May 13, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, George Ramsay, Lianne Kolirin, Hannah Strange and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 0417 GMT (1217 HKT) May 14, 2022
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9:50 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Ukrainian forces press on with counteroffensive in Kharkiv

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Damaged houses are seen after shelling in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 12.
Damaged houses are seen after shelling in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 12. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A Ukrainian counterattack in the north continues to disrupt Russian supply lines.

Russian forces "did not conduct offensive operations in the Kharkiv direction. The main efforts were focused on preventing the advance of our troops in the area of ​​the settlement of Vesele," the Ukrainian General Staff said on Friday.

The Ukrainians have taken a number of villages in this area east of Kharkiv. 

CNN reported early on Friday that at least three bridges in the area had been demolished, according to satellite imagery. It seems likely that Russian units destroyed the bridges in an effort to protect their supply lines from further Ukrainian advances.

Elsewhere in Kharkiv region, the Russians appear to be using artillery sporadically but with deadly effect.

On Thursday, shelling of the town of Derhachi killed two people, according to the local administration, and destroyed the humanitarian center and medical facilities.

Derhachi is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Kharkiv, which is Ukraine's second-largest city.

2:55 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Ukrainian forces lose foothold in eastern town

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Smoke rises across the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on May 12.
Smoke rises across the Luhansk region, Ukraine, on May 12. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

After weeks of resistance, Ukrainian troops have pulled back from the city of Rubizhne in Luhansk region, according to multiple reports from the area.

Video from the city shows intense fighting in its industrial outskirts on Thursday.

A bridge linking Rubizhne with neighboring Severodonetsk has been destroyed, suggesting the Ukrainians are taking up new defensive lines.

There has been no official confirmation from the Ukrainian General Staff that Ukrainian troops have left the outskirts of Rubizhne. 

The General Staff reported on Friday only that "the enemy continues to focus its efforts on establishing full control over the settlement of Rubizhne," a description repeated by the regional military administration.

Ukrainian officials reported earlier on Thursday that a nearby town had fallen to advancing Russian forces. And in its latest analysis, the Institute for the Study of War said that "Russian forces likely control almost all of Rubizhne as of May 12, and have likely seized the town of Voevodivka, north of Severdonetsk."

Ukrainian troops continue to defend Severodonetsk, which has been pummelled by Russian shelling and air attacks for weeks. Some 15,000 civilians are still thought to be in Severodonetsk, out of a pre-war population of 100,000. The city is more than 70% destroyed according to the local government.

"Evacuation is suspended because it is impossible to drive on a road that is constantly being shelled. As soon as the situation stabilizes, the evacuation will resume," said the head of the Severodonetsk Military-Civil Administration Oleksandr Stryuk on Thursday.
2:30 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Satellite images show extensive destruction at Azovstal steel plant

This satellite image shows the Azovstal steel plant seen from above in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12.
This satellite image shows the Azovstal steel plant seen from above in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

Satellite images of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol show the extent of the destruction the Russian bombardment has had on the complex.

The images from Maxar Technologies, taken on May 12, show the heavily damaged plant from above.

Azovstal has been under constant shelling from Russian forces for about two months.

A closer lo Azovstal steel plant seen from above in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12.
A closer lo Azovstal steel plant seen from above in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

Prior to evacuation efforts, hundreds of civilians had been sheltering in the complex along with the last remaining Ukrainian defenders of the city.

A Ukrainian officer inside the facility said on Thursday that all the trapped civilians have likely been evacuated, though he added it was difficult to make a full assessment of the situation across the plant given the constant shelling.

This satellite image shows from April 9 shows the Azovstal steel plant before the Russian bombardment began.
This satellite image shows from April 9 shows the Azovstal steel plant before the Russian bombardment began. (Maxar Technologies)

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

There are thought to be several hundred soldiers still at Mariupol’s last Ukrainian stronghold.

Their families have 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. 

2:05 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Exclusive: 3 bridges vital to Ukrainian counteroffensive blown up in Kharkiv region, satellite images show

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river, northeast of Rubizhne, Ukraine, on May 12.
A bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river, northeast of Rubizhne, Ukraine, on May 12. (BlackSky)

As the Russian forces retreated due to a sustained Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, three bridges vital to continuing the Ukrainian advance were blown up, satellite images from BlackSky and the European Space Agency show. 

The images from Black Sky, taken on May 12, show collapsed sections of the bridges crossing the Siverskyi Donets River near the villages of Rubizhne and Staryi Saltiv, which are about 10 miles south of the Russian border.

The village of Rubizhne is near Staryi Saltiv, although it shares the same name with the city further south in Luhansk.

A bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river, east of Staryi Saltiv, Ukraine, on May 12
A bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river, east of Staryi Saltiv, Ukraine, on May 12 (BlackSky)

The villages were recently liberated by Ukrainian forces. 

Another satellite image, taken on May 8, by the European Space Agency shows the bridge across the Pecheneg hydroelectric power station — the nearest bridge to the south — has also been blown up. 

There are only two smaller bridges to the north, in the currently Russian-occupied villages of Ohirtseve and Buhrukuvatka, which cross the river. Their current status is unknown, as clouds have obscured any recent satellite imaging. 

Why the bridges are important: If those bridges are compromised, the momentum of the Ukrainian advance will be significantly hampered.

It's not just momentum that's important for the Ukrainian forces. Major Russian supply lines, which are vital to the Russian military advance near the city of Izium and into the Luhansk region, are just east of the Siverskyi Donets River in the Kharkiv region.

 While it's not entirely clear when the bridges were blown, or who is responsible for doing so, it's unlikely the Ukrainians are responsible for their destruction. The bridges are just too vital to their counteroffensive, and to targeting the supply lines.

 

12:00 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Two battlegrounds are emerging in Ukraine, with the Russians trying to take the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, while the Ukrainians are trying to both hold them back and cut them off. And the boundaries of one river in the east are hindering both sides.

Here are the latest updates on the war in Ukraine:

  • Finland's NATO ambitions: Russia has warned it will be "forced to take retaliatory steps" if Finland goes forward with joining NATO after the Nordic country announced its support for joining the US-led military alliance on Thursday. Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia and its accession would mean that Russia would share a border with a country that is formally aligned with the US.
  • Fighting along strategic river: The Ukrainians are continuing to push back a Russian advance across the Siverskyi Donets River near Bilohorivka, according to satellite images. The fighting is taking place along the same bend in the river where the Russians constructed two pontoon bridges, which the Ukrainians blew up.
  • "Millions will die" if ports not reopened: The head of the UN World Food Programme, David Beasley, is pleading with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, saying "millions of people around the world will die because these ports are being blocked." It comes as the EU proposed “solidarity lanes” exclusively for exporting agricultural goods from Ukraine to help ease the blockade of produce.
  • Thousands allegedly taken to Russia: Russian forces have sent “at least several thousand Ukrainians” to be processed at so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russia-controlled territory," according to the US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Michael Carpenter. The forced displacement – and reported violence faced by those at the so-called filtration centers – amount to war crimes, Carpenter said
  • Nearly 100 children killed in April: 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, Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi told the UN Security Council. Abdi also said that "education is also under attack" and "schools continue to be used for military purposes."

12:47 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Russian landing ship narrowly avoids Ukrainian missile near occupied Snake Island, satellite image shows

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A new satellite image from Maxar Technology appears to show a missile strike Thursday near Snake Island, in southern Ukraine.

Two plumes of smoke are seen near to a Russian Serna-class landing ship in the Black Sea, identified by Maxar.

The ship appears to be making a sharp turn where the missile hits the water.

Plumes of smoke near to what is identified by Maxar as a Russian Serna-class landing ship in the Black Sea near Snake Island on May 12.
Plumes of smoke near to what is identified by Maxar as a Russian Serna-class landing ship in the Black Sea near Snake Island on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

A closer view of the Serna-class landing ship, identified by Maxar, and possible missile contrail seen in a satellite image on May 12.
A closer view of the Serna-class landing ship, identified by Maxar, and possible missile contrail seen in a satellite image on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

Near the island, a barge with a heavy-lift crane is seen next to another sunken vessel, which Maxar has also identified as a Serna-class landing ship. 

A Serna-class landing ship and another sunken vessel seen near the Snake Island on May 12.
A Serna-class landing ship and another sunken vessel seen near the Snake Island on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

It's unclear how the ship sank, but on Sunday, spokesman for Odesa region military administration Serhiy Bratchuk said that a landing boat was hit, in addition to two Raptor-class patrol boats.

Bratchuk also claimed the Ukrainian military had destroyed a Russian helicopter on the island. The Ukraine Armed Forces Southern Operational Command released video showing a helicopter being destroyed by a missile on Sunday.

Satellite image shows the damaged helicopter on the Snake Island on May 12.
Satellite image shows the damaged helicopter on the Snake Island on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

In recent weeks, the Ukrainians have repeatedly — and successfully — destroyed Russian forces and vehicles on the island. 

Bratchuk claimed on Thursday that a Russian support ship, the 'Vsevolod Bobrov' was on fire and being towed to Sevastopol from the area of Snake Island. That support ship is not seen in this satellite image, and the claim remains unverified by CNN. 

So far Russia has not confirmed the loss of any of the ships mentioned.

11:49 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.

2:39 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

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

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

This satellite image shows large plumes of smoke rising above the Siverskyi Donets river on May 12 near Bilohorivka, Ukraine.
This satellite image shows large plumes of smoke rising above the Siverskyi Donets river on May 12 near Bilohorivka, Ukraine. (BlackSky)

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. 

11:55 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."