May 23, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Andrew Raine, Amy Woodyatt, Hafsa Khalil, Ed Upright and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:27 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022
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3:34 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

It's Monday night in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest developments on Russia's war in Ukraine. 

From CNN Staff

A 20-year veteran of Russia's diplomatic service announced his resignation Monday in protest of his country's war on Ukraine, multiple media outlets reported.  

In a rare public protest by a Russian official, Boris Bondarev, a diplomat posted to Russia's mission to the United Nations in Geneva, posted a statement on a LinkedIn account condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and criticizing the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for complicity in what he described as an an "aggressive war" — language that is proscribed in Russia under wartime censorship laws. 

"For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year," Bondarev wrote, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine. "The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country."

The respected Russian business newspaper Kommersant reached out to Bondarev, who confirmed the authenticity of the post. The New York Times confirmed the receipt of a resignation sent by email to diplomats in Geneva.

Here are more of the latest headlines from Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Kharkiv subway will resume operations after months of serving as a shelter: Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said the city's subway system would resume operations Tuesday, after months of serving as a shelter for citizens looking to escape Russian bombardment. "Tomorrow, on May 24, we will open the subway," Terekhov said in remarks on television. "All lines will be launched. Subway traffic will be from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. The intervals won't be the same as in peacetime. The subway depot was damaged during the bombing and shelling, so the intervals will be longer." During the height of the Russian bombardment of Kharkiv — Ukraine's second-largest city — many residents took refuge in the city's metro system.
  • EU can reach a deal on Russia sanctions, German vice chancellor says: Robert Habeck, Germany's vice chancellor and economy minister, spoke to CNN on Monday about the war in Ukraine and Europe’s efforts to lessen dependence on Russian energy. Asked whether the European Union could reach an agreement on the next round of sanctions, including an oil embargo, he said he was confident a deal could be reached and could be done within days. “I expect everyone — also Hungary — that they work to find a solution and not saying 'OK we have an exception and then we will lay back and build on our partnership with Putin,'" he said while speaking earlier on a panel at Davos.
  • More security aid for Ukraine: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at the conclusion of the second Ukraine Contact Group meeting on Monday that 20 countries “announced new security assistance packages" for the country. Denmark has agreed to provide Ukraine with a Harpoon launcher and missiles to “help Ukraine defend its coast.” The Czech Republic also agreed to send “substantial support” to Ukraine including “a recent donation of attack helicopters, tanks and rocket systems,” Austin said at a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting. “Others came forward with new commitments for training Ukraine’s forces and sustaining its military systems,” Austin added. A total of 47 countries participated in the contact group’s second meeting, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
  • Biden administration is considering sending US Special Operations Forces to protect its embassy in Kyiv: The Biden Administration is in the early stages of potentially sending special operations forces (SOF) into Ukraine for the very limited mission of helping guard the US Embassy in Kyiv, according to several US officials. The idea of using SOF is in very preliminary stages and has not yet been presented to US President Joe Biden for a decision, the sources said. The embassy was reopened last week after being closed for about three months. For now, the embassy and its limited number of personnel are protected by State Department diplomatic security officials. US Marines typically guard US embassies around the world but in Kyiv, for now, there is a general agreement that the typical Marine Corps embassy guard personnel may not be suited to the uncertain security picture in Ukraine without additional forces, officials say.
  • Putin claims Russia is "withstanding the impact of sanctions": President Vladimir Putin said Monday that the Russian economy is "withstanding the impact of sanctions" despite a gloomy economic outlook for the country following the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. "Despite all the difficulties, the Russian economy is withstanding the impact of the sanctions, and withstanding it quite well," Putin said in a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. "This is according to all the main macroeconomic indicators." Russia's Central Bank said in late April the Russian economy is expected to shrink by 8 to 10% in 2022, noting a decline in economic activity in March after the imposition of international sanctions on Russia. Earlier the same month, the World Bank predicted that Russian GDP would shrink by 11.2% in 2022.
  • Global food crisis could worsen if Ukrainian port of Odesa is not opened, UN official says: The world faces a “perfect storm within a perfect storm” when it comes to the food crisis, according to the head of the UN World Food Programme, David Beasley. He explained that the world is currently facing a food pricing problem but with issues over fertilizer and food production, we could “very well have a food availability problem." He added that if the port of Odesa is not opened, it will only compound the problem. There are 49 million people in 43 countries who are “knocking on famine’s door,” and the world would face famine, destabilization and mass migration if we don’t get ahead of the problem, the UN official said while speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
4:24 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Veteran Russian diplomat resigns in protest of Moscow's "aggressive war" in Ukraine 

