May 13, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 4:24 PM ET, Sun May 14, 2023
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3:49 p.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Zelensky thanks Pope Francis for his "personal attention" to war in Ukraine

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican on May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican on May 13. Vatican News/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Pope Francis for giving "personal attention" to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, after meeting with the pontiff in Rome for the first time on Saturday.

"I emphasized there are tens of thousands of deported children, we must make every effort to bring them home," Zelensky said in a statement posted across his social media pages.
"In addition, I asked him to condemn Russian crimes in Ukraine. There can be no equality between victim and aggressor," he said.

Remember: The International Criminal Court in March issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

Zelensky also spoke to the Pope about his 10-point peace plan, saying it is "the only effective algorithm for achieving a just peace."

After the meeting, Zelensky told top editors of the Italian media in Rome that the Vatican sent a signal of support for the plan.

"This is important, and we are also supported by the Italian government, and many different countries," Zelensky said.

He added that Ukraine doesn't need a mediator in any potential talks with Russia.

"With all due respect to his Holiness … the issue is that we don’t need a mediator between Ukraine and an aggressor-country that has occupied our territories," he said. "We need to come up with an action plan to develop a fair peace in Ukraine and then we will invite the Vatican as one of the leaders to this format."

CNN's Mariya Knight contributed reporting.

1:17 p.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Pope Francis assures "his constant prayer" for peace during meeting with Zelensky, Vatican says

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher and Barbie Latza Nadeau in Rome

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 13.
Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 13. Vatican Pool/Getty Images

The Saturday meeting between Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ended, according to a statement from the Vatican Press office.

During the 40-minute meeting, Zelensky and Pope Francis spoke about the humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine caused by the ongoing war, the Vatican said.

"The Pope has assured his constant prayer, witnessed by his many public appeals and continuous invocation to the Lord for peace, since February of last year," the Vatican press office said.
"Both agreed on the need to continue humanitarian efforts to support the population," it added.

Pope Francis also stressed the need for "human gestures" toward victims of the war, according to the statement.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between Zelensky and the Pope since Russia's full-scale invasion began. The pontiff has been outspoken in his support for an end to the conflict.

1:23 p.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Italian prime minister pledges continued support for Ukraine to join NATO following meeting with Zelensky

From CNN’s Barbie Latza Nadeau in Rome

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hold a joint press conference in Rome, on May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hold a joint press conference in Rome, on May 13. Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged unwavering support to Ukraine, saying Italy was ready to support its partnership with NATO, after what Meloni described as a "long and fruitful" meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky at Rome’s Palazzo Chigi on Saturday. 

"We are ready to support a further intensification of Ukraine's partnership with NATO, we will discuss it in Vilnius at the July summit; it will probably be the central theme," Meloni said.
“For as long as needed, and beyond, our nation will continue to provide bilateral and multilateral assistance, and there will be our staunch adherence to sanctions enforcement arrangements and our support for peace, provided it is a just peace," she added.

Meloni said she believes Ukraine will win the war and will be "reborn stronger" and "more prosperous than before."

The prime minister went on to blame Russia in some of the strongest language her government has delivered on the conflict. She said peace will only come when "Russia ceases hostilities," calling on Moscow to withdraw its troops.

"We are in favor of a diplomatic solution to the conflict," Meloni said. "We support President Zelensky's 10-point peace formula. And we recognize the legitimate European aspirations of Ukraine, an outpost of security for the entire European continent."

She added that she was happy Zelensky visited Pope Francis, and concluded her speech by emphasizing Italy's continued support to Ukraine.

"We're betting on Ukraine's victory," she said.

Zelensky thanked the Ukrainian population that had gathered in the streets waving Ukraine's flag and invited Italian political leaders and representatives to visit his country.

11:07 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Zelensky arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher in Rome

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican on May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican on May 13. Vatican News/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived at the Vatican on Saturday to meet Pope Francis.

It is the first face-to-face meeting between Zelensky and the Pope since the war began last year.

Pope Francis has been outspoken in his support for an end to the war in Ukraine.

Last year, the pontiff reportedly said during a conversation with directors of religious publications that he is not "in favor" of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but "simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good and bad, without thinking about roots and interests, which are very complex."

"While we see the ferocity, the cruelty of the Russian troops, we must not forget the problems to try to solve them," he said at the time.

The Pope has also warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become "Putin’s altar boy."

9:18 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Zelensky discusses the “importance of Ukraine’s victory” with Italy's president during visit

From Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv and Alex Hardie in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Saturday, May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Saturday, May 13. Italian Presidency/Quirinale/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Italian President Sergio Mattarella about “the war and the importance of Ukraine’s victory” on Saturday, according to Zelensky’s chief of staff.

“In Rome, despite the rain, there are a lot of people on the streets, and we feel a lot of support for Ukraine,” Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram
“Much attention was also paid to the issue of abductions of Ukrainian children by Russia. This must be stopped, the children must be returned home, and the Russians must be punished,” he added.

Zelensky arrived in Italy on Saturday to meet Mattarella and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome. 

The Ukrainian president is also set to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Some background: In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin and a senior official, Maria Lvova-Belova, were charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court on allegations of widespread forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Ukraine recently estimated the total number of children forcibly removed from their homes is at least 20,000. Kyiv has said thousands of cases are already under investigation.

Russia has denied it is doing anything illegal, claiming it is bringing Ukrainian children to safety.

9:18 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Zelensky arrives in Rome for meetings with Italian PM and Pope Francis 

From CNN's Jake Kwonand Kostan Nechyporenko

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky greets Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome, on May 13.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky greets Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome, on May 13. Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived in Rome on Saturday, where he is expected to meet with his Italian counterpart, Italy's prime minister and Pope Francis, his Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. 

"Together with President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team, we are now in Rome," Yermak said.

Zelensky also posted on Telegram on Saturday, "Rome. Meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Pope Francis. An important visit for Ukraine's victory."

Zelensky is expected to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, as well as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis on Saturday. 

3:28 p.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Long-range cruise missiles supplied by UK caused Luhansk explosions, former Russian-backed official says

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Explosions in the Russian-occupied eastern city of Luhansk were conducted by Storm Shadow cruise missiles, a retired Russian lieutenant colonel said on Saturday, according to preliminary reports and reported by Russian state news agency TASS. 

"The JCCC [the LPR representatives to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination of Issues Related to War Crimes of Ukraine] officially filed information that the May 12 strikes on Luhansk were carried out by Storm Shadow missiles. Today was most likely the second test launch on the city with this particular type of ammunition,” retired Lt. Col. Andrei Marochko of the Luhansk People's Republic Militia said, as reported by TASS.

Marochko added that there were "no causalities or victims" among civilians, but there was partial damage to residential buildings, and information is still being verified.  

Ukraine has not made any official comment on the use of Storm Shadow missiles since Britain announced it had supplied Ukraine with the weapons earlier this week. The long-range cruise missile, which is jointly developed by the UK and France, has stealth capabilities and is typically launched from the air. 

According to TASS, a Luhansk eyewitness named Anna said the explosion happened at about 9.30 a.m. Moscow time, and “the lights went out at home” immediately afterward. 

“Windows flew out in the neighboring houses. … After the explosion, a siren went off, and ambulances and the Ministry of Emergency Situations crews arrived,” Anna said, as reported by TASS.

Artem Lysohor, the Ukrainian head of Luhansk region military administration, claimed the effectiveness of Russia’s Iranian-made Shahed drones is "catastrophically declining every week."

"The situation on the ground is also in disarray, where the Russians are still saved by 'import substitutes' of T-54 and T-62 tanks at the front," Lysohor said in a Telegram post.

An explosion was heard Saturday morning in the suburbs of Luhansk, which has rarely come under attack by Ukrainian forces since the Russian invasion. On Friday, the city was struck by two missiles, injuring six children, the head of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic said.

6:16 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Germany to supply Ukraine with aid package worth nearly $3 billion

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca, Kostan Nechyporenko, Fred Pleitgen and Stephanie Halasz

German Defense minister, Boris Pistorius, speaks to soldiers during a visit to a German air defense missile unit on Thursday.
German Defense minister, Boris Pistorius, speaks to soldiers during a visit to a German air defense missile unit on Thursday. Jens Büttner/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

Germany announced on Saturday that it would supply Ukraine with an aid package worth nearly $3 billion (2.7 million euros) to strengthen the country’s defense. 

It marks the largest German military aid package to Ukraine since the start of the war.

The German Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the package may include a variety of military hardware, such as 20 Marder armoured personnel carriers, 30 Leopard tanks, 4 IRIS-T-SLM firing units, over 200 reconnaissance drones and ammunition. 

"With this valuable contribution of urgently needed military material, we are once again showing that Germany is serious about its support,” Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius was quoted saying in the statement.
“We all wish for a speedy end to this terrible war waged by Russia against the Ukrainian people, which is contrary to international law. Unfortunately, this is not yet in sight. Germany will therefore provide all the help it can - as long as it takes," Pistorius added.

Ukraine President’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, confirmed Germany’s support on Saturday via his Telegram account while thanking them for their aid.

“We thank our allies. Working more,” Yermak said.

Germany's announcement comes after the US on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine intended to “bolster its air defenses” and “sustain its artillery ammunition needs,” with Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces looming.

Some context: Germany's military support for Ukraine has evolved over time. The country initially resisted calls to provide weaponry to Kyiv, agreeing only to provide humanitarian help and medical equipment. That approach was in line with Germany’s decades-long policy of not supplying lethal weapons to crisis zone.

In a major policy U-turn earlier this year, Berlin announced it would provide Kyiv with Leopard 2 battle tanks. Then in April, Berlin also committed to sending Gepard anti-aircraft systems.

5:06 a.m. ET, May 13, 2023

Uptick in fighting reported along border between Kharkiv and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva and Josh Pennington

There has been an uptick in fighting along the border between the Kharkiv and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian and Ukrainian officials.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian artillery and mortar fire hit settlements in the Kupyansk sector, which is in Kharkiv.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that in the same area, ground forces supported by airpower hit two Ukrainian units. The ministry said artillery fire had prevented a rotation of Ukrainian troops in the same area.

An unofficial Russian social media account also said Ukrainian attacks had increased along the front east of Kupyansk, but had made no progress.

In the south, Ukraine reported artillery and other attacks by Russian forces in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Russian forces are defending gains made in the first few days of the invasion.

Yurii Malashko, the head of Zaporizhzhia's military administration, said there was heavy shelling of villages along the entire front line, including Stepnohirsk, Mala Tokmachka and Huliaipole.

Malachko, speaking on Ukraine television, also claimed that under the guise of evacuating civilians, Russian soldiers were fleeing from the town of Enerhodar, adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

Some civilians who had been evacuated from Russian-controlled areas near the frontlines in Zaporizhzhia had returned home “because they were left to fend for themselves in Berdiansk [further south] and people are afraid that their homes will be looted,” he said.