May 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Helen Regan, Jack Guy, Matias Grez and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022
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8:45 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Russian forces killed 10 civilians in Donetsk, governor says

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Hira Humayun

Russian forces killed 10 civilians in the Donetsk region, according to regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

"Russia is killing civilians! On May 18, the Russians killed 10 civilians in the Donetsk region: seven in Lyman and three in Bakhmut. Two children were killed: one in Lyman and one in Bakhmut," said Kirilenko, who is head of the Donetsk region military administration.

Kirilenko said seven more civilians were injured on Wednesday.

"It is still impossible to determine the exact number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovakha. All Russians will be held accountable for these crimes!" he added. 

Some context: Ukrainian officials in Donetsk said the whole front line is being "shelled day and night" by Russian forces. Kirilenko said that settlements — namely Bakhmut, Kostiantynivka and Soledar — more than 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) from the front line were also being attacked with airstrikes.

7:43 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Former Russian colonel contradicts earlier statements criticizing Russia's military operations in Ukraine

From CNN's Katya Krebs and Hira Humayun

Retired Russian colonel Mikhail Khodarenok said any talk about Ukraine being able to counterattack is a "big exaggeration," just a day after he criticized Russia's military operations in Ukraine saying the situation for Russia could "get worse."

Speaking to a Russian state TV channel on Wednesday, Khodarenok said, "When people talk about Ukraine acquiring the ability to counterattack, well it's a big exaggeration. And as concerns the actions of our supreme command, there is every reason to believe that the implementation of these plans will in the very near future give Ukraine an unpleasant surprise."

He also said it would be impossible for the Ukrainian armed forces to gain aerial supremacy in the next few months, and in terms of gaining naval supremacy, he said, "while our Black Sea Fleet is in the Black Sea, Ukraine's Black Sea Fleet having supremacy is out of the question."

On Tuesday however, Khodarenok said information being spread about a "moral or psychological breakdown" of Ukrainian armed forces is not even "close to reality." He also said Ukraine could arm one million people, and that Russia needs to consider that in its operational and strategic calculations.

"The situation for us, will frankly get worse," he said on Tuesday. He also criticized Russia's geopolitical isolation from the world, and prior to the invasion he warned that it would be more difficult than many anticipated to wage war in Ukraine.

Earlier reporting from CNN's Tim Lister, Anastasia Graham Yooll and Taras Zadorozhnyy.

6:45 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Ukraine launches new fundraising initiative, Zelensky says

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton

In his nightly address on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Zelensky announced an initiative called UNITED24. 

UNITED24 was launched as the main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine, according to its website and Zelensky. Funds will be transferred to the official accounts of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and allocated by assigned ministries to cover the most pressing needs, the website says. 

The first ambassador of the brand is Andriy Shevchenko, a prominent Ukrainian soccer player and coach. 

“The state needs this platform right now, which allows​ to raise funds to support Ukraine. Anyone in the world — in one click — can contribute to our victory,” Zelensky said. 

The first event in support of UNITED24 will take place on June 8, he said. It will be a charity evening auction in London. 

4:38 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Blinken calls it "false" that the US sanctions deepened food crisis from Russia-Ukraine war

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Michael Conte

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said it is “false” that the sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies have deepened the food crisis resulting from the Ukraine War.

“Some have tried to blame the sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation by the United States and many other countries for worsening this crisis. This is false. When we imposed sanctions on Russia in order to end the war as quickly as possible, we deliberately and carefully created exceptions for agricultural goods and fertilizer. We’re working every day to get countries any information or assistance they need to ensure that sanctions are not preventing food or fertilizer from leaving Russia or anywhere else,” Blinken said.

Instead, he said that only Russia is at fault for the food security challenges.  

“As with its decision to start this unjustified war, responsibility for the disruption of these supplies and the suffering that its causing around the world lies squarely and solely with the Russian government,” Blinken said.

4:10 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Blinken announces $215 million in new emergency food assistance to Ukraine

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Haley Burton

(John Minchillo/AP)
(John Minchillo/AP)

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced that the US would be giving an additional $215 million in new emergency food assistance to the crisis in Ukraine and called on other countries to swiftly aid the growing global food crisis due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Today, given the urgency of the crisis, we’re announcing another $215 million in new emergency food assistance, and we’ll do much more,” Blinken said at the United Nations on Wednesday during a ministerial meeting on global food security. “We expect our Congress very soon to approve approximately $5.5 billion in additional funding for humanitarian assistance and food security.”

Blinken also said that the US would be committing $500 million to boost US production of fertilizer. This comes as there is an increased need for fertilizer in countries that traditionally got it from Russia which is the world’s largest exporter of fertilizer. And the cost of fertilizer, essential for farmers to hit their production targets for crops, has also risen in cost as output in Europe has also plunged thanks to the surging price of natural gas -- a key ingredient in nitrogen-based fertilizers like urea.

