May 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Nectar Gan, Andrew Raine, Luke McGee, Joe Ruiz, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022
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9:53 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Another casualty of Russia's war: Ukraine's natural environment

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

Trees in a forest area damaged by Russian attacks are seen in Irpin, Ukraine on April 1.
Trees in a forest area damaged by Russian attacks are seen in Irpin, Ukraine on April 1.  (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The pine forests around Irpin are Oleh Bondarenko's happy place. He discovered them as a child, when his mom sent him to the area for summer camp, and he has been coming back ever since.

It's a place full of memories. Vorzel, Irpin, Bucha, the forests, the fresh air. For me, this is a place of respite," the 64-year-old environmental scientist told CNN during a recent trip to Irpin.

The hour-long journey from Kyiv -- a trip he has made many times over the decades -- was filled with anguish for Bondarenko, who worried what he would find in Irpin.

This area was under Russian control for several weeks in March; it has subsequently become known around the world as the site of some of the worst atrocities committed by Russia in this war. At least 1,200 bodies of civilians have been discovered in the region since Russian troops withdrew from there, according to the Kyiv region police. At least 290 of them were found in Irpin, according to the city's mayor.

In addition to the human toll, the destruction Russian forces caused to the landscape here is brutal and omnipresent: Scorched earth, forest floors ravaged by missiles, and trees broken down and uprooted, while abandoned military equipment litters the ground. Many of the town's neat houses lie in ruins; the woodland and green spaces around them are off limits.

Anzhelika Kolomiec, Bondarenko's friend who lives in Irpin, told CNN the authorities have banned people from going into the woods. "We have a beautiful forest here, but this year there won't be any walks, there won't be any mushroom picking, there won't be berries. We are not allowed to go in because of mines and unexploded missiles," she said.

While the world's eyes are focused on the human suffering brought about by Russia's invasion, environmental experts in Ukraine are keeping a close record of the environmental damage it has caused, to try to repair it as soon as possible, and in hopes of extracting reparations.

Read more:

9:49 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Russian officer risked it all to quit Putin's war

Exclusive by CNN's Uliana Pavlova

It took a few weeks of sleeping on crates of grenades for a bed and hiding his face from Ukrainians amid a growing sense of guilt, for the Russian junior officer to come to his conclusion: This wasn't his battle to fight.

"We were dirty and tired. People around us were dying. I didn't want to feel like I was part of it, but I was a part of it," the officer told CNN.

He said he went to find his commander and resigned his commission on the spot.

His story is remarkable, but it could also be one of many, according to opponents of the war in Russia as well as in Ukraine who say they have heard of a lot of cases of soldiers -- both professional and conscript -- refusing to fight.

Russian troops have been struggling with low morale and heavy losses in Ukraine, according to the assessments by Western officials including the Pentagon.

The UK's Intelligence, Cyber and Security Agency says some have even refused to carry out orders.

Read more:

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

"Staggering milestone" as over 100 million people forced to flee conflict, a record propelled by Ukraine war

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan

A man gets out of an evacuation van in Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on May 21.
A man gets out of an evacuation van in Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on May 21. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Over 100 million people have been forced to flee conflict, violence and persecution, a record figure setting a “staggering milestone,” the United Nations refugee agency said Monday.

The number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record, propelled by the war in Ukraine and other deadly conflicts,” the UNHCR said in a statement.

“One hundred million is a stark figure – sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”

The UNHCR said the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country this year, and more than 6 million refugee movements from Ukraine have been registered. The number has also been propelled by "new waves of violence" or conflict in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Ukrainian President Zelensky announces "historic" joint customs control with Poland

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Pierre Meilhan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his nightly address, on Sunday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his nightly address, on Sunday. (Youtube/Office of President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a “historic” joint customs control with Poland on Sunday, stressing “unity of Ukrainians and Poles is a constant that no one will break.”

"A solution has been reached that is revolutionizing the order on our border," Zelensky said during his nightly video address. "We are introducing joint customs control with Poland. This will significantly speed up border procedures. It will remove most of the corruption risks. But it is also the beginning of our integration into the common customs space of the European Union. That is a truly historic process."

Zelensky's comments came on the heels of Polish President Andrzej Duda’s visit to Kyiv earlier in the day. Duda also emphasized the unity between the two countries as he became the first foreign leader since the Russian invasion to address Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada.

