May 8, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes, Helen Regan and Brad Lendon, CNN

Updated 0528 GMT (1328 HKT) May 9, 2022
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2:35 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

Russian deputy prime minister visits Mariupol

From CNN's Tim Lister

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visited Mariupol Sunday, the most senior government official yet to set foot in the Ukrainian city after weeks of Russian bombardment.

On his Telegram channel, Khusnullin said "I visited the liberated territories of the DNR [Donetsk People's Republic] and LNR [Luhansk People's Republic]. I visited Mariupol, Volnovakha, Luhansk and other cities and chatted with the locals."

"In the regions, the restoration of peaceful life begins — a lot of work. We will help. In particular, it is necessary to carry out large-scale work to provide humanitarian assistance."

Video showed Khusnullin meeting with Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. 

In response, Petro Andrushenko, an adviser to the elected Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, said that Khusnullin had visited Mariupol's seaport.

"In addition to the banal looting, such visits are increasingly about attempts to integrate the occupied territories into Russia directly," Andrushenko said.

2:33 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

President Biden tweets photo of virtual meeting with G7 leaders and Zelensky

From CNN's DJ Judd

US President Joe Biden met virtually with G7 leaders on Sunday and tweeted a photo of the call.

 

With a close examination of the tweeted G7 photo, you can also make out Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the frame with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

In a joint statement earlier Sunday, members of the G7 confirmed Zelensky participated in Sunday’s call, while Trudeau’s office confirmed that the Canadian PM was meeting with Zelensky in Ukraine.

2:20 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

It's Sunday night in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

The Group of 7 Leaders (G7), including US President Joe Biden, met virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reassured him that they will continue to provide military and economic assistance "to help Ukraine secure its free and democratic future" and will increase financial aid "in the coming weeks," according to a G7 Leaders' statement of the meeting passed along by the White House. 

Zelensky, according to the statement, told the leaders that Ukraine will continue to protect itself and that his "ultimate aim" is a complete Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.  

The G7 also pledged to "step up" short-term financial aid to Ukraine in the weeks ahead, as well as continue to develop options for the country's long-term reconstruction. 

The 17-point statement also announces that all G7 countries agree to phase out Russian oil in a "timely and orderly fashion," and that Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion brings "shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people."

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • First Lady Jill Biden makes unannounced trip to Ukraine: US First Lady Jill Biden made an unannounced trip on Sunday to Uzhhorod, Ukraine, a small city in the far southwestern corner of Ukraine. At a converted school that now serves as temporary housing for displaced citizens, Biden met with Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska, who has not been seen in public since the start of the war on Feb. 24. The first lady is the latest high profile American to visit the war torn country in recent weeks. 
  • US State Department announces 2,000+ visa restrictions against Russian and Belarusian military officials: The US State Department on Sunday announced visa restrictions on more than 2,000 Russian and Belarusian military officials for violations related to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and a new visa restriction policy targeting Russian officials for human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law and corruption in Ukraine. The department also announced sanctions on eight Russian maritime-related companies, including the Russian Ministry of Defense’s shipping company for its involvement in Russia’s “illegal seizure and occupation of Ukraine,” and added 69 vessels to the US Treasury Department’s list of specially designated nationals and blocked persons.
  • Ukrainian military says new Russian efforts to break through several areas failed: Ukraine's armed forces say they have continued to resist efforts Sunday by Russian units to break through in several areas. The main Russian thrust has been south from the town of Izium in an effort to encircle Ukrainian troops defending parts of Luhansk region. The Ukrainian General Staff said the "enemy regrouped units and replenished supplies to increase the offensive," but an attempt to take new territory was repulsed. In an apparent indication of the Russian switch of focus, the Ukrainians said: "The occupiers are no longer conducting an active offensive in the Kharkiv direction." However, parts of the region continue to be shelled by Russian artillery, and there has been fighting further east, very close to the Russian border, where Ukrainian forces are trying to advance on Russian supply lines.
  • White House announces new sanctions by the US and its allies against Russia: President Biden and the leaders of the G7 met virtually with President Zelensky on Sunday and discussed further actions the US and its allies are taking to punish Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which include sanctions against Russia's three largest television channels and a commitment from every member of the G7 to phase out Russian oil imports, according to a senior administration official and a White House fact sheet. “This is already a failure for Putin, and we're going to continue to honor the brave fighting that's taking place by Ukraine's people and listen to President Zelensky and recommit to staying the course,” the senior official told reporters ahead of the President's meeting. 
  • Acting US ambassador and a group of US diplomats return to embassy in Kyiv for first time since war began: Acting US Ambassador to Ukraine Kristina Kvien and a group of US diplomats returned to the embassy in Kyiv on Sunday for the first time since the war began more than two months ago. The US embassy in the Ukrainian capital was shuttered in mid-February as concerns grew of Russian military action. A small group of US diplomats was relocated to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv before moving across the border to Poland and commuting back and forth into Ukraine. On Feb. 24 — the same day Russia’s military invasion began — the US suspended services in Lviv. In late April, during a visit to Kyiv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US would return diplomats to Ukraine. Diplomats had begun making day trips into Lviv following that announcement.
  • Canadian PM Trudeau is in Ukraine and will meet with President Zelensky: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has traveled to Ukraine and will meet with President Zelensky, according to Trudeau administration press secretary Cecely Roy. “The Prime Minister is in Ukraine to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm Canada’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people,” Roy told CNN in an email Sunday morning. The timing and location of the visit and meeting was not made available.
  • Ukrainian steel factory under constant shelling by Russians: The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol is under “constant intense shelling” by Russian forces trying to take the last remaining stronghold in the port city, according to the Azov brigade, who held an online news conference from a hideout location within the plant. The Russians are attacking with “artillery, tanks, mortars, infantry and snipers,” according to the soldiers. Azov soldier Illia Samoilenko said Russian troops have “reached a barrier in close proximity to Azov regiment positions.” The Ukrainian fighters’ supplies are “limited” but they still have enough water and ammunition to withstand the attack, he said. 
  • US ambassador to UN on Victory Day celebrations in Russia: "They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow": US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday that the Kremlin has "nothing to celebrate" on May 9, Russian Victory Day, and that reports of the Russian bombing of a Ukrainian school overnight can be added to the "long list" of war crimes. "They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow. They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians they've not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO," Thomas-Greenfield said on "State of the Union." 
  • UK foreign secretary “horrified” by Luhansk deadly school bombing: UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Sunday she was “horrified” by Russia’s bombing of a school in Luhansk, Ukraine, “resulting in the deaths of innocent people sheltering from Russian bombardment.” Truss tweeted: “Deliberate targeting of civilians & civilian infrastructure amounts to war crimes. We will ensure Putin’s regime is held accountable." Ukrainian authorities in Luhansk said on Sunday that 60 people were “most likely dead” after a Russian aircraft dropped a bomb on the school where civilians were sheltering on Saturday.
2:53 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

G7 leaders say they will continue to provide military and economic assistance to Ukraine after virtual meeting

From CNN's Sam Fossum

French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in a video-conference with G7 leaders about Ukraine at the Élysée Palace in Paris, on Sunday.
French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in a video-conference with G7 leaders about Ukraine at the Élysée Palace in Paris, on Sunday. (Thibault Camus/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

The Group of 7 Leaders (G7), including US President Joe Biden, met virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reassured him that they will continue to provide military and economic assistance "to help Ukraine secure its free and democratic future" and will increase financial aid "in the coming weeks," according to a G7 Leaders' statement of the meeting passed along by the White House. 

"To this end, we will pursue our ongoing military and defence assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, continue supporting Ukraine in defending its networks against cyber incidents, and expand our cooperation, including on information security. We will continue to support Ukraine in increasing its economic and energy security," the statement reads.  

Zelensky, according to the statement, told the leaders that Ukraine will continue to protect itself and that his "ultimate aim" is a complete Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.  

"[Zelensky] stated that Ukraine’s ultimate aim is to ensure full withdrawal of Russia’s military forces and equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine and to secure its ability to protect itself in the future and thanked G7 members for their support," the statement reads, continuing: "Ukraine remains committed to working closely with G7 members to support Ukraine’s macroeconomic stability in the face of the challenges posed by the full-scaled Russian invasion, massive destruction of critical infrastructure and disruption of traditional shipping routes for Ukrainian exports."

The G7 also pledged to "step up" short-term financial aid to Ukraine in the weeks ahead, as well as continue to develop options for the country's long-term reconstruction. 

"In the coming weeks, we will step up our collective short-term financial support to help Ukraine close financing gaps and deliver basic services to its people, while also developing options – working with the Ukrainian authorities and international financial institutions – to support long-term recovery and reconstruction," the statement reads. 

The seventeen point statement also announces that all G7 countries agree to phase out Russian oil in a "timely and orderly fashion," and that Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion brings "shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people."

