Live Updates

May 12, 2022: Russia-Ukraine news

What's left behind as Russian troops retreat from northern Ukraine
04:49

What we covered

65 Posts

Russian landing ship narrowly avoids Ukrainian missile near occupied Snake Island, satellite image shows

A new satellite image from Maxar Technology appears to show a missile strike Thursday near Snake Island, in southern Ukraine.

Two plumes of smoke are seen near to a Russian Serna-class landing ship in the Black Sea, identified by Maxar.

The ship appears to be making a sharp turn where the missile hits the water.

Near the island, a barge with a heavy-lift crane is seen next to another sunken vessel, which Maxar has also identified as a Serna-class landing ship. 

A Serna-class landing ship and another sunken vessel are seen near the Snake Island on May 12.

It’s unclear how the ship sank, but on Sunday, spokesman for Odesa region military administration Serhiy Bratchuk said that a landing boat was hit, in addition to two Raptor-class patrol boats.

Bratchuk also claimed the Ukrainian military had destroyed a Russian helicopter on the island. The Ukraine Armed Forces Southern Operational Command released video showing a helicopter being destroyed by a missile on Sunday.

Satellite image shows the damaged helicopter on the Snake Island on May 12.

In recent weeks, the Ukrainians have repeatedly — and successfully — destroyed Russian forces and vehicles on the island. 

Bratchuk claimed on Thursday that a Russian support ship, the ‘Vsevolod Bobrov’ was on fire and being towed to Sevastopol from the area of Snake Island. That support ship is not seen in this satellite image, and the claim remains unverified by CNN. 

So far Russia has not confirmed the loss of any of the ships mentioned.

Exclusive: Russian military continuing to use Ukrainian air base in occupied Melitopol, satellite images show

The Russian military is continuing to use a Ukrainian air base outside the occupied city of Melitopol, satellite images from BlackSky show.

At least seven helicopters are seen at the air base in a satellite image taken on May 12 at 3:58 p.m. local time. Only one helicopter is seen in a satellite image from May 7 at 6:02 a.m.

Seven helicopters are seen at the air base on May 12.

Some context: The use of the air base by the Russians is important, given its strategic location between the occupied cities of Kherson, Mariupol and parts of the Russian-backed separatist-held Donbas region.

Although the air base is deep within Russian-occupied territory, it doesn’t mean the aircraft there are safe. In late March, Ukrainian forces successfully targeted the airport outside of Kherson, blowing up a number of Russian military helicopters. 

As a result of that successful Ukrainian military strike, the Russian military has had to largely abandon the airport as a base for its aircraft.

Exclusive: Intense fighting continues at site where Ukrainians blew up two Russian pontoon bridges, satellite image shows

The Ukrainians are continuing to pushback a Russian advance across the Siverskyi Donets River near Bilohorivka, a satellite image from BlackSky shows.

The fighting is taking place along the same bend in the river where the Russians constructed two pontoon bridges, which the Ukrainians blew up.

The satellite image, taken Thursday afternoon, shows large plumes of smoke rising from a dense forest just west of the river. Fighting also appears to be occurring in the area where the Russian pontoon bridges were deployed.

Smoke is obscuring much of that area, but through it, an object — a possible third Russian pontoon bridge — is seen bridging the river. The object seen crosses the entire river; drone photos of the first two destroyed pontoon bridges show they no longer cross the body of water.

Serhiy Hayday, the Luhansk regional military administrator, said on Wednesday the Russians are continuing to try to construct bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River. He also said that the Ukrainians have repeatedly blown them up. 

Read more about the river here:

Russian diplomat says invasion is proceeding on schedule but not as quickly as some in the country would like

Russia’s Ambassador to the European Union said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is on track but not proceeding at the speed certain people in the country wanted.

Calling the invasion a “special military operation,” Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told Sky News Russia could have “steamrolled” Ukraine by now if it had wanted.

Russian Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov.

“It is continuing at a certain speed, having in mind the various aspects of the situation in Ukraine, including the need to protect the troops — the Russian troops and the allies of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics — as well as the civilian population,” Chizhov said.
“Had the Russian army followed the pattern of the United States and other Western countries, we would have steamrolled Ukraine several times by now. But that was never the intention. Actually, I should repeat that it was not the intention of Russia to capture territory in Ukraine.”

When asked about the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine Chizhov said:

“You mean whether NATO will deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine? I hope not.” He added, “As distinctly different from the United States, Russia does not deploy nuclear weapons anywhere beyond its own territory.”

