May 15, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Brad Lendon, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Lianne Kolirin, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 16, 2023
20 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
9:50 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Acting interior minister among those injured in explosions in Russian-occupied Luhansk, state media says 

From Tim Lister, Kostan Nechyporenko and Olga Voitovych

A view shows a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a blast in Luhansk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, on May 15.
A view shows a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a blast in Luhansk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, on May 15. (Reuters)

There have been at least two explosions in the Russian-held eastern city of Luhansk Monday – following several blasts towards the end of last week.

Among the injured in one of the blasts was acting Interior Minister of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, Igor Kornet, who was "severely" wounded and is in intensive care, official Russian news agency TASS reported, citing local law enforcement. Another Russian state outlet, RIA Novosti, quoted doctors as saying that Kornet's condition was stable.

While there have been several attempts to assassinate Russian-appointed officials in Ukraine’s southern regions, this would be the first known of a senior official in Luhansk. 

The first blast, at around 8 a.m. local time, struck a building that used to be an aviation school, according to local authorities. Its current function is not known.

The acting head of LPR, Leonid Pasechnik, blamed “Ukrainian nationalists” for the attack, which he said “hit the area of Luhansk Higher Military Aviation School of Navigators area.”

Darya Lantratova, a senior member of Russia’s ruling party and a senator from the LPR, said two missiles hit the building. She accused Ukraine of striking a predominantly civilian neighborhood.

Geolocated video showed thick smoke rising from the building. The cause of the explosion isn’t known, but as with the explosions last week, local authorities late said that Storm Shadow missiles, recently donated to Ukraine by the UK, were responsible. Local officials released photographs purporting to be fragments of the missiles. 

There were no casualties, according to the local health ministry. The Ukrainian authorities have made no comment about the incident. 

Hours later, a second blast occurred in central Luhansk inside a barber’s shop, which injured several people and extensively damaged property, according to video from the scene. TASS, citing law enforcement, said the acting minister was injured in the explosion in central Luhansk.  

9:06 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Putin signs decree to make it easier for foreigners signing military service to gain Russian citizenship 

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree which makes easier the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for foreign citizens who have signed military service contracts with the Russian Armed Forces since the beginning of the war.

Those who signed "for a period of one year" can apply for citizenship through a simplified procedure, according to the decree published on the official website.

This new decree amends the previous decree issued by Putin last September, which required foreigners to serve for at least one year and be actively involved in combat for at least six months to qualify for a simplified citizenship procedure.

The bottom line: The new version of the decree does not imply direct participation in hostilities.

The updated rules also extend the eligibility for simplified citizenship to family members of military personnel. 

8:51 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Wagner boss denies Washington Post report that he offered intelligence to Kyiv in exchange for territory

From CNN’s Kostan Nechyporenko and Victoria Butenko in Kyiv and Anna Chernova

Yevgeny Prigozhin during a funeral ceremony at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, on April 8.
Yevgeny Prigozhin during a funeral ceremony at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, on April 8. (AP)

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has denied a report that he offered to share intelligence on Russian troop positions with Kyiv in exchange for the Ukrainians ceding territory around the embattled city of Bakhmut.

In an audio message posted to his Telegram channel on Monday, Prigozhin speculated the story could have been planted by his enemies.

The article, in the Washington Post, was based on leaked US intelligence documents among the cache that recently appeared on the Discord gaming server. The Post reported Sunday that Prigozhin offered to give Ukraine’s military information on Russian troop positions if Kyiv would pull their own forces back from the area around Bakhmut. Prigozhin made the proposal to Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, known as HUR, in January, the Post alleged. It quoted one leaked document as stating that Prigozhin met HUR officers in an unspecified country in Africa.

“I can say with confidence, if we’re being serious, that I have not been in Africa at least since the beginning of the conflict, but in fact a few months before the start of the SMO [Special Military Operation],” Prigozhin said. “Therefore, I simply could not meet with anyone there physically.”

In his message, Prigozhin asked rhetorically, “Who is behind this? I think that either some journalists decided to hype, or comrades from Rublyovka have now decided to make up a beautiful, planted story.” Rublyovka is the name of an affluent neighborhood in Moscow along the Rublyovo-Uspenskoye highway, which is known for its luxurious residential estates and mansions for the Russian elite.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday that he could not comment on the Washington Post report, other than to say, “It looks like another hoax.”

Andriy Yusov, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, declined to comment when he was asked about the Post report on Ukrainian television on Monday, saying: “Who would benefit from discussing such initiatives now?” 

CNN reached out to Ukraine's military intelligence directorate for comment. They said they had nothing to add to Yusov's comments.

Some background: Highly classified Pentagon documents leaked on social media in recent weeks have provided a rare window into how the US spies on allies and foes alike, deeply rattling US officials, who fear the revelations could jeopardize sensitive sources and compromise important foreign relationships. Some of the documents, which US officials say are authentic, expose the extent of US eavesdropping on key allies, including South Korea, Israel and Ukraine.

Others reveal the degree to which the US has penetrated the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, largely through intercepted communications and human sources.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand and Kylie Atwood contributed to this post.

8:12 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Ukraine needs more time – but “not too much” – before counteroffensive, Zelensky says

From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London

Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, right, and Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, speak during a press conference in the garden at Chequers on May 15, in Aylesbury, England.
Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, right, and Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, speak during a press conference in the garden at Chequers on May 15, in Aylesbury, England. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Ukraine is “preparing very important counteroffensive steps,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, but added that the country needs more time.

“We really need some more time. Not too much,” before launching the much-anticipated counteroffensive, Zelensky told journalists after he met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Chequers estate in southeast England.

He declined to share dates.

Russia's war in Ukraine is at “a pivotal moment,” Sunak said.

“Russia has conducted an unprovoked and illegal attack on Ukrainian people. It is carrying out horrific war crimes… The UK will remain steadfast in supporting Ukraine and its people to defend itself against that aggressions,” he added.

Earlier on Monday, the British government announced a new package of military support for Ukraine, which will include “hundreds of air defense missiles” and “hundreds of new long-range attack drones," according to a statement.

8:06 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

It’s mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know

From CNN staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is continuing his whistle-stop tour of Kyiv's allies in Europe. He arrived in the United Kingdom on Monday, having visited Rome, Paris and Berlin over the weekend. As well as thanking these countries’ leaders for their support so far, Zelensky is trying to secure further military aid as Ukraine’s counteroffensive gathers pace.

Here are the latest developments:

  • UK continues support: Zelensky arrived at Chequers – the official countryside home of the sitting British prime minister – to meet with Rishi Sunak on Monday. The UK has done “a lot” for Ukraine, Zelensky said, including sending “Storm Shadow” missiles which could be a “game changer” in the war. The UK has announced further military aid, and the two leaders discussed the possibility of a fighter jet “coalition.”
  • Moscow hits back: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow views the UK’s announcement of further military support for Ukraine “extremely negatively.” He put the UK in “first place among countries that continue to pump Ukraine with weapons,” and warned that its decision “will lead to further destruction and retaliatory actions.”
  • Strikes in Donetsk: Four people have been killed in missile strikes hitting the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, the head of the Donetsk region military administration Pavlo Kyrylenko said Monday. He warned “every new day spent in Donetsk region increases the risk of becoming a victim of Russian aggression,” and urged Ukrainians to evacuate.
  • Russia endures losses: However, Russia has suffered casualties of its own in the increasingly embattled eastern regions of Ukraine. In a rare admission, Moscow said Sunday that two senior Russian military officers were killed in the Donetsk region – the latest high-profile losses for Russia in its grinding war. However, the statement did not specify when or exactly where they were killed.
  • Ukrainian troops advance: The Ukrainian army’s gains around the city of Bakhmut shows that Ukraine can effectively counter Russian forces and represents the “first success of the offensive,” the commander of Ukrainian Land Forces said Monday. In recent days, Ukrainian troops have secured some of their biggest battlefield gains since it drove Russian troops from Kherson in November.
  • Russian aircraft destroyed: Four Russian aircraft were shot down within Russian territory, according to unconfirmed reports, in what would mark a significant coup for Ukraine. There are conflicting accounts about how many planes and helicopters were downed in the Russian region of Bryansk, but one Russian media outlet claims at least two combat aircraft – an Su-34 and Su-35 – and two Mi-8 helicopters crashed. Ukraine has not confirmed that its air defenses were involved in the reported downing of these aircraft on Saturday.
  • Moldova cuts Soviet ties: Moldova has initiated the process of leaving the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), formed after the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. The president of the Moldovan parliament Igor Grosu said that Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine, a founding CIS state, means “this organization can no longer be called a Community.” Ukraine left the organization in 2018.
7:21 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Ukraine “positive” about prospect of creating a fighter jet “coalition,” says Zelensky

From CNN's Jo Shelley in London

Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, right, chats with Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, ahead of a bilateral meeting at Chequers on May 15, in Aylesbury, England.
Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, right, chats with Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, ahead of a bilateral meeting at Chequers on May 15, in Aylesbury, England. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he feels “positive” about the prospect of Western allies providing Kyiv with more fighter jets.

Zelensky spoke at a brief press conference alongside Rishi Sunak after the two leaders met at the British prime minister’s country retreat Chequers on Monday.

“Today we talked about the jets – a very important topic for us,” Zelensky said. “We want to create this jet coalition and I’m very positive about it. We spoke about it. And I see that in the closest time you will hear some, I think, very important decisions, but we have to work a little bit more about it.”

However, Sunak struck a more cautious tone. “We are going to be a key part of the coalition of countries that provides that support to Volodymr and Ukraine. It is not a straightforward thing … to build up that fighter combat aircraft capability," he said.

Sunak announced in February that the UK would start training Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard fighter jets.

Slow progress: For months, Ukraine has made pleas to its Western allies to supply more military hardware. More than just ammunition and artillery, Ukraine wants tanks and jets.

In January, Ukraine secured a major breakthrough after Germany announced it would permit the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to aid the country's defense efforts. The United States also pledged to send Abrams tanks.

Yet many of Kyiv's Western allies have been reluctant to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, with the notable exception of Poland.

However, Monday's discussion of a fighter jet "coalition" shows that Ukraine has not abandoned its demands -- and that its allies are still listening.

6:34 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Kremlin views UK's new military aid package for Ukraine "extremely negatively"

From CNN's Jo Shelley and Anna Chernova

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has told journalists that Moscow views the UK’s announcement of a new military aid package for Ukraine “extremely negatively.”

“Great Britain qualifies to be able to take the first place among those countries that continue to pump Ukraine with weapons," Peskov said.

"This cannot have any significant impact on the course of the special military operation, but it will lead to further destruction and retaliatory actions. For Ukraine, this makes the situation more difficult."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in the UK to meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Sunak will announce a new package of military support for Ukraine, Downing Street said in a statement ahead of the meeting. The package will include “hundreds of air defense missiles and further unmanned aerial systems including hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of over 200km (124 miles),” the statement said. 

UK ramps up support: Last week, CNN revealed that the UK has provided Ukraine with multiple “Storm Shadow” missiles – long-range cruise missiles with a firing range in excess of 250 kilometers, or 155 miles. A senior US military official called the decision a “game changer,” since these missiles will allow Ukraine to strike targets deep into Russian-held territory in the eastern regions.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed CNN’s reporting on Thursday, calling the donation Ukraine’s “best chance to defend themselves against Russia’s continued brutality.”

The UK is set to announce further military support to Ukraine during Zelensky's visit on Monday.

6:23 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Four killed in Avdiivka missile strikes, Donetsk officials say

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Aftermath of a missile strike in Avdiivka, Ukraine, on May 15.
Aftermath of a missile strike in Avdiivka, Ukraine, on May 15. (Pavlo Kyrylenko/Telegram)

Four people have been killed in missile strikes hitting the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, the head of the Donetsk region military administration said on Telegram Monday.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian missiles hit a hospital Monday morning, and urged people to evacuate.

“Every new day spent in Donetsk region increases the risk of becoming a victim of Russian aggression! Evacuate,” he said.

Some context: Fighting has intensified in the occupied eastern regions of the country, as Ukraine tries to reclaim its stolen territories and Russia attempts to resist.

In a rare admission, Moscow announced that two senior Russian military officers had been killed in eastern Ukraine. The Russian defense ministry said Sunday that two officers – Col. Vyacheslav Makarov and Col. Yevgeny Brovko — were killed in action while leading Russian troops in the Donetsk region. It did not specify when or exactly where they were killed.

The Donetsk region of Ukraine includes the city of Bakhmut, which has seen some of the fiercest and most relentless fighting of the war.

6:13 a.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Chinese envoy to visit Kyiv this week, says Ukrainian government source

From CNN's Victoria Butenko

Special Representative of the Chinese Government for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui speaks during a welcome reception in Yanqing district on April 29, 2021, in Beijing, China.
Special Representative of the Chinese Government for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui speaks during a welcome reception in Yanqing district on April 29, 2021, in Beijing, China. (Fu Tian/China News Service/Getty Images)

A Chinese envoy will be in Kyiv on Tuesday and Wednesday, a source within the Ukrainian government has told CNN.

Last week, China’s foreign ministry announced that its special representative of Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, would visit Ukraine to “promote peace talks.” It said Li would travel to Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia during the tour.

CNN has now confirmed that the talks will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some context: In a press briefing last week, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters that “the visit of Chinese representatives to the countries concerned is another manifestation of China's commitment to persuade and promote talks, fully demonstrating that China is firmly on the side of peace.”

The visit will come after Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky by phone last month for the first time since Russia's invasion began last year.

China has repeatedly attempted to portray itself as a peacemaker in the conflict, but Western countries have viewed Beijing’s intentions with deep suspicion as it forges deepening ties with Moscow.