From CNN's Nathan Hodge, Vasco Cotovio, Radina Gigova, Anna Chernova and Jennifer Hansler

The United Nation flag waves in the wind on the top of an UN building in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, June 14, 2021. A veteran Russian diplomat to the UN Office at Geneva says he handed in his resignation before sending out a scathing letter to foreign colleagues inveighing against the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. Boris Bondarev, 41, confirmed his resignation in a letter delivered Monday morning at the Russian diplomatic mission after a diplomatic official passed on his English-language statement to The Associated Press.
The United Nation flag waves in the wind on the top of an UN building in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, June 14, 2021. A veteran Russian diplomat to the UN Office at Geneva says he handed in his resignation before sending out a scathing letter to foreign colleagues inveighing against the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. Boris Bondarev, 41, confirmed his resignation in a letter delivered Monday morning at the Russian diplomatic mission after a diplomatic official passed on his English-language statement to The Associated Press. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

A 20-year veteran of Russia's diplomatic service announced his resignation Monday in protest of his country's war on Ukraine, multiple media outlets reported.  

In a rare public protest by a Russian official, Boris Bondarev, a diplomat posted to Russia's mission to the United Nations in Geneva, posted a statement on a LinkedIn account condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and criticizing the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for complicity in what he described as an an "aggressive war" — language that is proscribed in Russia under wartime censorship laws. 

"For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year," Bondarev wrote, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine. "The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country."

The respected Russian business newspaper Kommersant reached out to Bondarev, who confirmed the authenticity of the post. The New York Times confirmed the receipt of a resignation sent by email to diplomats in Geneva.

The Russian mission to the UN in Geneva declined to comment on the matter to CNN, and Bondarev did not respond to messages sent to the LinkedIn account. 

The post on LinkedIn lambasted Russia's leadership for corruption, saying, "Those who conceived this war want only one thing - to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity. To achieve that they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this."

It also singled out the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for harsh criticism. 

"I regret to admit that over all these twenty years the level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Foreign Ministry has been increasing all the time. However, in most recent years, this has become simply catastrophic. Instead of unbiased information, impartial analysis and sober forecasting, there are propaganda clichés in the spirit of Soviet newspapers of the 1930s," the post read.

"Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy. It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred. It serves interests of few, the very few people thus contributing to further isolation and degradation of my country. Russia no longer has allies, and there is no one to blame but its reckless and ill-conceived policy," the post continued.

The LinkedIn profile describes Bondarev as a veteran of Russian diplomatic service, with expertise in arms control and nonproliferation. The picture on the profile now has the hashtag #opentowork. 

The US State Department said Monday that Bondarev's resignation shows that “despite the Kremlin’s propaganda, there are Russians who profoundly disagree with what President Putin is doing in Ukraine and share our concern about the danger he is creating for the entire global community.”

A State Department spokesperson said it was encouraging that “many are willing to stand up to” Putin and noted that “it takes immense bravery to stand up to an oppressor, and it requires courage to speak truth to power, especially given the Russian government’s long and terrible track record of attempting to silence legitimate and peaceful protests and dissent.” 

“Plummeting morale is clearly not limited to Russia’s military forces fighting in Ukraine,” they said. 

“Boris Bondarev’s statement underscores that people around the world, including in Russia and even within the Russian government, are recognizing the brutality of the Kremlin’s assault on the Ukrainian people,” the spokesperson said. “They are doing so despite the Kremlin’s best efforts to manufacture and perpetuate disinformation.”

