May 17, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 7:53 a.m. ET, May 23, 2023
25 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:47 p.m. ET, May 17, 2023

Satellite imagery shows extent of destruction in embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut 

From CNN's Allegra Goodwin

Before-and-after satellite imagery below shows the damage done to the hard-hit eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut over the past year.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar provided Kyiv's assessment Wednesday on the situation on the ground, saying Ukraine's forces are holding on to substantial areas around Bakhmut that it claims to have taken back from Russian troops.

The official noted that "almost 20 square kilometers" of liberated areas in the suburbs have not been lost and that "fierce fighting" continues around the city, with Ukrainian troops advancing in some areas. She also acknowledged that Russian troops are "advancing somewhat" as well.

The images were provided first to CNN by Maxar Technologies.

Before:

School and apartment buildings seen on May 8, 2022.
School and apartment buildings seen on May 8, 2022. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

After:

A damaged school and smoldering apartment buildings seen on May 15, 2023.
A damaged school and smoldering apartment buildings seen on May 15, 2023. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

Before:

Overview of Bakhmut on May 8, 2022.
Overview of Bakhmut on May 8, 2022. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

After:

Overview of Bakhmut on May 15, 2023.
Overview of Bakhmut on May 15, 2023. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

Before:

University buildings and radio tower seen on May 8, 2022.
University buildings and radio tower seen on May 8, 2022. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

After:

Demolished university buildings and radio tower seen on May 15, 2023.
Demolished university buildings and radio tower seen on May 15, 2023. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

CNN's Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.

1:18 p.m. ET, May 17, 2023

It's evening in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

A deal allowing grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea has been extended, just one day before it was set to expire. Meanwhile, Russian shelling killed at least three Ukrainian civilians and Ukraine is holding onto gains in the Bakhmut area.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Grain deal extended: A deal that allows grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea has been extended for two months. Both Ukrainian and Russian officials confirmed the deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey, has been extended, just one day before it was set to expire.
  • Deadly shelling in Kherson: A Ukrainian prosecutor said Russian shelling in a Ukrainian village in the Kherson area on Wednesday killed a 5-year-old child and two adults.
  • US inspects damage: US inspectors found minimal damage to a Patriot air defense system following a Russian missile attack near Kyiv on Tuesday. The system is still operational and will not need to be removed from the battlefield for repairs, US officials confirmed.
  • Holding Russia to account: The Council of Europe established a “Register of Damage” to help hold Russia accountable for damage, loss and injury caused by its aggression against Ukraine. "It is one of the first legally binding decisions to hold Russia accountable for its acts,” said the council’s secretary general, Marija Pejčinović Burić.
  • Kyiv’s robust air defenses: Until recently, most analysts doubted Ukraine’s air defenses would be able to withstand a sustained Russian assault. And yet Kyiv has claimed to have escaped from Russia’s latest barrage – which involved at least 18 types of missiles and a swarm of drones on Tuesday – left them with barely a scratch. You can read more about what’s made Ukraine’s air defenses seemingly impenetrable here.
  • Gains in Bakhmut: Despite reports of fierce fighting, Ukraine is holding on to substantial areas around Bakhmut that it claims to have taken back from Russian troops, and Ukrainian forces are still advancing in certain areas, according to Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar.

1:23 p.m. ET, May 17, 2023

Chinese envoy wraps up visit to Ukraine, according to Ukrainian foreign ministry

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba attends a meeting with China's special representative on Eurasian affairs Li Hui in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 16.
Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba attends a meeting with China's special representative on Eurasian affairs Li Hui in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 16. Eduard Kryzhanivskyi/Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine/Handout/Reuters

A senior Chinese official has finished a two-day visit to Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

The ministry said on its website that Li Hui, China's special representative on Eurasian affairs, visited Ukraine from May 16 to 17.

"The trip was made pursuant to the agreements reached during a telephone conversation between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Xi Jinping on April 26," it said.  

Li met with Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba, according to the site, but the ministry did not say whether he had also met the Ukrainian president. 

"During the meeting, the parties discussed topical issues of cooperation between Ukraine and China both at the bilateral level and within international organizations, as well as ways to stop Russian aggression," the ministry said, offering few further specific details.

It said Kuleba had talked about "restoring a sustainable and just peace based on respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"He emphasized that Ukraine does not accept any proposals that would involve the loss of its territories or the freezing of the conflict," according to the ministry.

Kuleba stressed "the importance of China's participation in the implementation of the President's Peace Formula, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, nuclear safety and other important international efforts," the ministry said.

