May 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Jessie Yeung, Andrew Raine, Rob Picheta, Kathryn Snowdon and Amarachi Orie, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 8, 2022
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10:21 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

US first lady Jill Biden meets with Ukrainian refugees in Romania: "Those children really have suffered"

From CNN's Sam Fossum

US first lady Jill Biden and Romanian first lady Carmen Iohannis visit with Ukrainian refugee students and teachers at the Uruguay School in Bucharest, Romania, on May 7.
US first lady Jill Biden and Romanian first lady Carmen Iohannis visit with Ukrainian refugee students and teachers at the Uruguay School in Bucharest, Romania, on May 7. (Susan Walsh/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US first lady Jill Biden, accompanied by Romanian first lady Carmen Iohannis, visited a school earlier this morning where they talked with Ukrainian and Romanian educators, spoke to Ukrainian mothers and met with children.

Following her visit to the Uruguay School, Biden spoke shortly to reporters before boarding a plane, discussing the emotional impact of her visit to the school and the bravery of the mothers she met.

"It was so emotional, right? I think that really the Ukrainians know that we are standing with them," Biden told reporters.

"You can see it; those children really have suffered," she added.
"In a lot of ways, the teachers are the glue that help these kids deal with their trauma and deal with the emotion and help give them a sense of normalcy," Biden said.

Inside a classroom, children told Biden they were tracing their hands and making cutouts from copies of the Ukrainian and Romanian flags. At one point, a small girl approached the first lady holding her handprint cutout of the Ukrainian flag. Biden asked her to share her message, and a translator next to the girl said that she said, “I want to return to my father.” 

Biden sat down at a table to talk to a group of children who, according to their teacher, were working on a drawing of what the world would look like without war.

US first lady Jill Biden and Romanian first lady Carmen Iohannis meet with teachers and refugees at the Uruguay School in Bucharest, Romania, on May 7.
US first lady Jill Biden and Romanian first lady Carmen Iohannis meet with teachers and refugees at the Uruguay School in Bucharest, Romania, on May 7. (Octav Ganea/AFP/Getty Images)

The first ladies also had a listening session with educators and refugees. 

Anastasia Konovalvoa, a Ukrainian teacher who fled in March to Romania, was among those who shared her story. 

“I crossed the border with my 3-year-old son and everything I was thinking about was how to save my child from a city that was bombed,” she said. “Thank God the Romanian people were here. I think even the Romanian didn’t expect that they could be so wonderful because you don’t expect that from people.”

“We stand with you,” Biden told her. “I hope you know that,” later adding, “I think you are the amazing ones, really.”

Biden also thanked Iohannis and said the Romanian people are “heroes.”

After the listening session, they went outside where students sang the Romanian national anthem followed by the Ukrainian military march song. 

Biden is now headed to Slovakia. 

This post also includes information from pool reports.

8:28 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

It’s 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Destroyed buildings are seen in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Friday, May 6.
Destroyed buildings are seen in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Friday, May 6. (Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

With Russia’s traditional May 9 "Victory Day" approaching, there is speculation that President Vladimir Putin will use the day to declare some form of success in his invasion, or ramp up his assault on the country.

There were evacuations Friday in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering in the Azovstal plant -- which saw its perimeter breached this week by Russian forces, according to a commander inside.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Escaping Mariupol: At least 50 civilians were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Friday, according to the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister. More efforts are scheduled for Saturday, but there was no sign of evacuations taking place earlier in the day. On Wednesday, Ukrainian defenders in the plant said there were "bloody battles" with Russian forces inside the complex after they broke in.
  • Zelensky responds: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he’s working on diplomatic efforts to save military forces that remain in the Azovstal plant. Speaking on Friday, he said Mariupol was one of the most complicated points of the war, and if Russian forces killed civilians inside, Ukraine would not be able to continue diplomatic talks.
  • Ukraine gains back ground: Ukraine's counter-offensives to the north and east of Kharkiv have pushed Russian forces back, according to the Institute for the Study of War. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military has said that Russian forces have begun to blow up bridges to slow a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the north-east.
  • Foreign aid: The UK announced Saturday it would send extra generators to help run Ukrainian relief centers and hospitals. It said it will also relax its rules on overseas fossil fuels, so the government can support Ukraine's energy and fuel needs. US President Joe Biden also announced additional security assistance to Ukraine, with $150 million worth of equipment including artillery and radars.
  • Kyiv warning: The mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv has urged citizens to "be aware" and stay inside Sunday into Monday, around Russia's symbolic annual "Victory Day." Western officials have warned that Putin could formally declare war on May 9, allowing him to step up his campaign and mobilize reserves.
  • G7 weekend summit: Biden will meet virtually with Zelensky and his G7 counterparts on Sunday morning during a meeting of the G7 forum, deliberately scheduled ahead of Russia's "Victory Day." Sanctions will be on the agenda for the meeting.
  • Food concerns: The UN has called to reopen the Odesa port in southern Ukraine to help ease a global food crisis. The blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports is preventing nearly 25 million tons of grain from being exported. CNN has also 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.

