May 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico-O'Murchú, Jack Guy, Sana Noor Haq, Hafsa Khalil and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, May 25, 2022
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7:36 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Russian diplomat "no longer with us, he is against us" following resignation, says Kremlin

From CNN's Anna Chernova

An image taken with permission from the passport photo page of Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev on May 23.
An image taken with permission from the passport photo page of Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev on May 23. (Boris Bondarev/AP)

A Russian diplomat who announced his resignation in protest against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine is "no longer with us, he is against us," said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

CNN asked Peskov about Boris Bondarev, the diplomat who announced his resignation Monday in an open letter, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

"The Kremlin is not familiar with this letter. If he was an employee of the Foreign Ministry, then this is a question to the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)," said Peskov.

"Here we can only say that Mr. Bondarev is no longer with us, rather, he is against us," said Peskov.

"He has a position in which he condemns the actions of the Russian leadership, and the actions of the Russian leadership are supported by almost the entire population of our country," said Peskov when asked to elaborate on what "against us" meant.

"This means that this gentleman spoke out against the general consolidated opinion of our country," he added.

Bondarev, a 20-year veteran of Russia's diplomatic service, posted a statement on a LinkedIn account on Monday 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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoys consistently high public approval ratings, but pro-Kremlin state television dominates the airwaves, political opposition is not tolerated and the Russian government has effectively outlawed criticism of the war in Ukraine. 

7:15 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

It's 2:15 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN Staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv is ready for an imminent prisoner exchange with Russia, and called on allies to continue to put economic and political pressure on Moscow.

Meanwhile, a British minister has warned that the number of deaths from global grain and food shortages due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine "could be even greater than the lives lost in the war directly."

Here are the latest developments:

Zelensky addresses World Economic Forum: The Ukrainian President told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Kyiv is prepared for a prisoner exchange with Russia "even tomorrow." Speaking via video on Monday, Zelensky said "the exchange of people" is a "very political decision that depends on the support of many states." He urged world leaders to "keep the political pressure" on Russia in "any way they can," calling for increased business closures, oil embargoes and economic sanctions.

Global grain shortages: Deaths from global grain and food shortages due to the war in Ukraine "could be even greater than the lives lost in the war directly," UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said during an interview with Sky News Tuesday. Shapps said he is "very concerned" about the issue, and met with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksandr Kubrakov last week in Germany to discuss how infrastructure could be put in place to ensure the grain leaves Ukraine. "It’s hard to overestimate the extent to which Ukraine was, and is, the breadbasket of the world," he added. Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has accused Russia of "weaponizing" food supplies -- as it has with energy.

Biden at Quad summit: US President Joe Biden met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new Australian counterpart, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in separate meetings at the Quad Summit in Tokyo Tuesday. Ahead of his meeting with Modi, Biden said he and the Indian leader -- who has been reluctant to condemn Russia's war in Ukraine -- would discuss the "brutal and unjustified" conflict. Meanwhile, Biden "commended Australia’s strong support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion" during his assembly with Albanese, and both leaders "agreed on the importance of continued solidarity, including to ensure that no such event is ever repeated in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said in a readout.

Colombia to train Ukraine in de-mining: The Colombian armed forces are sending a team to Ukraine to train its military on landmine removal operations, the Colombian Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Monday. The 11 military engineers will be deployed to an unnamed neighboring NATO country where the training will be carried out, according to the statement. The news comes two months after US President Joe Biden announced Colombia would be designated as a major non-NATO ally, strengthening security and economic ties between the pair.

Kherson military base request: The pro-Moscow authorities of Ukraine's Kherson region will request a Russian military base in the region, Russian state news agencies reported Tuesday. Russian state news agencies RIA-Novosti and TASS quoted Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration of Kherson region, as saying, "there should be a military base of the Russian Federation in the Kherson region. We will ask for this, and the entire population is interested in this." The Russian military took control of parts of the Kherson region in mid-March, and Russian-backed officials claim to have occupied a series of government posts. 

Moscow strengthens alliance with China: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said Moscow must cease any dependency on the West and that it is instead deepening ties with China. "Now that the West has taken a 'dictator’s position,' our economic ties with China will grow even faster," Lavrov told an audience at a question and answer session in Moscow on Monday, according to a transcript from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

6:50 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Russia "weaponizing" food supplies, says von der Leyen, with global repercussions

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the assembly at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the assembly at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia is employing a similar tactic with food supplies as it is with energy, and "weaponizing" the sector with global repercussions, Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum Tuesday. 

