May 11, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Matt Meyer and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, May 12, 2023
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6:52 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

Zelensky says Ukraine needs "a bit more time" before launching counteroffensive

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 9.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 9.  Aleksandr Gusev/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Ukraine still needs "a bit more time" before it launches its long-awaited counteroffensive, as Kyiv's forces await the arrival of more weapons from their Western allies, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“With [what we have] we can go forward and be successful,” Zelensky told European public service broadcasters in an interview published Thursday. “But we'd lose a lot of people. I think that's unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time."

Among the supplies Ukraine is waiting for are armored vehicles, including tanks, which Zelensky said were “arriving in batches.”

They include German Leopard 2s and British Challenger 2s, along with other armored vehicles like American Bradleys and Strykers.

Zelensky's comments came a day after the US announced a new $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine intended to bolster air defenses and sustain ammunition supplies.

“We're still expecting some things. They will reinforce our counter offensive and most importantly, they will protect our people,” he said. “We’re expecting armoured vehicles, they arrive in batches.”

However, Zelensky said Ukrainian forces are prepared.

“Mentally, we're ready; in terms of how motivated our military are, we're ready; in terms of enough personnel and our brigades, we’re ready,” he said. “In terms of equipment, not everything has arrived yet.”
6:49 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

"Effective counterattacks" are underway in Bakhmut, Ukrainian military commander says

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukrainian forces say they are conducting "effective counterattacks" in the Bakhmut area, in comments that are in line with claims from Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin that Kyiv has recaptured some territory.

Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday accused a Russian brigade of abandoning its position in front-line Bakhmut, allowing Ukraine to seize territory. He has repeatedly accused the defense ministry of failing to give his forces the supplies they need.

The commander of the Ukrainian land forces, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, confirmed in a Telegram post Wednesday that Ukrainian forces have made significant gains in the area.

“Thanks to our well-thought-out defense in the Bakhmut sector, we are getting results from the effective actions of our units. In particular, we are conducting effective counterattacks. In some areas of the front, the enemy was unable to withstand the onslaught of Ukrainian defenders and retreated to a distance of up to 2 kilometers.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military company, also indicated that Ukrainian forces have been able to advance south of Bakhmut.

In comments made Tuesday, Prigozhin said that “one of the units of the Ministry of Defense fled from one of our flanks, abandoning their positions. They all fled and [laid] bare a front nearly 2 kilometers wide and 500 meters deep.”

Syrski said Ukrainian troops had "exhausted the trained forces of the Wagner PMC and forced them to be replaced in certain areas by less trained units of the Russian regular army, which were defeated and retreated."

“Despite a significant concentration of troops and loud statements by Russian war criminals about their intentions to take Bakhmut by May 9, the enemy failed to capture the Ukrainian city," Syrskyi said. "Our defense forces are holding the frontline securely and preventing the enemy from advancing. The battle for Bakhmut continues.”

He singled out the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, which was involved in an assault on the positions of the 72nd Brigade, and “inflicted a powerful strike on the enemy in the battle,” Syrskyi said.

Some context: Bakhmut is the site of a months-long assault by Russian forces, including Wagner mercenaries, that has driven thousands from their homes and left the area devastated. But despite the vast amounts of manpower Russia has poured into capturing the city, they have been unable to take total control, and on Wednesday suffered heavy losses in the area.

6:45 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

Russian authorities claim Ukrainian attacks on Bryansk and Belgorod region leave damage, no casualties

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova

Russian authorities claimed Ukrainian forces launched several attacks on the Russian border regions of Bryansk and Belgorod on Thursday – the second consecutive day of such allegations.

No casualties were reported in any of the alleged attacks.

The Governor of Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov said shelling in the village of Cheremoshnoye by the Ukrainian military damaged a power line and left seven settlements without electricity.

Separately, the Governor of Bryansk region Alexander Bogomaz reported two alleged Ukrainian attacks — one overnight and one Thursday morning.

An alleged Ukrainian drone attacked an oil depot of Russia’s largest state-owned oil producer Rosneft on Thursday and an administrative building overnight, Bogomaz said.

"The munitions dropped [from the drone on the oil depot] partially damaged the cement foundation and a tank for storing petroleum products," he said.

As well as Thursday’s alleged attacks, Russian authorities also claimed that the Belgorod and Bryansk regions had been attacked by drones on Wednesday.

No casualties were reported in Wednesday’s alleged attack, according to the governors of each of the two regions.

6:16 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

US approves first transfer of seized Russian assets for use in Ukraine

From CNN's Mary Kay Mallonee

US Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a meeting with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC, on April 17.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a meeting with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC, on April 17. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday that the first transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine were transferred Tuesday to the State Department.

Garland first revealed in February that he had authorized the first transfer of forfeited assets from sanctions against a Russian oligarch that would go toward aiding Ukraine.

In June, millions were seized from a US bank account belonging to Russian oligarch Konstantin  Malofeyev, whom the US announced sanctions against in April “for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly” the Russian government, the Treasury Department said at the time.

“During a meeting with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin on February 3rd of this year, I announced that, pursuant to the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023, I had authorized the transfer of those forfeited funds for use in Ukraine to remediate the harms of Russia’s unjust war,” Garland said in a statement Wednesday. “Those forfeited Russian assets have now been transferred to the State Department and will be dedicated to that purpose.”

“While this represents the United States’ first transfer of forfeited Russian funds for the rebuilding of Ukraine, it will not be the last,” Garland added.

Some background: The US and its allies have blocked or seized more than $58 billion worth of assets owned or controlled by Russians in the past year, according to a joint statement from a multinational sanctions enforcement task force in March.

However, the question of what to do with Russian assets has long been the subject of debate. Many countries have simply frozen such assets – but there have been growing calls to transfer these assets to government accounts to allow them to be used to rebuild Ukraine.

Will Europe follow? The European Union said in February it was setting up a working group to examine whether this was possible. “In principle, it is clear-cut: Russia must pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine. At the same time, this poses difficult questions,” said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at the time.

5:49 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

Counteroffensive cannot be directed at Zaporizhzhia power plant, says Ukraine’s nuclear chief

From CNN’s Sam Kiley and Pierre Bairin in Kyiv and Vasco Cotovio in Lisbon

A Russian military truck is seen on the grounds of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29.
A Russian military truck is seen on the grounds of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images)

The head of the Ukrainian nuclear energy agency Energoatom, Petro Kotin, says his country’s military understands it will have to go around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant when it launches its long-awaited counteroffensive, to avoid damaging the facility. 

“There is a responsibility that they have to preserve the integrity even if it is occupied by the Russians,” he told CNN’s Sam Kiley during an interview in Kyiv. “This is completely understood by everybody, by our military.” 

Kotin went on to explain that Ukraine could retake the nuclear power plant (NPP) without using force, simply by cutting off supply lines to the facility.

“It is not needed [to use force]. What you need is just to cut the connection between Zaporizhzhia NPP and Crimea. What is required to do is just to re-take Melitopol and then you this communication between Russians [at NPP] and supply chain and supply lines where they can actually get out,” he said.

“They will be surrounded by Ukrainian forces and the only road to go out to Crimea will be captured by us. That means they will have only two options, either surrender or just get out from there,” he added.

Kotin went on to say that Russian forces had been evacuating people from the nearby town of Enerhodar over the past ten days, adding they could also evacuate some of the staff from the plant.

He explained that "at least five" rotating shifts of staff were needed to operate the plant.

Kotin described the situation as “critical” but said the danger of a major disaster remained “quite low.”

“They [the Russians] are crazy, but not crazy enough. They still have nuclear workers from Rosatom (Russian nuclear agency), who are operators of nuclear power plants and technically these people understand the risks,” he added.

“There are a lot of militaries (soldiers), thousands, who do not understand the risks.”

Some context: The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, is held by Russian forces but mostly operated by a Ukrainian workforce. Russian-appointed authorities have not allowed the Ukrainian plant workers to evacuate the region with their families.

As the prospect of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the region looms, the International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Grossi said Monday that he was concerned about “the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant."

“We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment,” Grossi warned.

5:19 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

CNN Exclusive: Britain has delivered long-range "Storm Shadow" cruise missiles to Ukraine ahead of expected counteroffensive, sources say

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

This file image shows a Storm Shadow missile being prepared for loading into a Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft in the Gulf in support of Operation TELIC, on March 21, 2003. 
This file image shows a Storm Shadow missile being prepared for loading into a Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft in the Gulf in support of Operation TELIC, on March 21, 2003.  (Cpl Mark Bailey RAF ASA/Reuters)

The United Kingdom has supplied Ukraine with multiple Storm Shadow cruise missiles, giving Ukrainian forces a new long-range strike capability in advance of a highly anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces, multiple senior Western officials told CNN. 

The Storm Shadow is a long-range cruise missile with stealth capabilities, jointly developed by the UK and France, which is typically launched from the air. With a firing range in excess of 250km, or 155 miles, it is just short of the 185-mile range capability of the US-made surface-to-surface Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, that Ukraine has long asked for

Critically, the Storm Shadow has the range to strike deep into Russian-held territory in Eastern Ukraine. A Western official told CNN that the UK has received assurances from the Ukrainian government that these missiles will be used only within Ukrainian sovereign territory and not inside Russia. UK officials have made frequent public statements identifying Crimea as Ukrainian sovereign territory, describing it as "illegally annexed." 

The missile is "a real game changer from a range perspective," a senior US military official told CNN and gives Kyiv a capability it has been requesting since the outset of the war.  As CNN has reported, Ukraine's current maximum range on US-provided weapons is around 49 miles.

The deployment of the missiles comes as Ukrainian forces prepare to launch a counteroffensive intended to retake Kremlin-held territory in the eastern and the southern parts of the country.

Read the full report here.

5:01 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

Ukraine says Russian looting has increased in occupied regions

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

The number of lootings and robberies allegedly committed by Russian troops has increased during Russia’s evacuation of occupied territories, according to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Hanna Maliar said Russian troops have been using “the alleged need to ensure the evacuation of the population” in the southern Zaporizhzhia region as a “pretext” to seize vehicles and other private belongings.

CNN could not independently verify the claims.

“In particular, in the settlements of Tokmak, Polohy, Kamianka, Rozivka, Mykhailivka, Molochansk, Enerhodar, Chernihivka in the temporarily occupied territory of Zaporizhzhia region, Russian occupiers, under the guise of so-called evacuation measures, stole property of local enterprises and citizens,” Maliar said.

“In Enerhodar, at night, about 20 vehicles were stolen from the territory of the private enterprise Elektropivdenmontazh-10 and a warehouse was looted.”

Maliar added that Russian troops “will use another cargo ship that arrived at the port of Berdiansk on May 7 to move the stolen property to the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea.”

Some background: Russian authorities began evacuating towns and cities in the occupied region of Zaporizhzhia last week, amid rumors that Ukraine is set to launch a long-anticipated counteroffensive to reclaim territory seized by Moscow’s invasion. More than 1,600 people, including 660 children, have been evacuated from towns on the frontlines, according to the Russia-appointed acting head of the region.

Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which has witnessed intense fighting since the start of the war and sparked concern among the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned Monday of the “increasingly unpredictable” situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Ukraine’s military said Wednesday that Russian soldiers prevented Ukrainian employees of the occupied plant from evacuating Enerhodar – a nearby frontline town – with their families.

4:08 a.m. ET, May 11, 2023

Ukraine claims success in the east as south braces for counteroffensive. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

A grab from a video of Yevgeny Prigozhin released on May 9.
A grab from a video of Yevgeny Prigozhin released on May 9. (Concord Press Service/Reuters)

The Ukrainian military says its troops are conducting "effective counterattacks" in the Bakhmut area after they inflicted "huge losses" on Russian forces Wednesday.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin conceded that Ukrainian forces have been able to advance south of the eastern city and he accused one Russian unit of fleeing from the fight, leading to many casualties among his mercenaries.

The 72nd brigade "just ran the hell out of there," Prigozhin said.

If you're just joining us, here are the latest developments:

  • Eastern battles: The Ukrainian military said Russian offensives were repelled around Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces claimed they had taken the village of Kamianka, north of Avdiivka, where Ukrainian troops have been surrounded on three sides for several months.
  • In the south: Russia's defense ministry and a Russia-backed official claimed Wednesday that Russian forces hit a Ukrainian ammunition in the Zaporizhzhia region, which has seen a rise in shelling by both sides in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Meanwhile, Ukraine's military said Russian forces were conducting "defensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions," and had carried out a number of airstrikes.
  • Nuclear staff blocked: Ukraine's military said Russian soldiers are preventing employees of the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from evacuating a nearby frontline town with their families. Russia-backed authorities have ordered the evacuation of thousands of civilians along the southern front as the Ukrainian counteroffensive looms.
  • Alleged cross-border attacks: The governors of Russia's Belgorod and Bryansk regions said they were attacked by drone strikes Wednesday. No casualties were reported. Russian officials in regions bordering Ukraine have reported an uptick in cross-border drone strikes in recent weeks as Ukrainian forces appear to target Russian fuel depots and supply lines.
  • War crime probe: France has opened a war crimes investigation following the death of AFP journalist Arman Soldin in Ukraine, a statement from the country's antiterrorism prosecution office said Wednesday. Soldin, 32, was killed Tuesday in a rocket attack near Bakhmut.
  • Global repercussions: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s war in Ukraine is informing China's calculations on a possible invasion of Taiwan. His remarks came after Japan's foreign minister told CNN that Tokyo is in talks to open a NATO liaison office, the first of its kind in Asia, citing instability brought by the war.
  • Beijing's view: Meanwhile, China's foreign minister warned against an "emotional" view of the war in Ukraine, saying on a visit to Germany that "the only way out is to remain calm and rational and create conditions for a political solution." Beijing has claimed neutrality over the war and called for peace, but it has also refused to condemn Russia’s invasion and has accused NATO and the United States of fueling the conflict.
12:41 p.m. ET, May 11, 2023

Trump won't say whether he wants Russia or Ukraine to win the war

From CNN's Jack Forrest

Former President Donald Trump participates in a CNN Republican Town Hall at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, May 10.
Former President Donald Trump participates in a CNN Republican Town Hall at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, May 10. CNN

Former US President Donald Trump, who is running to retake the White House in 2024, would not say Wednesday night who he thinks should prevail in Russia’s war against Ukraine, instead telling New Hampshire GOP primary voters that he wants “everybody to stop dying.”

“I want everybody to stop dying. They’re dying. Russians and Ukrainians. I want them to stop dying,” Trump said at CNN’s town hall moderated by “CNN This Morning” anchor Kaitlan Collins. “And I’ll have that done in 24 hours.”

Trump, who would not say whether he wants Ukraine to successfully deter Russia when pressed by Collins, told the audience gathered at Saint Anselm College that he doesn’t “think in terms of winning and losing.”

“I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people,” he said.

Read the full story here.