The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, May 15. Click here for updates from May 14.
Ukraine Forces Claim to Have Reached Russia Border
Ukraine on Sunday released footage it said showed its troops reaching the border with Russia and re-installing a blue and yellow border post.
The location wasn’t specified, but some reports suggested the footage may have been filmed in the Kharkiv region.
The video’s release came as Ukraine said it held off Russian offensives in the east, with Western military officials saying that Moscow’s campaign there had slowed to a snail’s pace.
The Ukrainian military said it held off a renewed offensive in the Dontesk area of the Donbass.
Russian troops also tried to advance near the eastern city of Izyum, but Ukrainian forces stopped them, the governor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region reported.
Ukraine’s most experienced and best-equipped soldiers are based in eastern Ukraine, where they have fought Moscow-backed separatists for eight years.
Russia Says It Strikes Ukraine Positions in Battle for Donbass
Russia pummeled positions in the east of Ukraine on Sunday, its defense ministry said, as it sought to encircle Ukrainian forces in the battle for Donbass and fend off a counteroffensive around the strategic Russian-controlled city of Izium.
Since mid-April, Russian forces have focused much of their firepower on trying to capture two eastern provinces known as the Donbass after failing to take Kyiv.
Russia’s defense ministry said rockets had hit two command points, 11 company positions, and four artillery stores in four regions of the eastern Donetsk region, some deep in Ukrainian-controlled territory between Donetsk and Izium.
The defense ministry said Russian forces had hit areas near the cities of Baxmut and Kostyantynivka.
Russia also destroyed two S-300 missile systems and a radar post in the Sumy region of north-eastern Ukraine, the defense ministry said.
Russia said that since the start of the military operation, its forces had destroyed 165 aircraft, 125 helicopters, 879 unmanned aerial vehicles, 306 anti-aircraft missile systems, and 3,098 tanks and other armored combat vehicles.
NATO Chief Stoltenberg: Ukraine Can Win This War
Russia’s offensive in Ukraine is failing and its operation in the Donbass region has stalled, NATO’s secretary general said on Sunday.
“Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned. They failed to take Kyiv,” Jens Stoltenberg told reporters by video link. “They are pulling back from Kharkiv and their major offensive in Donbass has stalled.”
“Ukraine can win this war,” he said, adding that NATO must continue to step up its military support to the country.
Missile Hits Military Infrastructure in Ukraine’s Lviv Region: Governor
A missile strike hit some military infrastructure in the western Ukrainian region of Lviv early on Sunday, the region’s Governor Maxim Kozitsky said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
“Four enemy missiles hit one of the military infrastructures in the Lviv region,” Kozitsky said. “The object is completely destroyed. According to preliminary information, there are no casualties. No one sought medical help.”
The regional “West” Air Command of Ukraine’s Air Force said in a social media post that several missiles were fired from the Black Sea at the Lviv region. Two of the missiles were destroyed before hitting targets, it said.
Britain Says Russia Has Lost a Third of Its Forces in Ukraine
Russia has probably lost around a third of the ground forces it deployed to Ukraine and its offensive in the Donbass region “has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule,” British military intelligence said on Sunday.
“Despite small-scale initial advances, Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition,” the British defense ministry said on Twitter.
“Russia has now likely suffered losses of one third of the ground combat force it committed in February.”
It said Russia was unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days.
Ukraine’s Top Diplomat Meets Blinken, Touts More Weapon Supplies
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Berlin on Sunday and that “more weapons and other aid is on the way to Ukraine.”
“We agreed to work closely together to ensure that Ukrainian food exports reach consumers in Africa and Asia. Grateful to Secretary Blinken and the U.S. for their leadership and unwavering support,” Kuleba tweeted.
The two men discussed the impact of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, including on global food security, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said.
“The Secretary conveyed details regarding the latest tranche of U.S. security assistance to bolster Ukraine’s defenses,” Price said.
Ukrainian Band Kalush Orchestra Wins Eurovision
Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest on Sunday.
The band and its song “Stefania” beat 24 other performers early Sunday in the grand final of the competition. The public vote from home, via text message or the Eurovision app, proved decisive, lifting them above British TikTok star Sam Ryder, who led after the national juries in 40 countries cast their votes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the victory, Ukraine’s third since its 2003 Eurovision debut. He said “we will do our best” to host next year’s contest in the devastated port city of Mariupol, which is almost completely occupied by Russian forces.
In describing the city, Zelenskyy underlined “Ukrainian Mariupol,” adding: “free, peaceful, rebuilt!”
“I am sure our victorious chord in the battle with the enemy is not far off,” Zelenskyy said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
McConnell, GOP Senators to Visit Helsinki Amid NATO Talks
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and a delegation of GOP senators are due to visit Helsinki on Monday for talks with Finland’s president as the previously neutral Nordic nation bordering Russia seeks NATO membership.
McConnell is a staunch supporter of the Western military alliance, and the visit by the Republicans who made a surprise stop over the weekend to Ukraine’s capital delivers a show of American support for the region as Ukraine battles the Russian invasion.
The office of Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, said Sunday that McConnell and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas) will meet to discuss Finland’s NATO membership, the Ukraine war, and other issues. McConnell’s office confirmed the visit.
McConnell was in Stockholm on Sunday while leading diplomats from the 30 NATO member states met in Berlin to discuss providing more support to Ukraine and moves by Finland, Sweden, and others to join NATO.
McConnell Expects Senate to Vote on $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Bill on Wednesday
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday he expected the Senate to vote on $40 billion in proposed aid to Ukraine on Wednesday after holding a related procedural vote on Monday.
“We expect to invoke cloture—hopefully by a significant margin—on the motion to proceed on Monday, which would set us up to approve the supplemental on Wednesday,” McConnell told reporters on a conference call from Stockholm after visiting the Ukrainian capital on Saturday. He was referring to a procedural “cloture” vote that caps further debate on a matter to 30 hours.
NATO Expects Turkey Not to Hold Up Finland, Sweden Membership
NATO and the United States said on Sunday they were confident Turkey would not hold up membership of Finland and Sweden in the Western military alliance, as the two Nordic states took firm steps to join in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto confirmed on Sunday that his country would apply to join NATO, while Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats announced an official policy change that would pave the way for their country to apply within days.
“Today the Swedish Social Democratic Party took a historic decision to say yes to apply for a membership in the NATO defence alliance,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde wrote on Twitter. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has deteriorated the security situation for Sweden and Europe as a whole.”
Turkey, which had surprised its allies in recent days by saying it had reservations about Finnish and Swedish membership, laid out its demands on Sunday on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin. Ankara said it wanted the Nordic countries to halt support for Kurdish militant groups present on their territory, and lift bans on some sales of arms to Turkey.
“I’m confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn’t delay the membership,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to go into details of closed-door conversations in Berlin but echoed Stoltenberg’s position.
“I’m very confident that we will reach consensus on that,” Blinken told reporters, adding that NATO was “a place for dialogue.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said talks with Swedish and Finnish counterparts in Berlin had been helpful. The two countries had made suggestions to respond to Ankara’s concerns, which Turkey would consider, while Cavusoglu had provided them proof terrorists were present on their territory, he said.
He singled out Sweden in particular, saying the Kurdish militant group the PKK, banned as terrorists by the United States and EU, had held meetings in Stockholm over the weekend.
Nevertheless, he said Turkey did not oppose the alliance’s policy of being open to all European nations who wish to apply.
Sweden to Seek Broad Support for NATO Membership
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will seek broad support for an application to join NATO on Monday, she announced on Sunday after her party dropped its long-standing opposition to membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Joining NATO was a distant prospect just months ago, but Russia’s attack on its neighbor has prompted both Sweden and Finland to rethink their security needs and seek safety in the military alliance they stood apart from during the Cold War.
Following internal debates over the past week among the leadership of the Social Democrats, the biggest party in every election for the past century, Andersson said NATO entry was “the best thing for the security of Sweden and the Swedish people.”
“Non-alignment has served us well, but our conclusion is that it will not serve us as well in the future,” she said.
Supporters of joining the alliance will now command a broad majority in Sweden’s Riksdag with much of the opposition already in favor, and a formal application by Andersson’s minority government will follow.
Finnish Leader Says Latest Putin Talk on NATO ‘Calm and Cool’
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Sunday his latest talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin about his country’s bid to join NATO was measured and did not contain any threats.
“He confirmed that he thinks it’s a mistake. We are not threatening you. Altogether, the discussion was very, could I say, calm and cool,” Niinisto said in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Finland Announces It Will Apply to Join NATO
The government of Finland announced Sunday that it is planning to apply for NATO membership in a move that is likely to irk Moscow amid the months-long conflict in Ukraine.
Ahead of the planned announcement, Russian officials lodged threats against the Scandinavian country, which shares a lengthy border with Russia and has long held a position of neutrality. During the Cold War, both Finland and neighboring Sweden kept out of NATO, but the governments of both countries have said they have reconsidered their stance on the military alliance amid the Russia–Ukraine war.
“We hope that the Parliament will confirm the decision to apply for NATO membership during the coming days,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said during a news conference in Helsinki on Sunday. “It will be based on a strong mandate, with the President of the Republic. We have been in close contact with governments of NATO member states and NATO itself.”
While Finland is a close partner with NATO, Sunday’s announcement “is a historic decision that we will join NATO and hopefully we are making the decisions together,” Marin added.
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Jack Phillips, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.