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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11:21 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

NATO should "understand, respect and support" Turkey's security sensitivity, Erdogan says

From Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul

Turkey's President and leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party'ss group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) in Ankara, on May 18.
Turkey's President and leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party'ss group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) in Ankara, on May 18. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party's members of parliament in Ankara that he expects NATO member countries to “understand” Turkey’s security issues over Finland and Sweden's bids to join the alliance.

“We expect our allies to understand, respect and support our sensitivity. We have a sensitivity to protect our borders against terrorism. None of our allies showed respect to this sensitivity as we expected,” he said. 

Erdogan said last week that he does not view the NATO applications of Sweden and Finland “positively” and would not support it if they sanction Turkey. 

“NATO's enlargement is meaningful to us only to the extent that our sensitivities are respected. Asking us for support to NATO membership while providing every kind of support to the PKK/YPG terrorist organization amounts to incoherence, to say the least,” Erdogan added. 

Erdogan 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. 

The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. 

Erdogan also said Sweden did not extradite 30 people whom Turkey sees linked to terrorism. 

“You will not hand over terrorists to us, but you will ask us to support you to join NATO. We cannot say 'yes' to making this security organization deprived of security,” he said. 

“They wanted to come on Monday. Do not bother, there is no need,” he added, regarding the high-level diplomatic delegation that was expected to come for the talks over the issue.

10:31 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

US secretary of state: Food insecurity has been "exacerbated dramatically" by Russia’s war in Ukraine

From CNN's Michael Conte and Kylie Atwood

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a news conference in Berlin, Germany, on May 15.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a news conference in Berlin, Germany, on May 15. (Kevin Lamarque/AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for “adding another 40 million people to those who are food insecure."

“There was a preexisting condition, as it were, when it comes to food insecurity in many places. It’s been exacerbated dramatically by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, adding another 40 million people to those who are food insecure,” said Blinken in remarks before a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bhutto Zardari.

Blinken is in New York to attend a ministerial on food security in the afternoon.

“We’re coming together… to look at concrete steps we can take to address the food insecurity issues, to help people in need around the world,” said Blinken.

More context: The Biden administration is working closely with European allies to try to develop routes to get Ukrainian wheat and corn out of the country after Russia blocked Ukrainian ships from departing with grain that is vital for food supplies around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

There is no silver bullet to solve the complicated challenge and officials are considering a wide array of options to get the food exports safely out by rail, sea and air, two US diplomats and four European diplomats told CNN. Possible scenarios are being studied and devised whether Russia consents or not. 

The challenge is a major focus for Blinken as he convenes a ministerial meeting on food security and chairs a discussion on the matter at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday and Thursday, the diplomats said.  

9:15 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

War crimes trial for Russian soldier in Ukraine adjourned until Thursday after he pleads guilty

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind a glass during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 18.
Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind a glass during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 18. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The war crimes trial of a 21-year-old Russian soldier has been adjourned until Thursday because too many members of the media were crowding the courtroom in Kyiv.

Vadim Shishimarin appeared before the first war crimes trial since Russia invaded Ukraine back in February. He is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian man in Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to the country's prosecutor general's office.

Shishimarin said “fully” guilty when asked how he pleaded. The Russian soldier appeared in a glass box in the packed court room at Kyiv courthouse, faced with dozens of cameras. He declined to speak when he was asked by the court. 

Shishimarin, wearing a blue-gray top with a shaved head, was seen listening to his Ukrainian-Russian interpreter as he was read the charges. His defense lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov sat on the same bench as the interpreter. 

The victim's family was also in courtroom and was due to testify.

The Kremlin's response: Russia said it still has no details about Shishimarin's case in Ukraine, and it considers the charges “unacceptable,” “outrageous” and “staged,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“We still have no information about this case. And the ability to provide assistance is also very limited due to the absence of our diplomatic mission [in Ukraine]. But once again I repeat, I do not have any information on this case,” Peskov said at his daily press briefing on Wednesday.

When asked about the Kremlin’s position on charges of war crimes allegedly committed by the Russian military in Ukraine, Peskov said the accusations were “unacceptable” and claimed that most were “staged incidents.”

CNN's Saskya Vandoorne, Daria Markina and Melissa Bell contributed reporting to this post.

9:16 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Amnesty says Ukrainian captives from the Azovstal plant must get Red Cross access

From CNN's Tim Lister

Buses carrying members of Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works drive away under escort of the pro-Russian military in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 17.
Buses carrying members of Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works drive away under escort of the pro-Russian military in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 17. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Amnesty International has said that Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol must not be ill-treated and should get immediate access to the International Red Cross.

“Ukraine’s soldiers deployed in Mariupol area have been dehumanized by Russian media and portrayed in Putin’s propaganda as ‘neo-Nazis’ throughout Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine," said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

"This characterization raises serious concerns over their fate as prisoners of war," he said. “Prisoners of war must not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment, and should be given immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The relevant authorities must fully respect the rights of prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva conventions.”

Amnesty had documented summary killings of captives by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine as well as extra-judicial executions of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces, Krivosheev said.

“The soldiers who surrendered today must not meet the same fate," Amnesty said.

The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said, "no one should doubt" that the fighters will be treated in accordance with international law.

Humanitarian laws "are sacred for the Russian side," Maria Zakharova said at a Foreign Ministry briefing underway in Moscow. 