Storage silos and shipping cranes are seen at the Odesa port on January 22, in Ukraine.
Storage silos and shipping cranes are seen at the Odesa port on January 22, in Ukraine. (Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
6:47 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

Macron vows to "help democracy and courage" prevail in Ukraine during inauguration

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau in London

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Saturday, May 7.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Saturday, May 7. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about the war in Ukraine during his inauguration on Saturday, saying France needs to "act to avoid" any escalation in the conflict, and vowing to "help democracy and courage" prevail. 

The French leader told his country that by re-electing him as President, France had chosen "a project of independence in a destabilized world."

"Where many peoples have chosen withdrawal, sometimes giving in to nationalist temptation, to nostalgia for the past, to the sirens of ideologies whose shores we thought we had left in the previous century, the French people have made the choice of a clear and explicit project for the future. A republican and European project," Macron added.

Some background: Last month, Macron became the first incumbent President to be re-elected in France in two decades, beating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Macron told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a few days later that French military support to Ukraine, in addition to humanitarian assistance, "will continue to grow."

"The President of the Republic reaffirmed to President Zelensky his willingness to work actively during his second term of office to restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, always maintaining close coordination with his European partners and allies," the Elysee Palace said in a statement last month.

6:19 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

"Our guys are holding on," Luhansk official says

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva and Kostan Nechyporenko

After weeks of incessant artillery fire and air strikes, Ukrainian troops are "holding on" in a belt of towns in the Luhansk region, according to the head of its military administration.

Serhiy Hayday said on Ukrainian television that the situation was difficult. 

"The biggest efforts made by the enemy are to break through in Popasna and the direction of Severodonetsk and Voievodivka. That's where they deployed the biggest amount of their troops and equipment."

"That's where the largest number of shellings and rockets, and air strikes are constant -- it's just a terrible situation. Our guys are holding on, we are waiting for help, for reinforcement," he said.

Hayday said Russian artillery and rocket forces were being supported by private military contractors tasked with leading any ground assault. "There are PMC Wagner Group, there are the [Chechen] Kadyrovites -- but they are mostly about making videos for TikTok, and then there are the LPR [Luhansk People's Republic] servicemen," he said.

Hayday said Russian shelling had inflicted further heavy damage Friday in Hirske, Popasna and Severodonetsk.

An estimated 15,000 people are still living in Severodonetsk, where five high-rise apartment buildings were hit by shelling on Friday, Hayday said. The town of Zolote had also been hard hit, he said.

5:21 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

Russia claims to have destroyed stockpile of western weapons in Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister

Russia has claimed it has destroyed a large "concentration of military equipment from the USA and European countries" near a railway station in the Kharkiv region.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said the equipment was hit "near the Bogodukhov railway station," which is north-west of the city of Kharkiv.

CNN cannot independently verify the claim. The Ukrainian side has not reported the strike. Bogodukhov has been repeatedly shelled by the Russians.

The Russians also claimed that an ammunition depot was hit in Bakhmut, a rear-base for Ukrainian military operations in the east.

Ukraine said there had been an airstrike on Bakhmut in the Donetsk region early Saturday morning, damaging a factory and killing two people.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said that its air defenses had brought down 13 Ukrainian drones, and three Ukrainian Tochka-U ballistic missiles had been intercepted in the Izium area, where fighting has continued for more than a month.

5:12 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

No further evacuations reported from Azovstal Saturday

From CNN's Tim Lister

There were no signs of further evacuations of civilians from the besieged Azovstal plant in Mariupol on Saturday, after a flurry of activity late Friday.

Both Russia and Ukraine have said that the evacuations should continue Saturday. At least 100 civilians -- including children -- remain trapped in underground bunkers at the sprawling complex, which covers 11 square kilometers.

Around 50 civilians left the plant late on Friday, and were taken in buses escorted by Russian armored vehicles to a reception center at Bezimenne to the east of Mariupol, a town now controlled by Russian-backed separatists of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

Civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol walk accompanied by members of the International Committee of the Red Cross as they arrive at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne to the east of Mariupol, Ukraine on May 6.
Civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol walk accompanied by members of the International Committee of the Red Cross as they arrive at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne to the east of Mariupol, Ukraine on May 6. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Ukrainians said they were later able to travel to Ukrainian-held territory.

The evacuations are brokered by the United Nations and International Red Cross.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said she hopes that a broader evacuation of people wishing to leave Mariupol will resume later Saturday, after it failed to get underway Friday.

