May 9, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2023. Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Here's what was different about Russia's Victory Day parade this year
02:27 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • Russia scaled back its annual Victory Day celebrations due to security concerns related to the war in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin spoke briefly in Moscow’s Red Square where only one tank was on display during a toned-down parade.
  • Explosions rang out over Kyiv on Tuesday morning as Ukrainian air defenses intercepted cruise missiles fired by Russia, officials said. The Patriot missile defense system was used to down a Russian missile, the Pentagon said.
  • Ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, authorities in Russian-occupied towns along the southern front are ordering the evacuation of thousands of civilians.
  • The US announced an additional $1.2 billion in aid to Ukraine, intended to bolster Kyiv’s air defenses and ammunition ahead of an expected counteroffensive. 
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Russian strikes, a killed journalist and other headlines you should know

All but two of the 25 cruise missiles fired by Russia overnight Tuesday were intercepted by the Ukrainian Air Force, officials said. According to the Pentagon, the Ukrainian military downed a Russian missile using the Patriot missile defense system.

Here are other headlines you should know:

Anticipated counteroffensive: There’s been recent rumors of a looming  Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Tuesday that the planned move won’t be a decisive breakthrough and that people shouldn’t expect a film-like counteroffensive because, he says, “the real world doesn’t work like that.” At a joint news conference with Cleverly, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he thinks Ukraine has the resources it needs to retake territory in the anticipated counteroffensive. Blinken’s comments come on the same day the US announced an additional $1.2 billion in aid to Ukraine intended to bolster air defenses and keep up ammunition supplies.

Journalist killed near Bakhmut: Arman Soldin, a video journalist for Agence France-Presse was killed near the embattled city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, the French news agency said on Twitter. Soldin, who was a French citizen with Bosnian origins, was killed by rocket fire on the outskirts of the town of Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut, AFP said, citing colleagues who witnessed the incident. He was with four colleagues at the time of the attack but the other journalists were not injured, the news agency said. French President Emmanuel Macron mourned Soldin’s death in a tweet on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s grain: Bridget A. Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, accused Russia on Tuesday of “again blocking ships from loading grain in Ukraine’s ports to feed people who need it around the world.” The US official referenced similar comments on the topic made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier on Tuesday, where he accused Russia of “using people’s hunger as a weapon in its war against Ukraine.

Top-level US diplomats accuse Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war against Ukraine

Bridget A. Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, accused Russia on Tuesday of “again blocking ships from loading grain in Ukraine’s ports to feed people who need it around the world.”

The US official referenced similar comments on the topic made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier on Tuesday.

“The world shouldn’t need to remind Moscow every few weeks to stop using people’s hunger as a weapon in its war against Ukraine,” Blinken said, as quoted by Brink on Twitter

Farhan Haq, UN deputy spokesman for the Secretary-General, said two inspections of ships did happen on Tuesday.

The news comes a day after the UN said there had been no ship inspections as part of the grain deal for two days. Ukraine on Monday accused Russia of effectively bringing the grain deal to a halt by not inspecting ships.

Some context: The Black Sea Grain Initiative is an agreement between Ukraine and Russia, brokered by the UN and Turkey, that was established in July 2022 to guarantee safe passage for ships carrying grain and oilseeds — some of Ukraine’s most important exports.  

Talks to extend the initiative are ongoing. The Black Sea grain deal was last extended on March 18 for 60 days, and is set to expire on May 18. 

French president mourns the death of journalist killed in Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron mourned the death of Arman Soldin, a video journalist working for AFP who was killed in Ukraine.

“We share the pain of his family and all his colleagues,” a translation of Macron’s tweet read Tuesday. 

Soldin was killed on Tuesday by rocket fire on the outskirts of the town of Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut, AFP said, citing colleagues who witnessed the incident. 

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the UN, also tweeted in French about Soldin’s death, which translated to him saying the journalist “paid with his life for his courage” and offered condolences to Soldin’s loved ones.

Civilians in Zaporizhzhia region are being evacuated further into Russian-held territory, Ukraine says

 The Kremlin-backed authorities in the occupied Ukrainian city of Kamianka-Dniprovska in the southern Zaporizhzhia region are evacuating families and public sector workers further into Russian-held territory, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement.

“On May 8, the Russian occupiers began to evacuate preschool and school-age children with their parents, as well as teachers and other public sector employees from the city of Kamianka-Dniprovska in Zaporizhzhia Oblast,” the statement read. “There were not many willing participants.” 

Late Thursday, Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the acting governor of the occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia region – who is backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin – announced his administration would evacuate people from places near the war’s southern front line.

Yesterday, Yurii Malashko, Ukraine’s governor of Zaporizhzhia, said in a television interview that he understood some Moscow-backed officials were leaving occupied towns, and offering to evacuate people with Russian passports, ahead of the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.

“We have also heard that they take civilians, including children, to Berdiansk first of all. Then they go either to Crimea or towards the [occupied] Donetsk region,” Malashko said.

Ivan Fedorov, the Ukraine-elected mayor of Melitopol — a city in Zaporizhzhia — told Ukrainian TV that it was not a “mass evacuation,” but rather “some hundreds evacuated for show.” He claimed that Russia was sending more forces to the southern front line and that, in Melitopol, troops had started mining administrative buildings, kindergartens and schools.

Fedorov advised people in the occupied areas to be prepared for the counteroffensive by finding shelter, charging power banks and stocking up on food and water. 

Ukraine downed Russian missile with Patriot missile system, Pentagon says

The Ukrainian military downed a Russian missile using the Patriot missile defense system, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday.

“I can confirm that they did down a Russian missile by employing the Patriot missile defense system,” Ryder said. “As you know that system is part of a broader range of air defense capabilities that the United States and the international community have provided to Ukraine.”

Ryder added that the US and its partners would continue to “rush ground-based air defense capabilities and munitions to help Ukraine control its sovereign skies and to help Ukraine defense its citizens from Russia.”

AFP journalist killed in eastern Ukraine, news agency says

A journalist for Agence France-Presse was killed near the embattled city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, the French news agency said on Twitter

“We are devastated to learn of the death of AFP video journalist Arman Soldin in eastern Ukraine today,” according to the post. “All of our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.” 

Soldin, who was a French citizen with Bosnian origins, was killed by rocket fire on the outskirts of the town of Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut, AFP said, citing colleagues who witnessed the incident.

He was with four colleagues at the time of the attack but the other journalists were not injured, the news agency said.

Soldin is one of the several known journalists killed since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, including Fox News photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski and consultant Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, journalist and documentarian Brent Renaud, and photojournalist Maks Levin.

CNN’s Xiaofei Xu contributed reporting.

French National Assembly approves motion asking France and EU to list Wagner group as a terrorist organization

Lawmakers in the French National Assembly on Tuesday approved a motion calling on the French government and the European Union to list Russia’s private military group Wagner as a terrorist organization.

The vote passed with all 331 representatives present voting in favor.

The motion — considered a symbolic move from the members of the assembly — also calls the French government to push for the United Nations to list Wagner as a terrorist organization.

Wagner Group is currently on the sanction lists of the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.  

Ukraine has what it needs to successfully retake territory, US secretary of state says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he thinks Ukraine has the resources it needs to retake territory in an anticipated counteroffensive.

“They have in place … what they need to continue to be successful in regaining territory that was seized by force by Russia over the last 14 months,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

“It’s not only the weapons; it’s the training,” Blinken added. “It’s making sure that the Ukrainians can maintain the systems that we provide them, and it’s important, of course, that they have the right plans, again, to be successful.”

Blinken’s comments come on the same day the US announced an additional $1.2 billion in aid to Ukraine intended to bolster air defenses and keep up ammunition supplies.

Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive won’t be a decisive breakthrough, UK foreign secretary says  

Ukraine has demonstrated huge courage and resistance since Russia’s invasion began, but people shouldn’t expect a film-like counteroffensive from Kyiv, UK’s top diplomat said during his visit to the United States Tuesday.  

“The real world doesn’t work like that,” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

His remarks come amid rumors of a looming Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia.

“I hope and expect they will do very, very well, because whenever I’ve seen the Ukrainians, they have outperformed expectations,” he said, adding that people “have to be realistic.” 

“This is the real world. This is not a Hollywood movie,” Cleverly said. 

He also expressed London’s willingness to see China play a more constructive role in ending the war. 

“We know that (Chinese President) Xi enjoys a significant degree of influence with Vladimir Putin,” Cleverly said. “If through his intervention he can help restore the sovereignty of Ukraine, and get Russian troops out of that country, I’m not going to be critical of that,” he said.

Cleverly admitted that whether China could make a meaningful intervention remains to be seen. 

It's 7:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here are the latest developments as Russia's war in Ukraine continues

The US announced a new aid package to Ukraine as Russia celebrated Victory Day with an annual parade that was notably scaled back this year due to security concerns related to the war in Ukraine.

Here’s everything you need to know:

US aid to Ukraine: The US announced a $1.2 billion security assistance package to Ukraine Tuesday. The package includes 155 mm artillery rounds, additional air defense systems and munitions and drone ammunition, as well as equipment to help “integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles, and radars” with Ukraine’s existing systems. The package will fall under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which means it will be contracted and purchased from manufacturers instead of pulled directly from Defense Department stocks in a drawdown. The US has now given Ukraine $37.6 billion in military aid.

The EU chief visits Ukraine: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is in Kyiv to mark Europe Day – a celebration of peace and unity on the continent. In a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, she discussed European solidarity in areas such as grain export and more ammunition.

Germany and China talk Russia’s war on the sidelines: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held a joint news conference in Berlin with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and said Germany wants Beijing to promise it won’t help Russia avoid European sanctions. “It is particularly critical if Russian weaponry companies obtain war-related goods,” she said, adding that all countries — China included — should take action to oblige their companies. “Neutrality means taking the side of the aggressor,” Baerbock said. 

US has seen no change in posture of Russian nuclear forces after recent saber-rattling, senior officials say

Despite recent nuclear saber-rattling by senior Russian officials, the United States has detected no signs of movement or changes to Russian nuclear forces, a senior US military official and senior administration official told CNN.

As a result, the US has made no changes to its own posture, according to these same officials.

“We don’t have any indications of a change to Russia’s strategic force posture and continue to monitor the situation. We’ve seen nothing to warrant a change in our own strategic force posture at this time,” a spokesperson for the National Security Council told CNN.

Russian leaders have repeatedly raised the prospect of nuclear war in recent months. With each threat, the US and its allies have monitored Russian nuclear forces for signs of movement or preparations to deploy them.

Most recently, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in late April that the threat of nuclear conflict is “growing every day.”

“Is there such a prospect today? (Unfortunately,) yes. And it is growing every day for well-known reasons,” he said.

It wasn’t the first time this year Medvedev had raised the prospect of nuclear war. In January, he posted to Telegram about US and NATO support for Ukraine, noting, “defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war.”

On Tuesday, Russia’s Victory Day parade showcased parts of Russia’s nuclear forces including the country’s state of the art air defense system, the S-400, and its intercontinental ballistic system, the Yars.

“A true war has been unleashed against our motherland,” Putin said on Tuesday, claiming falsely that the West had provoked the war in Ukraine. “We have repelled international terrorism and to fit we will defend the residents of Donbas and secure our own safety. Russia has no unfriendly nations in the West or in the East.”

Germany wants China to guarantee it won’t help Russia bypass EU sanctions

Germany wants Beijing to promise it won’t help Russia avoid European sanctions, while China warns Berlin and Europe about cutting economic ties with China, as the two countries’ diplomatic chiefs meet in Berlin Tuesday. 

Imposed sanctions should not be “undermined in a roundabout way,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at a joint news conference. 

“It is particularly critical if Russian weaponry companies obtain war-related goods,” she said, adding that all countries — China included — should take action to oblige their companies. 

Baerbock welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and urged China to play a more decisive role in ending Russian’s war in Ukraine. 

China, on the other hand, expressed concern over the rising talks of Europe “de-risking” its relationship with China. 

De-risking refers to the concept of “financial institutions terminating or restricting business relationships with clients or categories of clients to avoid, rather than manage, risk,” according to the US Department of State.  

“If the reality of removing China’s influence is carried out in the name of risk eradication, it is in fact removing opportunities, removing cooperation, removing stability, and removing development,” China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang said at the joint news conference. 

“We must firmly oppose the so-called decoupling exercise and maintain a high degree of vigilance against the new Cold War. Germany, China and Europe should join hands to safeguard the stability and smoothness of the global industrial and supply chains,” he added. 

What other leaders are saying: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for more diverse European trade ties, including new deals with countries such as Mexico, India, Australia and Kenya in a speech at the European Parliament Tuesday. 

European Council President Ursula Von der Leyen also called for de-risking the EU’s relationship with China through diplomacy instead of de-coupling in a speech back in March before she embarked on a joint visit to Beijing with French President Emmanuel Macron. 

Qin’s visit to Berlin unveils a busy week of China-Europe diplomacy in the bloc, with Qin flying to Paris Wednesday and then Oslo, and Baerbock heading to Paris late Tuesday for an expected meeting with Macron. 

The US announced a new $1.2 billion package for Ukraine. Here's what's in it

The US announced a $1.2 billion security assistance package to Ukraine Tuesday, as Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces looms.

The package includes 155 mm artillery rounds, additional air defense systems and munitions and drone ammunition, as well as equipment to help “integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles, and radars” with Ukraine’s existing systems.

Various senior Ukrainian officials expressed their gratitude to the US for the latest round of defense aid. 

“We appreciate this sign of solidarity with 🇺🇦 shown on a symbolic day for us – Europe Day and the Day of Victory over Nazism in World War II. Together we’re moving towards a new victory!” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet

Ukraine’s defense chief Oleksii Reznikov also welcomed the news, calling the new aid “a new package of security assistance.”

CNN reported Monday the announcement was expected.

The package, first reported by the Associated Press, will fall under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which means it will be contracted and purchased from manufacturers instead of pulled directly from Defense Department stocks in a drawdown. Instead of supplying Ukraine with the weapons it currently needs, USAI packages are intended to create a medium- and long-term supply for Ukraine.

With the new package announcement, the US marks $37.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $36.9 billion since the beginning of the war in February 2022.

Even after the Ukrainian counteroffensive begins, the US will continue to send military aid to Ukraine, according to a US military official, both to sustain Ukraine’s military force against dug-in Russian troops and to provide new equipment. 

CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv contributed to this post.

European grain restrictions are "absolutely unacceptable," Zelensky says 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday criticized “protectionist measures” from neighboring countries which limit imports of Ukrainian grain, saying they are “absolutely unacceptable.” 

The EU last week adopted a temporary measure that bans wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed originating in Ukraine from being exported to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, after those countries raised concerns over local farmers being undercut by a bottleneck of cheap Ukrainian grain. 

“Unfortunately, we have encountered problems where we should have continued to see strong signs of solidarity, in proportion to the threats that exist today — tough and even brutal, for wartime, protectionist measures from our neighbors,” Zelensky said at a joint news conference with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen,
“Any restrictions on our exports now are absolutely unacceptable because they do not strengthen all of us in Europe, instead they strengthen the aggressor’s capabilities,” he added. 

Addressing Zelensky’s concerns, von der Leyen described the grain topic as a “challenging situation” and vowed to set up a joint “coordination platform” to get grain exports “fully functioning again.”

“The immediate priority now is that the grain transit goes seamlessly and at the lowest possible cost outside of Ukraine towards the European Union,” she said.

Russia is attempting to destroy values because it's afraid of Ukraine’s path to EU, bloc's chief says

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that Russia is seeking to destroy values of freedom in Ukraine because it is afraid of the country’s path to the European Union.

“We Europeans cherish our liberty, our democracy, our freedom of thought and speech,” von der Leyen said alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv to mark Europe Day. 

“Ukraine is fighting for the ideals of Europe that we celebrate today. In Russia, Putin and his regime have destroyed these values,” she said.

“They are afraid of the success you represent and the example you show, and they are afraid of your path to the European Union,” she said.

Von der Leyen added that Russia has “dramatically failed,” and Ukraine is “fighting back successfully.”

Russia has failed to capture Bakhmut, Ukraine’s Zelensky says

Russia has failed to capture the eastern city of Bakhmut before the May 9 deadline — a day when Russia marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky said Tuesday

“They were not able to capture Bakhmut. This was the last important military operation that they wanted to complete by the ninth of May,” Zelensky said in a joint news conference with European President Ursula von der Leyen.

“Unfortunately, the city does not exist anymore. Everything is fully destroyed,” he added.

Zelensky urges more ammo: The Ukrainian president also said ammunition the European Union has pledged to deliver to Ukraine is already needed on the battlefield, calling for faster deliveries. 

“Ukraine daily demonstrates efficiency of our defense against Russian aggression. Every intercepted terrorists’ missile, every success of our warriors in defeating Russian attacks, these are the proofs that we can win over this aggressor,” Zelensky said.

“The main thing is the proportionality of our abilities to the abilities that the aggressor has. And in this context, I have thanked Ursula for the readiness of the European Union to provide Ukraine this badly needed ammunition, one billion artillery shells, and we have also discussed the key issues, the speed of the procurement and delivery of this ammunition, because they are needed on the battlefield already now,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin marked May 9 with the annual Victory Day parade and launched yet another scathing attack on the West, accusing it of holding Ukraine hostage to its anti-Russian plans. He also claimed that “real war” has been unleashed against Russia. 

It’s mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know

Russia held its annual celebration to mark the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. In past years, tens of tanks have streamed across Red Square as jets have ripped through the skies in a flex of Russia’s military might. But this year’s parade was a quieter affair: A single T-34 tank – a relic from the Soviet era – led out this year’s mechanized column, and the flypast was canceled.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Prigozhin’s rant: Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched the latest in a series of rants directed at Russia’s military leadership – during the parade in Moscow. He claimed his troops were “blatantly lied to” after he received only “10%” of the support he had been pledged to help sustain his troops in Bakhmut. Prigozhin also questioned how Victory Day celebrations could be underway in Moscow, when “we haven’t earned that victory one millimeter.”
  • Kyiv withstands Russian missile strikes: Ukraine’s air defense systems intercepted 23 of the 25 cruise missiles Russia fired overnight Tuesday, according to the Ukrainian air force. The Ukrainian military warned earlier this week that Russia is trying to wear down its air defenses ahead of the long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. But, for now, Kyiv’s shields are holding firm.
  • EU chief celebrates Europe Day in Kyiv: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is in Kyiv to mark Europe Day – a celebration of peace and unity on the continent. In a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, she claimed Russia is trying to destroy liberty, democracy and freedom in Ukraine because they fear its burgeoning European future.
  • More US support incoming: The United States is set to announce a $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine as early as Tuesday, according to a US official familiar with the issue. The package – which will include drones, artillery ammunition and air defense missiles – comes as Ukraine’s long-anticipated counteroffensive looms.