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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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. 

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.