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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10:35 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Germany's Scholz offers "full support" to Finland's NATO bid 

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a meeting of the German Federal Cabinet in Berlin in April.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a meeting of the German Federal Cabinet in Berlin in April. (Henning Schacht/Pool/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday welcomed Finland's bid to join NATO 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.

“I welcome Finland's decision to speak out in favor of the country's immediate accession to NATO,” Scholz said in a tweet.  

“In a phone call with President Sauli Niinistö, I assured Finland of the German government's full support,” Scholz added.   

The Finnish president on Twitter said that he discussed Finland's NATO membership bid with the German chancellor.   

''Finland is grateful for German support for our NATO membership,” he wrote, adding that they also discussed "the need to achieve peace in Ukraine."  

10:13 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

EU proposes streamlined export plan for Ukrainian produce

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London 

European Commissioner for Transport Adina-Ioana Valean talks to the media at the EU Commission headquarters on May 12, in Brussels, Belgium.
European Commissioner for Transport Adina-Ioana Valean talks to the media at the EU Commission headquarters on May 12, in Brussels, Belgium. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

The European Union is proposing to establish “solidarity lanes” exclusively for exporting agricultural goods from Ukraine to help ease the blockade of produce, which is “threatening global food security,” the commission said in a news release Thursday.  

The plan aims to integrate Ukrainian and EU infrastructure to mobilize 20 million metric tons of grain that must leave Ukraine within three months, EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said in the release. 

“Thousands” of trucks and wagons are stuck on the Ukrainian side of many EU borders, with an average waiting time of 16 days to pass through — rising to 30 days at some borders — the commission said.  

The commission is urging freight and infrastructure managers to take steps to streamline Ukrainian exports, such as making more vehicles available and prioritizing time slots.

National authorities are also being asked to apply “maximum flexibility” to “accelerate procedures at border crossing points” and work to secure more capacity for storing Ukrainian exports temporarily. 

The export blockade — resulting from the war with Russia — in addition to incidents of grain theft, reportedly at the hands of Russian forces, are causing a global supply crisis of grains such as wheat and corn.

9:56 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Families of Azovstal fighters appeal to Turkish president to initiate an extraction procedure

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

Families of Azov regiment fighters holed up in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol sent an emotional appeal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him to "be a hero" and initiate an extraction procedure for all remaining fighters at the plant. 

At a news briefing in Kyiv, a father of an 18-year-old fighter urged the Turkish leader to seize “a historical opportunity to go down in history as a peacemaker, as a hero.”

“As a man to man, a father to a father, I implore you to save my son and his comrades,” Evheniy Suharnikov pleaded, referencing Turkey’s experience with military extraction operations in the Middle East.

Using examples of extractions in Syria and Dunkirk during World War II, Suharnikov asked for a civilian vessel to be sent for the fighter’s collection from Azovstal. The fighter’s father also suggested they are taken to a neutral country, away from the hostilities. 

“We need a hero, a person with enough political authority to carry out this procedure. From a political and geographical perspective, we think Turkey can be that country and Erdogan can be that person," he added.

Families of fighters have gathered 1.5 million signatures on a petition they started to secure a safe passage out of the plant for Azov fighters.

“The UN and the Red Cross are only interested in civilians,” one fighter’s wife said while standing next to her young son.

One girlfriend of an Azov fighter warned if the fighters are abandoned, “Ukraine will not have a bright future.”

Ukraine has offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange of the evacuation of injured Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel plant. There are thought to be several hundred soldiers still at Mariupol’s last Ukrainian stronghold. Russia continues regular bombardments of the plant, according to both the Russian and the Ukrainian military.

10:14 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Russian state energy giant Gazprom stops sending gas through pipeline via Poland after Kremlin sanctions

From CNN's Robert North

Pipework at the Wierzchowice Underground Gas Storage Facility, operated by Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA, also known as PGNiG, in Wierzchowice, Poland, on April 27.
Pipework at the Wierzchowice Underground Gas Storage Facility, operated by Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA, also known as PGNiG, in Wierzchowice, Poland, on April 27. (Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Russian state energy giant Gazprom said it will stop sending Russian gas through the Yamal pipeline that runs through Poland, after the Kremlin imposed sanctions on a number of foreign companies.

Gazprom said the sanctions include EuRoPol Gaz, which owns the Polish section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. 

“A ban has been established on transactions and payments in favor of persons under sanctions, in particular, for Gazprom, this means a ban on the use of a gas pipeline owned by EuRoPol Gaz to transport Russian gas through Poland,” a Gazprom representative said.

It’s the latest tension over gas between Russian and Poland. Last month, Gazprom said it had fully halted supplies to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgaria's Bulgargaz after they refused to meet a demand by Moscow to pay in rubles rather than euros or dollars.

The Yamal pipeline runs from Russia through Belarus and onto Poland and Germany. According to energy analyst Bruegel, it accounts for a small part of Russian gas flows to Europe, and its use has been declining sharply since the war began. 

The German energy regulator played down the impact on its supplies. It told Reuters in a statement that stopping gas flows through Yamal will not endanger German supplies because “hardly any gas to Germany has been going through this pipeline for weeks.”

9:30 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Russia is using energy as "a weapon," German vice chancellor says

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Robert Habeck, Federal Minister of Economics, gives a statement in his ministry in Berlin, Germany, on the Russian sanctions in the energy sector on May 12.
Robert Habeck, Federal Minister of Economics, gives a statement in his ministry in Berlin, Germany, on the Russian sanctions in the energy sector on May 12. (Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance/Getty Images)

German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck accused Russia on Thursday of using energy "as a weapon," following an announcement by the Russian government on Wednesday to impose sanctions on 31 foreign energy companies in retaliation for Western penalties over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

"It has to be said that the situation is coming to a head, in such a way that the use of energy as a weapon is now being realized in several areas," Habeck told reporters at a news conference in Berlin. This is not the first time Habeck has said Russia is using energy as ''a weapon.''

Germany has been under pressure from Ukraine and other nations in Europe to make progress in weaning itself off Russian energy supplies since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. 

On Thursday, Habeck said that Germany was focusing on building up gas reserves to prepare for winter.

"The gas storage facilities must be full by winter or else we will be in a situation where we can easily be blackmailed," Habeck said. 

9:21 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Russia will be "forced to take retaliatory steps" if Finland joins NATO, Russian foreign ministry says

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Radina Gigova in London

Finland "must be aware of the responsibility and consequences" of joining NATO, Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday, adding that Russia "will be forced" to take retaliatory steps if the country joins the alliance.  

“The statement by Finnish President S. Niinistö and Finnish Prime Minister S. Marin, who spoke today in favor of Finland joining NATO, is a radical change in the country's foreign policy," the Russian foreign ministry said, adding "Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move."

Finland's possible accession to NATO would cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations, which are maintaining stability and security in the Northern European region, the ministry said. 

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks at a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on January 24.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks at a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on January 24. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

"Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard," it said. 

"Joining NATO will also be a direct violation of Finland's international legal obligations, primarily the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 and the 1992 Treaty between Russia and Finland on the fundamentals of relations,” Russia's foreign ministry said. 

Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia.

8:44 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Ukrainian migration service doing "audit" of Russian expats to identify unfriendly activity against Ukraine

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

The State Migration Service of Ukraine is conducting a “complete audit” into the services provided to its Russian citizens, in order to “single out those individuals who conduct certain activity against Ukraine,” the agency's head, Natalia Naumenko, told journalists in Kyiv on Thursday.

“We are working on gathering an understanding for each one of these cases, and not just us, but our law enforcement agencies as well,” Naumenko added.

Citizens of Russia and Belarus make up the largest expat community in Ukraine, with over 150,000 nationals currently living in the country. Ukrainian Migration Service stopped processing Ukrainian citizenship applications for Russians in the country during the ongoing conflict. 

Naumenko added that those Russian nationals with a valid residence permit in Ukraine are “free to travel in an out of the country through controlled checkpoints.”

 

8:31 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Putin says sanctions against Russia are "provoking" global crisis

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, holds a portrait of his father during the Immortal Regiment walk during the Victory Day celebrations at Red Square, Moscow, Russia, on May 9.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, holds a portrait of his father during the Immortal Regiment walk during the Victory Day celebrations at Red Square, Moscow, Russia, on May 9. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Sanctions imposed on Russia by the West are "provoking" a global crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday during a meeting on economic issues.

"Their authors, guided by short-sighted, inflated political ambitions, Russophobia, to a greater extent hit their own national interests, their own economies, the wellbeing of their citizens. We see this, first of all, in a sharp increase in inflation in Europe," said Putin.

According to the Russian leader, continuation of the West's "obsession with sanctions" will inevitably lead to the "most difficult, intractable consequences" for the European Union as well as the poorest countries in the world.

"The blame for this lies entirely with the elites of Western countries, who are ready to sacrifice the rest of the world in order to maintain their global dominance," he said.

Putin added that Russia is coping with external challenges provoked by Western sanctions and the inflation in the country is slowing down.

"The weekly increase in prices has already dropped to 0.1% -- this is already close to the weekly growth rate that corresponds to the inflation target of the Bank of Russia," he said.

8:27 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

First on CNN: Russian ship caught on satellite images moving stolen Ukrainian grain from Crimea to Syria

From CNN's Tim Lister, Sanyo Fylyppov and Paul P. Murphy

The bulk carrier Matros Pozynich is seen at the Syrian port of Latakia on May 8.
The bulk carrier Matros Pozynich is seen at the Syrian port of Latakia on May 8. (Maxar Technologies)

A Russian merchant ship loaded with grain stolen in Ukraine has been turned away from at least one Mediterranean port and is now in the Syrian port of Latakia, according to shipping sources and Ukrainian officials.

CNN has identified the vessel as the bulk carrier Matros Pozynich.

On April 27, the ship weighed anchor off the coast of Crimea and turned off its transponder. The next day, it was seen at the port of Sevastopol, the main port in Crimea, according to photographs and satellite images.

The Matros Pozynich is one of three ships involved in the trade of stolen grain, according to open-source research and Ukrainian officials.

Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, produces little wheat because of a lack of irrigation. But the Ukrainian regions to its north, occupied by Russian forces since early March, produce millions of tons of grain every year. Ukrainian officials say thousands of tons are now being trucked into Crimea.

Kateryna Yaresko, a journalist with the SeaKrime project of the Ukrainian online publication Myrotvorets, told CNN the project had noticed a sharp increase in grain exports from Sevastopol to about 100,000 tons in both March and April.

From Sevastopol, according to satellite images and tracking data reviewed by CNN, the Matros Pozynich transited the Bosphorus strait and made its way to the Egyptian port of Alexandria. It was laden with nearly 30,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat, according to Ukrainian officials.

But the Ukrainians were one step ahead. Officials say Egypt was warned that the grain was stolen, and the shipment was turned away. The Matros Pozynich steamed toward the Lebanese capital of Beirut with the same result. The ship turned off its transponder again on May 5, but imagery from Tankertrackers.com and Maxar Technologies shows it traveled to the Syrian port of Latakia.

The Ukrainian defense ministry estimates that at least 400,000 tons of grain has been stolen and taken out of Ukraine since Russia's invasion.

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