May 29, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sarah Dean, Christian Edwards, Schams Elwazer, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, May 30, 2023
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8:52 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Ukrainian officials report explosions in Russian-occupied southern cities

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Kostan Nechyporenko 

A series of explosions happened in and around the Russian-occupied southern cities of Berdiansk and Mariupol on Sunday, according to Ukrainian officials. 

The Ukrainian-backed Berdiansk municipal military administration said Sunday there had been at least “5 strikes by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Russian positions in the Berdiansk community.” 

Also on Sunday, several explosions happened around the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, according to Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city's Ukrainian mayor. 

One of the blasts happened in Nikolske, a settlement just northwest of the city, in the area “where the occupiers were stationed,” he said. Andriushchenko said there were casualties, without mentioning how many. 

He also claimed there were casualties after a hit on the village of Yurivka, near Mariupol. 

Andriushchenko did not specify the cause the explosions.

“At least six times air defense systems were activated in the Mangush-Nikolske-Mariupol triangle,” Andriushchenko posted on his Telegram channel Sunday. 

What the Russians say: Russian state news agency TASS reported on Sunday that “the air defense system worked in the evening in the sky over Mariupol, where the Ukrainian missile was shot down, as well as over Volnovakha,” citing authorities from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).

DPR officials posted on Telegram that a “strike from the Armed Forces of Ukraine was recorded on Sunday in Yurivka village direction.”

“Two Storm Shadow missiles were fired,” the DPR officials added.

 The Russian side did not report any casualties. 

9:39 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Iran will face consequences after Kyiv was targeted with Iranian drones, Ukrainian official warns

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

An explosion of a drone is seen in the sky over the city during a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 28.
An explosion of a drone is seen in the sky over the city during a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 28. Gleb Garanich/Reuters

A top Ukrainian government official warned Iran there will be “consequences” after the capital Kyiv was targeted with Iranian Shahed drones early Sunday..

“Tehran has become a key ally of Moscow in this war, deliberately supplying it with weapons for attacks on civilian cities," Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said on Twitter

"Tonight's attack on Kyiv with 50 Shaheds on City Day is another eloquent confirmation of this truth," the adviser said, referencing an annual holiday celebrating the capital. "In legal terms: Iran is doing this with direct intent and realizing the consequences of its actions. And there will definitely be consequences.
"Today, I would like to remind official Tehran of the basic laws of life, in particular the law of the boomerang. Do not be confused by the illusion of geographical remoteness or a misunderstanding of Ukraine's priorities today. Once released, Shahed will definitely find its way to its manufacturer one day."

Threat of sanctions: Podolyak said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would propose to the government sanctions on Iran for 50 years. The head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, specified the sanctions proposed would include trade, financial and technological restrictions on Iranians, barring Iranian shipments and flights through Ukrainian territory, and a ban on Iranian citizens from withdrawing funds from Ukraine.

Moscow and Tehran: Relations between Tehran and Moscow have grown much closer during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia wants Iranian drones and ballistic missiles; Iran wants Russian investment and trade. Russia has become the largest foreign investor in Iran over the past year, according to Iranian officials.

About the attack drones: Shahed-series drones — the Shahed-129 and Shahed-191 — are unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying precision guided munitions, and can also be used for surveillance. Iran appears to be modifying the drones so that their explosive warheads can inflict maximum damage on infrastructure targets inside Ukraine, according to an investigative report obtained exclusively by CNN.

CNN's Tim Lister and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

8:38 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Analysis: Why is Russia expending so much effort to bomb Kyiv?

Analysis from CNN's Tim Lister

For the 14th day this month, the city of Kyiv has been the target of Russian aerial attacks. 

Ukrainian officials estimate Russia sent more than 50 attack drones toward the capital city early Sunday. The overwhelming majority were destroyed by air defenses, and casualties and damage appear to have been minimal, according to city authorities. 

So why does Russia expend so much effort for such limited returns?

