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Russia-Ukraine war: What happened today (May 18)

Efrem Lukatsky

NPR Staff

As Wednesday draws to a close in Kyiv and in Moscow, here are the key developments of the day:

A 21-year-old Russian soldier pleaded guilty to killing a Ukrainian civilian in the first war crimes trial of the conflict. Vadim Shishimarin, a captured sergeant of a Russian tank unit, faces life in prison for shooting an unarmed 62-year-old Ukrainian man in northeastern Ukraine on Feb. 28, four days into the war. In a packed courtroom in Kyiv, Shishimarin was asked if he was guilty of the killing. "Yes. Fully yes," he responded from inside a glass box. Ukrainian officials say they plan many more such trials.

Russia said 959 Ukrainian soldiers, including 80 wounded, have surrendered from Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant since Monday. Ukraine said evacuations of fighters from the plant were negotiated by international aid groups, but has not provided updated numbers. Ukrainian soldiers were transported to Russian-controlled territory, and Russia's defense ministry released a video claiming to show some of them at a hospital, praising their treatment. Ukraine said it hopes to bring home its troops in a prisoner swap, though Russian officials have threatened to put some on trial for war crimes.

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO. All 30 member countries must agree to expand the world's largest military alliance, and Turkey is opposed. Finland's and Sweden's bid to join NATO is a historic break with Nordic nations' past neutrality, prompted by Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss issues including Turkey's security concerns.

The U.S. Embassy reopened in Kyiv, three months after suspending operations there ahead of Russia's invasion. The State Department said operations resumed, with the U.S. flag raised and diplomats returning from western Ukraine and Poland, where they'd temporarily relocated. Other countries have also reopened embassies in Kyiv in recent weeks.

Google's Russian subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy following the Kremlin seizing the company's assets. Google search, Gmail and YouTube will remain available and free to Russians, but the Wall Street Journal reports that Google has moved its staff out of Russia. Google's tensions with Russian authorities escalated as Google has refused to remove content the Kremlin has declared illegal and blocked access to some Russian media on YouTube.

Russia moved to shutter the operations of the CBC, Canada's public broadcaster. It rescinded visas and journalist accreditation for its staff in Russia. This appeared to be retaliation for Canada's telecommunications regulator removing Russian state broadcasters, RT and RT France, from Canadian airwaves in mid-March.


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Earlier developments

You can read more daily recaps here. For context and more in-depth stories, you can find NPR's full coverage here. Also, listen and subscribe to NPR's State of Ukraine podcast for updates throughout the day.

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