3:28 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Kharkiv subway will resume operations after months of serving as a shelter, mayor says

From CNN's Julia Presniakova 

People displaced by Russian shelling depart a metro station where many have been living underground for months in Kharkiv, on Sunday, May 22.
People displaced by Russian shelling depart a metro station where many have been living underground for months in Kharkiv, on Sunday, May 22. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said the city's subway system would resume operations Tuesday, after months of serving as a shelter for citizens looking to escape Russian bombardment. 

"Tomorrow, on May 24, we will open the subway," Terekhov said in remarks on television. "All lines will be launched. Subway traffic will be from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. The intervals won't be the same as in peacetime. The subway depot was damaged during the bombing and shelling, so the intervals will be longer."

During the height of the Russian bombardment of Kharkiv — Ukraine's second-largest city — many residents of Kharkiv took refuge in the city's metro system. Terekhov said many of those who remained underground had been relocated in dormitories, in areas further away from shelling. 

"If necessary, people can use the subway as a bomb shelter, especially subway underpasses," Terekhov said. 

The subway in Kharkiv became a shelter in the opening hours of Russia's invasion on Feb. 24. Residents occupied benches, steps, and station floors, as well as subway cars.

1:36 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Top US general: Reintroduction of US forces in Ukraine would be a "presidential decision"

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Planning efforts to bring US troops back into Ukraine in any capacity — like to protect the recently reopened US embassy in Kyiv — are “underway at a relatively low level,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said during a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday after the conclusion of the second Ukraine Contact Group meeting.

Those plans “have not made it to the [Defense] Secretary or myself for that matter for refinement of courses of action and what’s needed,” Milley added. 

“At the end of the day any reintroduction of US forces into Ukraine would require presidential decision,” Milley said. 

“We’re a ways away from anything like that, we’re still developing courses of action and none of that’s been presented yet to the Secretary,” he added.

1:43 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

US defense secretary: Putin's "overall strategy" regarding Ukraine is "unknown"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Christian Sierra

Cars pass by destroyed Russian tanks in a recent battle against Ukrainians in the village of Dmytrivka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 23.
Cars pass by destroyed Russian tanks in a recent battle against Ukrainians in the village of Dmytrivka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 23. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “overall strategy” regarding Ukraine is “unknown.”

Asked by CNN’s Oren Liebermann if Putin is switching his long game to weaponizing things like food, energy, and immigration, Austin said the world has seen the Russian leader “use a number of different levers from the very beginning.”

Austin noted that at the outset of the war, Putin “envisioned using overwhelming force and speed and power to very rapidly” take Kyiv and replace the government, but that failed and their forces were pushed back.

“And so we've seen them really proceed at a very slow and unsuccessful place on the, pace on the battlefield, and you would expect that he would, he would seek to use other levers of power or other instruments of power, and he's doing that, but in terms of what his overall strategy is, that's unknown,” he said.

1:35 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

German vice chancellor: EU can reach a deal on Russia sanctions

From CNN's Chris Liakos

German Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck addresses a panel session during the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23.
German Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck addresses a panel session during the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23. (Laurent Gillieron/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Germany's vice chancellor and economy minister told CNN a recession is not inevitable.

Speaking to CNN's Julia Chatterley at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Robert Habeck insisted that “nothing is inevitable, we are human beings and can change the course of history.”

He also spoke to CNN about the war in Ukraine and Europe’s efforts to lessen dependence on Russian energy. Asked whether the European Union could reach an agreement on the next round of sanctions, including an oil embargo, he said he was confident a deal could be reached and could be done within days.

“I expect everyone — also Hungary — that they work to find a solution and not saying 'OK we have an exception and then we will lay back and build on our partnership with Putin,'" he said while speaking earlier on a panel at Davos.

Habeck also discussed Germany’s dependence on Russian gas, saying German industry would collapse without Russian energy. Asked whether Germany would pay for Russian gas in rubles, Habeck said that German companies would pay for gas in euros, if Russia then decided to exchange those euros into rubles, it was a “face saving” measure for Putin.

He insisted that any such moves were approved by the EU Commission and did not break sanctions.

