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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3:28 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.

10:41 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Hear the moment missiles flew overhead during a CNN interview in Ukraine's Zhytomyr region

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

At least one person has been killed in a Russian missile attack on Malyn, in the Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine’s Air Command Center said Russian forces fired "naval-based cruise missiles" from the southeastern direction at infrastructure facilities in Zhytomyr on 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 7 o'clock in the evening," said Vitaliy Bunechko, the head of Zhytomyr’s regional military administration.

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

The center added that its air defense units had destroyed four Russian cruise missiles.

Three missiles were destroyed by aircraft, and one by an anti-aircraft missile unit of the Ukrainian air force, they added.

See moment missiles flew over Zhytomyr during a CNN interview:

10:33 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Starbucks closes all its cafes in Russia

From CNN’s Alison Kosik

A Starbucks coffee shop alongside a mural of Georgy Zhukov, a Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union, in Moscow, Russia, on March 27.
A Starbucks coffee shop alongside a mural of Georgy Zhukov, a Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union, in Moscow, Russia, on March 27. (Vlad Karkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Coffee giant Starbucks says it has exited Russia and will no longer have a brand presence there, according to a press release on Monday. 

The coffee company says it has been operating in Russia for 15 years and has now closed its 130 licensed cafes in the country. Starbucks joins other companies like McDonald’s and Exxon Mobil in taking its business completely out of Russia. 

Starbucks says it will “support” its nearly 2,000 workers in Russia, including pay for six months and assistance for partners to transition to new opportunities outside of Starbucks. 

This comes after Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in March that it had suspended all business activity in Russia, including shipment of all Starbucks products.