The European Commission President said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine -- "the bread basket" of the world -- and the sanctions imposed against it in response has pushed up global prices of grain and fertilizer, triggering a food crisis. 

The Russian army is confiscating grain suppliers and machinery in areas of Ukraine and blocking exports from ports in the Black Sea, von der Leyen said.

She urged the international community to come together to counter what she called Moscow’s "blackmail."

Her comments come hours after UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said deaths from food shortages due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine "could be even greater than the lives lost in the war directly."

Shapps said in a television interview Tuesday that he met with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksandr Kubrakov last week in Germany to discuss how infrastructure could be put in place to ensure the grain leaves Ukraine.

Supplies from Russia and Ukraine account for nearly 30% of global wheat trade.

6:33 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Sanctions against Russia "draining Putin's war machine," says European Commission President

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Sanctions against Russia imposed by the EU, US and other Western countries are "draining Putin’s war machine," Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum in Davos, as the bloc continues to negotiate even harsher measures. 

In a special address to delegates in Davos Tuesday, the European Commission President said Russia’s war is not just a matter of Ukraine's survival or EU security, but "puts our whole global order in question."

The bloc must do whatever is necessary to help defeat Russia and will play an important role in the rebuilding of Ukraine, she said, adding "we will hand in hand help Ukraine rise from the ashes."

The World Economic Forum kicked off in Switzerland on Monday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for maximum sanctions against Russian in his virtual address.

The conference sees leading global politicians, CEOs and billionaires discussing economic issues and solutions. This year is the first to be held in-person since the pandemic.

6:14 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Quad members engaged in a "frank discussion" on Ukraine, says Japan's Prime Minister

From CNN’s Mayumi Maruyama in Tokyo 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a news conference following the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) leaders meeting at the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on May 24.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a news conference following the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) leaders meeting at the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on May 24. (Kiyoshi Ota/AP)

Leaders from the US, India, Australia and Japan had a "frank discussion" about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.

The heads of state from the four nations met in Tokyo for a summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), an informal group focused on security that dates back to the early 2000s.

"The United States, India, Australia and Japan and the four leaders engaged in frank discussion over the impact of the Ukrainian situation on Indo Pacific region," said Kishida.

"India also participated in stating our concern over the miserable war in Ukraine. We affirmed that the principles such as the rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity must be upheld in any region," Kishida added.

"On the international situation, each country has its own historical developments as well as the geographical situation. So even amongst like minded countries, the positions may not agree fully," Kishida said.

He added that, on Ukraine, all of the leaders "were able to reaffirm the importance of the various principles, such as the rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and also, a unilateral change of status quo or by force shall never be allowed in any region."  

India has expressed concern over the situation in Ukraine but stopped short of condemning Russia’s invasion. The issue has been a point of contention between the Quad leaders.

Some context: The Quad has become more active in recent years as part of efforts to counter China's reach and territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific.

The meeting came at the end of US President Joe Biden's first trip to Asia since becoming President, a five-day visit he began in South Korea. 

6:01 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Deaths from global food shortages "could be even greater than the lives lost in the war directly," says UK minister

From CNN's Sana Noor Haq in London

Local government officials and Ukrainian soldiers inspect a wheat grain warehouse earlier shelled by Russian forces on May 6, near the frontlines of Kherson in Novovorontsovka, Ukraine.
Local government officials and Ukrainian soldiers inspect a wheat grain warehouse earlier shelled by Russian forces on May 6, near the frontlines of Kherson in Novovorontsovka, Ukraine. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Deaths from global grain and food shortages due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine "could be even greater than the lives lost in the war directly," UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Tuesday.

Shapps said he is "very concerned" about the issue, and met with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksandr Kubrakov last week in Germany to discuss how infrastructure could be put in place to ensure the grain leaves Ukraine.

"I’m specifically concerned with the situation in Ukraine. We’ve seen this barbaric invasion by Putin," Shapps said during an interview with Sky News Tuesday.

"What really worries me is we’ve seen many lives lost in Ukraine, we could see even more lives lost in other places in the world through grain and food shortages, which could be even greater than the lives lost in the war directly. So we do need to find solutions to getting this grain out," Shapps added.

Shapps said that, while he couldn’t go into details about his meeting with Kubrakov, "there are lots of different potential ways to get grain and other goods out of the country, and indeed goods into the country as well."

"I think it’s absolutely essential that we do, otherwise there could be a lot of hunger and indeed even famine, which could dwarf the numbers involved in the war itself," Shapps added.

He said there are "a lot of complexities" in regards to getting grain out of Ukraine, including mined waters near the southern port city of Odesa.

