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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8:11 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Ukraine commends Finland’s "readiness" to join NATO, says Zelensky

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he commends Finland’s "readiness" to join NATO, after the country’s leaders officially announced their support for joining the military alliance.

Zelensky spoke with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto by telephone, he said on Twitter on Thursday, adding that he "commended the readiness of Finland to apply for NATO membership."

"We also discussed Ukraine's European integration. And Ukraine-Finland defense interaction," Zelensky added. 

6:00 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Civilian casualties in Mariupol in the thousands, says UN Human Rights Commissioner

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Funeral workers carry the body of a person killed during the Russian attack on the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 28.
Funeral workers carry the body of a person killed during the Russian attack on the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 28. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Thousands of civilians have been killed in the south-eastern city of Mariupol, and "the true scale" of alleged atrocities is yet to be revealed, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Bachelet's office continues to investigate allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in Ukraine, "many of which may amount to war crimes," she said during a Human Rights Council special session on Ukraine in Vienna.

In areas of intense hostilities, like Mariupol, it has been difficult for her team to get access and collect information, said Bachelet.

In the Kyiv region, the killing of civilians "often appears to be intentional, carried out by snipers and soldiers," she said.

Last week, her team visited 14 towns and villages in the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas, and "heard first-hand accounts of relatives, neighbors and friends being killed, injured, detained and disappeared," she said.

"To date over 1,000 civilian bodies have been recovered in the Kyiv region alone. Some of those people have been killed in hostilities, others appear to be summarily executed," and others appear to have died due to stress from hostilities and the lack of medical aid, she said. Some appeared to have been tortured, she added. 

Bachelet reiterated her calls to "both parties in the conflict" to respect international humanitarian law. 

8:11 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Sweden taking Finland’s steps towards NATO "into account," says foreign minister

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London

Sweden Foreign minister Ann Linde talks during a press conference at the Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on January 24.
Sweden Foreign minister Ann Linde talks during a press conference at the Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on January 24. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde says Sweden will consider Finland's assessments on NATO membership as it also considers joining the military alliance.

"Finland is Sweden’s closest security and defence partner, and we need to take Finland’s assessments into account," Linde said in a tweet.

"Sweden will decide after the report from the security policy consultations has been presented," she added.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced their support for NATO membership in a joint statement Thursday, which Linde described as an "important message."

5:46 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Situation along Luhansk front lines "significantly deteriorated," says Ukrainian official

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

There has been intense shelling along the front lines in the Luhansk region on Thursday, a Ukrainian official has said.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said the enemy had "completely destroyed the captured settlements in Luhansk ... Shelling intensified along the entire Luhansk front."

Hayday spoke of heavy fighting around Severodonetsk (in Belohorivka, Komyshuvaha and on the outskirts of Severodonetsk) and said the situation "has significantly deteriorated."

He said that Ukrainian units in Belohorivka are "now holding back the Russian invasion ... our defenders have twice destroyed pontoon crossings, and based on the actions of the Russians, the third time will be the same."

Hayday gave no indication that any towns or villages in the area had fallen to the Russians.

He said the Russians "do not change tactics: They destroy cities and only then enter the scorched earth."

5:18 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Ukraine reports shelling of villages near north-eastern border with Russia

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

Destroyed houses seen from above in Vilhivka village near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 11.
Destroyed houses seen from above in Vilhivka village near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 11. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

As fighting in north-eastern Ukraine gets closer to the border with Russia, Ukrainian officials are claiming that more border villages are coming under fire from Russian forces.

One person was killed when the small village of Novi Vykry was bombarded early Thursday by a barrage of 20 artillery shells, according to Ukrainian officials in Sumy.

Shelling of border settlements in Sumy from across the border in Russia has picked up in recent days, at the same time as Ukrainian forces are advancing towards a different section of the international border in the Kharkiv region. 

Earlier Thursday, the Ukrainian armed forces said that Russian forces had launched an air strike in the Shostka district of the Sumy region.

8:12 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Finland joining NATO would "strengthen" security in northern Europe, says Finnish foreign minister

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 6.
Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 6. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

The accession of Finland to NATO would "strengthen" the security of the Baltic Sea region and northern Europe, according to the country's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.

Haavisto addressed the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs Thursday, just minutes after a joint statement was published from the Finnish President and Prime Minister announcing their support for applying for NATO membership. 

