May 13, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT) May 14, 2023
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11:07 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Zelensky arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher in Rome

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican on May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican on May 13. Vatican News/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived at the Vatican on Saturday to meet Pope Francis.

It is the first face-to-face meeting between Zelensky and the Pope since the war began last year.

Pope Francis has been outspoken in his support for an end to the war in Ukraine.

Last year, the pontiff reportedly said during a conversation with directors of religious publications that he is not "in favor" of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but "simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good and bad, without thinking about roots and interests, which are very complex."

"While we see the ferocity, the cruelty of the Russian troops, we must not forget the problems to try to solve them," he said at the time.

The Pope has also warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become "Putin’s altar boy."

9:18 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Zelensky discusses the “importance of Ukraine’s victory” with Italy's president during visit

From Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv and Alex Hardie in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Saturday, May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Saturday, May 13. Italian Presidency/Quirinale/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Italian President Sergio Mattarella about “the war and the importance of Ukraine’s victory” on Saturday, according to Zelensky’s chief of staff.

“In Rome, despite the rain, there are a lot of people on the streets, and we feel a lot of support for Ukraine,” Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram
“Much attention was also paid to the issue of abductions of Ukrainian children by Russia. This must be stopped, the children must be returned home, and the Russians must be punished,” he added.

Zelensky arrived in Italy on Saturday to meet Mattarella and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome. 

The Ukrainian president is also set to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Some background: In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin and a senior official, Maria Lvova-Belova, were charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court on allegations of widespread forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Ukraine recently estimated the total number of children forcibly removed from their homes is at least 20,000. Kyiv has said thousands of cases are already under investigation.

Russia has denied it is doing anything illegal, claiming it is bringing Ukrainian children to safety.

9:18 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Zelensky arrives in Rome for meetings with Italian PM and Pope Francis 

From CNN's Jake Kwonand Kostan Nechyporenko

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky greets Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome, on May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky greets Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome, on May 13. Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived in Rome on Saturday, where he is expected to meet with his Italian counterpart, Italy's prime minister and Pope Francis, his Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. 

"Together with President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team, we are now in Rome," Yermak said.

Zelensky also posted on Telegram on Saturday, "Rome. Meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Pope Francis. An important visit for Ukraine's victory."

Zelensky is expected to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, as well as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis on Saturday. 

3:28 p.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Long-range cruise missiles supplied by UK caused Luhansk explosions, former Russian-backed official says

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Explosions in the Russian-occupied eastern city of Luhansk were conducted by Storm Shadow cruise missiles, a retired Russian lieutenant colonel said on Saturday, according to preliminary reports and reported by Russian state news agency TASS. 

"The JCCC [the LPR representatives to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination of Issues Related to War Crimes of Ukraine] officially filed information that the May 12 strikes on Luhansk were carried out by Storm Shadow missiles. Today was most likely the second test launch on the city with this particular type of ammunition,” retired Lt. Col. Andrei Marochko of the Luhansk People's Republic Militia said, as reported by TASS.

Marochko added that there were "no causalities or victims" among civilians, but there was partial damage to residential buildings, and information is still being verified.  

Ukraine has not made any official comment on the use of Storm Shadow missiles since Britain announced it had supplied Ukraine with the weapons earlier this week. The long-range cruise missile, which is jointly developed by the UK and France, has stealth capabilities and is typically launched from the air. 

According to TASS, a Luhansk eyewitness named Anna said the explosion happened at about 9.30 a.m. Moscow time, and “the lights went out at home” immediately afterward. 

“Windows flew out in the neighboring houses. … After the explosion, a siren went off, and ambulances and the Ministry of Emergency Situations crews arrived,” Anna said, as reported by TASS.

Artem Lysohor, the Ukrainian head of Luhansk region military administration, claimed the effectiveness of Russia’s Iranian-made Shahed drones is "catastrophically declining every week."

"The situation on the ground is also in disarray, where the Russians are still saved by 'import substitutes' of T-54 and T-62 tanks at the front," Lysohor said in a Telegram post.

An explosion was heard Saturday morning in the suburbs of Luhansk, which has rarely come under attack by Ukrainian forces since the Russian invasion. On Friday, the city was struck by two missiles, injuring six children, the head of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic said.

6:16 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Germany to supply Ukraine with aid package worth nearly $3 billion

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca, Kostan Nechyporenko, Fred Pleitgen and Stephanie Halasz

German Defense minister, Boris Pistorius, speaks to soldiers during a visit to a German air defense missile unit on Thursday.
German Defense minister, Boris Pistorius, speaks to soldiers during a visit to a German air defense missile unit on Thursday. Jens Büttner/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

Germany announced on Saturday that it would supply Ukraine with an aid package worth nearly $3 billion (2.7 million euros) to strengthen the country’s defense. 

