May 28, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Thom Poole, Mike Hayes and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, May 29, 2023
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4:43 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Ukraine’s air defenses are better than ever, but Dnipro devastation shows they’re not perfect

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, William Bonnett and Svitlana Vlasova

A firefighter examines the destroyed building of a medical facility, the site of a missile strike, in the city of Dnipro on May 26.
A firefighter examines the destroyed building of a medical facility, the site of a missile strike, in the city of Dnipro on May 26. Vitalii Matokha/AFP/Getty Images

Because of Western donations, Ukraine now fields a multi-layered air defense network capable of hitting short, medium and long range targets.

Kyiv's arsenal includes the Franco-Italian SAMP/T, German Iris-T and Gepard, as well as the American NASAMS and Patriot air defense systems, among others. All of these are kept under even more secrecy, in undisclosed locations away from prying eyes, to avoid targeting by Russian forces.

And the results are on display, with Russian missile and drone strikes inflicting less and less damage.

Still, some drones and missiles do break through Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defenses.

Sometimes their impact is minimal, but sometimes it is devastating, such as Friday’s deadly strike in the city of Dnipro.

“S-300 or S-400 anti-aircraft guided missiles, this is the type of weapon the occupiers often use attacking the frontline areas. Presumably, it was these types of rockets that struck civilian objects (in Dnipro),” Yurii Inhat, spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force command, said after the strike.

Read the full analysis here.

12:22 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

A top general stirred more speculation about Ukraine's counteroffensive. Here's what to know

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Andrew Carey and Nick Paton Walsh

Ukrainian soldiers conducts training on Leopard 2 tanks on May 14, in Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers conducts training on Leopard 2 tanks on May 14, in Ukraine. Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

With just a few words and a slickly produced piece of military propaganda, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces ratcheted up speculation Saturday that a long-awaited counteroffensive could be imminent.

“The time has come to take back what is ours,” said the official, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhyni, sharing a clip of Ukrainian troops marching, training and apparently preparing for battle.

The video came online following weeks of speculation regarding when Ukraine would start its counteroffensive — or whether it might have already begun.

Despite its language, Zaluzhyni’s post made no explicit mention of an impending military operation, and there have been few details reported on the ground of specific build-ups of troops and weapons — though it should be noted that any such reporting would likely fall foul of Ukraine’s martial law restrictions.

Information wars: Both Russia and Ukraine have been known to engage in disinformation campaigns to confuse enemy forces.

Ukrainian officials are keeping details of the operation under wraps, including whether or not it has already begun. That is likely an attempt to confuse the Russian military.

There are also public relations factors at play. Declare the counteroffensive underway, and the clock ticks immediately for the first results. Avoid doing so, and any mounting losses Russia sustains are just considered part of normal frontline attrition.

Russia taking fire: The Ukrainian military has been spotted moving military hardware toward the front lines and carrying out attacks against Russian targets that could facilitate an offensive, including strikes on Thursday and Saturday in the Russian-occupied southern port city of Berdiansk.

The Kremlin said Saturday that, in the past 24 hours, its forces had shot down 12 Ukrainian drones flying over Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, a trio of Ukrainian territories that are all part-occupied by Russian forces.

Also on Saturday, explosions hit the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, and attacks on Russian soil killed one person in Belgorod, targeted a pipeline and killed a construction worker near the border, according to Russian authorities.

A senior US official confirmed to CNN earlier this month that Ukraine has begun conducting “shaping” operations, striking strategic targets to shape the battlefield in favor of Kyiv’s advancing forces. Shaping is a standard tactic used prior to major combined operations, but it can also be used simply to confuse the enemy.

Read more here.

8:50 a.m. ET, May 28, 2023

European allies still with us on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, says Ukraine's Kuleba

From Andrew Carey, Yulia Kesaieva, Olga Voitovych and Darya Tarasova

Ukraine’s foreign minister says the country’s European allies remain in lockstep with Kyiv over the war, amid reports that Chinese envoy Li Hui, who has been visiting European capitals, is urging acceptance of Russia’s territorial gains as a way to end the fighting.

Western interlocuters of the Chinese diplomat on his recent visit – which took in Kyiv, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Moscow – were told to put pressure on Ukraine and force it to make compromises on territory, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But in a video message on his Facebook page, Dmytro Kuleba said western partners had assured him that no such moves had been entertained in discussions with the Chinese envoy.

“I immediately contacted my colleagues in the capitals [Li] visited, and all of them confirmed there had been no talks or negotiations about recognizing as Russia those territories [it currently controls] in Ukraine,” Kuleba said.
“No one will do anything against us behind Ukraine's back, because we have built trusting relationships with all our key partners,” he added.

Beijing is a key ally of Moscow, particularly in economic ties, but has been careful to maintain a degree of distance over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. 

In February, China published a series of principles it said should form the basis for ending the war, including rapid resumption of direct dialogue between the parties and a comprehensive ceasefire. 

However, the 12-point paper made no mention of possible Ukrainian concessions, instead stipulating: “The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld."

In his video message, Kuleba said Ukraine would continue its dialogue with China but reiterated his country’s long-standing position there would be no discussion of territorial concession, nor of putting the conflict into a ‘freeze.’

