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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7:21 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accuses Russia of blocking 22 million tons of food and warns that countries will face crises if ports are not unblocked. "Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food -- our grain, barley, sunflower and more," Zelensky said in a meeting with media on Saturday.

Here are the latest updates in the war in Ukraine:

Russian forces pushed back from strategically important city: Russia 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.

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.

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.”

Biden to meet Modi: President Joe Biden will meet one-on-one this week with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Japan as the US works to convince India to join western punishment of Russia.

They will meet on the sidelines of the Quad summit, where security in the Indo-Pacific is expected to be a central issue. The Quad is an informal alliance between the US, India, Japan, and Australia.

When Biden and Modi meet separately, their talks will be "constructive and straightforward," national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters as the US President flew from South Korea to Japan.

India is a major purchaser of Russian arms, and has been wary of distancing itself from Moscow amid the war in Ukraine.

Polish President addresses Ukrainian Parliament: Andrzej Duda is in Ukraine today and is the first foreign head of state to address the council since the war began.

5:51 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Russian officer reveals why he 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. CNN is not naming the officer or including personal details that would help to identify him for his security.

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.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has not responded to a CNN request for comment.

The officer who spoke to CNN says he was part of the massive troop build-up in the west of Russia that triggered global fears for Ukraine.

But he said he did not think much about it, even on February 22 this year when he and the rest of his battalion were asked to hand over their mobile phones while stationed in Krasnodar, southern Russia, without any explanation.

That night they spent hours painting white stripes on their military vehicles. Then they were told to wash those off, he said. "The order has changed, draw the letter Z, as in Zorro," he remembered being told.

Read more here:

5:52 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Biden will meet individually with Modi as India resists pressure to isolate Russia

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden arrives in Japan on May 22. He will have a separate one-on-one meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Quad summit.
US President Joe Biden arrives in Japan on May 22. He will have a separate one-on-one meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Quad summit. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Joe Biden will meet one-on-one this week with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Japan as the US works to convince India to join western punishment of Russia.

They will meet on the sidelines of the Quad summit, where security in the Indo-Pacific is expected to be a central issue. The Quad is an informal alliance between the US, India, Japan, and Australia

When Biden and Modi meet separately, their talks will be "constructive and straightforward," national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters as the US President flew from South Korea to Japan.

Sullivan said it wouldn't be a "new conversation," since Biden and Modi have spoken by phone about the issue, but rather a continuation of that conversation.

"They’ll talk all of that through," added Sullivan.

India is a major purchaser of Russian arms, and has been wary of distancing itself from Moscow amid the war in Ukraine.

At the larger Quad summit -- which will include Australia's freshly elected prime minister Anthony Albanese -- leaders will discuss security issues, including Taiwan, according to Sullivan.

He declined to preview the Quad leaders statement, but said no member wants to see military aggression.

5:30 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Lithuania to cut imports of Russian energy supplies

From CNN’s Alex Stambaugh and Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong

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.”

Lithuania’s announcement was praised by Oleksandr Korniyenko, first deputy speaker of Ukraine’s parliament. 

“Lithuania officially stops importing Russian gas, oil and electricity. An excellent example for other allies of how to gain independence from Russian energy resources,” Korniyenko wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

5:38 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Russians attack strategically important city overnight but are pushed back

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine on May 21.
Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine on May 21. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

The strategically important city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine was attacked from multiple directions overnight, but the Russians were pushed back, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said Sunday.

“Severodonetsk was assaulted from four sides at once, but the enemy was repelled and retreated to previous positions,” the presidential morning briefing said.

Seven houses in Severodonetsk and at least 27 houses in surrounding towns and villages were damaged, the statement said. 

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 fired with mortars and artillery on the positions of the Defense Forces along the entire line of contact, concentrating efforts in the direction of the settlements of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk,” the Ukrainian military said in its morning briefing.

“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.

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.

The current phase of the Russian campaign in Ukraine is aimed at securing control of all of the separatist regions.

5:19 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Zelensky accuses Russia of blocking 22 million tons of food, warns of food crisis 

From CNN's Svitlana Budzhak-Jones and Alex Stambaugh

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attend a new conference with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 21.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attend a new conference with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 21. ((Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of blocking the export of 22 million tons of food products and warned that if its ports are not unblocked, many countries will face a food crisis.

"The world community must help Ukraine unblock seaports, otherwise the energy crisis will be followed by a food crisis and many more countries will face it," Zelensky said during a meeting with media following talks with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa in Kyiv on Saturday, according to the president's office.

"Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food -- our grain, barley, sunflower and more. A lot of things," he said, according to the statement. 

"There will be a crisis in the world. The second crisis after the energy one, which was provoked by Russia. Now it will create a food crisis if we do not unblock the routes for Ukraine, do not help the countries of Africa, Europe, Asia, which need these food products

"You can unblock them in different ways. One of the ways is a military solution. That is why we turn to our partners with inquiries regarding the relevant weapons,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky also accused Moscow of "gradually stealing" food products and trying to sell them.

"Russia puts millions of people at risk of hunger by blocking our ports," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also tweeted Saturday, adding that Ukraine has established with its partners two alternative land routes to deliver food exports and "save Africa and other regions from hunger."

Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost 30% of global trade, and Ukraine is the world's fourth largest exporter of corn and the fifth largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department.

The United Nations World Food Program -- which helps combat global food insecurity -- buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year and has warned of dire consequences if the Ukrainian ports are not opened up. 

2:50 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Polish president to address Ukraine's parliament

From CNN's Svitlana Budzhak-Jones and Josh Pennington

Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Polish President Andrzej Duda. (Jens Büttner/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Poland's President Andrzej Duda has arrived in Ukraine, his office said Sunday.

Duda will deliver a speech to Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, as the first foreign head of state to address the council since the war began, the president's office said in a statement.

It didn't give details on the timing of his remarks.

12:43 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Azov regiment prisoners could be swapped for oligarch Medvedchuk: Russia state media

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong 

Moscow is considering exchanging Ukrainian prisoners from the Azov regiment for Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and oligarch, according to Russian state media.

“We will study the matter," Leonid Slutsky, a Russian delegation member for the Ukraine-Russia talks, said during a visit to the occupied city of Donetsk, Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Saturday.

Medvedchuk was detained by Ukrainian authorities in April in a "special operation", Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this year. 

Announcing Medvedchuk's detention in April, Zelensky posted a photo of a handcuffed and disheveled-looking Medvedchuk wearing fatigues on Telegram, with the caption: "A special operation was carried out thanks to the SBU [the Security Service of Ukraine]. Well done!"

Prior to Russia's invasion, Medvedchuk had faced allegations of treason in Ukraine and had been under house arrest. His whereabouts had been unknown in the weeks following the invasion. Some observers speculated that Medvedchuk or one of his allies might be the Kremlin's preference to lead a puppet government in Ukraine if the Feb. 24 invasion succeeded in toppling Zelensky.

12:01 a.m. ET, May 22, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Residents take out their belongings from their house ruined by the Russian shelling in Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday, May 21.
Residents take out their belongings from their house ruined by the Russian shelling in Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday, May 21. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

More than 1,000 education institutions in Ukraine have been destroyed by Russian forces since the war began, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with that figure including primary schools, kindergartens and universities.

Here are the latest updates in the war in Ukraine:

Russia bans Biden: Russia has banned more than 900 Americans from entering the country, including President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Russia published its updated "stop list" on Saturday, banning a total of 963 American officials and figures from entering the country.

The updated list included the majority of US senators and members of the House of Representatives, former and current government officials, journalists, military personnel, advocates, citizens, CEOs — and even a few deceased individuals.

Longtime Arizona. Sen. John McCain and Defense Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Melissa Drisko, who both died in 2018, were included on the list, as well as Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State under President Donald Trump.

Bridge destroyed: Russian forces have destroyed the Pavlograd bridge between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in Ukraine's Luhansk region, according to Serhiy Hayday, the head of the regional military administration. In a post on his Telegram page on Saturday, Hayday said this will "greatly complicate the evacuation and delivery of humanitarian aid," but right now, "there is a connection between the cities." Hayday also reported 57 people were evacuated on Saturday from the Luhansk region. 

Carnage in Lozova: A Russian missile strike on Lozova in the Kharkiv region on Friday damaged more than a thousand apartments and 11 educational institutions, according to Mayor Serhiy Zelensky. 

"The figures are shocking: 11 educational institutions, including five schools. There are questions about the amount of damage suffered by a hospital and a clinic. Our Palace of Culture was completely destroyed too," the mayor said Saturday in a video statement on Telegram.

Educational institutions hit: More than 1,000 Ukrainian educational institutions have been destroyed by the Russian army since the start of the war, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Russian army destroyed 1,873 educational institutions. This is a colossal scale of losses,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Saturday. 

The figure includes primary schools, universities, kindergartens, and other institutes hit by Russian shelling since the war began last February.

Donbas offensive: the Russian army has been escalating attacks on Slovyansk and Severodonetsk over the past few days and the situation in Donbas is now "extremely difficult,' the Ukrainian President said in his nightly address Saturday.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine are deterring this offensive. Every day that our defenders take away from these offensive plans of Russia, disrupting them, is a concrete contribution to the approach of the main day. The desired day that we are all looking forward to and fighting for: Victory Day," Zelensky said.