Chizhov said he is “deeply disappointed and saddened” by Finland and Sweden making moves to join NATO.

“Why the current Finish government has chosen to turn the country into a backwater periphery of NATO, I cannot understand,” he said.

If Finland joins, Russia will take “certain military technical measures,” he said.

“Like improving or raising the degree of defense preparations along the Finish border…not necessarily troops and tanks but certain preparations like radars, perhaps, but I’m not a military expert.”

"If you have any heart at all." UN official warns Putin millions will die if Ukraine’s ports remain blocked

Head of the United Nations World Food Programme, David Beasley, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference, in Beverly Hills, California, on May 2.

David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, is pleading with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports before global calamity strikes.

Asked what he would say directly to Putin, the UN official said: “If you have any heart at all for the rest of the world, regardless of how you feel about Ukraine, you need to open up those ports.”

Vital shipments of agriculture from Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the world, are stuck in the war-torn nation because the port of Odesa and neighboring ports have been blocked by Russian officials.

Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, warned that the ports must be operational within the next 60 days or Ukraine’s agriculture-centric economy will implode.

“If you don’t get this port issue resolved and open, Ukraine’s economy completely collapses,” Beasley said at the SABEW conference in New York. “It becomes landlocked like Moldova. The ports are critical.”

Read the full story:

A serviceman walks in the border base in front of Ukraine's Black Sea port of Mariupol on February 11, 2022. Russia has sent six additional warships into the region for a week of naval drills involving dozens of big navy ships starting this weekend.

'If you have any heart at all.' UN official warns Putin millions will die if Ukraine's ports remain blocked

It's 2 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

The Finnish government is planning to issue a second white paper on Sunday proposing that the country joins NATO, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in a media briefing in Helsinki on Thursday.

The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

Haavisto noted that it is “important to go through a proper parliamentary debate”

The Finnish foreign minister said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “changed very much the security landscape in Europe,” adding that it also changed the public opinion on NATO membership.

Finland’s support for joining NATO is the result of a “very drastic change in our security environment” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Klaus Korhonen, Finnish Ambassador to NATO told CNN on Thursday.

Here are the latest updates from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Ukraine welcomes positive changes in Germany’s position: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised Germany’s response to the war with Russia, saying Germany has now moved in ”the right direction” following tensions between Kyiv and Berlin.

”We see an evolving position of Germany on the most important issues – this position is moving into the right direction,” Kuleba told reporters in Berlin Thursday.

This could be the supply of weapons to Ukraine or the sanctions that need to be imposed against Russia, he said. “We see the positive dynamic.”

In recent months, the German government and Chancellor Olaf Scholz have come under pressure from Ukraine and politicians at home for not doing enough to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. But at the end of April, Germany agreed to deliver Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, and last week it said it will supply Ukraine with seven self-propelled howitzers.

Russia “waging war against our children,” says Ukrainian first lady: At least three people have died and 12 were injured after a school and a boarding school were shelled at night by Russian forces in the northern Ukrainian city of Novhorod-Siversky, Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska said, as she accused Russian of “waging war against our children.”

“Tonight, the Russian army fired rockets from a plane at a school and boarding school in the city of Novhorod-Siversky, Chernihiv region. Rescuers are currently working there, but we already know of 3 dead and 12 injured. The bombing was aimed. The Russians, who claim to be attacking only military installations, are waging war against our children. In fact, they are waging war against our future,” Zelenska said in a Telegram post Thursday.

She added that, according to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 1,635 educational institutions in the country have been affected by bombing and shelling, with 126 being completely destroyed.

“Whether Russia’s actions in Ukraine are genocide is currently being debated around the world. Instead of answering, look at the map. Every day a new school or kindergarten appears there, which was deliberately destroyed with unprecedented cynicism by the Russians,” she said.

Russia is using energy as “a weapon,” German vice chancellor says: German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck accused Russia on Thursday of using energy “as a weapon,” following an announcement by the Russian government on Wednesday to impose sanctions on 31 foreign energy companies in retaliation for Western penalties over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“It has to be said that the situation is coming to a head, in such a way that the use of energy as a weapon is now being realized in several areas,” Habeck told reporters at a news conference in Berlin. This is not the first time Habeck has said Russia is using energy as ”a weapon.”

