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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5:32 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Don't be "Putin's altar boy": Pope slams pro-war Russian patriarch

 From CNN’s Delia Gallagher in Rome

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill visit the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow on May 25, 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill visit the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow on May 25, 2017. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Pope Francis warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become “Putin’s altar boy,” he said 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.

“I spoke to him for 40 minutes via Zoom,” the Pope told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday. “The first 20 minutes he read to me, with a card in hand, all the justifications for war.”

“I listened and told him: I don’t understand anything about this," said the Pope. "Brother, we are not clerics of state, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus.”

“The Patriarch cannot transform himself into Putin’s altar boy,” the Pope said.

Francis said the conference call with Kirill took place on March 16, and that both he and the Patriarch had agreed to postpone a planned meeting on June 14 in Jerusalem.

“It would be our second face-to-face meeting, nothing to do with the war,” the Pope said. “But now, he too agrees: let’s stop, it could be an ambiguous signal.”

In March Kirill Patriarch Kirill said that the conflict was an extension of a fundamental culture clash between the wider Russian world and Western liberal values, exemplified by expressions of gay pride.

Experts say that Kirill's comments offer important insights into Putin's larger spiritual vision of a return to a Russian Empire, in which the Orthodox religion plays a pivotal role.

But the hardline stance of the Russian patriarch is costing him followers.

In March the Russian Orthodox church in Amsterdam announced it was severing ties with the leader, joining a growing number of priests and churches who are abandoning Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

5:21 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

One killed as Ukrainian shelling causes fire at oil depot in Donetsk, say local authorities 

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie, Katie Polglase and Gianluca Mezzofiore

Vehicles on fire at an oil depot after missiles struck the facility in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Makiivka, Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 4.
Vehicles on fire at an oil depot after missiles struck the facility in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Makiivka, Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 4. (AP)

One person is dead after Ukrainian shelling caused a fire at an oil depot in the separatist-held Donetsk region, the Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) Territorial Defense Headquarters claimed Wednesday.

“According to preliminary data, as a result of the shelling of the oil depot in Makiivka, one person was killed and two were injured,” the post from the DPR Defense HQ said, adding that “four large capacity tanks” containing 5,000 cubic meters of oil had been ignited. 

The Ukrainian Armed forces are yet to respond to the accusation. 

CNN has verified social media videos of the fire which show large plumes of black smoke coming from the area on Wednesday, as flames engulf the depot. 

Some context:

Russian-backed leaders in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have repeatedly accused Ukraine of launching attacks on fuel depots and military installations, claims that Ukrainian officials say are intended to stoke “anti-Ukrainian sentiment.”

Russian forces are aiming to take control of all of the Donestk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine.

They have been trying to push south from the Kharkiv region in an effort to surround Ukrainian units defending the Donetsk region, but with limited success, according to the Ukrainian military.

Despite heavy artillery fire on a number of fronts, Russian forces have made few advances, according to their Ukrainian counterparts.

5:30 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Ireland condemns Russian TV simulation of nuclear attack

From CNN's Ben Church

Irish politicians have condemned a report from Russian-state media that simulated the devastation caused by a nuclear attack off the coast of Ireland.

The report from Russia's Channel One, presented by Kremlin ally Dmitry Kiselyov, shows a video simulation of an underwater missile which it said would cause a “gigantic tsunami wave up to 500 meters high” to sweep across Ireland and the UK. 

Neale Richmond, a politician from the ruling Fine Gael party in Ireland, said the propaganda report was another reason to expel Russia’s ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov.

“With Russian state media broadcasting blatant threats against Ireland supported by a continuing campaign of disinformation, it’s clear we need to expel Russia’s Ambassador from Ireland,” he wrote on Twitter.

“He is just another patsy in their propaganda machine as they wage war in #Ukraine.” 

Irish MEP Billy Kelleher replied to a video of the report saying that such "wild language is simply unacceptable to us" while urging the Irish government to convey its disgust at the blatant nuclear threat.

Russia has been angered by countries supporting Ukraine since the start of the invasion. The UK has provided resources to the Ukrainian military and imposed numerous sanctions on Moscow in recent months.

5:03 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

School year in Ukraine "nears tragic end" with child deaths and destruction of facilities, says UNICEF

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Radina Gigova in London

A destroyed school in northeast Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 22.
A destroyed school in northeast Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 22. (Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Hundreds of schools across Ukraine are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes and other explosive weapons in populated areas, "underscoring the dramatic impact the conflict is having on children’s lives and futures," the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement Tuesday.

