May 13, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, George Ramsay, Lianne Kolirin, Hannah Strange and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:17 AM ET, Sat May 14, 2022
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11:40 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

This Russian tank graveyard is becoming a new tourist attraction

From Ivana Kottasová and Oleksandra Ochman in Dmytrivka, near Kyiv

People driving past the graveyard often stop to take pictures.
People driving past the graveyard often stop to take pictures. (Ivana Kottasova/CNN)

On the road from Kyiv to Bucha, a short stretch of scorched ground in the middle of the woods has become something of an attraction in recent weeks.

It’s known as the Russian tank graveyard.

A dozen or so blown up tanks and armored vehicles lie scattered around. Rusty and grotesquely deformed, they attract the attention of many of those passing by.

They’ve been sitting there ever since the Ukrainian army managed to liberate the area after it was under Russian occupation for several weeks in March.

With the seemingly constant stream of bad news coming from eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, many come to this place to see first hand what a victory looks like. Some make a brief stop to look at the damage and take a quick picture or two. But many stay here for a while.

They carefully examine the burnt wreckage, looking inside the vehicles. One man takes a smiling selfie in front of a burnt vehicle with the letter V still visible on it.

Liza Maramon and her boyfriend stopped by the tank graveyard on their way to visit Maramon’s mother who lives in the area. She recently returned home after being evacuated in early March.

Liza Maramon.
Liza Maramon. (Ivana Kottasova/CNN)

“She spent five days sitting in a basement, without electricity, without anything, it was very horrible,” the 26-year old charity worker said. Her mother left when the Russian tanks started closing in on the town. Two days after they managed to flee, the Russians took control of the town.

Nearby, a couple of kids happily climb up a rusty Russian tank as if it was a set of monkey bars at a playground.

Maramon herself took several photos of the destroyed vehicles and planned to share them with friends and post them on social media.

“I can’t explain how I feel. Everyone should remember this. We need to show people, the whole world. It’s not normal,” she said.

People driving past the graveyard often stop to take pictures.
People driving past the graveyard often stop to take pictures. (Ivana Kottasova/CNN)

11:44 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Russia stealing grain from Ukraine is "an especially repugnant form of war," German agriculture minister says

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir on Friday accused Russia of theft from Ukrainian farmers, saying it is "an especially repugnant form of war that Russia is leading, in that it is stealing, robbing, taking for itself grain from eastern Ukraine."

Speaking in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart, where agriculture ministers of the G7 met together with their Ukrainian counterparts to discuss how to head off a looming international food crisis sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Özdemir said it's "a particularly disgusting component within the war that [Putin] uses starvation."

"All people, everyone, will pay the price for this war worldwide, even if they live on another continent," Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi said at the conference.

"People will have to pay more for food, and they must be aware that they will have to pay more each day," he said.

On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that the foreign ministers of the G7, along with their counterparts from Ukraine and Moldova, will discuss how to end a blockade of Ukrainian grain so it can be exported to the world.

Ukraine is among the top five global exporters for a variety of key agricultural products, including corn, wheat and barley, according to the US Department of Agriculture. It's also the leading exporter of both sunflower oil and meal.

CNN found earlier this month that a Russian merchant ship loaded with grain stolen in Ukraine has been turned away from at least one Mediterranean port and is now in the Syrian port of Latakia, according to shipping sources and Ukrainian officials. It had nearly 30,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat, according to Ukrainian officials.

The Ukrainian defense ministry estimates that at least 400,000 tons of grain has been stolen and taken out of Ukraine since Russia's invasion.

11:15 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Ukrainians try to flee growing humanitarian crisis in southern region of Kherson, officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Presniakova and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian officials say there is a growing humanitarian crisis in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson in the south of the country, with hundreds of civilians trying to escape the area every day and Russian troops raiding villages. 

Getting a true picture of what's going on in Kherson is difficult as the operations of Ukrainian telecom companies have been blocked and people are finding it more difficult to get in and out of the region. 

Those who do try to leave face considerable risk.

Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the Kryvyi Rih military administration, said on Thursday that Russian artillery had fired on a column of civilian vehicles trying to leave the town of Beryslav in Kherson. He said there were about 5,000 people in the convoy altogether.

Vilkul said the Russians had halted about 1,000 vehicles and only began to release them in the afternoon in batches of 200. They had then shelled one of the columns as it crossed into Ukrainian-held territory. Two people had been wounded, a woman and an 11-year old boy. Both were taken to hospital in Kryvyi Rih, Vilkul said.

Ukrainian officials estimate that as much as 45% of the population of Kherson region has left. Those still in the region are facing growing hardship, according to Ukrainian officials.

Yurii Sobolievskyi, first deputy head of the Kherson region council, said on Ukrainian television that in the city of Kherson, there is a "humanitarian catastrophe."

"Our hospitals run out of fuel and medicine, and there is a problem with food supply," he said.

Food shortages and claims of stealing: Sobolievskyi said that farmers and businesses were still trying to provide the city with food and some volunteers were able to bring supplies from neighboring regions.

There were also volunteers bringing food and medicine from Mykolaiv and Odesa. "That's how we scratch along," he said.

He said a number of civilians had to accept food from the Russians to survive. 

The Russians "just want to create a vacuum in the Kherson region, create a humanitarian catastrophe, and then fill it with their humanitarian aid. If we had humanitarian corridors, they would not be able to show that they are helping the population." 

Sobolievskyi also said that "the robbery of our farmers continues."

"They steal not only grain, but also equipment; they just take it out, and then it floats to the Crimea and the Russian Federation itself." CNN has reported that thousands of metric tons of grain and farm equipment worth millions of dollars has been stolen in Kherson. 

Services disrupted and violence documented: Serhii Khlan, a deputy on Kherson's regional council, said Thursday that Russian forces were raiding villages and launching intensive searches, as well as carrying out a census of those left in some areas.

Khlan also said that the Russians have indicated "they will import teachers from the Crimea because our teachers do not agree to work on Russian programs. Those few teachers that agree to work — we know them personally — and they will be held criminally liable for it."

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said this week that Ukrainian authorities are documenting alleged Russian crimes in Kherson, including "violence against people, mass abductions, torture in basements, theft of property, attempts to create fictitious management structures." 

Status of resistance: Podolyak also said that "resistance to the Russian invasion in southern Ukraine is very strong at all levels." 

But there has been less evidence of street protests in Kherson recent weeks compared to their regular occurrence in March. On May 9, when the newly installed Russian-backed administration held Victory Day commemorations, there were no counter-protests evident. 

It's unclear whether this is due to the arrest of activists or because so many people have left the region. Sobolievskyi said that there was a great risk to the lives and health of people who came onto the streets and acknowledged the protests were smaller. It may also be in part because people are unable to connect through Ukrainian mobile operators.

Ukrainian officials say that the military is "enjoying some victories" in destroying Russian ammunition depots and equipment in Kherson, but there has been little movement on the ground in recent weeks, and fresh Russian convoys have been seen in recent days traveling through Kherson toward front lines in neighboring Zaporizhzhia. Beyond taking Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the Russians seem intent on separating Kherson from the rest of Ukraine. 

12:14 p.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Arrest of US Olympic basketball champion Brittney Griner in Moscow extended until June 18, state media says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Anna Chernova

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner sits during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, on October 13, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner sits during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, on October 13, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

The Khimki Court of the Moscow Region extended the arrest of US Olympic basketball champion Brittney Griner on charges of drug smuggling for another month,  Russian state news agency TASS reported on Friday, citing the press service of the court.

"The court granted the petition of the investigation and extended the term of detention of US citizen Griner until June 18," the court said, according to TASS.

The athlete was arrested on suspicion of trying to illegally import hash oil into the Russian Federation through Sheremetyevo Airport, TASS added.

Russia has denied the US State Department's claim that the detention of Griner is “illegal,” saying her arrest was based "on objective facts and evidence." 

