There are no plans for Biden to travel to Ukraine, despite the first lady's visit, White House says
From CNN's DJ Judd
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday there remains no plans for President Joe Biden to travel to Ukraine, even following first lady Jill Biden’s trip to the country over the weekend.
“Their travel is a little bit different, I think you all know from traveling with the President, but there's not a trip currently planned,” Psaki told reporters, adding Biden would “love to go to Ukraine, I just don’t have anything planned or anything to preview at this point.”
The first lady, Psaki told CNN’s MJ Lee, “would not have gone if we did not feel comfortable with the security arrangements,” guaranteeing her safety, and traveled to the region “because she wanted to go on Mother's Day, because she was thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that the war has to stop, that the war has been brutal, and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”
First Lady Jill Biden made an unannounced trip to Uzhhorod, Ukraine Sunday, where she met with Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska and pledged her support for the nation in their fight against Russia.
“She's been back now, and she's had an opportunity to speak with the President and has conveyed — she said this publicly — directly to him what she saw on the ground, the need to support the people of Ukraine,” Psaki told Lee. “She saw the horrors and the brutality that the people she met had experienced, and I, you know, that was something she conveyed directly to him.”
4:10 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
Putin's Victory Day remarks blaming NATO for war with Ukraine are "patently false and absurd," White House says
From CNN's DJ Judd
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that remarks from Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual Victory Day address in Moscow alleging NATO was “creating threats next to our border,” are “patently false and absurd.”
“What we saw President Putin do is give a version of revisionist history that took the form of disinformation that we have seen too commonly as the Russian playbook,” Psaki told reporters at Monday’s White House press briefing. “Now, what is fortunate is that we are all aware, reporters around the world are aware, Europeans are aware, Americans are aware, of the disinformation factory that President Putin and the Kremlin seem to be, but the suggestion that this war that was prompted by, directed by President Putin, was prompted by Western aggression or Western plans is patently false and absurd.”
In his Victory Address Monday, Putin said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was necessary as the West was "preparing for the invasion of our land."
"NATO countries did not want to hear us," Putin said, adding, "they had very different plans and we could see that."
In a follow up, Psaki told CNN’s MJ Lee that, following Putin’s speech Monday, officials are monitoring “what we're seeing on the ground,” adding, “if we go back to mid-February, when President Putin was giving speeches, basically declaring he was going to subsume Ukraine, take over the country, the territorial integrity of the country, and go beyond that is that is exactly not what's happening today.”
“President Putin and the Russians are not marching through Kyiv, they are struggling to fight in other parts of the country, and the Ukrainians are bravely and courageously fighting every day,” she told Lee. “So, we look at what's happening on the ground, though it is important to note and to call out the revisionist history that we saw in the speech and the fact that any such statements that we saw, we've seen for months from President Putin, that the war was prompted by the West is just patently false and inaccurate, and we can't state that too often.”
4:08 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
US remains concerned Russia could annex Donetsk and Luhansk regions, State Department says
From CNN's Christian Sierra, Jennifer Hansler and Michael Conte
The United States remains concerned that Russia could annex the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and hold a sham referendum there, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday.
“It is a Russian playbook that we have, that we have seen turn to time and again, in Crimea, in eastern Ukraine. This is what Russian authorities and proto authorities have done in the past. They have sought to annex, they have sought to conduct sham elections to give their occupation this patina of legitimacy, and our concern remains that they will attempt to do so once again in territory in eastern Ukraine,” he said at a State Department briefing.
The US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said last week that the US has “highly credible” intelligence reports that Russia will try to annex the separatist-occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk “some time in mid-May,” and that there are plans to create a similarly so-called “people’s republic” in Kherson to be annexed as well.
Price said Monday that “timeline wise, nothing has changed.”
“We're continuing to watch very closely,” he said, noting that the US made this information public so that “the world is keyed in" to what is happening.
4:43 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
Biden signs bill to swiftly send US military aid to Ukraine and blames Russia for "wanton destruction"
“I’m signing a bill that provides another important tool in our efforts to support the Government of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in their fight to defend their country and their democracy against Putin’s brutal war, and it is brutal,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “I want thank members of Congress here for getting this passed and everyone who supported the bill —and the bill demonstrates the support for Ukraine is pivotal moment at this moment.”
