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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9:54 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

US defense secretary holds virtual meeting on Ukraine with more than 40 countries

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gives opening remarks at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Pentagon, Washington D.C, on May 23.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gives opening remarks at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Pentagon, Washington D.C, on May 23. (Alex Brandon/AP)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomed more than 40 countries to the second Ukraine Contact Group meeting, held virtually, on May 23, almost three months to the day since the war in Ukraine began.

Austin thanked the defense ministers from the other 40 nations for attending and highlighted the progress made since the first contact group meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last month, spotlighting Australia, Canada and the UK for military equipment they have provided to Ukraine since that meeting.

Since last month’s contact group meeting, Australia and Canada “committed to providing M777 Howitzers, and in just four weeks, all those systems have been delivered to the Ukrainians,” Austin said. The UK also “delivered brimstone missiles and a new short-range defense system,” and “many countries have pushed hard to stand up important new training missions, and we’ve watched these efforts make a real difference in real time,” he added. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, the deputy commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces and Ukraine’s defense intelligence representative joined the virtual meeting. Four new countries also joined the meeting who were not in attendance at Ramstein last month: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Ireland and Kosovo. 

Austin said he knows the other defense ministers on the call “understand the threat that Russian aggression poses to European security and to the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure.”

“Ukraine’s cause has rallied the free world. Since Russia’s invasion on the 24th of February more than 40 of our allies and partners from around the globe have stepped up to provide critical security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself, and today we’re honored to have defense leaders from 44 countries with us, as well as representatives from NATO and the EU,” Austin said.

Today’s contact group meeting will “begin with presentations by Ukraine and US military leadership on the situation on the ground,” Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, said. Session one will “begin with a battlefield update on the current fight, how Ukraine is leveraging international donations, and Ukraine’s immediate combat requirements,” she added. 

Session two of the meeting will focus on “participating ministers” who “will announce progress made on donations,” to Ukraine, and session three will focus “on capabilities and coordination with a review of how we are meeting Ukraine’s priority requirements and overview of the international deconfliction and coordination cell and updates by ministers,” Cooper added.

8:36 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Global food crisis could worsen if Ukrainian port of Odesa is not opened, UN official says

From CNN's Rob North in Davos, Switzerland

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.

Beasley explained that currently the world is 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, he said while speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Beasley stressed that “there are enough leaders in Davos this week to end world hunger.”

8:05 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

As the war in Ukraine rages on, up to 100 people are being killed every day in fighting in the east of the country, where Russia has centered its military efforts in recent weeks, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Meanwhile, Russia has "likely suffered a similar death toll" in the first three months of its invasion to that of the Soviet Union during its nine years of war in Afghanistan, the UK Ministry of Defence said Monday.

Here are today's latest developments:

Russian soldier gets life sentence in first war crimes trial: A court in Kyiv has found 21-year-old Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to life in prison. Shishimarin, who pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian, is the first soldier to be sentenced for war crimes since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Poland ends energy relationship with Russia: 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. 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.

Up to 100 people killed daily in eastern Ukraine, president says: Zelensky said as many as 100 people are dying every day in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. 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. "Today, from 50 to 100 people could be killed here in the most complicated area, in the east of our country," Zelensky said.

Russian death toll in Ukraine "likely similar" to Soviet war in Afghanistan, says UK: 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.

More than 6.5 million have fled Ukraine, says UN: At least 6.5 million people have left Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, according to the latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data. 

 

Ukrainian presidential adviser rules out ceasefire or concessions: Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, 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 on Saturday. Podolyak said making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting.

7:32 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Zelensky totes Ukraine rebuilding plan as a "huge economic opportunity"

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a screen as he delivers a video address to the delegates of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a screen as he delivers a video address to the delegates of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the rebuilding of his country after the war with Russia a “huge economic opportunity,” in an address at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We will destroy our neighbor and rebuild entire cities and industries,” in the largest rebuilding effort since the World War II, he pledged. Zelensky also outlined a plan which will offer companies to take “patronage” of rebuilding different areas in Ukraine.

“We are offering a historical opportunity” he said, and urged the global community to assist in the effort. “Post-war rebuilding could be fast and efficient,” the President said, adding it will “attract the best.”