Germany has been under pressure from Ukraine and other nations in Europe to make progress in weaning itself off Russian energy supplies since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. On Thursday, Habeck said that Germany was focusing on building up gas reserves to prepare for winter. “The gas storage facilities must be full by winter or else we will be in a situation where we can easily be blackmailed,” Habeck said. 

Families of Azovstal fighters appeal to Turkish president to initiate an extraction procedure: Families of Azov regiment fighters holed up in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol sent an emotional appeal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him to “be a hero” and initiate an extraction procedure for all remaining fighters at the plant. At a news briefing in Kyiv, a father of an 18-year-old fighter urged the Turkish leader to seize “a historical opportunity to go down in history as a peacemaker, as a hero.”

“As a man to man, a father to a father, I implore you to save my son and his comrades,” Evheniy Suharnikov pleaded, referencing Turkey’s experience with military extraction operations in the Middle East. Using examples of extractions in Syria and Dunkirk during World War II, Suharnikov asked for a civilian vessel to be sent for the fighter’s collection from Azovstal. The fighter’s father also suggested they are taken to a neutral country, away from the hostilities. 

“We need a hero, a person with enough political authority to carry out this procedure. From a political and geographical perspective, we think Turkey can be that country and Erdogan can be that person,” he added.

EU proposes streamlined export plan for Ukrainian produce: The European Union is proposing to establish “solidarity lanes” exclusively for exporting agricultural goods from Ukraine to help ease the blockade of produce, which is “threatening global food security,” the commission said in a news release Thursday. The plan aims to integrate Ukrainian and EU infrastructure to mobilize 20 million metric tons of grain that must leave Ukraine within three months, EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said in the release. 

“Thousands” of trucks and wagons are stuck on the Ukrainian side of many EU borders, with an average waiting time of 16 days to pass through — rising to 30 days at some borders — the commission said.  

US: “Several thousand Ukrainians” sent to so-called filtration centers and tens of thousands taken to Russia: The United States assesses that Russian forces have sent “at least several thousand Ukrainians” to be processed at Russia’s so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russia-controlled territory,” US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said Thursday.The forced displacement — and reported violence that are faced by those at the so-called filtration centers — amount to war crimes, Carpenter said according to the transcript of his remarks to the OSCE Permanent Council.

“Numerous eyewitness accounts indicate that ‘filtering out’ entails beating and torturing individuals to determine whether they owe even the slightest allegiance to the Ukrainian state,” Carpenter said.

Finland's NATO support is a result of "very drastic change" in security environment

Finland’s support for joining NATO is the result of a “very drastic change in our security environment” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Klaus Korhonen, Finnish Ambassador to NATO told CNN on Thursday.

Currently, there are no “direct military threats against Finland,” by Russia, Korhonen said, adding that they don’t see any “irregular activity.”

But the nation does expect potential “cyber harassment” or “disinformation campaigns,” by Russia which would be “nothing new” to them, he added.

Remember: Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia and its accession to the alliance would mean that Russia would share a border with a country that is formally aligned with the United States.

When asked what the Nordic-nation has to offer NATO if it were to join, Korhonen said that they have a “strong national defense” and that by being a member of the alliance the protection “would be even more effective.”

“We have a strong defense, we have a very capable border guard, and I think right now we are awake, so I think the border is very secure,” he said. 

Korhonen continued by saying that while nuclear rhetoric is “always part of Russian security policy narratives at this time,” we are currently “very far away from any nuclear situation.”

“The use of nuclear weapons or threat of use of nuclear weapons, that would open up an entirely new chapter in the Euro Atlantic landscape,” he said.

UK calls for further sanctions on Russia

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss walks to bilateral talks with her Japanese counterpart at the meeting of the G7 Foreign Ministers in Germany on May 12.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called for international allies to commit more sanctions against Russia until it completely withdrawals from Ukraine and agrees to peace, according to a UK statement following a meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in Germany on Thursday.

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

The foreign secretary also asserted that NATO allies should plan to assist Ukraine’s transition to NATO-standard equipment by the end of the summer. That would include supplying NATO-standard artillery shells, as well as training and expertise. 

In addition to NATO provided support, Truss also urged the G7 to plan for helping Ukraine rebuild from the war by providing financial and technical assistance, “building on the principle of a Marshal Plan.”

US: "Several thousand Ukrainians" sent to so-called filtration centers and tens of thousands taken to Russia

The United States assesses that Russian forces have sent “at least several thousand Ukrainians” to be processed at Russia’s so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russia-controlled territory,” US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said Thursday.

The forced displacement – and reported violence that are faced by those at the so-called filtration centers – amount to war crimes, Carpenter said according to the transcript of his remarks to the OSCE Permanent Council.

“Numerous eyewitness accounts indicate that ‘filtering out’ entails beating and torturing individuals to determine whether they owe even the slightest allegiance to the Ukrainian state,” Carpenter said.

Some background:CNN investigation in April revealed that Russian forces and allied separatist soldiers were taking Mariupol residents to a so-called “filtration center” set up in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia, many against their will. Ukrainian government and local Mariupol officials say that tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly deported to the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia since the war began.

“Survivors of this process describe a coercive, multi-destination journey through various ‘filtration’ waypoints in the Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, and eventually across the border into Russia itself,” Carpenter noted. “Survivors describe these centers as either makeshift encampments composed of military tents or civilian infrastructure such as schools or sports centers. Commercial satellite images show these encampments in various locations across Ukraine’s southeast.”

The US Mission to the OSCE declined to discuss the sources of the information, but said it is confident in the assessment and the scale of the numbers stated.

According to Carpenter, victims described an “invasive and humiliating” inspection process at these centers.

“Russia’s soldiers photograph victims from various angles, fingerprint and physically examine them for tattoos, inspect their cell phones and download their contacts and data onto devices, and record their biographic information in a variety of databases … In some cases, Russia’s soldiers confiscated passports, identification documents, and cell phones altogether,” Carpenter said.

“Once in Russia, survivors report that some Ukrainian citizens are permitted to stay with friends and family living in Russia but that people without money or documents are put onto trains destined for cities hundreds of miles away, to be given jobs by Russian authorities,” he added.

Finnish foreign minister says the government expected to propose country join NATO on Sunday

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto addresses a joint press conference with his French counterpart in Helsinki, Finland, on March 31.

The Finnish government is planning to issue a second white paper on Sunday proposing that the country joins NATO, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in a media briefing in Helsinki on Thursday.

The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

Haavisto noted that it is “important to go through a proper parliamentary debate”

The Finnish foreign minister said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “changed very much the security landscape in Europe,” adding that it also changed the public opinion on NATO membership.

Haavisto told reporters that the country is in close contact with the Swedish Foreign Ministry as Sweden also considers joining NATO. He added that he is in talks with European partners and the UK as applicant countries are not covered by security guarantees.

Ukrainian foreign minister urges German companies to pull out of Russia and relocate to Ukraine

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged for German companies to pull out of Russia and relocate to Ukraine.

Kuleba tweeted, “As Russia keeps committing heinous atrocities in Ukraine, revenues of foreign companies still doing business in Russia are stained with Ukrainian blood. I urge German businesses to pull out of Russia and relocate to Ukraine. This will be a sincere contribution to peace in Europe.”

Earlier Thursday, Kuleba told reporters in Berlin that Ukraine has seen the positive dynamic and praised Germany’s response to the war with Russia. ”We see an evolving position of Germany on the most important issues — this position is moving in the right direction,” Kuleba said.

View Kuleba’s tweet here:

France says it fully supports Finland’s "sovereign choice" to join NATO 

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the media in February in Berlin.

French President Emmanuel Macron told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö on Thursday that France “fully supports” Finland’s bid to join NATO. 

“The President of the [French] Republic has told the President of Finland that France fully supports Finland’s sovereign choice to quickly join NATO,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement. 

Earlier on Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also welcomed Finland’s bid to join the alliance and offered Berlin’s “full support,” after Finland’s president and prime minister announced their support for joining NATO, moving the Nordic nation — which shares an 800-mile border with Russia — one step closer to membership of the US-led military alliance.  

On Wednesday, Niinistö said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should “look in the mirror” if Finland decides to join NATO to increase its own security.  

While speaking alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Helsinki, the Finnish leader said that if Finland joined NATO, it would be the result of Putin’s own actions. 

Another Russian naval ship is on fire in the Black Sea, Ukraine says

A Russian support ship, the “Vsevolod Bobrov,” was being towed to Sevastopol from the area of Snake Island after it caught fire, according to Serhii Bratchuk, spokesperson for Odesa Regional Military Administration.

G7 foreign ministers will discuss how to end Ukrainian grain blockade during meeting in Germany 

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations will discuss how to end a blockade of Ukrainian grain so it can be exported to the world, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday, as the meeting kicks off at the Baltic Sea resort of Weissenhaus, northeast of the German city of Hamburg.    

