One killed by Ukrainian strikes in Russia's Kursk, regional governor says
From CNN's Yulia Shevchenko and Teele Rebane
One civilian was killed and several people were wounded as a result of Ukrainian strikes in Russia’s western region of Kursk at dawn on Thursday, according to regional governor Roman Starovoit.
The strikes hit an ethanol factory in the village of Tyotkino and several homes were affected, Starovoit said on Telegram.
Tyotkino is located 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the Ukraine-Russia border. Both sides of the border between Kursk and Ukraine have seen intermittent artillery attacks this month.
2:43 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022
Russians "suffer losses" in efforts to advance on Sloviansk, Ukrainian military says
From CNN's Tim Lister
The Ukrainian military reported on Thursday that Russian forces trying to break through to Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region, had suffered losses and retreated.
Despite artillery and missile attacks by Russian forces on a wide front over the past 24 hours, there are no signs they have taken new territory.
"The enemy conducted battle activity in Velyka Komyshuvakha area with the support of artillery; had no success, suffered significant losses in some areas and was forced to withdraw to previously occupied positions," the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces claimed in its daily update.
There has been fighting in the Velyka Komyshuvakha area since late April — since the Russians took control of Izium and tried to push toward Sloviansk — but the front lines have changed little.
In Luhansk: On the other main front, in the parts of Luhansk region the Ukrainians still hold, Russian aircraft have attacked several villages, according to the General Staff.
Ukrainian defenses were holding around the industrial city of Severodonetsk, and Russian assault operations in the Zolote area had been unsuccessful, it said.
Serhii Hayday, head of the Luhansk military administration, said Severodonetsk had suffered the most in the latest attacks and confirmed that four civilians were killed on Wednesday.
Elsewhere: Other regions also reported Russian artillery and missile strikes overnight. In the Dnipropetrovsk region in the south, the city military administration in Kryvih Rih said "there was enemy shelling along the entire line of contact during the night."
It said there had been heavy shelling of residential areas of Velyka Kostromka, a town that lies some 20 miles south of Kryvih Rih that has been on the front lines for more than a month.
8:53 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022
Biden to meet with Swedish and Finnish leaders after their nations apply to join NATO
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday that the meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Washington will allow the three nations “to coordinate on the path forward” and “compare notes” on the move.
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 bids to join the alliance mark a dramatic evolution in European security and geopolitics.
Russia says more than 900 Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal sent to pretrial detention center
From CNN’s Teele Rebane
The Russian Foreign Ministry said more than 900 Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since May 16 have been sent to a pretrial detention center.
Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian soldiers, including 51 with severe wounds, had surrendered over the course of two days.
She reaffirmed the injured are receiving treatment at the hospital at Novoazovsk in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), while the others were sent to a pretrial detention center in Olenivka, a town near the front lines but in territory controlled by the DPR.
CNN is unable to confirm the Russian tally.
The Ukrainian side has not given an update on the number who have left Azovstal nor on the status of negotiations for their exchange for Russian prisoners.
Amnesty International has said Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered at the steel plant must not be ill-treated and should receive immediate access to the International Red Cross.
"The relevant authorities must fully respect the rights of prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva conventions," said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
1:18 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022
Biden turns his attention back to Asia after months focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
President Joe Biden departs Thursday on an alliance-boosting visit to Asia, a belated first trip to a region that remains central to his foreign policy goals even as his focus has been drawn away.
Biden’s stops in two staunch US allies — South Korea and Japan — are meant to bolster partnerships at a moment of global instability. While Biden and his team have spent much of their time and resources on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, provocations from North Korea have intensified and China continues to flex its economic and military might.
Realigning US foreign policy: After months of all-consuming attention on Russia’s war in Ukraine — a conflict that has summoned Cold War comparisons and revitalized alliances built last century — Biden’s debut visit to Asia is an opportunity to renew what he views as this century’s challenge: Confronting a rising China through a system of renewed economic and military partnerships.
And even as Russia’s war grinds on, tensions have been building elsewhere.
North Korea, which Biden identified as his greatest foreign policy challenge early in his presidency, resumed provocative weapons tests ahead of South Korean President-elect Yoon Seok-youl's inauguration.
