Ukraine War: Zelensky Says He'll Talk to Putin, Barring Ultimatums

Live Updates
  • Finland's Prime Minister and President said Thursday that they support joining NATO. Russia said it will take "retaliatory steps" in response to Finland's decision to join the military alliance.
  • The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Thursday to move forward with an investigation into potential war crimes around Kyiv.
  • Several missiles hit an oil refinery and other infrastructure in Kremenchuk, as Russia continues attacks in the Donbas.
  • Ukraine officials are working on negotiations to evacuate wounded fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Germany and France this weekend to meet with NATO counterparts and other partner and allies to discuss continued support for Ukraine.
Attack on Apartment Donetsk
A crater of an explosion after Russian shelling is seen next to a damaged apartment building in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, May 12, 2022. Andriy Andriyenko/AP Photo

Live Updates Have Ended.

25 Million Tons of Grain Blocked In Ukraine

G7 leaders discussed the ongoing food crisis due to Russia's blockade in the Black Sea as the group met in Germany Thursday.

Food security has been a growing concern amid the war and now millions of tons of grain are unable to be exported from Ukraine.

"Twenty-five million tons of grain are currently blocked in Ukrainian ports, particularly Odesa," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. "Grain that's food for millions of people around the world, and which is needed particularly urgently in African countries and the Middle East."

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has also accused Russia of stealing some 400,000 to 500,000 metric tons of grain, according to the Associated Press.

"Practically all ships leaving Sevastopol with a load of grain are carrying the grain stolen from Ukraine," the ministry said, AP adds.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine and neighboring Moldova were also invited to attend the G7 three-day meeting as guests.

G7 meets in Germany
From left, Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State and Political Director at the U.S. Department of State, Elizabeth Truss, Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Foreign Minister of France, Melanie Joly, Foreign Minister of Canada, Hayashi Yoshimasa, Foreign Minister of Japan, Annalena Baerbock, Luigi Di Maio, Foreign Minister of Italy, and Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, walk at the summit of foreign ministers of the G7 in Weissenhäuser Strand, Thursday, May 12, 2022. Marcus Brandt/Pool photo via AP

Zelensky Says He'll Talk to Putin, Barring Ultimatums

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is ready to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin, so long as there are "no ultimatums" and Russians leave Ukraine's territory.

Zelensky made the comments during an interview with RAI, Italy's state TV.

"The issue of negotiations gets complicated every day because every day the Russians occupy villages and kill people," Zelensky said in the interview, according to a translation.

He also addressed the urgent need to evacuate the wounded from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

"We are ready to make an exchange with the Russians to save the living and take our dead out of Azovstal," Zelensky said. "The civilians have already been evacuated, now the wounded remain, we do not want to leave them there."

The interview, which airs Thursday night on RAI in Italy, also addresses Zelensky's refusal to grant autonomy to the Donbas and Crimea. Russia is now concentrating its forces in the Donbas and southern Ukraine.

Zelensky said "there is nothing left" in the Donbas. "We will never recognize autonomy."

"I have never talked about recognizing the independence of Crimea, we will never recognize it as part of Russia," he said, referencing Crimea has its own parliament.

Zelensky interview
Zelensky is seen during an interview set to air on 'Porta a Porta.' RAI

White House Supports Finland, Sweden NATO Application

The U.S. will support Finland and Sweden if they decide to apply for NATO membership.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. will respect whatever choice those countries make, noting that Finland and Sweden are already close defensive partners.

"I would note that even without them being members of NATO, our militaries have worked together for many years," she said during a press briefing Thursday.

She added that a strong partnership with a range of countries "should be reassuring to the American people about our own security interests."

"A strong NATO alliance is good for security around the world," she said.

Psaki was also asked if the risk of further provocation from Russia outweighs the benefit of having Finland and Sweden join NATO.

She said Russian President Vladimir Putin "caused this" and reiterated that NATO is a defensive alliance.

"There is no aggressive intent from NATO, from the Unites States, from Finland and Sweden to Russia," Psaki said.

The U.S. continues to support NATO's open-door policy, she said.

The $40 billion Ukraine aid bill is currently held up in the Senate by Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky because he wants to amend the bill to give the Inspector General for Afghanistan power to oversee aid to Ukraine.

Psaki said the White House believes oversight is "critical" and ensured the bill already includes that funding.

She said the White House calls on all senators to pass the bill, saying they believe "we feel what's in there is sufficient."

The bill sends a clear message the U.S. stands with the people of Ukraine, Psaki said, and is important to move forward.

Senate Working to Pass $40B Aid Package

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the passage of an "urgent funding bill" Thursday that would provide an additional $40 billion in military and economic aid to Ukraine. The Pentagon has also urged its passage, as U.S. security assistance to Ukraine is expected to run out sometime next week.

"There is no reason, no reason whatever not to get Ukraine funding approved fast," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, according to the Associated Press. "Republicans shouldn't block this bill."

Republican Senator Rand Paul is reportedly holding up its passage. He is pushing for an amendment to appoint an inspector general to oversee the funds.

The House approved the measure Tuesday, it needs to clear the Senate before heading to President Joe Biden's desk for a signature.

During a press briefing Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Kirby said additional funding is needed to continue providing security assistance to Ukraine. He said current funding will likely "get us to about the third week of this month is what we're pretty much anticipating."

"Which is why we continue to urge Congress to pass the President's supplemental request as soon as possible so that we can continue to provide aid to Ukraine uninterrupted," Kirby said.

Ukraine weapons shipment
Employees unload a plane carrying new US security assistance provided to Ukraine, at Kyiv's airport Boryspil on January 25, 2022. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

No One Injured in Oil Refinery Attack, Ukraine Official Says

Several Russian missiles hit a major industrial hub in Ukraine Thursday, according to officials.

Between eight and 12 rockets hit an oil refinery and other infrastructure in Kremenchuk, Poltava Oblast Governor Dmytro Lunin said in a Telegram post.

Lunin said "no one was injured" in shelling attack in the region.

The refinery, the biggest in Ukraine, was no longer operational in early April following a Russian attack. Later that month, nine missiles were launched at Kremenchuk on April 24, killing one person and injuring seven, according to the Kyiv Independent.

Anton Gerashchenk, the adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, said this attack indicates Russia is beginning a "third phase" of the war.

He called this new phase "a global fight to exhaust Ukraine," that starts with blows to energy and transport infrastructure.

EU Commission Reviewing Ukraine's EU Application

Ukraine's application to join the European Union is currently under examination, according to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The European Commission is reviewing Ukraine's application and the matter will be discussed during the EU summit in June, a ministry spokesperson said during a press briefing Thursday.

President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen discussed a pathway for Ukraine to join the 27-nation block with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Monday.

"Looking forward to receiving the answers to the EU membership questionnaire," von der Leyen said. "The EU Commission will aim to deliver its opinion in June."

Zelensky filed a request for Ukraine to join the European Union on February 28, four days after Russia began its invasion.

"Our goal is to be with all Europeans and most importantly, to be equal," Zelensky said during a speech that day.

von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen/Twitter

Blinken to Join NATO Counterparts in Berlin This Weekend

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Germany and France this weekend to meet with NATO counterparts.

He will attend an informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Berlin, Germany on May 14 to discuss a "unified response to Russia's continuing brutal war against Ukraine" and the upcoming NATO Summit in Madrid, Spain.

On May 15, Blinken will attend a U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council meeting in Paris-Saclay, France.

U.S. and European leaders will discuss "how democratic approaches to trade, technology, and innovation can serve as a force for greater prosperity."

Russian Ship Reportedly on Fire in Black Sea

There are reports of another Russian ship on fire in the Black Sea, according to Ukrainian officials.

Anton Gerashchenko, Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, was told by his sources that the ship was hit, and a fire started on Thursday.

"Russia lost another ship in the Black Sea," Gerashchenko said. "It is brand new auxiliary ship of project 23120 Vsevolod Bobrov."

The Moskva, Russia's flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, sunk in the Black Sea about one month ago. Ukraine said it struck the cruiser with a missile in mid-April. The Pentagon since concluded the Ukrainian strike caused the ship to sink.

Negotiations Underway to Evacuate Wounded from Azovstal Plant

Negotiations are underway to evacuate people seriously injured soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk called the ongoing negotiations are "very difficult."

"To be clear: we are currently negotiating only about 38 severely wounded fighters," she said. "We work step by step. We will exchange 38, then we will move on."

За дорученням Президента ми ведемо дуже складні перемовини щодо евакуації важкопоранених бійців з Азовсталі в обмін на полонених росіян. На жаль, публічні коментарі деяких політиків, журналістів та...

The Presidential Office of Ukraine said there are about 500 people at the plant.

Vereshchuk said there are "currently no talks" on the exchange of 500 or 600 people, despite media reports.

She added that public comments by some politicians, journalists and public figures on the negotiations are "not only misinformed and disorientated the public but also hurts the negotiation process."

"Refrain from making public comments on what you don't know," she said. "If everything works out and we pull people out then do what you want."

"Please be responsible and do not interfere," she said, adding that people's lives are at stake.

Russia Threatens 'Retaliatory Step' if Finland Joins NATO

Russia threatens to take "retaliatory steps" in response to Finland's plan to join NATO.

"Moscow will be left with no choice but to respond to Finland's decision to join the military alliance," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement. "Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising."

