May 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Helen Regan, Jack Guy, Matias Grez and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022
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8:30 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Finnish gas firm Gasum warns that Russian gas supplies could be cut off this weekend

From CNN's Robert North

Finland’s main gas company, Gasum, is warning that Russian gas supplies could be cut off this weekend.

In a statement, the firm said: “Gasum considers there to be a real risk of the natural gas supplies under the company’s gas supply contract ending and that it is likely that imports of natural gas from Russia to Finland will cease either late on Friday, May 20 or on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Gasum has not received any information about the matter from Gazprom Export or from the Russian transmission operator.”

Gasum said it is preparing for this situation with customers and the government, and it is working on other sources for supplies.

On Tuesday, Gasum said it would not pay for Russian gas in rubles or use Gazprom’s proposed payment scheme for gas. In a statement, the company said negotiations over a long-term gas contract with Gazprom were in dispute, and it was taking Gazprom to arbitration to try and resolve the matter. 

8:19 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

EU Commission proposes up to $9.5 billion in extra aid to Ukraine

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18. (Valeria Mongelli/Hans Lucas/Reuters)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed on Wednesday new macro-financial assistance to Ukraine of up to 9 billion euros ($9.5 billion) this year.

"We will continue to be by their side throughout this war and when they will rebuild their country," von der Leyen said during a broadcast statement.

"Of course we need to think about the day after and the wider reconstruction efforts," she said, adding that the EU has "a strategic interest in leading this reconstruction effort."

2:10 p.m. ET, May 18, 2022

EU unveils $220-billion renewable energy plan to sidestep Russian gas

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on May 18. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union Commission announced a 210 billion euro plan ($221 billion) on Wednesday to boost the bloc’s target for renewable energy from 40% to 45% by 2030, as part of efforts to move away from Russian hydrocarbons. 

“This will be the ‘speedcharging’ of our European Green Deal,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told journalists Wednesday. “Today, we’re taking our ambition to another level to make sure that we become independent on Russian energy as quickly as possible."

The Commission’s proposals would see the EU’s total renewable energy generation capacities increase to 1236 GW by 2030, with greater reliance on solar and bio methane energy, as well as accelerated electrification of European heavy industry.

As part of the plan, Von der Leyen also promised to speed up permits for renewable energy infrastructure, from as long as six to nine years currently to obtain permits for a wind turbine park down to one year. 

The so-called REPowerEU plan proposes a near doubling in the EU’s current solar photovoltaic capacity by 2025, to more than 320 GW of supply, with a total of 600 GW installed by 2030, the bloc said. Proposed measures will also see a “gradual obligation to install solar rooftop panels in certain buildings,” according to the Commission. 

These additional solar energy capacities could replace the consumption of 9 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas annually by 2027, per the Commission’s press release. The EU imported 358 bcm of natural gas in 2019, according to the bloc.

Putin's war is as we all see heavily disrupting the global energy market," von der Leyen said in a broadcast statement.

Reliance on Russia makes the EU "vulnerable," and ending the "dependency" is imperative," she added. "I am deeply convinced we can," said von der Leyen.

9:27 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russia said Wednesday that nearly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since Monday. It comes the day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that evacuations at the plant -- a powerful symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the otherwise Russian-occupied city -- were still ongoing.

Meanwhile, Finland and Sweden have formally handed in their applications to join NATO, the military alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, in defiance of Russian warnings.

Here are the latest developments on the war in Ukraine:

  • Mariupol evacuations: Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian soldiers, including 80 wounded, had laid down their arms and surrendered since May 16. He reaffirmed that 51 wounded were sent to the hospital at Novoazovsk, which is in the self-declared region of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). CNN is unable to confirm the Russian tally. The Ukrainian President said Tuesday the negotiation process on evacuating the last soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant continues with Russia.

  • Nordic NATO bids: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that Finland and Sweden have formally handed in their applications to join the military alliance. Stoltenberg called the applications a "historic step" and said NATO is "determined" to "reach rapid conclusions."
  • First war crimes trial: A 21-year-old soldier has pleaded guilty to war crimes at a trial in Kyiv. Vadim Shishimarin appeared before the first war crimes trial since Russia invaded Ukraine back in February. He is accused of killing a 62-year-old man in Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to the country's prosecutor general's office.
  • Russian former colonel criticizes invasion: In rare public criticism of the conduct of Russia's military operations in Ukraine, a former senior Russian officer has warned on state television that the situation will get worse. Despite pushback from the show’s presenter, retired Col. Mikhail Khodarenok said Ukraine could arm 1 million people. 
  • Race for grain: The Biden administration is working closely with European allies to try to develop routes to get Ukrainian wheat and corn out of the country after Russia blocked Ukrainian ships from departing with grain that is vital for food supplies around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.
  • Russian vehicles litter countryside: A CNN team traveled to the eastern Ukrainian town of Bilohorivka, where Russia is believed to have suffered one of its biggest single defeats of the war. There, the charred remains of Russian armored vehicles littered a field just a few hundred meters from the front line. They found destroyed Russian tanks separated from their turrets, armored personnel carriers, heavy machine guns with barrels twisted into spirals ⁠-- and the charred body parts of Russian soldiers.

Here's a look at the latest situation on the ground:

8:47 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Donetsk officials say there are attacks "day and night," but a new Russian advance failed

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Ukrainian officials in the Donetsk region said the whole front line is being "shelled day and night" by Russian forces.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, said that settlements — namely Bakhmut, Kostiantynivka and Soledar — more than 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) from the front line were also being attacked with air strikes.

CNN geolocated a large fire Tuesday at an industrial plant near Soledar, which belongs to a German company that makes building materials.

The Russian defense ministry said Wednesday that warehouses of missile, artillery weapons and ammunition had been attacked in Soledar and Bakhmut.

Kyrylenko confirmed that the Russians had tried to break through Ukrainian lines northeast of the city of Sloviansk.

"This was the large-scale offensive in Donbas region, which started from the north of the region, from the Dolyna settlement," he said. The village is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Sloviansk. 

"Having lost a lot of troops and equipment, the enemy changed direction and moved towards Lyman," Kyrylenko said. "We are ready for their attacks; they are clear to us," he said.

On a different front close to the city of Donetsk, Kyrylenko said that "the enemy outnumbers [us] with its equipment and troops but we have been eliminating them."

Russian forces also focused around the town of Avdiivka, where "there were attempts at a breakthrough," he said.

8:04 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Russia expels 34 French diplomats and 27 Spanish diplomats in retaliatory move

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

Russia has declared 34 French diplomats “persona non grata” in the country in response to a decision by France to expel 41 Russian diplomats in April, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. 

French Ambassador to Moscow Pierre Levy was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, and "strong protest was expressed in connection with the provocative and unjustified decision" of French authorities to declare 41 Russian diplomats in France “persona non grata,” the ministry said. 

"It was emphasized that this act inflicts serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. 

"As a response, 34 French diplomats have been declared 'persona non grata'," the ministry added. "They were ordered to leave the territory of Russia within two weeks from the date of delivery of the relevant note to the Ambassador."

France issued a statement and said it "strongly condemns" this move.

“The work of these diplomats and the staff of our embassy in Russia, whose courage and great professionalism France salutes, is fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations. The decision of the Russian authorities has no legitimate basis. We can only condemn it.”

In a similar fashion, Russia also expelled 27 Spanish diplomats in Russia in response to a decision by Spain to expel 27 Russian diplomats from the country in April, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

The Russian foreign ministry has been expelling employees of many embassies in similar retaliatory moves. Some of the most recent countries that received a similar response from Moscow include Finland, Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark and Norway among others.

8:15 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

The first Russian soldier to be tried for war crimes in Ukraine conflict is back in court

From CNN's Saskya Vandoorne in Kyiv

Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind a glass during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 18.
Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind a glass during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 18. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

A long line of journalists has formed outside a Kyiv courthouse, despite the morning drizzle, to hear from Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian soldier to be tried for war crimes since the war began.

Shishimarin is expected to take the stand for the first time after a preliminary hearing that was held last Friday.

His lawyer told CNN that Shishimarin, who is accused of shooting an unarmed civilian in the Sumy region four days after the war began, will be entering a plea.

It is the first war crimes trial held since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The prosecutor expects there to be many more.

So far, more than 12,000 war crimes have been recorded by Ukrainian authorities.

9:27 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

There's a car shortage in Russia — so the defunct Soviet-era Moskvich brand is coming back

From CNN's Peter Valdes-Dapena

After Renault announced its departure this week from the Russian auto market amid the country's war with Ukraine, Moscow's mayor announced its factory will be used to restart the defunct Soviet-era Moskvich car brand.

Little known outside the former Soviet Union and its satellite countries, Moskvich was founded around 1930 and operated until 1991.

As with many car brands from Communist bloc countries, Moskvich struggled with quality problems.

The Muskovich 408 of the 1960s, which had a 50-horsepower engine, was even cited by Soviet officials for numerous defects, according to the book "Cars for Comrades" by Lewis Siegelbaum.

The author describes it, simply, as a "terrible car."

Read the full story here:

7:06 a.m. ET, May 18, 2022

Russia says it hit some of Ukraine's new US howitzers

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

The Russian Defense Ministry says that "rocket troops and artillery" hit a Ukrainian battery of recently arrived US howitzers.

At its daily briefing Wednesday, the ministry said that its forces hit "a Ukrainian battery of 155-millimeter M777 howitzers made in the United States in the area of the village of Podgorne."

The ministry released video that showed a detonation close to what appears to be one of the howitzers, but the 10-second clip did not confirm that the M777 had been damaged or destroyed.

Some background: Last week, a senior US defense official said the US has delivered "more than 85" of the 90 howitzers, long-range weapons, that were pledged to Ukraine.

The official also said that “more than 310” Ukrainian soldiers have completed training on the howitzers.

On Friday, a senior US defense official added that the "vast majority" of the 89 M777 howitzer artillery systems the US has given to Ukraine are "in the fight" and are in a "forward-deployed setting."