May 11, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Ben Church, Joshua Berlinger, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 0418 GMT (1218 HKT) May 12, 2022
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9:24 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Pope Francis meets with wives of Ukrainian soldiers defending Azovstal steel plant

From CNN’s Livia Borghese in Rome 

Wives of Ukrainian Azov soldiers currently trapped inside the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine, meet with Pope Francis as they attend the weekly general audience at the Vatican, on May 11.
Wives of Ukrainian Azov soldiers currently trapped inside the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine, meet with Pope Francis as they attend the weekly general audience at the Vatican, on May 11. (Vatican Media/­Reuters)

Pope Francis on Wednesday met the wives of two Ukrainian soldiers holed up inside Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant.  

The two women, Yulia Fedosiuk and Kateryna Prokopenko, confirmed the meeting with the Pope at the Vatican to CNN.  

The two said their husbands are soldiers of the Azov regiment and are currently inside the steel plant defending it against Russian attacks.  

They said they had written to the Pope in recent days through the Ukrainian ambassador in Rome and were surprised when they received an invitation for the Pope's weekly general audience.  

“We told the Pope about our husbands, about the injured soldiers, the dead that cannot be buried. We asked him for help, to be a third party in this war, and help us to guarantee a humanitarian corridor,” Fedosiuk said.   

She said that they also told the Pope about the desperate and unhealthy conditions inside the plant.    

Fedosiuk added that the Pope seemed very well-informed of the situation in Ukraine, and he said that he will pray for them.  

9:22 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Nearly 5 million Ukrainians have lost their jobs since Russian invasion began, UN agency report says

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

An estimated 4.8 million people in Ukraine have lost their jobs since the Russian invasion began in February, according to a new brief by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN agency.

"If hostilities were to escalate, employment losses would increase to seven million," the report estimated, emphasizing that "if the fighting were to cease immediately, then a rapid recovery would be possible, with the return of 3.4 million jobs. This would reduce employment losses to 8.9 percent."

The ILO report also pointed out that the Ukrainian government has made considerable efforts to keep the national social protection system operational by guaranteeing the payment of benefits, including to internally displaced persons, through the utilization of digital technologies.

Out of 4.8 million people who lost their jobs, a total of 1.2 million of them are refugees who fled to neighboring countries and 3.6 million of them are unemployed living in Ukraine, according to the ILO report. 

More than 5.23 million refugees who are mainly women, children, and people over the age of 60 have fled to neighboring countries since Feb. 24, the report said Wednesday.

The crisis in Ukraine may also create labor disruption in neighboring countries, mainly Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, the report added.

"If the hostilities continue, Ukrainian refugees would be forced to remain in exile longer, putting further pressure on the labor market and social protection systems in these neighboring states and increasing unemployment in many of them," it said.

12:08 p.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Ukraine suspends the flow of some Russian gas exports headed to Europe

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh and Nathan Hodge

The factory chimneys of the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System Operator (GTSOU) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 11.
The factory chimneys of the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System Operator (GTSOU) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 11. (Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine will suspend some of the Russian gas exports to Europe that flow in pipelines through the country due to interruptions at key transit points, the country's gas transmission system operator (GSTOU) said in a statement Tuesday. 

Amid Russia's invasion, Ukraine has continued its operations transporting Russian gas through the country. 

But GSTOU said it's currently "impossible to fulfill obligations" to European partners due to "the interference of the occupying forces." It said Russia's interference, including the unauthorized gas offtakes, had "endangered the stability and safety" of the Ukrainian gas transportation system.

As a result, it had decided to suspend operations from 7 a.m. local time on Wednesday at the entry point gas measuring station Sokhranivka and border compressor station Novopskov through which almost a third of gas from Russia to Europe — up to 32.6 million cubic meters per day — is transited.

Ukraine said it could possibly transfer temporarily unavailable capacity from Sokhranivka to the Sudzha point located in the territory controlled by Ukraine. 

However, Russia's state energy company Gazprom said it was "technologically impossible" to switch gas transfers to Ukraine to a new entry point, the agency said in a statement.

The Kremlin's response: The Russian government responded Wednesday to Ukraine’s suspension of some Russian gas exports to Europe, saying Russia always fulfilled and plans to fulfill its contractual obligations on gas supplies. 

“Russia has always reliably fulfilled and intends to fulfill its contractual obligations,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. 

Peskov reiterated Russia's state gas company Gazprom’s official line claiming there were no “force majeure” events that could affect its gas supplies.