"If all goes according to plan, there will be buses to Port City at 5:00 p.m. (10 a.m. ET) to take people to Bezimenne," she said. Port City is a shopping center on the outskirts of Mariupol. 

"There, people from Port City will join our column from Azovstal, which will leave for Zaporizhzhia the next day," she said.

Still unknown is the fate of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who remain trapped at the steelworks. Russia has repeatedly said that they can only leave if they lay down their arms.

On Friday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky said: "We are also working on diplomatic options to save our military, who still remain at Azovstal. Influential mediators are involved, including influential states."

4:30 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

Map: Areas of Russian control in Ukraine's east

Russia is continuing its attacks across Ukraine's eastern flank ahead of May 9, when it's speculated that President Vladimir Putin could declare some form of victory or step up his assault on the country.

But Ukraine's counter-offensives to the north and east of Kharkiv have made gains, and "may successfully push Russian forces out of artillery range" of the city in the coming days, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

And with Russia's May 9 "Victory Day" approaching, cities throughout Ukraine are on high alert. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is urging citizens to stay inside from Sunday into Monday.

7:00 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

Ukraine says Russians blew up bridges to prevent counter-attacks

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

For the first time, the Ukrainian military has said that Russian forces have begun to blow up bridges to slow a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the north-east.

In its latest operational update, the General Staff said Saturday that in the area of Tsyrkuny and Rusky Tyshky east of Kharkiv, "the occupiers blew up three road bridges in order to slow down the counter-offensive actions of the Defense Forces."

CNN cannot independently verify the claim.

In the past two weeks, Ukrainian troops have retaken a number of villages to the north and east of Kharkiv, making it more difficult for Russians to use artillery against the city as well as threatening to interdict Russian supply lines for forces fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at an undisclosed location in Kharkiv, Ukraine on May 2.
A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at an undisclosed location in Kharkiv, Ukraine on May 2. (Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Kharkiv is close to the Russian border, and was one of the first cities to come under attack when Russia invaded.

Lull in Russian offensive: The General Staff said for the second consecutive day that there had been few offensive actions by Russian forces, but that artillery fire and aerial reconnaissance continued.

Some Ukrainian officials believe Russian units are pausing before launching the next phase aimed at securing all of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Beyond these two regions, the General Staff says, the Russians have continued to shell the southern city of Mykolaiv. To the north of the city, Ukrainians claimed to have destroyed "a warehouse with ammunition and up to 20 units of enemy military equipment."

Russia's "Victory Day": Tensions are rising ahead of May 9, known as Russia's "Victory Day" -- marking Moscow's victory over Nazi Germany. Western officials have warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on that day, allowing him to mobilize reserves and ramp up the Russian assault.

In the lead-up to the day, Russian forces occupying the Ukrainian region of Kherson have increased checkpoints and patrols, said the Ukrainian General Staff.

The Russian-appointed deputy head of the Kherson military administration, Kirill Stremousov, said on Friday that residents would be allowed to have Russian passports. Also on Friday, a senior Russian official was in the region with the leader of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic.

12:15 a.m. ET, May 7, 2022

It's 7:15 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Evacuation efforts are continuing in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering in the Azovstal plant -- which saw its perimeter breached this week by Russian forces, according to a commander inside. Meanwhile, tensions are rising in the lead-up to May 9 — Russia's symbolic "Victory Day" holiday, which could bring a formal declaration of war.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Mariupol plant: At least 50 civilians were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Friday, according to the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, with more evacuation efforts scheduled for Saturday. On Wednesday, Ukrainian defenders in the plant said there were "bloody battles" with Russian forces inside the complex after they broke in.
  • Zelensky's comments: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he’s working on diplomatic efforts to save military forces that remain in the Azovstal plant. Speaking on Friday, he said Mariupol was one of the most complicated points of the war, and if Russian forces killed civilians inside, Ukraine would not be able to continue diplomatic talks.
  • Foreign aid: The UK announced Saturday it would send extra generators to help run Ukrainian relief centers and hospitals. It will also relax its rules on overseas fossil fuels, so the government can support Ukraine's energy and fuel needs, it said. US President Joe Biden also announced additional security assistance to Ukraine, with $150 million worth of equipment including artillery and radars.
  • Russia's "Victory Day": The mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv has urged citizens to “be aware” and stay inside Sunday into Monday, around Russia's symbolic annual "Victory Day." Western officials have warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on May 9, allowing him to step up his campaign and mobilize reserves.
  • G7 weekend summit: Biden will meet virtually with Zelensky and his G7 counterparts on Sunday morning during a meeting of the G7 forum, deliberately scheduled ahead of Russia's "Victory Day." Sanctions will be on the agenda for the meeting.
  • Grain stalled: The UN has called to reopen the Odesa port in southern Ukraine, to help ease a global food crisis. The blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports is preventing nearly 25 million tonnes of grain from being exported. CNN has also 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.