Turkey says it opposes Sweden and Finland NATO membership; Zelenskyy says Kremlin defeat is obvious – CNBC

Brittney Griner’s pre-trial detention in Russia extended by a month, lawyer says

A close up shot of Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury at practice and media availability during the 2021 WNBA Finals on October 11, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Michael Gonzales | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

WNBA star Brittney Griner’s pre-trial detention in Russia was extended by a month during a Friday court appearance, her lawyer told The Associated Press.

Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boikov told the outlet the short extension may indicate that her case will go to trial soon.

Griner, a star center for the Phoenix Mercury basketball team, was arrested in February on drug charges after a search of her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow turned up vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis, authorities said. 

The offense could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Read the full story here.

— NBC News

Erdogan says Turkey doesn’t support Sweden, Finland joining NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced opposition to Sweden and Finland’s potential NATO membership, just as both countries are on the verge of applying to join the alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views … It is not possible for us to be in favor,” Erdogan told press in Istanbul on Friday. He cited the Nordic countries’ relations with Kurdish militant groups that Ankara classifies as terrorists.

NATO ascension for a new member state requires consensus approval from all existing members. Turkey joined NATO in 1952, and has the second-largest military in the 30-member alliance after the United States.

Read the full story.

— Natasha Turak

U.N. human rights chief details cases in Ukraine that ‘may amount to war crimes’

People attend the funeral of the fallen Ukrainian soldier in a cemetery of Kharkiv, Ukraine on May 7, 2022.

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office is investigating human rights violations in Ukraine, “many of which may amount to war crimes.”

“These killings of civilians often appeared to be intentional, carried out by snipers and soldiers. Civilians were killed when crossing the road or leaving their shelters to seek food and water. Others were killed as they fled in their vehicles,” Bachelet said before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Unarmed local men were killed because Russian soldiers suspected them of supporting Ukrainian forces or otherwise being a potential threat and some were tortured before being killed,” she added.

Bachelet also said her office was looking into allegations of sexual violence and so far, the UN has verified a dozen cases across the country.

— Amanda Macias

Russia is still making a lot of money from oil and gas sales to Europe: Ukrainian FM Kuleba

The russian multinational energy corporation Lukoil depot of Neder-Over-Heembeek is seen on April 7, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke to G-7 leaders in Weissenhaus, Germany, stressing that a major issue that needed addressing is the billions in revenue that Russia is still receiving from its major oil and gas customer: the EU.

“As long as Russia continues to sell gas and oil to the European Union, their pockets will be full enough to continue fighting the war,” Kuleba said. “The ridiculousness of the situation now is that Ukrainian economy suffers much more from the Russian aggression and destruction than Russian economy suffers from the sanctions imposed on it,” he told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick.

“I’m not trying to say that sanctions are not working — sanctions that were already imposed make a lot of sense in the mid-term perspective,” Kuleba added, saying that sanctions on Russia’s defense industry for instance are important in preventing Russia from producing more advanced weaponry.

“But Russia is making a lot of money selling oil and gas to Europe; this must stop,” the minister said.
The EU in total imports about 40% of its natural gas and 36% of its oil from Moscow, sending it billions of dollars per week. The bloc is currently working on a sanctions package to end the buying of Russian oil, but Hungary, which relies heavily on Russian energy and whose leader is on friendly terms with Putin, has so far been blocking the measure.

“The solution for oil is near, and I see that European countries are working hard on finding a solution for gas. I’m very cautiously optimistic after my visit to Berlin yesterday because I saw the commitment to find a solution to break the dependence of Germany on Russian gas,” Kuleba said. “If that happens, everything else will be easier. Takes some time, but it is important to move in that direction.”

European oil executives have stressed the difficulty and near impossibility of weaning the bloc off of Russian oil and gas anytime soon.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine counteroffensive near Kharkiv starting to look similar to gains made in the west, think tank says

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

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s counteroffensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv “is starting to look very similar to the counteroffensive that ultimately drove Russian troops away from Kyiv and out of western Ukraine entirely,” the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest assessment of the conflict.

The U.S. think tank said it is too soon to tell whether Russian forces will make a similar decision, however.

It added that Russian forces are likely to launch a ground offensive on or around Severodonetsk, an eastern city in the Luhansk Oblast, in the coming days.

— Sam Meredith

Russian soldier to go on trial in first war-crimes case

Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, arrives for a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, May 13, 2022. The trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian opened Friday, the first war crimes trial since Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor.

Efrem Lukatsky | AP

A Russian soldier is scheduled to go on trial Friday in the killing of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian, marking the first time since the start of the invasion that a member of the Russian military will be prosecuted for a war crime.

Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin stands accused of shooting the 62-year-old man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. He faces up to life in prison under the penalties spelled out in the section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war.

— Associated Press

Russia investing ‘significant effort’ in bid to achieve eastern Ukraine breakthrough, UK says

Service members of pro-Russian troops ride an armored personnel carrier during fighting in Ukraine-Russia conflict near the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 5, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russian forces are investing “significant effort” around the Ukrainian cities of Izium and Severodonetsk in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough toward the eastern regions of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence has said.

In its latest intelligence update, the U.K. ministry says the Kremlin’s primary objective is to envelop Ukrainian forces in the Joint Forces Operation area, referring to the eastern line of contact between the separatist-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.

It said Ukrainian forces had successfully prevented an attempted Russian river crossing in the Donbas, noting that such a maneuver is “highly risky” in a contested environment and speaks to the pressure Russian commanders are under to make progress in eastern Ukraine.

— Sam Meredith

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says Russia lacks courage to admit ‘obvious’ strategic defeat

Zelenskyy said Russian forces are “trying to hide the truth behind missile, air and artillery strikes.”

Alexey Furman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s strategic defeat is already obvious, saying in his nightly address that the Kremlin “simply lacks [the] courage to admit it.”

Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of being “cowards,” adding that they are seeking “to hide the truth behind missile, air and artillery strikes.”

Russia’s embassy in London was not immediately available to comment.

— Sam Meredith

G7 foreign ministers meet to discuss Ukraine war, impact

British Secretary for Foreign Affairs Elizabeth Truss (L) and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi chat during bilateral talks at the meeting of the G7 foreign ministers in Wangels, Northern Germany on May 12, 2022. (Photo by Marcus Brandt / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARCUS BRANDT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Marcus Brandt | Afp | Getty Images

Top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations gathered in northern Germany for a three-day meeting centered on Russia’s war against Ukraine and the wider impact it is having around the world, particularly on food and energy prices.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, the meeting’s host, said the conflict already had become a “global crisis” because shipments of staple crops are stuck in Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter.

“Twenty-five million tons (27.5 million U.S. tons) of grain are currently blocked in Ukrainian ports, particularly Odesa,” 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.”

“That’s why we are discussing how the grain blockade exerted by Russia can be unblocked, how we can get the grain out to the world,” she added.

— Associated Press

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