Zelensky described Ukrainian-Polish relations as "finally on a completely clean, sincere basis, without any quarrels and old conflict heritage. This is an achievement — the historic achievement of our people. And I want the brotherhood between Ukrainians and Poles to be preserved forever. As I talked about it today in front of the deputies, our unity of Ukrainians and Poles is a constant that no one will break."

Zelensky also said he signed a decree introducing a new award "to thank those cities of partner countries that have helped the most. And Rzeszow became the first such city. The savior city. It is fair to say."

The Ukrainian leader went on to announce the preparation of a bill that will mirror the law passed in Poland about Ukrainian citizens who sought refuge in Poland and who "have been legally given the same opportunities as Poles."

Nearly 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland since the Russian invasion in February, making it by far the single largest host nation for people fleeing the country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

"It will be the right gesture to pass such a law in Ukraine," Zelensky said. "Let it be so that the citizens of Poland will never have to use such a law. But let us show our gratitude and our respect."

The Ukrainian leader also said he spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and "discussed ways to increase the volume of our exports, especially agricultural products. As well as the volume of fuel imports to Ukraine."

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

"You are not alone," UK PM tells Ukrainian children 3 months into war

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau in London

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Ukrainian children they should be "immensely proud" of themselves in an open letter published Sunday, three months into the Russian invasion that has displaced millions of refugees within Ukraine and abroad.

"Many of you have seen or experienced things no child should have to witness. Yet, everyday Ukrainian children are teaching all of us what it means to be strong and dignified. To hold your head high in the toughest of times. I can think of no better role model for children and adults everywhere," Johnson wrote.

The British PM said "the absence of children and young people on the streets and in the parks" he saw when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky showed him around Kyiv last month made him "feel very sad." According to UNICEF, more than half of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children have been forced to flee the ongoing violence, as homes, schools, water supplies and hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.

Boris Johnson also told Ukrainian children: "you are not alone," echoing many messages of solidarity expressed in the United Kingdom and in many other countries.

You may be separated from your friends at home, but you have millions of others all over the world.

"Here in the United Kingdom. We fly Ukrainian flags from our homes, offices, churches, shops and playgrounds. Even from my own roof in Downing Street, where the windows are filled with sunflowers drawn by British children. Our young people are painting your flag in their classrooms and making blue and yellow bracelets in support of your country," his letter read.

Johnson shared Zelensky’s hopes regarding the end of the conflict: "I believe, like your president, that Ukraine is going to win this war," he wrote.

"I hope with all my heart that one day soon, you will be free to return to your homes, your schools, your families, and whatever happens, however long it takes."

“We in the UK will never forget you and we'll always be proud to call you our friends,” Johnson’s letter concluded.

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

UK Prime Minister to "redouble efforts" to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine: Downing Street

From CNN’s Cecelia Armstrong in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Paddington Station in London, England, on May 17.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Paddington Station in London, England, on May 17. (Andrew Matthews/Pool/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will "redouble efforts to provide vital food and humanitarian aid" to Ukraine, his office said Sunday.

During a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Johnson spoke about the "despicable" blockade of the key port city of Odesa, according to the statement. The Prime Minister will work to "ensure that the country is able to export to the rest of the world," according to a 10 Downing Street statement.

The leaders agreed on the need for the international community to remain united in its condemnation of Putin’s barbarism," Downing Street said.

In Johnson’s view, "every country has a duty to help Ukraine in their struggle for freedom, both now and in the long-term." He reiterated the British people are "1,000% behind the people of Ukraine."

Johnson also "expressed his profound hope that they would, along with all the people of Ukraine, be able to return to life as normal one day soon."

4:28 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Russians shelled 3 settlements in Kryvyi Rih, regional official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Russian forces shelled three settlements in the Kryvyi Rih district, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional council, Mykola Lukashuk, said Sunday.

Lukashuk said in a post on his Telegram page "ten shells flew into Maryanske village, and two more strikes hit Apostolove Community."

Infrastructure facilities were not affected, he added.

He also reported one Russian missile fell into the Samara River in Pavlograd district. According to Lukashuk, there were no casualties.

"Other districts of Dnipropetrovsk region were not attacked today. There are no Russian occupation troops in the region," he said.

