May 6, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Nectar Gan, Jeevan Ravindran, George Ramsay, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:09 AM ET, Sat May 7, 2022
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3:01 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

At least 50 women, children and elderly people evacuated from Azovstal Friday, Ukrainian deputy PM says

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said at least 50 civilians were successfully evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol Friday.

"Today we managed to extract 50 women, children and the elderly from Azovstal. Tomorrow morning we will continue the evacuation operation," Vereshchuk said in a statement posted on her social media channels.

Ukrainian officials earlier had said that they couldn't comment on the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant being organized by the United Nations and the International Red Cross.

Russian state media on Friday said that 25 civilians were evacuated out of the plant on two buses.

6:22 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

More than 200 Ukrainian soldiers have finished howitzer training, Pentagon spokesperson says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing in Washington DC, on Friday.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing in Washington DC, on Friday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

More than 200 Ukrainian soldiers have completed training on M777 howitzers provided to Ukraine by the US, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Friday.

An additional "150 plus" Ukrainian soldiers are currently going through the Howitzer training, he added.

US military service members are training groups of Ukrainian soldiers on the pieces outside of Ukraine, Kirby has said previously. Fifteen Ukrainian soldiers have completed training on the Q-64 mobile air-defense radar system, the Pentagon official noted.

And 60 Ukrainian soldiers have completed M-113 training, and "about 50 more are currently being trained on that right now," Kirby said. The M-113 is an army personnel carrier.

Meanwhile, Russian forces "continue to launch both missile strikes as well as fixed-man airstrikes into Ukraine," specifically in "the Donbas region, where the fighting is really going on right now, and also down in Mariupol," Kirby told reporters. "Even today they continue to pound Mariupol," he added.

2:39 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

$17.8 million will be awarded to send Switchblade drones to Ukraine today, US defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

The US Department of Defense will award a $17.8 million contract for the industry to produce and send Switchblade drones to Ukraine as the ongoing conflict with Russia continues, a Department of Defense official told reporters during a briefing Friday.

"$17.8 million for Switchblade unmanned aerial systems — that's an award that's going to be seen later today, later this afternoon," Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Dr. William A. LaPlante said during the briefing.

These drones will be bought from industry and delivered to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding approved in the Ukraine aid supplemental funding, which was passed along with a massive spending bill in the US Congress in mid-March. The total USAI funding in that bill was $300 million, and the Department of Defense has awarded $136.8 million dollars of that so far, LaPlante said.

The $136.8 million overall has bought from industry and is sending "unmanned aerial systems, Puma, advanced precision kill weapon system, communication devices, combat medical equipment and supplies, meals ready to eat, even binoculars," in eight different contracts, LaPlante said.

The Department of Defense is also using $1.45 billion in funding approved by the US Congress in the Ukraine aid supplemental signed into law in mid-March to replace US stocks of Javelin and Stinger missiles, along with key components for those missiles, LaPlante said.

In the Ukraine aid supplemental, the US Congress approved $3.5 billion in funding to "replenish US stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine," LaPlante said. So far, DoD is using $1.45 billion from those funds to replace "Stingers, javelins and other key components," LaPlante added.

"We are actively negotiating right now — the Army is — for Stingers and related components, and that’s ongoing. Expect to get that awarded by the end of May. For Javelins, the award is imminent, so that’s all happening right now," LaPlante said.

6:09 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

It's 9:30 p.m. in Ukraine. Catch up on the latest here

Here's what has happened in Mariupol and beyond today.

Conflicting reports of evacuations: Russia state media said that two buses with civilians were evacuated out of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Friday. But Ukrainian officials said they can't comment on the evacuation of civilians from the plant being organized by the United Nations and the International Red Cross. And the mayor of Mariupol's office told CNN it was not aware of the latest evacuations. 

Zelensky alleges deportations: More than "500,000 Ukrainians have been deported to Russia" since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday. He also accused Russians of blockades and torture with starvation in Mariupol.

G7 to meet this weekend: US President Joe Biden will meet virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his G7 counterparts on Sunday morning during a meeting of the G7 forum, a National Security Council spokesperson said. Sanctions will be on the agenda for the meeting. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the timing of Sunday's call ahead of Russia's Victory Day is intentional.

Preparations for Victory Day: May 9, known as Victory Day inside Russia, commemorates the country's defeat of the Nazis in 1945. The Kremlin said May 9 won't be "overshadowed" by the events unfolding in Ukraine, adding "the significance of this holiday cannot be overestimated.” But this year’s parade is expected to be of a smaller scale than in previous years.

Some Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine Monday, paving the way for him to step up his campaign.

Russia leaving its mark: Ukrainian officials have posted images from Mariupol showing continuing work by what they call "the occupiers" to restore monuments from the Soviet era. Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of the city, distributed new photographs on Friday saying that, in recent days, all the monuments of the Soviet period have been "restored."

Also, a senior official in Russia's governing United Russia party on Friday said Russia has come to the Kherson region to "stay forever," and there should be "no doubt about that."

And new satellite images show Russia is excavating the site of the heavily bombed drama theater in Mariupol.

Grain stalled: The blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, along with infrastructure challenges, are preventing nearly 25 million tonnes of grain from being exported, according to a United Nations official.

CNN has also reported that Russian forces are stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, according to multiple sources.

