May 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Jessie Yeung, Amy Woodyatt, Matias Grez, Ed Upright and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 17, 2022
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9:39 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

Sweden should join NATO alongside Finland to "ensure the safety of Swedish people," prime minister says

From CNN's Per Bergfors Nyberg and Niamh Kennedy 

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and the Moderate Party's leader Ulf Kristersson address a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 16.
Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and the Moderate Party's leader Ulf Kristersson address a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 16. (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)

Sweden should join NATO together with neighboring Finland to "ensure the safety of Swedish people," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday. 

Speaking during a joint news conference alongside Swedish opposition leader Ulf Kristersson in Stockholm Monday, Andersson emphasized that the current situation is "requiring" Sweden to join the military alliance. 

"To ensure the safety of Swedish people the best way forward is to join NATO together with Finland," Andersson said. 

Andersson said the Swedish government had decided to apply to become a member of NATO. 

When asked when exactly the country will hand in the application, she said it could it happen this week — either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. She added that it needs to be done in coordination with Finland.

 

3:42 p.m. ET, May 16, 2022

Putin: Finland and Sweden's NATO entry isn't a threat to Russia, but military expansion will cause a response

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on May 16.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on May 16. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

President Vladimir Putin said Finland and Sweden's entry into NATO will not create a threat to Russia, but the "expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly cause our response."

"As for the expansion of NATO, including through new members of the alliance which are Finland, Sweden — Russia has no problems with these states. Therefore, in this sense, expansion at the expense of these countries does not pose a direct threat to Russia," Putin said while speaking at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Moscow on Monday. 

"But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly cause our response. We will see what it will be based on the threats that will be created for us," he added.

According to the Russian leader, the NATO expansion is "artificial" as the alliance goes beyond its geographic purpose and is influencing other regions "not in the best way."

The Russian president said that CSTO plays a very important stabilizing role in the post-Soviet space and expressed the hope that the possibilities and influence of the organization will only increase in "these difficult times."

"I hope that the organization, which over the previous years has turned into a full-fledged international structure, will continue to develop. I mean, in these difficult times," Putin said. 

According to Putin, the leaders of the CSTO member countries on Monday will adopt a joint statement on military cooperation.

Putin added that he will inform the heads of states of the CSTO in detail about the course of the special military operation in Ukraine in the closed part of the summit.

Member states of the CSTO intend to hold a series of joint exercises this autumn, which will take place in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Putin said.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday, hours after Sweden formally submitted its bid to join NATO, that 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 arising in this regard."

Russia has vehemently opposed Sweden's bid to join the alliance. The statement further added, "Sweden's entry into NATO will cause significant damage to the security of Northern Europe and the European continent as a whole."

“NATO membership will not increase the level of Sweden's security, if only because no one threatens the country, but it will certainly lead to the loss of sovereignty in making foreign policy decisions,” the statement continued.

The Scandinavian country has previously remained neutral and avoided conflict but by if it joins NATO, it will agree to take arms if need be to support other NATO members.

CNN's Aliza Kassim and Uliana Pavlova contributed reporting to this post.

9:24 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

Swedish defense minister will meet US counterpart 

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Alex Hardie in London

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist will travel to the United States Monday to meet with his US counterpart, US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin.

According to a statement on the Swedish Government's website, the meeting will take place on Wednesday after an invitation from the Pentagon.

Discussions will focus on “Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the security situation in Europe, bilateral cooperation and Sweden's upcoming application to join NATO,” the statement said. 

China's defense policies and consequences for the US and Sweden will also be discussed, it adds.

Hultqvist will also meet with a large number of members of the US Congress, according to the statement.

8:30 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

Finland and Sweden want to join NATO. Here's how it works and what comes next

From CNN's Joshua Berlinger

Finland and Sweden are poised to end decades of neutrality by joining NATO, a dramatic evolution in European security and geopolitics sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The two Nordic nations had long kept the military alliance at an arm's length, even while eying Russia to their east with caution.

But Moscow's assault on Ukraine has sparked renewed security concern across the region, and the leaders of each country have signaled their desire to join the bloc after more than 75 years of military non-alignment.

What's happened so far? Finnish leaders announced their intentions to join NATO on Thursday, and formally presented that desire at a press conference on Sunday.

In Sweden on Sunday, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced during a press conference her party's support for the country to apply to join NATO.