A statement issued to CNN on Thursday read: "She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil. In Russia, this is a crime. In accordance with paragraph "c" of part 2 of Article 229.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (drug smuggling), she faces a prison term of up to 10 years.”

According to the statement, Griner was taken into custody on the basis of the decision of the Khimki District Court of Moscow Region on Feb. 18 and is being held in one of the detention facilities.

"The charges are serious, based on objective facts and evidence that is available. Attempts by the State Department to cast doubt on the validity of the detention of B. Griner are explained solely by the desire to influence justice by politicizing a generally understandable situation," the ministry said. 

"The final point in this case should be made by the court," the statement added.

Response from the State Department: An official from the US Embassy in Moscow was able to talk with Griner on the sidelines of her hearing in Russia Friday morning, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Price, who said the department was monitoring the hearing in Moscow “very closely,” said “a consular officer at our embassy in Moscow was able to speak to her on the margins of the hearing.”

“The officer was able to confirm that Brittney Griner is doing as well as can be expected under what can only be described as exceedingly difficult circumstances,” Price said on a briefing call Friday.

More background: Griner, who plays for Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, was arrested by Russian authorities in February at a Moscow airport and accused of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance — an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Griner won the 2014 World Championships in Turkey, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the 2018 World Championships in Spain, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with Team USA. 

CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Ellie Kaufman contributed reporting to this post.

11:08 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Russia expels employees from Bulgarian and Romanian embassies in Moscow

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The Russian Foreign Ministry declared 10 employees of the Romanian Embassy and one employee of the Bulgarian embassy in Moscow as "persona non grata," it announced in two separate statements released Friday.

The ambassadors of their respective countries were summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Friday and notified about the employees that were now "persona non grata."

In the statement for Romania, the ministry noted that this measure is a response to the "unjustified decision" taken on April 5 by the Romanian side to declare 10 diplomats of the Russian Embassy in Bucharest as "persona non grata."

In its statement for Bulgaria, Moscow called the measure a response to "unmotivated decision" from Bulgaria to expel a Russian diplomat from Sofia.

10:07 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Kremlin says reports that Russia will halt gas supplies to Finland on Friday are a "hoax"

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

The Kremlin said Russia doesn’t plan to stop gas supplies to Finland starting Friday, calling Finnish media reports alleging it would happen a “hoax.”

“Gazprom supplies gas to various consumers in Europe, including NATO member countries,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday on a conference call with journalists.

“Most likely, these reports are just another newspaper hoax,” he said.

Peskov added, however, that he is unaware of the payment details referring to the Russian energy giant Gazprom, “because there is a presidential decree on a new regime of payment for gas supplies.”

Some context: 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 on Thursday. The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

Russia's foreign ministry said Finland's possible accession to NATO marked a "radical change in the country's foreign policy" and warned of countermeasures.

"Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard," it said.

In late April, Gazprom said it fully halted supplies to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgaria's Bulgargaz after they refused to meet a demand by Moscow to pay in rubles rather than euros or dollars.

11:27 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

UK Home Office doesn't rule out Ukrainian refugees being sent to Rwanda if they enter the UK illegally

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London

Ukrainian refugees entering the United Kingdom illegally could be sent to Rwanda for processing, as the UK’s Home Office has been unable to rule out the possibility despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting it is “simply not going to happen.”

Under the government’s controversial new policy, undocumented migrants could be transferred over 4,000 miles away to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed, if deemed to have entered the UK illegally, such as by crossing the English Channel.  

The scheme has sparked outrage from humanitarian activists and garnered criticism from lawyers, faith leaders and British lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum.

Despite the UK positioning itself as a global leader in supporting Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, Ukrainians are seemingly not exempt. 

When asked to clearly state if it was possible that an undocumented Ukrainian individual could be sent to Rwanda if they entered the UK through illegal routes, the Home Office on Thursday pointed CNN to the “range of safe and legal routes to the UK” available for Ukrainians, such as the uncapped Ukraine Family scheme and the Homes for Ukraine scheme. 

“Nobody from Ukraine needs to pay a people smuggler to get to the UK […]. There is no need to make dangerous journeys,” a spokesperson said. 

