May 19, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Jack Guy, Matias Grez, Adrienne Vogt, Veronica Rocha, Aditi Sangal and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 20, 2022
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7:04 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Pro-Russian troops stand next to buses carrying members of the Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works to a detention facility in Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, on May 17.
Pro-Russian troops stand next to buses carrying members of the Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works to a detention facility in Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, on May 17. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russia's says 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since Monday, and the World Food Programme has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow grain shipments to leave Ukrainian ports or risk widespread hunger.

Here's the latest on the war in Ukraine:

Almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers surrender: The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday that 771 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,730 since Monday.

Calls for Ukrainian grain shipments: A failure to open closed ports in Ukraine to ship grains out will bring millions of people to the brink of starvation, said the executive director of the World Food Programme.

Civilian infrastructure damaged in Russian strikes: The town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, an important hub for the Ukrainian military, is coming under increasing attack from Russian missiles and artillery, according to Ukrainian officials, and civilian infrastructure has been damaged.

Russian offensive fails: The Ukrainian military reported that Russian forces trying to break through to Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region, had suffered losses and retreated. Despite artillery and missile attacks by Russian forces on a wide front over the past 24 hours, there are no signs they have taken new territory.  

Russian civilian killed: One civilian was killed and several people were wounded as a result of Ukrainian strikes in Russia’s western region of Kursk at dawn on Thursday, according to regional governor Roman Starovoit.

Scholz proposes solidarity fund: The European Union must start preparations for rebuilding Ukraine by setting up a solidarity fund to aid Kyiv in covering the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Biden to meet Finnish and Swedish leaders: US President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with the leaders of Finland and Sweden on Thursday as part of a show of support by the United States after the two nations submitted their formal applications to become NATO members.

6:08 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

New Russian attacks on Donetsk town hit civilian infrastructure, Ukraine says

From CNN's Tim Lister

Rescuers remove the body of a civilian at the site of an apartment building destroyed by Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on May 18.
Rescuers remove the body of a civilian at the site of an apartment building destroyed by Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on May 18. (Andriy Andriyenko/AP)

The town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, an important hub for the Ukrainian military, is coming under increasing attack from Russian missiles and artillery, according to Ukrainian officials.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk regional military administration, said Thursday there had been another airstrike on the town, where some 20,000 people still live.

Kyrylenko said a five-story residential building and an office building had been hit and that so far six people have been rescued from the rubble.

"The Russians continue to fire at civilians, but timely evacuation allows us to save hundreds of lives," Kyrylenko said.

"Out of the 73,000 inhabitants of Bakhmut, just over 20,000 now remain in the city, thanks to which we are able to avoid the number of casualties that the enemy expects.

Once again, I ask everyone who has the opportunity to leave the Donetsk region. Now there are no absolutely safe places in Donetsk region," he added.

In recent days, Russian fire has intensified on places beyond the front lines in Donetsk, but Kyrylenko said Ukrainian units were resisting any advances on the ground.

"The enemy tried to make a breakthrough in the direction of Avdiyivka and Maryinka, on the route between Bakhmut and Lysychansk," but had been repelled and "retreated to previous positions," he said.

Some background: The Ukrainian military reported on Thursday that Russian forces trying to break through to Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region, had suffered losses and retreated. 

Despite artillery and missile attacks by Russian forces on a wide front over the past 24 hours, there are no signs they have taken new territory.

6:05 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Red Cross says it is registering hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers leaving the Azovstal steel plant

From CNN's Tim Lister and Zahid Mahmood

Red Cross staff observe the evacuation of Ukrainian servicemen from the Azovstal steel plant, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 18.
Red Cross staff observe the evacuation of Ukrainian servicemen from the Azovstal steel plant, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 18. (AP)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it has registered hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war who have left the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol this week. 

On Tuesday the ICRC started “to register combatants leaving the Azovstal plant, including the wounded, at the request of the parties," it said in a statement from its headquarters in Geneva.

"The operation continued Wednesday and was still ongoing Thursday," it added.

Russia has said that some 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers have left the plant -- but several hundred more are reportedly still inside. 

“The ICRC is not transporting POWs to the places where they are held," said the ICRC. “The registration process that the ICRC facilitated involves the individual filling out a form with personal details like name, date of birth and closest relative," reads the statement.

"This information allows the ICRC to track those who have been captured and help them keep in touch with their families," it added.

“In accordance with the mandate given to the ICRC by States under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the ICRC must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held," continued the statement.

"The ICRC must be allowed to interview prisoners of war without witnesses, and the duration and frequency of these visits should not be unduly restricted," said the organization. "Whenever circumstances permit, each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to search for and collect the dead.” 

5:54 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

A Russian soldier’s war crimes trial has resumed

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne in Kyiv

A Russian soldier is back in a larger Kyiv court on Thursday after proceedings were adjourned Wednesday because the courtroom was too small to accommodate the 150 journalists who turned up.

The trial of Vadim Shishimarin is the first Ukrainian war crimes trial since the Russian invasion started.

The 21-year-old soldier pleaded "fully" guilty Wednesday to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in Ukraine’s Sumy region on the fourth day of the war and is facing a life sentence.

Captured Russian soldier, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, attends a court hearing on May 18, in Kyiv, Ukraine
Captured Russian soldier, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, attends a court hearing on May 18, in Kyiv, Ukraine (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

On Thursday, three judges will hear testimony from Shishimarin, as well as from the victim's widow.

Two other witnesses will be called by the prosecution, including a second Russian soldier who was in the same car as Shishimarin when he allegedly fired his Kalashnikov.

Shishimarin’s lawyer, Volodymyr Ovsyannikov, told CNN he would be raising the question of whether the prisoner of war being called as a witness is providing his testimony voluntarily.

Ovsyannikov said he welcomed the opportunity to provide a fuller picture of the precise events of February 28. 

The Kremlin said Wednesday that it had no information about the case.

8:00 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Failure to open ports in Ukraine a "declaration of war" on global food security, says WFP chief

 From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London 

A farmer wears a bulletproof vest during crop sowing which takes place 30 km from the front line in the Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine, on April 8.
A farmer wears a bulletproof vest during crop sowing which takes place 30 km from the front line in the Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine, on April 8. (Dmytro Smoliyenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

A failure to open closed ports in Ukraine to ship grains out will bring millions of people to the brink of starvation, said the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

"Failure to open the ports will be a declaration of war on global food security, resulting in famine destabilization of nations, as well as mass migration by necessity," said David Beasley on Wednesday, addressing a food security meeting at the United Nations hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

The US 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.

"It is absolutely essential that we allow these ports to open because this is not just about Ukraine. This is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak," Beasley added. 

"So I ask President Putin, if you have any heart at all, please open these ports. Please assure everyone concerned that the passageways will be clear so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert famine, as we've done in the past, when nations in this room have stepped up together," the WFP chief said. 

He noted that Ukraine is a nation that grows enough grain to feed 400 million people and that is now out of production.

It is "critical" that these farms get back in operation, that trucks, trains and ships can move again, he added, stressing that "time is running out."

On Wednesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also addressed how the war in Ukraine, on top of other global crises, "threatens tens of millions of people with food insecurity, malnutrition, mass hunger and famine." 

"There is enough food in our world for everyone, but we must act together, urgently and with solidarity," Guterres said.

5:16 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Japan doubles its financial aid to Ukraine to $600 million

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan will increase its financial aid for Ukraine to $600 million, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Thursday, doubling the country's previous $300 million given in financial support.

Kishida said the decision was made after Ukraine expressed its need for assistance due to the worsening financial situation caused by Russia's invasion.

"Japan will continue to strongly support Ukraine in cooperation with the G7 and the international community," Kishida told reporters.

The move comes shortly after the US and European Union announced new assistance to Ukraine and ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden to the region, where he is expected to visit South Korea and Japan.

Kishida said Thursday he would discuss Japan's position on the conflict during next week's talks.

5:12 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Germany's Scholz proposes EU solidarity fund to rebuild Ukraine

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto in Berlin 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, delivers a speech ahead of the next EU summit during a session at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on May 19.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, delivers a speech ahead of the next EU summit during a session at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on May 19. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union must start preparations for rebuilding Ukraine by setting up a solidarity fund to aid Kyiv in covering the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalizing the Ukrainian economy will cost billions," Scholz told German lawmakers Thursday at the lower house of parliament.

"We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners," he added, speaking ahead of a major EU summit at the end of this month.  

Scholz also said that Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up despite the Russian invasion. 

"There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU," Scholz said, adding that the bloc must therefore find a "fast and pragmatic" way to aid Kyiv.  

An exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the six Western Balkan countries -- Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo -- also seeking membership in the bloc, said the German Chancellor.

Their integration into the EU is also of "strategic interest," referencing the influence of "external powers" in the region, including Russia, he added.  

4:57 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

Russia says 771 Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal surrendered in last 24 hours, taking total to 1,730

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Pro-Russian troops stand next to buses carrying members of the Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works recently arrived at a detention facility in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, on May 17.
Pro-Russian troops stand next to buses carrying members of the Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works recently arrived at a detention facility in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, on May 17. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday that 771 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,730 since Monday.

The ministry said 80 of those were wounded, and all those in need of any medical attention are receiving treatment in hospitals in Novoazovsk and Donetsk.

CNN is unable to confirm the Russian tally.

The Ukrainian side has not given an update on the number who have left Azovstal nor on the status of negotiations for their exchange for Russian prisoners.

Some background: On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said nearly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered, meaning Thursday's new total marks a significant increase.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday the negotiation process on evacuating the last soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant continues with Russia.

It follows the end of Ukrainian forces' "combat mission" at the complex, which was for weeks the last major holdout in a city otherwise occupied by Russian troops.

Ukraine said it expects to carry out an exchange of Russian prisoners of war for the severely injured soldiers.

2:41 a.m. ET, May 19, 2022

One killed by Ukrainian strikes in Russia's Kursk, regional governor says

From CNN's Yulia Shevchenko and Teele Rebane

One civilian was killed and several people were wounded as a result of Ukrainian strikes in Russia’s western region of Kursk at dawn on Thursday, according to regional governor Roman Starovoit.

The strikes hit an ethanol factory in the village of Tyotkino and several homes were affected, Starovoit said on Telegram. 

Tyotkino is located 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the Ukraine-Russia border. Both sides of the border between Kursk and Ukraine have seen intermittent artillery attacks this month.