Ukrainian general says war will be over by year-end; McConnell meets with Zelenskyy in Kyiv – CNBC

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Russian forces retreating from around Kharkiv

A police officer in a school gymnasium near Kharkiv, Ukraine, after the surrounding village was liberated by Ukrainian troops on May 13.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

Russian troops are withdrawing from around Ukraine’s second-largest city after bombarding it for weeks, the Ukrainian military said Saturday, as Kyiv and Moscow’s forces engaged in a grinding battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

Ukraine’s military said the Russian forces were pulling back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on guarding supply routes, while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern province of Donetsk in order to “deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications.”

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new — long-term — phase of the war.”

— Associated Press

Former MI6 officer and Trump dossier author Christopher Steele reportedly says sources tell him Putin is ‘quite seriously ill’

Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer and author of the Russian dossier on former President Donald Trump, told Sky News that his sources have said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “quite seriously ill” though the nature of the illness remains unclear.

“Certainly, from what we’re hearing from sources in Russia and elsewhere, is that Putin is, in fact, quite seriously ill,” Steele, who ran the Russia desk at MI6 in London between 2006 and 2009, told Sky News. “It’s not clear exactly what this illness is — whether it’s incurable or terminal, or whatever.”

His comments come after Ukrainian Major General Kyrylo Budanov, in a separate interview with Sky News, said Putin is seriously ill with cancer and that a coup to remove him is under way in Russia.

CNBC was not able to independently verify these remarks.

Read the full Sky News report here.

Terri Cullen

Ukraine band makes plea for Mariupol at Eurovision

The Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine performs the song “Stefania” at the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest. The international music competition is taking place for the 66th time.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Ukrainian band, Kalush Orchestra, made an impassioned plea to free people still trapped in a besieged steel mill in a strategic Ukrainian port city on Saturday night after performing in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, where bookmakers tip them to win.

“I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal, right now,” the band’s front man, Oleh Psiuk, said, to the live crowd of some 7,500, many of whom gave a standing ovation, and global television audience of millions.

The plea to free the remaining Ukrainian fighters trapped beneath the sprawling Azovstal plant by Russians served as a somber reminder that the hugely popular and at times flamboyant Eurovision song contest was being played out against the backdrop of a war on Europe’s eastern flank.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave signs that he was watching from Kyiv, and rooting for Ukrainian band.

“Indeed, this is not a war, but nevertheless, for us today, any victory is very important,” Zelenskyy said, according to a .presidential statement. “So, let’s cheer for ours. Glory be to Ukraine!”

Kalush Orchestra was among 25 bands performing in the Eurovision Song Contest final front of a live audience in the industrial northern city of Turin, while millions more watched on television or via streaming around the world.

The Ukrainian band was heavily tipped to win by bookmakers, who are giving the group that mixes traditional Ukrainian rhythms, costumes and dance moves with contemporary hip hop a 60% chance of winning.

Associated Press

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo warns international banks against evading sanctions on Russia

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo discussed on Friday the unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia for its war against Ukraine.

Adeyemo met with representatives from several foreign financial institutions at the Institute of International Bankers’ (IIB) New York offices.

During the meeting, he stressed the importance of financial institutions implementing U.S. sanctions and emphasized Treasury’s focus on preventing sanctions evasion. Adeyemo warned of the risks of violating the bans.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) expects all financial institutions to do their own due diligence to ensure they are not transacting with a sanctioned person, he said.

Annie Nova

India bans wheat exports amid surging prices from Ukraine war

Workers unload wheat sacks from a truck at a Punjab Grains Procurement Corp. facility in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, India, on Sunday, May 1, 2022.

T. Narayan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

India banned exports of wheat on Saturday amid surging global prices because of disruption from the Russia-Ukraine war, according to a government notification.

“The government of India is committed to providing for the food security requirements of India, neighbouring and other vulnerable developing countries which are adversely affected by the sudden changes in the global market for wheat,” the notice read.

The move may further exasperate the rise in wheat prices globally as India is the second biggest global producer, according to Reuters.

Wheat prices have soared by 53% this year in Chicago trading following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Hotter temperatures in India has further boosted wheat prices locally and raised inflation concerns.

Russia and Ukraine together comprise the largest wheat export bloc globally, according to Bank of America.

Kremlin using new and more outlandish claims to justify the Ukraine invasion

Russia’s state-controlled media means that its audiences are getting a dramatically different depiction of events in Ukraine on their TV screens than people in the West, and one that’s largely divorced from reality.

NBC News watched dozens of hours of the state media coverage and found “the Kremlin and its mouthpieces increasingly reaching for new and more outlandish claims to justify the Ukraine invasion.”

The state news has pushed narratives about “black magic” supposedly practiced by Ukrainian troops and hinted at baseless allegations of drug use by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Viewers have been told that the war in Ukraine is not a war, but instead a “special military operation” designed to spare civilians.

Russian forces are framed as liberators, fighting against what the propaganda calls the “neo-Nazis” who are said to overrun Ukraine under the influence of the United States and it allies and are allegedly committing “genocide” against Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

“If that’s what you’re presented with, well, I’m not surprised that a lot of people will say — yes, that sounds like a perfectly appropriate war,” Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank based in London, told NBC News.

—NBC News

Russia’s Lavrov says the West has launched a ‘total hybrid war’ on Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with his Omani counterpart Badr al-Busaidi in Muscat, Oman, May 11, 2022.

Russian Foreign Ministry | Reuters

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made reference to extensive U.S. and European sanctions against the country in a speech on Saturday.

“The collective West has declared total hybrid war on us and it is hard to predict how long all this will last but it is clear the consequences will be felt by everyone, without exception,” said Lavrov according to Reuters.

The war is doomed to fail, added Lavrov.

U.S. and Europe have unveiled a raft of sanctions against Russia, its financial system and oligarchs since the country’s invasion of Ukraine in late February

—John Melloy

Ukraine launches a counteroffensive near Izyum

Regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that there had been no shelling attacks on Kharkiv in the past day.

He said Ukraine had launched a counteroffensive near Izyum, a city 125 kilometers (78 miles) south of Kharkiv that has been under effective Russian control since at least the beginning of April.

Fighting was fierce on the Siversky Donets River near the city of Severodonetsk, where Ukraine has launched counterattacks but failed to halt Russia’s advance, said Oleh Zhdanov, an independent Ukrainian military analyst.

“The fate of a large portion of the Ukrainian army is being decided — there are about 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.

—Associated Press

Kyiv announces a curfew starting Sunday

The city of Kyiv announced a curfew starting Sunday from 11 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. each night, according to an NBC News translation of a Telegram post.

The region had a curfew in the early stages of the war amid Russian attacks. But the latest announcement comes after Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian troops back from northern areas around Kyiv.

—John Melloy

McConnell and Senate delegation visit with Zelenskyy in Kyiv

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) arrive for a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 14, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell lead a Senate delegation that arrived in Kyiv to visit with Ukraine President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Thank you for your leadership in our struggle not only for our state, but also for democratic values and freedoms. We appreciate it very much,” Zelenskyy posted about the meeting on social media according to an NBC News translation.

A video showed McConnell greeting Zelenskyy along with Senators John Barrasso, John Cornyn, and Susan Collins.

—John Melloy

Ukraine seeks evacuation of wounded fighters from Mariupol

This photo released on May 10, 2022 by the Azov regiment shows an injured Ukrainian serviceman inside the Azovstal iron and steel works factory in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion.

Dmytro ‘Orest’ Kozatskyi | AFP | Getty Images

Talks are underway to evacuate a large number of wounded soldiers from a besieged steelworks plant in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol in return for the release of Russian prisoners of war, Ukraine’s president said.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals failed to anticipate when they launched the invasion on Feb. 24, has slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances elsewhere in Ukraine.

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.

Dmytro ‘Orest’ Kozatskyi | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the plight of people trapped at the Azovstal site in a late-night address.

“At the moment very complex negotiations are underway on the next phase of the evacuation mission – the removal of the badly wounded, medics,” he said, adding that “influential” international intermediaries were involved in the talks.

Russia, which initially insisted the defenders in the sprawling Soviet-era bunkers beneath the steelworks give themselves up, has said little publicly about the talks.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told local TV that efforts were now focused on evacuating about 60 people, comprising the most seriously wounded as well as medical personnel.

Reuters

Finland President Niinisto called Russian President Putin to announce plans to seek NATO membership

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (not pictured) hold a news conference, after signing a declaration between the UK and Finland to deepen their defence and security co-operation, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the Presidential Palace, in Helsinki, Finland, May 11, 2022. 

Frank Augstein | Reuters

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Finland President Sauli Niinisto announced his country’s intention to see membership in NATO, saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has “altered the security environment of Finland.”

“The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations,” President Niinistö said in a statement. “Avoiding tensions was considered important.”

Niinisto said he repeated his deep concern over the human suffering caused by the war in Ukraine and called for peace. He also sought to help secure the evacuation of civilians from the war zone.

Putin told Niinisto in return that abandoning neutrality and joining NATO would be a mistake that could damage relations between their two countries, Reuters reported.

“Vladimir Putin stressed that abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there are no threats to Finland’s security. Such a change in the country’s foreign policy may have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations,” according to the Kremlin.

Moscow described the call as a “frank exchange of views,” normally a diplomatic euphemism for a difficult conversation, Reuters said.

Terri Cullen

Ukraine is investigating 11,000 war crimes, and has 40 suspects: Prosecutor general

Ukraine’s war crime investigation already has 11,000 cases and 40 suspects, according to the country’s prosecutor general.

In a tweet Friday, Iryna Venediktova said she was “confident that in the nearest future” there will be more war crimes cases in the courts.

It comes after a Russian soldier went on trial Friday in the first war crimes case to come to court since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Sargent Vadim Shyshimarin was accused of shooting a man through an open car window in Chupakhivka, a village in the northeast of Ukraine.

In a follow-up tweet on Saturday, Venediktova added: “It is in the hands of and Int. [international] community to end the impunity. This is a responsibility that we are carrying on our shoulders in relation to current and future generations. We allowed Russia way too long to go unpunished for its criminal actions.”

Katrina Bishop

G-7 foreign ministers pledge to continue assistance for Ukraine for as long as it’s needed

(L-R) US State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, British Secretary for Foreign Affairs Elizabeth Truss, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell walk in the garden during the G7 Foreign ministers meeting in Wangels, Northern Germany on May 12, 2022.

Marcus Brandt | AFP | Getty Images

G-7 foreign ministers said on Saturday they will continue to provide military and defense assistance to Ukraine for “as long as necessary.”

They also said they were committed to ensuring the accessibility of food, energy and financial resources, as the Ukraine war wreaks havoc on global supply chains.

“We will expedite our efforts to reduce and end reliance on Russian energy supplies and as quickly as possible, building on G-7 commitments to phase out or ban imports of Russian coal and oil,” the group’s statement said.

Read the full story here.

Katrina Bishop

Ukraine general says the war will be over by the end of the year

A Ukrainian soldier sits on a tank carryied by a transporter near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on May 12, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian Major General Kyrylo Budanov has said he believes his country’s war with Russia will be over by the end of the year.

“The breaking point will be in the second part of August,” he said in an exclusive interview with Sky News. “Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year.”

“As a result, we will renew Ukrainian power in all our territories that we have lost including Donbas and the Crimea,” he added.

The comments mark the most precise prediction of the end of the war by a senior Ukrainian official.

Budanov, who serves as Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, also said a coup was already underway in Russia to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.

He said Russia’s defeat in Ukraine will “eventually lead to the change of leadership of the Russian Federation. This process has already been launched and they are moving into that way.”

— Katrina Bishop

Russian forces are withdrawing from Kharkiv, Ukraine says

Civilians walk past an old checkpoint in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 12, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces are withdrawing from the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine said in an operational update Saturday.

“Russian enemy did not conduct active hostilities in the Kharkiv direction. Its main efforts were focused on ensuring the withdrawal of his troops from the city of Kharkiv, maintaining the occupied positions and supply routes,” Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in an address on YouTube, according to an NBC News translation.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has seen significant bombarded since Russia began its full scale invasion in late February.

But Ukraine’s resistance has moved quickly over recent days make territorial gains and drive Russians away from the city.

On Friday, the Pentagon said Ukraine continued to make progress in reclaiming towns and villages around Kharkiv.

“We have seen some progress by them pushing Russian forces closer to the border and away from Kharkiv,” the official, who declined to be named, said on a call with reporters.

— Katrina Bishop

Moscow will respond if NATO moves nuclear forces closer to Russia’s border

Moscow will take adequate precautionary measures if NATO deploys nuclear forces and infrastructure closer to Russia’s border, Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on Saturday.

“It will be necessary to respond … by taking adequate precautionary measures that would ensure the viability of deterrence,” Interfax agency quoted Grushko as saying.

Moscow has no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden and does not see “real” reasons for those two countries to be joining the NATO alliance, Grushko added.

He also reiterated the Kremlin’s earlier statement that Moscow’s response to NATO’s possible expansion will depend on how close the alliance moves military assets towards Russia and what infrastructure it deploys.

Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.

Reuters

Rigged referendums are ‘central part’ of Russian strategy in Ukraine, says UK ministry

A soldier inspects a damaged classroom on May 8, 2022, in Kherson Oblast, Ukraine. Most of the region remains Russian occupied.

John Moore | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A request from authorities in Kherson, Ukraine, to join the Russian Federation is part of Moscow’s strategy to use rigged votes to place Ukrainian regions under Russian control, the U.K. Defence Ministry said Saturday.

“A central part of Russia’s original invasion plan was highly likely to use rigged referendums to place the majority of Ukraine’s regions under long-term pro-Russian authority,” the ministry said in a regular intelligence update.

Kherson’s administration, which was imposed by Russia after its troops took over the city in March, this week formally requested that the Kherson Region be made part of Russia.

“The fact that Russia has only succeeded in imposing a pro-Russia local leadership in Kherson highlights the failure of Russia’s invasion to make progress towards its political objectives in Ukraine,” the British ministry said.

Russia will “almost certainly” manipulate the results of any referendum held in Kherson to decide whether to leave Ukraine, the Defence Ministry said.

Russia’s defense ministry was unavailable for immediate comment.

Kherson lies on the Dnipro River near the Black Sea, only about 60 miles (97 km) from Crimea, which Russia took over the last time it invaded Ukraine in 2014.

Invading Russian troops took control of Kherson in the early part of the current war, but the Ukrainians who live there have carried out public protests against the occupation regardless.

Ukraine’s military said in March that Russian troops used stun grenades and gunfire to break up at least one of those protests.

Moscow claims its troops do not target civilians, despite overwhelming proof that they have done so in Ukraine.

— Ted Kemp

Ukraine war is about ‘the future’ for Western countries, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian infantrymen train on May 9 in an area north of Kherson Oblast, most of which is controlled by Russia.

John Moore | Getty Images News | Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said although Ukrainians are doing everything they can to drive out the Russians, “no one today can predict how long this war will last.”

“This will depend, unfortunately, not only on our people, who are already giving their maximum,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. “This will depend on our partners, on European countries, on the entire free world.”

He said he was thankful to all those who are working to strengthen the sanctions on Russia and increase military and financial support to Ukraine. “This is the only recipe for protecting freedom in the face of the Russian invasion. And for Western countries, this is not simply an expense. This is not about accounting, it’s about the future.”

Zelenskyy said Ukraine on Friday shot down the 200th Russian aircraft of the war and he noted Russia’s heavy losses in tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and drones.

“And for what? So that the Lenin statue can stand for a bit longer in temporarily occupied Genichesk? There is and can be no other result for Russia.”

Russian forces in April restored the Lenin statue in Genichesk, a town in the southern Kherson region.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was engaged in “very difficult negotiations” to try to evacuate the wounded fighters trapped in the Mariupol steelworks. “We’re talking about a large number of people. Of course, we are doing everything to evacuate all of the rest, each of our defenders. We have already brought in everyone in the world who can be the most influential mediators.”

Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces have retaken towns and villages from Russian troops. He said work was underway to restore electricity, running water, telephone communications and social services.

— Associated Press

Russia to halt electricity exports to Finland

Russian state-owned utility company Inter RAO will halt exports of electricity to Finland starting Saturday, the company’s Finnish subsidiary said.

RAO Nordic, the subsidiary that imports electricity from its Russian parent company, said that it will stop supplying Finland because it hasn’t received payment from Finnish sources in recent days.

“We are forced to note that for the volumes which have been sold on Nord Pool exchange since the 6th of May funds have not yet been credited to our bank account,” the company said in a statement. “This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over twenty years of our trading history.”

Power imports to Finland will be halted from 1 a.m. local time on Saturday “for the time being,” Finnish grid operator Fingrid said in a separate statement, citing RAO Nordic.

“The lack of electricity import from Russia will be compensated by importing more electricity from Sweden and by generating more electricity in Finland,” said Reima Päivinen, senior vice president of power system operations at Fingrid.

Fingrid, a state-owned business, said imported electricity from Russia has covered about 10% of Finland’s total consumption. The stoppage comes as Finnish leaders warm up to the idea of joining NATO in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Thomas Franck

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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