May 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Ben Church, Ed Upright, Sana Noor Haq, Jessie Yeung, Andrew Raine and Helen Regan, CNN

Updated 12:09 AM ET, Wed May 4, 2022
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3:48 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Several regions in Ukraine targeted by missile strikes, officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova in Lviv

Smoke rises from a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on May 3.
Smoke rises from a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on May 3. (Vladyslav Sodel/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials have reported missile attacks in several parts of the country.

Two missiles flying over the southwestern Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia were shot down, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry.

Serhiy Borzov, head of the Vinnytsia region military administration, said two blasts that Vinnytsia residents heard "were our air defenses." A search is underway for the wreckage the missiles.

Gerashchenko said another cruise missile was just shot down by air defenses "on its way to Kyiv" in the area of ​​the Odesa highway.

The mayor of Dolynska, a town in the central Kirovohrad region, said there had been missile strikes in the area but gave no further details.

Further west, close to the Slovakian border, the head of the Zakarpattia Regional Military Administration, Viktor Mykyta, said there had been a missile strike in the mountainous region. "We are clarifying the information on injuries and possible victims," he said.

Several of the targets in Tuesday's missile strikes appear to have been related to the transport of military equipment into Ukraine. Russia has threatened to target shipments of weapons and their routes. 

In Lviv, Maksym Kozynskyi, the head of the Regional Military Administration, said three power substations had been damaged. 

Separately, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, said a border area in the region of Sumy in the far northeast of the country had been struck with multiple rocket launchers and mortars.

The chairman of Ukrainian railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said that Russian missiles had struck six locations along lines in central and western Ukraine on Tuesday evening.

He said there were no casualties among staff or passengers.

At least 14 passenger trains were held up, he said, and the damage to infrastructure damage was severe.

CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko contributed reporting to this post.

3:28 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

US national security official: Biden administration won't allow Russia to "co-opt" Victory in Europe Day

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House National Security Council senior director for Europe Amanda Sloat told CNN Tuesday the Biden administration does not want to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to “co-opt” Monday’s Victory Day by tying it to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The first thing that I would say is Victory in Europe Day is not something that belongs to Russia alone, and the holiday is going to be celebrated across Europe on May 8 and May 9 to commemorate the day when unified efforts came together to defeat Nazi Germany at the end of World War II — that included the United States, many of our European allies, as well as the former Soviet Union, including both Russians and Ukrainians,” Sloat told CNN’s Victor Blackwell. “So, this is a broader holiday that we should not let be co-opted by President Putin on the 9th.”

She declined to weigh in on intelligence indicating Putin may use the holiday to rally support for his invasion of Ukraine, including possible steps to formally declare war on its neighbor or annex the Donbas and Luhansk regions, telling CNN, “I’m not going to speculate about what Putin might do, but it’s very clear that he’s already launched an unjustified and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, and our position on May 9 is going to be the same as it’s been every day for the last two and a half months, which is going to continue giving Ukraine the security assistance it needs to defend itself.”

Sloat also pointed to US President Joe Biden’s trip to Troy, Alabama today, where he’s highlighting the security aid the administration has provided to Ukraine.

“President Biden currently is in Alabama, speaking to workers at a Javelin factory, which is one of the key elements of security assistance that we have given,” she said. “The president sent a supplemental request to Congress last week asking for funding to continue providing security assistance, and that's what our strategy has been, and that's what our strategy is going to remain going forward, which is giving the tools to enable Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression."

3:23 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Azovstal evacuees describe how they survived inside the plant and what they saw

From CNN's Denis Lapin and Maryna Marykhnych in Zaporizhzhia and Julia Presniakova in Lviv

Some of the evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant have been speaking about their experiences after arriving in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.

Elina Tsybulchenko, a former employee at the plant, says she was in a bunker there from March 2 until May 1 with her family.

They'd survived on soup and tinned food and unsweetened tea — but not much of it, she said.

She told CNN that when they left, there were still 42 people left in their bunker. "Only civilians, we did not have any military in the bunker. 'Because if we are in the bunker, you will be in danger' — the military said," according to Elina. 

Speaking of the bombing, she said: "I never thought the earth could shake like that. It didn't just shake. The bunker jumped and trembled."

CNN asked Tsybulchenko why she had chosen not to go to Russia or the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. 

"Because I am Ukrainian, and my homeland is in Ukraine, and not in Russia and not in the DPR," she said. "Mariupol was my city, but now it is gone, there is nothing."

She said she had lost precious family heirlooms, such as a traditional embroidered costume which was 150 years old.

"It survived the Holodomor (the mass starvation of Ukraine by Stalin in the 1930s), deportation, World War I, World War II, even the Nazis did not destroy it. And the fascists did not destroy Mariupol. But the Russians came and destroyed it," she told CNN.

The family had three apartments, she said. "And it all burned down, everything burned down."

She said that after leaving, they spent a night in a Russian filtration center in Bezimenne village.

On the way to Zaporizhzhia, she said she started to cry when she saw the Ukrainian flag.

Tsybulchenko noted that now she just wants to wash and have clean underwear. 

Sergey Kuzmenko, also an employee of Azovstal, was there from March 8. He said that in April the soldiers at the plant had managed to get cereals and canned food into the plant every few days.

"People rot in basements," he said. "So that you understand, (there are) 2 to 3 flights of stairs to the basement, there is dampness, there is no ventilation for 60 and more days there."

"At the beginning of the war, the plant had 36 bomb shelters. But at the moment there are only a few left," he said. He described how a two-story building was demolished by one bomb,

He said as they left they saw that two floors of their bunker were full of badly wounded soldiers. 

Kuzmenko told CNN that Russian troops had searched through all his belongings after he was evacuated and he was examined for tattoos. "They offered options to return to Zaporizhzhia, or go to Russia or stay in the DPR. Some stayed in Russia. They didn't force them," he said.

Kuzmenko described a tortuous journey with many stops and detours. He said the passengers were aware that hundreds of people they passed could not join the convoy, including about 500 waiting at a shopping center outside Mariupol and at villages along the way.

He said he was really looking forward to shaving for the first time in more than two months. 

Many of the evacuees seemed overwhelmed, exhausted, pale and thin, but also relieved to be safe. Some of the children seemed to be ravenously hungry.

2:57 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Satellite images show the progression of destruction at the Azovstal plant

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Adrienne Vogt

While some civilians evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have arrived safely in Zaporizhzhia today, Russian forces are launching fresh attacks on the ruined complex, according to official accounts from both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. 

More than 100 civilians are estimated to still be inside the plant, Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, told Reuters on Monday.

These satellite images show how Russian forces have slowly decimated the plant since late March.

Here's what the plant looked like on March 22, with a few holes seen in roofs and some scattered debris.

The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 22.
The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 22. (Satellite image ©2022MaxarTechnologies)

This satellite image shows what the sprawling complex looked like more than two weeks later.

An overview of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 9.
An overview of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 9. (Satellite image ©2022MaxarTechnologies)

And in this image from April 29, nearly every building on the plant has been destroyed, a satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows. Some roofs have completely collapsed and other buildings have been reduced to rubble.

Satellite imagery shows what remains of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 29.
Satellite imagery shows what remains of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 29. (Satellite image ©2022MaxarTechnologies)

2:52 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

UN: 127 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia from areas in Mariupol

From CNN's Maija Ehlinger

Evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant and surrounding area arrive at an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 3.
Evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant and surrounding area arrive at an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 3. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

A total of 127 people have arrived in Zaporizhzhia from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and surrounding area following an evacuation corridor effort, according to a written statement from UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine Osnat Lubrani on Tuesday.

A total of 101 people, including "women, men, children, and older persons," were evacuated from the steel plant while another 58 joined from Manhush, a town outside of Mariupol according to Lubrani. 

"Some evacuees decided not to proceed towards Zaporizhzhia with the convoy," Lubrani added in the statement. "Over the past days, traveling with the evacuees, I have heard mothers, children and frail grandparents speak about the trauma of living day after day under unrelenting heavy shelling and the fear of death, and with extreme lack of water, food, and sanitation. They spoke of the hell they have experienced since this war started, seeking refuge in the Azovstal plant, many being separated from family members whose fate they still don’t know."

Addressing the press Tuesday afternoon, Lubrani said she hopes this evacuation operation could be a "steppingstone to more such operations that need to take place. There is knowledge that there are still civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant. Some of them have been afraid to come out."

There was not a clear number of people who remain inside the Azovstal steel plant, Lubrani added.

2:43 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Why Putin is eyeing May 9 for his next possible big move on Ukraine

From CNN's Jack Guy and Anna Chernova

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Russia may have invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, but President Vladimir Putin has insisted that his troops are carrying out a "special military operation" instead of declaring war

However, Western officials and analysts believe that could change on May 9, a symbolic day for Russia, with a formal declaration of war that will pave the way for Putin to step up his campaign.

What is May 9?