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson gives a press conference after a meeting at the ruling Social Democrat's headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 15.
Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson gives a press conference after a meeting at the ruling Social Democrat's headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 15. ( Fredrik Persson/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)

The move must be approved by a vote in parliament in each country, but given the support of the ruling governments, that hurdle is expected to be passed comfortably.

What comes next? NATO has what it calls an "open door policy" on new members -- any European country can request to join, so long as they meet certain criteria and all existing members agree.

A country does not technically "apply" to join; Article 10 of its founding treaty states that, once a nation has expressed interest, the existing member states "may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty ... to accede."

NATO diplomats told Reuters that ratification of new members could take a year, as the legislatures of all 30 current members must approve new applicants.

Both Finland and Sweden already meet many of the requirements for membership, which include having a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; treating minority populations fairly; committing to resolve conflicts peacefully; the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations; and committing to democratic civil-military relations and institutions.

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin gives a news conference to announce that Finland will apply for NATO membership at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on May 15.
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin gives a news conference to announce that Finland will apply for NATO membership at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on May 15. (Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty Images)

The process may not be without hurdles; Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he was not looking at both countries joining NATO "positively," accusing them of housing Kurdish "terrorist organizations."

In the meantime, both countries will have to rely on its current allies and partners for security guarantees, rather than Article 5 -- the clause which states an attack against one NATO nation is an attack against all, and which triggers a collective response in that event.

Sweden and Finland have received assurances of support from the United States and Germany should they come under attack, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed mutual security agreements with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts last week.

Read the full story here:

8:27 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

EU cuts growth forecasts and raises inflation outlook as impact of Ukraine war continues 

From CNN's Robert North

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause European growth to slow and inflation to rise at a faster than expected rate, according to the latest EU Commission economic forecasts.

It says that the war has caused commodity prices to rise, disrupted supply chains and increased uncertainty.

The EU predicts that eurozone GDP will increase by 2.7% this year and 2.3% in 2023. That compares to previous forecasts of 4% and 2.8%.

The EU Commission also says inflation in the eurozone is projected to increase to 6.1% in 2022. It is then predicting the rate to drop off sharply to 2.7% in 2023.

In its winter forecasts, the EU was forecasting inflation of 3.5% in 2022 and 1.7% in 2023.

Paolo Gentiloni, commissioner for economy, said: “Russia's invasion of Ukraine is causing untold suffering and destruction, but is also weighing on Europe's economic recovery. The war has led to a surge in energy prices and further disrupted supply chains, so that inflation is now set to remain higher for longer.”

The EU admitted that its forecasts were heavily dependent on the outcome of the war in Ukraine and it warned of further risks to energy prices, food prices and supply chains.

It also says that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is leading to an economic decoupling of the EU from Russia, with consequences that are difficult to fully comprehend at this stage.

9:01 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

EU sanctions agreement on Russia likely in "coming days," German foreign minister says

From CNN’s Benjamin Brown in London

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talks to the press ahead of a meeting at the Council for External Relations in Brussels, Belguim, on May 16.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talks to the press ahead of a meeting at the Council for External Relations in Brussels, Belguim, on May 16. (Xander Heinl/IMAGO/Reuters)

European Union member states are still trying to resolve some outstanding issues, but will likely agree on a sixth sanctions package against Russia in “the coming days,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday.

Speaking ahead of an EU-Canada Joint Ministerial Committee meeting in Brussels, Baerbock said that “as Germans, we know that this [an oil embargo] is not an easy step.”

There remained some areas which needed to be resolved and “that will not happen today,” Baerbock added.

The German foreign minister said she was “confident” that EU member states would come to an agreement “in the coming days.”

Some background: The EU has been ratcheting up its economic action against Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. 

Earlier on Monday, the foreign ministers of Austria and Estonia spoke about the prospect of an upcoming sixth EU sanctions package against Russia, with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg saying he is “confident” that the package will be “done in the next days.”

8:40 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's the latest on the war in Ukraine

As fighting rages on in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Ukrainian forces say they are making headway in the northeastern Kharkiv region, and one unit says it has reached the frontier with Russia.

Meanwhile, two Nordic nations may soon be applying to join NATO -- ditching longstanding neutrality and ignoring warnings from Moscow. Russia responded to the news with fury.

"They should not have any illusions that we will simply put up with this," Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday, according to state news agency TASS. Ryabkov called the decision from both states, "another serious mistake with far-reaching consequences."  

Here are the latest developments:

  • European countries eye NATO: Sweden's Prime Minister announced her party’s support for the country to apply to join NATO on Sunday -- the latest Nordic nation to consider becoming part of the US-led military alliance. Finland also said Sunday it would apply to join NATO, ignoring Russian threats of possible retaliation. Both countries have previously refrained from joining for historic and geopolitical reasons. US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said there is "strong bipartisan support" for Finnish accession to NATO, during a visit to Finland on Monday.
  • Russia moving to clear areas in Mariupol: Russian "occupying forces" are moving quickly to clear debris from areas they bombed during the weeks-long offensive against Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city's mayor, said the Russians had begun "dismantling the debris" in hospital No. 3, which was heavily bombed in March. Video of the aftermath of the bombing showed heavily pregnant women being taken from the hospital; at least one later died.
  • Russian losses: Ukraine's military has claimed that Russian units have "suffered significant losses in manpower and equipment" as they try to advance westward to the borders of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Meanwhile, Britain's Defense Ministry estimated that Russia may have lost as much as one third of the ground force it committed to the invasion.
  • Fighting on the ground: Ukrainian officials reported missile attacks and shelling in several regions this weekend, as Russian forces focus their efforts on the front lines in Luhansk. But Ukraine claimed further successes in the Kharkiv region, and one unit fighting north of Kharkiv said it has reached the Russian border, with the message: "Mr. President, we made it!” Video released by the unit shows a small group carrying a blue and yellow stake to the border line.
  • Renault and McDonalds to leave Russia: French carmaker Renault has announced the sale of its assets in Russia — worth 2.195 billion euros ($2.29 billion), according to the company — as it formally leaves the country following the invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, McDonald’s — a symbol of glasnost in action more than 30 years ago — announced Monday that it is selling its Russia business, saying the “humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald's to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald's values.”
7:41 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

Opinion: Why Putin puts his neighbor Georgia on edge

By Lincoln Mitchell in Tbilisi, Georgia 

Protesters hold signs under a giant flag during a rally in front of the former Russian embassy, in Tbilisi, Georgia, on March 12, to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Protesters hold signs under a giant flag during a rally in front of the former Russian embassy, in Tbilisi, Georgia, on March 12, to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images)

Upon arriving in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, for the first time since the pandemic began, I dropped my bag off at my Airbnb, strolled out and noticed the words "F**k Putin" graffitied in English on my building. A few meters away, a similar sentiment was scrawled in Russian and not far from that, my friend pointed to the same phrase painted on the wall in Georgia's distinctive alphabet.

This is a country where anti-Russia sentiment runs very strong today and signs of support for Ukraine are everywhere. On Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi's picturesque and bustling main drag, elderly women sat selling pins, flags, wristbands and other merchandise emblazoned with the Ukrainian flag or pro-Ukraine messages.

Reminders of the war are everywhere and some Georgians, I was told numbering 3,000, are fighting in Ukraine -- and at least nine have been killed. A Russian invasion of Georgia of another kind is already under way as thousands of Russians have fled to Tbilisi since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Some may be there because of their anti-Putin views, but most of my Georgian contacts told me the Russians were there because they simply wanted to be able to spend their money.

Tensions between Georgians and Russians in Tbilisi are high at times. Georgia, which, like Ukraine, seeks to join NATO and the EU, is a country where a real Russian invasion is not an abstract fear, but a very recent reality. In 2008, a brief war solidified Russia's control over the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That war ended only when Putin decided he'd gotten what he wanted -- control of those two regions while demonstrating Russia's strength to Georgia.

Read the full story here.

8:30 a.m. ET, May 16, 2022

Sweden's King has been officially informed about the country's NATO application process

From journalist Per Bergfors Nyberg and Sharon Braithwaite

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks to the media before the parliamentary debate on Swedish NATO membership, in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 16.
Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks to the media before the parliamentary debate on Swedish NATO membership, in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 16. (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/Reuters)

Sweden's government has officially informed the country's King and crown princess about its NATO application process.

"Today, the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs met at the Royal Palace where the government informed about current foreign and security policy issues," Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Monday said on her verified Twitter account.

Linde also reiterated that the Swedish government’s intent is to seek NATO membership.

A historic day for Sweden. With a broad support from political parties in the parliament, the conclusion is that Sweden will stand stronger together with allies in NATO," she also tweeted.

Some background: On Sunday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced her party’s support for the country to join NATO, and Finland's government said that it also intends to join the alliance, ignoring warnings on doing so from Moscow.

On Monday, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called Finland and Sweden potential membership of NATO a “mistake” with “far-reaching consequences.”