May 11, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

By Ben Church, Joshua Berlinger, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:18 AM ET, Thu May 12, 2022
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8:15 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

The ordinary Ukrainians fighting back against Russia

From CNN's Mick Krever

Ukraine’s fierce resistance to the Russian invasion has resonated around the world.

At the center of that fight are ordinary citizens who left behind comfortable lives to answer a call of duty — people such as a software engineer, a logistics manager and even a poet.

The area south of Izium is a key point of resistance against Russian attempts to completely encircle the Donbas region.

Most civilians have left, and the artillery battles are near-constant. These are some of the people trying to ensure it does not fall into Russian hands.

Anna Arhipova, 22

(Mick Krever/CNN)
(Mick Krever/CNN)

Anna Arhipova was a logistics manager in her hometown of Poltava, northeast Ukraine, before the war began.

At the time, her overriding fear was not of the violence, but of "not being useful," she says. So she signed up, and now drives a pickup truck to some of the most dangerous areas of the conflict.

In a world of bearded, stocky young men, her slight frame cuts an uncommon figure. But she says it’s the men, not her, who are troubled by her presence.

"Everybody tells me that I have to give birth, cook, clean, and do the housekeeping, not be here," she says. "It irritates me very, very much. I answer that if I would like to give birth, I would not be here."

Alex, 34

(Mick Krever/CNN)
(Mick Krever/CNN)

Alex, who wanted to use only his first name out of privacy concerns, is a software engineer from Kharkiv. Last year, he built his own countryside log cabin.

Now his house, which was on a strategically located hill, has been reduced to a hole five meters deep, and he spends many of his nights sleeping in a tank named ‘Bunny,’ which was stolen from the Russian military in the opening weeks of the war.

"This is like my personal tank," he explains. "I am like tank commander and tank owner," he says with a laugh.

Vlad Sord, 27

(Mick Krever/CNN)
(Mick Krever/CNN)

Vlad Sord was still a teenager when he signed up to fight for Ukraine in 2014.

"A lot of strange things happen there," explains Sord, as he chain smokes cigarillos. "Things that I could not explain, I collected them, compiled them, wrote them down."

He’s now a published author and poet. He fights for his country, and gathers material to document what's happening.

"I have a very good memory for the dialogues themselves and I use that. I write everything down."

12:08 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

As intense fighting continues in the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine, Russia's ally Belarus announced it will deploy its special forces along the border it shares with Ukraine’s north, claiming opposing military buildups from the US and its allies.

Meanwhile, a United Nations agency has reported that more than 8 million people — roughly one in five of Ukraine’s pre-war population — are internally displaced, with needs "growing by the hour."

Here are some of the latest developments:

  • US moves forward with aid bill: The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Tuesday evening to pass a roughly $40 billion bill to deliver humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, and the bill will head to the Senate for its expected approval before being signed by President Joe Biden into law.

(House TV)
(House TV)

  • Putin is preparing for a long conflict, US intel director says: The US intelligence community believes that the war is likely to become "more unpredictable and escalatory" in the coming months, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Tuesday. President Vladimir Putin’s next move will be difficult to predict in part because he "faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities," Haines said.
  • Russian regime must be removed, says Lithuanian FM: Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the removal of Putin along with his entire regime are necessary to stop Russia's "warmongering" and predicted the Kremlin leader will become increasingly erratic as his battlefield losses grow in Ukraine.
  • UN Security Council meeting set: The UN Security Council is expected to hold a public meeting Thursday morning on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine at the request of France and Mexico. The UN Humanitarian Office and officials from UNICEF are expected to brief the council at that time though no vote is scheduled.
  • Food transport problems: The intelligence arm of the Ukrainian defense ministry has said grain stolen by Russian troops in occupied areas is already being sent abroad, with much of it "on dry cargo ships under the Russian flag in the Mediterranean." Bridget Brink, the nominee for US ambassador to Ukraine, said Tuesday that the US is "trying to work with international partners and others to help find alternative routes for grain and corn out of Ukraine" due to Russian forces blocking ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

12:05 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Freed US citizen detained in Ukraine by Russian forces says he feels "relieved"

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton

Bryan Stern, co-founder of Project Dynamo, left, and Kirillo Alexandrov, a 27-year-old American citizen who was held captive by Russians for alleged espionage.
Bryan Stern, co-founder of Project Dynamo, left, and Kirillo Alexandrov, a 27-year-old American citizen who was held captive by Russians for alleged espionage. (CNN)

CNN’s Erin Burnett spoke with Kirillo Alexandrov, a 27-year-old American citizen who was held captive by Russians for alleged espionage. 

Bryan Stern, co-founder of Project Dynamo, told CNN that Alexandrov and his Ukrainian wife and mother-in-law were taken by Russian forces more than a month ago in Kherson Oblast. They had been held in a building occupied by the Russians and the Russian security services would not allow them to leave until today, Stern said.    

Sitting next to Stern, Alexandrov told Erin, “I feel relieved, nothing more, nothing less, just relieved.”  

When asked how he was treated by Russian soldiers while in captivity he said he is a victim of war crimes. 

“Some individuals were very cordial with me, some were violent. I was cuffed and beaten a few times. My wife was assaulted. Not high end professionalism as far as military personnel goes. But we are victims of war crimes here,” Alexandrov said. 

