Russian soldier sentenced to life in prison in first war crimes trial of Ukraine war
From Daria Markina in Kyiv and CNN's Katerina Krebs
A court in Kyiv has found 21-year-old Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to life in prison.
"The court found Vadim Shishimarin guilty of committing a criminal offense under part two of Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, and sentenced him to life imprisonment," it court said, adding that "the sentence may be appealed within 30 days from the date of its promulgation."
Shishimarin is the first Russian soldier to be sentenced for war crimes since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
5:40 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022
"You are not alone," UK leader Boris Johnson tells the children of Ukraine
From CNN's Lauren Lau
In a letter addressed to the children of Ukraine, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed sympathy for what they have gone through under Russian's invasion.
"In any other year, children like you would be spilling out of your homes and schools to play with your friends, to chase a football... to simply enjoy what is supposed to be a uniquely carefree time in your lives. Of course, this is not any other year," Johnson wrote in the letter, which was posted on his Twitter in both English and Ukrainian.
"You should be immensely proud. Proud of your country, your parents, your families and your soldiers, and most of all proud of yourselves," Johnson wrote, praising them as role models "for children and adults everywhere."
He went on to say, "You are not alone. You may be separated from your friends at home, but you have millions of others all over the world."
In the letter, Johnson referenced his visit to Kyiv last month, during which he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
He ended it saying he believes Ukraine will win the war and that he hopes one day soon they will be able to return to their homes, schools and families.
Johnson has been under intense political pressure in recent months, becoming the first UK premier in history found to have broken the law in office as part of the "Partygate" scandal. His government is also grappling with a cost of living crisis.
Poland ends energy relationship with Russia, minister says
From CNN's Vasco Cotovio
Poland's government has terminated a 30-year-old agreement with Russia over gas supplies and infrastructure, the country's climate minister, Anna Moskwa announced Monday.
"Poland denounces the 1993 intergovernmental gas agreement on the Yamal [pipeline]," Moskwa tweeted. "Russia's aggression against Ukraine confirmed the correctness of the Polish government's determination in the direction of complete independence from Russian gas."
"We have always known that Gazprom is not a trustworthy partner," she added.
The agreement included the supply of gas via the Yamal pipeline and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure related to the transit of gas through Poland.
Poland and Bulgaria were cut off in late April because they did not make payments in the Russian currency -- a move EU leaders described at the time as "blackmail" by Moscow.
4:17 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022
Up to 100 people killed each day fighting in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky says
From CNN's Svitlana Budzhak-Jones and Alex Stambaugh
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says up to 100 people are being killed each day in fighting in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has centered its military efforts in recent weeks.
Zelensky made the comment Sunday while speaking to press alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda. He was responding to a question about an online petition to allow men of conscription age -- between the ages of 18 and 60 -- to leave Ukraine.
The petition, posted on the Ukrainian president's official website, had gained more than 26,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
I don’t quite understand whom this petition addresses. Does this petition address me? Or, maybe this petition should address the parents of those warriors, who lost these people, because they defended Ukraine at the cost of their lives?" Zelensky said.
He added: "Today, from 50 to 100 people could be killed here in the most complicated area, in the east of our country."
"They are defending our country and our independence about which so many [people] in the world are talking about, so many are talking, but we feel it personally very, very much," the president said.
Zelensky said the petition would be considered according to the law, at the right time, and irrespective of whether he personally likes it or not.
3:33 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022
Ukrainian presidential adviser rules out ceasefire or concessions to Russia
From CNN's Alex Stambaugh and Sophie Jeong
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has ruled out a ceasefire with Russia and said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory.
The war will not stop (after any concessions). It will just be put on pause for some time,” he told Reuters in an interview in the presidential office on Saturday.
Podolyak said making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting.
“After a while, with renewed intensity, the Russians will build up their weapons, manpower and work on their mistakes, modernize a little, fire many generals … And they'll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale,” Podolyak said.
“Russia can't be left halfway because they will (develop) a 'revanchist' mood and be even more cruel.”
Podolyak also dismissed calls for an urgent ceasefire that would involve Russian forces remaining in territory they have occupied in Ukraine’s south and east, saying “the (Russian) forces must leave the country and after that the resumption of the peace process will be possible.”
Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office Andriy Yermak echoed Podolyak’s words, tweeting Sunday that “the war must end with the complete restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
2:08 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022
Russian death toll in Ukraine "likely similar" to Soviet war in Afghanistan, says UK Defense Ministry
From CNN's Alex Stambaugh
Russia has "likely suffered a similar death toll" in the first three months of its invasion of Ukraine to that of the Soviet Union during its nine years of war in Afghanistan, the UK Ministry of Defence said Monday.
"A combination of poor low-level tactics, limited air cover, a lack of flexibility, and a command approach which is prepared to reinforce failure and repeated mistakes has led to this high casualty rate, which continues to rise in the Donbas offensive," the ministry said in an intelligence update.
Tuesday marks three months since Russia launched its assault on Ukraine on Feb. 24. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ran from December 1979 to February 1989.
Some context: The official Soviet death toll during the Afghan War was around 15,000 soldiers. In March, senior NATO officials estimated that as many as 15,000 Russian soldiers may have been killed in Ukraine in just one month alone.
12:59 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022
Ukrainians describe brutal "filtration" process to escape Russian-held territory
From CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Oleksandra Ochman
"What would happen if we cut off your ear?" the soldiers asked Oleksandr Vdovychenko. Then they hit him in the head.
The punches kept coming whenever his interrogators — a mixture of Russian soldiers and pro-Russian separatists — didn't like his answers, he later told his family.
The men asked about his politics, his future plans, his views on the war. They checked his documents, took his fingerprints and stripped him to check if he had any nationalist tattoos or marks caused by wearing or carrying military equipment.
"They were trying to beat something out of him," his daughter Maria Vdovychenko told CNN in an interview.
Maria said her father received so many blows to his head during the interrogation last month that several medical examinations have now confirmed his sight has been permanently damaged.
Yet Oleksandr was one of the lucky ones. He made it through "filtration."
When Russian troops first started taking over villages and towns in eastern Ukraine in early March, following their invasion of the country, evidence began to emerge of civilians being forced to undergo humiliating identity checks and often violent questioning before being allowed to leave their homes and travel to areas still under Ukrainian control.
Three months into the war, the dehumanizing process known as filtration has become part of the reality of life under Russian occupation.
CNN spoke to a number of Ukrainians who have gone through the filtration process over the last two months. Many are too scared to speak publicly, fearing for the safety of relatives and friends who are still trying to escape Russian-held areas.
All of the people CNN spoke to have described facing threats and humiliation during the process. Many have witnessed or know of people who have been picked up by Russian troops or separatist soldiers and subsequently disappeared without a trace.
At least one person was killed on Sunday after Russia fired "naval-based cruise missiles" at the Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian military.
Here are the latest developments:
Ukraine-Poland customs deal: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a "historic" joint customs control with Poland that he described as "the beginning of our integration into the common customs space of the European Union." Zelensky said it would "significantly speed up border procedures" and "remove most of the corruption risks." It comes after France's European affairs minister said Ukraine's bid to join the EU would take at least "15 or 20 years to complete."
"Staggering milestone": More than 100 million people have been forced to flee conflict, violence and persecution worldwide — a record figure fueled by the situation in Ukraine, the UN refugee agency said Monday. UNHCR described the "stark" figure as "sobering and alarming in equal measure" and said it should serve as a "wake-up call." The war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country, and more than 6 million refugee movements from Ukraine have been registered, it said.
British PM blasts blockade: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday he would "redouble efforts to provide vital food and humanitarian aid" to Ukraine. During a phone call with Zelensky, Johnson spoke about the "despicable" blockade of the key port city of Odesa and said the UK would work to "ensure that (Ukraine) is able to export to the rest of the world," according to a statement.
Cruise-missile attack: At least one person was killed Sunday 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. The center added that its air defense units had destroyed four Russian cruise missiles — three were destroyed by aircraft, one by an anti-aircraft missile.
Russia House rebranded: A venue normally used by Russia to promote itself at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos has been rebranded as the Russian War Crimes House. A Ukrainian businessman, working with the WEF, has turned the Russia House venue into an exhibition depicting the devastation and destruction of the war in Ukraine.
11:53 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022
New Zealand to offer more support in training Ukrainian forces, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says
From CNN's Lauren Lau
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that her country would deploy an extra 30 defense force personnel to the United Kingdom to support the training of Ukrainian armed forces.
The soldiers will be stationed in the United Kingdom until the end of July," Ardern said.
They will train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the L-119 light gun, she added.
The troops, training ammunition and surplus equipment including aiming systems will be moved in an airlift coordinated by the UK.
This follows a previous deployment of 66 New Zealand defense force personnel in April along with a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules.