May 14, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Nectar Gan, Tara John, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt and Joe Ruiz, CNN

Updated 12:05 AM ET, Sun May 15, 2022
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3:49 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

More details emerge about disastrous Russian effort to cross key river in the east

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

A drone image shows some of the dozens of burnt-out armored vehicles on the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River near Bilohorivka, Ukraine on May 12.
A drone image shows some of the dozens of burnt-out armored vehicles on the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River near Bilohorivka, Ukraine on May 12. (From Ukrainian Airborne Forces Command)

Satellite imagery and first-hand testimony have provided a fuller picture of the multiple and disastrous efforts by Russian forces to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine over the past week.

New video and analysis of drone and satellite imagery show that the Russians may have lost as many as 70 armored vehicles and other equipment in attempting to cross the river early this week. Their goal was to try to encircle Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region, but it failed spectacularly. 

In its account of the battle, Ukraine's 80th separate assault brigade said it had "destroyed the pontoons and thwarted nine crossing attempts."

It claimed that "at least 73 units of equipment were destroyed, including T-72 tanks" and a variety of infantry fighting vehicles.

This tally appears supported by analysis of drone video showing Russian equipment strewn along a track to the north of the river, as well as half-submerged tanks.

It's clear that the Ukrainians had previously worked out where the Russians were likely to try to lay down the pontoons and had observed the approach of Russian units. Reconnaissance of possible crossing points had begun at least two days before the Russian attempt.

The Siverskyi Donets flows quickly and the Russians appear to have needed motorized tugs to try to complete the bridge. The noise was a further clue to Ukrainian units that an attempt to ford the river was underway.

In its account, the 80th brigade says that "despite heavy losses, the enemy still managed to break through ... gaining a foothold on the northern outskirts of one of the settlements." At least 30 Russian vehicles and infantry did make the crossing. 

Other Ukrainian officials say that those Russian units that did get across, north of the village of Bilohorivka, were stranded.

"Fierce, heavy fighting lasted about two days," the 80th brigade said on its Facebook page. "The paratroopers destroyed a whole battalion-tactical group (BTG) of invaders!"

Open source analysis suggests this is probably true, with at least 30 infantry fighting vehicles counted among the wreckage at the site of the pontoon, not counting what may have been destroyed among the equipment that did get across.

In its analysis of the episode, the Institute for the Study of War said that "Ukrainian forces likely inflicted heavy casualties on Russian forces attempting to cross the Siverskyi Donets River."

"Russian forces have likely lost the momentum necessary to execute a large-scale crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River," it added.

Mick Ryan, a former Major General in the Australian armed forces who studies the Ukrainian conflict, tweeted: "Russians clearly intended to invest in this axis and throw a lot of combat power down it.

"Consequently, this is probably a larger setback for the Russians than some have speculated," Ryan said in a post published to his verified Twitter account.

"It has likely resulted in not just a BTG but probably an entire Brigade losing a large part of its combat power."

"Importantly, the Russians lost scarce engineer bridging equipment (and probably combat engineers too). These resources are neither cheap nor available in large quantities. And these are in high demand during an offensive."

The Russians' inability to advance from the north across the river has likely slowed down its offensive in Luhansk, which for now is reliant on troops moving from the east and south through frontlines that have moved little in a month. 

2:42 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

More than 50 houses destroyed in latest Russian shelling, says Ukrainian official

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

A special task force policeman inspects a site after an airstrike by Russian forces in Lysychansk, Ukraine on Friday, May 13.
A special task force policeman inspects a site after an airstrike by Russian forces in Lysychansk, Ukraine on Friday, May 13. (Leo Correa/AP)

More than 50 houses in the Luhansk region of Ukraine have been destroyed by Russian shelling, as fighting continues to rage around a belt of industrial towns in the area, according to Ukrainian officials.

The houses were located in the area around Popasna and Lysychansk, said Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk region military administration.

"They do not need people and their houses -- they do need only the territory that the enemy turns into a desert," Hayday said, adding that ten enemy attacks had been repulsed in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the past 24 hours.

The Russians appear to have made little progress on the ground after consolidating their control over Rubizhne earlier this week.

1:01 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

India bans wheat exports amid rising prices 

From CNN's Mallika Kallingal

A combine deposits harvested wheat in a tractor trailer on a field in Ahmedabad, India on March 16.
A combine deposits harvested wheat in a tractor trailer on a field in Ahmedabad, India on March 16. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

India is banning wheat exports as prices rise worldwide due to Russia's prolonged war on Ukraine.  

India’s Director General of Foreign Trade released a statement prohibiting the export of wheat with immediate effect, except in cases where irrevocable letters of credit had already been issued, or if the government of India grants export permissions to countries relying on wheat for food security. 

India is the world’s second-highest producer of wheat, the bulk of which is consumed domestically. 

The government cited rising wheat prices and the need to protect food security in India and neighboring vulnerable countries as the catalyst for amending its export policy. 