Force majeure is "a provision in a contract that frees both parties from obligation if an extraordinary event directly prevents one or both parties from performing," according to Cornell Law.

“The Ukrainian side reported certain conditions of force majeure. We’ve heard statements from Gazprom that there were no explanations for force majeure,” he added.

 

CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.

8:45 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Here's what's in the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill that passed in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday

From CNN's Clare Foran, Annie Grayer and Ellie Kaufman

The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted 368-57 on Tuesday evening to pass a roughly $40 billion bill to deliver aid to Ukraine as it continues to face Russia's brutal assault. All 57 votes in opposition were from Republicans.

The measure will next need to be passed by the Senate before it can go to US President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

The legislation the House approved provides funding for a long list of priorities, including military and humanitarian assistance. Here's a breakdown:

  • An increase in presidential drawdown authority funding from the originally requested $5 billion to $11 billion: It allows the administration to send military equipment and weapons from US stocks, and has been critical in providing Ukrainians with military equipment quickly over the past 75 days of the conflict.
  • $6 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding: It allows the US to buy weapons from contractors and then provide those weapons to Ukraine, so this method does not draw directly from US stocks. It's another way the US has been providing Ukraine with military assistance.
  • Roughly $9 billion to help restock US equipment that has been sent to Ukraine: Many lawmakers have raised concerns about replacing US stocks of weapons the US is giving to Ukraine, especially stingers and javelin missiles.
  • Refugee assistance with $900 million: This includes housing, trauma support, and English language instruction for Ukrainians fleeing the country. An additional $54 million that will be used for public health and medical support for Ukrainian refugees.

CNN's Kristin Wilson, Donald Judd and Ali Zaslav contributed reporting to this post.

Read more about the bill here.

8:37 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

If Finland applies to join NATO, it will be "for the security" of its citizens, prime minister says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London and Nic Robertson and Lauren Kent in Helsinki

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, left, speaks next to Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a joint press annoucement at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on May 11.
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, left, speaks next to Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a joint press annoucement at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on May 11. (Franck Robichon/AFP/Getty Images)

If Finland applies to join NATO it will be "for the security" of its citizens, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Wednesday.

Speaking during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, Marin said she had talked to her Japanese counterpart about Finland's "plans to possibly apply for NATO membership."

"If Finland makes this historical step, it is for the security of our own citizens. Joining NATO would strengthen the whole international community that stands for our common values," Marin said.

On Tuesday, Finland's Parliamentary Defense Committee told the Finnish Foreign Affairs Committee that it is in favor of applying for NATO membership, according to Finnish state media YLE.

The defense committee stated its belief that NATO membership would be the best solution for Finnish security.

Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen for European Affairs told CNN Tuesday that it is "highly likely" that the country will apply for NATO membership.

She hopes that if Finland does apply to join the alliance “the ratification process would be as brief as possible.”

Russia's response: Russia is closely monitoring NATO configuration close to its borders, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday, commenting on the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

“We are watching everything that is connected with actions that are capable of changing the configuration of the Alliance near our borders in one way or another,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call. 

“This is the subject of a very, very thorough analysis,” he added.

Read more about how Finland joining NATO could impact Russia:

CNN's Anna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.

9:14 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Ukraine's desire to negotiate declines "with each new Bucha, with each new Mariupol," Zelensky says

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Camille Knight in Paris

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to students of the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) in Paris, France, on May 11.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to students of the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) in Paris, France, on May 11. (Thibault Camus/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Kyiv’s patience is running out for negotiations with Russia, given mounting evidence of atrocities committed by the Russian army, in a virtual address to French university students on Wednesday.

“We are ready to conduct these negotiations, these talks, as long as it is not too late,” Zelensky said.

“With each new Bucha, with each new Mariupol, with each new city where there are dozens of dead people, cases of rape, with each new atrocity, the desire and the possibility to negotiate disappears, as well as the possibility of resolving this issue in a diplomatic manner,” he added.

Zelensky also expressed his determination that Kyiv will win the war and take back all territories that belong to Ukraine. 

He reiterated the need for Ukraine to join the European Union, calling for meaningful steps to include Ukraine into the union.

“Ukraine will only strengthen other states, our army has demonstrated its capabilities. Our people have proven themselves,” Zelensky said.

8:31 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

New leadership in Ukraine's Kherson appeals to be incorporated into Russia

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

The new Russian-installed leadership of the Ukrainian region of Kherson plans to make a formal request to become part of the Russian federation.

"Authorities of Kherson region will appeal to the President of Russia with a request to include the region into Russia," says a statement on a new Telegram channel which appears to be linked to the pro-Russian administration.

