May 31, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0405 GMT (1205 HKT) June 1, 2023
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4:11 a.m. ET, May 31, 2023

Drone crashes at oil refinery in Russia's Krasnodar region, officials say

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Authorities in southern Russia said a drone crashed at an oil refinery in the Krasnodar region early on Wednesday, an incident that followed reports of a fire due to a possible drone attack at another nearby fuel depot.

In a statement on Telegram, Krasnodar's operational headquarters said no casualties were reported in the 4 a.m. attack at the Ilsky oil refinery.

“As a result of the fall, the apparatus crashed, the plant's infrastructure was not damaged, and there was no fire,” the statement said.

In a separate incident Wednesday, reports emerged of a possible drone attack on the Afipsky oil refinery, also located in Krasnodar, that caused a fire but no casualties.

The two facilities are located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) apart.

4:10 a.m. ET, May 31, 2023

Russian dissident fighters launch drone pilot recruitment drive

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Men are seen on the roof of a damaged multi-story apartment block following a drone attack in Moscow on May 30.
Men are seen on the roof of a damaged multi-story apartment block following a drone attack in Moscow on May 30. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Anti-Putin Russians fighting to free Ukraine and topple the Kremlin have launched an "additional" recruitment drive for drone pilots, a day after a drone attack brought the war to the Russian capital.

“Graduates of the course will have the opportunity to practice their skills,” the dissident Freedom for Russia Legion said in a post on messaging app Telegram on Tuesday.

The post comes after drone attack on Moscow Tuesday that the Kremlin blamed on Ukraine, which denied any direct involvement.

Eight drones were involved in the attack, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the capital's air defenses worked normally, also suggesting the attacks had been in response to recent Russian strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure.

"Kyiv chose the path of intimidation of Russian citizens and attacks on residential buildings," Putin said.

Freedom for Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, which both fall under the command of the Ukrainian security forces, last week claimed responsibility for an incursion inside the Russian border region of Belgorod.

A Ukrainian official acknowledged last week that the units had carried out an operation in the area but insisted they were acting independently.

2:54 a.m. ET, May 31, 2023

Ukrainian shelling kills 5 in occupied Luhansk, Russia-backed official says

From CNN's Clare Sebastian and Olga Voitovych

Leonid Pasechnik speaks during a forum in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 16, 2022.
Leonid Pasechnik speaks during a forum in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 16, 2022. Stringer/Getty Images

Five people were killed and 19 others injured in Ukrainian shelling of Luhansk, according to the Moscow-installed head of the occupied region in eastern Ukraine.

Leonid Pasechnik, acting head of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, said on Telegram that two of those injured in the shelling of Karpaty village, Perevalsk district, are in serious condition in hospital.

CNN cannot verify the claims.

6:19 a.m. ET, May 31, 2023

Tara Reade defects to Russia, gives hours-long interview on state media

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Tara Reade is pictured during an interview in Nevada City, California, in April 2019.
Tara Reade is pictured during an interview in Nevada City, California, in April 2019. Donald Thompson/AP

Tra Reade, a former staffer who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, has defected to Russia and spoke to Russian state media in a press conference that lasted several hours.

Reade drew headlines during the 2020 presidential race, when she accused then candidate Biden of sexually harassing and assaulting her when she worked in his Senate office in 1993.

Biden has strongly denied Reade’s allegations, and no ex-Biden staffer has come forward to say they ever witnessed or heard about any kind of sexual misconduct in his Senate office.

In an interview with MSNBC in 2020, Biden said he is “saying unequivocally, it never, never happened. It didn’t. It never happened.”

Reade later faced credibility questions of her own including about her education and other credentials.

After being out of the headlines for years, Reade turned up in Moscow on Tuesday, where she sat alongside convicted Kremlin spy Maria Butina and answered questions from Russian state media.

Butina was sentenced to 18 months in an American prison in 2019 for conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent, and now serves in the Russian Parliament in President Vladimir Putin’s party.

“When I got off the plane in Moscow, for the first time in a very long time I felt safe, and I felt heard, and I felt respected. That has not happened in my own country,” Reade said.

Reade said she decided to come to Russia following death threats she received this year after she reiterated her accusations regarding Biden and announced on Twitter that she was willing “to testify under oath in Congress if asked.”

CNN cannot verify Reade’s claims of receiving threats on her life.

Reade said that “this illusion of Russia as an enemy is propagated by a few Washington elites who are determined to cause problems.” 

During the conference, Butina promised to discuss the possibility of granting Russian citizenship to Reade and ask Putin “to fast track her citizenship request.” 

1:22 a.m. ET, May 31, 2023

Drones exploded in Moscow after an aerial assault hit Kyiv. Here's what to know

From CNN staff

Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on May 25.
Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on May 25. Stringer/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin called a drone attack in the Moscow region a "clear sign of terrorist activity" while pointing the finger at Ukraine. Though Ukraine has denied that it was directly involved, it came the same day that at least one person was killed in an aerial assault on Kyiv early Tuesday.

The governor of Russia's Belgorod region said the number of Ukrainian strikes has increased near the border with its highest number of reported attacks in the past 24 hours.

