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Journalists Yegor Polyakov and Aleksandra Miroshnikova, working for Russian online newspaper Lenta.ru, told CNN that the idea to publish dozens of articles critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine came about because they couldn't continue working as usual with the war in Ukraine raging on.
The articles were published to Lenta.ru, a pro-Kremlin news outlet in Russia, on May 9. It coincided with Russia's Victory Day, a major national holiday in the country that celebrates the surrender of the Nazis in Berlin during World War II.
The two journalists published a number of articles with headlines such as, "Putin unleashed one of the bloodiest wars of the 21st century" and "Vladimir Putin lied about Russia's plans in Ukraine."
"The idea came to us almost at the same time," the two told CNN in a statement. "We did not even have to discuss with each other the need for this decision. It was simply impossible to continue to work as usual when people are dying in a neighboring country."
"Some people say, 'We had no other choice but to keep working,'" the two journalists said. "We had no choice but to do what we did. It was the only right decision for us."
Fearful of reprisals against their families in Russia, the two journalists would not go into details of how they published the articles. But said they have been hard at work for the last week, only sleeping two to five hours a day.
"The articles that we have published are not just catchy headlines, they are well-thought-out materials, with all links, with visual inserts," the two said.
It's unclear whether the two journalists have been fired from Lenta.ru, but they say that they no longer have access to the site's publishing tools.
"Our bosses deleted all correspondence with us," they said. "Yegor had a rather unpleasant conversation with them, but they didn’t even bother to say a word to [Aleksandra].
They realize that the risk, and the potential repercussions, they may face for publishing the articles.
"Perhaps this will have serious consequences for us," they said. "I can't exclude the possibility that our actions will also have consequences for our colleagues, who did not participate in this, but who can become just demonstrative victims so that no one else dares to repeat this."
They hope their action will inspire others in Russia to do the same. For now, the two say they are no longer in Russia.
"I don't know what's next," Miroshnikova said. "I am in another country, completely alone, I have some small savings to live on for a few months. But I have no idea what to do, where to go and how to live on. Hope I will figure it out."
Both have also received a positive response from some readers thanking them for setting an inspiring example.
"Some stranger people abroad even wrote that they were ready to shelter Yegor and [Miroshnikova] on their couches," the two said. "It was very heart-warming and such comments make me feel less alone."
Some even offered to shelter the two of them while they figured out what to do next.
"It was very heart-warming and such comments make me feel less alone," Miroshnikova said.
However, the responses from some, namely colleagues and family members, were not supportive.
"For me personally, the situation is quite difficult, because many of my relatives did not approve of my decision at all," Miroshnikova said. "Someone considered it a betrayal, someone - just stupidity, because of which I will be left without a job and any future."
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko tells CNN's Erin Burnett he worries about the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin using a tactical nuclear weapon on Kyiv.
"Safety is the main priority right now ...Yes of course we worry, and we hope our warriors defend us, but the risk is still there and without our partners, without United States and European countries we can't survive," Klitschko said.
He also said there is "no doubt" the capital of Ukraine is still Russia's "main target."
The mayor warns residents coming back to Kyiv to be cautious saying, "... as mayor of Kyiv I tell to anyone, sorry, it's your personal risk, but we can't give you guarantee ... So long there's war in Ukraine we can't give the guarantee for any Ukrainian."
He said Russian attacks could happen "any second."
Klitschko added that war "changed the life for everyone" and he says he is keeping his fingers crossed to "stop this senseless war as soon as possible."
Ukrainian Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, who is hunkered down inside Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant, told CNN on Wednesday that he believes all civilians sheltering inside the plant are now out — with the caveat that due to the constant bombardment, it is difficult to make a full assessment of the situation across the massive facility.
Palamar, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, made the comments to CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday.
“If you're talking about the Azovstal plant itself, then the civilians that we knew about, the civilians that we had with us, the civilians that we were taking care of, they are not with us. They managed to leave the plant. And as far as the – I cannot tell you for sure, maybe there’s someone else further down in the territory because no international organization at any point came or had access to come and assess the situation," he told CNN.
Here are more of the latest headlines in the Russia-Ukraine war:
- Russian civilian reported killed in shelling of Belgorod: For the first time, a civilian in Russia has reportedly died as a result of cross-border shelling from Ukraine, according to Russian authorities. The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that "one person was killed during shelling of the village of Solokhi." Solokhi is a village ten kilometers from the Ukrainian border.
- Ukraine offers Russia an exchange: Ukraine has offered Russia to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the evacuation of injured Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Wednesday. In a Facebook post, Vereshchuk said there is no agreement yet and negotiations are underway regarding the proposal.
- Kherson resident says her city is "slowly dying" under Russian control: A resident of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson said that her city is like a "zombie apocalypse" since Russian troops took over. The woman, who requested to be identified as Tanya, said in an interview on CNN International that the invasion has taken a physical and psychological toll. "It's very hard to live in such conditions, physically, because you cannot do things that you did before the war," she said. "You can't go out as much, you can't breathe fresh air, so it's hard physically."
- Oil prices climb 6% on concerns about Russia: After two days of sharp losses, oil prices rose sharply Wednesday on renewed concerns about the flow of energy from Russia. US oil jumped 6.3% to $105.97 a barrel in recent trading. Brent crude, the world benchmark, gained 5.2% to $107.75 a barrel. The rebound comes amid continued uncertainty over the supply of Russian energy to Europe.
- US ambassador to Russia delivered an undisclosed message: US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan visited the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow on Wednesday to deliver a message to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, a US State Department official said. The meeting was to discuss bilateral issues, the official said, without detailing what specific issues were discussed. The Russians did not summon Sullivan, this was a previously planned meeting, the official said. The official said that reports about the meeting lasting for about 20 minutes were roughly accurate, but noted that is a normal amount of time for meetings between US and Russian officials.
- Russian use of hypersonic weapons in Ukraine is not "game-changing," top US general says: US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the Russian use of hypersonic weapons in Ukraine was not having “really significant or game-changing effects” during a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing. “Other than the speed of the weapon, in terms of its effect on a given target, we are not seeing really significant or game-changing effects to date with the delivery of the small number of hypersonics that the Russians have used,” Milley said. A senior US defense official said on Tuesday that Russia had launched between 10 and 12 hypersonic missiles against Ukraine so far.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton tells CNN it is "unfair" to call the European Union divided over an oil embargo against Russia, despite Hungary saying it would not support the sanctions.
The European Commission is now discussing changes to win over countries, including Hungary and Slovakia. Hungary has warned it cannot accept the EU's planned ban on Russian oil saying it would amount to an "atomic bomb" for its economy.
Breton insisted the EU has acted very quickly to put in place five packages of sanctions so far and that they must hold discussions to take care of everyone.
"We have two countries which are 100% dependent on oil, Russian oil, so we have to take care of them. In other words, if we apply these sanctions, we have also to propose alternative solutions to the ones who need it. This is exactly what we are doing. This is why it's taking a little bit of time, but we are working on it in solidarity," he told CNN's Richard Quest.
Breton also had strong words for the chief executive of Volkswagen, who had called for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine so that sanctions can be lifted.
"Listen, there is a war here. And a war is a matter of states, it's not a matter of companies. We have always been very clear, with every single industrial ecosystem and companies. We will take care of what we have to take care of, but a war is a matter of the state- no one else," he said.
The Ukrainians have — twice in the last 24 hours — stopped Russians efforts to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in the Luhansk oblast, blowing up two pontoon bridges near Bilohorivka.
A satellite image collected by geospatial intelligence firm BlackSky shows a Russian pontoon bridge crossing the river on May 10 shortly after a Ukrainian artillery barrage hit the surrounding area.
Smoke is seen rising from the western shore of the Siverskyi Donets River at one end of the bridge. On the eastern bank, craters and smoke are also seen on the eastern shore, including around Russian military vehicles that crossed over.
Grainy drone video circulating on social media, geolocated and its authenticity verified by CNN, shows the aftermath of the strikes. The military strikes destroyed the bridge, which is seen half-sunk in the river.
Additional photos circulating on social media, also taken by a drone, show the Russians tried to erect a second pontoon bridge across the river. That bridge, too, was blown up by the Ukrainians in addition to a number of military vehicles.
Traversing Ukraine's topography — specifically its rivers — has repeatedly proven a logistical nightmare that's hampered Russian military advances for weeks, across numerous parts of Ukraine. In more remote areas, or in places that bridges have been blown up, they have resorted to utilizing pontoon bridges.
These bridges have repeatedly been targeted and blown up by Ukrainian forces.
CNN has previously reported the bridge first appeared on May 8.
Serhiy Hayday, the Luhansk regional military administrator, said on Wednesday that the Russians are continuing to try to construct bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River. He also said that the Ukrainians have repeatedly blown them up.
They fought side-by-side in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, two Ukrainian soldiers among hundreds refusing to surrender.
And on May 5, Valeria and Andrew were married.
Three days later Andrew was killed, according to a Facebook post by Valeria on Wednesday.
The post included photographs of the two getting married in a bunker wearing their uniforms and photographs of the couple before the siege began.
The Facebook post — created on Wednesday night local time — also includes a message from Valeria:
"You were my legal husband for three days.
And for eternity you are my love.
My dear, my caring husband.
You were and are the best.
All I have left is your last name, your loving family and memories of a happy time together."
She promised him that she would survive the siege - and live for the two of them.
For the first time, a civilian in Russia has reportedly died as a result of cross-border shelling from Ukraine, according to Russian authorities.
The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that "one person was killed during shelling of the village of Solokhi."
Solokhi is a village ten kilometers from the Ukrainian border.
"The population of the village of Solokhi will be taken to a safe place under the leadership of the head of the district, Vladimir Pertsev, and the head of the regional Ministry of Emergency Situations, Sergey Potapov," Gladkov said.
The Belgorod region has seen several explosions in recent weeks that appear to have been caused by missiles and bombs. Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied being responsible for the blasts.
Last week, Gladkov said five houses had been destroyed in another village, Nekhoteevka.
"Today there are just under 30 people left in the settlement," he said then. "We have already evacuated most of the people to safety."
Ukraine has offered Russia to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the evacuation of injured Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Wednesday.
In a Facebook post, Vereshchuk said there is no agreement yet and negotiations are underway regarding the proposal.
"As of now, it is impossible to raise the blockade of Azovstal by military means. Azovstal defenders shall not yield themselves prisoners. It is worthy of respect. Russians won't hear of the extraction. This is a reality but coming from the Russians, it is not surprising," she wrote.
She said the government is working out different options to get Ukrainian soldiers out of Azovstal but that none of the options are "ideal."
"We are not looking for an ideal option, but a working one," Vereshchuk said.