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met with Li in Moscow on Friday, said China had a “balanced position” on the war, and welcomed “Beijing’s readiness to play a positive role in its settlement,” according to a statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

4:43 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Drone attacks on Kyiv largest to date, Ukraine says

The overnight drone attacks on Kyiv that left one person dead were the largest to date, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence said in a tweet.

"Ukraine's air defense shot down 52 out of 54 Iranian-made Shaheds," it added.

Kyiv has been regularly targeted in recent weeks but fatalities have been rare.

4:45 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Death toll from Friday's attack on a medical facility in Ukraine's Dnipro rises to 4

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Niamh Kennedy

Police officers stand near the site of a missile strike on a hospital, fenced by warning tape on May 26, in Dnipro, Ukraine. 
Police officers stand near the site of a missile strike on a hospital, fenced by warning tape on May 26, in Dnipro, Ukraine.  Yurii Tynnyi/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

The death toll from Russia's attack on a medical facility in Dnipro on Friday has risen by one to four, according to the head of Dnipropetrovsk region military administration, Serhii Lysak. 

Among the dead are a 56-year-old doctor, a 64-year-old employee of the medical facility and a 57-year-old veterinary clinic employee, Lysak said on Telegram.

Lysak did not provide any details about the identity of the fourth victim. 

What happened: Russian forces struck a medical facility in the city of Dnipro on Friday morning, after intense shelling rained over central Ukraine overnight.

A veterinary clinic nearby was also hit, where animals undergoing treatment had to be dug out of the rubble.

It is the latest attack on health care in Ukraine and sparked widespread criticism, with Kyiv and its allies calling for Russia to be made accountable.

4:47 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence agency says it gained "valuable information" from Belgorod incursion

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukraine gained “valuable information” from the cross-border incursion into Russia’s Belgorod region, Andriy Yusov, a representative for Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency, said in an interview with Ukrainian media on Friday. 

This week saw a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals, aligned with the Ukrainian army, claim responsibility for an attack in Belgorod, a raid that was embarrassing to Russia.

"As a result of the operation in the Belgorod region, valuable information for Ukrainian military intelligence was collected, which for obvious reasons will not be disclosed," Yusov said.
He also said that the purpose of the incursion was to accelerate “the exhaustion of Putin's power apparatus,” as well as to reveal “Russia's vulnerability to internal attacks.” 

Yusov’s comments echoed the claims of Wagner group chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who said on Tuesday that Russian Volunteer Corps groups are really acting as “combat reconnaissance” to try to learn how Russians will act if their border is crossed.   

Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of protecting borders near the combat zone while ensuring the rapid delivery of everything needed to the regions newly-occupied by Russia, in his Border Guard Day address on Saturday. 

"A separate and very significant task is to reliably protect the borders in the immediate vicinity of the combat zone,” Putin said.

Read more about the Belgorod cross-border attacks here.

4:47 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

More than 50 Russian drones downed in wave of attacks on Ukrainian capital, Kyiv says

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Irene Nasser

A local resident walks past a partially destroyed residential building after a massive Russian drones strike mainly targeting the Ukrainian capital, in Kyiv, on May 28.
A local resident walks past a partially destroyed residential building after a massive Russian drones strike mainly targeting the Ukrainian capital, in Kyiv, on May 28. Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

A wave of Russian drone attacks on the Ukrainian capital left one person dead and sparked fires around the city, officials in Kyiv said early Sunday.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitchsko said Ukrainian air defense forces had “already intercepted more than 20 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)” heading toward the capital and warned that “a new wave of drones is on its way.”

The Ukrainian Air Force said that 54 Iranian Shahed drones had been launched by Russia overnight and that 52 of them had been destroyed by Ukrainian forces.

“The enemy launched another overnight attack on military facilities and critical infrastructure in the country’s central regions, specifically Kyiv Oblast. Near the zone Air Command ‘Center’, most of the attack drones were destroyed!” the air force said in a Twitter post.

The use of such a large number of drones may be an effort by Russia's army to overwhelm Ukraine's air defenses.

Read the full story here.

4:11 a.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Hundreds of German civil servants are being expelled from Russia

From CNN's Claudia Otto in Berlin 

Hundreds of German diplomats and state employees living and working in Russia have been expelled by Moscow and given just days to leave the country, a spokesperson from Germany's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Saturday's order is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat expulsions that began after Germany decided to kick out several Russian diplomats who had been accused of working for Russia's intelligence service. Russia responded by expelling 20 German diplomats in April.

The foreign ministry spokesperson said the latest order applies to German diplomats, state employees working in Russia and teachers at the government-sponsored Goethe Institute, which offers German language courses and cultural exchange programs. All must leave the country by June 1.

The statement called the latest move "unjustified" and "incomprehensible."

"This limit, set by Russia as of the beginning of June, requires a major cut in all areas of our presence in Russia," the statement read. "The Federal Government is now concerned to ensure a minimum presence of intermediaries in Russia while maintaining a diplomatic presence as well."

5:12 a.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Russia shoots down 12 Ukrainian drones over 24 hours, defense ministry claims

From CNN's Darya Tarasova

Russia has shot down 12 Ukrainian drones over various settlements over the course of 24 hours, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The ministry's news service claims Russia's defenses shot down drones in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic, and in Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia.

Russian air defense systems also intercepted two long-range "Storm Shadow" cruise missiles and 19 rockets from HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, it says.