May 19, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Jack Guy, Matias Grez, Adrienne Vogt, Veronica Rocha, Aditi Sangal and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022
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9:48 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Biden meets with Swedish and Finnish leaders at White House

From CNN's Sam Fossum

US President Joe Biden, center, welcomes Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, left, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, to the White House in Washington, DC, on May 19.
US President Joe Biden, center, welcomes Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, left, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, to the White House in Washington, DC, on May 19. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden welcomed Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to the White House on Thursday, after the leaders of both Nordic nations submitted NATO applications.

Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO come in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which sparked security concerns across the region. Their moves to join the alliance mark a dramatic evolution in European security and geopolitics.

The leaders are scheduled to hold a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House and will later deliver remarks from the Rose Garden

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday that the meeting with the leaders in Washington will allow the three nations “to coordinate on the path forward” and “compare notes” on the move.

Sullivan called Finland and Sweden's applications to join the alliance "a watershed moment in European security."

CNN's Meagan Vazquez contributed reporting to this post.

9:19 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Trial of Russian soldier in Kyiv adjourned until Friday

From CNN's Anastasia Graham Yooll and Katherina Krebs in London

Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin sits in the dock on the second day of his war crimes trial in the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 19.
Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin sits in the dock on the second day of his war crimes trial in the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 19. (Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed man in Ukraine — the first such trial since the Russian invasion began — has adjourned until Friday 11 a.m. local time.

The judges adjourned the trial saying that the soldier, Vadim Shishimarin, was not "ready" for a court "debate."

The 21-year-old soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in Ukraine’s Sumy region on the fourth day of the war. 

The prosecution team earlier asked for a life sentence for the soldier.

8:50 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Ukrainian officials describe growing incidents of sabotage in Russian-occupied areas

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and Tim Lister

Ukrainian officials have spoken about a rising incidence of armed resistance in Russian-occupied parts of southern Ukraine.

On Thursday, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that sabotage by the Resistance Movement in Melitopol had resulted in the derailing of a Russian armored train. Melitopol has been occupied by the Russians since early March. 

Arestovych claimed that railroad cars carrying personnel and ammunition overturned, detonating the ammunition.

"There was an explosion on the track, not of an armored train. Unfortunately, not a single occupier died in the explosion, they just got away with a minor scare. But what is important — Ukrainian guerrillas in the south are active and effective," he said.

Ivan Fedorov, the elected mayor of Melitopol, gave a similar account on Thursday. Fedorov is currently not in Melitopol. According to unofficial accounts from the area, the train consisted of 10 wagons, and railway tracks were damaged, the armored train was stopped, and a locomotive with 10 fuel tanks that was following the armored train was also stopped.

Separately, the Zaporizhzhia regional administration noted Thursday that "the Russian military does not allow railroad workers to be involved in track maintenance but continues heavy use of the railway. Such negligence plus actions of the Resistance Movement in Melitopol resulted a Russian armored train being derailed."

Arestovych indicated that the sabotage was not an isolated incident. "According to the available information, two high ranked Russian officers were eliminated," he said. 

On Wednesday, the Zaporizhzhia military administration also said the guerrilla movement in Melitopol had "eliminated two Russian military servicemen of high rank. The occupiers are trying to conceal this situation. But today the occupiers have been searching private transport especially thoroughly, apparently looking for partisans."

CNN cannot independently confirm the attacks on the train or the Russian officers.

Arestovych also said that "leaflets are being disseminated all over" in occupied areas, 

In recent days, graphic posters depicting Russian soldiers being killed by partisans have begun to appear in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. It's unclear how widespread they are.

12:14 p.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Turkish president tells allies it will not accept Sweden and Finland's entry into NATO

From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi and Yusuf Gezer

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with youth on the occasion of May 19 Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day at the Presidential Library in Ankara, Turkey, on May 19.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with youth on the occasion of May 19 Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day at the Presidential Library in Ankara, Turkey, on May 19. (Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday his country “will say no to Sweden’s and Finland’s entry into NATO,” reiterating the same stance he took last week. 

“We told relevant friends that we will say no to Sweden’s and Finland’s entry into NATO and we will continue our path like that,” Erdogan said during a conference with students in Ankara.

“NATO is a security organization and we cannot accept the presence of terrorists organizations in there,” he said. Earlier this week Erdogan accused both countries of housing Kurdish “terrorist organizations."

Erdogan was mainly referencing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which seeks an independent state in Turkey. The group has been in an armed struggle with Ankara for decades and has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Finland and Sweden have a Kurdish community, although Erdogan provided no detail as to whom he was referring.

Both Nordic countries formally applied to join NATO on Wednesday, a decision prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

8:35 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Future of Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine depends on "will" of people living there, Kremlin says

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that the future of the regions in Ukraine occupied by Russia will depend on the "will" of the people living there.

"All actions have their forerunner, the forerunner of any action can only be the expression of the will of the inhabitants of these regions," Peskov said during his daily call with reporters.

"Nothing can be done without expressing the will of the inhabitants of these areas, without them deciding how to go on and with whom they want to live," he added.

Peskov said that humanitarian reasons also dictate the control of the Ukrainian territories occupied by the Russian army.

"Many areas are now without electricity, sewerage and water. And this needs to be taken care of. The need for these priority measures is dictated solely by concern for people," he said.

Ukrainians displaced from frontline areas arrive at a train station for onward travel to western Ukraine on May 3, in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.
Ukrainians displaced from frontline areas arrive at a train station for onward travel to western Ukraine on May 3, in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Some background: Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine had retaken six settlements from Russian forces on Friday, and 1,015 overall since the start of the conflict in February.

"We return electricity, water supply, communications, transport, social services there," he said.

In the Russian-occupied region of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of people have been trying to flee every day.

They are leaving for many reasons: To avoid being detained or to escape the heavy-handed actions of Russian forces, or because of the chronic shortages of medicine and other basics in Kherson, which fell under Russian control soon after the invasion. 

8:28 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

WHO chief says he spoke to Russian foreign minister about safe aid access to besieged areas in Ukraine

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood in London 

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that he spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about safe access to besieged areas in Ukraine.  

“Spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov about Russia’s participation in global health matters, work with the WHO and the health situation in Ukraine,” Tedros said on Twitter.

“I requested safe access to Mariupol, Kherson, Southern Zaporizhzhia and other besieged areas to deliver health aid,” he added. 

As of May 10, WHO has verified 200 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine since the start of the war, Tedros said, urging Russia "to stop this war."

Speaking from Kyiv on May 10 after spending two days in Ukraine, Tedros said he had been "deeply moved" by what he has seen and heard. 

8:05 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Famous internet cat from Kharkiv helps raise money for Ukrainian animal shelters 

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva

A cat from Kharkiv who has raised thousands of dollars through his Instagram account for Ukrainian animal shelters has received an international award.

Stepan, who now has 1.3 million followers, received the World Influencers and Bloggers Awards in France.

Stepan and his owner Anna are from Kharkiv. One week after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they were evacuated from the Saltivka area, which was heavily bombarded.

They are currently in France, but the tabby cat is still raising funds to support Ukraine's animal shelters and zoos. 

Stepan first went viral for images and videos of him sitting with his arm resting on a table next to a glass of wine or cocktail with disco lights in the background — and he looked wholly unimpressed in every situation.

7:48 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

UK sanctions Russian airlines to prevent them from selling landing slots

 From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London 

A sign above an Aeroflot PJSC office building in Moscow, Russia, on February 28.
A sign above an Aeroflot PJSC office building in Moscow, Russia, on February 28. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The UK government will introduce new sanctions against Russian airlines to prevent them from cashing in on their unused landing slots at British airports.

"State-owned Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, Ural Airlines and Rossiya Airlines will now be unable to sell their unused, lucrative landing slots at UK airports -- preventing Russia from cashing in on an estimated £50 million (about $61 million)," the UK Foreign Office said Thursday in a press release. 

"We’ve already closed our airspace to Russian airlines. Today we’re making sure they can’t cash in their lucrative landing slots at our airports," UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said. 

"Every economic sanction reinforces our clear message to Putin -- we will not stop until Ukraine prevails," she added. 

Last week, Truss called for international allies to impose more sanctions against Russia until it completely withdraws from Ukraine and agrees to peace.

She urged sanctions on Russia not be lifted until those demands are met.

7:56 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Russian soldier on trial in Ukraine tells a woman he is "sorry" for killing her husband

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in Ukraine, Vadim Shishimarin, told a widow at a Kyiv court on Thursday that he is "sorry" for killing her husband during the war.

"Yes I acknowledge my fault. I understand that you will not be able to forgive me, but I am sorry," Shishimarin said.

When asked if Shishimarin repented for what he did, he replied: "Yes, I acknowledge my fault."

He also said he felt "shame."

The woman questioned the Russian soldier as to why he came to Ukraine, asking rhetorically: "Did you come to defend us? From whom? Did you defend me from my husband you killed?"

"We were ordered to come with the column, what will follow I did not know," Shishimarin said.

Some background: This is the first Ukrainian war crimes trial held since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

The 21-year-old soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in Ukraine’s Sumy region on the fourth day of the war and is facing a life sentence.

The trial was adjourned on Wednesday because too many members of the media were crowding the courtroom. The trial has been moved to a larger Kyiv court.