The announcement was swiftly reported by Russian state media.

The appeal is attributed to Kirill Stremousov — the newly appointed deputy head of the military-civilian administration in Kherson.

At the weekend, Stremousov said that "citizens residing in the Kherson region will have the right to obtain Russian citizenship."

"We are not planning referendums, and we are not planning the creation of republics," he said.

"We are talking about the fact that we will integrate as much as possible into the Russian Federation according to all the opportunities that we have.

"And all those citizens who are on the territory of the Kherson region will have the right to obtain Russian citizenship and Russian passports."

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian President, tweeted his response to the announcement from Kherson.

"The invaders may ask to join even Mars or Jupiter," he wrote. "The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson, no matter what games with words they play."

What Russia is saying: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday it should be the decision of the people of Kherson when asked if Russia is ready to accept the Kherson region should the local authorities make such a request. 

“It is up to the citizens of the Kherson region to decide whether such an appeal will happen or not and to determine their own destiny,” Peskov told journalists on a regular conference call. 

Commenting on the legitimacy of such a procedure and whether it should be done through a referendum or by a decree, Peskov added it should be done in a “legitimate” way.

“This issue should be clearly and carefully verified and assessed by lawyers and legal experts because such fateful decisions should have a clear legal background, a justification, they should be absolutely legitimate, as was the case with Crimea,” he said.

Russian forces are occupying much of the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson, including the city of Kherson. 

CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.

8:09 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Hungary will only vote for EU sanctions on Russian oil if bloc comes up with solutions, says FM

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Boglarka Kosztolanyi in London and Mayumi Maruyama in Tokyo

Hungary will only vote for EU sanctions on Russian oil if the bloc comes up with solutions to the problems it would create, according to Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó.

“We have made it clear to the European Commission that we can only vote for this proposal if Brussels offers a solution for the problems Brussels would create,” Szijjártó said in a video posted on Facebook Wednesday.

The EU has proposed banning all oil imports from Russia by the end of this year and removing the country's biggest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT international payments network.

“We are expecting a solution not only relating to the transformation of our refineries that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, not only relating to the capacity increase of the oil pipeline [that runs] across Croatia to Hungary that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but also with regard to the future of the Hungarian economy, as, like I said before, this current proposal is like ‘an atomic bomb’ for the Hungarian economy,” Szijjártó continued.

Last week, Zoltan Kovacs, spokesperson for the Hungarian Prime Minister, told CNN's Eleni Giokos that the EU proposal is "against Hungarian national energy security."

Kovacs said Hungary has told the EU that Hungarian oil companies have made it "clear" that they would not be able to rid themselves of Russian oil imports for at least three to five years.

8:20 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Foreign weapons "already at the front," says Ukraine deputy defense minister

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova

President Joe Biden speaks on security assistance to Ukraine during a visit to the Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations facility where they manufacture Javelin anti-tank missiles on May 3, in Troy, Alabama.
President Joe Biden speaks on security assistance to Ukraine during a visit to the Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations facility where they manufacture Javelin anti-tank missiles on May 3, in Troy, Alabama. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Ukraine's deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, says that weapons supplied to Kyiv by the US and other partners are already deployed to the front lines.

"Apart from the Javelins and Stingers, 155 mm American howitzers are already being used at the front," Maliar said in a briefing on Wednesday.

"We are working to accelerate the pace of aid, as this is the life of our soldiers."

A senior US defense official told reporters on Tuesday that 89 of the 90 Howitzers the US agreed to give to Ukraine have been transferred to Ukrainian possession.

Maliar said that the supply of foreign weapons had settled into a routine, despite Russian efforts to destroy transport infrastructure.

"We have already received a large number of weapons. But now we have entered the period of rhythmic supply of weapons to Ukraine," she added.

She also suggested that new arrangements would help Ukraine sustain a longer conflict.

“A lend lease package is currently being considered. We receive support from the European Union and other countries," she said.

"That is, we are entering a new phase of the war. Russia is driving itself into a state where it will not be able to win 'the war of equipment.'
"However, until this victory comes, we will have several difficult weeks, and maybe even months," she said.

Maliar also said Ukrainian production lines were being ramped up.

"We are making a strategic bet on the development of our own production. Manufacturers are already loaded with military orders to the end of the year. In addition, the Defense Ministry buys protective equipment from abroad," she said.

In the first ten days of May, the Ukrainian armed forces had received more than 34,000 body armor vests, she said.