May 9, known as "Victory Day" inside Russia, commemorates the country's defeat of the Nazis in 1945.

It is marked by a military parade in Moscow, and Russian leaders traditionally stand on the tomb of Vladimir Lenin in Red Square to observe it.

"May 9 is designed to show off to the home crowd, to intimidate the opposition and to please the dictator of the time," said James Nixey, director of the Russia-Eurasia Programme at Chatham House told CNN.

Western officials have long believed that Putin would leverage the symbolic significance and propaganda value of the day to announce either a military achievement in Ukraine, a major escalation of hostilities — or both.

The Russian president has a keen eye for symbolism, having launched the invasion of Ukraine the day after Defender of the Fatherland Day, another crucial military day in Russia.

Preparing for mobilization?

Putin has many options on the table, according to Oleg Ignatov, senior analyst for Russia at Crisis Group. "Declaring war is the toughest scenario," he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — who has not formally declared war on Russia — imposed martial law in Ukraine when the Russian invasion began in late February.

Another option for Putin is to enact Russia's mobilization law, which can be used to start a general or partial military mobilization "in cases of aggression against the Russian Federation or a direct threat of aggression, the outbreak of armed conflicts directed against the Russian Federation."

That would allow the government not just to assemble troops but also to put the country's economy on a war footing.

Mobilization could mean extending conscription for soldiers currently in the armed forces, calling on reservists or bringing in men of fighting age who have had military training, said Ignatov.

But it represents a big risk to Putin's government, he said.

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3:07 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Russians attack railway substations near Lviv, Ukrainian Railways says

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Tim Lister

After CNN teams in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv heard several blasts in the past hour, Ukrainian Railways said that a number of trains have been halted around Lviv because of Russian attacks on railway power substations.

A number of trains will run with a delay, it said.

"In particular, trains have been detained at the entrance to Lviv, information is being updated," according to Ukrainian Railways.

Lviv Mayor Andrii Sadovyi said that parts of the city are without power. Sadovyi also said that "as a result of the missile strikes, two power substations were damaged."

"Everyone stay in the shelters," he said in a brief Telegram post.

CNN reporters heard the blasts coming from directions to the east, south and west of the city center. One of the sites is close to the city center.

From another site, further away, a huge plume of black smoke could be seen billowing across the sky.

Smoke continues to drift across the city, with the largest fire burning to the west of the city center.

Traffic that had come to a standstill immediately after the strikes began to move about 45 minutes later.

An eyewitness who spoke to CNN said they "saw the missile flying close by; I thought it was a plane" but then they heard a "loud explosion."

"I was worried that people were injured, so we quickly took a car and drove there, because the sound of the explosion was very loud. We took shovels, buckets, axes and quickly went there," the eyewitness said.

"We thought maybe they hit houses, but they hit the electricity substation. It is located near the railway tracks. Then we heard the second explosion; it was the explosion of the [substation's] transformer. The fire was getting bigger, we saw the police, we showed them the direction, we showed them where the road is. Now the fire trucks are arriving."

2:45 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

At least 290 civilian bodies found in Irpin since Russian withdrawal, mayor says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Anna Shevchenko, 35, reacts next to her home in Irpin, near Kyiv, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The house, built by Shevchenko's grandparents, was nearly completely destroyed by bombing in late March during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Anna Shevchenko, 35, reacts next to her home in Irpin, near Kyiv, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The house, built by Shevchenko's grandparents, was nearly completely destroyed by bombing in late March during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo)

The bodies of 290 civilians have been recovered in the town of Irpin, outside of Kyiv, since the withdrawal of Russian forces, Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushin said Tuesday.

In a statement on Facebook, Markushin said 185 of the dead have been identified, the majority of whom were men. The cause of death was “shrapnel and gunshot wounds.”

According to Markushin, at least five of the dead suffered brain injuries and starvation. Five residents were shot dead in the yard of a high-rise building and at the premises of a children's development center.

12:17 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Russian forces deport almost 40,000 people from Mariupol to Russia, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

Russian forces deported almost 40,000 people from Mariupol to Russia or the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said during a briefing at the Ukraine-Ukrinform media center on Tuesday.

"We have already verified the lists of those who were deported from Mariupol to Russia or the so-called DPR. Almost 40,000 people. Now they have begun to hide these lists. Unfortunately, we are not able to verify everything at the moment, but we are continuing the work," said Boichenko. 

Russian military "takes the local population to the outskirts of Russia, to the Far East, or to Siberia and there they use them for various jobs," Boichenko said, adding that Mariupol residents are issued a certificate of resettlement and are involved in "humiliating work."