Here's what to know to get up to speed:

  • Moscow attacksEight drones were involved in an attack in the Moscow region on Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Russia blamed Ukraine, which has denied any direct involvement. Putin said the city's air defenses worked normally, also suggesting the drone attacks had been in response to recent Russian strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure. "Kyiv chose the path of intimidation of Russian citizens and attacks on residential buildings," Putin said.
  • Assault on Kyiv: Explosions in Kyiv early Tuesday killed one person and injured at least three others, the Ukrainian military said. It marks the 17th aerial attack on the capital city this month. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there would've been more damage without Ukraine’s modern air defense systems.
  • Western countries react: British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday that Ukraine has the right to "project force" over its borders for self-defense, following a drone attack in Moscow. A National Security Council spokesperson stressed that the United States does not back attacks in Russia. More generally, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday there is no fatigue among Western countries on providing aid to Ukraine.
  • Cross-border strikes: The governor of Russia's Belgorod region said Wednesday that one person was injured in shelling of the town of Shebekino, a day after reporting the death of one person in an alleged Ukrainian attack on a temporary accommodation center. Belgorod is located next to Ukraine and has seen a growing incidence of cross-border fire. Meanwhile, in Russia's Krasnodar region, the governor said a fire at an oil refinery was extinguished after a possible UAV attack.
  • Nuclear protection plan: International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi outlined five principles to protect Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and asked that Russia and Ukraine observe them to ensure the plant's safety and security. Grossi added that he has not yet secured their agreement on protecting the facility.
  • NATO bid: The US expects Sweden’s accession to NATO to be completed “in the weeks ahead,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Russia's invasion of Ukraine prompted non-aligned Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutrality and seek protection within NATO. Finland officially became the 31st member of NATO on April 4.
1:00 a.m. ET, May 31, 2023

Chechen leader says he received order to redeploy forces to self-proclaimed DPR in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ramzan Kadyrov attends Russian-Saudi talks at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on October 5, 2017.
Ramzan Kadyrov attends Russian-Saudi talks at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on October 5, 2017. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in a Telegram post Tuesday that he has received an order to redeploy his forces to the Moscow-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine.

“Friends, the Chechen units have received a new order to redeploy their forces. The territories of the Donetsk People's Republic become the zone of responsibility,” Kadyrov wrote. “According to the order, the fighters of the Chechen units must begin active combat operations and liberate a number of settlements.”

According to Kadyrov, “combat units are being prepared for assault activities with the active support of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces.”

Kadyrov said “similar orders to start the offensive” were also received by other units of his Akhmat battalion, that are located on “alternative sections of the line of contact between the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.”

“Tactical training activities were also carried out there, the distribution of tasks between commanders and fighters, the study of the terrain and the disposition of enemy forces,” the Chechen leader added.

Some context: Kadyrov leads sizeable paramilitary forces that, while formally a part of Russian security structures, have personal loyalty to him. During a visit to the Kremlin in March, the Chechen leader told Putin his forces in Ukraine will help Russia "fight to the victorious end."

10:01 p.m. ET, May 30, 2023

Russian authorities extinguish fire at oil refinery possibly caused by drone attack

From CNN's Josh Pennington

A fire at an oil refinery in Russia’s Krasnodar territory has been extinguished after a possible unmanned aerial vehicle attack, according to Krasnodar Gov. Veniamin Kondratiev. 

The fire was reported at the Afipsky Refinery in Seversky district and no casualties were reported, Kondratiev said on Telegram early Wednesday morning. One of the fuel oil distillation units had caught fire, he added. 

The governor said “fire brigades, MES, and emergency services” were working to extinguish the fire.

3:26 a.m. ET, May 31, 2023

1 injured in Belgorod shelling, governor says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

This picture shows the aftermath of a strike overnight in Belgorod region, Russia on May 31.
This picture shows the aftermath of a strike overnight in Belgorod region, Russia on May 31. Governor of Russia's Belgorod Oblast

One person was injured in shelling of the town of Shebekino, according to Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia's Belgorod region.

“According to preliminary information, there is one female victim," Gladkov said in a Telegram post Wednesday . "Residential buildings are damaged, vehicles are on fire."

It comes a day after Gladkov reported dozens of strikes in several areas of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, by Ukrainian mortar and artillery fire. One person was killed and two others were injured in an attack on a temporary accommodation center on Tuesday, he said.

8:42 p.m. ET, May 30, 2023

Ukrainian strike kills 1 in Russia's Belgorod region, governor says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

One person was killed and two others were injured in a Ukrainian attack on a temporary accommodation center, according to Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia's Belgorod region.

In a Telegram post Tuesday, Gladkov said "the security guard of this institution died."

"Two more people were injured. They are in critical condition in intensive care," he added.

According to Gladkov, cannon artillery was used in the strike. 

Some context: There has been increased fighting along the Russia-Ukraine border, specifically in the Belgorod region, officials have reported.

Namely, last week, a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals — who are aligned with the Ukrainian army — claimed responsibility for an attack in Belgorod, leaving Moscow to say it was fighting the group of saboteurs.

In a Telegram post, groups calling themselves the Freedom for Russia Legion and Russian Volunteer Corps said they had “liberated” a settlement in Belgorod.