Ukraine and Russia together are responsible for about 14% of global wheat production, according to Gro Intelligence, an agricultural data analytics firm. 

Wheat exports from the Black Sea region have plummeted since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, sending global buyers to turn to India to alleviate supply shortages. 

12:22 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Zelensky says Ukraine has retaken more than 1,000 settlements from Russian forces

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky say Ukraine has retaken six settlements from Russian forces on Friday, and 1,015 overall since the start of the conflict in February.

''We continue to restore the de-occupied territories of Ukraine. As of today, 1,015 settlements have been de-occupied, which is plus six in the past 24 hours,'' he said in his nightly address.

It is unclear exactly how much territory those settlements constitute. Zelensky did outline other gains by Ukraine’s military in those areas.

“We return electricity, water supply, communications, transport, social services there,” he said.

He also stated that “the gradual liberation of Kharkiv region” proves that Ukraine “will not leave anyone to the enemy.”  

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

Ukrainian lawmaker says situation on battlefield is "far worse" than it was at the start of war

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Members of the Ukrainian Army's mobile evacuation unit treat a soldier wounded on the frontline before his transfer to a hospital by ambulance, near Lysychansk, on May 10.
Members of the Ukrainian Army's mobile evacuation unit treat a soldier wounded on the frontline before his transfer to a hospital by ambulance, near Lysychansk, on May 10. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

A Ukrainian lawmaker called on the United States to provide air defense systems and fighter jets to Ukraine, saying that the situation on the battlefield is "far worse" than it was at the beginning of the war. 

“It is hell” on the frontlines right now, Oleksandra Ustinova told reporters at a German Marshall Fund roundtable in Washington Friday. “We keep losing many more men now than it was at the beginning of the war.” 

Daria Kaleniuk, a leading Ukrainian civil society activist, explained “we can't win this war with Soviet equipment because A. Russia has much more Soviet equipment, B. we don't have anywhere to get ammunition for this, and C. Russia simply has more people and more troops."

Ustinova said Ukraine no longer seeks the Soviet-era MiG fighter jets because “the war has changed.”

Instead, she said Ukraine needs the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and fighter jets like the F-16s in order to effectively counter Russia, and called on the US to begin training Ukrainian pilots to use such jets. 

Kaleniuk, who said she recently met with Ukrainian defense officials in Kyiv, noted that Ukraine has “combat-experienced pilots, who are willing and ready to go now for trainings. They were willing to go yesterday for trainings. But there is no decision to accept them and to provide that because there is no decision to provide fighter jets.”

The US has begun to send heavy weaponry to Ukraine, but has yet to give them MLRS or fighter jets. 

Ustinova and Kaleniuk, who were in Washington this week for meetings, said that they believe there is a lack of “political will that is needed” for the administration to decide to send such kinds of heavy weaponry – and quickly — and the feeling that there is still fear about provoking Moscow. 

They decried the fact that it took so long for the US to decide to send the heavy weaponry it is sending now, with Ustinova saying, “if we had Howitzers two months ago, Mariupol would not happen because they wouldn't be able to surround like they did, to surround the city and literally destroy it.”

“For us time means lives, thousands of lives. We've been hearing that it has been unprecedented how fast everything is moving and how fast the decisions are taking. But there has never been a war since World War Two like that. And unfortunately, we keep asking here to take the decisions faster,” she said.

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

US Congress must pass Ukraine aid supplemental by May 19 to ensure no interruptions, Pentagon says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a news briefing in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a news briefing in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

If Congress does not pass the $40 billion Ukraine aid supplemental by May 19, "it'll start impacting" the United States' ability to provide Ukraine military aid "uninterrupted," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Friday.

"May 19 is the day we really, without additional authorities, we begin to not have the ability to send new stuff in," Kirby said. "By the 19th of May, it’ll start impacting our ability to provide aid uninterrupted."

The House of Representatives passed the $40 billion supplemental this week, but the Senate failed to pass the bill after Sen. Rand Paul blocked its passage. Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, wanted more oversight of how the funds will be spent before agreeing to let the bill go to the Senate floor for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has started procedural steps to override Paul's objection, but the bill likely won't pass until next week at the earliest.

There is still "about $100 million dollars left in current" presidential drawdown authority funding, Kirby said. That funding has not been "allocated or announced" yet, he added.

"We would like to get approval for additional authorities before the third week of this month so that we could continue uninterrupted the flow of aid and assistance into Ukraine, so obviously we continue to urge the Senate to act as quickly as possible so we don’t get to the end of May and not have any additional authorities to draw back, to draw upon," Kirby said.

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

"Difficult negotiations" continue on evacuating badly wounded from Azovstal, Ukrainian official says

From Julia Kesaieva

Smoke rises above the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 13.
Smoke rises above the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 13. (Alexander Ermochenko/AP)

Difficult negotiations are continuing over the fate of Ukrainian soldiers still trapped in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, said.

"Difficult negotiations are underway, and they are still going on at this time, in order to save the defenders — gradually — because the Russian Federation is trying to dictate its conditions and requirements as much as possible. Therefore, in the first place, it will be seriously wounded fighters," he said.

Kyrylenko echoed the comments of Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk that the Ukrainian side would not offer detailed comments about the process.

"We have to talk about it only when people will be safe. Only then we shall give any comments. Negotiations are ongoing and they are really very difficult. Because, first, the Russian Federation always changes them [the conditions]. And even those agreements that are reached are not a 100% agreement with Russia," he explained.

In the meantime, he said, the Russians continued to attack Avozstal from the air. "These are heavy, vacuum, high-explosive bombs," the official said.

Vereshchuk has also been speaking about the Azovstal negotiations, apparently seeking to tamp down expectations.

"There are no miracles in war. There are harsh realities. Therefore, only a sober and pragmatic approach works," she said Friday. "The team is working. Negotiations with the enemy are very difficult. The result may not please everyone. But our task is to get our boys out. Everyone. Alive."

12:12 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Russian General implicated in crimes against civilians in Ukraine and Syria met with UK counterpart in 2017

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi , Nima Elbagir and Niamh Kennedy 

A Russian General, identified in a CNN investigation as responsible for targeting civilians in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and his role as the architect of the siege of Aleppo, was involved in high-level defense talks with his UK counterpart in 2017 after receiving Russia's highest military honor for his role in its war in Syria.

Col-General Alexander Zhuravlyov, in his capacity as then Deputy Chief of General Staff, met with the UK's then Vice Chief of Defence Staff General Messenger for high-level talks, during a trip to Moscow in 2017 in what was characterized by the UK's Ministry of Defence as "military to military dialogue." Zhuravlyov discussed with Messenger "a restart of military interaction," Russian state news agency TASS reported on February 28, 2017, quoting Russia's Ministry of Defense.

CNN's investigation found that Zhuravlyov's leadership in 2016 catalyzed the assault on eastern Aleppo. After he took the reins, the Russian military rapidly ramped up its attacks on the rebel-held territory and completed the siege of the densely populated city, exacting a large death toll and setting the wheels in motion for a tactic that has defined Russia's intervention in Syria: besiege, starve, bombard and grind into submission.

His period of command also saw a dramatic increase in documented cluster munition attacks in Aleppo.

European intelligence agency analysts who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said the pattern of Zhuravlyov's behavior in Syria and Ukraine is the same, subjugating cities through terror. "Zhuravlyov was brought in with the purpose of bringing about a swift capitulation of Aleppo. He did that using much of the same methodology we see in Ukraine. Ordering the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions against dense civilian infrastructure and populations," the analyst said.

Syrian human rights activists have long called for Russia's General to be held accountable, and a leading UK human rights lawyer at the law firm Payne Hicks Beach, Matthew Ingham, told CNN: "Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov should have been sanctioned for his actions in Syria" adding, "It is a shame that there was not a stronger response to alleged war crimes at that stage, because that may have affected Putin's Ukrainian strategic calculations from the outset. 

Neither the US nor the UK have taken public action against Zhuravlyov or other key Russian generals implicated in war crimes. The US State Department wouldn't comment on the specific findings of CNN's investigation but said they continued to track and assess war crimes and reports of ongoing violence and abuses. 

In a statement to CNN, the UK Ministry of Defense said a previous statement issued in 2017 "made it clear" that they supported military to military dialogue to minimize risk and miscalculation

"We stand by that principle, which is why we gave Russia every opportunity to engage in dialogue this year over Ukraine before they launched their reprehensible and unprovoked invasion," an MOD spokesperson said. 

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report

12:12 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Russia will cut electricity to Finland starting on Saturday, Finnish transmission system operator says

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in Helsinki

Russia will suspend power exports to Finland starting Saturday due to problems in receiving payments, Finland’s transmission system operator Fingrid said in a statement on Friday.

“RAO Nordic Oy, a subsidiary of the Russian entity Inter RAO, which trades electricity over the 400 kV interconnectors, will suspend imports of electricity to Finland at 1 am on Saturday 14 May 2022,” according to Fingrid.

The subsidiary said that it has not received payments for the volumes sold since May 6 and that this is the first time it has happened in over 20 years of its trading history.

“Unfortunately, in the current situation of lack of cash income, RAO Nordic is not able to make payments for the imported electricity from Russia. Therefore we are forced to suspend the electricity import starting from 14th of May,” RAO Nordic Oy said.

According to Fingrid, the adequacy of electricity in Finland is not under threat, with Russian imports in recent years covering 10% of Finland’s total consumption.

“The lack of electricity import from Russia will be compensated by importing more electricity from Sweden and by generating more electricity in Finland,” said Reima Päivinen, senior vice president of power system operations at Fingrid.  

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.

CNN's Luke McGee contributed reporting to this post.