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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10:31 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

EU president expects deal on Russian oil embargo within weeks

From CNN's Gayle Harrington

President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission in Davos, Switzerland.
President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission in Davos, Switzerland. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

The president of the European Commission said a European embargo on Russian oil could come soon. 

President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to CNN's Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum.

"We are working hard on it right now, it's a matter of weeks but we really must find a solution for the investment needs. And therefore, this is important, we have to tailor it in a way that we do not have the situation that Putin can take the oil. That he doesn't sell it to us and [then] sells it at a higher price on the world market," von der Leyen said.

Some EU members, including Hungary, continue to oppose a European Commission proposal to phase out Russian oil by early 2023. A Russian oil embargo would be the sixth package of EU sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Von der Leyen also said Russia must play a role in Ukraine's reconstruction. "The needs of reconstruction, financial needs are massive, and all of us should pay in, also the international financial institutions," she said. "And I think it would be only fair that Russia also pays its share. Therefore we are now looking into the legal possibilities to also add the assets that are frozen to this reconstruction effort. It's not trivial, it's not easy on the legal ground but we are working on it."

10:28 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

US climate envoy warns against using Ukraine as "a lever" for more fossil fuels

From CNN’s Angela Dewan

John F. Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States, speaks during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24.
John F. Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States, speaks during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

United States climate envoy John Kerry warned business and world leaders on Tuesday against locking in long-term fossil fuel use as countries shun Russia’s energy exports. 

The US has banned the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal in response to its invasion of Ukraine, and the European Union is working toward phasing out Russian oil by the year end, while replacing much of its gas.

“Ukraine is being used as a lever to make the argument that you got to have this energy security, which you do have to have — nobody doubts that. But there's a headlong plunge to sort of say, ‘well, that means we've got to drill a lot more and pump a lot more, and we've got to build out more infrastructure in order to be able to deliver the gas to Europe,'” he said at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Europe is importing more liquified natural gas from the US to replace some of the Russian gas imports it usually relies on. 

“We have to do some of those things, we have to make up for the gas,” Kerry said. “So, where are you going to get it from? Well, Europe has made a decision to completely accelerate their deployment of renewables and France has determined that they're going to have to double down on nuclear and make different choices.”

He added that the basic technologies were now available for the world to reach its climate goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over this decade.

“We can't do it if the new theology is going to be ‘we got to build out a massive gas infrastructure’ without regard to abatement and mitigation of that gas. The reason we're in the predicament we're in today is fossil fuel burning in a way that has polluted the atmosphere,” he said. “And so much so that this blanket is heating up the planet at an unacceptable rate.”

12:20 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minister says he discussed "ways to unblock" Ukraine's food exports with Blinken

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Radina Gigova in London 

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba talks to the press in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 23.
Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba talks to the press in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 23. (Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday he discussed with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken military aid and ways to unblock Ukraine's food exports. 

"Spoke with @SecBlinken to thank the U.S. for its ironclad support of Ukraine. More weapons, including heavy, are headed to Ukraine as Russia continues its devastating attacks in the Donbas. We also discussed ways to unblock Ukraine’s exports and ensure global food security," Kuleba tweeted Tuesday. 

"Russian thieves steal Ukrainian grain, load it onto ships, pass through Bosporus, and try to sell it abroad," Kuleba ​wrote in another tweet. "I call on all states to stay vigilant and refuse any such proposals. Don’t buy the stolen. Don’t become accomplices to Russian crimes. Theft has never brought anyone luck."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum on Tuesday that Russia is "weaponizing" the food and energy sector and that the Russian army is confiscating grain suppliers and machinery in parts of Ukraine, and blocking exports from ports in the Black Sea. 

View Kuleba's tweet here:

12:20 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

US secretary of state and Ukrainian counterpart discuss how to get grain out of country

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on May 23.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on May 23. (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Tuesday with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and discussed diplomacy and potential ways to get Ukrainian grain out of the country, according to a statement from the US State Department.

"The Secretary noted the global food security crisis resulting from President Putin’s brutal war requires a global response, and they discussed potential means to export Ukraine’s grain to international markets," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in the statement.

Blinken also gave Kuleba details about the $40 billion in supplemental appropriations that was signed into law this weekend, the readout said.

"The Secretary again underscored the United States’ strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Moscow’s aggression," according to Price.

9:29 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

200 bodies found in ruins of Mariupol high-rise, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Maria Kostenko

A Ukrainian official from the Russian-controlled port city of Mariupol claimed 200 bodies had been discovered in the rubble of a ruined high-rise building, another gruesome find in the city that has been devastated by months of Russian bombardment. 

Petro Andriushenko, adviser to the Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko, said in a statement on Telegram Tuesday that around 200 bodies were found during the dismantling of the rubble of a high-rise building near a suburban gas station. The bodies were found in a basement underneath the wrecked building in an advanced state of decomposition, he added.

