May 4, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Adrienne Vogt, Brad Lendon, Andrew Raine, Jack Guy and Ben Church, CNN

Updated 12:11 AM ET, Thu May 5, 2022
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12:21 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Biden says US is "open to additional sanctions" on Russia after EU announces new round of sanctions

(Evan Vucci/AP)
(Evan Vucci/AP)

After the European Union and UK announced additional sanctions on Russia, US President Joe Biden said "we are always open to additional sanctions."

"I'll be speaking with the members of the G7 this week about what we're going to do or not do," Biden told reporters at the White House while discussing the US economy.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed a raft of measures, including a ban on Russian oil, on Wednesday. Other proposals include listing individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine; removing Russia's largest bank Sberbank and two other companies from the SWIFT system, a messaging service that connects financial institutions around the world; and banning three Russian state-owned broadcasters from European airwaves.

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday announced further sanctions against 63 Russian citizens and entities, including against Russian media companies "behind Putin's vicious disinformation campaign" and their employees.

10:49 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Swedish embassy is the latest diplomatic mission to return to Kyiv

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The Swedish embassy in Ukraine has returned to Kyiv, the Ambassador of Sweden to Ukraine Tobias Thyberg announced on Twitter on Wednesday. 

"The embassy team is back where we belong: in Kyiv, supporting Ukraine and its heroic citizens as they defend the freedom of their country and freedom in Europe," Thyberg said. 

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that diplomatic missions from 27 countries were now operating again in Kyiv.

The UK, Spain, Italy and France have all announced plans to reopen. The US said its embassy in Ukraine hopes to return to Kyiv by the end of May if conditions permit.

The South Korean ambassador to Ukraine, alongside some members of staff from the embassy in Kyiv, returned to the city on Saturday and will start operations on Monday, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.

See Thyberg's tweet:

10:38 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Russia's Patriarch Kirill included in sixth round of proposed EU sanctions, sources say

From CNN's Luke McGee and Radina Gigova

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill celebrates the Easter service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, on April 19, 2020.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill celebrates the Easter service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, on April 19, 2020. (Oleg Varov/Russian Orthodox Church Press Service/AFP/Getty Images)

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is among the individuals who will be included in the proposed sixth round of European Union sanctions, according to two sources who have seen the full documents. 

The proposed draft has been sent to the corresponding ambassadors for review, the sources said. 

At this stage, names can be taken off or added at member state discretion, an EU Commission source said. 

On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed a raft of measures that also include a ban on Russian oil. 

In an interview this week, Pope Francis slammed Kirill for endorsing Russia's stated reasons for invading Ukraine, warning him to not become "Putin's altar boy."

In response, the Russian Orthodox Church said Pope Francis had used the “wrong tone” in characterizing his meeting with Patriarch Kirill and called the Pope’s comments “regrettable.”

“Such declarations do not contribute to establishing a constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church which is particularly necessary at this time,” declared the Department of External Relations of the Russian Patriarchate in a statement.

What Russia is saying: The sanctions are out of touch with "common sense," Russian Orthodox Church spokesperson Vladimir Legoida said Wednesday, according to Russian state news agency TASS. 

"The more indiscriminate [these] sanctions become, the more they lose touch with common sense and the harder it becomes to reach peace, which is what the Russian Orthodox Church prays for at every service with the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch, and assistance to all those affected by the Ukrainian conflict, only serve to affirm his words," Legoida said in a Telegram post. 

"Only those completely ignorant of the history of our Church can seek to intimidate its clergy and believers by compiling some lists," Legoida said. 

9:46 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Belarusian army begins previously unannounced inspection of its Reaction Force

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The Belarusian army has begun a previously unannounced inspection of its Reaction Force, planning movement of a significant amount of military equipment, according to a statement published by Belarusian Ministry of Defense on its Telegram channel Wednesday.

"A surprise inspection of the Reaction Force has begun in the Armed Forces of Belarus, during which military units and subunits will have to work on the issues of getting ready, marching to designated areas and performing combat training tasks," the statement read.

The defense department noted that "the purpose of the inspection is to assess the readiness and ability of personnel to quickly respond to a possible crisis situation."

According to the statement, "military units and subunits will operate in unfamiliar areas in a rapidly changing environment."

The threat of missile strikes on military and civilian infrastructure of Ukraine from the territory of the Republic of Belarus remains real, said Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the spokesperson of Ukraine's defense ministry, on Wednesday.

"The Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus are strengthening certain units at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border in Brest and Gomel regions. Demonstrative and provocative actions along the state border with Ukraine are not ruled out in the future," he added.

According to him, the threat from Belarus has never ceased. 

"As you know, today the Russian army is using the territory of the Republic of Belarus as a springboard for the attack on Ukraine. In fact, due to this, Russian units were able to appear in the suburbs of the capital so quickly," emphasized Motuzyanyk.

9:33 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

UK announces more Russia sanctions and targets media outlets over "disinformation"

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss at Downing Street for a cabinet meeting on April 19 in London, England.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss at Downing Street for a cabinet meeting on April 19 in London, England. (Mark Thomas/Shutterstock)

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has announced further sanctions against 63 Russian citizens and entities, including against Russian media companies "behind Putin's vicious disinformation campaign" and their employees.

Russian war correspondents embedded with Russian forces in Ukraine and several Russian media outlets are among those sanctioned.

Aside from asset freezes and travel bans, new legislation introduced means social media, internet services and app store companies "must take action to block content from two of Russia's major sources of disinformation, RT and Sputnik," according to the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). 

"These outlets have already been booted off the airwaves in Britain and we've barred anyone from doing business with them. Now we've moved to pull the plug on their websites, social media accounts and apps to further stop the spread of their lies," Tech and Digital Economy Minister Chris Philp said.

The latest sanctions announcement also sees the UK ban service exports to Russia, prohibiting the provision of PR, management consultancy and accounting services to Russian businesses.

"Doing business with Putin's regime is morally bankrupt and helps fund a war machine that is causing untold suffering across Ukraine," Truss said, adding that "cutting Russia's access to British services will put more pressure on the Kremlin and ultimately help ensure Putin fails in Ukraine."

UK services currently make up 10% of Russian imports in these sectors, according to the FCDO.

9:04 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

EU wants to remove Russia's largest bank from SWIFT system and ban state-owned broadcasters

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her speech during a debate on the social and economic consequences for the EU of the Russian war in Ukraine, on May 4, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. The European Union's leader on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia in a sixth package of sanctions targeting Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her speech during a debate on the social and economic consequences for the EU of the Russian war in Ukraine, on May 4, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. The European Union's leader on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia in a sixth package of sanctions targeting Moscow for its war in Ukraine. (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

In addition to proposing a ban on Russian oil, the European Union is taking several other measures against Moscow over its war in Ukraine, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

In a series of tweets, she said the bloc plans to:

  • List individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine
  • Remove Russia's largest bank Sberbank and two other companies from the SWIFT system, a messaging service that connects financial institutions around the world.
  • Ban three Russian state-owned broadcasters from the European airwaves because they "amplify Putin's lies and propaganda aggressively."

Von der Leyen laid the blame at the feet of the Russian leader:

"Putin must pay a price, a high price for his brutal aggression," she said.  "It is international law that counts and not the right of might."

As for the oil ban, von der Leyen acknowledged the challenges in switching from a reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

"Let's be clear: it will not be easy. But we simply have to work on it. We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion. To maximise pressure on Russia, while minimizing the impact on our economies."

She added:

"We want Ukraine to win this war. Yet so much has to be rebuilt. That is why I am proposing to start working on an ambitious recovery package for our Ukrainian friends. This package should bring massive investment to meet the needs and the necessary reforms."

Von der Leyen is speaking at the European Parliament. 

In response, the Kremlin spokesperson said the sanctions are a double-edged weapon. 

“In general, the sanctions aspirations of the Americans, Europeans, and other countries are a double-edged weapon. In trying to harm us, they too have to pay a heavy price. They're already doing it, paying a big price. And the cost of these sanctions for European citizens will increase every day," Dmitry Peskov said when asked about possible sanctions on Russian oil to be imposed by the European Union.

2:03 p.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Mariupol mayor says contact has been lost with Ukrainian forces in Azovstal plant as heavy fighting continues

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

This satellite image shows damage at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 4.
This satellite image shows damage at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 4. (Planet Labs PBC/AP)

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said that new battles have broken out at the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of civilians are still trapped inside along with the last Ukrainian defenders in the city.

"Today there are heavy battles on the territory of our fortress, on the territory of Azovstal. Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult, because heavy artillery and tanks are firing all over the fortress; aviation is working, ships have approached and are also firing on the fortress," Boichenko said.

Speaking on Ukrainian television, Boichenko said there were 30 children trapped at the plant still waiting to be rescued.

"They are waiting for a new negotiation procedure and a new evacuation mission," he said.

"We must understand that people are still dying. Unfortunately, enemy aviation and artillery are working and firing on the fortress constantly," he said. Two young women were killed at Azovstal earlier this week, he added.

