May 2, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 1:06 a.m. ET, May 3, 2023
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12:56 a.m. ET, May 2, 2023

Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties since December, Biden administration estimates

From CNN's Betsy Klein and DJ Judd

A destroyed Russian tank remains on the side of the road near the frontline town of Kreminna in Luhansk region, Ukraine on March 24.
A destroyed Russian tank remains on the side of the road near the frontline town of Kreminna in Luhansk region, Ukraine on March 24. (Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters)

Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties since December and the "stunning" number is a key signal that Moscow's winter offensive has “backfired,” according to new estimated figures announced by the Biden administration on Monday.

White House official John Kirby told reporters Russia has "exhausted its military stockpiles and its armed forces" and the US estimates more than 20,000 of its troops have been killed in action in recent months.

The US is defining the term “casualty” as both wounded and killed.  

Kirby, who serves as National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, noted that “nearly half” of those casualties were fighters with the Russian private company Wagner — whom CNN has reported have experienced horrific experiences on the battlefield following minimal training and little leadership.

Kirby lambasted a recent assertion from Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who said Sunday that his group had only suffered 94 casualties. Kirby called Prigozhin's comments “just a ludicrous claim.” 

Pressed on the source of the new 100,000 figure, Kirby said it was “based on some downgraded intelligence that we’ve been able to collect.” He declined to provide information on Ukrainian casualties, noting that the US has “never” provided such information and would defer to Ukraine on the matter.

Kirby added that the Ukrainians “are the victims here, Russia is the aggressor, and I'm simply not going to put information in the public domain that's going to, again, make it any harder for the Ukrainians."

The official noted that it's ultimately Ukraine's decision to declassify the information and make their casualty figures public. "I don't need to abide by that same sense of courtesy for the Russians — haven't done it and I ain't going to start now," he said.

With regards to fighting on the ground, Kirby said “most” of Russia’s efforts have “stalled and failed” as the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut continues. He added that Russia has made “incremental” gains in the town that has “very little strategic value.” 

“The bottom line is that Russia's attempted offensive has backfired. After months of fighting and extraordinary losses, Russia continues to be focused on a single Ukrainian city with limited strategic value," the official said.

Kirby said any decision about a spring counteroffensive from Ukraine would be “for President (Volodymyr) Zelensky to make,” but the US will continue to provide military aid and support. 

The US official also told reporters a future package for Ukraine would be unveiled "very soon."

"What we want to stay focused on is making sure that we're helping them be as ready as they can be for whenever they choose to step off. And that means, obviously, in material support,” he told reporters.

11:24 p.m. ET, May 1, 2023

Russia still hasn't completely captured Bakhmut, Ukraine military says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London and Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

The Ukrainian military says it is locked in a “positional struggle” as fierce fighting rages in Bakhmut, adding it has been able to push back Russian forces after a series of counterattacks.

“I can definitely confirm the information that the enemy in Bakhmut left some positions after some of our counterattacks,” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told a national broadcaster. 

“There is a positional struggle there,” Cherevatyi said, explaining that the front line was constantly shifting. “Sometimes the enemy has some success after a powerful artillery strike and the destruction of infrastructure, and they can move forward. But we counterattack and often win back our positions after inflicting fire on the enemy.”

Cherevatyi added that for all its efforts, Russia still had not been able to “completely” capture the eastern city. 

And although the Russian military’s airborne units had reinforced positions in Bakhmut, Wagner forces continued to be the ones carrying out the assaults, he added. 

“However, due to heavy losses, they have been reinforced by airborne units. In addition, in an effort to capture Bakhmut completely, we also note that the enemy is also using snipers from special units and even special services (counterterrorism, for instance) to hit our positions as much as possible," he said.

Cherevatyi said Russian forces were having to be more mindful of their use of artillery shells and rockets, but rejected claims by Wagner founder and financier Yevgeny Prigozhin that his fighters were being starved of ammunition.

He concluded by defending Ukraine’s strategy for the region, stating "the enemy has not been able to take Bakhmut for nine months."

“Thus, we are conducting a successful defense operation and are achieving our main goal: destroying the enemy's military potential, personnel, and equipment to the maximum extent possible," he said. "In particular, Wagner is close to being completely destroyed."
1:06 a.m. ET, May 2, 2023

Former US marine killed in Ukraine, family says

From CNN's Natalie Gallón, Nick Paton Walsh, Jennifer Hansler and Teele Rebane

Former US Marine Cooper “Harris” Andrews.
Former US Marine Cooper “Harris” Andrews. (Twitter)

A former US Marine, Cooper “Harris” Andrews, 26, was killed on the outskirts of Bakhmut late last week, according to his mother and colleagues in Ukraine.

Andrews, from Cleveland, Ohio, was hit by a mortar, his mother, Willow Andrews said, likely on April 19 on the so-called “Road of Life” — a rare access road into Bakhmut used by the Ukrainian military to resupply their forces but also evacuate civilians.

Andrew’s body has yet to be recovered, she said, owing to the ongoing fighting around the city, whose outsized symbolic importance has led to intense fighting as Moscow desperately tries to seize it.

Andrews worked for an activist group known as the Resistance Committee, according to their social media statements. They said he was killed assisting the evacuation of civilians from the city. Andrews left Cleveland, Ohio in November and joined the Foreign Legion in Ukraine, a group of foreign fighters helping the Ukrainian military. His contract ended in March, Mrs. Andrews said, and he decided to stay on.

The US Department of State said on Monday it could “confirm the death of a US citizen in Ukraine,” without naming the individual.

“We are in touch with the family and providing all possible consular assistance,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Out of respect for the family’s privacy during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.”

CNN has reached out to the Ukrainian military for comment but has yet to hear back.