1:44 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

US State Department announces 2,000+ visa restrictions against Russian and Belarusian military officials

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The US State Department on Sunday announced visa restrictions on more than 2,000 Russian and Belarusian military officials for violations related to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and a new visa restriction policy targeting Russian officials for human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law and corruption in Ukraine. 

The department also announced sanctions on eight Russian maritime-related companies, including the Russian Ministry of Defense’s shipping company for its involvement in Russia’s “illegal seizure and occupation of Ukraine,” and added 69 vessels to the US Treasury Department’s list of specially designated nationals and blocked persons.

It also sanctioned three Belarusian officials “for their involvement in a gross violation of human rights.”

According to a fact sheet from the State Department, they imposed “visa restrictions on 2,596 members of the Russian Federation military and 13 Belarusian military officials pursuant to a policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that applies to those who are believed to have supported, been actively complicit in, or been responsible for ordering or otherwise directing or authorizing actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine.”

The newly created visa restriction, announced in the fact sheet, “applies to Russian Federation military officials and Russia-backed or Russia-installed purported authorities who are believed to have been involved in human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law, or public corruption in Ukraine, including in the so-called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ or ‘Luhansk People’s Republic.’”

“Family members of those who fall under the policy will also be ineligible for visas,” it said.

10:46 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

Survivors of Russian strike on eastern Ukrainian school describe harrowing experience

From CNN's Mick Krever and Olha Konovalova in Bakhmut, Ukraine

A survivor of a Russian strike in eastern Ukrainian is seen at a hospital on Sunday.
A survivor of a Russian strike in eastern Ukrainian is seen at a hospital on Sunday. (Joe Sheffer/CNN)

Survivors of a Russian strike on Saturday that killed at least 60 people sheltering in an eastern Ukrainian school have described their harrowing experience in interviews with CNN.

“I got slammed down by a slab — bent into a ball,” said a man with a bandage across his nose and forehead, who preferred not to give his name out of privacy concerns. “Then another explosion, small rocks fell on us. Darkness.”

“There was a woman in our room screaming the whole time. She was pulled out and screaming the whole time. I told her, ‘don’t scream.’ We couldn’t hear a thing.”

 “They started digging,” he said. “I got out. I was like a drunk man – lost.”

Video of the school shared on Telegram by Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, show a building that was completely leveled by the attack.

Hayday said that of an estimated 90 people sheltering in the school, only 27 emerged from the Saturday afternoon attack alive.

Sergiy, a survivor of a Russian strike in eastern Ukrainian, is seen at a hospital on Sunday.
Sergiy, a survivor of a Russian strike in eastern Ukrainian, is seen at a hospital on Sunday. (Joe Sheffer/CNN)

Another survivor, Sergiy, said that he was in the school’s basement when the bomb hit, and that all three floors of the building collapsed “to the ground.”

“We didn’t understand anything,” explained Sergiy. “We were inside. All at once, everything fell down. Darkness. That’s it.”

Yevgen described a desperate escape.

“I was the very first one to start climbing out,” he said. “I was raking bricks and throwing them out. There were wooden planks and boards. Locals who weren’t in the basement helped and used a pipe to rip those boards off.”

The survivors said that among the neighbors they were sheltering with were several elderly grandparents. 

“Imagine what they bombed,” said Sergiy. “An ordinary village with only pensioners and children.”

 Watch Sam Kiley's report:

12:55 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

Blinken speaks to Kuleba about return of US diplomats to Kyiv and security assistance

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Sunday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba about the return of US diplomats to Kyiv and US security assistance to Ukraine.

According to a readout from State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Blinken informed Kuleba that US Charge d’Affaires Kristina Kvien “and a small group of diplomats, accompanied by State Department security, traveled to Kyiv to conduct diplomatic engagement in advance of the planned resumption of Embassy Kyiv operations, as the Secretary pledged to President Zelenskyy they would during his most recent visit to Kyiv.”

Blinken and Kuleba also discussed the new US security assistance to Ukraine, “including the ninth drawdown from US stocks authorized by President Biden and the expanded authorities that will be offered under the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022,” Price said.

12:53 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

Ukrainian military says new Russian efforts to break through several areas failed

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

Ukraine's armed forces say they have continued to resist efforts Sunday by Russian units to break through in several areas.

The main Russian thrust has been south from the town of Izium in an effort to encircle Ukrainian troops defending parts of Luhansk region. 

The Ukrainian General Staff said the "enemy regrouped units and replenished supplies to increase the offensive," but an attempt to take new territory was repulsed.

In an apparent indication of the Russian switch of focus, the Ukrainians said: "The occupiers are no longer conducting an active offensive in the Kharkiv direction."

However, parts of the region continue to be shelled by Russian artillery, and there has been fighting further east, very close to the Russian border, where Ukrainian forces are trying to advance on Russian supply lines.

In Luhansk, the general staff said that "the enemy is preparing to storm Severodonetsk and Lysychansk," two towns that the Russians have been shelling for weeks. In the same region, the Russians appear to have full control now of the town of Popasna, but have not made progress beyond that in the direction of Bakhmut to the west. 

In Mariupol, the general staff said, the intensity of hostilities had decreased.

One of the most active combat areas in recent days has been the Black Sea coast. Ukraine's Air Command South said Sunday it had downed a Russian cruise missile launched by a Russian Su-35 in the skies over the Black Sea.

1:54 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

White House announces new sanctions by the US and its allies against Russia

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Jasmine Wright

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, DC on May 4.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, DC on May 4. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden and the leaders of the G7 met virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday and discussed further actions the US and its allies are taking to punish Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which include sanctions against Russia's three largest television channels and a commitment from every member of the G7 to phase out Russian oil imports, according to a senior administration official and a White House fact sheet. 

“This is already a failure for Putin, and we're going to continue to honor the brave fighting that's taking place by Ukraine's people and listen to President Zelensky and recommit to staying the course,” the senior official told reporters ahead of the President's meeting. 

This official added that while the leaders today will “take stock of where we are," the call will also highlight how Russian President Vladimir Putin is "dishonoring" the sacrifices made by Soviet Russian citizens, millions of whom sacrificed their lives to defeat fascism during World War II.  

"Putin is dishonoring those sacrifices by spreading his lies, his disinformation about the barbarism he is committing in Ukraine ... It’s really a chance to speak the truth and demonstrate our continued unity," this official said of the call. 

The new sanctions unveiled by the US on Sunday will cut off Kremlin-controlled media outlets from US advertisers and production technology, ban Russia from using US-provided services like management or corporate consulting and accounting, as well as impose new export controls against the Russian industrial sector. Sunday's announcement also includes roughly 2,600 visa restrictions on Russian and Belarusian officials, and the first sanctions against executives of Gazprombank — the institution through which most of Europe buys Russian gas. 

“Taken together, today's actions are a continuation of the systematic and methodical removal of Russia from the global financial and economic system. And the message is there will be no safe haven for the Russian economy if Putin's invasion continues,” the senior administration official told reporters. 

Some more context: The raft of US and Western sanctions that have been imposed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 have pushed the Russian economy into a deep recession as it makes the difficult transition to becoming a closed-economy. 

The three television networks being sanctioned by the US today — Channel One Russia, Television Station Russia-1, and NTV Broadcasting Company — received more than $300 million in advertising revenue from Western countries just last year, according to the official. 

“We're not going to be in the business of helping them broadcast the lies and the deceit that you hear from Putin every day,” this official said. 

Not included in today’s services ban: legal services. The US, according to the senior official, has decided to continue to permit the seeking of “due process,” but that the government will continue to re-evaluate this “every day” and that they are waiting to see what happens following this initial service ban. The official noted that the United Kingdom also has not instituted such a ban. 

The official also made sure to note that the sanctions against Gazprombank executives are just that, actions against leaders of the important financial institution and not a full sanction against the bank itself, which Europeans must do business with to continue to purchase Russian gas. 

“This is not a full block. We're not freezing the assets of Gazprombank or prohibiting any transactions with Gazprombank. What we're signaling is that Gazprombank is not a safe haven. And so we're sanctioning some of the top business executives, they’re the people who sit at the top of the organization, to create a chilling effect,” this official said. 

The decision to restrict exports of industrial products to Russia is intended to hamper the Kremlin’s industrial capacity and war-making ability, similar to how Western restrictions on microchips are limiting Russia’s ability to make precision guided missiles, the senior official said. 

In addition to the export ban on Russian industrial services, the US also sanctioned Promtekhnologiya LLC which makes weapons, such as rifles, used by Russian forces in Ukraine, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will also no longer permit the export of uranium, plutonium or other nuclear-related products.

Correction: A previous version of this post said that the three television networks being sanctioned by the US today received more than $300 billion in advertising revenue from Western countries last year. The actual amount is $300 million. It has been corrected.