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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5:16 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Japan doubles its financial aid to Ukraine to $600 million

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan will increase its financial aid for Ukraine to $600 million, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Thursday, doubling the country's previous $300 million given in financial support.

Kishida said the decision was made after Ukraine expressed its need for assistance due to the worsening financial situation caused by Russia's invasion.

"Japan will continue to strongly support Ukraine in cooperation with the G7 and the international community," Kishida told reporters.

The move comes shortly after the US and European Union announced new assistance to Ukraine and ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden to the region, where he is expected to visit South Korea and Japan.

Kishida said Thursday he would discuss Japan's position on the conflict during next week's talks.

5:12 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Germany's Scholz proposes EU solidarity fund to rebuild Ukraine

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto in Berlin 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, delivers a speech ahead of the next EU summit during a session at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on May 19.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, delivers a speech ahead of the next EU summit during a session at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on May 19. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union must start preparations for rebuilding Ukraine by setting up a solidarity fund to aid Kyiv in covering the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalizing the Ukrainian economy will cost billions," Scholz told German lawmakers Thursday at the lower house of parliament.

"We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners," he added, speaking ahead of a major EU summit at the end of this month.  

Scholz also said that Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up despite the Russian invasion. 

"There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU," Scholz said, adding that the bloc must therefore find a "fast and pragmatic" way to aid Kyiv.  

An exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the six Western Balkan countries -- Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo -- also seeking membership in the bloc, said the German Chancellor.

Their integration into the EU is also of "strategic interest," referencing the influence of "external powers" in the region, including Russia, he added.  

4:57 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Russia says 771 Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal surrendered in last 24 hours, taking total to 1,730

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Pro-Russian troops stand next to buses carrying members of the Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works recently arrived at a detention facility in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, on May 17.
Pro-Russian troops stand next to buses carrying members of the Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works recently arrived at a detention facility in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, on May 17. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday that 771 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,730 since Monday.

The ministry said 80 of those were wounded, and all those in need of any medical attention are receiving treatment in hospitals in Novoazovsk and Donetsk.

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.

Some background: On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said nearly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered, meaning Thursday's new total marks a significant increase.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday the negotiation process on evacuating the last soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant continues with Russia.

It follows the end of Ukrainian forces' "combat mission" at the complex, which was for weeks the last major holdout in a city otherwise occupied by Russian troops.

Ukraine said it expects to carry out an exchange of Russian prisoners of war for the severely injured soldiers.

2:41 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

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.

A Ukrainian main battle tank drives on a street during mortar shelling in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 18.
A Ukrainian main battle tank drives on a street during mortar shelling in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 18. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

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

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with the leaders of Finland and Sweden on Thursday as part of a show of support by the United States after the two nations submitted their formal applications to become NATO members.

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.

Read more:

2:49 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Russia says more than 900 Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal sent to pretrial detention center 

From CNN’s Teele Rebane

Buses wait for Ukrainian servicemen to transport them from Mariupol, Ukraine, to a prison in Olenivka after they left the besieged Azovstal steel plant, on May 18.
Buses wait for Ukrainian servicemen to transport them from Mariupol, Ukraine, to a prison in Olenivka after they left the besieged Azovstal steel plant, on May 18. (AP)

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 delivers remarks while hosting a reception to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 17.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks while hosting a reception to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 17. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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. 

Read the full story:

8:53 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Analysis: The most striking aspect of Sweden and Finland's application to join NATO

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg poses with application documents presented by Finland and Sweden's Ambassadors to NATO during a ceremony in Brussels, on May 18.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg poses with application documents presented by Finland and Sweden's Ambassadors to NATO during a ceremony in Brussels, on May 18. (Johanna Geron/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

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? 

Read the full analysis: