May 11, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Ben Church, Joshua Berlinger, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 0418 GMT (1218 HKT) May 12, 2022
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3:25 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Ukrainian deputy commander inside Mariupol's Azovstal plant says all civilians are likely out now

From CNN’s Rebecca Samuels

Smoke rises above the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 10.
Smoke rises above the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 10. (AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, who is hunkered down inside Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant, tells CNN that he believes all civilians sheltering inside the plant are now out — with the caveat that due to the constant bombardment, it is difficult to make a full assessment of the situation across the massive facility.

Palamar, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, made the comments to CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday. 

“If you're talking about the Azovstal plant itself, then the civilians that we knew about, the civilians that we had with us, the civilians that we were taking care of, they are not with us. They managed to leave the plant. And as far as the – I cannot tell you for sure, maybe there’s someone else further down in the territory because no international organization at any point came or had access to come and assess the situation," he told CNN.

Palamar added that a ceasefire was needed so that an international NGO could enter the steel plant to properly assess the situation, because the current siege did not allow for a proper assessment of current conditions.

“Basically what needs to be done is [that] a ceasefire is called upon so that some international organization can come and assess the situation, because under this constant bombardment, we are not able to go around and check anything,” Palamar said. 

On Saturday, Ukraine’s President Voldomyr Zelensky said in his nightly addressed that “phase one” of the Azovstal evacuations was over and that essentially all civilians —meaning women, children and elderly — had exited the plant. 

The president said “phase two” would involve the exodus of the wounded and medics, as well as military still inside the plant.

 

2:58 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

New leadership in Kherson says it'll begin issuing Russian passports to those who want them by end of year

From CNN's Tim Lister

The Russian-installed leadership of the Kherson region said that the issuing of Russian passports to residents of the region who want them will begin by the end of the year.

Speaking on a newly created television network in the region, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed military-civilian administration, said: "The next step will be an offer to issue passports of the Russian Federation to everyone. I think that this year we will already begin issuing passports."

He said it would not be obligatory for residents of the region to obtain Russian passports.

Earlier Wednesday, the new Russian-installed leadership of the Kherson region said it plans to make a formal request to become part of the Russian Federation, according to a statement on a new Telegram channel that appears to be linked to the pro-Russian administration.

3:20 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Kherson resident says her city is "slowly dying" under Russian control

Russian soldiers stand near trucks in Kherson, Ukraine on March 7.
Russian soldiers stand near trucks in Kherson, Ukraine on March 7. (Olexandr Chornyi/AP)

A resident of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson said that her city is like a "zombie apocalypse" since Russian troops took over.

The woman, who requested to be identified as Tanya, said in an interview on CNN International that the invasion has taken a physical and psychological toll.

"It's very hard to live in such conditions, physically, because you cannot do things that you did before the war," she said. "You can't go out as much, you can't breathe fresh air, so it's hard physically."

"Psychologically, it's even more harder because you see all those empty shelves in the stores, you see all those armed people going out to walk by you, by the street, and it's terrifying because they are all around the city. So it's hard," she continued

The new Russian-installed leadership of the Ukrainian region of Kherson today announced plans to make a formal request to become part of the Russian Federation.

"Authorities of Kherson region will appeal to the President of Russia with a request to include the region into Russia," according to a statement on a new Telegram channel, which appears to be linked to the pro-Russian administration.

Tanya said she is scared of Russian soldiers patrolling the city and that no one she knows wants to be a part of Russia.

"I don't know any person who would like to join the Crimea — like the part of Russian Federation. I don't know any person in Kherson, just talking on the street with them, they don't want to be part of Russian Federation; they've seen what they've done," she said.

Tanya said that many people have left the city and it's fairly empty by 3 p.m. local time.

"It looks like zombie apocalypse; there is nobody here. In the morning, there are a lot of people but now I see that our city is just slowly dying unfortunately," she said.

The woman told CNN she wants to leave the city — like many of her friends have already — but it's very difficult because there are no official evacuation corridors and dozens of Russian checkpoints.

She said the city's train station has not been operating since the Russians took over the city, and Russian troops are now using it as a base.

 

1:20 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Meta pulls Oversight Board request on Russian invasion content

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The social media giant Meta is walking back a call for advice on how to moderate Facebook and Instagram content related to the war in Ukraine.

The company said Wednesday it has withdrawn a request for its external Oversight Board to opine on how to handle material surrounding Russia’s invasion.

The move leaves Meta to continue figuring out on its own, for now, how to deal with the myriad of platform challenges posed by the conflict, ranging from Ukrainians’ calls for violence against Russian invaders to fake videos of the war to malicious hacking of Ukrainian military officials’ Facebook accounts. 

Some more context: The Oversight Board, created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as an independent, court-like entity, is composed of experts on civil rights and free expression and can issue non-binding policy guidance to Meta on its content moderation, as well as review specific cases of content removals.

Meta declined to characterize details of the original request for advice and the types of questions it had for the board, citing “ongoing security concerns on the ground” as a reason for pulling its call for policy guidance. 

“This decision was not made lightly,” Meta said in a statement. “We look forward to seeking the board’s expertise on other significant and difficult content moderations going forward," it added.

The Oversight Board, in a separate statement, said Meta had cited “specific” security concerns in its notification of withdrawal. 

Meta’s initial request for guidance was filed on March 25, the company told CNN. The Oversight Board told CNN it had agreed to take up the matter on March 29. Meta then withdrew the request in late April, it said. 

“The withdrawal of this request does not diminish Meta’s responsibility to carefully consider the ongoing content moderation issues which have arisen from this war,” the Oversight Board said in its statement.

12:48 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Oil prices climb 6% on concerns about Russia

From CNN’s Matt Egan

After two days of sharp losses, oil prices rose sharply Wednesday on renewed concerns about the flow of energy from Russia. 

US oil jumped 6.3% to $105.97 a barrel in recent trading. Brent crude, the world benchmark, gained 5.2% to $107.75 a barrel.

The rebound comes amid continued uncertainty over the supply of Russian energy to Europe.

Not only is the European Union debating an embargo on Russian oil, but Ukraine suspended the flow of some Russian natural gas to Europe. The Ukrainian gas transmission system operator blamed “interference by the occupying forces.”

“The ante has been upped. Markets are skittish,” said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst for the Americas at data and analytics firm Kpler.

US oil fell 9% over the prior two days, finishing Tuesday at $99.76 a barrel. 

The volatility comes as prices at the pump continue to march higher, contributing to high inflation gripping the US economy.

Gas prices hit $4.40 a gallon on Wednesday for the first time ever, up three cents in one day, according to AAA. The fresh record leaves the national average up 17 cents in just the past week and well above the March peak of $4.33. 

1:05 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

US ambassador to Russia delivered undisclosed message to Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, official says

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, in 2021.
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, in 2021. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan visited the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow on Wednesday to deliver a message to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, a US State Department official said. 

The meeting was to discuss bilateral issues, the official said, without detailing what specific issues were discussed. The Russians did not summon Sullivan, this was a previously planned meeting, the official said. 

The official said that reports about the meeting lasting for about 20 minutes were roughly accurate, but noted that is a normal amount of time for meetings between US and Russian officials.

More context: Sullivan’s meeting comes just weeks after a prisoner swap between the US and Russia led to the release of a wrongfully detained American citizen, Trevor Reed. Sullivan was a key player in the Biden administration who worked on securing Reed’s release. 

After that release a different senior State Department official noted that the Biden administration could not share many details about the process behind the release because of the other wrongfully detained Americans in Russia right now, who they are still trying to get home. 

“We need to be cautious because this is not the end, by any means, of what we are involved with in discussing the status of wrongfully detained American citizens in Russia. We need to protect the way that this came about. I am not saying that the others will come about in same way, but I need to be careful about what we say publicly,” the senior State Department official told CNN last week. 

 

1:07 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Russian use of hypersonic weapons in Ukraine is not "game-changing," top US general says

From CNN's Michael Conte

US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a hearing in Washington, DC, on April 5.
US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a hearing in Washington, DC, on April 5. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the Russian use of hypersonic weapons in Ukraine was not having “really significant or game-changing effects” during a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing.

“Other than the speed of the weapon, in terms of its effect on a given target, we are not seeing really significant or game-changing effects to date with the delivery of the small number of hypersonics that the Russians have used,” Milley said.

A senior US defense official said on Tuesday that Russia had launched between 10 and 12 hypersonic missiles against Ukraine so far.

Milley confirmed this was the first time hypersonic weapons had ever been used in combat, and he said that the Defense Department has analyzed each hypersonic strike, but added he could only elaborate on the details in a classified session.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the same hearing that he concurred with Milley, and he did not think that Russian President Putin’s use of hypersonics would “cause him to be willing to elevate to use a nuclear weapon.”

“I think he’s trying to create a specific effect with the use of that weapon,” said Austin, referring to hypersonics. “And as the chairman has pointed out, it moves at a speed that makes it very difficult to interdict. But it hasn’t been a game-changer.”

Earlier in the hearing, Austin said it was US President Joe Biden’s decision to share intelligence with US allies and partners in the lead-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“That created trust amongst our allies in a more meaningful way,” said Austin, “and that trust allowed us to create greater unity.”

Austin said that intelligence sharing was “a key element” in fostering that unity, which he hoped would continue.

12:14 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

It's just after 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest developments in Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

As Wednesday winds down in Ukraine, these are the latest developments in Russia's war:

  • Missiles struck two areas of the city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine: No casualties have been noted so far, Mayor Vadym Liakh said, and authorities are assessing the resulting damage. Sloviansk is the main goal of Russian forces trying to push south into the Donetsk region, and has been a key focus since Russia revised its strategy away from northern Ukraine in early April.
  • Ukraine suspended some of its Russian gas exports to Europe on Wednesday due to interruptions at key transit points: The country had been continuing the gas transportation operations through the ongoing invasion but it's currently "impossible to fulfill obligations" to European partners due to "the interference of the occupying forces," the Ukrainian gas transmission system operator (GSTOU) announced in a statement Tuesday. It said Russia's interference, including the unauthorized gas offtakes, had "endangered the stability and safety" of Ukrainian gas transportation system.