2:25 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Ukrainian officials are not commenting on Azovstal evacuations

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

A bus carrying civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrives at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne, Ukraine on May 6, 2022.
A bus carrying civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrives at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne, Ukraine on May 6, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials say they can't comment on the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel plant being organized by the United Nations and the International Red Cross.

"The process [of evacuation] is ongoing. For now it is difficult to comment on it or talk about any results, as it has not finished yet," Pavlo Kyrylenko, Governor of Donetsk region, said on Ukrainian television late Friday local time. "When people are already on the territory controlled by Ukraine, when the first aid is provided to them and they are safe, then we will talk about numbers. Therefore, it's too early to comment on the second stage of the process."

Meanwhile, 25 people brought out of the Azovstal plant late on Friday afternoon appear to have been evacuated as part of a unilateral operation by Russian authorities. Videos of their departure from the plant and their arrival at a reception center in Russian-controlled territory showed no presence of UN or Red Cross vehicles.

1:54 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

US Embassy in Moscow warns Americans to avoid large public gatherings around Russia's Victory Day

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The US Embassy in Moscow on Friday warned Americans in Russia to avoid large public gatherings around Victory Day on May 9 “given the ongoing tensions.”

“Annual Victory Day celebrations, including the main parade in Red Square, will take place in Moscow through May 9,” the security alert said. “Local authorities will restrict movement in event areas to facilitate rehearsals for the event.”

“In the past, there have been heightened police presence surrounding these events. Given the ongoing tensions, U.S. citizens should avoid large public gatherings,” the alert said.

May 9 commemorates the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. It is marked every year by a military parade in Moscow and a speech by Putin. At the end of the parade, Putin will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Some US and Western officials believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine on Monday and fully mobilize his reserve forces. 

The State Department had previously called on US citizens to leave Russia immediately “due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the singling out of U.S. citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19-related restrictions, and terrorism.”

1:40 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

First on CNN: Russia excavating site of heavily bombed drama theater in Mariupol, new satellite images show

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Tim Lister

The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from May 6. 
The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from May 6.  (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

An extensive excavation of the bombed Mariupol drama theater is underway, new satellite images from Maxar Technologies show.

The area is now under Russian control, and the clearance of debris from the fighting is underway in several parts of the city. 

The site was bombed on March 16. Ukrainian officials believe at least 300 people who were taking shelter at the building were killed.

On April 29, a satellite image showed a crane at the side of the building. The sidewalks on the northern and southern side of the drama theater, which had been covered in debris from the bombing, were by then cleared.

The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from April 29.
The bombed Mariupol theater is seen in this satellite image from April 29. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

In a May 2 satellite image, the crane was behind the drama theater. Trucks were parked at the front, but it's unclear from the satellite images what their purpose was.

The latest satellite image, taken on May 6, shows even more activity at the theater. The crane is seen sitting next to the large hole in the theater's roof, the likely epicenter of the explosion that tore the building apart.

More trucks are seen outside and around the building. Some trucks are parked on top of the large sign that said "children" written before the bombing.

CNN has reached out to the Russian defense ministry for comment about the excavations.

CNN has also reached out to the Ukrainian government and the United Nations for comment. 

International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson Ewan Watson told CNN that they do not have a team in Mariupol and are not part of the excavation at the drama ​theater.

When it was bombed, the theater was being used as a shelter by women, children and the elderly.

The Ukrainian government has accused the Russians of conducting an airstrike on the theater. Russia has repeatedly denied that it hit the theater and has claimed without offering evidence that the Azov Regiment — one of the Ukrainian Army’s units in Mariupol — blew it up.

1:41 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

25 civilians have been evacuated from Azovstal, Russian state media reports

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv and Katharina Krebs in London

A bus carrying civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrives at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne, Ukraine on May 6, 2022.
A bus carrying civilians evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrives at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne, Ukraine on May 6, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A total of 25 civilians were evacuated out of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Friday, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.

The news outlet reported that the first bus left the territory on Friday with 12 civilians, including four children. Another 13 civilians, including one child, were taken out of the territory on a second bus.

The first bus with people "held by the militants" at the plant had left through the checkpoint, RIA Novosti reported. Video posted by RIA Novosti shows a group of people transferring from one bus to a larger coach. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the video. CNN has reached out to the Ukrainian side for comment.

On Wednesday, the Joint Coordination Headquarters of the Russian Federation announced the opening of new humanitarian corridors from May 5 to May 7 for the evacuation of civilians from the plant.

It's unclear whether Friday's limited evacuation of a handful of civilians is connected to the proposed UN/International Red Cross evacuation from Azovstal, which was also due to begin Friday.

The second bus also evacuated two dogs with their owners. People were transferred to a larger bus, and video shows the bus later arriving at the village of after which it proceeded to the village of Bezimenne. Video geolocated by CNN shows the bus being escorted by the Russian military, but there is no evidence of UN or International Red Cross vehicles accompanying the transport.

There is a temporary camp for evacuees from Azovstal and other areas around Mariupol at Bezimenne.

The mayor of Mariupol's office told CNN it was not aware of the latest evacuations. 

1:32 p.m. ET, May 6, 2022

Biden is set to announce another assistance package to Ukraine soon, sources say

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC on May 5. 
US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC on May 5.  (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden in the coming days will announce another security assistance package to Ukraine, two sources say, with the total expected to be more than $100 million. 

Biden is set to speak with G7 leaders virtually Sunday ahead of expected Victory Day celebrations in Russia.

Reuters was first to report.