Blinken called on other countries that have fertilizer and grain, which is also facing global shortages because of the Ukraine War, to rapidly help with this growing crisis. 

“The cost of doing business for vital organizations like the World Food Programme, the Food and Agricultural Organization, UNICEF and others, the cost of doing business is going up. We have to help them continue to do their business,” Blinken said. “In particular as well, countries with significant grain and fertilizer reserves as well as those with financial resources need to step up and do it fast. The United States has announced more than $2.3 billion in new funding for emergency food assistance to meet global humanitarian needs since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.”

3:49 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Russia closes CBC's Moscow bureau after Canada bans Russian state TV

From CNN's Paula Newton, Jennifer Deaton and Mia Alberti

Canadian broadcaster CBC has announced Russia closed the company's Moscow bureau and stripped journalists of their visas and accreditation, the channel said on a statement on Wednesday. 

CBC said the decision is a "retaliatory move after Canada banned Russian state TV station Russia Today.”

"We have maintained a bureau in Moscow for more than 44 years and are currently the only Canadian news organization with a permanent presence in the country. Our journalism is completely independent of the Canadian government and we are saddened to see the Russian government conflate the two," Chuck Thompson, CBC's head of public affairs, said in a statement.

"This appears to be another step by Russia to stifle a free and independent press within its borders. We are tremendously proud of the journalism our correspondents have produced in Russia over the past many years and we will continue to tell the story of Russia as best we can from outside the country,” he added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russia's decision to expel Canadian media from the country was an "unacceptable....attempt to silence them from reporting the facts".

"Journalists must be able to work safely — free from censorship, intimidation, and interference. That is something Canada will always stand up for,” the prime minister said on Twitter.

Pablo Rodriguez, Canada’s Heritage Minister, said Russia's decision is an attempt to "cover the horrible reality going on in Ukraine.” 

3:23 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

White House: Finland and Sweden’s NATO applications a "watershed moment in European security"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein and Sam Fossum

Finland and Sweden’s applications to join NATO marks a “watershed moment in European security,” according to Jake Sullivan, US President Biden’s top national security adviser, who said the countries’ leaders would “compare notes” on the move when they visit the White House on Thursday.

“This is a historic event, a watershed moment in European security,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House. “Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world's most powerful defensive alliance, and they will bring with them strong capabilities and a proven track record as security partners.”

Biden said on Wednesday, "I think we're going to be OK," when asked by reporters how he will convince Turkey to support Finland and Sweden's bids to join NATO. 

"The leaders of Finland and Sweden are coming to see me on Thursday. I think we’re gonna be okay," Biden said.

When reporters followed up again asking if he could convince Turkey, Biden said: "I’m not going to Turkey, but I think we’re gonna be okay.”

Meanwhile, the White House said it is “confident” that Finland and Sweden’s applications for membership to NATO will be approved, despite concerns from member country Turkey. All 30 NATO members must give unanimous approval for a country to be accepted into the alliance. 

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week that he would not approve Sweden and Finland's NATO membership if they sanction Turkey and that delegations from the nations should not bother coming to Turkey to try to convince that nation to approve their country's NATO membership.

But Sweden and Finland are both engaged with Turkey regarding its concerns, as well as top US officials, Sullivan said, and there is confidence that the expansion can progress. 

“We're confident that at the end of the day, Finland and Sweden will have an effective and efficient accession process, that Turkey’s concerns can be addressed,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House.  

Sullivan said he spoke with his Turkish counterpart Wednesday and that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would also be meeting with his counterpart in New York, and that the administration feels “very good” about the process.

Pressed again, he later suggested that Turkey would eventually come around in a display of unity. 

“The great thing about the free world, about the Western alliance about NATO is that you've got a raucous collection of states that all have opinions, that all have perspectives that all have interests, but they also know how to and when to pull together and how to settle any differences. And I expect these differences will be settled. I expect that NATO will speak with one voice in support of Finland and Sweden at the end of the day,” the Biden adviser said.

2:15 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

US secretary of state heralds reopening of US embassy in Kyiv as a "momentous step"

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

The US flag is raised at the United States embassy in Kyiv for the first time since American diplomats returned embassy on Wednesday.
The US flag is raised at the United States embassy in Kyiv for the first time since American diplomats returned embassy on Wednesday. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States raised its flag over the US embassy in Kyiv on Wednesday in what he called a “momentous step,” marking the reopening of the embassy after it closed three months ago ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Today we are officially resuming operations at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again. We stand proudly with, and continue to support, the government and people of Ukraine as they defend their country from the Kremlin’s brutal war of aggression,” Blinken said in a statement. 