"Due to the refusal of locals to collect and pack up the bodies of the dead, the Russian Ministry of Emergencies left the site," Andriushchenko said. "The bodies of the dead remained in place. The stench can be smelled almost throughout the quarter due to partially dismantled debris."

CNN was not able to immediately verify Andriushchenko's claim. Andriushchenko is not in Mariupol but has served as a clearinghouse for information from residents remaining in the city. 

Residential buildings heavily damaged during the Russian attack on the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 11.
Residential buildings heavily damaged during the Russian attack on the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 11. (Pavel Klimov/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials say more than 20,000 residents of the city died during three months of war — a figure that cannot be independently supported — and many of the dead have been hastily buried in courtyards. Andriushchenko said the process of reburying the dead has been complicated by Russian officials' 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. 

"The city has turned into a continuous cemetery," Andriushchenko said. 

9:32 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Japan's defense minister: Chinese and Russian bombers fly jointly around Japan

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Chinese and Russian bombers jointly flew around Japan, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters Tuesday, adding that the country's Air Self Defense Force had to scramble its fighter jets and conducted surveillance.

Kishi told reporters that "military exercises by China and Russia during the Quad meeting are intended to show a demonstration against our country, the host county, and are more provocative than in the past."

The four leaders of the "Quad" — the United States, Japan, India and Australia — held an in-person summit in Tokyo Tuesday.

"While the international community is responding to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, it is unacceptable that China takes such action in concert with Russia," Kishi added, saying "it is a clear indication that the security environment surrounding our country is becoming increasingly severe, and we are gravely concerned."

Kishi also said that Japan had conveyed its concerns to both China and Russia through diplomatic channels and urged China once again to play a responsible role in maintaining the peace and security of the international community.

China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that China and Russia’s air forces conducted joint strategic air patrols over the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean on Tuesday.

The joint patrol is part of an annual military cooperation plan between the two countries, the defense ministry added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow must cease any dependency on the West and that it is instead strengthening ties with China in the wake of the war in Ukraine. 

CNN's Yong Xiong in Beijing contributed reporting to this post.

8:12 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Russian oil embargo a "contentious point" among some EU nations, Polish Prime Minister says

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that the oil embargo against Russia is a "contentious point," making an agreement on the next round of European Union sanctions difficult.

Speaking to CNN’s Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Morawiecki said that Poland is "working towards unity" around the oil embargo but that it is challenging for some countries without sea access, citing Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic.

"I can imagine that we can have a compromise amongst the 27 countries so the oil embargo is imposed more quickly and some bottlenecks for them can be eliminated with the help of the European budget," he said.

Morawiecki added that some EU countries might not be as vocal and "hide behind" the back of Hungarian leader Viktor Orban.

Asked about the next stage of EU sanctions, Morawiecki stressed that what would hurt Russia most would be the confiscation of Russian assets.

"The next stage — the most critical — is confiscating oligarchs' money, confiscating Russian Federation assets, because this is the real pain which Russia is going to feel, and the perpetrator should bear the cost of the war," he said, adding that "all the sanctions are important, but if we really want the sanctions to be painful for the aggressor, for the war criminals, we should seize the assets of the Russian Federation."

Morawiecki called the current crisis "a turning moment in the history of Europe, potentially even the whole world," urging for further financial, military and humanitarian aid so that this "colonial, imperial, nationalistic power called Russia is not succeeding, because if it is, then it’s a clear sign for some other potential aggressors that they could do the same."

7:58 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

NATO chief confident alliance will accept Finland and Sweden

From CNN's Al Goodman in Madrid and Lindsay Isaac

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg addresses the assembly during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg addresses the assembly during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO’s chief has said he is confident it will succeed in addressing Turkey’s concerns over Finland's and Sweden’s applications to join the alliance.  

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added he was optimistic that NATO would welcome the two countries as members. 

He warned business leaders gathered at the forum against trading security for short-term economic gains, as the war in Ukraine has highlighted the perils of dependence on "authoritarian regimes." 

Stoltenberg cited overreliance on Russia for energy and on China for technology infrastructure, such as the 5G network. 

"Freedom is more important than free trade," he said.

Stoltenberg's comments come as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday that Finland and Sweden will attend the NATO summit taking place in Madrid in June.

"We are going to welcome two new countries in NATO and I think this is very important for European Union stability and for the NATO future," Sanchez said during a question and answer session in Davos.

Madrid will host the NATO summit from June 28 to June 30. Expanding the military alliance, which currently has 30 member states, will be a key topic. 

Some background: Finland and Sweden have recently set aside decades of neutrality and requested membership in NATO, a dramatic evolution in European security and geopolitics sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The entry of the Finland and Sweden would be the most significant geopolitical outcome of the Ukraine war, transforming the strategic security picture in northeastern Europe and adding hundreds of miles of direct NATO borders with Russia.

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.