May 9, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Andrew Raine, Tara John, Ben Church, Aditi Sangal, Laura Smith-Spark and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 0408 GMT (1208 HKT) May 10, 2022
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10:44 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

Ukrainians are fighting back in Luhansk region after Russian units cross key river, official says

From CNN's Tim Lister, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Anastasia Graham Yooll

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says that Russian forces are trying to develop their offensive in the Luhansk region with "continuous attempts" to cross the Siverskyi Donets river near Belahorivka.

Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said the Russians had built three pontoon crossings across the river and were supporting ground troops with artillery and aircraft.

He said the Russians were aiming to cut off Lysychansk, a town on the frontlines some ten miles (about 16 kilometers) from one of the pontoon bridges identified on satellite imagery.

If successful, the Russian advance might be able to cut Ukrainian supply lines to the defenders of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.

But images reviewed by CNN indicate that at least one pontoon bridge has already been destroyed, with ruined tanks and other equipment half-submerged in the river.

"Our troops are clearing the territory of Belohorivka, where the occupiers crossed the river by pontoon crossing," Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk military administration, said.

"After the clean-up of Belohorivka, evacuation will resume," he added, saying rescuers would be able to clear the rubble of the school building that was hit on Saturday by a bomb dropped by a Russian aircraft, killing dozens of people taking refuge in the school.

It's unclear whether the Ukrainians retain control of Belohorivka. 

Hayday said that in Popasna —to the south — "our defenders keep the defense in new fortified positions, there are no breakthroughs. Soon the situation must change in our favor."

More context: Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm about a Russian pontoon bridge that was erected a few days ago and may now enable Russian forces to threaten Ukrainian defenses and supply routes in the Luhansk region.

Hayday said earlier Monday that the Russians were trying to take away "the road of life," which connects the front lines in the east around Severodonetsk with the town of Bakhmut, an important rear base.

CNN had confirmed satellite imagery showing a pontoon bridge across the Siverskyi Donets on Sunday. There had been no such bridge on May 3.

The location of the bridge is less than two miles (about 3 kilometers) from the village of Bilohorivka, which was bombed by Russian aircraft on Saturday.

CNN's Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed reporting to this post.

9:36 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

EU sanctions discussions still ongoing due to Hungarian opposition 

From CNN's Clare Sebastian and Radina Gigova in London

The receiver station of the Druzhba pipeline of petroleum between Hungary and Russia at the Duna (Danube) Refinery of Hungarian MOL Company located near the town of Szazhalombatta, south of Budapest, Hungary, on May 5.
The receiver station of the Druzhba pipeline of petroleum between Hungary and Russia at the Duna (Danube) Refinery of Hungarian MOL Company located near the town of Szazhalombatta, south of Budapest, Hungary, on May 5. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Discussions on the proposed sixth round of European Union sanctions are ongoing as Hungary threatened it won't vote for the package "until there is a solution to Hungary's energy security," EU spokesperson Daniel Ferrie said Monday.

Hungary "will not vote for another Brussels sanctions package until there is a solution to Hungary's energy security," Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs said Sunday, quoting prime Minister Péter Szijjártó, and adding, "we Hungarians are interested in peace as soon as possible."

Also on Sunday, Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said in an interview on Bulgaria's National Television (BNT) that Bulgaria will not support the European Union's new set of sanctions against Russia if his country doesn't get a derogation from the proposed ban on buying Russian oil, like other countries have requested. 

Vassilev said there is an agreement on most points of the sanctions draft, except when it comes sanctions on Russian oil. He said several countries, including Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, still have issues with the proposed latest sanctions on Russian oil.

10:07 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

Vladimir Putin took part in "Immortal Regiment" walk on Victory Day

From CNN's Katharina Krebs, Simon Bouvier and Dalal Mawad

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other participants carry portraits of their relatives - WWII soldiers - as they take part in the Immortal Regiment march on Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other participants carry portraits of their relatives - WWII soldiers - as they take part in the Immortal Regiment march on Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin joined the "Immortal Regiment" procession on Red Square in Moscow, holding a portrait of his father, a front-line soldier, the Kremlin said in a statement on Monday. 