Analysis: The most striking aspect of Sweden and Finland's application to join NATO
Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson
The most striking aspect of Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO is how little debate there is about whether it’s a wise idea.
The entry of the two Nordic nations would be the most significant geopolitical outcome of the Ukraine war, transforming the strategic security picture in northeastern Europe and adding hundreds of miles of direct NATO borders with Russia.
But expanding NATO could also trigger serious reverberations.
Doubling the security alliance’s direct frontier with Russia would be a personal blow for Vladimir Putin, who has focused on undermining the Western alliance since he first became Russia’s President, more than 20 years ago.
And if Putin felt Russia was already being hemmed in on its western flank, could adding two more NATO members during the worst tension between the West and Moscow in decades exacerbate the Russian leader’s paranoia?
NATO doesn't expect significant gains for either side on the battlefield in Ukraine in the coming weeks. "I think we'll be in a standstill for a while," a NATO military official with knowledge of the intelligence said.
Here's the latest on the war in Ukraine:
Turkey could hold up NATO bids: Turkey's foreign minister said it is "unacceptable" for countries that want to become NATO members to impose defense export restrictions and support organizations that threaten Turkey. Ankara has said it would not support Finland and Sweden's bids to become NATO members if they sanction Turkey. The Nordic nations' leaders are set to meet US President Joe Biden on Thursday. Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan called their NATO application a "watershed moment in European security."
Shift in Ukraine: A NATO military official with knowledge of the intelligence said the military alliance is seeing momentum in the war is shifting significantly in favor of Ukraine. The debate within NATO circles, the official said, is now over whether it is possible for Kyiv to retake Crimea and the Donbas territories. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian armed forces say they have recaptured another settlement in the Kharkiv region, as troops continue their counterattacks in the area.
US confirms ambassador: The US Senate has confirmed career foreign service officer Bridget Brink as US ambassador to Ukraine. The embassy has been without a confirmed ambassador since Marie Yovanovitch was recalled in May 2019 by then-President Donald Trump.
Emergency food assistance: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would give an additional $215 million in new emergency food assistance for Ukraine and called on other countries to swiftly aid the growing global food crisis due to Russia’s invasion. Blinken also said it is “false” that the sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies have deepened the food crisis.
War crimes trial: A 21-year-old captured Russian soldier plead "fully" guilty to war crimes at a trial in Kyiv. Vadim Shishimarin is accused of killing a 62-year-old man in the Sumy region. It is the first war crimes trial held since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Mariupol evacuations: Russia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian soldiers, including 80 wounded, had laid down their arms and surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since May 16. The Ukrainian President said on Tuesday the negotiation process on evacuating the last soldiers from the complex continues with Russia.
11:37 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 1 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.
11:24 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022
Setbacks in Ukraine trigger rare criticism of Russia's war effort by Russian bloggers
From CNN's Tim Lister and Taras Zadorozhnyy
The Russian army's performance in Ukraine has been less than impressive according to Western intelligence assessments — and that viewpoint is gaining ground among some in Russia itself.
Three Russian military bloggers have suddenly launched into damning criticism of the operation, and especially the debacle of a failed crossing of the Siverskyi Donets river last week. The three bloggers combined have more than 3 million subscribers on Telegram.
A prominent former officer who regularly appears on state television also weighed in with a gloomy view of Russia's military prospects in Ukraine.
Such public criticism of the military operation in Ukraine is very rare. The Kremlin insists the campaign is on schedule.
The carping appears to have been triggered by a catalog of setbacks, the worst being the disastrous attempts to cross the Siverskyi Donets crossing last week. Satellite imagery shows at least 70 Russian armored vehicles and tanks were destroyed and hundreds of soldiers may have been killed.
On the evening of May 12, prominent Russian military correspondent Yuri Kotenok reposted accounts and images of the failed crossing, including one from a Ukrainian source.
Kotenok, who has nearly 300,000 subscribers to his Telegram channel, reposted one account that castigated the Russian officer responsible and blamed him for crowding so many vehicles in a small area by the river.
In response to criticism from some subscribers, Kotenok retorted: "If you want fairy tales, then you have come to the wrong place. In such a case you should go to officialdom." He said his role was "to provide with correct assessment, to speak good of the good, and bad of the bad, but to say the TRUTH."