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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3:56 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Mariupol death toll at 22,000, says mayor's adviser

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne and Melissa Bell in Kyiv

“Mariupol is now a city of ghosts,” an adviser to the mayor of the ruined Ukrainian port city said Tuesday.  

Speaking to CNN’s Melissa Bell, Petro Andriushchenko — who has fled to Ukrainian held territory — said that Mariupol town hall officials believe that at least 22,000 residents of the city were killed during three months of war — a figure that cannot be independently supported, with the free press now unable to get access to the city and those still inside too scared to speak openly.

The figure of 22,000 is based, Andriushchenko said, on the many contacts he and other town hall officials continue to have with officials trapped inside. But he believes the actual figure could be much higher.

Andriushchenko said that the process of reburying the dead has been complicated by Russian official insistence that reclaimed bodies be brought to a morgue and that a person claiming a body must agree to record a video in which the applicant says the deceased was killed by the Ukrainian military. 

Andriushchenko said that, based on the information gathered from his network of sources, Mariupol tonight is a city thrown back to the Middle Ages.

“It is absolutely dark inside the city. The only lights are from Russian troops and Russian patrols,” he said. “Everywhere it’s the smell of death and the smell of fire.”

The mayor's adviser said his contacts paint a picture of a city in the grips of a humanitarian catastrophe with very little contact to the outside world. Mobile phone connections are only just beginning to be re-established.

He said residents are unable to move freely, with special passes needed for any movement within the city and a filtration system keeping them from fleeing altogether.

Mariupol has been at the center of a ferocious, months-long battle between Ukrainian government forces and Russian soldiers and pro-Russian fighters. 

It officially fell to Russian forces Friday when the last group of the Azovstal fighters at the steel plant they had been holding out in for several weeks surrendered.


2:12 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Hungarian prime minister announces "state of emergency" due to war in Ukraine

From CNN's Boglarka Kosztolanyi and Niamh Kennedy in London

Hungary will enter a "state of emergency" due to the war in Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video posted on his official Facebook account on Tuesday. 

"Hungary must stay out of this war and protect families’ financial security. To do this, we need room for maneuver and the ability to act immediately," Orban said. 

The state of emergency is set to go into effect starting at midnight local time on Wednesday, according to Orban, who did not give details regarding the extent of the emergency powers. The prime minister said he would share more details regarding his decision on Wednesday. 

This would not be the first time Hungary has activated a state of emergency. A bill was passed during the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 that allowed Orban to rule by decree. 

Hungary also recently voiced its opposition to a proposal from the European Union to ban imports of Russian oil, saying it will not support such a measure. 

1:07 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Russia would still pose threat to peace in Europe even after possible ceasefire, Polish foreign minister says

From CNN’s Inke Kappeler and Arnaud Siad 

Russia would remain a threat for peace in Europe even after a ceasefire in Ukraine, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said on Tuesday.

“That Russia changes immediately after a ceasefire has been agreed is daydreaming. It would remain a danger for peace in Europe,” Rau said during a joint press conference with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock.

Rau said he feared a Russian invasion into Poland, as well as “the danger of an armed invasion of the countries in the NATO eastern flank.”

Poland and Germany must strive for Russia "to suffer a strategic defeat and its occupation forces to leave Ukraine within the borders recognized by international law," Rau also said. 

Baerbock also made clear that the Donetsk region belonged to Ukraine, saying, “Ukraine is a sovereign state within its borders and this is true for now, this is true since 2014 and this is true for the future.”

12:43 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

French foreign minister pushes for another round of Russia sanctions

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

France's Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna listens as Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks during a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday.
France's Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna listens as Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks during a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday. (Filip Singer/Pool/Getty Images)

The European Union needs to adopt its sixth package of sanctions against Russia soon, according to France's Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna.

Speaking during a joint press conference in Berlin with her German counterpart, Colonna stressed the need "to strengthen our support to Ukraine." 

"We have to quickly adopt the sixth package of sanctions which will foresee the progressive end of the imports of Russian oil," said Colonna, who was appointed to her role last week.

Despite opposition from countries like Hungary, Colonna said she is "optimistic" that the package will be approved and commended the "remarkable" unity shown by the EU in holding Russia accountable. 

"We have to continue because it is this unity that is our strength," Colonna emphasized. 

12:30 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Russia's invasion contributing to rise in severe food insecurity in Latin America and Caribbean, officials say

From CNN's Jorge Engels

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is contributing to a sharp rise in the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean, the United Nations World Food Programme warned in a statement Tuesday, heaping more pressure on a region that is already suffering from the fallout of Covid-19 and the effects of climate change.

Between December 2021 and March 2022, the WFP said that, according to recent surveys conducted by the organization, the number of people suffering due to severe food insecurity “shot up” by more than 500,000. Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“Millions of people could be pushed into poverty and hunger if the conflict in Ukraine continues. The region is already dealing with Covid-19, rising costs and climate extremes,” said Lola Castro, WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We could return to food insecurity peaks seen during the height of the pandemic, as job and income losses, food inflation and other driving factors batter the most vulnerable people.”

The WFP said the war in Ukraine has led to a surge in commodity and energy prices, which is leading to a rise in food inflation that threatens the region since several countries are highly dependent on cereal imports. It added that Caribbean nations that import substantial amounts of food will be particularly affected due to “soaring” sea freight costs.

Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost 30% of global trade, and Ukraine is the world's fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. The WFP, which helps combat global food insecurity, buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year and has warned of dire consequences if Ukrainian ports are not opened up.