The Russian foreign ministry added that Finland joining NATO is a "radical change in the country's foreign policy."

Finland's President and Prime Minister announced Thursday that they are support joining NATO, saying being part of the alliance would "strengthen Finland's security."

"As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance," the statement said. "Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days."

Most Refugees in Moldova Live With Host Families

The Ukrainian refugee crisis continues to grow as more than 6 million people have now fled the country amid Russia's invasion, the United Nations said Thursday.

Data from U.N. refugee agency UNHCR shows a large increase in the number of refugees who have entered Romania, nearing 900,000.

The small country of Moldova, with a population of roughly 3 million, has welcomed an overwhelming number of Ukrainians -- nearly 460,000 since February 24. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visited the country earlier this week and praised residents for their generosity. He said nearly all Ukrainian refugees who have entered Moldova are living with host families.

Guterres in Moldova
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres waves to a Ukrainian refugee child during a visit to a refugee facility in Chisinau, Moldova, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Aurel Obreja/AP Photo

"Moldovan families are opening their homes and hearts to Ukrainian refugees in their time of need," Guterres said Tuesday. "95% of all refugees in the country are living with host families. Their hospitality is an example to us all."

Guterres also said the U.N. is "scaling up" support to Moldova amid the crisis.

Where refugees are going, by country:

  • Poland: 3.2 million
  • Romania: 895,828
  • Russia: 785,348
  • Hungary: 583,066
  • Moldova: 459,546
  • Slovakia: 409,527
  • Belarus: 27,308

*Estimates above provided by UNHCR as of 5/11

China, Eritrea Vote No on War Crimes Probe in Ukraine

The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Thursday to move forward with an investigation into alleged abuses by Russian forces in the Kyiv area. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said "many" of which may amount to war crimes.

The council passed the resolution with 33 members voting in favor, 12 abstaining and two against. China and Eritrea both voted no.

"My Office continues to verify allegations of violations of international human rights law and of international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said during the special session by video.

"The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking. These killings of civilians often appeared to be intentional, carried out by snipers and soldiers."

Earlier this week, the U.N. General Assembly voted for the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the Human Rights Council. Russia was suspended from the U.N's leading human rights body earlier this year following the reported atrocities in Bucha.

EU to Establish 'Solidarity Lanes' for Ukraine Exports

The European Union will establish "solidarity lanes" to support Ukraine's agricultural exports.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, proposed a plan to help Ukraine export its wheat and other grains to evade the Russian blockade of ports in the Black Sea.

"Twenty million tons of grains have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure," Adina Valean, the EU commissioner for transport, said in a statement. "This is a gigantesque challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimize the logistic chains, put in place new routes, and avoid, as much as possible, the bottlenecks."

These measures will help secure the global food supply and provide economic relief to Ukraine, as the war has raised food and fertilizer prices.

In order to address transport bottlenecks, the EU will provide additional cargo vehicles, increase the capacity of transport networks and transshipment terminals and help provide more temporary storage capacity of Ukraine exports.

Valean said these strengthened transport links will also make it easier for Ukraine to import essential goods, such as humanitarian aid, food and fuel.

EU Solidarity Lanes to Ukraine
EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean gives a press conference on 'solidarity lanes' to help Ukraine export agricultural goods in Brussels on May 12, 2022. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

Over 7,300 Civilian Casualties, Most Caused by Explosives

The United Nations has recorded more than 7,300 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Russia's invasion began some two and a half months ago. However, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) continues to warn that actual figures are "considerably higher."

The latest data available from OHCHR shows 3,541 civilians have been killed and 3,785 others injured. Reports are still pending from areas of "intense hostilities" where numerous casualties are suspected, including Mariupol and Izium.

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," OHCHR said.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office reports 643 child casualties, including 226 children who have been killed. Juvenile prosecutors report 417 children have been injured. The highest number of child casualties were recorded in the Donetsk and Kyiv regions, the office said Thursday. Its data is also not final due to pending reports.

Bakhmut shelling
A crater of an explosion after Russian shelling is seen next to a damaged apartment building in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, May 12, 2022. Andriy Andriyenko/AP Photo

Ukraine Recaptured Towns Near Kharkiv, According to UK Intelligence

Russia forces continue to attack the Donbas region of Ukraine, leaving areas in the Kharkiv Oblast "vulnerable" to Ukrainian counter-attacks, according to the United Kingdom Defense Ministry.

Ukraine continues its counter-attack measures north of Kharkiv and has managed to recapture several towns near the Russian border, according to UK intelligence. Russian forces have withdrawn from the area to resupply and reorganize, despite initial success encircling that area earlier in the war.

"The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kharkiv Oblast is a tacit recognition of Russia's inability to capture key Ukrainian cities where they expected limited resistance from the population," the UK Ministry of Defense said.