"Should Finland decide to apply, the accession of Finland would strengthen the security and stability for the Baltic Sea region and north of Europe," Haavisto told EU lawmakers.

Stressing that the country is now "fast approaching the point of national decision making," Haavisto laid out further benefits of Finnish membership. 

"From NATO's perspective Finland has solid democratic credentials that meet NATO's membership criteria, and has a strong and credible national defense that is interoperable with NATO," he said.

"We are convinced that Finland would bring added value to NATO. Our war time strength of the defense forces is 280,000 troops, and the trained reserve is 900,000 men and women," Haavisto continued. 

He also set out the threats created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling Moscow's "unpredictable behavior" an "imminent issue." 

The invasion of Ukraine is "an attack against the entire European security order," said Haavisto, who emphasized the need for the EU to do its "utmost to give Ukraine political, military, economic and humanitarian support." 

8:12 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

NATO members Denmark and Estonia would welcome Finland joining alliance

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Chris Liakos in Helsinki, and Antonia Mortensen in Milan

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks during a joint media conference with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda at the President's palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, on March 31.
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks during a joint media conference with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda at the President's palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, on March 31. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

NATO members Denmark and Estonia said they would welcome Finland joining the alliance.

In a tweet posted by Denmark’s Ministry of State Thursday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: "Strong messages from the President and Prime Minister of Finland. DK [Denmark] will of course warmly welcome Finland to NATO. Will strengthen NATO and our common security. DK will do everything for a rapid accession process after the formal application."

Earlier on Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced their support for NATO membership, saying in a joint statement: "Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days."

Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Estonia supports "a rapid accession process" for Finland to join NATO, adding that Finland's potential application will have the country's "full support."

Kallas said in a tweet: "History being made by our northern neighbours."

"You can count on our full support. We support a rapid accession process. From our side will make necessary steps quickly," Kallas added.

Some background: Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, public support for joining NATO in Finland has leaped from around 30% to nearly 80% in some polls.

Once parliament has approved the idea in principle and any other domestic legislative hurdles have been cleared, it is expected that NATO would invite Finland to negotiate its accession.

Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia, which has warned against joining NATO by saying there would be consequences.

8:12 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Analysis: Why Finland joining NATO is bad news for Putin

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

Crew from a CV9030 light assault tank during the Finnish Army Arrow 22 training exercise in Niinisalo, Finland, on May 4.
Crew from a CV9030 light assault tank during the Finnish Army Arrow 22 training exercise in Niinisalo, Finland, on May 4. (Roni Rekomaa/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Before Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he made clear his belief that NATO had edged too close to Russia and should be stripped back to its borders of the 1990s, before some countries that either neighbor Russia or were ex-Soviet states joined the military alliance.

Russia currently shares about 755 miles of land border with five NATO members, according to the alliance.

Finland's accession would mean that a nation with which Russia shares an 800-mile border would become formally militarily aligned with the United States.

Not only would this be bad news for the Kremlin, but the addition of Finland would be quite a boon for NATO.

Despite its relatively small population, Finland is a serious military power that has been unofficially aligned with the West.

Its military has for decades used equipment purchased from the US that is compatible with NATO allies, meaning it could easily join NATO missions should it choose to do so.

Read the full analysis:

8:12 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Finland’s political leadership makes history in signaling desire to join NATO. And Sweden could be next

From CNN's Luke McGee

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö, left, and Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, right.
Finland's President Sauli Niinistö, left, and Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, right. (Getty Images)

The statement of support for NATO from Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin had been expected, after the Finnish government recently submitted to the country’s parliament a report on national security which outlined the path to joining the alliance as one of Finland’s options.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, public support for joining NATO has leaped from around 30% to nearly 80%.

Once parliament has approved the idea in principle and any other domestic legislative hurdles have been cleared, it is expected that NATO would invite Finland to negotiate its accession.

Sweden could be next: It is also expected that Sweden, Finland’s neighbor to the west, will soon announce its intention to join the alliance through a similar process.

Russia has warned both countries against joining NATO, saying there would be consequences.

Finland joining NATO would have both practical and symbolic consequences for Russia and the Western alliance.

Change in stance: Since the end of World War II, Finland has been non-aligned militarily and nominally neutral in order to avoid provoking Russia. It has indulged the Kremlin’s security concerns at times and tried to maintain good trading relations.

The war in Ukraine, however, has sufficiently changed the calculation, so that joining NATO now seems the best way forward, regardless of what Russia’s reaction might be.

Read the full story here: