May 7, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Christian Edwards, Maureen Chowdhury and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:04 a.m. ET, May 8, 2023
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8:10 a.m. ET, May 7, 2023

Russian authorities begin evacuations from Zaporizhzhia region amid "intensified shelling" by Ukraine

From CNN's Julia Kesa in Kyiv

A residential building stands damaged after night missile attacks on Friday, in Zaporizhzhia.
A residential building stands damaged after night missile attacks on Friday, in Zaporizhzhia. Elena Tita/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

A thousand people have been evacuated and placed in temporary accommodation from the frontline territories in the southern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia region, according to Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the Russia-appointed head of the local administration.

Balitskiy said in a statement that he had visited the temporary accommodation where the "first thousand" people have been accommodated, adding that "buses keep arriving, people are also getting here in their cars," in an update on Sunday.

The people who have been evacuated include children of primary school age.

Balitskiy claimed that the evacuees "have everything they need: food, a place to sleep, constant contact and consultation with specialists."

Russia controls much of the Zaporizhzhia region and it could be a target for Ukraine should it launch its heavily anticipated counteroffensive.

4:39 a.m. ET, May 7, 2023

Russian authorities in Crimea say they fended off drone attacks from Ukraine

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Russian-appointed authorities in the annexed region of Crimea reported Sunday that their air defense units and electronic war fare units fended off at least three Ukrainian drone attacks on Sevastopol.

Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev said that "more than ten drones" were sent to Crimea and Sevastopol overnight, he said in a statement on Telegram.

"The air defense forces and electronic warfare units prevented another attack on Sevastopol," he added.

Razvozhaev said that one of the drones lost control and crashed into a forest. The wreckage was recovered by personnel from the Interior Ministry and Emergency Ministry.

Two others were shot down over the sea, Razvozhaev said, adding there was no damage to any structures in the city.

Some background: Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Ukraine has been harassing Russian forces in the region, with the recapture of Crimea the country's ultimate goal.

Last weekend a suspected drone strike sparked a huge fire at a fuel storage facility in Sevastopol.

7:11 a.m. ET, May 7, 2023

Wagner boss says he will transfer Bakhmut positions to Chechen leader’s forces 

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Darya Tarasova

Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov attends a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at the Chechen capital Grozny, in Russia on May 9, 2022.
Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov attends a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at the Chechen capital Grozny, in Russia on May 9, 2022. Chingis Kondarov/Reuters

The head of the private Russian military company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed he would hand over his group's positions in frontline Bakhmut to the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s forces on May 10.

"I thank Ramzan Akhmatovich for agreeing to take our positions in Bakhmut and having, most likely, the opportunity to obtain everything necessary and all the needed resources. I am already contacting his representatives in order to start transferring positions immediately, so that on May 10, at 00.00, exactly at the moment when, according to our calculations, we will completely exhaust our combat potential, our comrades will take our places and continue the assault of Bakhmut," Prigozhin said on Telegram Saturday. 

It was not immediately clear how serious Prigozhin, who often speaks sarcastically, is about the transfer to Kadyrov.

About Kadyrov: Notorious Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and leads sizable paramilitary forces that — while formally a part of Russian security structures — have personal loyalty to him.

Kadyrov has been accused by international and independent observers of gross human rights violations.

The Chechen leader said online Friday that he will be happy to take over "older brother" Prigozhin’s positions if Wagner decides to leave Bakhmut, and he reiterated that claim in another post Saturday.

"The fighters are on alert; we are only waiting for the order," Kadyrov said in a video message. "We have already begun to develop our strategy of action in this area together with the Russian Ministry of Defense, taking into account the enemy's tactics and the resources at our disposal. And believe me, the tactics will yield positive results."

What Prigozhin has said about the withdrawal: Prigozhin said Friday that Wagner will leave the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, citing a lack of ammunition supplies that Prigozhin blames on Russia's military command. 

He also claimed that "a little more than two square kilometers" (less than 1 square mile) in Bakhmut remain to be taken by Russian fighters.

Ukraine said earlier Saturday that Russian troops have not made any breakthrough in Bakhmut, waving off Prigozhin's ammunition shortage claims as a "bluff."

6:08 a.m. ET, May 7, 2023

Russia's military bloggers: Recent blasts call attention to unique role of nationalist writers

From CNN staff

A car explosion wounded a Russian military blogger and left his driver dead Saturday, according to state media. It marked the second recent blast involving one of the country's nationalist writers, drawing further attention to the role they play in Moscow's propaganda machine.

The blogger wounded Saturday is Zakhar Prilepin, a former member of the State Duma whose Telegram channel has more than 300,000 subscribers. Last month, another military blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky, was killed in an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg.

Writers like Prilepin and Tatarsky are just two examples of prominent voices in the murky world of Russia's "milbloggers."

Offering a rare critique: Unlike Russian state media, many of the most influential military bloggers have not shied away from criticizing Moscow for its battlefield defeats. That includes its retreat from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, which Prilepin called a "catastrophe" in a commentary last September. More recently, bloggers have criticized the stalling, drawn-out fight for Bakhmut.

Such commentary is especially rare since Russia forced the closing of any remaining independent media shortly after invading Ukraine in February 2022.

Pro-Kremlin commentators, who are sometimes called "voenkory" for “war correspondents," have filled some of this information vacuum.

"Military bloggers in Russia today provide a very cloudy service but a service nonetheless. They are really the only ones who are monitoring what’s happening on the front line," Candace Rondeaux, the director of the Future Frontlines program at the New America foundation, told CNN.

Uniquely well-sourced: Many of the bloggers have deep sources within the military, the Wagner mercenary group or among pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, which gives them unparalleled access to information.

Tatarsky himself was born in Ukraine, reportedly fought with Russian separatists in the Donbas and had close ties to Wagner.

"Obviously, they have a very biased view of the war. But they are critical to understanding what’s happening at least on one side of the flux," Rondeaux said.

Read more about the Russian "milbloggers" here.

8:16 a.m. ET, May 7, 2023

Moscow blames Kyiv and Western nations for military blogger bombing, without providing evidence

From CNN's Mariya Knight

A damaged car overturned after Russian nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin was allegedly wounded in a bomb attack in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Saturday.
A damaged car overturned after Russian nationalist writer Zakhar Prilepin was allegedly wounded in a bomb attack in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Saturday. Anastasia Makarycheva/Reuters

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson blamed Ukraine, the United States and the United Kingdom for the bombing of military blogger Zakhar Prilepin’s car in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on Saturday.

The ministry provided no proof for its allegations.

Russian pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia reported that Prilepin had surgery on Saturday and is at the hospital in stable condition. His driver was killed in the blast.

The Security Service of Ukraine, responding to online outlet Ukrainian Pravda, said of the incident: "Officially, we can neither confirm nor deny the involvement of the Security Service in this or that explosion that happens to the occupiers and their accomplices."

Russia blamed Ukraine for the death of another Russian military blogger in an attack last month at a St. Petersburg cafe. Kyiv denied any involvement.

The Russian Investigative Committee called the latest incident "a terrorist act" and said it plans to investigate the blast as such.  

The committee also reported a suspect in the car bombing has been detained, claiming that during interrogation, he testified "that he acted on the instructions of the Ukrainian special services." 

The suspect "planted an explosive device on the road along the route of Zakhar Prilepin's car, which he set off remotely," the committee alleged. "After that, he fled the scene, but was detained by law enforcement officers when he left the forest in another settlement."  

The committee published what it claimed was a video confession of the suspect, but it was not clear under what circumstances he was interviewed and whether he was under duress in the video. 

The UK's foreign office declined to comment when contacted by CNN. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.