Newest information on Russia and the struggle in Ukraine

U.S. best positioned to deal with global economic uncertainty triggered by Russia’s war, Yellen says

Janet Yellen , US Treasury Secretary, answers journalists’ questions. At Petersberg near Bonn, the finance ministers of the largest industrialized nations are discussing billions in aid for Ukraine on Thursday.

Federico Gambarini | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the war in Ukraine has triggered higher food and energy prices around the world, and described the globe’s economic outlook as “challenging” and “uncertain.”

“The United States in many ways is best positioned I think to meet this challenge given the strength of our labor market and the economy,” Yellen said ahead of a meeting of the G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors in Bonn, Germany.

Yellen, who spent the week in Warsaw and Brussels, added that rising inflation also poses a significant challenge to the global economy.

She said that the sweeping global sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and more than 30 countries are curbing the Kremlin’s ability to finance its ongoing war in Ukraine.

“Russia is experiencing a recession, high inflation, acute challenges in their financial system and an inability to procure materials and products they need to support their war and their economy,” she said, adding that two Russian tank manufacturers recently shut down due to a lack of supplies.

— Amanda Macias

Russian soldier admits killing unarmed Ukrainian in first war crimes trial

Captured Russian soldier, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, attends a court hearing on May 18, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Sgt. Shishimarin pleaded guilty to shooting a civilian on a bicycle in the village of Chupakhivka, Sumy Region, days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Christopher Furlong | Getty Images

A district court in Kyiv has begun its first war crimes trial involving a Russian soldier who was a part of Russia’s invading forces.

Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian tank commander held in Ukraine, is charged with murdering a 62-year-old civilian in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on Feb. 28. He told the court that he pleaded guilty, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Shishimarin could face a life sentence if convicted.

Ukraine has accused Russia of various war crimes during the three-month conflict with Russia. Investigations and evidence is being gathered to support those claims, against a backdrop of a very live conflict.

For its part, Russia has denied targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Early on in the conflict, Russia shelled a maternity hospital as well as a theater where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, for example.

Ukrainian state prosecutors have said the soldier and four other servicemen drove into the village of Chupakhivka where they saw an unarmed resident riding a bicycle and talking on his phone.

They said Shishimarin was ordered by another serviceman to kill the civilian to prevent him reporting on the Russians’ presence and fired several shots through the open window of the car with an assault rifle at the civilian’s head. The civilian died on the spot.

— Reuters

Former Finnish PM: Russia doesn’t see Finland and Sweden NATO accession as a threat

Russia doesn’t actually see Finland and Sweden’s accession to the NATO alliance as a military threat, Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb told CNBC, despite its warnings against any enlargement of the organization.

“[The] Russian reaction, actually it has been quite moderate, and I think the reason is quite clear,” Stubb said. “Russia does not see Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO as a military threat or security threat. That was also said by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday,” he said. “And it is because the profile that Sweden and Finland are going to take inside NATO is going to be a Nordic profile.”

The former prime minister noted that three Nordic states — Iceland, Norway and Denmark — have been members of the alliance since 1949. While Finland and Sweden have been historically “nonaligned,” they were not neutral, and have been allied partners of NATO since the mid-1990s, engaging in joint military exercises with NATO members.

“So with that profile I think the Kremlin has already counted Sweden and Finland as members of the alliance, even though we were not members and not under Article 5, the security guarantee collective defense umbrella. So I think the reaction was moderate and will continue to be moderate. This is not an aggressive enlargement.”

Indeed, despite weeks of threatening “consequences” if the two countries joined NATO — which with Finland’s 830-mile shared border with Russia would double the size of the NATO-Russia border — Putin has softened his tone, saying earlier this week that Moscow does not have problems with either country and that they are not a threat to Russia.

Stubb then made a final point: “We do not join NATO against anyone. We join it for ourselves. For us, foreign security policy is not a zero-sum game.”

— Natasha Turak

As inflation slows, Russia is hoping to avoid a financial crisis

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russia believes it has swerved a financial crisis as the ruble rallies and economic data improves, but strategists say the numbers mask some ugly truths for Moscow.

Although still running hot, recent inflation figures have shown a sharp slowdown in monthly price increases, while the ruble has gone from an all-time low in March to the world’s best-performing currency this year.

Economic activity indicators have improved, and Russia has thus far avoided defaulting on its foreign currency debt, despite Western sanctions freezing large swathes of its reserves.However, economists have cautioned that the exceptional measures taken by the Kremlin and the Central Bank of Russia to safeguard the currency have resulted in synthetic strength that could unravel if circumstances change.

Read more here: As inflation slows and the ruble rallies, Russia is hoping to avoid a financial crisis

— Elliot Smith

Photos show members of Azov battalion after apparent surrender in Mariupol

Photos below show servicemen of Ukraine’s national battalion “Azov,” which is an all-volunteer infantry military unit, being transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol. The Azov Battalion is part of the Ukrainian National Guard, but also has historical links to neo-Nazis.

Ukraine has avoided using the word “surrendered” when referencing what it has called the “evacuation” of its soldiers who have been in the Azovstal steelworks for weeks. Ukraine has said that several hundred soldiers have been evacuated, it has not said how many people are left within the complex, however. In addition, the fate of the evacuees remains uncertain although a prisoner exchange appeared to be an option.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence has claimed that almost a thousand Ukrainian soldiers who were holed up in the steelworks complex in the besieged city of Mariupol have “surrendered.” Over the past day, the ministry said in an update Wednesday, “a total of 959 militants have surrendered … including 80 wounded.” Of those, it said 51 needed inpatient treatment and were placed in the hospital of Novoazovsk of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian region of the Donbas.

Surrendered servicemen of Ukraine’s national battalion “Azov”, which is an all-volunteer infantry military unit, are being transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022. 

Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Surrendered servicemen of Ukraine’s national battalion “Azov”, which is an all-volunteer infantry military unit, are being transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022. 

Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Surrendered servicemen of Ukraine’s national battalion “Azov”, which is an all-volunteer infantry military unit, are being transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022. 

Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Surrendered servicemen of Ukraine’s national battalion “Azov”, which is an all-volunteer infantry military unit, are being transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022. 

Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Surrendered servicemen of Ukraine’s national battalion “Azov”, which is an all-volunteer infantry military unit, are being transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022. 

Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Surrendered servicemen of Ukraine’s national battalion “Azov”, which is an all-volunteer infantry military unit, are being transferred to Yelenovka in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022. 

Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

—Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian military analyst gives damning assessment of Ukraine war on state TV

In a country where independent media and commentary has all but disappeared from public view, it’s rare to hear dissenting voices on the many state-controlled TV networks in Russia — particularly now with the country at war with Ukraine.

But one well-known military analyst and veteran has stood out this week after he appeared on state TV and gave a damning assessment of the Ukraine invasion, or what Russia calls its “special military operation.”

“The situation, frankly speaking, will get worse for us,” Mikhail Khodaryonok, a retired Russian army colonel, told the “60 Minutes” talk show on Rossiya-1 TV program hosted by Olga Skabeyeva, who’s renowned for her pro-Kremlin stance.

Read the whole story here: ‘The whole world is against us’: Russian military analyst gives damning assessment of Ukraine war on state TV

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says Russia is holding more than 3,000 civilians from Mariupol at a penal colony

This photo released on May 10, 2022 by the Azov regiment shows two injured Ukrainian servicemen inside the Azovstal iron and steel works factory in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion. The Russian army is holding more than 3,000 civilians from Mariupol at a former penal colony near Olenivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian human rights official cited by the Associated Press.

Dmytro ‘Orest’ Kozatskyi | AFP | Getty Images

The Russian army is holding more than 3,000 civilians from Mariupol at a former penal colony near Olenivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, according to the Associated Press, which cited a Ukrainian human rights official.

A penal colony is used for exiled prisoners, who are separated them from the general population and isolated in a remote location.

Buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers from the Mariupol steel plant were also seen arriving at another former penal colony near Olenivka, the Associated Press said.

Earlier this week, the Ukrainian military said more than 260 Ukrainian fighters have been evacuated from the steel plant and taken to areas under Russia’s control.  

Ukrainian official Lyudmyla Denisova said most civilians are held for a month, but those considered “particularly unreliable” — like former soldiers and police — are held for two months, according to an AP report.

Among those held were about 30 volunteers who delivered humanitarian aid to Mariupol while it was under Russian siege, Denisova said, according to the AP.

— Chelsea Ong

Finland and Sweden formally apply to join NATO

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday, setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.

Finland’s Ambassador to NATO Klaus Korhonen, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden’s Ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff attend a ceremony to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s application for membership in Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2022.

Johanna Geron | Reuters

Still, an approval of their applications by all 30 current NATO members, with some of them requiring approval from their parliaments, could take up to a year.

There is broad approval of the Nordic nations joining the Western military alliance with Turkey the only country to voice strong objections so far.

Finland’s Mission to NATO tweeted that it was a “historic day.”

— Holly Ellyatt

U.S. and Turkey officials to meet with NATO expansion on the agenda

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to meet Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in New York on Wednesday amid tensions among NATO members following Ankara’s objections to Finland and Sweden’s bids to join the Western military alliance.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced strong opposition to the bids and have said neither country should “bother” to send delegations to Ankara to try to persuade Turkey to approve their membership applications. NATO requires a consensus among all its current 30 members for the countries to be able to join.

Briefing the press on the forthcoming meeting, U.S. State Dept. spokesman Ned Price refused to comment on Erdogan’s comments, or on what the meeting might entail, but said “there is strong consensus there has been strong consensus for admitting Finland and Sweden” among NATO allies.

“We are confident we’ll be able to preserve that consensus,” Price said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia targeting military and civilian targets throughout Ukraine, army says

Remains of a school destroyed amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine are pictured, in Avdiivka, Donetsk Region, Ukraine in this still image released on May 18, 2022. 

Pavlo Kyrylenko | Reuters

In their latest military update, Ukraine’s forces say that Russia is continuing to launch missile strikes at military and civilian targets in Ukraine.

Ukraine said the Russian forces’ “main focus is on maintaining previously occupied frontiers, conducting reconnaissance, engineering equipment positions, replenishing stocks, and trying to improve its tactical position” adding that they “continue to launch missile strikes on military and civilian targets throughout Ukraine.”

The fate of the southern port city Mariupol is uncertain but is likely to come under complete Russian control soon, as Ukraine looks to evacuate the remaining forces from the Azovstal steelworks.

Local resident Vitaly Kudasov, 71, gestures as he speaks near an apartment building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 28, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

In its latest update, Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said Russia was “blocking” Ukrainian units near the plant, and “continues to inflict artillery and air strikes.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s forces said 12 enemy attacks had been repelled in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas over the past 24 hours, with three Russian tanks, three artillery systems, six units of armored combat vehicles and seven enemy vehicles destroyed.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says Russia’s army has lost 27,900 soldiers since the war started

Officials in protective suits store bodies of Russian soldiers who died in conflicts in various cities of Ukraine at the refrigerator railway wagons in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 13, 2022. The Russian army has lost 27,900 soldiers since its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a video on Telegram, NBC News reported.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Russian army has lost 27,900 soldiers since its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a video on Telegram, NBC News reported.

In March, NATO estimated between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian troops had died within the first month of the war, according to NBC News.

Last week, Ukraine announced that 501 members of its National Guard had died since the invasion started, NBC News reported. The National Guard serves as a military unit with law enforcement powers and was formed in 2014 when Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

— Chelsea Ong

Turkey will not block Sweden and Finland NATO membership requests: Luxembourg foreign minister

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signs a petition for NATO membership in Helsinki on May 17, 2022. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he opposes the Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

Antti Aimo-koivisto | Afp | Getty Images

Luxembourg’s foreign minister says he does not believe Turkey will block Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership bids despite the Turkish president’s objections, the Associated Press reported.

Sweden and Finland are submitting their membership applications to the alliance as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues. But all 30 NATO member countries, among them Turkey, must agree to let these countries join.  

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he opposes the two countries joining NATO, referencing the hosting of members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist group.

Nonetheless, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio he suspects Erdogan is “pushing up the price” for the countries to join the alliance, the Associated Press reported.

“At the end of the day, I am convinced that Turkey can’t slam the brakes on this,” Asselborn said, according to the Associated Press.

— Chelsea Ong

U.S. Senate advances nearly $40 billion Ukraine aid bill

The U.S. Senate advanced a nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine.

The chamber voted to move ahead with the bill by an 88-11 margin. All of the senators who opposed the measure were Republicans.

A final vote on the military and humanitarian assistance could take place as soon as Thursday. Once the Senate passes the bill, it will head to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

Senate leaders wanted to approve the bill quickly last week, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., blocked the unanimous consent needed to pass it.

— Jacob Pramuk

Amnesty International raises concerns following reports Ukrainian troops surrendered at Azovstal plant

A screen grab taken from a video released by Russian Defense Ministry shows Ukrainian soldiers are being evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022.

Russian Defense Ministry | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Amnesty International raised concerns following reports that Ukrainian forces holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant surrendered to Russia’s armed forces.

“Amnesty International has documented summary killings of captives by Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, as well as the extrajudicial executions of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces in recent weeks. The Azov Battalion soldiers who surrendered today must not meet the same fate,” wrote Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Krivosheev added that prisoners of war should have immediate access to medical treatment and should not be subjected to “any form of torture or ill-treatment.”

“The relevant authorities must fully respect the rights of prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva conventions,” he said, referencing international humanitarian law.

— Amanda Macias

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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