7:16 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Separatist leader says a tribunal is planned for Ukrainian prisoners from Azovstal: Russian state news

From CNN's Nathan Hodge 

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, speaks to journalists in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 18. This photo was taken during a trip organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, speaks to journalists in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 18. This photo was taken during a trip organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense. (AP)

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), said Monday that a tribunal was being readied for Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Russian state news agencies reported. 

According to Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti, Pushilin said the Ukrainian prisoners are now on the territory of the DPR, a Russian-backed separatist territory in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, and that documents were being prepared for a tribunal.

Mariupol fell under complete Russian control last week with the surrender of Azovstal, the last bastion of Ukrainians defending the city. It is unclear how many Ukrainian soldiers would face a potential tribunal. The Russian military has claimed that over 2,000 Ukrainian service members surrendered at the vast steel works.  

In a separate news item, RIA reported Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rudenko as saying Russia was open to the possibility of discussing the exchange of Azovstal prisoners with Ukraine.

6:52 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

More than 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian invasion, says UN refugee agency

From CNN's Benjamin Brown

A mother with her daughter sit inside a bus as they evacuate the city of Bakhmut in the Donbas region of Ukraine on May 22.
A mother with her daughter sit inside a bus as they evacuate the city of Bakhmut in the Donbas region of Ukraine on May 22. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, according to the latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data.  

In addition, more than 8 million people -- nearly one in five of Ukraine’s pre-war population -- are internally displaced after having been forced to flee their homes, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration. 

A projected 8.3 million refugees are expected to flee Ukraine, the UNHCR said in late April. 

6:42 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Kremlin "concerned" about fate of Russian soldier sentenced in Ukraine

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin, 21, stands inside a cage after he was sentenced to life in prison by a Ukrainian court for killing an unarmed civilian, in Kyiv on May 23.
Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin, 21, stands inside a cage after he was sentenced to life in prison by a Ukrainian court for killing an unarmed civilian, in Kyiv on May 23. (Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

The Kremlin is "concerned" about Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin and will seek ways of providing assistance to him, Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

Shishimarin, 21, is the first Russian serviceman to be charged with war crimes in Ukraine. On Monday, Shishimarin was found guilty of shooting an unarmed civilian in Ukraine’s Sumy region and sentenced by a Kyiv court to life in prison.

“Of course, we are concerned about the fate of our citizen,” Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.

“We do not have many opportunities to protect his interests on the ground, as foreign institutions actually have no activity [in Kyiv]. But this does not mean that we will not consider the possibility of making attempts through other channels,” Peskov added without clarifying which channels he was speaking about.

6:27 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Concertgoers in St. Petersburg chant "F**k the war!"

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Teele Rebane

Audience members at a Кис-Киc (Kis-Kis) concert in St. Petersburg on Friday were seen chanting “F**k the war!” according to a video shared online, which was verified by CNN.

Кис-Киc is a Russian punk rock band, which in the past has shared anti-war views on their social media. Earlier this year, the band postponed all concerts in March due “moral principles.”

CNN has reached out to the band’s management for comment, but has not yet heard back.

6:21 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022

Zelensky calls for "maximum" sanctions against Russia in Davos address

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seen on a giant screen by video link delivering remarks at the Congress centre during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seen on a giant screen by video link delivering remarks at the Congress centre during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23. (Fabrice Coffrin/AFP/Getty Images)

The global community must impose “maximum” sanctions against Russia, including a full oil embargo, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged in a video address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, which is now underway. 

“The international community must be ready to use sanctions preventively, not to just respond” to threats in the future, he told world and business leaders in attendance. If these sanctions had been in place in the first place, Russia would not have been able to invade Ukraine, he claimed, calling for full bans on Russian banks and a complete halt in trade.

“The aggressor would know the immediate consequences of its actions,” he said.

“We must set a precedent for sanctions,” he said, questioning whether a “large collection of responses” from institutions such as the United Nations and World Trade Organization is enough to respond to the threats of today.

The latest sanctions were announced earlier this month, when leaders of the G7 met virtually with Zelensky. The measures included new export controls against the Russian industrial sector and roughly 2,600 visa restrictions on Russian and Belarusian officials, as well as the first sanctions against executives of Gazprombank, the institution through which most of Europe buys Russian gas.

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