  • Ukrainians have retaken several villages between Kharkiv and the Russian border to the north: Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv military administration, says more settlements to the north of the city have been retaken by Ukrainian troops.Video geolocated by CNN show signs of a chaotic Russian retreat from the area at the beginning of the month, with several vehicles half submerged in a river after a road bridge was struck. In some areas to the north and east of Kharkiv, Ukrainian units — which include highly mobile contingents of the Azov regiment, are within a few kilometers of the Russian border. Despite being under Ukrainian control, much of the area is still within range of Russian artillery fire.
  • Ukraine's desire to negotiate declines "with each new Bucha, with each new Mariupol," Zelensky says: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Kyiv’s patience is running out for negotiations with Russia, given mounting evidence of atrocities committed by the Russian army, in a virtual address to French university students on Wednesday. “We are ready to conduct these negotiations, these talks, as long as it is not too late,” Zelensky said. Zelensky also expressed his determination that Kyiv will win the war and take back all territories that belong to Ukraine. 
  • Prosecutor says first Russian soldier will stand trial in death of Ukrainian man: Ukraine has announced the first Russian soldier set to stand trial in the death of a 62-year-old man in Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to a statement published by the country's prosecutor general's office on Wednesday. The prosecutor general's office said it has filed an indictment against Vadim Shishimarin, commander of the military unit 32010 of the 4th Tank Kantemirov Division of Moscow region. The investigation alleges the 21-year-old Russian killed an unarmed 62-year-old resident who was riding a bicycle along the roadside in the village of Chupakhivka in Sumy region on Feb. 28
  • Foreign weapons are at the front lines: Ukraine's deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, says that weapons supplied to Kyiv by the US and other partners are already deployed to the front lines. "Apart from the Javelins and Stingers, 155 mm American howitzers are already being used at the front," Maliar said in a briefing on Wednesday. "We are working to accelerate the pace of aid, as this is the life of our soldiers." A senior US defense official told reporters on Tuesday that 89 of the 90 Howitzers the US agreed to give to Ukraine have been transferred to Ukrainian possession.
  • Nearly 5 million Ukrainians have lost their jobs since Russian invasion began, UN agency report says: An estimated 4.8 million people in Ukraine have lost their jobs since the Russian invasion began in February, according to a new brief by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN agency. The ILO report also pointed out that the Ukrainian government has made considerable efforts to keep the national social protection system operational by guaranteeing the payment of benefits, including to internally displaced persons, through the utilization of digital technologies. Out of 4.8 million people who lost their jobs, a total of 1.2 million of them are refugees who fled to neighboring countries and 3.6 million of them are unemployed living in Ukraine, according to the ILO report. More than 5.23 million refugees who are mainly women, children, and people over the age of 60 have fled to neighboring countries since Feb. 24, the report said Wednesday.
11:06 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

CNN speaks to Ukrainians in war-torn villages in the south: "I am left alone in four walls. Nothing anywhere"

From CNN's Natalie Gallón, Nick Paton Walsh and Brice Laine

Since the last time CNN’s team was on the ground in southern Ukraine six weeks ago, nothing has changed, and yet, everything has.

The heavily contested areas are in a brutal stalemate with the give and take on Russian advances as they try to move towards Mykolaiv, a strategic port city.

Constant shelling has torn apart much of the area, trapping many who cannot flee while leaving many isolated — and alone.

The village of Shevchenkove was held by Russia in March but the Ukrainian military has taken it back.

On Sunday, CNN visited and witnessed what is left of it— buildings damaged on every road and empty homes. So much is abandoned, but the sounds of outgoing and incoming artillery fire continue.

More the 50% of this village is destroyed, the military escort told CNN.

The shelling starts getting closer, but two neighbors walking down a gravel road continue chatting, not a flinch in reaction to the sounds of the blasts.

“I go out every day, the goats are waiting for me,” Lyuba says about her goats that were born when the war began. “They need me to give food — the goats. And they give milk, of course. I call them my children of war.”

(Natalie Gallón)
(Natalie Gallón)

The damage from shrapnel is visible outside the home. She showed CNN the area where she sleeps in their dark and damp candle-lit bunker. She and her husband have been lucky.

(Natalie Gallón)
(Natalie Gallón)

Driving into another village nearby, the damage looks the same. In Kotlyareve, few people walk the streets, several elderly are seen on bikes.

“In war I was born, and in war I will die,” Valentina said as she sat alone in her front yard under the shade of a tree.

(Natalie Gallón)
(Natalie Gallón)

Using a stick to help her walk, she showed CNN the damage to her home and the craters the shelling left behind.

“Look at these torments,” she said. “This house was smashed to clay. I am left alone in four walls. Nothing anywhere.”

For many, there is nowhere else to go. Some say they are too old to evacuate. For others, it’s their land they don’t want to give up.

“It would be best to lie down at night and not get up. Neither hear nor see. Pity all the people, pity the soldiers,” Valentina added, sometimes mumbling to herself.

But for mothers like Svitlana, it’s waiting for her son to return from the war in Mariupol that keeps her here.

“Our children are all at war. My son is a prisoner. If he comes back, and if I have gone, it’s like I’ve abandoned him. We wait, hope, worry, he is alive and we will live," she told CNN.