Alexandrov did not know negotiations for his release were happening. 

“I was ignorant to basically everything. I was just held in a room for however many days. It just felt like one long day or a lifetime,” he said. 

His wife was assaulted during their time in captivity but she is a strong person and doing much better, he said. 

“She’s great. She’s held me up ... she’s got a strong grip, she’s a strong person and she’s doing a lot better,” he said of his wife. 

The US government was aware and helped when they could, Stern told CNN. 

“We were close to getting them out pretty much every day for the last two and a half weeks,” he said. “A lot of people told us this was a losing case, this is not gonna work, this is too hard, he’s an alleged spy in captivity there’s just no way ... A lot of people told us it was impossible but we get told that a lot in Dynamo and it always seems to work out.” 

Alexandrov says he’s indebted to Stern for his teams work securing his released. 

“Incredibly brave, honorable, he’s a very good man and I’m not gonna forget any of this ever, I don’t know how I can ever repay him and his team because I would be dead if it wasn’t for him,” Alexandrov said of Stern and his team.
12:00 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

Belarus is moving special forces to border with Ukraine

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

The Armed Forces of Belarus will deploy special forces to the border of Ukraine because "the United States and its allies continue to increase their military presence at the state borders," according to the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Viktor Gulevich.

"In order to ensure the security of the Republic of Belarus in the southern direction, the forces of the units of the special operations forces are deployed in three tactical directions," according to a statement Tuesday.

It said the Ukrainians had created a force of 20,000 close to the Belarus border, which "requires a response from us."

"The appearance in the waters of the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas of a group carrying sea and air-based cruise missiles, an increase in the aviation group in the countries of Poland and the Baltic states indicate a growing threat to the Republic of Belarus," the statement said.

"As part of the second stage of checking the immediate reaction forces, battalion-tactical groups were sent to the Western and North-Western operational directions. To strengthen them, air defense, missile forces and artillery units are being moved forward to ensure their combat functioning," the statement continued.

Earlier today, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said the country has started the second stage of inspection of its army's reaction forces, according to video commentary posted on the Telegram account of Belarusian state media Belta.

12:04 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

US national intelligence director says Putin is preparing for a protracted conflict. Here's what we know

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis and Michael Conte

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies during a Senate Armed Services hearing in Washington, DC, on May 10.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies during a Senate Armed Services hearing in Washington, DC, on May 10. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

The US intelligence community believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is likely to become “more unpredictable and escalatory” in the coming months, the nation’s director of national intelligence told Congress on Tuesday. 

Here's what to know about Avril Haines' remarks:

  • Uncertain future: Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Haines painted a grim and uncertain picture of the next phase of Putin’s months-old invasion. She said his next move will be difficult to predict in part because “Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities.” 
  • Escalation: Haines said the situation on the ground could "increase the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means." That could include "including imposing martial law, reorienting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military actions."
  • Nuclear weapons: She told lawmakers the intelligence community does not believe Putin would turn to the use of nuclear weapons unless he felt there was an existential threat to Russia. Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, also said specifically that the US does not anticipate Russia moving imminently to use a tactical or battlefield nuclear weapon. 
  • Eastern offensive: Haines' comments come as intense fighting continues in the east of Ukraine, where Russia is trying to capture territory. The intelligence community believes Putin's goals extend far beyond the eastern Donbas region, however. "Even if they are successful, we are not confident the fight in Donbas will effectively end the war," Haines said.
  • In the near term: Putin, she said, wants to capture the two eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, control the city of Kherson and potentially extend a land bridge around the southern rung of the country to Transnistria, a Russian-backed region in Moldova. But to reach Transnistria, the intelligence community believes that Putin would need to launch a full mobilization inside Russia, a step he has so far not taken. 
  • Peace talks: “As both Russia and Ukraine believe they can continue to make progress militarily, we do not see a viable negotiating path forward, at least in the short term,” Haines said. 
12:00 a.m. ET, May 11, 2022

House passes $40 billion Ukraine aid bill. It now needs Senate approval

By CNN's Clare Foran, Annie Grayer and Ellie Kaufman

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House following a meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The meeting comes hours before the House plans to vote on a nearly $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House following a meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The meeting comes hours before the House plans to vote on a nearly $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Tuesday evening to pass a roughly $40 billion bill to deliver aid to Ukraine as it continues to face Russia's brutal assault.

The measure will next need to be passed by the Senate before it can go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier in the day that after the House approved the package, the Senate "will move swiftly" to get the measure passed and sent to Biden's desk.

Aid to Ukraine has been a rare bright spot of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill with Democrats and Republicans largely rallying around a call to help the nation as it faces Russian attack.

Lawmakers unveiled the bill text earlier in the day ahead of the House vote. The legislation the House approved provides funding for a long list of priorities, including military and humanitarian assistance.

The bill includes an increase in presidential drawdown authority funding from the $5 billion the Biden administration originally requested to $11 billion. Presidential drawdown authority funding allows the administration to send military equipment and weapons from US stocks. This has been one of the main ways the administration has provided Ukrainians with military equipment quickly over the past 75 days of the conflict in Ukraine.

Read more here: