May 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, Andrew Raine, Ben Church and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:07 AM ET, Tue May 3, 2022
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12:38 p.m. ET, May 2, 2022

"Two months of darkness": Mariupol residents arrive in Russian-held Bezimenne

From CNN’s Eliza Mackintosh in London

Evacuees, including civilians who left the area near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, arrive in the Russian-held town of Bezimenne, in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine, on May 1.
Evacuees, including civilians who left the area near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, arrive in the Russian-held town of Bezimenne, in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine, on May 1. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Footage and photos posted over the weekend show civilians arriving by bus in the Russian-held town of Bezimenne -- about 16 miles east of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol -- in a convoy of Russian tanks emblazoned with the letter Z and United Nations (UN) vehicles.

In the images, published by Reuters on Sunday, women, children and elderly people emerge from buses to an area lined with white tents. Some cling to bags of their belongings. One holds a cat carrier. Soldiers in unmarked fatigues, carrying rifles, patrol the area.

One woman, an employee at Mariupol's vast Azovstal steel plant, said that she spent weeks hiding out in the maze of Soviet-era bunkers below the facility -- the last remaining holdout in the embattled city. She said that she tried earlier to escape Mariupol in evacuation corridors but was unable to leave due to the relentless shelling. 

An Azovstal steel plant employee who was evacuated from Mariupol arrives in the Russian-held village of Bezimenne on May 1.
An Azovstal steel plant employee who was evacuated from Mariupol arrives in the Russian-held village of Bezimenne on May 1. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

"The shelling was so strong at it kept hitting near us. At the exit of the bomb shelter, on the top few steps one could breathe, as there was not enough oxygen. I was afraid to even walk out and breathe some fresh air," said the employee.

I can't believe it. Two months of darkness. When we were in the [evacuation] bus I told my husband 'Vasya, won't we have to go to the toilet with a flashlight? And not to use a bag, a bin [as a toilet] with a flashlight,” she added. “We did not see any sunlight. We were scared."

Over the weekend, both Ukrainian and Russian officials said dozens of civilians were evacuated from the plant and surrounding area by the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that about 100 people were rescued from Azovstal and headed to Zaporizhzhia, and there were hopes that more would be able to leave on Monday.

Russia's defense ministry reported that 46 people left the wider Azovstal complex on Saturday, and that 80 civilians were "rescued" from the works Sunday, before they were taken to the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). The ministry said that a number of these people had "voluntarily decided to stay in the DPR," which has been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

While the ministry claimed that civilians evacuated from Azovstal who wished to leave for Ukrainian-held areas were “handed over to representatives of the UN and the ICRC,” it is unclear whether all were given the choice of where to go next.

A CNN investigation in April revealed that Russian forces and allied separatist soldiers were taking Mariupol residents to a so-called “filtration center” set up in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia -- many against their will. Ukrainian government and local Mariupol officials say that tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly deported to the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia since the war began.

In April, CNN interviewed 10 people, including local Mariupol residents and their loved ones, who were taken by Russian and DPR soldiers to Russian-held towns against their will before being deported to the Russian Federation.

CNN spoke with two people who were brought to Bezimenne before being sent to Russia. They described a massive military tent, where Russian and DPR soldiers were processing hundreds of people -- they were fingerprinted, photographed, their phones searched, interrogated, passports reviewed and registered into databases.

Maxar satellite images show the tent camp in Bezimenne on March 22.
Maxar satellite images show the tent camp in Bezimenne on March 22.

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies reviewed by CNN show a tent encampment in Bezimenne. According to Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boichenko, it is one of four “filtration camps” that the DPR and Russia are operating around the city.

We have the official statistics which we have verified with the community registry — over 40,000 local residents who went through the filtration and turned out either in the so-called DPR or Russian Federation,” Boichenko said on April 25. “Some Mariupol residents have managed to get to Ukrainian controlled territories now and testify on the whole process.”

A day before, in his nightly address, Zelensky said that the government was continuing to monitor Russia’s “so-called filtration camps” near Mariupol. "The facts of deportation of our citizens to the Russian hinterland, to Siberia, and even to Vladivostok have been recorded," he said. "Children are also deported. They hope that kids will forget where their home is, but they are from Ukraine."

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from deporting or transferring civilian populations. Ukraine's prosecutor general and international rights monitors have said that Russia's forcible removal of civilians could amount to a war crime.

Moscow has continued to claim that it is evacuating civilians from dangerous regions of Ukraine. Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev said on Saturday that more than 1 million Ukrainians, including nearly 200,000 children, had been evacuated to Russia so far, according to TASS.

Read CNN's investigation into Russia deportations here:

6:17 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Russia's Sergey Lavrov asserts Hitler "had Jewish blood," prompting Israeli government fury

From CNN’s Hadas Gold in Jerusalem and Radina Gigova in London

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on April 27.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on April 27. (Yuri Kochetkov/AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said over the weekend that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood,” prompting a furious response from Israel on Monday.

“Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said.
“Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism.”

Lavrov made the comments on Italian television on Sunday, repeating Russia’s claim that its invasion of Ukraine is to “de-Nazify” the country.

He shrugged off the fact that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.

“He [Zelensky] puts forward an argument: what kind of Nazism can they have if he is a Jew. I may be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. It means absolutely nothing. The wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews," Lavrov said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian Ambassador to Israel on Monday over Lavrov’s remarks.

Dani Dayan, who chairs the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance site in Israel, said it was “completely unfounded” to say Hitler was of Jewish descent.

And he slammed Russia’s labelling of Ukrainians as Nazis.

“Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President Zelensky in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of the history and a serious affront to the victims of Nazism,” Dayan said on Twitter. 

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the remarks made by his Russian counterpart were "heinous."

"FM Lavrov could not help hiding the deeply-rooted antisemitism of the Russian elites," Kuleba said Monday on his official Twitter account.
"His heinous remarks are offensive to President [Zelensky], Ukraine, Israel, and the Jewish people. More broadly, they demonstrate that today’s Russia is full of hatred towards other nations."
6:17 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

UK says a quarter of Russian battalion groups that invaded Ukraine are likely "ineffective"

A car drives past a destroyed Russian tank on a road west of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 7.
A car drives past a destroyed Russian tank on a road west of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 7. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

A quarter of the Russian battalion groups that invaded Ukraine have likely now been rendered "ineffective," according to the UK's Ministry of Defence.

According to its figures, Russia committed over 120 battalion tactical groups, approximately 65% of its entire ground combat strength, at the start of the invasion.

"It is likely that more than a quarter of these units have now been rendered combat ineffective," the Ministry of Defence said in its latest update.
"Some of Russia’s most elite units, including the VDV Airborne Forces, have suffered the highest levels of attrition. It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces."

Read more on Russian military problems here:

6:46 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Russians only advancing in areas they've destroyed, Luhansk official says

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv and Eliza Mackintosh in London

Smoke rises across the skyline following a shelling in Rubizhne, Ukraine, on April 23.
Smoke rises across the skyline following a shelling in Rubizhne, Ukraine, on April 23. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian forces are putting intense pressure on the front lines in Luhansk, Ukraine's easternmost region, as part of its renewed offensive.

Fighting raged over the weekend in Luhansk, with intense gunfights breaking out street after street and towns pounded by artillery shelling. The Ukrainian military said on Sunday that it was continuing to reinforce the east amid heavy assaults and as Russia continues its two-week-old push in the country's industrial heartland -- pouring in more weapons and military equipment.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, told Ukrainian television on Monday that Russian forces were laying waste to villages along the front lines of the region and then pressing forward.

Strategically speaking, the only place they [Russians] can advance in is the areas they have completely destroyed. So they completely destroyed the whole of Novotoshkivka, there was no place to hold the defense -- and they occupied it," Hayday said. Novotoshkivka fell on April 25, according to Ukrainian officials. 

That scorched-earth strategy has forced Ukrainian military forces to pull back in some places, to avoid significant losses of life.

