Picking up the pieces in a place that saw the horrors of wars
From CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Oleksandra Ochman in Kyiv
The remnants of the horrors that transpired in Dmytrivka just a few weeks ago are everywhere around Tamara Aheieva.
Across the road from her little produce stall lies the burnt wreckage of a Russian armored vehicle. Just to the right of her is the deep crater left behind by a rocket, its edges formed of strangely smooth asphalt that melted on impact, then solidified again.
The building next to it is seriously damaged, its roof collapsed on itself.
“A man I knew was killed riding his bike down the road,” she said.
Friday was Aheieva’s first day back selling home-made pickled vegetables, flowers, potatoes and what she calls “cabbage caviar.”
She fled the village when Russian troops starting to close in and spent the next few weeks about 50 miles (80km) away in Zhytomyr region.
Aheieva said 17 houses have been destroyed in this tiny village alone. She was lucky — her home is a bit further from the main road and was spared the worst damage.
We were here until the last moment. We left when the awful things started happening,” she said.
Before the war, the 64-year old pensioner would be one of many coming here to trade home-made food, vegetables and flowers. Now, it’s just her.
“People are just coming back. Normally we sell flowers and vegetable and people stop and buy from us, I hope they will come back,” she said.
Ukrainian MMA champion Yaroslav Amosov recounts the horrors of war
From CNN's Matias Grez
As MMA fighter Yaroslav Amosov walks through the streets surrounding his hometown of Irpin, which sits around 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) west of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, there are fleeting moments when it seems like an ordinary day in May.
But for many Ukrainians, such moments have been few and far between since Russia began its invasion on February 24 and every few steps, Amosov is reminded of the destruction Vladimir Putin's war has brought to his homeland.
It's hard to look at your city that was once full of happiness, life," Amosov, a reigning world champion, tells CNN Sport in an exclusive interview from Ukraine.
"It was always very beautiful here, people were happy, they were happy with their life and took pleasure in it.
"Then simply to look at the city now, which is on fire, which is getting destroyed and it becomes horrible to look at. You couldn't really go driving around the city because the roads were covered with trees, in some places, there were parts of houses. Destruction."
The Ukrainian is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of his generation and, at 26-0, currently holds the longest active unbeaten streak in all of MMA. On May 13, he should have been defending his welterweight world title at Bellator's event at Wembley Arena in London, before Russia's invasion of Ukraine forced him to pull out.
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What you need to know about Finland, Sweden and NATO
From Josh Berlinger in Paris
Finland is on the cusp of joining NATO while Sweden is on the verge of following suit. Here's what you need to know about how the war in Ukraine pushed the two Nordic states closer to the US-backed alliance, and what comes next:
While other Nordic countries like Norway, Denmark and Iceland were original members of the alliance, Sweden and Finland did not join the pact for historic and geopolitical reasons.
Both Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917 after the Bolshevik revolution, and Sweden adopted neutral foreign policy stances during the Cold War, refusing to align with the Soviet Union or the United States.
For Finland, this proved more difficult, as it shared a massive border with an authoritarian superpower. To keep the peace, Finns adopted a process some call "Finlandization," in which leaders acceded to Soviet demands from time to time.
Both countries' balancing acts effectively ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. They joined the European Union together in 1995 and gradually aligned their defense policies with the West, while still avoiding joining NATO outright.
Each country had different reasons for avoiding signing up for NATO pact in tandem with the EU.
For Finland, it was more geopolitical. The threat for Russia is more tangible thanks to the two countries' shared 830-mile border.
"Finland has been the exposed country, and we've been the protected country," former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in a joint interview alongside former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb.
While an independent nation, Sweden's geography puts it in the same "strategic environment" as its liberal democratic neighbors, Bildt said. Finland and Sweden have enjoyed a close partnership for decades, with Stockholm viewing its decision to refrain from joining NATO as a way to help keep the heat off Helsinki. Now, however, Sweden is likely to follow Finland's lead.
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Russia cuts its electricity supply to Finland, Finnish operator confirms
From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau in London
Russia has suspended power exports to Finland, Finnish operator Fingrid confirmed to CNN on Saturday.
Fingrid’s Senior Vice President of Power System Operations Reima Päivinen said the supply was effectively cut at 12 a.m. CET on Saturday (7 p.m. ET Friday).
He added that the suspension did not have any impact on the market and that Finland “can cope” with the cut, as Russian electricity amounts to a small fraction of the country’s total consumption.
“We’re also heading into the summer and less electricity will be needed,” Päivinien said, adding he was “confident there won’t be any major problems” next winter.
On Friday, Fingrid said Russia was suspending power exports due to problems in receiving payments.
Some context: The Finnish government is planning to issue a second white paper on Sunday proposing that the country joins NATO, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters on Thursday. The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.
Russia's foreign ministry said Finland's possible accession to NATO marked a "radical change in the country's foreign policy" and warned of retaliatory countermeasures.
Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and its accession would mean that Russia would share a border with a country that is formally aligned with the US.
"Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard," it said.
In late April, Gazprom said it fully halted supplies to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgaria's Bulgargaz after they refused to meet a demand by Moscow to pay in rubles rather than euros or dollars.
Ukrainian military says Russian retreating from Kharkiv
From CNN's Tim Lister
The Ukrainian armed forces said in a brief update late Friday that Russian forces are focused on ensuring the withdrawal of troops from the northern Kharkiv region. Those troops have come under growing pressure from Ukrainian counter-attacks along a wide front to the west of their supply lines.
The fierce counterattack has taken back a number of villages in the area east of Kharkiv. Ukraine's advances threaten the symbolic embarrassment of pushing the Kremlin's forces back to their own border, while posing the strategic threat of cutting Russia's supply lines into Ukraine and its forces further south in the Donbas region. It has also revealed further evidence of apparent Russian atrocities, according to a CNN team on the ground.
The General Staff on Friday also reported more cross-border shelling far from the current area of hostilities in the northeastern region of Sumy -- as well as an airstrike against a village in the region.
In the east of Ukraine, the General Staff said there had been more artillery shelling of Ukrainian-held territory as the Russians tried to make progress towards Sloviansk in the Donetsk region, a key objective. The village of Nova Dmytrivka had come under fire, it said, as it has done since late April.
It also said that there had been airstrikes around Dolyna, which is 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of Sloviansk and nearby Adamivka. Airstrikes in the area earlier this week damaged two religious sites, according to Ukrainian authorities.
In the Luhansk region, the General Staff said a Russian attack on the town of Zolote had been repulsed.
It's 12 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
NATO leaders are meeting as Finland and Sweden make moves to join the US-led alliance. This comes as Ukraine's defense minister says the country is now entering a "long" phase of war with Russia. Here's the latest:
Nordic NATO developments: NATO foreign ministers are convening in Germany on Saturday while the Finnish government plans to issue a second white paper on Sunday proposing that the country joins NATO. But NATO-member Turkey signaled hesitancy about the bloc's expansion. The Kremlin says it will be "forced to take retaliatory steps" if Finland goes forward. Russia will suspend power exports to Finland starting Saturday due to problems in receiving payments, Finland’s transmission system operator Fingrid said in a statement on Friday.
Where the fighting is happening: In eastern Ukraine, satellite imagery and first-hand testimony have provided a fuller picture of the multiple and disastrous efforts by Russian forces to cross the Siverskyi Donets River over the past week. Russians may have sustained heavy casualties, and lost as many as 70 armored vehicles and other equipment in attempting to cross the river early this week. Their goal was to try to encircle Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region, but it failed spectacularly.
In the Luhansk region, more than 50 houses have been destroyed by Russian shelling, as fighting continues to rage around a belt of industrial towns in the area, according to Ukrainian officials. The Russians appear to have made little progress on the ground after consolidating their control over Rubizhne earlier this week.
In northern Ukraine, a Ukrainian counterattack has taken back a number of villages in the area east of Kharkiv. The Ukrainian advances threaten the symbolic embarrassment of expelling the Kremlin's forces back to their own border and while posing the strategic threat of cutting Russia's supply lines into Ukraine and its forces further south in the Donbas region. It has also revealed further evidence of apparent atrocities.
In Mariupol, difficult negotiations are continuing over the fate of Ukrainian soldiers still trapped in the Azovstal steel plant, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, said. In the meantime, he said, the Russians continued to attack Avozstal from the air. "These are heavy, vacuum, high-explosive bombs," the official said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukraine has retaken six settlements from Russian forces on Friday, and 1,015 overall since the start of the conflict in February. It is unclear exactly how much territory those settlements constitute. Zelensky did outline other gains by Ukraine’s military in those areas.
Ukraine appeals for more defense systems: A Ukrainian lawmaker called on the United States to provide air defense systems and fighter jets to Ukraine, saying that the situation on the battlefield is "far worse" than it was at the beginning of the war. The House of Representatives passed the $40 billion Ukraine aid supplemental this week, but the Senate failed to pass the bill after Sen. Rand Paul blocked its passage.
Rising food prices see India export ban: India is banning wheat exports as prices rise worldwide due to Russia's prolonged war on Ukraine. India is the world’s second-highest producer of wheat, the bulk of which is consumed domestically. Ukraine and Russia together are responsible for about 14% of global wheat production. Wheat exports from the Black Sea region have plummeted since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, sending global buyers to turn to India to alleviate supply shortages.
War crimes trial: 21-year-old soldier Vadim Shishimarin is set to become the first Russian to be tried for war crimes at a trial in Kyiv on Friday. He is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old man in Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to the country's prosecutor general's office.
War looms large at the Eurovision: Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra is the favorite to win at tonight's Eurovision Song Contest, the continent's garish and much-loved singing competition scheduled to take place in Turin, Italy. Russia was removed from the competition following its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine takes the Eurovision Song Contest spotlight as the weirdest show on earth returns
From CNN's Rob Picheta
The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest -- the continent's garish and much-loved singing competition -- is scheduled to take place in Turin, Italy on Saturday.
Last year 183 million viewers tuned in to watch the last three stages of the competition, when Italy's punk-rock band Måneskin narrowly beat France and Switzerland to take the crown, according to the official Eurovision website.
Looking ahead to Saturday's final, musicians from 25 countries will compete on Europe's biggest stage, but only one group is commanding the spotlight in the build-up: Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra.
The folk-rap group are runaway favorites in the betting markets and their presence at the tournament has captured the imagination of fans from every competing country.
As we speak, our country and our culture is under threat. But we want to show that we are alive, Ukrainian culture is alive, it is unique, diverse, and beautiful," Oleg Psyuk, the band's frontman, told CNN.
Getting Kalush Orchestra to the Eurovision stage took some doing, and their journey is deeply interwoven with the war at home.
The band initially finished second in Ukraine's national selection competition, but they were elevated after it emerged the winner had previously traveled to Russian-annexed Crimea. They were unveiled as the country's entry on February 22, two days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
Eurovision, for all its oddities, maintains a special place in the cultural calendar. However, winning would be uniquely significant for Kalush Orchestra, and it's hard to imagine a more popular victor in the tournament's history.
CNN's Sana Noor Haq contributed reporting to this post.
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More details emerge about disastrous Russian effort to cross key river in the east
From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv
Satellite imagery and first-hand testimony have provided a fuller picture of the multiple and disastrous efforts by Russian forces to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine over the past week.
New video and analysis of drone and satellite imagery show that the Russians may have lost as many as 70 armored vehicles and other equipment in attempting to cross the river early this week. Their goal was to try to encircle Ukrainian defenses in the Luhansk region, but it failed spectacularly.
In its account of the battle, Ukraine's 80th separate assault brigade said it had "destroyed the pontoons and thwarted nine crossing attempts."
It claimed that "at least 73 units of equipment were destroyed, including T-72 tanks" and a variety of infantry fighting vehicles.
This tally appears supported by analysis of drone video showing Russian equipment strewn along a track to the north of the river, as well as half-submerged tanks.
It's clear that the Ukrainians had previously worked out where the Russians were likely to try to lay down the pontoons and had observed the approach of Russian units. Reconnaissance of possible crossing points had begun at least two days before the Russian attempt.
The Siverskyi Donets flows quickly and the Russians appear to have needed motorized tugs to try to complete the bridge. The noise was a further clue to Ukrainian units that an attempt to ford the river was underway.
In its account, the 80th brigade says that "despite heavy losses, the enemy still managed to break through ... gaining a foothold on the northern outskirts of one of the settlements." At least 30 Russian vehicles and infantry did make the crossing.
Other Ukrainian officials say that those Russian units that did get across, north of the village of Bilohorivka, were stranded.
Open source analysis suggests this is probably true, with at least 30 infantry fighting vehicles counted among the wreckage at the site of the pontoon, not counting what may have been destroyed among the equipment that did get across.
In its analysis of the episode, the Institute for the Study of War said that "Ukrainian forces likely inflicted heavy casualties on Russian forces attempting to cross the Siverskyi Donets River."
"Russian forces have likely lost the momentum necessary to execute a large-scale crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River," it added.
Mick Ryan, a former Major General in the Australian armed forces who studies the Ukrainian conflict, tweeted: "Russians clearly intended to invest in this axis and throw a lot of combat power down it.
"Consequently, this is probably a larger setback for the Russians than some have speculated," Ryan said in a post published to his verified Twitter account.
"Importantly, the Russians lost scarce engineer bridging equipment (and probably combat engineers too). These resources are neither cheap nor available in large quantities. And these are in high demand during an offensive."
The Russians' inability to advance from the north across the river has likely slowed down its offensive in Luhansk, which for now is reliant on troops moving from the east and south through frontlines that have moved little in a month.
More than 50 houses destroyed in latest Russian shelling, says Ukrainian official
From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv
More than 50 houses in the Luhansk region of Ukraine have been destroyed by Russian shelling, as fighting continues to rage around a belt of industrial towns in the area, according to Ukrainian officials.
The houses were located in the area around Popasna and Lysychansk, said Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk region military administration.
"They do not need people and their houses -- they do need only the territory that the enemy turns into a desert," Hayday said, adding that ten enemy attacks had been repulsed in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the past 24 hours.
The Russians appear to have made little progress on the ground after consolidating their control over Rubizhne earlier this week.