Key context: China has attempted to cast itself as a peacebroker and deflect criticism that it has not acted to help end Russia’s war in Ukraine, more than one year after Moscow invaded its western neighbor. Beijing has refused to condemn the invasion and instead bolstered its economic and diplomatic ties with Moscow.

11:49 a.m. ET, May 17, 2023

Russian shelling in Kherson area kills 3, including a child, Ukrainian prosecutor says

From Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

 

Three civilians were killed in a village near the southern city of Kherson as Russian shelling of the Ukrainian-held part of Kherson region appears to have intensified, according to Ukrainian officials.

The three killed included a child, the prosecutor’s office of the Kherson region said.

On Wednesday afternoon local time, Russian forces had fired on a village in Kherson district, the office said. “One of the shells hit near a store where local residents were staying,” killing a five-year-old boy and two men. Another man and a boy were injured, it added.

Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office, confirmed the death of a child during shelling of the village of Zelenivka.

Earlier on Wednesday, Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, claimed Russia “made 79 attacks, launching 406 shells from heavy artillery, Grad MLRS [multiple launch rockets], tanks, UAVs and aircraft,” and added that the targets were residential areas.

11:44 a.m. ET, May 17, 2023

Council of Europe creates "register of damage" for Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

From CNN’s Catherine Nicholls in London

Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric speaks with the media at the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, on May 17.
Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric speaks with the media at the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, on May 17. (Alastair Grant/AP)

The Council of Europe (COE) announced that it has established a "register of damage" to help hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine, the organization announced on Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The register — officially the "Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation Against Ukraine" — will document "damage, loss or injury caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine," the COE said, in an initiative that will last for an initial period of three years.

The system is "vital" if Moscow is to be held liable for compensation to victims of the war, said Marija Pejčinović Burić, secretary general of the COE.

"It is one of the first legally binding decisions to hold Russia accountable for its acts," she added.

The COE has 46 member states. The gathering in Reykjavik is only the fourth summit since the council was established in 1949. The summit’s "top priority" was supporting Ukraine in Russia’s war, according to the COE’s website.

"The register is an important step towards accountability for crimes committed in Russia’s brutal war and a strong message of support to Ukraine," Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the register is "an important milestone on the road to justice and reparations for Ukraine and the Ukrainians who have suffered so much from this war."

"We invite other states, from all corners of the world, to join the Register of Damage as a sign of support for the important issue of Russia's accountability for its war against Ukraine," he added.

Forty nations — including some, like the United States, who had observer status at the summit — have joined the register, with a further three having expressed an intention to join.

Nine countries who are either member or observer states of the council have not yet joined the agreement: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, The Holy See, Israel and Mexico.

2:19 p.m. ET, May 17, 2023

Black Sea grain deal will be extended for 2 months

From CNN's Tim Lister and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Bulk carrier ARGO I is docked at the grain terminal of the port of Odessa, Ukraine, on April 10.
Bulk carrier ARGO I is docked at the grain terminal of the port of Odessa, Ukraine, on April 10. (Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images)

An agreement has been reached to extend the deal that allows grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, according to Turkish, Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was first to announce that the deal, which was scheduled to expire Thursday, will be extended for two months. 

The agreement, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, was originally signed last year and has since been extended. 

What Ukraine says: Oleksandr Kubrakov, the Ukrainian minister of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development, has confirmed that the grain deal has been extended.

“The grain deal has been unblocked and will continue to be in effect until July 18. The world will continue to receive Ukrainian products thanks to the efforts of our partners in the agreement - Turkey and the UN," Kubrakov said on Facebook.
“We are grateful to our partners for their unwavering and focused position that the agreement should continue to work and on the terms signed by all parties,” Kubrakov added.

Russia had balked at extending the deal without better guarantees for its own exports.

“In mid-April, Russia began to unreasonably restrict the work of the Initiative, and in May it actually blocked it by refusing to register a new fleet and conduct inspections of the fleet that is being loaded at Ukrainian ports,” said Kubrakov.

“Almost 70 vessels are currently waiting in Turkish territorial waters, 90% of them are ready to deliver the products of our farmers to the world,” he claimed.

“We welcome the continuation of the Initiative, but emphasize that it must work effectively. For this purpose, it is necessary to eliminate the problems that Russia has been creating for several months now by sabotaging inspections and registration of the new fleet,” he added.

What Russia says: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has also confirmed the extension of the Black Sea Grain initiative.

However, Zakharova said that "distortions in the implementation of the grain deal should be corrected as quickly as possible."

US praises extension: The US State Department praised the two-month extension Wednesday, with spokesperson Vedant Patel saying in a briefing that we "strongly support the UN's and Turkey's efforts on the deal, which keeps the global food and grain prices low."

Patel also chastised Russia for the need to repeatedly extend the deal.

“We should not need to remind Moscow every few weeks to keep their promises and to stop using people's hunger as a weapon in their war against Ukraine,” said Patel.

CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Michael Conte contributed reporting to this post.

7:53 a.m. ET, May 23, 2023

Senior Russian officials are forbidden to resign, independent Russian outlet claims

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Tim Lister

A view of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on September 19, 2021.
A view of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on September 19, 2021. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Senior Russian officials at the Kremlin and in the regions have been forbidden from leaving their posts, claims IStories, an independent Russian media outlet.

IStories is an online investigative news outlet based outside Russia and is run by a well-known journalist Roman Anin, who said his sources included acquaintances of high-ranking officials in the Presidential Administration.

Anin told CNN he did not know how many people had tried to quit but had not been allowed to. “However, I know of concrete examples of those who tried to quit. These are governors, [from the] security forces, and people from the presidential administration," he said.

The journalist declined to provide names so as to protect his sources.

IStories said it had been told by a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB) that he knew of “at least two cases when governors tried to leave their posts,” but the Internal Policy Department of the Presidential Administration had banned them from resigning and had hinted at criminal cases against them.

There is no way to verify the claims, and Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Tuesday that reports about high-ranking officials being banned from resigning for the duration of the "special military operation" — as Moscow refers to the war in Ukraine — were “another hoax.”

Anin said the policy was not formal and never conveyed in writing. “There can be no written refusals or recommendations, because the ban is illegal. It all happens informally. A governor of the region submits his resignation, he is summoned to the Department of Internal Policy, intimidated, called a traitor and threatened with a criminal case if he insists," he noted.

According to a presidential decree, servicemen under contract (which would include the majority of FSB employees) cannot leave even after their contract expires.

The ban has two goals, Anin said. If many people leave, then public administration may become unmanageable, so the ban would "prevent the loss of control," he said, adding that the other goal is to "show the people and subordinates that the authorities are united, that everyone is in place and no one is going to run away.”

10:15 a.m. ET, May 17, 2023

Russia froze the Finnish embassy bank accounts inside the country, Finland's foreign ministry says

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris 

Bank accounts of the Finnish Embassy in Moscow and General consulate in St. Petersburg have been frozen by the Russian government at the end of April, Finland’s Foreign Ministry in Helsinki told CNN Wednesday. 

“Finland has been in contact with the Russian authorities and demanded an investigation. Also, Finland has demanded Russia to secure Finland´s diplomatic missions' local money and payment transactions,” the ministry said in a statement. 

Russian authorities have yet to explain their decision to the Finnish side to freeze the accounts, according to the Finnish Foreign Ministry. 

Some context: In April, Finland officially became the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe that added some 1,300 kilometers (830 miles) to the alliance’s frontier with Russia.

Finland’s acceptance into the US-led security alliance presented a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long sought to undermine NATO, and before invading Ukraine, demanded the bloc refrain from further expansion.

Earlier this year, Finland began construction of barrier fences on its eastern border with Russia. The project, which launched at the end of 2022, included plans to build a 130 to 260-kilometer (80 to 161 miles) fence along the country's eastern border. 

CNN's Tara John, Jessie Gretener and Sugam Pokharel contributed to this post.

9:17 a.m. ET, May 17, 2023

Patriot system has minimal damage following Russian attack near Kyiv on Tuesday, US officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand and Jim Sciutto

The damage to a Patriot air defense system following a Russian missile attack near Kyiv on Tuesday morning is minimal, three US officials tell CNN, with one official describing it as "minor" damage. 

The US sent inspectors to examine the system on Tuesday, after being told by the Ukrainians that the system appeared to have been damaged, one official said.

The system itself is still operational, the officials said, and the radar component of the Patriot, one of its most important elements, was not damaged. US officials do not believe the Patriot will need to be removed from the battlefield for repairs. 

A complete Patriot battery has six major components: generators, a radar set, a control station, antennas, a launcher station and interceptor missiles. The components operate together to fire a Patriot missile and successfully guide it to its target.

It is not clear what part of the Patriot was damaged or if it was damaged by an actual missile strike or falling debris. The Ukrainians said they successfully intercepted all six Russian Kinzhal missiles on Tuesday morning. 

Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Force Command, has told Ukrainian TV that the US-made Patriot air defense system could not be destroyed by a Kinzhal missile. 

"Do not worry about the fate of the Patriot. From a technical point of view, Patriot is a ... system," he said, noting that it consisted of components that can be located at a distance from one another.