The US House of Representatives passed legislation late April that would allow Biden to use a World War II-era law, known as the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, to swiftly supply weapons to Ukraine on loan. That law was originally created to help forces fighting Nazi Germany and reflects the urgency in Congress to support the Ukrainian armed forces.
Before signing the bill, Biden also blasted the “wanton destruction" of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, telling reporters, “the atrocities that the Russians are engaged in are just beyond the pale and the cost of the fight is not cheap, but caving into aggression is even more costly."
He recognized Victory in Europe Day, celebrated on May 8, which he said marked “the end of the transition of the devastation of World War II, when Allied Nations defeated the scourge of fascism in Europe.”
And he marked the anniversary today of the Schuman Declaration, where he said, “Europe began to work to strengthen the bonds of unity among nations, particularly economic unity, and the shared economic prosperity.”
“The idea ultimately grew into what is now the 27-nation European Union—an economic powerhouse and a global force for peace, close partners on all the issues we face. And it really has, I’ve said from the very beginning, is something that is good for everyone. It brings these countries together in ways that, when they cooperate closely economically, they also cooperate in other ways, and you’re seeing it in the support for Ukraine,” he said.
Biden then signed the bill into law and presented the signing pen to Rep. Spartz.
3:43 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
Ukrainian soldiers still holding out at Azovstal
From CNN's Julia Presniakova
Ukrainian soldiers continue to hold out in the Azovstal steel plant.
According to the State Border Guard Service, some of its troops remain at the plant, and "together with their comrades continue to defend the country.'
The head of the Donetsk border detachment, Valerii Padytel, who is inside the plant, said "Mariupol's defense forces continue to defend the hero city. Border guards of the Donetsk Border Detachment, the Marine Guard Detachment, brothers of the National Police and the National Guard continue to perform their duties."
"Yes, we are in a very difficult superhuman environment. But at the same time we continue to defend our land," Padytel said.
"We know that we have not been forgotten," Padytel added.
There are thought to be several hundred soldiers still at Azovstal as well as an unknown number of male civilians.
3:32 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
Cultural landmarks in Ukraine destroyed as Russian invasion continues
From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv
Last Friday, the historic home of Ukraine's treasured poet and philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda was destroyed by a Russian artillery strike, along with a museum of his work.
Skovoroda's home was in a tiny village not far from Kharkiv — nowhere near any obvious military targets such as a railway or ammunition depot. The attack appears to have been a deliberate act of cultural vandalism, and not the first since the Russian invasion began in February.
Skovoroda was a leading figure in Ukraine's cultural renaissance in the 18th century; this year is the 300th anniversary of his birth.
In a video address on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack against the home of a man "who taught people what a true Christian attitude to life is and how a person can know himself."
"It seems this is a terrible danger for modern Russia: museums, the Christian attitude to life and people's self-knowledge," Zelensky said.
Zelensky reprised the theme when marking Victory Day, quoting Skovoroda's words in another public message on Monday: "There is nothing more dangerous than an insidious enemy but there is nothing more poisonous than a feigned friend."
Skovoroda's legacy has become symbolic of what Zelensky and other Ukrainians call the struggle between two world views — those of individual freedoms and democracy against a new authoritarianism driven by prejudice.
The governor of Kharkiv, Oleh Synyehubov, said in a post on Telegram: "The occupiers can destroy the museum where Hryhoriy Skovoroda worked for the last years of his life and where he was buried. But they will not destroy our memory and our values!"
While many volunteers and workers within Ukraine's cultural sector rushed to protect institutions and monuments throughout the country during the onset of the war, churches, museums, statues and art collections have suffered damage.
Zelensky said in his Saturday address that Russian forces have destroyed nearly 200 heritage sites since the beginning of the invasion.
Whether most of these have been deliberately targeted is open to debate but given Vladimir Putin's dismissive view of Ukrainian culture it would hardly be surprising.
There have certainly been acts of cultural hooliganism in areas occupied by the Russians. A statue of another prominent Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko, in the town of Borodianka outside Kyiv, was shot at several times and badly damaged. The town was occupied by Russian and Chechen troops for weeks.