Shapps added: "It’s hard to overestimate the extent to which Ukraine was, and is, the breadbasket of the world." 

Some background: Supplies from Russia and Ukraine account for nearly 30% of global wheat trade

But international wheat prices have hit an all-time high since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Multiple sources have told CNN that Russian forces have been stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers in areas they have occupied, while satellite imagery has appeared to show Russian ships loading what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain in Crimea. 

The rise in food prices is the most since 2008, according to a World Bank report published in April. Food costs will increase by 22.9% this year, highlighted by a 40% rise in wheat prices, the report said. 

However, US and European allies have been struggling with plans to get vital grain supplies out of Ukraine.

5:32 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Philippines' Duterte slams Putin for killing children and elderly in Ukraine

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong

Outgoing President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has criticized his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for killing innocent civilians in Ukraine.

Duterte said that, while both he and Putin have been called killers, the two men are different.

"A lot of people are saying that Putin and I are the same because we kill people," said Duterte during a public address on Monday night, according to the state-run Philippines News Agency (PNA). 

"But I kill criminals. I do not kill children and elderly. What is happening in Russia and America is different from what is happening here."

File photo shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivering a speech on February 28 in Manila, Philippines. 
File photo shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivering a speech on February 28 in Manila, Philippines.  (Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

Duterte said he was not condemning his "friend" Putin, but was rather sharing his sentiment.

"Putin is my friend. You are in control of everything. Anyway, you really started the ruckus there. Control your soldiers. They’re running amok," Duterte said, according to the news agency. 

Duterte also requested that the Russian Embassy in the Philippines relay his message to Putin, saying it is Putin’s obligation to ensure the safety of the innocent.

"The embassy of Russia, if you’re listening, I am not picking a quarrel with anybody. I said Putin is a friend of mine," he said. "But … it is your moral obligation to see to it that the civilians, the innocent ones, children, the elderly, the women … They are too vulnerable."

Some context: Russian troops have been accused of perpetrating a litany of alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Evidence is mounting of indiscriminate killings of civilians attempting to flee the violence and victims found with their hands tied behind their backs, as well as an attack on a maternity hospital and a theater-turned-shelter.

Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians, but CNN journalists on the ground in Ukraine have seen firsthand evidence of atrocities at multiple locations across the country.

And on Monday a 21-year-old Russian soldier was sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian man in Ukraine's first war crimes trial since Russia's invasion.

4:56 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Moscow will deepen its ties with China, says Russian foreign minister 

From CNN's Irina Morgan, Alex Stambaugh and Nathan Hodge

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, during their bilateral meeting on November 13, 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, during their bilateral meeting on November 13, 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow must cease any dependency on the West and that it is instead strengthening ties with China. 

"Now that the West has taken a 'dictator’s position,' our economic ties with China will grow even faster," Lavrov told an audience at a question and answer session in Moscow on Monday, according to a transcript from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

He said China has "highly developed" information and communications technologies that are in "no way inferior to the West," which "ensure mutual benefits."

The foreign minister said if the West wants to resume relations, then Moscow would consider if the country needed it or not.

He added that Russia needed to stop being dependent "in any way" on supplies from the West for the development of "security, the economy or our homeland’s social sphere."

"When we can finally count only on ourselves and on countries which have proven themselves reliable and do not dance to someone else’s tune, then if Western countries come to their senses and begin to propose some form of cooperation, it will be up to us to decide," he added. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have cultivated close ties, with China currently buying record amounts of Russian coal, but the two countries have shared historical rivalries.

Read more here:

4:26 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Pro-Moscow authorities in Ukraine's Kherson region call for Russian military base

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Olga Voitovych

An aerial view shows the city of Kherson, Ukraine, on May 20.
An aerial view shows the city of Kherson, Ukraine, on May 20. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images)

The pro-Moscow authorities of Ukraine's Kherson region will request a Russian military base in the region, Russian state news agencies reported Tuesday. 

Russian state news agencies RIA-Novosti and TASS quoted Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration of Kherson region, as saying, "there should be a military base of the Russian Federation in the Kherson region. We will ask for this, and the entire population is interested in this."

The Russian military took control of parts of the Kherson region in mid-March, and Russian-backed officials claim to have occupied a series of government posts. 

Ukrainian officials estimate around half the population of Kherson has now left the region, many of whom say they have fled heavy-handed Russian rule. 

Russian efforts to advance a referendum on a so-called "Kherson People's Republic" that would mirror the emergence of Russian-backed separatist statelets in eastern Ukraine appeared to have been put on hold.