Russian personnel are providing medical help to the injured Ukrainian soldiers, Zakharova said, adding "this is not for show" and will continue. 

9:02 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Donetsk separatist leader says top Ukrainian commanders at Azovstal have not left steel plant

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Buses with Ukrainian servicemen evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, stand near a prison in Olyonivka, territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine, on May 17.
Buses with Ukrainian servicemen evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, stand near a prison in Olyonivka, territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine, on May 17. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

The leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, said that Ukrainian commanders inside the Azovstal plant in Mariupol are not among those who have so far surrendered.

Both the DPR and the Russian defense ministry said that about 960 of the Azovstal defenders have surrendered. Some have been taken to hospitals but most were taken on buses to a detention center at Olenivka inside the DPR, according to video Tuesday. 

Donetsk's news agency quoted Pushilin as saying that “at the moment, there are no top-ranking commanders — they have not left (the Azovstal plant). But this is for now."

CNN is unable to verify Pushilin's comments, and it's not known how many Ukrainian soldiers remain inside the plant.

The Ukrainian side has not given an update on the number who have left Azovstal or on the status of negotiations for their exchange for Russian prisoners.

Ukraine’s military announced late Monday that its forces had completed their “combat mission” at the sprawling Azovstal steelworks plant, which was for weeks the last major holdout in a city otherwise occupied by Russian troops.

8:30 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Finnish gas firm Gasum warns that Russian gas supplies could be cut off this weekend

From CNN's Robert North

Finland’s main gas company, Gasum, is warning that Russian gas supplies could be cut off this weekend.

In a statement, the firm said: “Gasum considers there to be a real risk of the natural gas supplies under the company’s gas supply contract ending and that it is likely that imports of natural gas from Russia to Finland will cease either late on Friday, May 20 or on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Gasum has not received any information about the matter from Gazprom Export or from the Russian transmission operator.”

Gasum said it is preparing for this situation with customers and the government, and it is working on other sources for supplies.

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. 

8:19 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

EU Commission proposes up to $9.5 billion in extra aid to Ukraine

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18. (Valeria Mongelli/Hans Lucas/Reuters)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed on Wednesday new macro-financial assistance to Ukraine of up to 9 billion euros ($9.5 billion) this year.

"We will continue to be by their side throughout this war and when they will rebuild their country," von der Leyen said during a broadcast statement.

"Of course we need to think about the day after and the wider reconstruction efforts," she said, adding that the EU has "a strategic interest in leading this reconstruction effort."

2:10 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

EU unveils $220-billion renewable energy plan to sidestep Russian gas

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

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. 

“This will be the ‘speedcharging’ of our European Green Deal,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told journalists Wednesday. “Today, we’re taking our ambition to another level to make sure that we become independent on Russian energy as quickly as possible."

The Commission’s proposals would see the EU’s total renewable energy generation capacities increase to 1236 GW by 2030, with greater reliance on solar and bio methane energy, as well as accelerated electrification of European heavy industry.

As part of the plan, Von der Leyen also promised to speed up permits for renewable energy infrastructure, from as long as six to nine years currently to obtain permits for a wind turbine park down to one year. 

The so-called REPowerEU plan proposes a near doubling in the EU’s current solar photovoltaic capacity by 2025, to more than 320 GW of supply, with a total of 600 GW installed by 2030, the bloc said. Proposed measures will also see a “gradual obligation to install solar rooftop panels in certain buildings,” according to the Commission. 

These additional solar energy capacities could replace the consumption of 9 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas annually by 2027, per the Commission’s press release. The EU imported 358 bcm of natural gas in 2019, according to the bloc.

Putin's war is as we all see heavily disrupting the global energy market," von der Leyen said in a broadcast statement.

Reliance on Russia makes the EU "vulnerable," and ending the "dependency" is imperative," she added. "I am deeply convinced we can," said von der Leyen.

9:27 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russia said Wednesday that nearly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since Monday. It comes the day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that evacuations at the plant -- a powerful symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the otherwise Russian-occupied city -- were still ongoing.

Meanwhile, Finland and Sweden have formally handed in their applications to join NATO, the military alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, in defiance of Russian warnings.

Here are the latest developments on the war in Ukraine:

  • 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.

  • Nordic NATO bids: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that Finland and Sweden have formally handed in their applications to join the military alliance. Stoltenberg called the applications a "historic step" and said NATO is "determined" to "reach rapid conclusions."
  • First war crimes trial: A 21-year-old soldier has pleaded 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.
  • Russian former colonel criticizes invasion: In rare public criticism of the conduct of Russia's military operations in Ukraine, a former senior Russian officer has warned on state television that the situation will get worse. Despite pushback from the show’s presenter, retired Col. Mikhail Khodarenok said Ukraine could arm 1 million people. 
  • Race for grain: The Biden administration is working closely with European allies to try to develop routes to get Ukrainian wheat and corn out of the country after Russia blocked Ukrainian ships from departing with grain that is vital for food supplies around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.
  • Russian vehicles litter countryside: A CNN team traveled to the eastern Ukrainian town of Bilohorivka, where Russia is believed to have suffered one of its biggest single defeats of the war. There, the charred remains of Russian armored vehicles littered a field just a few hundred meters from the front line. They found destroyed Russian tanks separated from their turrets, armored personnel carriers, heavy machine guns with barrels twisted into spirals ⁠-- and the charred body parts of Russian soldiers.

Here's a look at the latest situation on the ground: