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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12:23 p.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Ukraine welcomes possible Turkish role in evacuating wounded from Azovstal

From CNN's Tim Lister and Hande Atay Alam

People walk near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12.
People walk near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukraine's deputy prime minister said the government would welcome the prospect of Turkish or Chinese mediation in helping to arrange the evacuation of wounded soldiers from the Azovstal complex in Mariupol.

Iryna Vereshchuk said on Ukrainian television that "the Turkish side could really be a mediator in extraction issues. We are talking now about the seriously injured and this is a question to the ICRC [International Red Cross]. If Turkey can be a mediator in this matter as well, that would be good."

"If Xi Jinping can influence, that would be good too. We hope for the best," she said. 

Vereshchuk said that if Turkey or China were not involved, "at least a document should be signed by ICRC representatives who, under the Geneva Conventions, have the authority to monitor the process and moreover, to be leaders in this process."
"We want a document to be signed, how exactly the evacuation from Azovstal will take place," setting out a corridor that will operate and allow the severely wounded soldiers to be taken to Zaporizhizhia.

Vereshchuk spoke as Turkey's presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, was outlining one option for the evacuation.

"We have had a number of plans, proposals. The first one was to get the soldiers from Mariupol to Berdiansk, and from the Berdiansk port to the ship from Istanbul, bring them here to Turkey. That offer is still on the table," he said. Berdiansk is controlled by the Russians and is about 50 miles west of Mariupol. 

"The boat is still in Istanbul. It is ready to sail but we are waiting for final clearance from the Russian and the Ukrainian sides for it to go to Berdiansk and bring those injured soldiers to Turkey," Kalin said. 

11:40 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

"Our children are in hell": Families of soldiers still in Azovstal share messages with loved ones inside plant

From CNN's Daria Markina in Kyiv

The relatives of Ukrainian soldiers still holed up in Mariupol's Azovstal plant are appealing to Chinese President Xi Jinping to act as a mediator to help extract their loved ones, following a similar plea to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

After a press conference with the families in Kyiv, Stavr Vishnyak told CNN that his son Artem, 21, is fighting inside Azovstal.

“Our children are in hell. We ask the world community again and again to make the extraction procedure. The petition to save Mariupol has collected one-and-a-half million signatures. We have already reached out to everyone. Only Xi Jinping remained. We ask president of China to mediate, intervene and become a peacemaker in this war. Our heroes have almost no time left. Our warriors have already been to hell. Give them the opportunity to step on the earth and see the sun," Vishnyak said.
Stavr Vishnyak and his wife, Tatyana, have a 21-year-old son in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. They are part of the families who are asking the Chinese and Turkish leaders to help facilitate the extraction of remaining soldiers in the plant.
Stavr Vishnyak and his wife, Tatyana, have a 21-year-old son in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. They are part of the families who are asking the Chinese and Turkish leaders to help facilitate the extraction of remaining soldiers in the plant. (Daria Markina/CNN)

A Ukrainian soldier inside the plant described horrific conditions for the wounded on Ukrainian TV on Saturday, saying that "fighters are simply lying without limbs, without arms, without legs." Conditions are unsanitary and there is no medicine, the solider said.

Alina Volovik shows a photo of her and her husband, Artem, who is inside the Azovstal plant.
Alina Volovik shows a photo of her and her husband, Artem, who is inside the Azovstal plant. (Daria Markina/CNN)

Soldier Alina Volovik, 25, told CNN that she last saw her Marine husband, Artem, 29, in mid-February. She said she drove to Kyiv overnight from Mikolaiv to join the appeal to save him and others from Azovstal. They've been together for four years and have a 2-year-old daughter.

On Thursday, her husband wrote to her that he was alive, Volovik said. When she receives a message from him, she said she is both happy and cries at the same time.

"He has been defending our country since 2014. After this contract, he was going to resign. ... We are doing everything possible and impossible to save our men," she said.

A message from Alina Volovik's husband Artem, who is inside the Azovstal plant.
A message from Alina Volovik's husband Artem, who is inside the Azovstal plant. (Daria Markina/CNN)

His last message reads: "Hello, honey. I'm all right. There is no internet, so I wrote a message through a friend. How are you? How are parents? Greetings to all. Are you getting my money? Write something and drop the photo. I love you very much and I miss you all, my dear."

Volovik said that her love for him keeps her going.

"When it becomes difficult, I say to myself in the mirror, 'He is strong, he will endure everything and he will definitely come back to me,'" she said.
Anna Ivleva said she last spoke with her husband Anton, who has been fighting in Azovstal, in April.
Anna Ivleva said she last spoke with her husband Anton, who has been fighting in Azovstal, in April. (Daria Markina/CNN)

Anna Ivleva, 30, said that she and her 32-year-old husband Anton, a Marine, last spoke to each other in April. He told her he was in Azovstal and seriously wounded. She said he told her he would not surrender and wanted to set an example for their four sons.

"On April 24, he wrote that the situation was very critical, that he did not want to send vain hopes of return, and said that I should be happy and raise our sons properly," she said.

His fellow soldiers later wrote that he was still alive.

12:28 p.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Zelensky welcomes US Senate delegation led by Minority Leader McConnell to Kyiv

From CNN's Tim Lister 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with the US Senate delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 14.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with the US Senate delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 14. (From Andrij Sybiha, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine/Facebook)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed to Kyiv a congressional delegation led by US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

Zelensky said on his Instagram account that the visit "is a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people."

He added: "Thank you for your leadership in helping us in our struggle not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms. We really appreciate it."

Also seen meeting Zelensky in video and photographs on the president's official social media accounts are Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas. 

It's unclear whether the meeting took place Saturday and whether the delegation is still in Kyiv.

Zelensky also "expressed hope that the US Senate will promptly approve a package of additional funding to support the Ukrainian people, which has already been considered in the House of Representatives and increased from $33 billion up to $39.6 billion," according to his office.

10:08 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Photos appear to show Russian ship allegedly struck by Ukraine is back in home port

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova 

A pro-Russian Telegram account has posted images purporting to show that the Russian support ship allegedly struck by Ukrainian fire this week is undamaged and in port in Sevastopol in Crimea, the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet.

On Thursday, the Odesa Regional Administration said that the ship, named Vsevolod Bobrov, was on fire near Snake Island and being towed to Sevastopol.

The Telegram account, called Black Sea Fleet, posted Saturday that the "logistic support vessel 'Vsevolod Bobrov' of the Black Sea Fleet returned to its native Sevastopol today. Itself, on its own at 18 knots, and calmly reached the pier." 

"Those who wish to search for some kind of mythical 'damage' are invited to look," it said.

CNN cannot verify when the photographs of the ship were taken.

10:10 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Russia has deliberately extended its Ukraine invasion into a "grain war," German foreign minister says

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin

A Ukrainian army officer inspects a grain warehouse in Novovorontsovka, Ukraine, on May 6, after it was shelled by Russian forces.
A Ukrainian army officer inspects a grain warehouse in Novovorontsovka, Ukraine, on May 6, after it was shelled by Russian forces. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Russia has deliberately decided to extend the military war against Ukraine into a grain war, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said during the concluding press conference of the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Germany.

"Russia's actions are causing supplies to fail, prices to rise immeasurably — not only in our country but around the world — and the threat of brutal hunger,“ Baerbock said. 

"We must not be naïve — this is not collateral damage. It is a deliberately chosen instrument in a hybrid war that is being waged right now,“ she added. 

"Russia is preparing the breeding ground for new crises in order to deliberately weaken international cohesion against Russia's war,“ said Baerbock. "Hunger, instability, energy insecurity, the creeping erosion of democratic values, but also of human rights through disinformation" are caused by the Russian aggression on Ukraine, Baerbock said. 

Some background: Russia and Ukraine both produce almost 30% of global wheat exports. Russian troops have been stealing farm equipment and thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, according to sources. Ukraine's defense ministry said last week that an estimated 400,000 tons of grain had been stolen by Russian troops. And CNN tracked a Russian ship loaded with nearly 30,000 tons of Ukrainian grain that was turned away from two Mediterranean ports before landing in Syria.

"How we act, or how we don't act, will shape the way we live together in the world for many years or perhaps decades to come. That is why ducking out of the way, passivity or dithering, hesitation, and then in the end saying nothing at all, is not an option for us, for me personally," Baerbock said. 

"Having had to make many decisions in recent weeks to support Ukraine in a sprint," Baerbock now fears that the alliance must prepare for "a long-distance race" to "to fight this global crisis."

"We will never recognize border changes that Russia wants to enforce by military force,“ Baerbock added. 

9:28 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

German foreign minister says she supports Finland and Sweden joining NATO

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks at a press conference on May 14, in Holstein, Germany.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks at a press conference on May 14, in Holstein, Germany. (Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she supports Finland's and Sweden's accession to NATO, despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's criticism.

"Each country is free to decide on its alliance membership. This also applies to Sweden and Finland," Baerbock said during the concluding press conference following the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Germany. 

"It is not NATO that has pushed Sweden and Finland to join, but the actions of the Russian President have pushed Finland and Sweden, because they want to continue to live in peace with their neighbors, into this alliance, if they join together, which I would very much support," Baerbock said. 

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the Nordic nation will decide "to seek NATO membership in the next few days." On Thursday, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Sweden will consider Finland's assessments on NATO membership as it also considers joining the military alliance.

"The German government has already made it clear that we more than support this accession. Sweden and Finland are strong countries in terms of their own defense capabilities. That alone would make their accession stronger for NATO," Baerbock said.  

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday welcomed Finland's bid to join NATO and offered Berlin's “full support."

Erdoğan on Friday said he did not view Sweden and Finland's possible accession to NATO "positively" and had claimed on Thursday that "Scandinavian countries are like a guest house for terrorist organizations."

9:36 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Families of soldiers trapped in Azovstal appeal to Chinese president for help

From CNN's Saskya Vandoorne in Kyiv

The families of soldiers trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol made a desperate plea to China's President Xi Jinping to act as a mediator in helping to get their loved ones out, just days after they made a similar request to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

During a press conference in central Kyiv on Saturday, the families, who have limited contact with their loved ones, say time is running out for the soldiers who have dwindling medical supplies and almost no food.

Tanya Vychnyk speaks with CNN.
Tanya Vychnyk speaks with CNN. (CNN)

Tanya Vychnyk, who last saw her 21-year-old son Artem in February, said she’s praying for a miracle. “It is hell in there, they are in real hell,” Vychnyk told CNN, her eyes filled with tears. 

They deserve to stand on the surface of the earth and see the sun,” she said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, previously said that difficult negotiations are continuing over the soldiers' release, several of whom are injured.

9:28 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Finland will decide to seek NATO membership "in the next few days," nation's president tells Putin

From CNN's Chris Liakos and Radina Gigova

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö speaks at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on May 11.
Finland's President Sauli Niinistö speaks at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on May 11. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the Nordic nation will decide "to seek NATO membership in the next few days," Niinistö's office said in a statement.

During the phone call initiated by Finland, "President Niinistö told President Putin how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland," read the statement.

“The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” Niinistö is quoted as saying in the statement. 

Niinistö noted that he had already told Putin in their first meeting in 2012 "that every independent nation maximizes its security" and that "this is what is happening now, too," the statement said.

By joining NATO, Finland "strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility" as "it is not away from anyone else," the statement says. In the future, Finland "wants to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner," it adds. 

Niinistö "repeated his deep concern over the human suffering caused by the war Russia wages in Ukraine" and "stressed the imperative of peace." He also "conveyed the messages on securing the evacuation of civilians delivered earlier in the same week by (Ukraine's) President Volodymyr Zelenskyy," according to the statement. 

What the Kremlin says: Niinistö and Putin had "a frank exchange of views" during a phone call on Saturday that was held in connection with the announced intention of the Finnish leadership to apply for NATO membership, the Kremlin said in a statement. 

"Vladimir Putin stressed that abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there are no threats to Finland's security," according to the statement. 

"Such a change in the country's foreign policy may have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations, which for many years have been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership cooperation, and were mutually beneficial," it added.

The leaders also discussed the situation in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

"Vladimir Putin, in particular, shared his assessment of the state of the negotiation process between Russian and Ukrainian representatives, which was actually suspended by Kyiv, who do not show interest in a serious and constructive dialogue," the statement said. 

8:21 a.m. ET, May 14, 2022

Ukrainian fighter describes atrocious conditions for wounded at Azovstal: "Almost impossible to save them"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova

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

One of the Ukrainian fighters still trapped in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol has described the atrocious conditions for the wounded there.

Speaking on Ukrainian television from within the plant, the unidentified fighter said there were about 600 wounded still within the sprawling complex. 

"The conditions are just awful," he said.

"Today I was in the hospital. This is a huge gym, school ... several dozen bunk beds. Everything else is just on the floor. Fighters are simply lying without limbs, without arms, without legs," the fighter said.
"They are dying in large numbers because we can't provide medical care. There are simply no medicines. Those with severe wounds ... it is almost impossible to save them."

He described the conditions in the hospital ward as "completely unsanitary. It's already warmer, so there are flies. The smell is disgusting."

After the collapse of the operating room's ceiling, it had been moved to the same room as the hospital, the fighter said. Medics were operating without anesthesia.

The fighter said he had witnessed one surgery on a soldier with a bad leg wound: "He has a belt in his teeth. He is without anesthesia. And two doctors are trying to remove something there. He yells into this belt, his leg twitches."

The fighter said he was not sure whether all civilians had been evacuated from the enormous complex.

"No one can be 100% sure. Let's just say that we took out those civilians that we knew about. Somewhere they may be under the rubble, in some bunkers, where we have not yet explored in some shelters. Therefore, no one can be 100% sure. But those civilians whom we knew who were here, we took out completely 100%," he said.

There's been no word Saturday on the progress of negotiations to evacuate the badly wounded from Azovstal. Late Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that "at the moment, very difficult negotiations are underway on the next stage of the evacuation mission, the removal of the seriously wounded and medics. We are talking about a large number of people."