  • Low-cost assault: First, the Iranian-made Shahed drones are a cheap way to inflict at least some pain on Kyiv, which for much of the last year has been spared the impact of the Russian invasion. Russia has bought many hundreds of such drones, which cost roughly 20 times less than a missile.
  • This pain is as much psychological as physical: The nighttime attacks send thousands to shelters and basements. Windows are shattered, wreckage falls on the streets. Since the beginning of the invasion, the air raid siren has been on in Kyiv for a cumulative 887 hours. The nearest historical parallel might be the Nazis’ use of the V2 "doodlebug" cruise missiles against London at the end of WWII. The overnight attacks came as the Ukrainian capital was preparing to celebrate Kyiv Day, marking the city's foundation more than 1,500 years ago. That is probably not coincidental. However, all indications are that — despite the dislocation and exhaustion — the attitude of the city's population is hardened rather than weakened by such attacks.
  • Chipping away at defenses: The greater purpose on the Russians' part in sending waves of Shaheds is likely to wear down Ukraine's air defenses and force them to expend scarce munitions on the swarms of drones. Multiple accounts over the past few months, including estimates in leaked US military assessments, have referred to critical shortcomings in Ukraine's layered air defenses, especially as its Soviet-era S-300 system — the workhorse of Ukrainian air defenses — is degraded and it becomes increasingly difficult to find ammunition for such systems. 
9:34 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

Russia launched dozens of Iranian-made drones at Ukraine Sunday. Kyiv claims it knocked down all but one

From CNN's Josh Pennington, Irene Nasser and Mariya Knight

A firefighter works at a site of a tobacco factory damaged during Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 28.
A firefighter works at a site of a tobacco factory damaged during Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 28. Pavlo Petrov/State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters

Russia launched its largest drone attack of the conflict yet on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, leaving one person dead and sparking fires across the city early on Sunday.

In an update late Sunday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russia unleashed 59 Iranian Shahed drones — 58 of which were shot down. An earlier report from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense put the total at 54 drones, only two of which were not shot down.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said a 41-year-old man died following the attacks, while falling drone debris at a gas station injured a 35-year-old woman.

Kyiv has been targeted several times this month but despite this fatalities are rare.

Falling drone debris also sparked fires in buildings across the capital, Klitschko said on Telegram.

Following the barrage, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Ukrainian air defense personnel as “heroes.”

“You look up to destroy enemy missiles, aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Every time you shoot down enemy drones and missiles, lives are saved,” the president said.

As well as trying to intimidate Kyiv residents, Moscow may be using the drone strikes to force Kyiv to expend valuable munitions shooting them down as well as get a sense of where air defenses are.

Shahed drones cost roughly 20 times less than a missile and so for Russia are a cheap way to inflict damage. The drones are manufactured in Iran and have frequently been deployed by Russian forces in Ukraine. Kyiv warned Tehran Sunday there would be "consequences" for supplying the aerial arsenal to Moscow.

Zelensky said in his daily address Sunday that the overnight attack ranked as “one of the largest attacks by Shahed drones.”

“Almost all of them were shot down. Unfortunately, there are hits in Zhytomyr region,” he added, referring to a northern region bordering Kyiv.

It was not immediately clear if Zelensky had not received updated statistics from his military at the time he spoke, or if he was referring to an additional Russian attack when he reported multiple hits in Zhytomyr.

Zelensky said the "most powerful” drone attack was directed against the Kyiv region, as Ukraine’s capital marked Kyiv Day, the anniversary of the city's official founding 1,541 years ago.

“Thirty-six drones were shot down within the city of Kyiv and the region. This is how Russia celebrates the day of our ancient Kyiv,” he said.
7:18 p.m. ET, May 28, 2023

In slick video, Ukraine's commander in chief hints counteroffensive could be imminent

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

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 that a long-awaited counteroffensive by Kyiv against Russia’s occupying forces could be imminent.

“The time has come to take back what is ours,” said the official, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhyni.

The minute-long video features Ukrainian troops marching, training and apparently preparing for battle.

Some are seen using German tanks and American artillery and rocket launchers — the type of armaments Kyiv would use in a potential operation to push Russian forces out of Ukrainian territory.

The clip ends with soldiers and their commander chanting a defiant message: “Ukraine, my native motherland, Lord, our heavenly father, bless our decisive offensive, our sacred revenge, our holy victory.”

The video came online following weeks of speculation regarding when Ukraine would start its counteroffensive — or whether it might even be said to 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.

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

The counteroffensive itself has seemed imminent a handful of times over the past month.

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 city of southern port city of Berdiansk.

Read more here.