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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7:33 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Ukraine welcomes positive changes in Germany's position, says Ukrainian foreign minister

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, center, speaks between Lars Klingbeil, left, SPD federal chairman, and Rolf Mützenich, right, chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, after talks in the Bundestag, Berlin, Germany on May 12.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, center, speaks between Lars Klingbeil, left, SPD federal chairman, and Rolf Mützenich, right, chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, after talks in the Bundestag, Berlin, Germany on May 12. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/Getty Images)

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.

While relations between the two countries have improved, ''we have to make sure that the positive dynamic is maintained and we all move forward and that right decisions are being taken,'' Kuleba said. 

The decision about Ukraine's membership of the European Union, due to be taken at the European summit at the end of June, will largely define the future of Europe, he said.

''The EU needs Ukraine as much as Ukraine needs the EU,'' Kuleba said. 

8:10 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

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

Finland continues to move towards membership of NATO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he commends Finland’s "readiness" to join NATO, while the Kremlin said it would see Finland's accession to the military alliance as a threat.

On the ground, all the civilians are believed to have been evacuated from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant.

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

Finland’s NATO membership: Finland's leaders announced in a joint statement on Thursday that they are in favor of applying for NATO membership, moving the Nordic nation closer to joining the alliance. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, public support for joining NATO in Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia, has leaped from around 30% to nearly 80% in some polls.

Sweden could be next: It is also expected that Sweden, Finland’s neighbor to the west, will soon announce its intention to join NATO. Sweden's foreign minister said Thursday that the country will "take Finland’s assessments into account." Russia has warned both countries against joining the alliance, saying there would be consequences.

Support for Finland: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Finland would be "warmly welcomed" into the alliance. Meanwhile, NATO members Denmark and Estonia said they would support Finland’s membership, with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen saying it "will strengthen NATO and our common security."

Moscow's reaction: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Russia would see Finland's accession to the NATO as a threat and the move would not contribute to more security. Russia will analyze the situation with Finland's entry to NATO and will work out the necessary measures to ensure its own security, he added.

Azovstal evacuation: All the civilians who were sheltering in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant have likely been evacuated, according to a Ukrainian officer inside the facility. However, the officer added that it's difficult to make a full assessment of the situation across the plant given the constant bombardment from Russian forces.

Ukraine offers exchange: Ukraine has offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the evacuation of injured Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal plant, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister said on Wednesday. She added that there is no agreement yet as negotiations are underway regarding the proposal.

Russian civilian reportedly killed: For the first time, a civilian in Russia has reportedly died as a result of cross-border shelling from Ukraine, according to Russian authorities.

8:10 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Finland joining NATO is a threat to Russia, says the Kremlin

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian BMD-4M infantry fighting vehicles and BTR-MDM armoured personnel carriers drive in Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9.
Russian BMD-4M infantry fighting vehicles and BTR-MDM armoured personnel carriers drive in Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day in central Moscow, Russia, on May 9. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)

Russia would see Finland's accession to the NATO military alliance as a threat and the move would not contribute to more security, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

"As we have said many times before, NATO expansion does not make the world more stable and secure," Peskov told reporters after Finland’s top politicians announced their support for an application for NATO membership.

Peskov added that Russia’s reaction will depend on the development of NATO military infrastructure.

"It will depend on what this expansion process will entail, how far and how close to our borders the military infrastructure will move," Peskov said.

Russia will analyze the situation with Finland's entry to NATO and will work out the necessary measures to ensure its own security, he added.

8:43 a.m. ET, May 12, 2022

Finland would be "warmly welcomed into NATO" if it applies for membership, says NATO chief

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and James Frater in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

Finland would be "warmly welcomed into NATO," said the military alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg after the country's top politicians said they wanted to join.

"This is a sovereign decision by Finland, which NATO fully respects. Should Finland decide to apply, they would be warmly welcomed into NATO, and the accession process would be smooth and swift," said Stoltenberg, according to his office.

"Finland is one of NATO's closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security," he added. 

Earlier Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin issued a joint statement announcing their support for a Finnish application to join NATO.

Stoltenberg said he agreed with the analysis from Niinisto and Marin "that NATO membership would strengthen both NATO and Finland's security." 

He emphasized that Finnish accession to NATO would show "that NATO’s door is open, and that Finland decides its own future."

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.