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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6:07 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Ukrainians eliminate at least 2 pontoon bridges near Bilohorivka, satellite and drone images show

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Tim Lister, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Katie Polglase

(BlackSky)
(BlackSky)

The Ukrainians have — twice in the last 24 hours — stopped Russians efforts to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in the Luhansk oblast, blowing up two pontoon bridges near Bilohorivka.

A satellite image collected by geospatial intelligence firm BlackSky shows a Russian pontoon bridge crossing the river on May 10 shortly after a Ukrainian artillery barrage hit the surrounding area.

Smoke is seen rising from the western shore of the Siverskyi Donets River at one end of the bridge. On the eastern bank, craters and smoke are also seen on the eastern shore, including around Russian military vehicles that crossed over.

Grainy drone video circulating on social media, geolocated and its authenticity verified by CNN, shows the aftermath of the strikes. The military strikes destroyed the bridge, which is seen half-sunk in the river. 

Additional photos circulating on social media, also taken by a drone, show the Russians tried to erect a second pontoon bridge across the river. That bridge, too, was blown up by the Ukrainians in addition to a number of military vehicles.  

(From Telegram)
(From Telegram)

(From Telegram)
(From Telegram)

Traversing Ukraine's topography — specifically its rivers — has repeatedly proven a logistical nightmare that's hampered Russian military advances for weeks, across numerous parts of Ukraine. In more remote areas, or in places that bridges have been blown up, they have resorted to utilizing pontoon bridges.

These bridges have repeatedly been targeted and blown up by Ukrainian forces. 

CNN has previously reported the bridge first appeared on May 8.

Serhiy Hayday, the Luhansk regional military administrator, said on Wednesday that the Russians are continuing to try to construct bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River. He also said that the Ukrainians have repeatedly blown them up.  

(From Telegram)
(From Telegram)

5:32 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

3 days after she married inside Azovstal, this Ukrainian soldier became a widow

From CNN's Tim Lister, Victoria Butenko and Mariya Knight

(From Facebook)
(From Facebook)

They fought side-by-side in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, two Ukrainian soldiers among hundreds refusing to surrender. 

And on May 5, Valeria and Andrew were married. 

Three days later Andrew was killed, according to a Facebook post by Valeria on Wednesday.

The post included photographs of the two getting married in a bunker wearing their uniforms and photographs of the couple before the siege began. 

The Facebook post — created on Wednesday night local time — also includes a message from Valeria:

"You were my legal husband for three days.
And for eternity you are my love.
My dear, my caring husband.
You were and are the best.
All I have left is your last name, your loving family and memories of a happy time together."

She promised him that she would survive the siege - and live for the two of them.

4:12 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Russian civilian reported killed in shelling of Belgorod

From CNN's Tim Lister and Mariya Knight

For the first time, a civilian in Russia has reportedly died as a result of cross-border shelling from Ukraine, according to Russian authorities.

The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that "one person was killed during shelling of the village of Solokhi."

Solokhi is a village ten kilometers from the Ukrainian border. 

"The population of the village of Solokhi will be taken to a safe place under the leadership of the head of the district, Vladimir Pertsev, and the head of the regional Ministry of Emergency Situations, Sergey Potapov," Gladkov said.

The Belgorod region has seen several explosions in recent weeks that appear to have been caused by missiles and bombs. Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied being responsible for the blasts. 

Last week, Gladkov said five houses had been destroyed in another village, Nekhoteevka.

"Today there are just under 30 people left in the settlement," he said then. "We have already evacuated most of the people to safety."

3:38 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Ukraine offers Russia an exchange of Russian prisoners of war for injured Ukrainians in Azovstal 

From CNN's Hira Humayun

Ukraine has offered Russia to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the evacuation of injured Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, Vereshchuk said there is no agreement yet and negotiations are underway regarding the proposal.

"As of now, it is impossible to raise the blockade of Azovstal by military means. Azovstal defenders shall not yield themselves prisoners. It is worthy of respect. Russians won't hear of the extraction. This is a reality but coming from the Russians, it is not surprising," she wrote.

She said the government is working out different options to get Ukrainian soldiers out of Azovstal but that none of the options are "ideal."

"We are not looking for an ideal option, but a working one," Vereshchuk said.

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.