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
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.
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"
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 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.”