”There are 25 millions of grain currently blocked in the Ukrainian port of Odesa, which means food for millions of people in the world that is urgently needed, above all in African countries and the Middle East,” Baerbock told reporters.  

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain-producing countries. 

The UN has called to reopen the Odesa port in southern Ukraine to help ease a global food crisis. CNN has also reported that Russian forces are stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, according to multiple sources. 

The German foreign minister on Thursday welcomed top diplomats of the G7 nations for a three-day meeting, which will focus on the war in Ukraine, energy and food security, relationship with China and climate change.  

Baerbock also welcomed her Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts, Dmytro Kuleba and Nicu Popescu, who are attending the meeting as guests.  

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, whose country chairs the Group of 20 major economies (G20) this year, is also participating in the meeting but remotely.  

Nearly 100 children killed in Ukraine in April alone and actual figures could be higher, UNICEF says

UNICEF has verified that almost 100 children were killed in Ukraine in April alone, but actual figures could be significantly higher with the conflict creating a child protection crisis, a top UNICEF official told the UN Security Council on Thursday.

“In just this past month, the UN verified that nearly 100 children were killed, and we believe the actual figures to be considerably higher,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi said. 

During his remarks at the UN Security Council Meeting on the maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine, Abdi said, “More children have been injured and faced grave violations of their rights, millions more have been displaced,” and added, “The war in Ukraine, like all wars, is a child protection and child rights crisis.”

Abdi also said that “education is also under attack” and “schools continue to be used for military purposes.”

“As of last week, at least 15 of 89 — one in six — UNICEF-supported schools in eastern Ukraine had been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war.” he said and added, “Hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes, and other explosive weapons in populated areas.” 

“Schools are a lifeline for children, especially in conflict. Schools are a safe spaces, with routines providing protection from harm and a semblance of normalcy. Schools are also critical conduits for information about the risks of deadly explosive ordnance. And they are a connector to essential health and psychosocial services,” he continued.

UN urges all parties in Ukraine to remove barriers blocking movement of humanitarian staff to save lives

The United Nations on Thursday urged all parties in the Ukraine conflict to remove any barriers blocking the free movement of humanitarian staff to allow for the delivery of life-saving assistance across Ukraine. 

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday on Ukraine’s maintenance of peace and security, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya said that under international humanitarian law, the parties must respect all civilians as well as civilian homes.

Msuya also said that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross were able to evacuate 174 civilians on Monday from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol and other parts of the city. Msuya added that this was the third operation in the past week out of Mariupol, “bringing the total number of civilians evacuated from the steel plant Mariupol and neighboring towns to over 600.” 

Msuya said that almost 14 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes. Of that number, 8 million have been internally displaced. Nongovernmental organizations have provided assistance to more than 5.4 million people, she said, the majority of whom are in eastern Ukraine.

Msuya also emphasized the importance of the UN in exploring all options to save lives in Ukraine, saying, “We remain firmly committed to leaving no stone unturned.” 

“The world expects this of us; the people of Ukraine deserve this,” Msuya added. 

Ukrainian woman whose boyfriend died at Mariupol's Azovstal plant says she still texts him every day

During a news briefing in Kyiv with relatives of soldiers who died or are still trapped in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, CNN spoke with Nastya Bilousova, 21, whose boyfriend Dmytro Chornyi was killed by a sniper.

Bilousova said she was told that he died via an Instagram message, and she didn’t believe it at first. But three days later, she received official confirmation.

Bilousova said she and Chornyi, also 21, were together for four years and dreamed of going to the country of Georgia.

Even though she received the last text messages from him on March 1, she still texts him every day, telling him about her life and how she cannot accept his death.

Nastya Bilousova shows a conversation she had with her boyfriend, Dmytro Chornyi, who was killed in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. In the message, Chornyi tells Bilousova that he is getting a rest from fighting, and she tells him she loves him. She also told him that she went out for the first time in days to buy food.

Nicole, 21, who only provided CNN with her first name, attended the briefing with her 5-year-old nephew, Kirill, on her lap.

She, her nephew and her sister spent five days escaping from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. She said they walked for two days and spent a night in a church to hide from shelling. They arrived in Zaporizhzhia on April 6.

21-year-old Nicole wipes away tears at a briefing about soldiers in Mariupol's Azovstal plant, as her 5-year-old nephew Kirill sits on her lap. She said that yesterday, she found out one of her good friends had died in the plant.

Yesterday, she was told that her close friend Olexandr, who was fighting at Azovstal, had died. But she refuses to believe it.

“We were very good friends. He was a wonderful, kind man. He loved the guys he fought with. He often told me not to worry, that everything would be OK. Now I feel nothing,” she said.

She had been getting fewer and fewer messages from him. The last time they messaged was on May 8.

“I believe and hope this is a mistake, that he is alive,” she said.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that “very difficult negotiations” are ongoing on the evacuation of seriously wounded fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in exchange for Russian prisoners of war.

A Ukrainian revisits the site where she survived a missile attack: In my nightmares, "nobody hears my cries"

Ayuna Mozorova recently returned to the site of a blast that left her buried under rubble for several hours and recalled the harrowing moments to CNN.

She remembered where she was standing that day at the Kharkiv regional administration building in Ukraine. Seventy-two days earlier, she had been standing next to a cupboard, distributing coffee and cookies to Ukrainian soldiers, when the building was bombed.

“I feel a physical manifestation of fear. I don’t like cookies any more. A box fell on me and I remember the smell,” she told CNN.

Her husband Andrei had scoured the place, looking for her for three hours.

“When I heard her voice, I was crawling across the rubble, and the emergency services were trying to kick me out. I pulled a man out and then heard her. I did not plan to leave her here,” he said.

The multiple-rocket attack was an early sign of the brutality Russia would unleash on civilian targets.

The soldiers waiting in the corridor outside from her died. The young women in the basement below her died — their bodies were not found for three weeks.

Yet where Mozorova stood, somehow the concrete fell in a way that it shielded her.

“I knew I was alive, in pain but nothing broken. But I was worried I would be left and never be heard. The first time they heard me, they started to get me out and then the second missile came, and I was properly trapped,” she said.

When her husband found her, he cried.

The trauma lives on. Mozorova said she now sleeps with lights on, and when she hears a loud car or a jet plane, she braces.

Mozorova was born in Russia, but can no longer talk to her relatives there. She said they believe Russian state media’s absurd claims that this is a limited operation against Nazis.

“They say it was my stupidity, and I don’t need to be here,” Mozorova said. “I hope when time passes, our children can talk, but I can’t talk to them now. Russia has lost its mind and cannot control its president. They are all each responsible, every citizen.”

More than 6 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian invasion began, UN refugee agency says

More than 6 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, according to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

In addition, more than 8 million people – nearly one in five of Ukraine’s pre-war population – are internally displaced in the country after having been forced to flee their homes, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration.

A projected 8.3 million refugees are expected to flee Ukraine, the UNHCR said in late April.

Here's what you need to know about NATO and how it works

A soldier with the Polish Army sits in a tank as a NATO flag flies behind him during military exercises in 2015 in Zagan, Poland.

Finland – which shares an 800-mile border with Russia – is one step closer to joining NATO after the nation’s president and prime minister announced their support for being a part of the US-led military alliance. The Kremlin said the move would be a threat to Russia.

Here’s what you need to know about NATO and how it works:

NATO is a European and North American defense alliance that was created as the Cold War escalated and is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. The aim of the alliance was to protect Western European countries from the threat posed by the Soviet Union and to counter the spread of Communism after World War II.

Remember: An armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty guarantees that the resources of the whole alliance can be used to protect any single member nation. This is crucial for many of the smaller countries who would be defenseless without its allies. Iceland, for example, has no standing army. Since the US is the largest and most powerful NATO member, any state in the alliance is effectively under US protection.

The alliance started with 12 founding countries, but over the decades since, the alliance has grown to include a total of 30 members.

In alphabetical order, they are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but has long hoped to join the alliance. This is a sore point for Russia, which sees NATO as a threat and vehemently opposes the move.

Amid ongoing tensions with the West, Russia has asked for iron-clad guarantees that the alliance won’t expand further east — particularly into Ukraine.

But the US and NATO have resisted those demands. The alliance has always had an “open door policy,” which states that any European country ready and willing to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership is welcome to apply for membership. Any decisions on enlargement of the alliance must be agreed unanimously.

Following the end of the Cold War, NATO made it clear it would welcome expansion to the east and in 1997, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were invited to begin accession talks.

Since then, more than a dozen countries from the former Eastern bloc, including three former Soviet republics, joined the alliance.

Read the full explainer on NATO here and see a map of its current members below: