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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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.

12:01 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

US House Speaker on Ukraine supplemental: "I think we will be able to do it as quickly as possible"

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks at the Capitol Building on May 2, in Washington, DC.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks at the Capitol Building on May 2, in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are going to work as quickly as possible to pass the Ukraine supplemental that was requested by the Biden administration a few weeks ago. 

"I think we will be able to do it as quickly as possible. We have great bipartisanship in terms of our support for the fight for democracy that the people of Ukraine are making," she said in an interview on "Face the Nation" Sunday morning. 

More background: On April 28, President Biden asked Congress for a $33 billion supplemental funding bill aimed at supporting Ukraine over the next several months as Russia's brutal and unrelenting war enters a new phase.

In another significant request, Biden outlined a proposal that would further pressure Russian oligarchs over the war in Ukraine, including using money from their seized assets to fund Ukraine's defense.

The size and scope of the President's latest proposed package comes as his administration prepares to provide long-term support to Ukraine as Russia's invasion of the nation stretches into its third month.

The package is significantly larger than the other packages that have been put forward, and is more than twice as much as the $13.6 billion infusion of military and humanitarian aid that Congress approved last month.

11:46 a.m. ET, May 8, 2022

G7 virtual meeting has started, White House offical says 

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

US President Joe Biden's virtual meeting with leaders of the G7 and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has started, per a White House official. 

The meeting, deliberately taking place a day before Russia's annual Victory Day celebrations, will focus on the latest developments in Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, support for Ukraine and a demonstration of "continued G7 unity," in their collective response. 

Sanctions would also be on the agenda, an official told CNN. CNN has asked for more details on the exact timing.

11:31 a.m. ET, May 8, 2022

Acting US ambassador and a group of US diplomats return to embassy in Kyiv for first time since war began

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler

US diplomats return to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.
US diplomats return to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. (CNN)

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.

The visit by Kvien and other US diplomats to Kyiv comes of Victory in Europe Day — a day before Russia’s Victory Day — and on the same day that First Lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine.

12:05 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

Canadian PM Trudeau is in Ukraine and will meet with President Zelensky

From CNN’s Keith Allen in Atlanta

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Irpin, Ukraine, on Sunday, May 8.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Irpin, Ukraine, on Sunday, May 8. (Oleksandr Markushyn/Facebook)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has traveled to Ukraine and will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr 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.

 

12:08 p.m. ET, May 8, 2022

Ukrainian steel factory under constant shelling by Russians

From CNN's Anastasia Graham Yooll and Julia Kesaieva

Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday, May 7.
Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday, May 7. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

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. 

“We still have munition, we still have personal weapons and we will fight till the best resolution of this situation,” Samoilenko said.