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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12:14 p.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Arrest of US Olympic basketball champion Brittney Griner in Moscow extended until June 18, state media says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Anna Chernova

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner sits during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, on October 13, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner sits during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, on October 13, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

The Khimki Court of the Moscow Region extended the arrest of US Olympic basketball champion Brittney Griner on charges of drug smuggling for another month,  Russian state news agency TASS reported on Friday, citing the press service of the court.

"The court granted the petition of the investigation and extended the term of detention of US citizen Griner until June 18," the court said, according to TASS.

The athlete was arrested on suspicion of trying to illegally import hash oil into the Russian Federation through Sheremetyevo Airport, TASS added.

Russia has denied the US State Department's claim that the detention of Griner is “illegal,” saying her arrest was based "on objective facts and evidence." 

A statement issued to CNN on Thursday read: "She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil. In Russia, this is a crime. In accordance with paragraph "c" of part 2 of Article 229.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (drug smuggling), she faces a prison term of up to 10 years.”

According to the statement, Griner was taken into custody on the basis of the decision of the Khimki District Court of Moscow Region on Feb. 18 and is being held in one of the detention facilities.

"The charges are serious, based on objective facts and evidence that is available. Attempts by the State Department to cast doubt on the validity of the detention of B. Griner are explained solely by the desire to influence justice by politicizing a generally understandable situation," the ministry said. 

"The final point in this case should be made by the court," the statement added.

Response from the State Department: An official from the US Embassy in Moscow was able to talk with Griner on the sidelines of her hearing in Russia Friday morning, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Price, who said the department was monitoring the hearing in Moscow “very closely,” said “a consular officer at our embassy in Moscow was able to speak to her on the margins of the hearing.”

“The officer was able to confirm that Brittney Griner is doing as well as can be expected under what can only be described as exceedingly difficult circumstances,” Price said on a briefing call Friday.

More background: Griner, who plays for Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, was arrested by Russian authorities in February at a Moscow airport and accused of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance — an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Griner won the 2014 World Championships in Turkey, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the 2018 World Championships in Spain, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with Team USA. 

CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Ellie Kaufman contributed reporting to this post.

11:08 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Russia expels employees from Bulgarian and Romanian embassies in Moscow

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The Russian Foreign Ministry declared 10 employees of the Romanian Embassy and one employee of the Bulgarian embassy in Moscow as "persona non grata," it announced in two separate statements released Friday.

The ambassadors of their respective countries were summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Friday and notified about the employees that were now "persona non grata."

In the statement for Romania, the ministry noted that this measure is a response to the "unjustified decision" taken on April 5 by the Romanian side to declare 10 diplomats of the Russian Embassy in Bucharest as "persona non grata."

In its statement for Bulgaria, Moscow called the measure a response to "unmotivated decision" from Bulgaria to expel a Russian diplomat from Sofia.

10:07 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Kremlin says reports that Russia will halt gas supplies to Finland on Friday are a "hoax"

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

The Kremlin said Russia doesn’t plan to stop gas supplies to Finland starting Friday, calling Finnish media reports alleging it would happen a “hoax.”

“Gazprom supplies gas to various consumers in Europe, including NATO member countries,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday on a conference call with journalists.

“Most likely, these reports are just another newspaper hoax,” he said.

Peskov added, however, that he is unaware of the payment details referring to the Russian energy giant Gazprom, “because there is a presidential decree on a new regime of payment for gas supplies.”

Some context: 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 on Thursday. The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

Russia's foreign ministry said Finland's possible accession to NATO marked a "radical change in the country's foreign policy" and warned of countermeasures.

"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.

In late April, Gazprom said it 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.

11:27 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

UK Home Office doesn't rule out Ukrainian refugees being sent to Rwanda if they enter the UK illegally

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London

Ukrainian refugees entering the United Kingdom illegally could be sent to Rwanda for processing, as the UK’s Home Office has been unable to rule out the possibility despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting it is “simply not going to happen.”

Under the government’s controversial new policy, undocumented migrants could be transferred over 4,000 miles away to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed, if deemed to have entered the UK illegally, such as by crossing the English Channel.  

The scheme has sparked outrage from humanitarian activists and garnered criticism from lawyers, faith leaders and British lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum.

Despite the UK positioning itself as a global leader in supporting Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, Ukrainians are seemingly not exempt. 

When asked to clearly state if it was possible that an undocumented Ukrainian individual could be sent to Rwanda if they entered the UK through illegal routes, the Home Office on Thursday pointed CNN to the “range of safe and legal routes to the UK” available for Ukrainians, such as the uncapped Ukraine Family scheme and the Homes for Ukraine scheme. 

“Nobody from Ukraine needs to pay a people smuggler to get to the UK […]. There is no need to make dangerous journeys,” a spokesperson said. 

The refusal to rule out the prospect comes after Johnson said Wednesday it is “simply not going to happen” in an interview with LBC Radio.

Johnson admitted he had not seen a parliamentary committee hearing earlier that day in which the Dan Hobbs, the Home Office’s director of asylum, protection and enforcement left open the possibility when grilled by lawmakers if Ukrainians fell under the policy’s scope. 

“Depending on the individual circumstances, they may not fall in the ‘inadmissibility’ criteria,” he said when asked what would happen if a Ukrainian entered the UK via Ireland.   

Downing Street did not respond to CNN’s request for clarification on the prime minister’s comments. 

According to the UK government, granting exemptions to the scheme would encourage smuggling gangs to step up their targeting and exploitation of those refugees. 

The government said more than 120,000 visas have been granted to Ukrainians since the launch of two separate, unlimited resettlement programs since Russia’s invasion.

9:43 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

It's late afternoon in Ukraine. Here are the latest developments on the war

Two Ukrainian soldiers keep watch at a checkpoint in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 12.
Two Ukrainian soldiers keep watch at a checkpoint in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 12. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine's defense minister said the country is now entering a "long" phase of war with Russia. Here are the latest developments:

Where fighting is happening: In northern Ukraine, a Ukrainian counterattack has taken back a number of villages in the area east of Kharkiv. But as the Russian forces retreated in the region, three bridges vital to continuing the Ukrainian advance were blown up, satellite images from BlackSky and the European Space Agency show. 

In the east, Ukrainian troops have pulled back from the city of Rubizhne in Luhansk region after weeks of resistance, according to multiple reports from the area. Video from the city showed intense fighting in its industrial outskirts on Thursday.

In the south, the Ukrainian military said Russia is using "strategic aviation" and reinforcing units. In the city of Enerhodar, occupied by Russian forces since early March, the regional administration reported on Friday that "the city is almost out of medicine, and humanitarian aid is not always available."

In Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say that the besieged soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant have again come under Russian bombardment. An adviser to the mayor said Russian troops may try to start ground attacks. Negotiations continue to try to extract wounded soldiers, according to Ukraine's deputy prime minister, and the Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had discussed evacuations.

Snake Island: The 46 acres of rock and grass (but no snakes) — the site of the now-famous "Russian warship, go f**k yourself" exchange — is playing an outsized role in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The Russians are expending so much effort on holding Snake Island because it has the potential to be an unsinkable — if static — aircraft carrier, crammed with electronic warfare and anti-ship capabilities. On Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said Russian troops were trying to "improve their position on the island in an effort to block Ukrainian maritime communications and capabilities in the northwestern Black Sea, particularly toward Odesa."

In recent weeks, the Ukrainians have repeatedly — and successfully — destroyed Russian forces and vehicles on the island. A new satellite image from Maxar Technologies appears to show a missile strike Thursday near the island. Two plumes of smoke are seen near a Russian Serna-class landing ship in the Black Sea, identified by Maxar.

War crimes trial: 21-year-old soldier Vadim Shishimarin is set to become the first Russian to be tried for war crimes at a trial in Kyiv on Friday. He is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old man in Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to the country's prosecutor general's office.

Nordic NATO developments: 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 on Thursday. The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

And Sweden said joining NATO would enhance deterrence across northern Europe, according to a cross-party review published by the government on Friday. 

9:55 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Germany's chancellor tells Putin that Russia bears responsibility for "tense" global food situation

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the ongoing war in Ukraine on Friday, following a conversation earlier this week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said Friday in a statement.

''The Chancellor and the Russian President also discussed the global food situation, which is particularly tense as a result of the Russian war of aggression. The Chancellor recalled that Russia has a special responsibility here,'' according to the German government statement. 

''Given the seriousness of the military situation and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, particularly in Mariupol, the Chancellor urged the Russian President to bring about a ceasefire as soon as possible,'' the statement said. 

Scholz also discussed ''an improvement in the humanitarian situation and progress in the search for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.''

8:34 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Ukraine is entering a "long" phase of war, defense minister says

From CNN’s Katharina Krebs in London 

Ukraine forced Russia to reduce its targets to an operational and tactical level and is entering a "long" phase of war, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a statement posted on Facebook on Friday.  

"In order to win it now, we must carefully plan resources, avoid mistakes, project our strength so that the enemy, in the end, cannot stand up to us," the defense minister said.   

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 24.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 24. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

Reznikov said that after the initial Russian attack on Feb. 24, Moscow was expecting that Ukraine would capitulate in couple of days and the Kremlin would establish a new Russian system in Ukraine.   

However, Reznikov said, the “Ukrainian army and the entire Ukrainian population repulsed the occupiers and thwarted their plans.” 

According to Reznikov, an important change also took place at the international level. 

"In a month, Ukraine achieved integration in the field of defense, which could not be achieved for 30 years. We receive heavy weapons from our partners. In particular, American 155 mm M777 howitzers are already deployed at the front. Three months ago, this was considered impossible," Reznikov said. 

 

8:18 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Putin discusses Finland NATO bid and war in Ukraine with Russia's Security Council, Kremlin tells state media

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Finland and Sweden potentially joining NATO, as well as the course of the war in Ukraine, with members of Russia’s Security Council on Friday, the Kremlin told state news agency RIA Novosti.

“Defense Minister [Sergei] Shoigu informed the meeting participants about the progress of the special military operation [in Ukraine]," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti, commenting on the meeting.

Peskov went on to say, "An exchange of views took place on the topic of the decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO and the potential threats to Russia's security arising in this regard." 

A number of issues in the context of the upcoming Collective Security Treaty Organization summit on Monday were also discussed, Peskov added.

8:23 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Renewed bombardment of Azovstal plant as talks continue on evacuating the wounded

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva and Olga Voitovych 

A satellite view of the damage to the eastern end of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12.
A satellite view of the damage to the eastern end of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

Ukrainian officials say that the besieged soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant have again come under Russian bombardment.

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol's mayor, said that aircraft had dropped heavy bombs on the plant, "because very powerful explosions are being heard. People also saw pillars of smoke. 

"As far as I understand, after the bombing is over, the Russians may try to start ground attacks," he said.

"The territory of the plant is huge, they [the Russians] are trying to break through the facility, gain a foothold and find entrances and exits to the underground areas -- where the field hospital is, where our defenders are," Andriushcheko said.

So far their efforts to penetrate the plant had not been very successful. "And this is what provokes the new shelling, the new artillery cover for these ground operations," Andriushchenko said.

He also said that more people were returning to Mariupol because the Russians were not allowing them into Ukrainian-held territory.

"People are returning due to the actual closure of all green corridors by the Russian Federation. People who have settled in Mariupol district, Nikolske district, Berdiansk district, who cannot get to Zaporizhzhia, are forced to move back to the city, to their homes. At the same time we haven’t seen an increase in food supplies," he said.

The International Red Cross is discussing with Russian officials the fate of those badly wounded and still trapped at Azovstal, according to Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's deputy Prime Minister.

"We have started a new round of negotiations around the road map of the special operation. Let's start with the severely wounded," she said.

"We want a document to be signed: how exactly the evacuation from Azovstal will take place, we are preparing to sign it."

Vereshchuk said Turkey has agreed to act as a mediator in the current round of talks.