Shevchenko's poem "The Dream, " which satirized Russia's oppression of Ukraine, was regarded as subversive and led him to be banished from Ukraine by Tsar Nicholas I in 1847, "under the strictest surveillance, without the liberty to write or paint," as Nicholas demanded.
Shevchenko is widely regarded as the founder of the modern written Ukrainian language. His outlook would have been at odds with Vladimir Putin's view — as he put it in Februar — that "modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, communist Russia."
Not far from Borodianka, a museum containing two-dozen works of the late Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko was struck and burned down in March. The extent of damage to her artworks remains unclear with a representative from the Maria Prymachenko Family Foundation alleging that the works were rescued. Prymachenko's vivid paintings were admired by Pablo Picasso who once called her an "artistic miracle," after visiting a show of her work in Paris in 1936.
A number of Ukrainian churches have been destroyed, too — many of them nowhere near any military target. Just outside Kyiv an 18th century wooden church in Lukyanivka was destroyed — one of many properties in the area razed to the ground as Russian forces withdrew from around Kyiv in April.
CNN's Olga Voitovych and Kostan Nechyporenko contributed to this report.
2:40 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
Pentagon has seen "indications" Russians are moving Ukrainians into Russia "against their will"
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
The US Department of Defense has "seen indications" that Russians are moving Ukrainians into Russia "against their will," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday.
When asked about Ukrainian government statements that 1.2 million Ukrainians have now been deported to Russia and are being held in campus, Kirby responded "we certainly have seen indications that Ukrainians are being moved from Ukraine into Russia."
Kirby could not speak to the total number of Ukrainians moved, how many camps there are or what they look like, but said, "we do have indications that Ukrainians are being taken against their will into Russia.
Kirby called the action "unconscionable," and "not the behavior of a responsible power."
4:05 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
$100 million left in Presidential Drawdown Authority funding, Pentagon spokesperson says
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
There is about "$100 million left" in Presidential Drawdown Authority funding, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday.
Combined with the $150 million Presidential Drawdown Authority package announced Friday and the $100 million left, the US can continue providing military assistance to Ukraine through this funding stream until "about the third week of this month," Kirby said.
"We believe that between what the President just announced Friday and the $100 million that we still have left, and we’re going to be working that in real-time with the Ukrainians, that that will get us to about the third week of this month, is pretty much what we’re anticipating," Kirby said.
The Biden administration has asked Congress to pass a $33 billion supplemental aid package to continue providing humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine.
"We think with what we’ve got left, that’ll get us through most of this month, that’ll get us through future packages and future material but that’s why we’re urging Congress to act quickly," Kirby said.
2:14 p.m. ET, May 9, 2022
US will temporarily lift Trump-era steel tariffs on Ukraine
From CNN's Sam Fossum
The US will temporarily lift Trump-era tariffs on Ukrainian steel for a period of one year in a move aimed at helping the Ukrainian economy and sending a message of support as the country continues to resist Russia's ongoing invasion.
"For steel mills to continue as an economic lifeline for the people of Ukraine, they must be able to export their steel. Today’s announcement is a signal to the Ukrainian people that we are committed to helping them thrive in the face of Putin’s aggression, and that their work will create a stronger Ukraine, both today and in the future," US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a written statement.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal asked the US to lift these tariffs during his meetings at the White House back in April, and some members of Congress have also been urging the administration to lift US tariffs on Ukrainian steel.
The move appears to be mostly symbolic. While Ukraine is a major global exporter of steel, the US only imported 130,649 metric tons of steel in 2021, according to the International Trade Administration.
The decision by the Commerce Department comes one day after the US unveiled another round of punitive sanctions and export controls against Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and G7 leaders held a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Back in 2018, then-President Trump's administration imposed the 25% tariffs on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum in a bid to support those industries, although the move at the time was also rebuked by US manufacturers of steel and aluminum made products, saying it would cost jobs and increase consumer prices.
Since US President Joe Biden took office last year, his administration has been methodically rolling back some tariffs imposed under the Trump administration as they try to strengthen US ties with its allies. The US has reached negotiated agreements in the last year with both Japan and the European Union on reducing steel tariffs.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins contributed reporting to this post.