He also said contact had been lost with the Ukrainian defenders.

"Unfortunately, today there is no connection with the guys, there is no connection to understand what is happening, whether they are safe or not. Yesterday there was a connection with them; today, no more."

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said the Russian Armed Forces were not “storming” the Azovstal plant but described it instead as suppressing “attempts by militants” to take new firing positions. 

“There has been a public order by the supreme commander [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to cancel the storming; there is no storming,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday in a call with reporters. 

Peskov added: “We see that there are aggravations associated with the fact that the militants go to firing positions. These attempts are suppressed very quickly. There is nothing else to say here yet."

See Russian strikes on Azovstal steel plant:

8:37 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday the measures would form part of a sixth round of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday the measures would form part of a sixth round of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. (Philipp von Ditfurth/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Both the European Union and Australia revealed more sanctions on Russian officials Wednesday as diplomatic efforts to end the war in Ukraine continue.

Russian forces launched missile strikes that hit at least six infrastructure targets across Ukraine, but they are still struggling to make progress in their offensive in the east of the country.

Here's what you need to know:

  • European Union reveals further measures: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed a raft of measures including a ban on Russian oil on Wednesday. Other proposals include listing individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine; removing Russia's largest bank Sberbank and two other companies from the SWIFT system, a messaging service that connects financial institutions around the world; and banning three Russian state-owned broadcasters from European airwaves.
  • More evacuations from Mariupol: Fresh evacuations from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol got underway on Wednesday, according to a local official, who did not provide a figure for the number of people involved. A convoy of buses departed Mariupol for Zaporizhzhia in efforts led by the United Nations and the Red Cross, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk Region Military Administration, announced on Telegram. 
  • Pope condemns Russian orthodox leader: Pope Francis warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become “Putin’s altar boy” in an interview this week. In his strongest words to date against the pro-war Patriarch, Francis also slammed Kirill for endorsing Russia’s stated reasons for invading Ukraine.
  • Russian forces largely stalled in eastern Ukraine: Despite heavy artillery fire on a number of fronts, Russian forces have made few advances toward their goal of securing all of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the east of the country, the Ukrainian military said Wednesday.
  • Russia targets infrastructure: Russian missile attacks on Tuesday night were designed to destroy transport infrastructure, according to the Ukrainian military. Cruise missiles hit at least a half-dozen targets across central and western Ukraine in what appears to have been an attempt to hamper the transit of military equipment and supplies. The Ukrainian railway system reported that more than 40 trains were delayed following the attacks.
  • Australia imposes more sanctions: Further sanctions and travel bans against members of Russia’s parliament and Ukrainian separatists were announced Wednesday in a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The new listings will target 110 individuals, including 34 "senior members of the Russian-led movements" in Donetsk and Luhansk.
  • US hoping to attract highly skilled Russians: US President Joe Biden has asked the US Congress to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make it easier for highly educated Russians to obtain visas to work in the US. Tens of thousands of such people have reportedly fled Russia since the war, and the US administration is hoping to take advantage of that brain drain, officials said. 
  • Biden administration says it won't allow Russia to "co-opt" Victory Day: White House National Security Council senior director for Europe Amanda Sloat told CNN the Biden administration does not want to allow Putin to "co-opt" Monday’s Victory Day by tying it to the invasion of Ukraine. 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.
7:36 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Zelensky asks Bulgaria to help with repairs of Ukrainian military equipment

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Bulgaria to help Ukraine with repairs of military equipment damaged in the ongoing war with Russia, Bulgaria's National Television (BNT) reported Wednesday.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Sofia, Vitaly Moskalenko, has presented a letter from Zelensky to Bulgaria's Parliament, in which the Ukrainian President says authorities in Kyiv hope Bulgaria will help repair Ukrainian military equipment and continue assisting Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Zelensky says he hopes Bulgaria will continue providing humanitarian aid, including medicines, clothing and food.

In the letter, Zelensky says he hopes energy cooperation between the two countries and the export of electricity and gas from Ukraine to Bulgaria will continue, according to BNT.

Zelensky also says he hopes Bulgaria will continue supporting Ukraine on its path to EU integration, according to BNT.

The Bulgarian Parliament will decide later on Wednesday whether to support Ukraine with "military-technical equipment," according to BNT.

Some background: Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria last week, dramatically escalating its response to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom said in a statement Wednesday that it had fully halted supplies to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgaria's Bulgargaz after they refused to meet a demand by Moscow to pay in rubles, rather than euros or dollars.