The refusal to rule out the prospect comes after Johnson said Wednesday it is “simply not going to happen” in an interview with LBC Radio.

Johnson admitted he had not seen a parliamentary committee hearing earlier that day in which the Dan Hobbs, the Home Office’s director of asylum, protection and enforcement left open the possibility when grilled by lawmakers if Ukrainians fell under the policy’s scope. 

“Depending on the individual circumstances, they may not fall in the ‘inadmissibility’ criteria,” he said when asked what would happen if a Ukrainian entered the UK via Ireland.   

Downing Street did not respond to CNN’s request for clarification on the prime minister’s comments. 

According to the UK government, granting exemptions to the scheme would encourage smuggling gangs to step up their targeting and exploitation of those refugees. 

The government said more than 120,000 visas have been granted to Ukrainians since the launch of two separate, unlimited resettlement programs since Russia’s invasion.

9:43 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

It's late afternoon in Ukraine. Here are the latest developments on the war

Two Ukrainian soldiers keep watch at a checkpoint in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 12.
Two Ukrainian soldiers keep watch at a checkpoint in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 12. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine's defense minister said the country is now entering a "long" phase of war with Russia. Here are the latest developments:

Where fighting is happening: In northern Ukraine, a Ukrainian counterattack has taken back a number of villages in the area east of Kharkiv. But as the Russian forces retreated in the region, three bridges vital to continuing the Ukrainian advance were blown up, satellite images from BlackSky and the European Space Agency show. 

In the east, Ukrainian troops have pulled back from the city of Rubizhne in Luhansk region after weeks of resistance, according to multiple reports from the area. Video from the city showed intense fighting in its industrial outskirts on Thursday.

In the south, the Ukrainian military said Russia is using "strategic aviation" and reinforcing units. In the city of Enerhodar, occupied by Russian forces since early March, the regional administration reported on Friday that "the city is almost out of medicine, and humanitarian aid is not always available."

In Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say that the besieged soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant have again come under Russian bombardment. An adviser to the mayor said Russian troops may try to start ground attacks. Negotiations continue to try to extract wounded soldiers, according to Ukraine's deputy prime minister, and the Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had discussed evacuations.

Snake Island: The 46 acres of rock and grass (but no snakes) — the site of the now-famous "Russian warship, go f**k yourself" exchange — is playing an outsized role in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The Russians are expending so much effort on holding Snake Island because it has the potential to be an unsinkable — if static — aircraft carrier, crammed with electronic warfare and anti-ship capabilities. On Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said Russian troops were trying to "improve their position on the island in an effort to block Ukrainian maritime communications and capabilities in the northwestern Black Sea, particularly toward Odesa."

In recent weeks, the Ukrainians have repeatedly — and successfully — destroyed Russian forces and vehicles on the island. A new satellite image from Maxar Technologies appears to show a missile strike Thursday near the island. Two plumes of smoke are seen near a Russian Serna-class landing ship in the Black Sea, identified by Maxar.

War crimes trial: 21-year-old soldier Vadim Shishimarin is set to become the first Russian to be tried for war crimes at a trial in Kyiv on Friday. He is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old man in Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to the country's prosecutor general's office.

Nordic NATO developments: 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 on Thursday. The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

And Sweden said joining NATO would enhance deterrence across northern Europe, according to a cross-party review published by the government on Friday. 

9:55 a.m. ET, May 13, 2022

Germany's chancellor tells Putin that Russia bears responsibility for "tense" global food situation

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the ongoing war in Ukraine on Friday, following a conversation earlier this week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said Friday in a statement.

''The Chancellor and the Russian President also discussed the global food situation, which is particularly tense as a result of the Russian war of aggression. The Chancellor recalled that Russia has a special responsibility here,'' according to the German government statement. 

''Given the seriousness of the military situation and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, particularly in Mariupol, the Chancellor urged the Russian President to bring about a ceasefire as soon as possible,'' the statement said. 

Scholz also discussed ''an improvement in the humanitarian situation and progress in the search for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.''