Finnish parliament votes in favor of NATO application
From CNN's Stephanie Halasz
The Finnish parliament has voted in favor of applying for NATO membership.
“Parliament supports Finland's application for NATO membership. Parliament adopted the position in accordance with the Foreign Affairs Committee report after a vote 188-8 in favour,” the official Twitter account of the parliament tweeted.
2:22 p.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Ukraine expects prisoner exchange for wounded soldiers from Azovstal
From CNN's Julia Presniakova in Lviv
Ukraine expects to carry out an exchange of Russian prisoners of war for the severely injured soldiers evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol late on Monday, Ukraine's deputy prime minister has said.
"In the interests of saving lives, 52 of our severely wounded servicemen were evacuated yesterday. After their condition stabilizes, we will exchange them for Russian prisoners of war," Iryna Vereshchuk said Tuesday.
"We are working on the next stages of the humanitarian operation," Vereshchuk added.
Hundreds of people were evacuated on Monday from the steel plant, the last holdout in a city that had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance under relentless Russian bombardment.
What Russia is saying: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that fighters who left the besieged Azovstal plant will be treated in accordance with international laws.
"President [Vladimir Putin] ... ordered Minister of Defense to refrain from storming Azovstal for humanitarian reasons and announced that both civilians and the military could leave, the military after laying down their arms,” Peskov said on a regular conference call.
Peskov added that Putin also “guaranteed that they would be treated in accordance with the international laws.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the Russian Investigative Committee said investigators will interrogate what they describe as "the surrendered militants" who were evacuated from the Azovstal plant.
"Investigators of the Russian Investigative Committee, as part of the investigation of criminal cases on the crimes of the Ukrainian regime against the civilian population of Donbass, will interrogate the surrendered militants who were hiding at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol," the committee's brief statement said.
Nearly 600 Ukrainian soldiers at the Azovstal plant laid down their weapons on Monday and Tuesday, and most have been taken on buses to the town of Orlivka in the Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic.
CNN’s Anna Chernova and Uliana Pavlova contributed reporting to this post.
8:08 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Russia expels two Finnish diplomats following expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Finland
From CNN's Radina Gigova in London
Finland's Ambassador to Russia Antti Helanterya was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow on Tuesday and notified of Russia's decision to expel two Finnish embassy employees as part of a diplomatic response, the ministry said in a statement.
"The ambassador was presented with a statement of resolute protest in connection with the groundless expulsion from Finland of two employees of the Russian Embassy in Helsinki as part of the EU anti-Russian sanctions campaign, as well as Finland's confrontational course towards Russia, including the supply of weapons to the Kyiv regime and covering up the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists against the civilian population of Donbass and Ukraine," according to a statement from the ministry.
"The Ambassador was informed that, as a reaction to these actions of the Finnish authorities, the Russian side made a decision on the unacceptability of the further stay in the Russian Federation of two employees of the staff of the Embassy of Finland in Moscow," the ministry said.
8:28 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Finnish President "sure" dispute with Turkey over NATO membership will be resolved
From CNN's Benjamin Brown, Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul and Zahid Mahmood
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said he is "sure" a dispute with Turkey over Finland's and Sweden's potential NATO membership will be resolved.
"In recent days, Turkey's statements have changed and hardened very quickly. I am sure, however, that we will solve the situation through constructive discussions," Niinisto said in an address to the Swedish parliament in Stockholm Tuesday.
NATO member Turkey has presented itself as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that he would not approve Sweden and Finland's NATO membership over sanctions on Turkey and further accused both countries of housing Kurdish "terrorist organizations."
Asked by a Swedish parliamentarian about his views on the matter, Niinisto called the recent dispute "surprising." He recounted that, in a call with Erdogan a month ago, the Turkish President said he had "favorable" views on Finnish NATO membership.
"Now (the problems) have crept up, and that means that we must continue our discussions. I'm optimistic," Niinisto said.
8:16 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Lavrov says Finland and Sweden joining NATO "makes no difference"
From CNN's Radina Gigova in London
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that NATO has "taken into account the territories of Finland and Sweden in its military plans for eastward expansion" for years, and therefore the two countries' accession to the alliance "makes no difference."
"Finland, Sweden and other neutral countries have for years participated in NATO’s military exercises. NATO has taken their territories into account in planning its eastward movement," Lavrov said on Tuesday, state news agency TASS reported.
"In this context it apparently makes no difference any more (in connection with their admission to NATO)," Lavrov added.
Speaking at an educational conference organized by the Russian Znanie (Knowledge) society in Moscow, Lavrov said Russia doesn't see why Finland and Sweden should be worried about their security.
"For this reason we see their decision, which Washington and NATO surely lobbied for, as a geopolitical move in the context of Russia’s containment and the implementation of NATO’s plans to spread its activities to the Arctic region," he said.
"Incidentally, the Finnish President and the Finnish ambassadors everywhere have been saying that they see no threats from Russia. Admission to NATO stems from the changes in the security situation in Europe. But there is no logic here," he added.
Russia will observe how NATO uses the territories of Finland and Sweden and "make its conclusions," Lavrov said.