More background: Russian President Vladimir Putin said in March that "unfriendly" nations would have to pay rubles, rather than the euros or dollars stated in contracts. Buyers could make euro or dollar payments into an account at Russia's Gazprombank, which would then convert the funds into rubles and transfer them to a second account from which the payment to Russia would be made.

Gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria were cut off, after they refused to pay in rubles. Other big European gas companies have told CNN they are working on ways to pay for Russian gas, while not breaking EU sanctions.

1:29 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

US troops based in European area of operations increased 30% compared to before Ukraine war, US general says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

There are currently about 102,000 US troops based in the European area of operations, which is a 30% increase from the number of US troops stationed in the European area of operations before the war in Ukraine began, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a news conference at the Pentagon after the conclusion of the second Ukraine Contact Group meeting on Monday. 

“The United States military had about 78,000 in EUCOM, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Space Force. In a few short months, we bolstered that by over 30%. So this morning, we've got roughly speaking 102,000 US troops in the EUCOM area of operations in many, many countries,” Milley said.

The US has increased its troop presence on the ground, at sea and by air since the war in Ukraine began, Milley added. 

“At sea, we have over 15,000 sailors in the Med and the Baltics, on 24 surface combatants and force subs, up from six surface combatants back in the fall,” Milley said. “In the air, we have currently 12 fighter squadrons and two Combat Aviation brigades, and on the ground we have two corps, two divisions, and six Brigade Combat Teams, along with a variety of enablers.”

CNN reported last week that the US is expected to keep 100,000 troops stationed in Europe for the foreseeable future.

1:14 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

US defense secretary: 20 countries "announced new security assistance packages" after Ukraine meeting

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gives opening remarks accompanied by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on Monday, May 23.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gives opening remarks accompanied by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on Monday, May 23. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Denmark has agreed to provide Ukraine with a Harpoon launcher and missiles to “help Ukraine defend its coast,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at the conclusion of the second Ukraine Contact Group meeting hosted by Austin on Monday. The second contact group meeting was held virtually. 

The Czech Republic also agreed to send “substantial support” to Ukraine including “a recent donation of attack helicopters, tanks and rocket systems,” Austin said at a press conference at the conclusion of the meeting.

Overall, 20 countries “announced new security assistance packages,” after the meeting, Austin said, including “donating critically needed artillery ammunition, coastal defense systems and tanks and other armored vehicles.”

“Others came forward with new commitments for training Ukraine’s forces and sustaining its military systems,” Austin added.

A total of 47 countries participated in the contact group’s second meeting, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said.

Secretary Austin will host the third meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in person in Brussels on June 15, Austin said at the conclusion of the second virtual meeting of the contact group Monday. 

“I will convene the Contact Group for our third meeting next month and will gather in person this time, on June 15, in the margins of the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels,” Austin said. “Of course, it won't be a NATO event, but we want to keep up the, up, keep up the tempo of these meetings and I wanted to use my travel to Europe to ensure that we're building on our momentum.”

12:24 p.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Ukrainian refugees can exchange hryvnia for euros in Germany

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin

Banknotes worth 200 hryvnia each are seen in this photo illustration.
Banknotes worth 200 hryvnia each are seen in this photo illustration. (Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/AP)

Ukrainian refugees in Germany will be able to exchange banknotes of their currency — the Ukrainian hryvnia — into euros from Tuesday without exchange rates, as agreed by the German finance ministry, German Federal Bank, the German banking industry and the National Bank of Ukraine.

"Refugees can exchange a total amount of up to 10,000 hryvnia into euros at participating German banks and savings banks,“ the German finance ministry said Monday in a press release.

"The exchange into euro will be carried out at the exchange rate announced on the Bundesbank's website. The exchange is recorded in an online application provided by the European Central Bank to ensure that the individual maximum exchange amount is not exceeded. In this process, the identity of each refugee of legal age who wishes to participate in the exchange is recorded and verified. The documents accepted are those used for opening a basic account by refugees from the Ukrainian war zone. The requirements of data protection will be respected,“ the ministry continued.

Germany will cover for exchange losses, it noted.