On May 9, as part of the "Immortal Regiment" campaign, people march in cities of Russia and abroad with portraits of relatives who participated in the Great Patriotic War.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday the differences in how Russia and the European Union have chosen to mark the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat shows they are “very different projects.”

“We have shown two very different faces of May 9th,” Macron said at a news conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday.

“On one side, there was a will to make a show of force, to intimidate and bellicose rhetoric. And here, there was a broad and civic gathering of citizens, of national and European representatives, to think about our future,” he continued.

Asked by a journalist if Putin’s stated desire to avoid confrontation was hypocritical, Macron replied that: “President Putin has taken a bellicose stance; we are clearly on the side of Ukraine,” but warned that there would be “a peace to build tomorrow” and that “it will not be achieved by excluding one another or through humiliation.”

Earlier, President Macron delivered a speech to the European Parliament, in which he said that "Ukraine, through its fight and its courage, is already today a heartfelt member of our Europe, of our family, of our union," while warning that any formal Ukrainian accession to the EU could take decades.

More on Russia's Victory Day: Global leaders and defense officials had spent weeks speculating about what Putin might reveal about his Ukraine plans in a speech at Russia's Victory Day commemorations. The leader offered few clues on the direction of the conflict.

The Russian president used his speech to blend history with the present, banking on Russian nationalism on its most patriotic of holidays to justify his war.

CNN's Angela Dewan contributed reporting to this post.

8:49 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

Separatist leader plans to make Mariupol a "resort town"

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin attends a ceremony, marking the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 9.
Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin attends a ceremony, marking the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 9. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The head of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, has said that he plans to make Mariupol into a resort town.

"Russia is here forever, and you are finally home. Now this is the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic forever. No one will take it away from us," Pushilin said after attending events to mark Victory Day.

"We have strength, we have opportunities, we have the support of the biggest beautiful country — Russia," Pushilin told Mariupol residents according to the Russian state news agency TASS. "The task is to make Mariupol a resort city, which has not been possible to do before."

Pushilin said the Azovstal steel plant, where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers remain, had "negatively affected the ecology of the city."

"If Azovstal is not restored, then we will make a resort town," Pushilin said, explaining it would create additional jobs and bring income to the city.

Pushilin said the DPR is "faced with the task of regaining control over its territories, and then the republic will decide on its future."

"As soon as we reach the constitutional borders of the Donetsk People's Republic, these are the borders of the former Donetsk region, we will make the decision ... Now the main task is to liberate all of our lands, to start rebuilding cities," he added.

On Feb. 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow recognized the sovereignty of the DPR and the Luhansk People's Republic.

9:06 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know about Russia's Victory Day and fighting in Ukraine.

Veterans watch the Victory Day military parade on Dvortsovaya Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on May 9.
Veterans watch the Victory Day military parade on Dvortsovaya Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on May 9. (Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)

During a speech commemorating Russia's defeat of Nazi Germany at the end of World War Two, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his baseless accusation that the West left him no choice but to invade Ukraine. Planned Victory Day air shows across Russia were canceled, raising questions as to why.

The speech provided little detail on how Russia planned to proceed in Ukraine. It followed days of speculation that the Russian leader would use the event to formally declare war on Ukraine, or order a mass mobilization of Russian forces to prosecute a war that has now stretched into its third month, with heavy Russian losses.