“The start of the academic year in Ukraine was one of hope and promise for children following Covid-19 disruptions,” said Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative to Ukraine. “Instead, hundreds of children have been killed, and the school year ends amid the closure of classrooms due to war and the decimation of educational facilities.”

Among the schools that have been damaged or destroyed by shelling is "School 36 – the only ‘Safe School’ in Mariupol," UNICEF said, adding two schools have been hit by attacks in the past week alone. 

The "Safe Schools" program was established with Ukraine's Ministry of Education and Science in response to attacks on kindergartens and schools in the Donbas region, "which has seen a simmering armed conflict since 2014," UNICEF said.

UNICEF points out that for children affected by crisis, school provides not only a safe space and "a semblance of normality in the most difficult of times," but also access to information on the risks of deadly explosive ordnance.

Educational facilities also connect them and their parents to health and psychosocial services, added the agency.

“Ensuring access to education can be the difference between a sense of hope or despair for millions of children,” Sahin said. “This is crucial for their future and that of all Ukraine.”

Children and schools should be protected in line with international humanitarian law, UNICEF said, calling on the warring sides to take measures to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the use of educational facilities for military purposes.

“Despite the horror of war, impressive work has gone into making sure children can keep learning,” said Sahin. “Ultimately, the fighting needs to stop so that classrooms can be rebuilt, and schools can be safe and fun places to learn again.”

The war in Ukraine is having "a devastating impact" on the country’s 7.5 million children, UNICEF has said, as "children continue to be killed, wounded and deeply traumatized by the violence all around them."

The agency has also warned that children fleeing the violence in Ukraine are at heightened risk of human trafficking and exploitation. 

More than 5.4 million refugees had fled Ukraine as of May 1, around half of them children, according to the latest UNICEF data. 

Millions more people have been internally displaced, UNICEF said, adding "such large-scale displacements could have lasting consequences for generations to come."

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

Electricity in Lviv “completely restored” following missile strikes on three power stations, says deputy mayor

From CNN’s Maddie Araujo and Isa Soares in Lviv

Firefighters work at a site of a power substation hit by a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on May 3.
Firefighters work at a site of a power substation hit by a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on May 3. (Andrii Gorb/Reuters)

Electricity in Lviv has been “completely restored” following missile strikes last night, the city’s deputy mayor Serhiy Kiral told CNN on Wednesday.

Kiral said three cruise missiles hit three power stations in Lviv on Tuesday, leaving them "badly damaged.”

Two other missiles that reached western Ukraine and the Lviv region “were shot down” by the air defense system, Kiral added. Another one hit the Transcarpathian region.

In total, there were “18 or 19” cruise missile strikes “shot from the Caspian Sea from the Russian strategic bombers” in Ukraine’s direction, he said, “probably Tu-295 or Tu-160” aircraft.

“There were also disruptions on our pumping stations, which are supplying the city with water,” Kiral said.

“This is interesting because, in fact, water [supply] was not stopped… and this is the result of some of the contingency plans for the resilience of the city that we had before the war,” he added.

“We bought the diesel generators, and those diesel generators yesterday helped to continue to supply the water not only to the citizens, but also to the firefighters, which were trying to put out the fire,” said Kiral.

The Ukrainian military said that the Russian missile attacks on Tuesday night were designed to destroy transport infrastructure.

Cruise missiles hit at least half a 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.

Kiral said he does not believe the attacks on infrastructure would affect supplies from the west.

"But it may affect the exports of the Ukrainian commodities, which is very critical in these times of the year because we need to take out more than 5 million tons of grain in order to be ready for the new harvest," he said.

4:25 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Convoy of buses departs Mariupol with evacuees, official says

From CNN’s Amy Cassidy and Sophie Jeong

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. The convoy will stop at Tokmak, Vasylivka and Lunacharske to pick up more civilians on the way, he said.

Private vehicles will be able to join the convoy from Tomak, Kyrylenko added. 

He did not specify if the evacuees had been sheltering in the Azovstal steel plant, where Mariupol’s last defenders are holding out against the Russian bombardment. 

A convoy carrying people from Mariupol arrives in Kamianske, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 3.
A convoy carrying people from Mariupol arrives in Kamianske, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 3. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Some background: More than 127 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia from the steel plant Tuesday, and an unknown number of civilians remain, according to the UN. CNN's team in Zaporizhzhia saw the arrival of five buses with evacuees and witnessed emotional scenes as people emerged from the buses and were greeted by volunteers.

 

3:22 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

EU proposing a ban on Russian oil, commission president says

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.
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. (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

The European Union is proposing a ban on Russian oil, according to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

She said on Twitter:

“Finally, we now propose a ban on Russian oil. 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.”
 

Von der Leyen is speaking at the European Parliament during a discussion on a sixth package of sanctions against Russia. 

 

4:11 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Ukrainian military says Russians have made few advances despite heavy bombardments

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv, Ukraine

Smoke rises above a burning oil storage on the outskirts of Donetsk, Ukraine,  May 4.
Smoke rises above a burning oil storage on the outskirts of Donetsk, Ukraine,  May 4. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Ukrainian military said Wednesday that 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.

On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Michael Carpenter said the US had "highly credible" intelligence reports that Russia will try to annex the Donetsk and Luhansk regions “sometime in mid-May.”

In its latest operational update, the military said that the Russian missile attacks on Tuesday night were designed to destroy the transport infrastructure. 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.

One of the strikes was in the region of Zakarpattia, near the Slovak border, the first time it has been targeted since the invasion began.

Viktor Mykyta, head of Zakarpattia regional military administration, said a populated area had been hit but there were no casualties and work was underway to restore utilities.

Tens of thousands of displaced Ukrainians have moved from the east to the Zakarpattia region.

The Ukrainian General Staff update reported that there were few signs of Russian ground forces getting ready to move, but that more units from Russia's Central Military District had been brought into border areas in Russia's Bryansk region, which neighbors northeast Ukraine.

The General Staff said most of the offensive action continued to be in the form of artillery attacks. It said a ground advance toward Dovhenke had failed. Russian forces have been trying to push south from the Kharkiv region in an effort to surround Ukrainian units defending the Donetsk region, but with limited success, it said.

CNN is unable to confirm the details of the Ukrainian military's update.

The military leadership did acknowledge that the Russians are advancing in the direction of the village of Shandryholove, where Ukrainian troops are trying to defend the approaches to the towns of Lyman and Sloviansk in the Donetsk oblast. In recent weeks, the Russian military has conducted repeated military strikes on Lyman, including on its railroad infrastructure.

"The enemy strengthened the group of troops and intensified air reconnaissance," in the Lyman area, according to the update.

CNN has geolocated video from that same area showing Russian armor being destroyed by Ukrainian fire in recent days. 

The military also reported continued fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Russian forces had failed to advance on the town of Orikhiv.

Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said rocket and bomb attacks continued on the towns of Severodonetsk, Rubizhne and Lysychansk. Two people had died. He said fighting also continued in the town of Popasna. CNN has geolocated video showing intense street fighting among the town's ruins.  

"The Russians are not just destroying Popasna. They are removing it from the map of Luhansk region," Haidai said.

In neighboring Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk regional military administration, said the towns of Avdiivka and Maryinka were bombarded again Wednesday morning.

1:57 a.m. ET, May 4, 2022

Australia imposes more sanctions on Ukrainian separatists and Russian officials 

From CNN's Lizzy Yee in Hong Kong 

Russian lawmakers attend a session of the State Duma in Moscow, in this file photo from Feb. 22.
Russian lawmakers attend a session of the State Duma in Moscow, in this file photo from Feb. 22. (Handout/Reuters)

Australia imposed further sanctions and travel bans against members of Russia’s parliament and Ukrainian separatists on Wednesday, according to 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.

"These individuals have violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine through their assertion of governmental authority over areas of Ukraine without the Ukrainian Government’s authorization," the statement said. 

Among those sanctioned are also 76 members of the State Duma, Russia’s parliament. The sanctioned individuals voted "to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states,” the statement said.

On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Michael Carpenter said the US had "highly credible" intelligence reports that Russia will try to annex the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk “sometime in mid-May.”

Russian politician Oleg Matveichev was also sanctioned by Australia “for the dissemination of disinformation and propaganda.” 

“With these announced listings, the Government will have sanctioned 812 individuals and 47 entities in response to Russia’s illegal war,” the statement said. “Australia reiterates our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for the people of Ukraine.”

Some background: Australia is one of a number of countries, including the United States, that have been continually imposing fresh sanctions on Russia since the invasion began. On April 14, Australia sanctioned 14 Russian state-owned enterprises of "strategic and economic importance."