Since the war began, Russia has been blocking Ukraine from exporting goods from its ports, fueling fears of a global food crisis. 

"Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food — our grain, barley, sunflower and more," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday.

The US and Ukraine have also accused Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain supplies, which Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says is “fake news,” according to Russian state news agencies. CNN has viewed satellite images that show two Russian ships docking and loading up with what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain. CNN also tracked a Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain from Crimea to Syria after being turned away from ports in Egypt and Lebanon.

CNN’s Alex Marquardt and Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.

12:13 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

It's just past 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know now.

From CNN Staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

A top Russian security official said Russian forces are not "chasing deadlines" in Ukraine, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for continuing economic and political pressure on Moscow.

If you're just reading in now, here are some of the latest developments of the war in Ukraine:

  • Ukraine shows drone footage: The Ukrainian military for the first time released footage of special forces using small, foreign-made drones to target Russian positions. The portable, so-called kamikaze drones carry warheads and detonate on impact.
  • NATO leader says there is support for new members: NATO member countries broadly support welcoming Finland and Sweden into the alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Davos.
  • A brewing food crisis: The head of the UN World Food Programme called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen ports in Ukraine to exports to prevent children around the world from starving. The president of the European Commission earlier accused Putin of "weaponizing" food supplies. Russia's theft of Ukrainian grain appears to be ramping up, according to new satellite photos.
  • Russia's undefined timeline: Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia's Security Council, said in published remarks that Russian forces aren't "chasing deadlines" in Ukraine, suggesting a possibly open-ended timeline for Moscow's invasion.
  • Zelensky addresses World Economic Forum: The Ukrainian President told an audience in Davos that Kyiv is prepared for a prisoner exchange with Russia and also urged world leaders to "keep the political pressure" on Russia in "any way they can."
  • Russian oil embargo could come soon: Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said an embargo on Russian oil could be in place "in a matter of weeks."
  • Ukrainian prosecutor general charges Russians: The prosecutor's office said it had charged members of the Russian military and a Russian mercenary group as suspects in the murder of Olha Sukhenko, the mayor of a Ukrainian village, and two family members.
11:54 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Russian diplomat who resigned in protest of war is "very courageous," Ukrainian UN ambassador says

From CNN’s Claire Calzonetti and Emmet Lyons

Boris Bondarev
Boris Bondarev (Boris Bondarev via AP)

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s top diplomat to the United Nations, said that the protest resignation of a Russian foreign service officer is a “very courageous act,” but he remains disappointed that so few Russian diplomats have spoken out.

“On the one hand, I can say that it was a very courageous act,” Kyslytsya told CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour Tuesday. “On the other hand, I would say that I’m disappointed.”

“We’re very disappointed in the course of three months and given the numbers of Russian foreign service, there’s only one known case of a person who has dignity and moral standards to speak out against the evil,” Kyslytsya said. 

Boris Bondarev, a 20-year veteran of Russia's diplomatic service, announced his resignation Monday in protest against his country's war on Ukraine by posting a statement on a LinkedIn account. In the post, he criticized the Russian foreign ministry for participating in an "aggressive war" — language that is proscribed in Russia under wartime censorship laws.  

Kyslytsya said that Russian diplomats who continue to be complicit in Russia’s war against Ukraine would ultimately face accountability for their actions.

“I have to face Russian diplomats every week, at least once or twice, in the Security Council. It’s so difficult because you can’t believe it, that people can drivel out those lies so bluntly. But you know, as I said in one of the first meetings, lying and lying and lying is basically ensuring that they have secured the best place, if I may, in hell for them,” he said.

“I think that everything they say in the Security Council may and will be used in a tribunal that will be established. There is no end to this story until all of them, including the Russian diplomats, are called to account,” he said. 

Kyslytsya drew a parallel between Russian diplomats today and the ultimate fate of Joachim von Ribbentrop, the foreign minister of Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1945. Von Ribbentrop was found guilty and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal following World War II.

“When Ribbentrop was denying his knowledge of concentration camps, by the end of the day, he was convicted. We all know what happened to him,” the ambassador said. 

11:33 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Ukrainian special forces release video of military using foreign-made kamikaze drones

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

The Ukrainian military has for the first time released footage of special forces using foreign-made kamikaze drones targeting Russian positions. According to the Ukrainian military, the drone was equipped with a powerful explosive that caused damage to a Russian tank after it flew into it. 

"The combat use of kamikaze UAVs is a constant practice for SOF of Ukraine in the war with Russian invaders," the Ukranian military said. "This is a good example of how the help of foreign partners together with the training and professionalism of our soldiers give positive results at the front."

The US sent 100 Switchblade drones to the Ukrainian military in April. The small, portable, so-called kamikaze drones carry warheads and detonate on impact. The smallest model can hit a target up to six miles away, according to a company that produces the drones.

11:17 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Russia "not chasing deadlines" in Ukraine says head of Russia's Security Council

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll

Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia's Security Council, said in remarks published Tuesday that Russian forces aren't "chasing deadlines" in Ukraine, suggesting a possibly open-ended timeline for the Russian invasion.  

In an interview with the Argumenti and Fakti national newspaper, Patrushev said "Nazism has to be eradicated in full 100%, otherwise it will resurface in a few years in a much uglier form."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed — falsely — that Russia is waging a campaign of "denazification" in Ukraine, a vaguely defined goal. Patrushev, a former spy chief, is seen as a hawkish member of Putin's inner circle.