May 5, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Andrew Raine, Jack Guy, George Ramsay, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:54 AM ET, Fri May 6, 2022
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1:36 p.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Israel says Putin apologized to Prime Minister Bennett over Lavrov's comments about Hitler

From CNN’s Hadas Gold in Jerusalem

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on April 27, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on April 27, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Contributor/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had apologized for comments that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made earlier this week about Hitler and Jews – comments which led to a furious war of words between Russia and Israel.

“The Prime Minister accepted President Putin's apology for Lavrov's remarks and thanked him for clarifying the President's attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust,” Bennett’s office said in an official statement.

Putin’s office earlier issued its own readout of the call which made no mention of an apology or of Lavrov’s comments, which included the baseless claim that Adolf Hitler had Jewish ancestors. 

According to the Kremlin, Putin and Bennet also discussed the situation in Ukraine, including the evacuation of civilians from the territory of the Azovstal plant. Putin said that the Russian military was ready to ensure the safe exit of civilians from the Azovstal, according to the Kremlin. He stressed that Kyiv should order the “militants to lay down their arms.”

The readouts from Moscow and Jerusalem largely agreed on the other subjects that the two leaders talked about in a phone call marking Israel’s Independence Day. 

CNN has asked Putin’s spokesperson if the Russian president apologized to Bennett.

CNN's Katharina Krebs contributed reporting to this post.

12:26 p.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Ukrainian woman who joined Azov regiment after her son was killed has died inside Azovstal steel plant

From CNN’s Maddie Araujo and Isa Soares 

(Nataliya Luhovska/Telegram)
(Nataliya Luhovska/Telegram)

Nataliya Luhovska, a Ukrainian woman who joined the Azov regiment after her own son was killed on the front lines, has died inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.  

CNN’s Isa Soares first reported on her story on Wednesday. In an interview, Nataliya’s mother, Paraskeviya, said she begged her daughter to leave Azovstal, but she rejected two offers to surrender. 

“She goes until the end. There is no point in crying and begging,” her mother said. “I want people like Putin to not exist on Earth … What can I say, poor are those mothers that brought up sons that are now killing innocent people.”

When CNN reached Nataliya via Telegram on Monday, she wrote “morale is high” and “wait for us to come back with the victory."

The news of her death was also confirmed by the Azov regiment and the town mayor. Her family said she died as a result of an airstrike. She was 51 years old. 

CNN first learned about the family’s story while filming in their hometown of Chernovohrad, about one hour north of Lviv. 

When asked about her rank within the regiment, Nataliya said she was a junior sergeant, and that she first had a role as a military psychologist but then had “additional new responsibilities” that she couldn’t disclose.  

According to the family, Nataliya’s son-in-law also died while fighting in Mariupol on April 21.

1:48 p.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Another joint UN and Red Cross evacuation convoy is on the way to Azovstal, official says 

From CNN's Tim Lister

The United Nations Special Envoy for Ukraine Martin Griffiths said another evacuation convoy is hoping to get to the Azovstal plant in Mariupol by Friday morning.

"Now, the convoy is proceeding to get to Azovstal by tomorrow morning, hopefully to receive those civilians remaining in that bleak hell for so many weeks and months and to take them back to safety," Griffiths said.

Griffiths was speaking at the Ukraine Donors Conference in Warsaw. He said the UN was working with the International Red Cross to get the convoy to Mariupol, as it did in the operation to evacuate civilians in Azovstal during the weekend.

11:29 a.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Russian oligarch’s yacht seized by authorities in Fiji, US officials say

From CNN's Kara Scannell

US officials said a $300 million yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch was seized by Fijian authorities on Thursday as part of their broad crackdown on individuals friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Amadea, a 348-foot luxury yacht owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian oligarch sanctioned by US authorities in 2018, was docked at the port in Lautoka, Fiji, and seized by local law enforcement at the request of the Justice Department.

“This yacht seizure should tell every corrupt Russian oligarch that they cannot hide – not even in the remotest part of the world. We will use every means of enforcing the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

US officials allege Kerimov, who made his fortune in gold, acquired the yacht after he was placed on the US sanctions list. They allege Kerimov violated US law by using the US banking system to conduct dollar-denominated transactions to cover expenses for the yacht, according to a FBI affidavit. The cost of maintaining the yacht runs $25 million to $30 million a year, the affidavit said. 

The yacht sailed through the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, to Mexico and then arrived in Fiji on April 12, authorities said. They believe it was en route to Russia to avoid US seizure when it docked in Fiji, the affidavit said.  

Fiji’s High Court earlier this week ruled the US could seize the yacht, according to news reports. Fijian officials executed the seizure warrant on Thursday.

Kerimov was detained in France in 2018 after bringing as much as 20 million euros into the country in suitcases without reporting the money to tax authorities. He was suspected of laundering the money through villas. The initial charges were dropped but a new tax investigation by the French authorities opened in 2019.

12:01 p.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minister says Russia's Lavrov should publicly apologize to Jews around the world

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam in Atlanta and Hadas Gold in Jerusalem

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a news conference on April 19.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a news conference on April 19. (Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov should publicly apologize to all Jews around the world about his comments about Nazism and Adolf Hitler.

"Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and I are both outraged by the Russian minister's anti-Semitic statements. I stressed that anti-Semitism among Russia's elites has a long history. The only way out for Lavrov is to publicly apologize to all Jews. Anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated," Kuleba wrote in his tweet.

Last Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made comments on Italian television, repeating Russia’s claim that its invasion of Ukraine is to “de-Nazify” the country. When the interviewer pointed out that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish, Lavrov said “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.”

Israeli officials condemned Lavrov's comments and Russia's ambassador to Israel was summoned to Israel's foreign ministry for talks. Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the assertions "lies" and Lapid described them as "unforgivable and outrageous," warning that Israel had "tried to maintain good relations with Russia, but there is a line, and this time the line has been crossed."

"Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust," Lapid added. "The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism."

10:57 a.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Sources say Russian troops are stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers

From CNN's Tim Lister

Multiple sources have told CNN how Russian forces have been stealing grain and farm equipment from Ukrainian farmers. The photo shows one machine being stolen near Melitopol.
Multiple sources have told CNN how Russian forces have been stealing grain and farm equipment from Ukrainian farmers. The photo shows one machine being stolen near Melitopol. (Obtained by CNN)

Russian forces are stealing farm equipment and thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers in areas they have occupied, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, multiple sources have told CNN.

The phenomenon has accelerated in recent weeks as Russian units have tightened their grip on parts of the rich agricultural regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, the sources said. Sowing operations in many areas have since been disrupted or abandoned.

The actions of the Russian forces may threaten the harvest this year in one of the world's most important grain-producing countries. The volumes involved are said to be huge.

Oleg Nivievskyi, an agrarian specialist at the Kyiv School of Economics, told CNN that on the eve of the invasion, six million tons of wheat and 15 million tons of corn were ready for export from Ukraine, much of it held in the south of the country.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said Thursday an estimated 400,000 tons of grain had been stolen to date.

Farmers and others in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia have provided CNN with details of multiple thefts.

In late April, Russian soldiers removed 1,500 tons of grain from storage units known as elevators in the Kherson village of Mala Lepetykha, using trucks with Crimean number plates. The next day, those same trucks — 35 in all — returned and emptied large storage units known as grain silos at nearby Novorajsk across the river Dnieper.

In Melitopol, an occupied city in Zaporizhzhia region, Mayor Ivan Fedorov shared a video with CNN that showed trucks — several bearing the "Z" sign of the Russian military — carrying grain towards Crimea. The main elevator in the city had been emptied.

Fedorov told CNN that the Russians "went around all the villages, every yard and looked for agricultural machinery, for grain, which they subsequently looted."

"Chechen soldiers, fighting for Russia, act like criminals in the 1990s. First they offer to buy grain for a ridiculously low price. But if you don't agree, they take everything from you for nothing.

"The scale of looting is simply overwhelming," he said.

Continue reading here:

10:45 a.m. ET, May 5, 2022

German and Ukrainian presidents resolve row over Kyiv visit snub

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin and Radina Gigova in London 

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone on Thursday and resolved a row over a would-be visit to Kyiv that was turned down in April, Steinmeier's office said. 

Steinmeier had offered to visit Kyiv in April with the heads of state of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send a strong signal of common European solidarity with Ukraine, but his trip was not wanted by Kyiv, he told reporters on April 12. “I was ready for it. But apparently […] that was not what was wanted in Kyiv,” he told reporters while visiting Warsaw.

Kyiv's decision in April came amid sustained criticism over Steinmeier's close relations with Russia in his previous role as foreign minister, as well as criticism from Kyiv that Germany was hesitant to provide much-needed military support to Ukraine. 

''Both presidents described the talks as 'very important and very good,'" a statement posted on the German presidential office website read Thursday, adding that ''irritations of the past were cleared up. Both presidents agreed to remain in close contact.''

Following the talks with the German president, Zelensky said Thursday on his official Twitter account that he ''had a good, constructive, important conversation" with Steinmeier. Zelensky thanked him "for strong support for Ukraine," adding he expects the support "to be intensified.'' 

Zelensky said the "German leadership is important to counter Russian aggression'' and said he informed Steinmeier about the ongoing ''situation on the frontline'' and the ''critical situation in Mariupol."

See Zelensky's tweet:

10:36 a.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Ukrainian newlywed who lost legs in blast hopes to be walking down the aisle with prosthetics soon

Viktor and Oksana Balandina pose on their wedding day.
Viktor and Oksana Balandina pose on their wedding day. (CNN)

In video shared widely around the world, a Ukrainian nurse who lost both her legs in a blast had her first wedding dance with her husband in a ceremony in the hospital.

About a month ago, Oksana Balandina stepped on a land mine and needed to have her legs amputated.

"I felt like I was flying in the air. I felt a terrible noise in my head. I fell to the ground," she told CNN's Scott McLean. "When I looked down, they were gone."

At that moment, "I didn't want to live anymore," she said.

The newlyweds have been a couple since they were teenagers, and the 23-year-olds have two children together. Marriage had always been in their plans someday, but they decided to move forward with a quicker timeline by getting married in a civil ceremony and a small impromptu ceremony at a hospital in Lviv.

"I knew that she was strong, but I never thought she was as strong as she was these last five weeks," Balandina's husband Viktor said.

Their children are staying with their grandparents while she recovers. They understand their mother was in pain, and Viktor said they explained she'll have prosthetic legs in the future.

The last time the kids visited, "they were already fighting over who will be the first to push their mother in her wheelchair," Viktor said.

Balandina will be going to Germany to be fitted for prosthetics, and she hopes to be walking down the aisle at a formal church wedding ceremony soon.

"You don't need to give up," she said. "...You have to fight for your life."

See Ukrainian newlyweds share first dance from a hospital room:

9:41 a.m. ET, May 5, 2022

Germany starts construction of liquified natural gas terminals in effort to shake off Russia oil

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

The first pile driving takes place at the future jetty for the FSRU (Floating Storage and Regasification Units) for liquefied natural gas imports to Germany in Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony, on May 5.
The first pile driving takes place at the future jetty for the FSRU (Floating Storage and Regasification Units) for liquefied natural gas imports to Germany in Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony, on May 5. (Sina Schuldt/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Germany marked the start of construction work on Thursday for its first floating terminals for liquified natural gas (LNG) in Wilhelmshaven, a city and port located in Lower Saxony. The construction is part of the country’s efforts to become independent of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s ongoing war in Ukraine. 

Germany is attempting to speed up the construction of the terminal in order to import LNG from various countries, including the US. 

"We have a good chance to do what is actually normally impossible in Germany: To build an LNG terminal within about 10 months, and to connect it to the German gas supply," Germany's Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said while watching the start of the construction work for the LNG terminal aboard a ship. 

Germany has been under pressure from Ukraine and other nations in Europe to make progress in weaning itself off Russian energy supplies since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

Habeck last month called for unprecedented measures to reduce Germany's reliance on Russian gas and counter what some German politicians call the Kremlin's “energy blackmail.”

Habeck said becoming independent of Russian energy supplies is paramount for Germany, even if that meant pushing for alternative solutions previously considered ''unrealistic.'' Habeck added that Europe's largest economy has reduced the share of Russian energy imports from 35% to 12% for oil, from 50% to 8% for coal and from 55% to 35% for natural gas.