May 12, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Jessie Yeung, Travis Caldwell, Adrienne Vogt, Seán Federico O'Murchú, George Ramsay, Jack Guy and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 3:21 p.m. ET, May 16, 2022
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4:06 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

US: "Several thousand Ukrainians" sent to so-called filtration centers and tens of thousands taken to Russia

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States assesses that Russian forces have sent “at least several thousand Ukrainians” to be processed at Russia’s so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russia-controlled territory,” US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said Thursday.

The forced displacement – and reported violence that are faced by those at the so-called filtration centers – amount to war crimes, Carpenter said according to the transcript of his remarks to the OSCE Permanent Council.

“Numerous eyewitness accounts indicate that ‘filtering out’ entails beating and torturing individuals to determine whether they owe even the slightest allegiance to the Ukrainian state,” Carpenter said.

Some background:CNN investigation in April revealed that Russian forces and allied separatist soldiers were taking Mariupol residents to a so-called “filtration center” set up in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia, many against their will. Ukrainian government and local Mariupol officials say that tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly deported to the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia since the war began.

“Survivors of this process describe a coercive, multi-destination journey through various ‘filtration’ waypoints in the Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, and eventually across the border into Russia itself," Carpenter noted. “Survivors describe these centers as either makeshift encampments composed of military tents or civilian infrastructure such as schools or sports centers. Commercial satellite images show these encampments in various locations across Ukraine’s southeast.”

The US Mission to the OSCE declined to discuss the sources of the information, but said it is confident in the assessment and the scale of the numbers stated.

According to Carpenter, victims described an "invasive and humiliating" inspection process at these centers.

“Russia’s soldiers photograph victims from various angles, fingerprint and physically examine them for tattoos, inspect their cell phones and download their contacts and data onto devices, and record their biographic information in a variety of databases ... In some cases, Russia’s soldiers confiscated passports, identification documents, and cell phones altogether,” Carpenter said.

“Once in Russia, survivors report that some Ukrainian citizens are permitted to stay with friends and family living in Russia but that people without money or documents are put onto trains destined for cities hundreds of miles away, to be given jobs by Russian authorities,” he added.

4:08 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Finnish foreign minister says the government expected to propose country join NATO on Sunday

From Chris Liakos in Helsinki, Finland

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto addresses a joint press conference with his French counterpart in Helsinki, Finland, on March 31.
Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto addresses a joint press conference with his French counterpart in Helsinki, Finland, on March 31. (Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

The Finnish government is planning to issue a second white paper on Sunday proposing that the country joins NATO, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in a media briefing in Helsinki on Thursday.

The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

Haavisto noted that it is “important to go through a proper parliamentary debate”

The Finnish foreign minister said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “changed very much the security landscape in Europe,” adding that it also changed the public opinion on NATO membership.

“For the first time ever the majority of Finns support a NATO membership,” he said.

Haavisto told reporters that the country is in close contact with the Swedish Foreign Ministry as Sweden also considers joining NATO. He added that he is in talks with European partners and the UK as applicant countries are not covered by security guarantees.

2:17 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minister urges German companies to pull out of Russia and relocate to Ukraine

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged for German companies to pull out of Russia and relocate to Ukraine.

Kuleba tweeted, "As Russia keeps committing heinous atrocities in Ukraine, revenues of foreign companies still doing business in Russia are stained with Ukrainian blood. I urge German businesses to pull out of Russia and relocate to Ukraine. This will be a sincere contribution to peace in Europe."

Earlier Thursday, Kuleba told reporters in Berlin that Ukraine has seen the positive dynamic and praised Germany's response to the war with Russia. ''We see an evolving position of Germany on the most important issues — this position is moving in the right direction,'' Kuleba said.

View Kuleba's tweet here:

2:11 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

France says it fully supports Finland’s "sovereign choice" to join NATO 

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood in London, Joseph Ataman in Paris and Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the media in February in Berlin.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the media in February in Berlin. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö on Thursday that France “fully supports” Finland’s bid to join NATO. 

"The President of the [French] Republic has told the President of Finland that France fully supports Finland's sovereign choice to quickly join NATO," the Elysee Palace said in a statement. 

Earlier on Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also welcomed Finland’s bid to join the alliance and offered Berlin’s “full support,” after Finland's president and prime minister announced their support for joining NATO, moving the Nordic nation — which shares an 800-mile border with Russia — one step closer to membership of the US-led military alliance.  

On Wednesday, Niinistö said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should “look in the mirror" if Finland decides to join NATO to increase its own security.  

While speaking alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Helsinki, the Finnish leader said that if Finland joined NATO, it would be the result of Putin’s own actions. 

 

1:39 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Another Russian naval ship is on fire in the Black Sea, Ukraine says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

A Russian support ship, the "Vsevolod Bobrov," was being towed to Sevastopol from the area of Snake Island after it caught fire, according to Serhii Bratchuk, spokesperson for Odesa Regional Military Administration.

2:06 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

G7 foreign ministers will discuss how to end Ukrainian grain blockade during meeting in Germany 

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin 

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations will discuss how to end a blockade of Ukrainian grain so it can be exported to the world, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday, as the meeting kicks off at the Baltic Sea resort of Weissenhaus, northeast of the German city of Hamburg.    

''There are 25 millions of grain currently blocked in the Ukrainian port of Odesa, which means food for millions of people in the world that is urgently needed, above all in African countries and the Middle East,” Baerbock told reporters.  

Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain-producing countries. 

The UN has called to reopen the Odesa port in southern Ukraine to help ease a global food crisis. 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. 

The German foreign minister on Thursday welcomed top diplomats of the G7 nations for a three-day meeting, which will focus on the war in Ukraine, energy and food security, relationship with China and climate change.  

Baerbock also welcomed her Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts, Dmytro Kuleba and Nicu Popescu, who are attending the meeting as guests.  

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, whose country chairs the Group of 20 major economies (G20) this year, is also participating in the meeting but remotely.  

1:02 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Nearly 100 children killed in Ukraine in April alone and actual figures could be higher, UNICEF says

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

UNICEF has verified that almost 100 children were killed in Ukraine in April alone, but actual figures could be significantly higher with the conflict creating a child protection crisis, a top UNICEF official told the UN Security Council on Thursday.

"In just this past month, the UN verified that nearly 100 children were killed, and we believe the actual figures to be considerably higher," UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi said. 

During his remarks at the UN Security Council Meeting on the maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine, Abdi said, "More children have been injured and faced grave violations of their rights, millions more have been displaced," and added, "The war in Ukraine, like all wars, is a child protection and child rights crisis."

Abdi also said that "education is also under attack" and "schools continue to be used for military purposes."

"As of last week, at least 15 of 89 — one in six — UNICEF-supported schools in eastern Ukraine had been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war." he said and added, "Hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes, and other explosive weapons in populated areas." 

"Schools are a lifeline for children, especially in conflict. Schools are a safe spaces, with routines providing protection from harm and a semblance of normalcy. Schools are also critical conduits for information about the risks of deadly explosive ordnance. And they are a connector to essential health and psychosocial services," he continued.

12:39 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

UN urges all parties in Ukraine to remove barriers blocking movement of humanitarian staff to save lives

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

The United Nations on Thursday urged all parties in the Ukraine conflict to remove any barriers blocking the free movement of humanitarian staff to allow for the delivery of life-saving assistance across Ukraine. 

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday on Ukraine's maintenance of peace and security, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya said that under international humanitarian law, the parties must respect all civilians as well as civilian homes.

"This includes allowing civilians to leave areas of hostilities voluntarily and safely," she added.

Msuya also said that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross were able to evacuate 174 civilians on Monday from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol and other parts of the city. Msuya added that this was the third operation in the past week out of Mariupol, "bringing the total number of civilians evacuated from the steel plant Mariupol and neighboring towns to over 600." 

Msuya said that almost 14 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes. Of that number, 8 million have been internally displaced. Nongovernmental organizations have provided assistance to more than 5.4 million people, she said, the majority of whom are in eastern Ukraine.

Msuya also emphasized the importance of the UN in exploring all options to save lives in Ukraine, saying, "We remain firmly committed to leaving no stone unturned." 

"The world expects this of us; the people of Ukraine deserve this," Msuya added. 

1:17 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Ukrainian woman whose boyfriend died at Mariupol's Azovstal plant says she still texts him every day

From CNN's Daria Markina

During a news briefing in Kyiv with relatives of soldiers who died or are still trapped in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, CNN spoke with Nastya Bilousova, 21, whose boyfriend Dmytro Chornyi was killed by a sniper.

Bilousova said she was told that he died via an Instagram message, and she didn't believe it at first. But three days later, she received official confirmation.

Bilousova said she and Chornyi, also 21, were together for four years and dreamed of going to the country of Georgia.

Even though she received the last text messages from him on March 1, she still texts him every day, telling him about her life and how she cannot accept his death.

Nastya Bilousova shows a conversation she had with her boyfriend, Dmytro Chornyi, who was killed in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. In the message, Chornyi tells Bilousova that he is getting a rest from fighting, and she tells him she loves him. She also told him that she went out for the first time in days to buy food.
Nastya Bilousova shows a conversation she had with her boyfriend, Dmytro Chornyi, who was killed in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. In the message, Chornyi tells Bilousova that he is getting a rest from fighting, and she tells him she loves him. She also told him that she went out for the first time in days to buy food. (Daria Markina/CNN)

Nicole, 21, who only provided CNN with her first name, attended the briefing with her 5-year-old nephew, Kirill, on her lap.

She, her nephew and her sister spent five days escaping from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. She said they walked for two days and spent a night in a church to hide from shelling. They arrived in Zaporizhzhia on April 6.

21-year-old Nicole wipes away tears at a briefing about soldiers in Mariupol's Azovstal plant, as her 5-year-old nephew Kirill sits on her lap. She said that yesterday, she found out one of her good friends had died in the plant.
21-year-old Nicole wipes away tears at a briefing about soldiers in Mariupol's Azovstal plant, as her 5-year-old nephew Kirill sits on her lap. She said that yesterday, she found out one of her good friends had died in the plant. (Daria Markina/CNN)

Yesterday, she was told that her close friend Olexandr, who was fighting at Azovstal, had died. But she refuses to believe it.

“We were very good friends. He was a wonderful, kind man. He loved the guys he fought with. He often told me not to worry, that everything would be OK. Now I feel nothing," she said.

She had been getting fewer and fewer messages from him. The last time they messaged was on May 8.

"I believe and hope this is a mistake, that he is alive," she said.

On Thursday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that "very difficult negotiations" are ongoing on the evacuation of seriously wounded fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in exchange for Russian prisoners of war.