It marks the largest German military aid package to Ukraine since the start of the war.

The German Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the package may include a variety of military hardware, such as 20 Marder armoured personnel carriers, 30 Leopard tanks, 4 IRIS-T-SLM firing units, over 200 reconnaissance drones and ammunition. 

"With this valuable contribution of urgently needed military material, we are once again showing that Germany is serious about its support,” Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius was quoted saying in the statement.
“We all wish for a speedy end to this terrible war waged by Russia against the Ukrainian people, which is contrary to international law. Unfortunately, this is not yet in sight. Germany will therefore provide all the help it can - as long as it takes," Pistorius added.

Ukraine President’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, confirmed Germany’s support on Saturday via his Telegram account while thanking them for their aid.

“We thank our allies. Working more,” Yermak said.

Germany's announcement comes after the US on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine intended to “bolster its air defenses” and “sustain its artillery ammunition needs,” with Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces looming.

Some context: Germany's military support for Ukraine has evolved over time. The country initially resisted calls to provide weaponry to Kyiv, agreeing only to provide humanitarian help and medical equipment. That approach was in line with Germany’s decades-long policy of not supplying lethal weapons to crisis zone.

In a major policy U-turn earlier this year, Berlin announced it would provide Kyiv with Leopard 2 battle tanks. Then in April, Berlin also committed to sending Gepard anti-aircraft systems.

5:06 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Uptick in fighting reported along border between Kharkiv and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva and Josh Pennington

There has been an uptick in fighting along the border between the Kharkiv and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian and Ukrainian officials.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian artillery and mortar fire hit settlements in the Kupyansk sector, which is in Kharkiv.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that in the same area, ground forces supported by airpower hit two Ukrainian units. The ministry said artillery fire had prevented a rotation of Ukrainian troops in the same area.

An unofficial Russian social media account also said Ukrainian attacks had increased along the front east of Kupyansk, but had made no progress.

In the south, Ukraine reported artillery and other attacks by Russian forces in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Russian forces are defending gains made in the first few days of the invasion.

Yurii Malashko, the head of Zaporizhzhia's military administration, said there was heavy shelling of villages along the entire front line, including Stepnohirsk, Mala Tokmachka and Huliaipole.

Malachko, speaking on Ukraine television, also claimed that under the guise of evacuating civilians, Russian soldiers were fleeing from the town of Enerhodar, adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

Some civilians who had been evacuated from Russian-controlled areas near the frontlines in Zaporizhzhia had returned home “because they were left to fend for themselves in Berdiansk [further south] and people are afraid that their homes will be looted,” he said. 

5:05 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Russia tried to destroy US-made Patriot system in Ukraine, officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann

A US Army Patriot air defense system is pictured in Rzesznow, Poland, on March 8, 2022.
A US Army Patriot air defense system is pictured in Rzesznow, Poland, on March 8, 2022. Sean Gallup/Getty Images/FILE

Russia tried to destroy a US-made Patriot air defense system in Ukraine last week with a hypersonic missile, two US officials tell CNN.

The attack failed, and the Ukrainian military instead intercepted the missile using the Patriot system, the officials said, marking their first known successful use of the advanced air defense system only weeks after it arrived in country. 

The Ukrainian air defenders fired multiple missiles from the Patriot at different angles to intercept the Russian missile, demonstrating they have quickly become adept at using the powerful system, one official said.  

US officials believe the Russians picked up on signals that are emitted from the Patriot, allowing them to target the system using the hypersonic missile, known as the Kinzhal or Killjoy.  

About the Patriot missile system: The Patriot missile system has a powerful radar to detect incoming targets at long-range, making it a potent air defense platform capable of intercepting ballistic missiles and more. But the radar emission necessary to spot threats at a distance also makes it possible for the enemy to detect the Patriot battery and figure out its location.

There are ways to camouflage those signals to some extent, officials said, but the Russian military was evidently able to figure out the rough location of the Patriot stationed outside of Kyiv. The interception took place on the night of May 4, Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, said last weekend. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has previously said that the Patriots would “definitely” be a legitimate target for Russian forces. 

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder confirmed earlier this week that the Ukrainians had used the Patriot system to intercept the Kinzhal, which can reach hypersonic speeds. 

Ukraine has received at least two Patriot systems, one from the United States and one from Germany, to enhance its air defenses, which have previously been unable to intercept more modern Russian missiles such as the Kinzhal.