Here are some of the latest developments:

  • Russia's muted Victory Day parade: Defense analysts noted a low-key parade, which saw thousands of troops assemble outside the Kremlin in the Red Square and the expected air portion of the annual event canceled due to weather. Putin said among the reasons for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was that the NATO alliance was surrounding Russia. UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace hit back at his claims, saying NATO only accounts for 6% of Russia's land border. "That’s not being surrounded if only 6% of your land border is NATO countries," Wallace said. "I think he is believing what he wants to believe – a slight shine of desperation,” Wallace added of Putin.
  • Modest celebrations in occupied areas: There were small pro-Russian celebrations in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, including Kherson, according to Russian state media. The head of the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic laid wreaths and in the southeastern city of Mariupol, flowers were laid at a memorial recently refurbished by Russian-backed separatists, according to Ukrainian officials.
  • Russian ambassador to Poland doused with red paint: Sergei Andreev was covered in red paint while trying to lay a wreath at the cemetery of Soviet soldiers in Warsaw, according to Russian state media. Andreev later said that he was not injured.
  • Russian pontoon bridge could threaten Ukraine's supply routes: Ukrainian officials raised the alarm about a Russian pontoon bridge across the Siversky Donets river, which was erected a few days ago and could enable Russian forces to threaten Ukrainian defenses and supply routes in the Luhansk region. "If they consolidate, they will be able to develop an offensive and get closer to the road, cutting off (the) Luhansk region. This will mean the loss of the single path to security, and connection with other regions," Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said Monday.
  • Russia bombards Odesa region: Four Onyx cruise missiles were fired by Russian forces at the Odesa region in southern Ukraine, a Ukrainian regional official said, as the Black Sea coast sees a significant uptick in missile attacks by Russia.
  • Ukrainian counterattack in Kharkiv unfolds: The Ukrainian military says that Russia is holding back some of its forces within its borders to prevent a Ukrainian counterattack that has made some headway east of Kharkiv. Inside Ukraine, the general staff says the most intense activity is in Donetsk region, where Russian forces are trying to advance towards the town of Lyman, a major transport hub.
  • Rebuild Ukraine with Russian foreign exchange reserves, says top diplomat: The European Union should consider using billions of dollars’ worth of Russian foreign exchange reserves to rebuild Ukraine after the war, the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in an interview with the Financial Times on Monday. 
  • Dozens feared dead after bomb hits school sheltering Ukrainians: Ukraine has accused Russia of dropping a bomb on a school in the Luhansk region. Ninety people were said to be sheltering in the school; 60 are feared dead.

11:17 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

Russian Ambassador to Poland doused with red paint at Warsaw cemetery

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Russia's ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev is covered in red substance thrown by protesters as he came to celebrate Victory day at the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, on May 9.
Russia's ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev is covered in red substance thrown by protesters as he came to celebrate Victory day at the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, on May 9. (Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Wyborcza.pl/Reuters)

Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergei Andreev was doused with red paint while trying to lay a wreath at the cemetery of Soviet soldiers in Warsaw, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported on Monday.

According to RIA Novosti, Poles and Ukrainians blocked the diplomat's path. Andreev was accompanied by police out of the cemetery. He later said that he was not injured.

“We still need to figure it out. Maybe just a scratch, but neither I nor the team were seriously injured,” Andreev said, as cited by RIA Novosti.

Referencing the incident, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged via Telegram that "fans of neo-Nazism have once again showed their face - and it is bloody."

“The demolition of monuments to the heroes of the Second World War, the desecration of graves, and now the disruption of the flower-laying ceremony on a holy day, celebrated by every decent person, proves the obvious - the West has set a course for the reincarnation of fascism,” she said.

The Russian Embassy in Poland said it would protest against the attack on the ambassador.

"We will make a formal protest, although I believe that the authorities were notified of our plans. When they did not recommend us to hold a wider event we met them halfway and did not aggravate. All that was left is to ensure elementary order, it would seem," said Andreev, as cited by RIA Novosti.

See the moment the Russian Ambassador to Poland was doused with red paint here:

8:17 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

Ukrainian officials alarmed by Russians crossing major river in the east

From CNN's Tim Lister and Gianluca Mezzofiore

Ukrainian servicemen are seen in the trenches as fighting against Russian troops continues near to Cherkaske in eastern Ukraine, on May 3.
Ukrainian servicemen are seen in the trenches as fighting against Russian troops continues near to Cherkaske in eastern Ukraine, on May 3. (Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm about a Russian pontoon bridge that was erected a few days ago and may now enable Russian forces to threaten Ukrainian defenses and supply routes in the Luhansk region.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said Monday that the Russians were trying to take away "the road of life," which connects the front lines in the east around Severodonetsk with the town of Bakhmut, an important rear base.

"The Russians transported equipment to the other shore via a pontoon across the Siversky Donets river," Hayday said.

"If they consolidate, they will be able to develop an offensive and get closer to the road, cutting off Luhansk region.
"This will mean the loss of the single path to security, and connection with other regions."

CNN has confirmed satellite imagery showing a pontoon bridge across the Siversky Donets on Sunday. There had been no such bridge on May 3.

The location of the bridge is less than two miles from the village of Bilohorivka, which was bombed by Russian aircraft on Saturday.

The school in the village, where 90 people were taking shelter, was hit and about sixty people are thought to have been killed.

Rescue efforts have since been hampered by continued shelling.

It now appears that the bombardment was to prepare for an attempted ground advance by Russian forces.

It's unknown how far Russian forces have progressed if they have crossed the river.

8:13 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

Russia's Victory Day air shows canceled across the country, raising eyebrows

From CNN's Brad Lendon and Sarah Dean

MiG-29 jet fighters of the Strizhi Swifts and Su-30SM jet fighters of the Russkiye Vityazi, Russian Knights, aerobatic teams take part in a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 7.
MiG-29 jet fighters of the Strizhi Swifts and Su-30SM jet fighters of the Russkiye Vityazi, Russian Knights, aerobatic teams take part in a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 7. (Bai Xueqi/Xinhua/Getty Images)

Planned Victory Day air shows were canceled in locations across Russia, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Russian state news agency TASS reported Monday. 

The decision raised eyebrows among foreign military analysts watching Moscow's Victory Day parade on Monday. The parade had been expected to feature 77 aircraft flying over the capital's Red Square, including eight MiG-29 fighters flying in a “Z” formation to show support for Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow's air show was canceled due to weather conditions, according to state news agency RIA Novosti. Aviation shows were also canceled in Samara, Kaliningrad, and Murmansk, TASS wrote. 

Sounds unbelievable. It seemed sunny on what I saw. The only excuse would be strong crosswinds at the air bases the aircraft were coming from," Peter Layton, a fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in Australia and former Australian air force officer, told CNN.

During the parade in Moscow, winds were sustained at around 15 mph, with gusts reported at around 30 mph at 11 a.m. local time. The cloud cover was also increasing throughout the morning with mostly cloudy skies during the parade, according to CNN Meteorologist Monica Garrett.

Light rain was reported after 12:30 p.m. local.

The only air parade scheduled in Russia's south, which was due to be held in the city of Rostov-on-Don, did not take place, TASS said, citing the press service of the Southern Military District.

8:05 a.m. ET, May 9, 2022

Jill Biden met with Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova, says the White House

From CNN's Kate Bennett

US First Lady Jill Biden, left, and Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, right, pose for a photo prior talks inside the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, Slovakia, on May 9.
US First Lady Jill Biden, left, and Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, right, pose for a photo prior talks inside the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, Slovakia, on May 9. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/AFP/Getty Images)

United States first lady Jill Biden met with the President of Slovakia Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava on Monday.

The two discussed the US's continued support of Ukraine, with Biden expressing gratitude for the way Slovakia has welcomed refugees, according to a White House official.

Upon arrival at the Great Hall palace reception room, Biden first signed a guest book with this message:

During my time in this beautiful country, I have seen firsthand the shared values that united Slovakia and the United States as friends, partners, and allies. This includes our common devotion to helping those most in need. We stand with Slovakia as it stands with the people of Ukraine.”

Biden, who made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Mother's Day, told the media she had spoken to US President Joe Biden afterward. 

“I said just how much I saw the need to support the people of Ukraine and … the horrors and the brutality that the people I had met had experienced,” said Biden of their conversation.

Following her departure from the palace, Biden traveled to the airport for the flight back to Washington, ending her four-day European trip.