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 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Exclusive: Russian military continuing to use Ukrainian air base in occupied Melitopol, satellite images show

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

The Russian military is continuing to use a Ukrainian air base outside the occupied city of Melitopol, satellite images from BlackSky show.

At least seven helicopters are seen at the air base in a satellite image taken on May 12 at 3:58 p.m. local time. Only one helicopter is seen in a satellite image from May 7 at 6:02 a.m.

Seven helicopters are seen at the air base on May 12.
Seven helicopters are seen at the air base on May 12. (BlackSky)

Some context: The use of the air base by the Russians is important, given its strategic location between the occupied cities of Kherson, Mariupol and parts of the Russian-backed separatist-held Donbas region.

Although the air base is deep within Russian-occupied territory, it doesn't mean the aircraft there are safe. In late March, Ukrainian forces successfully targeted the airport outside of Kherson, blowing up a number of Russian military helicopters. 

As a result of that successful Ukrainian military strike, the Russian military has had to largely abandon the airport as a base for its aircraft.

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

Exclusive: Intense fighting continues at site where Ukrainians blew up two Russian pontoon bridges, satellite image shows

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

The Ukrainians are continuing to pushback a Russian advance across the Siverskyi Donets River near Bilohorivka, a satellite image from BlackSky shows.

The fighting is taking place along the same bend in the river where the Russians constructed two pontoon bridges, which the Ukrainians blew up.

The satellite image, taken Thursday afternoon, shows large plumes of smoke rising from a dense forest just west of the river. Fighting also appears to be occurring in the area where the Russian pontoon bridges were deployed.

Smoke is obscuring much of that area, but through it, an object — a possible third Russian pontoon bridge — is seen bridging the river. The object seen crosses the entire river; drone photos of the first two destroyed pontoon bridges show they no longer cross the body of water.

Serhiy Hayday, the Luhansk regional military administrator, said on Wednesday the Russians are continuing to try to construct bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River. He also said that the Ukrainians have repeatedly blown them up. 

Read more about the river here:

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

Russian diplomat says invasion is proceeding on schedule but not as quickly as some in the country would like

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser

Russia's Ambassador to the European Union said Moscow's invasion of Ukraine is on track but not proceeding at the speed certain people in the country wanted.

Calling the invasion a "special military operation," Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told Sky News Russia could have "steamrolled" Ukraine by now if it had wanted.

Russian Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov.
Russian Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

"It is continuing at a certain speed, having in mind the various aspects of the situation in Ukraine, including the need to protect the troops — the Russian troops and the allies of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics — as well as the civilian population," Chizhov said.
"Had the Russian army followed the pattern of the United States and other Western countries, we would have steamrolled Ukraine several times by now. But that was never the intention. Actually, I should repeat that it was not the intention of Russia to capture territory in Ukraine."

When asked about the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine Chizhov said:

"You mean whether NATO will deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine? I hope not." He added, "As distinctly different from the United States, Russia does not deploy nuclear weapons anywhere beyond its own territory."

Chizhov said he is "deeply disappointed and saddened" by Finland and Sweden making moves to join NATO.

"Why the current Finish government has chosen to turn the country into a backwater periphery of NATO, I cannot understand," he said.

If Finland joins, Russia will take "certain military technical measures," he said.

"Like improving or raising the degree of defense preparations along the Finish border...not necessarily troops and tanks but certain preparations like radars, perhaps, but I'm not a military expert."
9:49 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

"If you have any heart at all." UN official warns Putin millions will die if Ukraine’s ports remain blocked

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

Head of the United Nations World Food Programme, David Beasley, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference, in Beverly Hills, California, on May 2.
Head of the United Nations World Food Programme, David Beasley, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference, in Beverly Hills, California, on May 2. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, is pleading with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports before global calamity strikes.

Millions of people around the world will die because these ports are being blocked,” Beasley told CNN during a conference on Thursday.

Asked what he would say directly to Putin, the UN official said: “If you have any heart at all for the rest of the world, regardless of how you feel about Ukraine, you need to open up those ports.”

Vital shipments of agriculture from Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the world, are stuck in the war-torn nation because the port of Odesa and neighboring ports have been blocked by Russian officials.

Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, warned that the ports must be operational within the next 60 days or Ukraine’s agriculture-centric economy will implode.

“If you don’t get this port issue resolved and open, Ukraine’s economy completely collapses,” Beasley said at the SABEW conference in New York. “It becomes landlocked like Moldova. The ports are critical.”

Read the full story:

7:02 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

It's 2 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

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.

Finland’s support for joining NATO is the result of a “very drastic change in our security environment” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Klaus Korhonen, Finnish Ambassador to NATO told CNN on Thursday.

Here are the latest updates from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Ukraine welcomes positive changes in Germany's position: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised Germany's response to the war with Russia, saying Germany has now moved in ''the right direction'' following tensions between Kyiv and Berlin.

''We see an evolving position of Germany on the most important issues -- this position is moving into the right direction,'' Kuleba told reporters in Berlin Thursday.

This could be the supply of weapons to Ukraine or the sanctions that need to be imposed against Russia, he said. "We see the positive dynamic.''

In recent months, the German government and Chancellor Olaf Scholz have come under pressure from Ukraine and politicians at home for not doing enough to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. But at the end of April, Germany agreed to deliver Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, and last week it said it will supply Ukraine with seven self-propelled howitzers.

Russia "waging war against our children," says Ukrainian first lady: At least three people have died and 12 were injured after a school and a boarding school were shelled at night by Russian forces in the northern Ukrainian city of Novhorod-Siversky, Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska said, as she accused Russian of "waging war against our children."

"Tonight, the Russian army fired rockets from a plane at a school and boarding school in the city of Novhorod-Siversky, Chernihiv region. Rescuers are currently working there, but we already know of 3 dead and 12 injured. The bombing was aimed. The Russians, who claim to be attacking only military installations, are waging war against our children. In fact, they are waging war against our future," Zelenska said in a Telegram post Thursday.

She added that, according to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 1,635 educational institutions in the country have been affected by bombing and shelling, with 126 being completely destroyed.

"Whether Russia's actions in Ukraine are genocide is currently being debated around the world. Instead of answering, look at the map. Every day a new school or kindergarten appears there, which was deliberately destroyed with unprecedented cynicism by the Russians," she said.

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

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

EU proposes streamlined export plan for Ukrainian produce: 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.  

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

6:47 p.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Finland's NATO support is a result of "very drastic change" in security environment

From Laura Ford, Jaya Sharma and Sarra Alayyan

Finland’s support for joining NATO is the result of a “very drastic change in our security environment” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Klaus Korhonen, Finnish Ambassador to NATO told CNN on Thursday.

Currently, there are no “direct military threats against Finland,” by Russia, Korhonen said, adding that they don’t see any “irregular activity.”

But the nation does expect potential “cyber harassment” or “disinformation campaigns,” by Russia which would be “nothing new” to them, he added.

Remember: Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia and its accession to the alliance would mean that Russia would share a border with a country that is formally aligned with the United States.

When asked what the Nordic-nation has to offer NATO if it were to join, Korhonen said that they have a “strong national defense” and that by being a member of the alliance the protection “would be even more effective.”

“We have a strong defense, we have a very capable border guard, and I think right now we are awake, so I think the border is very secure,” he said. 

Korhonen continued by saying that while nuclear rhetoric is “always part of Russian security policy narratives at this time,” we are currently “very far away from any nuclear situation.”

“The use of nuclear weapons or threat of use of nuclear weapons, that would open up an entirely new chapter in the Euro Atlantic landscape,” he said.

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

UK calls for further sanctions on Russia

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss walks to bilateral talks with her Japanese counterpart at the meeting of the G7 Foreign Ministers in Germany on May 12.
The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss walks to bilateral talks with her Japanese counterpart at the meeting of the G7 Foreign Ministers in Germany on May 12. (Marcus Brandt/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called for international allies to commit more sanctions against Russia until it completely withdrawals from Ukraine and agrees to peace, according to a UK statement following a meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in Germany on Thursday.

She urged sanctions on Russia not be lifted until those demands are met.

The foreign secretary also asserted that NATO allies should plan to assist Ukraine's transition to NATO-standard equipment by the end of the summer. That would include supplying NATO-standard artillery shells, as well as training and expertise. 

In addition to NATO provided support, Truss also urged the G7 to plan for helping Ukraine rebuild from the war by providing financial and technical assistance, "building on the principle of a Marshal Plan."

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.