in Mariupol at a steel plant taken by Russian forces was taken prisoner after being injured.

Hlib Stryzhko was wounded on April 10 and regained consciousness inside an ambulance. He was brought to a hospital controlled by separatists.

"I was told by a Russian soldier, 'You'll have to forget Ukrainian now. You will only get help if you ask in Russian,'" he told CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

He was kept alive so the Russians could exchange him for their own soldiers.

"There were two of us bedridden. So we had to be fed by nurses. So they would say, 'Because of you, my son got killed.' I tried to be understanding, but they were accusing us of things we never did. And we had Russian news read to us all the time, in the morning and evening. That was a lot of pressure on the mind, a distortion of reality," he said.

The prisoner exchange happened on April 22, and he is recovering from a crushed pelvis, broken jaw, concussion and vision impairment.

"My body was broken, but not my spirit," Stryzhko said.

He recalls the fierce fighting that took place in Mariupol.

"Very often when I close my eyes, I see that moment when the tank was firing at me and my side getting injured," he said.

Every time he heard a fellow soldier was dead, "it was personal," he said.

"There is a point where the brain accepts it. ... When this became normal, that was scary. We learned how to fall asleep with this accompaniment. Instead, it became scary to fall asleep in the silence," he said.

His two most vivid memories include the first time he had to use a tourniquet on a friend and watching Russian aircraft destroying whole hangars.

Watch the interview:

8:45 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

EU Commission chief is "confident" that new sanctions package will pass

From CNN's Clare Sebastian and Amy Cassidy in London

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes a statement in Brussels, Belgium, on April 27, following the decision by Russian energy giant Gazprom to halt gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes a statement in Brussels, Belgium, on April 27, following the decision by Russian energy giant Gazprom to halt gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday she is “confident” the bloc’s sixth package of sanctions against Russia will pass, as deliberations among member states continue into the third day.

"I am confident that we will get this package off the ground,” she said in a speech in Frankfurt, Germany. “If it takes one more day, then it takes one more day, but we are moving in the right direction.”

Mobilization of the package has hit some roadblocks this week, with some countries resisting the proposed embargo on Russian oil imports due to their energy dependency, sparking fears they would veto the move unless granted exemption.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, speaking on Hungarian radio Friday, compared the sanctions proposal to an “atomic bomb” and said he sent it to back to von der Leyen for amendments. His comments were carried in an online post from the Hungarian government’s communications office.  

Meanwhile, negotiations are “going in the right direction” for the Czech Republic, government spokesperson Václav Smolka told CNN on Friday. The country is seeking an exemption from the embargo as it needs two more years to wean itself off Russian oil, he said.

Von der Leyen referenced Germany, which at the beginning of the conflict was resistant to an oil embargo, she said, but has since cut down its imports from Russia to 12% from 35%.

“The countries that are now hesitating are not as far along,” she said. “We are sitting, as I speak, with these countries in Brussels, to work through very pragmatic things, like from where can alternative oil be brought into these countries.”

8:35 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Amnesty International says investigation reveals "pattern of crimes committed by Russian forces" in Ukraine

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

The exhumation of civilian bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 13.
The exhumation of civilian bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 13. (Anatolii Siryk/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Russian forces "must face justice for a series of war crimes" committed in the region northwest of Kyiv, Amnesty International said Friday at a press briefing in the Ukrainian capital following an investigation it conducted in the country.

The investigation, based "on dozens of interviews and extensive review of material evidence," has documented "unlawful air strikes on Borodyanka, and extrajudicial executions in other towns and villages including Bucha, Andriivka, Zdvyzhivka and Vorzel."

An Amnesty International delegation spoke with survivors, families of victims and senior Ukrainian officials, the watchdog said. 

“The pattern of crimes committed by Russian forces that we have documented includes both unlawful attacks and willful killings of civilians,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said in a statement.

“We have met families whose loved ones were killed in horrific attacks, and whose lives have changed forever because of the Russian invasion. We support their demands for justice, and call on the Ukrainian authorities, the International Criminal Court and others to ensure evidence is preserved that could support future war crime prosecutions," she said. “It is vital that all those responsible, including up the chain of command, are brought to justice."

During 12 days of investigations, Amnesty researchers interviewed residents in Bucha, Borodianka, Novyi Korohod, Andriivka, Zdvyzhivka, Vorzel, Makariv and Dmytrivka, and "visited sites of numerous killings," Amnesty said.

In Borodianka, Amnesty International found that "at least 40 civilians were killed in disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks, which devastated an entire neighborhood and left thousands of people homeless."

In Bucha and several other towns and villages located northwest of Kyiv, Amnesty documented "22 cases of unlawful killings by Russian forces, most of which were apparent extrajudicial executions."

On March 1 and March 2, a series of Russian air strikes hit eight residential buildings in the town of Borodianka, which were home to more than 600 families, Amnesty said. 

"The strikes killed at least 40 residents and destroyed the buildings, as well as dozens of surrounding buildings and houses. Most of the victims were killed in the buildings’ basements, where they had sought shelter. Others died in their apartments," Amnesty said. 

Amnesty called for all those responsible for war crimes to be held criminally responsible for their actions. "Under the doctrine of command responsibility, hierarchal superiors – including commanders and civilian leaders, such as ministers and heads of state – who knew or had reason to know about war crimes committed by their forces, but did not attempt to stop them or punish those responsible, should also be held criminally responsible," Amnesty said.

8:14 a.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Russians accused by Ukrainians of breaching ceasefire at Azovstal plant, killing 1

From Julia Presniakova 

Service members of pro-Russian troops fire from a tank during fighting near the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 5.
Service members of pro-Russian troops fire from a tank during fighting near the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 5. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Azov Regiment has claimed that during a ceasefire "on the territory of the Azovstal plant" in Mariupol, Russian forces fired an anti-tank weapon at a car that was trying to assist in the evacuation of civilians.

CNN is unable to verify that a ceasefire was in effect and being observed around Azovstal Friday.

On its Telegram channel, the regiment said: "As the result of the shelling, one fighter was killed and 6 were wounded. The enemy continues to violate all agreements and fail to adhere to security guarantees of civilians' evacuation."

The Azov Regiment has dozens of fighters still trapped at the steel complex.