9:03 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

At least 1 person killed in Russian missile attack on Zhytomyr, regional official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

At least one person was killed in a Russian missile attack on Malyn, in the Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, a senior Ukrainian military official said Sunday.

"So far I can't say anything more specific, except that the information about one victim has already been confirmed. The blow to Malyn is very similar to the one on May 20. There was a fire at the scene, it was extinguished literally just now, closer to seven o'clock in the evening," said Vitaliy Bunechko, the head of Zhytomyr’s regional military administration.

His comments were reported in a Telegram post by Ukraine's Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security.

9:04 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

It's 11 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

A downed bridge that connects the city of Lysychansk to the city of Severodonetsk, on Sunday.
A downed bridge that connects the city of Lysychansk to the city of Severodonetsk, on Sunday. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian forces attacked Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine from several directions overnight but were repelled to previous positions, President Zelensky's office said on Sunday.

Seven houses in Severodonetsk and at least 27 houses in surrounding towns and villages were damaged, according to the statement from the office.

The attack on Severodonetsk was part of a broader assault along the line of contact between Russian and Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian military general staff said. 

“The enemy forces are preparing to resume the offensive in the Sloviansk direction,” the Ukrainian general staff said, referring to another key city in the area.

Russian forces have also destroyed the Pavlograd bridge between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in the Luhansk region, says the Ukrainian head of the regional military administration.

Severodonetsk and Sloviansk are key to controlling Ukraine’s Luhansk region. Parts of Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Ukrainian Air Command: Russia fired missiles into Zhytomyr region: Ukraine’s Air Command Center said Russian forces fired missiles at infrastructure facilities in the Zhytomyr region on Sunday. The Zhytomyr region was attacked from “the south-eastern direction” by “naval-based cruise missiles” according to Ukraine’s Air Command Center on Facebook. The center added, “four Russian cruise missiles were destroyed by the Center's air defense units.” Three missiles were destroyed by aircraft, and one by an anti-aircraft missile unit of the Ukrainian air force, they added. The Zhytomyr region sits to the west of Kyiv.
  • Venue usually used by Russia to promote itself in Davos has been rebranded as the Russian War Crimes House: The venue typically used by Russia to promote itself at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos has been rebranded as the Russian War Crimes House. Russia House was used to host events at WEF by Russians for many years. A Ukrainian businessman, working with WEF, has turned the venue into an exhibition depicting the devastation and destruction of the war in Ukraine. Organized by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and PinchukArtCentre, an international centre for contemporary art based in Kyiv, “the exhibition aims to inform about the main facts, share faces, names and dates and provide at least some of the victims a platform from which to tell their real story,” the foundation said in a press release.
  • EU membership for Ukraine would take “15 or 20 years,” French minister says: Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union would take at least “15 or 20 years" to complete, France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said on Sunday, while promoting President Emmanuel Macron’s alternative proposal of creating a new “European political community” including Ukraine. “If we say that Ukraine will join the European Union in 6 months, one year, two years, we are lying. It is not true,” Beaune told Jewish community radio station Radio J. “It is probably maybe 15 or 20 years. No matter what, it’s very long,” he added.
  • Russians introduce new controls on Mariupol movement, mayor’s adviser says: The Russian forces that control Mariupol have started requiring permits for cars entering and exiting the occupied Ukrainian city, an adviser to the city’s Ukrainian mayor said Sunday. Petro Andrushchenko, the adviser, also warned that deportations of Ukrainians from the region were increasing. Under the restrictions introduced Saturday, cars and passengers entering the city need single-use passes issued by a Russian commandant in Manhush or Vynohradne, towns to the west and east of the occupied city, Andrushchenko said.
  • Lithuania cuts Russian energy imports: Lithuania will have completely cut imports of Russian energy supplies including oil, electricity and natural gas from Sunday. The country’s Ministry of Energy said in a statement on Friday that the pan-European power exchange Nord Pool had decided to stop trading Russian electricity with its only importer in the Baltic States, Russian utility Inter RAO – meaning the country would no longer be importing any Russian energy.  "Not only it is an extremely important milestone for Lithuania in its journey towards energy independence, but it is also an expression of our solidarity with Ukraine,” Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said. “We must stop financing Russian war machine.”