May 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Andrew Raine, Tara John, Sana Noor Haq, Laura Smith-Spark and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:05 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022
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5:07 a.m. ET, May 15, 2022

Ukraine says Russians intensifying attacks in east but retreating in north

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova

Ukrainian special task force police officers deliver bread to people living inside a basement bomb shelter in Severodonetsk, Ukraine on Friday, May 13.
Ukrainian special task force police officers deliver bread to people living inside a basement bomb shelter in Severodonetsk, Ukraine on Friday, May 13. (Leo Correa/AP)

Ukrainian officials have reported missile attacks and shelling in several regions, as Russian forces focus their efforts on the frontlines in Luhansk. But they claim further successes in the Kharkiv region. 

A rare missile strike was reported in the western Lviv region.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said early Sunday that the "Russians are gathering equipment and manpower closer to Severodonetsk and preparing to attack it."

Severodonetsk is one of several industrial towns in the east that have seen relentless bombardment for weeks as Russian forces try to break down Ukrainian defenses.

Hayday said the city's chemical plant and high-rise buildings had been hit.

There is a lot of destruction: 11 high-rise buildings in the new and old districts of the city (were hit), in several of them apartments caught fire."

Several settlements to the south and west of Severodonetsk were also hit — including Vrubivka and Komyshuvakha — Hayday said. 

Russian forces are expected to advance further west if they can secure Severodonetsk, where 15,000 people are still living. Most residents have been evacuated. 

Ukraine has provided few details about its counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region, where its troops have made significant advances to the north and east towards the Russian border. The aim of the Ukrainian offensive is to cut Russian supply lines to its forces trying to advance into the Donetsk region.

The armed forces General Staff said Sunday only that "in the Kharkiv direction, enemy units did not conduct active hostilities." 

However, Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said Ukrainian units "are constantly strengthening their positions, pushing the enemy from the borders of the city of Kharkiv to the borders of the Russian Federation. The northern and north-eastern directions are the hottest; there are active hostilities there."
He said the city of Kharkiv "has been relatively quiet for several days now, there has been no shelling of the city itself. About 2,000 people return to Kharkiv every day, and the number is growing every day."

This is partly because the city is now beyond the reach of many Russian artillery and rocket systems.

But further south, according to Syniehubov, several towns had come under fire. 

He said that "the enemy is constantly checking the positions of our armed forces near Barvinkove, trying to break through but has no success. The enemy suffered heavy losses of manpower and equipment."

The General Staff also said that Russian forces were intensifying efforts in this area, reporting that "the enemy tried to break through the defenses of our troops but was unsuccessful. It continues the regrouping of troops to resume the offensive in the direction of Barvinkove and Sloviansk," two key goals for Russian forces in the region.

Elsewhere, the General Staff reported further air strikes on the Chernihiv and Sumy regions of northern Ukraine. Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, head of the Sumy region military administration, said rockets and airstrikes overnight had damaged border villages but there had been no casualties.

On the southern front, regional authorities say the Russians have begun digging trenches in some front-line positions. 

The Zaporizhzhia regional military administration said the Russians "are digging trenches along the Molochna River" while continuing to shell towns in the area. 

In the western Lviv region, close to the Polish border, Maksym Kozytskyi, head of the Lviv regional military administration, said "four enemy missiles hit a military infrastructure facility in the Yavoriv district, near the border with Poland. The object is completely destroyed."

Kozytskyi did not specify the target, but a previous missile attack in Yavoriv targeted training grounds where some foreign fighters were present. 

3:25 a.m. ET, May 15, 2022

Convoy of 500-1,000 cars carrying evacuees from Mariupol has arrived in Zaporizhzhia: mayor's aide

From CNN's Teele Rebane

Cars carrying Ukrainian refugees from Mariupol arrive at a registration and humanitarian aid center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 14.
Cars carrying Ukrainian refugees from Mariupol arrive at a registration and humanitarian aid center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 14. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

A convoy of 500-1,000 cars containing people evacuated from Mariupol entered the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday, Petro Andryushchenko, aide to Mariupol's mayor, said on his telegram channel.

The convoy had been waiting for more than three days to be allowed to enter Zaporizhzhia, he said.

12:23 a.m. ET, May 15, 2022

Lethal Russian flechette projectiles hit homes in Ukrainian town of Irpin. 'They are everywhere,' say residents

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Oleksandra Ochman and David von Blohn

More than a month after the Ukrainian army retook Irpin from the Russians, Volodymyr Klimashevskyi is still finding the little nail-like projectiles scattered around his garden and embedded deep in the walls of his house.

You can't take them out with your hands, you need to use pliers," Klimashevskyi said, pointing to the wall dotted with the dark darts.

Called flechettes -- French for "little arrows" -- these razor-sharp, inch-long projectiles are a brutal invention of World War I when the Allies used them to strike as many enemy soldiers as possible. They are packed into shells that are fired by tanks. When the shell detonates, several thousands of the projectiles are sprayed over a large area.

Flechette shells are not banned, but their use in civilian areas is prohibited under humanitarian law, because of their indiscriminate nature. They cause severe damage as they rip through the body, twisting and bending -- and can be lethal.

Read the full story here:

12:20 a.m. ET, May 15, 2022

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

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks to reporters as he arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on May 14, in Berlin, Germany.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks to reporters as he arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on May 14, in Berlin, Germany. (John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Germany, while Finland and Sweden make moves to join the US-led military alliance.

Here are the latest headlines from Russia's invasion in Ukraine.

  • Finland seeks NATO membership: Finland's President Sauli Niinistö told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the Nordic nation will decide "to seek NATO membership in the next few days," Niinistö's office said in a statement. During the phone call, initiated by Finland, Niinistö told Putin that Russia's invasion had "altered the security environment of Finland." On Saturday, Russia suspended its power exports to Finland.
  • Zelensky meets US delegation: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met a congressional delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kyiv Saturday, and called for Russia to officially be recognized as a "terrorist state."
  • Ukraine wins Eurovision: Ukraine's folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra has won this year's Eurovision Song Contest, surfing a wave of goodwill from European nations to clinch the country's third win at the glitzy event. The band's song "Stefania," written about the frontman's mother, beat competition from main rivals the United Kingdom and Spain at the competition in the Italian city of Turin.
  • Ukraine counteroffensive: Ukrainian forces continue to press on with a counteroffensive in the northeastern region of Kharkiv. The pullback of Russian forces from areas around Ukraine’s second-largest city has revealed new evidence of atrocities.
  • Push back from Ukraine: Russians are adding combat power to their drive to take the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Ukrainians are continuing to push back a Russian advance across the Siverskyi Donets River near Bilohorivka. 
11:56 p.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Indian Embassy will return to Kyiv on Tuesday

From CNN’s Vedika Sud in Delhi

The Indian Embassy in Ukraine will return to the capital Kyiv on Tuesday, India's Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday. 

“Glad to announce the return of the Embassy of India to Kyiv soon. The Embassy will resume its operation in Kyiv with effect from May 17, 2022,” the embassy said in a tweet.

The embassy was temporarily relocated to Warsaw, Poland, on March 13 amid an escalation in violence near the Ukrainian capital during Russia's invasion.

11:56 p.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Sen. McConnell on his trip to Ukraine: "It was an honor to meet with President Zelensky"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes the U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the delegation he leads in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 14.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes the U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the delegation he leads in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 14. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday that the Republican delegation he led to Ukraine had recently left the country and it was an "honor" to have met Ukrainian President Zelensky and his senior advisers.

McConnell was joined on the unannounced trip by GOP Senators Susan Collins, John Barrasso, and John Cornyn. 

Zelensky said earlier Saturday on his Instagram account that the GOP delegation visit was "a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people."

McConnell echoed the sentiment saying "our delegation reaffirmed to President Zelensky that the United States stands squarely behind Ukraine and will sustain our support until Ukraine wins this war. It is also essential that America not stand alone."

"It is squarely in our national interest to help Ukraine achieve victory in this war and to help Ukraine and other countries deter other wars of aggression before they start,” he added.

The trip comes as GOP Senator Rand Paul stalled a $40 billion bill that would aid Ukraine in combatting Russia. The Senate is expected to pass the bill sometime next week.

11:56 p.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest

By Derrick Hinds and Hira Humayun, CNN

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine poses after winning the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy, on May 15.
Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine poses after winning the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy, on May 15. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

In a symbolic victory more than three months after the Russian invasion, Ukraine took top honors in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

The annual songwriting and performance competition is often viewed as an opportunity to celebrate a diverse range of musical styles, appreciate its sometimes kitschy presentations, and to feel national pride. The winner is voted on by panels of professional musicians and television viewers across Europe, although the audience cannot vote for their own country's entrant.

The participants are admonished to refrain from political themes, however, the popular sentiment of the day can swing votes and Ukraine had been acknowledged as a favorite in this year's contest.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the band on Instagram seconds after Ukraine's victory was announced.

"Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!" he said in the post. Alluding to the rule that a winner of the previous year's competition gets to host the contest, he said: "Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision! For the third time in its history. And I believe - not the last. We will do our best to one day host the participants and guests of Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful, rebuilt!"

Ukraine's entrant was a group called the Kalush Orchestra, performing a folk/hip-hop style song called "Stefania," about the lead singer's mother.

Kalush is the name of the city where singer Oleh Psyuk grew up, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains about 375 miles west of Kyiv.

The folk-rap group initially finished second in Ukraine's national selection competition, but they were elevated after it emerged the initial winner had previously traveled to Russian-annexed Crimea. They were unveiled as the country's entry on February 22, two days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

"As we speak, our country and our culture is under threat. But we want to show that we are alive, Ukrainian culture is alive, it is unique, diverse, and beautiful," Oleg Psyuk, the band's frontman, told CNN earlier.

Eurovision is among the world's most-watched events not including sports, with hundreds of millions of viewers, and it often launches or reignites the careers of songwriters, artists and featured songs thanks to such wide exposure.

Traditionally, the winning nation hosts the following year's event, attracting thousands of spectators and entertainment journalists, and drawing attention to the country's tourism industry.

11:55 p.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Zelensky calls for official recognition of Russia as a 'terrorist state' in meeting with US senators

From CNN’s Hira Humayun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with US senators Saturday, and called for Russia to be officially recognized as a "terrorist state," he said in his nightly address.

"I held talks today with a delegation of US senators led by Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitchell McConnell in Kyiv," he said. "I believe that this visit once again demonstrates the strength of bipartisan support for our state, the strength of ties between the Ukrainian and American nations."

Discussions of US support for Ukraine and tightening sanctions on Russia also took place during the meeting, according to Zelensky.

"I expressed gratitude for the historic decision to renew the Lend Lease program. I called for the official recognition of Russia as a terrorist state," Zelensky said.

US President Joe Biden signed into law the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 on May 9. The new law, which eases some requirements for the US to lend or lease military equipment to Ukraine, passed with a bipartisan majority in the US House and Senate. Its sponsors said the legislation gives Biden much broader authority to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia and addresses how the US can get weapons to Ukraine faster.

The Ukrainian president also highlighted in his nightly address food security, an issue he said he deals with on a "daily basis."

"More and more countries around the world are realizing that Russia, by blocking the Black Sea for us and continuing this war, puts dozens of other countries at risk of a price crisis in the food market and even famine," Zelensky said. "This is another incentive for our anti-war coalition to act more decisively together," he said.

11:55 p.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Russia must take responsibility for Ukraine war, German foreign minister says

From CNN’s Inke Kappeler in Berlin

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks at a press conference after the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin, on Saturday.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks at a press conference after the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin, on Saturday. (Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

Russia has to take responsibility for the damages caused by its war in Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said during the concluding press conference following the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin Saturday. 

“Russia bears the responsibility for this massive damage, which goes hand in hand with this war," Baerbock said, adding that “Russia is solely responsible, not only for this war, which is contrary to international law, but also for all this massive damage, which is also massive in Russia itself."

Accessing Russian money frozen by sanctions to pay for damages incurred by the Russian war is legally possible in Canada, as the Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly pointed out on Saturday. Baerbock explained that Europe's legal framework made it more difficult to make use of the seized assets. 

“Access to frozen money is legally anything but simple," Baerbock said.  

“When we put people on sanctions lists, we have to and had to provide explanations for them, so that they are also valid before the European Court of Justice," she said. "And that applies all the more to this path, if we were to take it — for which there are some good reasons. It must of course be such that it stands up before our law; we are defending international law."