Finland's government said on Sunday that it intends to join NATO, and on Tuesday Sweden's foreign minister signed an application declaring the country wants to join the military alliance.
EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell reiterated on Tuesday that the European Council "strongly supports" the application of both countries to join NATO.
8:15 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Any negotiations with Russia are "suspended" because of Moscow's mindset, Ukrainian official says
From CNN's Tim Lister, Oleksandra Ochman and Katharina Krebs
Negotiations with Russia on resolving the conflict have been suspended, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
It was because "Russia is still in its stereotypical mindset," he said on Ukrainian television Tuesday, adding that Russia doesn't realize that the war "is no longer going on according to the rules, their plans, and schedule."
Since the two delegations met in Istanbul, "there's no significant changes, no progress," he said. "The resistance of Ukraine, the professional resistance just grows, that’s why there’s no way Russia achieves its goals."
Podolyak also rejected any territorial concessions.
"The war will not end if we give some of our territories there. This is not acceptable for Ukraine, and it will not be accepted by Ukrainian society. Minsk-2 could be signed by another president. President Zelensky will not sign it. Because any Minsk-2 is a postponement of the war, even more destructive, for example, in a year or two," he said.
Minsk-2 would have accorded significant autonomy to the territory in the east that has been under the control of Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Meanwhile, Russian state news agency reported Tuesday that Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko confirmed negotiations are not happening, but he reportedly said it's because Kyiv withdrew from the process.
Kyiv did not provide a response to the draft treaty proposed by Russia, Rudenko added.
The decision of the foreign ministers of the EU member states to allocate another 500 million euros ($527 million) to Ukraine from the European Peace Fund for weapon purchases is prolonging the conflict, according to Rudenko.
7:28 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Finnish gas firm Gasum says it won't pay for Russian gas in rubles
From CNN's Rob North in London
Finnish gas company Gasum says it will not pay for Russian gas in rubles or use Gazprom’s proposed payment scheme for gas.
In a statement, the company said negotiations over a long-term gas contract with Gazprom were now in dispute, and it would now take Gazprom to arbitration.
Gasum said it had been in contract discussions with Gazprom since last year, but in April Gazprom sent a letter saying it required payments in rubles.
Gasum said it "does not accept Gazprom Export's requirement to switch to ruble payments and will consequently not make payments in rubles or under Gazprom Export’s proposed payment arrangement.
In addition, the companies are in significant dispute concerning other claims submitted under the contract.
"Overall, this is something that Gasum cannot accept and has decided to take the disputes regarding the supply contract to arbitration based on arbitration in the contract.
"The matter will be considered in arbitration."
Gasum warned that would lead to an increased risk of its natural gas supplies from Russia being halted. The company said it has been preparing for this situation with its customers and the government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in March that "unfriendly" nations would have to pay rubles, rather than the euros or dollars stated in contracts.
Buyers could make euro or dollar payments into an account at Russia's Gazprombank, which would then convert the funds into rubles and transfer them to a second account from which the payment to Russia would be made.
Gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria were cut off after they refused to pay in rubles and other big European gas companies have told CNN they are working on ways to pay for Russian gas, while not breaking EU sanctions.
7:25 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Russian artillery attacks continue across border into Sumy, Ukrainian military says
From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv
Russian forces have continued to shell border areas after a night of missile attacks and cross-border clashes in the Sumy region, according to the Ukrainian military.
The armed forces Operational Command (North) said there had been more than 80 impacts in border areas on Tuesday morning.
Almost all the shelling was aimed at the border village of Boyaro-Lezhachi, which was previously shelled last week, and at the end of April.
It is unclear why the Russians are targeting border villages with such intense fire. Some of the villages have already been evacuated and there are no obvious infrastructure targets in the areas that have been shelled.
Some background: This comes a day after Ukraine's State Border Service said Russian troops opened fire across the frontier in the Sumy region, adding that "border guards fought enemy saboteurs" who tried to enter Ukrainian territory from the village of Lokot.
The State Border Service claimed the Russians had "fired mortars, grenade launchers, machine guns and automatic rifles. Border guards fought the saboteurs and forced them to retreat beyond the state border."
Sumy region in northeastern Ukraine lies 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the border with Russia, and Sumy was one of the first cities to be attacked in the Russian invasion.
Analysts say the Russian attacks on Sumy and also across the international border into the Chernihiv region are likely intended to tie down Ukrainian units that might otherwise be deployed to the main front lines in Donbas.
7:09 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
Zelensky and Scholz discuss situation at Ukrainian front
From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London
Ukrainian President VolodymyrZelensky said in a tweet Tuesday that he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have discussed the situation at the military front.
The two leaders also spoke about strengthening sanctions and pressure on Russia, as well as the prospect of peace, he added.
Zelensky said in a post published to his verified Twitter account that he and Scholz had "productive talks."
"We look forward to Germany's further assistance on Ukraine's path to full EU membership," he added.
Some background: The meeting between Zelensky and Scholz follows earlier tensions between Kyiv and Berlin. In recent months, the German government and Scholz came 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 later said it will supply Kyiv with seven self-propelled howitzers.