Blinken reflected on the US commitment to the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people, even when the embassy was closed in recent months. 

“Three months ago, we lowered our flag over the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, just days before Russian forces streamed across Ukraine’s border to carry out President Putin’s unprovoked, unjustified war of choice. When we suspended operations at the embassy, we made the point clear: while we would relocate U.S. embassy personnel for their safety and security, this would in no way prevent our engagement with, and support for, the Ukrainian people, government, and civil society as well as our allies and partners,” Blinken said.

Blinken noted how this has been a goal the Biden administration began working toward the minute that the diplomats left. 

People watch as the American flag is raised at the US embassy in Kyiv on Wednesday.
People watch as the American flag is raised at the US embassy in Kyiv on Wednesday. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

“We underscored our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, pledged to continue our assistance, and started working toward the day we could return to Kyiv. Now, that day has come," he added. 

Blinken did not specify how many US diplomats would be operating out of the embassy. He noted that there are additional safety measures in place — with “enhanced our security measures and protocols” — to keep the returning US diplomats safe. 

“We are committed to confronting the challenges ahead. The war rages on. Russia's forces inflict death and destruction on Ukrainian soil every day. Millions of Ukrainians are displaced from their homes and mourn the loss of their loved ones. With strength of purpose, we reaffirm our commitment to the people and government of Ukraine, and we look forward to carrying out our mission from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv,” Blinken said.

2:08 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

It's nighttime in Kyiv. Here is the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine

From CNN staff

Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin is seen behind a glass barrier during his court hearing in Kyiv on Wednesday.
Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin is seen behind a glass barrier during his court hearing in Kyiv on Wednesday. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

If you are catching up on the latest developments on Russian invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, here's what you need to know:

  • A 21-year-old captured Russian soldier has pleaded "fully" guilty to war crimes at a trial in Kyiv: Vadim Shishimarin appeared before the first war crimes trial since Russia invaded Ukraine back in February. He is accused of killing a 62-year-old man in Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to the country's prosecutor general's office. It is the first war crimes trial held since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The prosecutor expects there to be many more.
  • Discussions on Sweden and Finland's NATO membership applications continue: Turkey held phone calls with Sweden and Finland as well as Germany, the US and the UK to discuss NATO membership applications of Sweden and Finland, among other topics. Turkey communicated its expectations that its national security concerns will be addressed in the context of these applications. Erdogan has accused the two countries of harboring members of the separatist militant Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of masterminding a 2016 coup attempt, which Gulen denies. US President Joe Biden is set to welcome the Prime Minister of Sweden and the President of Finland to the White House on Thursday in a key show of support.
  • Counteroffensive in Kharkiv: The Ukrainian armed forces say they have recaptured another settlement in the Kharkiv region, as troops continue their counter-attacks in the area. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces in the Kharikiv oblast targeted a Russian tank, with the tank firing back as well, according to new videos circulating on social media. CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos. It's unclear when the firefight with the tank happened, but it took place near the village of Nove, just 8 miles (about 12 kilometers) south of the Ukraine-Russia border. Ukrainians also reported heavy fighting in the Luhansk region, where Russian forces continue attempts to destroy Ukrainian defenses.
  • Mariupol evacuations: Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian soldiers, including 80 wounded, had laid down their arms and surrendered since May 16. He reaffirmed that 51 wounded were sent to the hospital at Novoazovsk, which is in the self-declared region of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). CNN is unable to confirm the Russian tally. The Ukrainian President said Tuesday the negotiation process on evacuating the last soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant continues with Russia. Amnesty International, meanwhile, has said that Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered at the Azovstal plant must not be ill-treated and should get immediate access to the International Red Cross.
  • NATO doesn't expect any major battlefield gains for either side in the coming weeks: "I think we'll be in a standstill for a while," a NATO military official with knowledge of the intelligence told CNN on Wednesday. According to the official, the current NATO discussion is that the momentum has shifted significantly in favor of Ukraine. The debate within NATO circles, the official added, is now over whether it is possible for Kyiv to retake Crimea and the Donbas territories seized by Russia and Russian-backed separatists, respectively, in 2014.
  • EU unveils $220-billion renewable energy plan to sidestep Russian gas: The European Union Commission announced a 210 billion euro plan ($221 billion) on Wednesday to boost the bloc’s target for renewable energy from 40% to 45% by 2030, as part of efforts to move away from Russian hydrocarbons. The news comes as Finland’s main gas company, Gasum, is warning that Russian gas supplies could be cut off this weekend. On Tuesday, Gasum said it would 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 in dispute, and it was taking Gazprom to arbitration to try and resolve the matter.