"In Kreminna, we understood that if we just held on to the land, the boys would die, and there would be no harm to the enemy, so we regrouped and left," Hayday said.

Kreminna was abandoned in mid-April by Ukrainian forces. Hayday also ackowledged that most of the town of Rubizhne was now in Russian hands. 

"Rubizhne was destroyed very badly, but it cannot be said that they completely occupied the city, because there are lines of defense on the outskirts and our guys not only keep the defense there, but also constantly harm the enemy. "

5:49 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Large explosion near Russian-held airfield in southern Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Video and images posted Monday appear to show the aftermath of a large explosion close to an airfield in a Russian-occupied part of southern Ukraine.

The footage shows thick, dark smoke rising from the vicinity of a Russian-held airport just outside the city of Kherson at Chornobaivka.

There's been no comment from the Ukrainian or Russian military on the cause of the explosion, but Russian positions and equipment at Chornobaivka have been hit on several previous occasions.

Last week, the Ukrainian military said that Russian forces had retreated towards Chornobaivka after suffering heavy losses.

5:28 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

More than 5.5 million refugees have now fled Ukraine

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

Ukrainian refugees board the train to Poland from Ukraine's port city of Odesa on April 25.
Ukrainian refugees board the train to Poland from Ukraine's port city of Odesa on April 25. (NurPhoto/Reuters)

At least 5.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, according to the latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data.  

In addition to the 5,563,959 registered refugees, at least 7.7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine having been forced to flee their homes, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

A projected 8.3 million refugees are expected to flee Ukraine, the UNHCR said Tuesday.

5:15 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

A missing Ukrainian soldier returns to marry his girlfriend

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the Russian navy attacked Snake Island off the Ukrainian coast -- an episode immortalized by a captured radio exchange in which the defenders told a Russian warship to "go f*** yourself" after being ordered to surrender.

Several of the defenders were thought to have been killed and were even given posthumous military awards by President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Among those whose fate was unknown was a young soldier of the 35th Marine Brigade called Valeriy.

It later transpired that Valeriy had been taken prisoner by the Russians, but he was then sent back to Ukraine in a prisoner exchange.

Once home, Valeriy was given leave and went immediately to Kharkiv where he proposed to his girlfriend of two years, Vladislava. 

They were married at the weekend in a ceremony attended by Valeriy's commanding officer, Maksym Zinchenko.

The Facebook page of the military unit announcing their wedding said their feelings for each other "were strengthened by distance and time, and the separation and uncertainty gave them a real understanding that life is fragile."

4:56 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets Polish President in Warsaw

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stands next to Polish President Andrzej Duda as they meet in Warsaw, Poland, on May 2.
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stands next to Polish President Andrzej Duda as they meet in Warsaw, Poland, on May 2. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday to discuss further support for Ukraine.

Images show the pair shaking hands and sitting down for talks alongside a Congressional delegation.

The visit comes shortly after Pelosi made an unannounced trip to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Saturday, becoming the most senior US official to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky since the war broke out more than two months ago.

In a statement on Sunday, Pelosi said the meetings with Duda would be "focused on further strengthening our partnership, offering our gratitude for Poland’s humanitarian leadership, and discussing how we can further work together to support Ukraine."

6:09 a.m. ET, May 2, 2022

Ukrainian drone destroys Russian patrol ships off Snake Island, says defense ministry

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie in Hong Kong 

Two Russian Raptor patrol boats were destroyed near Snake Island by a Ukrainian Bayraktar drone Monday morning local time, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reported, citing the head of the Armed Forces General. 

Two Russian Raptor patrol boats were destroyed in the early hours of this morning near Snake [Zmiinyi] Island. #Bayraktar works! Together to Victory!” the MOD tweeted. 

Video of the drone targeting one of the Raptor patrol boats near the island in the Black Sea was included in the MOD post. 

The Bayraktar TB-2 is a Turkish-designed armed drone that has been used to considerable effect by the Ukrainian Armed Forces against Russian targets.

Moscow is yet to confirm or react to the claim.

Read more on Snake Island here: