The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, May 12. Click here for updates from May 11.
German Industrial Giant Siemens Is Leaving Russia After Nearly 170 Years
German industrial giant Siemens AG says it is exiting Russia, where it has operated for almost 170 years.
“We condemn the war in Ukraine and have decided to carry out an orderly process to wind down our industrial business activities in Russia,” Roland Busch, the Munich-based company’s CEO, said Thursday.
Siemens had been one of the first companies to put all new business in Russia, along with international deliveries to the country, on hold following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The company said it had been evaluating the situation with the eye of ensuring the safety of its 3,000 employees in Russia.
The maker of trains and industrial equipment said the Russia sanctions shaved off about 600,000 euros ($623,000) from its fiscal second-quarter results, which were reported Thursday.
Rand Paul Stalls Quick Senate OK of $40 Billion Ukraine Package
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul defied leaders of both parties Thursday and single-handedly delayed until next week Senate approval of an additional $40 billion to help Ukraine and its allies withstand Russia’s three-month-old invasion.
Faced with the prospect of an extended delay for the package that passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, sought to move forward on the aid package only to be blocked by Paul, a longtime fiscal hawk who objects to the amount of spending proposed.
The stalemate has threatened to delay passage of the measure into next week. Late on Thursday, Schumer moved to limit debate on the bill, which could set up an initial procedural vote on Monday. But it was not clear whether leaders were still trying to negotiate a deal that would further speed the bill along.
If the Senate debate on Ukraine aid spills into next week, it could cause problems for Western nations trying to bolster Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The Biden administration has said that by May 19 it expects to run out of available funds to draw on under an authority that allows the president to authorize the transfer of weapons without congressional approval in response to an emergency.
Paul is demanding that the legislation be altered to require an inspector general to oversee spending on Ukraine. Without his agreement, the Senate must follow a lengthy process stipulated by the chamber’s arcane rules.
Rocket Attacks Intensify on Poltava Region
Rocket attacks on Ukraine’s central Poltava region on Thursday were “perhaps the most intense for the duration of the war,” the regional governor said that same day.
“Today’s shelling of the Poltava region is perhaps the largest during the course of this full-scale war,” Dmitry Lunin wrote in a Telegram post, and “12 Russian missiles hit the infrastructure in [the city of] Kremenchuk; most of them hit an oil refinery that was not operational anyway.”
“Rescuers are putting out a fire at the refinery. Luckily, no one was hurt,” Lunin added.
War Forces Ukraine to Divert $8.3 Billion to Military Spending, Tax Revenue Drops: Minister
Ukraine has been forced to spend 245.1 billion hryvnia ($8.3 billion) on its war with Russia instead of development, the finance minister said on Thursday, providing a glimpse into the huge economic cost of Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion.
The figure, which has not been disclosed by Ukraine’s government before, lays bare the economic maelstrom that Ukraine is navigating as its soldiers try to keep Russia’s renewed offensive at bay in the country’s east.
The spending—drawn from some funds initially budgeted for development—went on everything from buying and repairing weapons to emergency support for internally displaced people (IDP), Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said. There are 2.7 million officially registered IDPs, according to data from the social policy ministry, although the real figure is likely many times higher.
The government only collected 60 percent of its planned tax revenue for April, a shortfall that was topped up to the equivalent of 79.5 percent by grants from foreign partners, Marchenko told Reuters in exclusive written comments.
Marchenko said that Kyiv urgently needed foreign support to be ramped up as it is being forced to funnel billions of additional dollars into emergency spending.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister: Everyone Involved in Russia’s Grain Transportation and Sales Will Face Legal Consequences
Ukraine’s foreign minister said Thursday that everyone involved in the transportation and sales of grain seized by Russia in occupied areas of the country will face legal consequences.
“Russia is a criminal three times over: it bombed Syria to ruins, occupied part of Ukraine, and is now selling stolen Ukrainian grain to Syria,” the ministry’s press service cited Dmytro Kuleba as saying.
“I want to remind the participants in this deal: what is stolen has never brought happiness to anyone. Everyone involved in the sale, transportation, or purchase of stolen grain is an accomplice to the crime,” Kuleba said.
“Your actions will have adequate international legal consequences. We will do everything to make your life as difficult as possible,” he continued, commenting on media reports that on Wednesday, a Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain moored off the Syrian coast.
Zelenskyy Says He’s Ready to Talk With Putin
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that he’s ready to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that “we must find an agreement,’’ but with no ultimatum as a condition.
Zelenskyy also told Italian RAI state TV in an interview scheduled to be broadcast on Thursday night that Ukraine will never recognize Crimea as part of Russia, which annexed that part of southern Ukraine in 2014.
“Crimea has always had its autonomy, it has its parliament, but on the inside of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said, in excerpts of the interview that RAI released earlier on Thursday.
“We want the Russian army to leave our land, we aren’t on Russian soil,’’ Zelenskyy replied. “We won’t save Putin’s face by paying with our territory. That would be unjust.”
Ukrainian Ministry Officials: Russia Is Trying to Block Kyiv’s Forces From Advancing in the Northeastern Kharkiv Region
Ukrainian ministry officials said Thursday that Russian troops were trying to block Kyiv’s forces from advancing as far as the Ukrainian–Russian border in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
“In the direction of Kharkiv, Russian army units are regrouping and trying to prevent the further advance of our troops in the direction of the state border of Ukraine,” defense ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said in his regular media briefing.
“To this end, the occupiers launch unceasing artillery attacks on our troop units in order to inflict human losses, as well as to damage weapons and military equipment,” Motuzyanyk added.
He did not clarify how close Ukrainian forces were to the border.
Russia Withdrawing Troops From Ukraine After ‘Heavy Losses,’ Intelligence Agency Says
Russia is now withdrawing some of its troops after suffering “heavy losses” in recent days, claimed the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense on Thursday.
In an update posted on social media, the ministry alleged that “Ukrainian forces are continuing to counterattack to the north of Kharkiv, recapturing several towns and villages towards the Russian border.”
“Despite Russia’s success in encircling Kharkiv in the initial stages of the conflict, it has reportedly withdrawn units from the region to reorganize and replenish its forces following heavy losses,” the agency said, referring to the second-largest city, located in northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border.
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Missiles Strike Ukrainian Industrial Hub
Between 8 and 12 Russian missiles hit the oil refinery and other infrastructure in the Ukrainian industrial hub of Kremenchuk Thursday, the acting governor of the central Poltava region said that same day.
In a Telegram post, Dmytro Lunin urged residents to remain in underground shelters, citing the “persistent” threat of airstrikes.
In early April, Lunin had said that the Kremenchuk refinery—Ukraine’s only remaining fully functional facility of its kind at the time—was no longer operational following a Russian attack. Moscow claimed to have targeted the refinery again at the end of the month, and to have destroyed further fuel production and storage facilities.
Talks Are Underway Between Kyiv and Moscow on the Evacuation of Ukrainian Troops From the Azovstal Steelworks
Talks are underway between Kyiv and Moscow on the possible evacuation of 38 “severely wounded” Ukrainian troops from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine’s deputy PM said Thursday afternoon.
The steel mill is the only remaining stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined port city, and is now surrounded by Russian forces.
“We are working step by step,” Iryna Vereshchuk wrote in a public post on the Telegram messenger app.
She said that Kyiv hoped to exchange the soldiers for 38 “significant” Russian prisoners of war, before moving on to the next stage of the negotiations. She did not specify what this next stage would concern, but said that there were no negotiations “on the exchange of 500 or 600 people.”
Earlier on Thursday, an official at the Ukrainian President’s Office said that Kyiv hoped to extract “half a thousand” wounded Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal.
Ukraine’s Human Rights Chief: About 3,000 Mariupol Civilians Being Detained in Prisons Controlled by Pro-Russian Separatists
About 3,000 Mariupol civilians are being detained in prisons controlled by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s industrial east, the country’s human rights chief says.
Lyudmyla Denysova claimed on social media Thursday that Kyiv is aware of at least two prisons set up in the eastern Donetsk region, one in the regional capital of Donetsk and another in Olenivka, a suburb 20 kilometers southwest of the city center.
She claimed that authorities in Kyiv had received reports of people being “tortured, interrogated, threatened with execution and forced to cooperate,” and others disappearing after interrogations.
Top US Diplomat Blinken Heads to Europe for NATO, Trade Meetings
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Germany on Saturday for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on their response to the war in Ukraine, the State Department said on Thursday.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock last month invited the ministers to an unofficial meeting in Berlin. The meeting comes as Finland, worried by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, moves to join NATO.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said any accession process would be “smooth and swift” and that Finland would be warmly welcomed.
On Sunday, May 15, Blinken will travel to Paris with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo for the second ministers’ meeting of the U.S.-E.U. Trade and Technology Council.
Putin Says Large Russian Grain Harvest to Support Higher Exports
Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, will increase wheat exports this year due to a potentially record harvest, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
Russia competes with the European Union and Ukraine for supplies of wheat to the Middle East and Africa. It continues to export despite difficulties with logistics and payments caused by Western sanctions on Moscow over what Russia terms its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Russia currently expects to harvest 130 million tons of grain in 2022, including 87 million tons of wheat, Putin told a meeting of top economic officials in Moscow.
Russia produced a record grain crop of 133.5 million tons in 2020, including 85.9 million tons of wheat. The crop was smaller in 2021.
“If this happens, which we are counting on, it could be an all-time record [for the wheat crop] in Russian history,” Putin said. He did not provide an export estimate.
Pentagon Says It Would Not Be Hard to Integrate Finland Into NATO
Finland’s entry into the NATO would be historic, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC in a television interview on Thursday, adding it would not be difficult to integrate the country into the military alliance.
Putin: Western Sanctions Will Provoke Global Crisis
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Western sanctions against Russia are provoking a global economic crisis.
Speaking during a Thursday meeting on economic issues, Putin said Western nations were “driven by oversized political ambitions and Russophobia” to introduce sanctions that “hurt their own economies and well-being of their citizens.”
Putin charged that the “sanctions are provoking a global crisis” and will lead to “grave consequences for the EU and also some of the poorest countries of the world that are already facing the risks of hunger.”
He alleged that the “Western elites are ready to sacrifice the rest of the world to preserve their global domination.”
The Russian leader insisted the Russian economy has successfully withstood the blow from Western sanctions and that Russian companies will fill the niche left by the withdrawal of Western enterprises.
Russia Says Finnish Entry to NATO Poses Threat to Which It Will Respond
Russia said on Thursday that Finland’s bid to join NATO was a hostile move that “definitely” posed a threat to its security.
The Kremlin said it would respond but declined to spell out how, saying this would depend on how close NATO moves military assets towards the 1,300 km (800-mile) Finnish–Russian frontier.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia would need to take “retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising.”
“Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move,” it said.
The Finnish move, which Sweden is expected to replicate, confronts President Vladimir Putin with the very outcome he said his war in Ukraine was designed to prevent—a further expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.
Ukrainian Fighter Trapped in Mariupol Steel Plant Asks Elon Musk for Help
One of the fighters holed up in a steelworks besieged by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has appealed to SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk to help evacuate them.
Many civilians were rescued from the sprawling Azovstal plant last week under an agreement with Russia, but no deal has been reached with Moscow on allowing out hundreds of fighters, some of whom are wounded, after weeks of bombardment.
“@elonmusk people say you come from another planet to teach people to believe in the impossible. Our planets are next to each other, as I live where it is nearly impossible to survive,” marine commander Serhiy Volina wrote on Twitter.
“Help us get out of Azovstal to a mediating country. If not you, then who? Give me a hint.”
Musk, the world’s richest man, owns rocket company SpaceX and electric car maker Tesla, and is planning to buy Twitter. It was not immediately clear whether Musk had seen Volina’s tweet.
UN Considers Investigation Into Possible Russian War Crimes in Ukraine
The U.N. Human Rights Council will decide on Thursday whether to launch an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area, a move that Russia said would amount to political score-settling.
Members were due to vote on a resolution brought by Ukraine and supported by 59 other countries, to order a Commission of Inquiry to investigate events in the regions around Kyiv that were temporarily held by Russian troops.
“The areas … which have been under Russian occupation in late February and March have experienced the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades,” Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emine Dzhaparova, told the Council.
As she spoke by video link, she held up a drawing that she said was made by an 11-year-old boy who was raped in front of his mother. “He actually lost the ability to speak after and the only way he communicates is with black lines,” she said.
Reuters was unable to verify Dzhaparova’s account of what happened to the boy. A spokesperson for Russia’s diplomatic mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her account.
Dmitry Medvedev: Growing Threat of the Fighting in Ukraine Spilling Into a Direct Conflict Between Russia and NATO
A top Russian official says that there is a growing threat of the fighting in Ukraine spilling into a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, said Thursday that growing Western arms supplies to Ukraine and training for its troops have “increased the probability that an ongoing proxy war will turn into an open and direct conflict between NATO and Russia.”
He added that “there is always a risk of such conflict turning into a full-scale nuclear war, a scenario that will be catastrophic for all.”
Putin Reaffirmed Russia’s Determination to Wrest Separatist-Held Territory From Ukraine
President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed Russia’s determination to wrest separatist-held territory from Ukraine in a congratulatory message to the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.
Russia backed the separatists for years and recognized them as independent on the eve of invading Ukraine.
In a statement released by the Kremlin on Thursday, Putin said: “I am sure that through our joint efforts we will defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the Luhansk republic.
Meanwhile, the head of the Luhansk self-proclaimed republic, Leonid Pasechnik, said Thursday that it would never return to Ukrainian control and that most of its residents want it to become part of Russia.
Ukraine’s Military: Russian Forces Continue Airstrikes on the Azovstal Steelworks
Ukraine’s military says Russian forces are continuing airstrikes on the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol and pressing their advance on towns in eastern Ukraine.
In its operational statement for Day 78 of the war, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff says Russian forces have also fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, which has been a refuge for civilians fleeing Mariupol.
It did not elaborate on the latest action around Azovstal.
The military says Russian forces also fired artillery at Ukrainian units north of the city of Kharkiv in the northeast, and reported Russian strikes in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions to the north.
Ukraine Keeps up Counterattack to North of Kharkiv, Britain Says
Ukrainian forces are keeping up a counterattack to the north of the second largest city of Kharkiv and recapturing several towns and villages toward the Russian border, Britain said on Thursday.
Russia has reportedly withdrawn units from the area and the forces are likely to redeploy after replenishing the losses to the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, the British defence ministry said in a regular Twitter bulletin.
On Wednesday, Ukraine said it had pushed back Russian forces in the east to recapture Pytomnyk, a village on the main highway north of Kharkiv, about halfway to the Russian border.
Finland Must Apply for NATO Membership Without Delay, Finnish President and PM Say
Finland should submit an application to join the NATO military alliance, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement on Thursday, a major policy shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement.
Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810 mile) border and a difficult past with Russia, has previously remained outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to maintain friendly relations with its eastern neighbour.
Russian Forces Have Blocked All Evacuation Routes Out of City: Mariupol Official
An adviser to the Mariupol mayor said on Wednesday that Russian forces have blocked all evacuation routes out of the city.
The adviser, Petro Andriushchenko, said there were few apartment buildings fit to live in after the weeks of bombardment and very little food or drinking water.
Andriushchenko said some residents who have remained in the city are cooperating with the Russian occupying forces in exchange for food.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Ukraine has offered to release Russian prisoners of war if Russia will allow the badly injured fighters to be evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant.
Russian forces have surrounded the plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the southern port city.
Vereshchuk said no agreement has been reached but negotiations were underway. The fighters trapped in the plant have refused to surrender to the Russians, saying they fear being tortured or killed.
Ukraine to Hold First War Crimes Trial of Captured Russian
Ukraine’s top prosecutor disclosed plans Wednesday for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier, as fighting raged in the east and south and the Kremlin left open the possibility of annexing a corner of the country it seized early in the invasion.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office charged Sgt. Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, in the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who was gunned down while riding a bicycle in February, four days into the war.
Shyshimarin, who served with a tank unit, was accused of firing through a car window on the man in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. Venediktova said the soldier could get up to 15 years in prison. She did not say when the trial would start.
Venediktova’s office has said it has been investigating more than 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and has identified over 600 suspects.
Russia Sanctions Gazprom Germania Group
Russia has imposed blocking sanctions on the entire Gazprom Germania Group taken under control by the German government.
According to a Russian government decision published Wednesday, there are 31 companies on the list, most of which belong to the Gazprom Germania Group.
Germany’s Economy Ministry said it was assessing the impact of the announcement and awaiting further details.
The ministry said that German authorities, who took control of Gazprom Germany in April, are “making the necessary preparations for various scenarios.” It didn’t elaborate, but said that the gas supply in Germany is safe and constantly monitored.
Germany has received about 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia before the war, but has since reduced this share to 35 percent. The German government said it aims to wean the country off Russian gas by 2024 at the latest.
Jack Phillips, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.