May 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Joshua Berlinger, Hafsa Khalil and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 26, 2022
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2:16 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Prince Charles visits Ukrainian refugee center in Romania

From CNN’s Max Foster and Niamh Kennedy in London

Prince Charles visits a Ukrainian refugee center in Bucharest, Romania on May 25.
Prince Charles visits a Ukrainian refugee center in Bucharest, Romania on May 25. (Alex Micsik/Pool/AP)

Prince Charles has paid a visit to a Ukrainian refugee center in Romania, according to a news release from Clarence House.

Prince Charles joined Her Majesty Margareta, custodian of Romanian Crown, in “the visit to the Romexpo Donation Center for Ukrainian refugees in Bucharest, to see at first hand the excellent response of the Romanian authorities and of international and local organizations to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” according to the news release.

As part of the visit, they spoke to “Ukrainians who have fled the horrors of war in Ukraine,” Clarence House said.

The center has been seeing a “steady increase” in the number of Ukrainian refugees it has welcomed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Clarence House said.

Romania has welcomed one of the highest numbers of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, according to data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). As of May 24, 972,203 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Romania, according to the latest UNHCR update.

This latest visit from Prince Charles “follows a series of engagements” undertaken “in recent months in support of the Ukrainian community,” according to the news release.

2:15 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Ukraine condemns Russian move to issue passports in occupied regions

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Nathan Hodge

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned a move by Moscow that makes it easier for Ukrainians in some Russian-occupied regions to obtain Russian citizenship.

"Illegal passportization in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, as well as in Crimea and the temporarily occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, is a gross violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, norms and principles of international humanitarian law, and the obligations of Russia as an occupying power in accordance with Article 45 of the 1907 Hague Convention and Article 47 of the 1949 Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War," the ministry said in a statement. "The decree of the president of Russia is legally null and void and will have no legal consequences. This decision will not affect the citizenship of Ukrainians on the territories temporarily occupied by Russia."

Russia's President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Wednesday streamlining the process for providing passports to Ukrainians in the occupied portions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Russia has already handed out hundreds of thousands of passports to residents of separatist areas in Ukraine's east and in the annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea, as well as to residents of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Transnistria in Moldova. Analysts say those moves have helped Moscow create a pretext for continued intervention in those areas. 

Yevhen Yaroshenko, an analyst for the human rights organization Crimea SOS, said Russia's policy of "passportization" may also serve an agenda of providing conscripts for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  

"Shortly after obtaining a Russian passport, the Russian Federation may call up such a person for military service and subsequently involve him in combat operations against Ukraine," said Yaroshenko. "Thus residents of the temporarily occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions become hostages of the call of the Russian Federation."

3:34 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

US secretary of state announces joint UK, EU and US group to document war crimes in Ukraine 

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Ukrainian Institute of America on May 19 in New York.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Ukrainian Institute of America on May 19 in New York. (Andrea Renault/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the launch of a new joint UK, EU and US group to help support efforts of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General (OPG) to document war crimes and other atrocities committed in Ukraine.

The new mechanism, called the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA), will “provide strategic advice and operational assistance to the War Crimes Units of the OPG, the legally constituted authority responsible for prosecuting war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine," Blinken said. "Although the United States and our partners are supporting a range of international efforts to pursue accountability for atrocities, the OPG will play a crucial role in ensuring that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities are held accountable."

He added that the “ACA will liaise with the Department of Justice as it pursues accountability in US courts.”

In addition to streamlining efforts, the ACA will also provide expanded funding for the team of international prosecutors and other war crimes experts already deployed to the region, Blinken said.

Earlier this week, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed man in Ukraine's first war crimes trial since Russia's invasion.

2:09 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Putin makes rare visit to military hospital and meets with soldiers wounded in Ukraine 

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Wednesday with soldiers wounded in fighting in Ukraine during a rare visit to a military hospital, according to footage released by the Kremlin. 

Putin visited the Mandryk Central Military Clinical Hospital of the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow and "spoke with members of the Russian Armed Forces undergoing treatment after being wounded during the special military operation, as well as with the hospital’s medical personnel," according to the Kremlin. 

Putin, wearing a medical gown, asked the servicemen how they felt, where they were from and how their families were doing, the video showed. 

Putin was accompanied by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

On Wednesday, Putin also visited the National Crisis Management Center of the Ministry of Emergencies, according to the Kremlin. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday the president "constantly takes interest in and keeps under his control the topic of conditions provided for those wounded in the course of the special military operation," according to Russian state news agency TASS.

1:32 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Switzerland to seize assets of former Ukrainian leader's ally

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Xiaofei Xu

The Swiss government plans to seize more than 100 million Swiss francs ($104 million) worth of assets from an associate of Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed in 2014, it said on Wednesday.

The proceedings concern assets of Yuriy Ivanyushchenko and his family that were frozen after Ukraine's 2014 revolution, the Swiss government said in a statement, stressing the move was “unrelated to sanctions” that Switzerland imposed against Russians this year.

The finance ministry will now ask the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland to approve confiscating the assets so that they can be returned to Ukraine, the government said.

A few days after Yanukovych's ouster, the Swiss cabinet had ordered the freezing of any assets in Switzerland of the deposed president and his entourage, including Ivanyushchenko, a former member of parliament whom it described as a close confidant of the former leader.

However, Ukrainian authorities have not been able to issue judgements ordering the confiscation of those assets, according to the Swiss government.

The Swiss government said since the war in Ukraine “severely compounded” criminal proceedings against Ivanyushchenko, it now considers confiscation proceedings in Switzerland “both possible and appropriate.”

12:37 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

2 killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv region, officials say

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Regional officials in Ukraine say that two people have been killed by Russian shelling of the town of Balakliya, which is on the frontlines in the Kharkiv region.

Nataliya Popova, an adviser to the head of the Regional Council in Kharkiv, said seven people had been injured in the shelling Wednesday, including one child who is in critical condition.

Balakliya lies to the northwest of Izium, which is occupied by Russian forces and has become their platform for attacks further south into Donetsk region.

12:20 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Russia blocking Ukrainian ports is "clear blackmail," Ukraine's foreign minister says

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Storage silos and shipping cranes at the Port of Odesa in Ukraine, on January 22.
Storage silos and shipping cranes at the Port of Odesa in Ukraine, on January 22. (Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Russia is trying to “blackmail” the international community with an offer to unblock Ukrainian sea ports if sanctions against it are lessened, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

This is “clear blackmail," Kuleba claimed. "You could not find a better example of blackmail in international relations.” 

He warned that if Russia does not lift its blockage of Ukrainian exports of crops, the entire agricultural cycle will be interrupted and could spur a “multi-year food crisis.”

Some background: Before the war, Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. Almost 30% of global trade in wheat came from Russia and Ukraine alone.

Speaking at a panel discussion, Kuleba said Russia and Ukraine are nowhere near the possibility of negotiated peace and that Russia has no intention of taking part in discussions aimed at ending the war. 

“When you are conducting an operation like this, you basically say no to negotiations. If Russia had preferred talks to war, they would have behaved differently,” he said.

Making concessions to Russia has not worked since 2014 and won’t work now, Kuleba said. 

“This strategy has been used by the leading global forces from 2014 to Feb. 24, 2022. Make concessions here, make concessions here, it will help prevent war. It has failed. Eight years of this strategy has resulted in missiles hitting Kyiv and bloodshed in Donbas," the foreign minister said.

Kuleba called again for further sanctions against Russia, namely stopping the purchase of Russian oil, which he said is keeping Moscow in a comfortable position.

“Ukraine is suffering more than Russia is with the sanctions against it. ... After three months of war, my message is simple: kill Russian exports. Stop buying from Russia and allowing them to make money that they invest in the war machine to kill and destroy,” he said.   

12:32 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Russian forces "conducting an intense offensive" in order to take key town, Ukraine officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

A damaged home is seen after shelling in Lyman, Ukraine on April 28.
A damaged home is seen after shelling in Lyman, Ukraine on April 28. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has said that Russian forces are "conducting an intense offensive" in order to seize the key town of Lyman in the Donetsk region.

Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Russian efforts to "completely take control" of Lyman "did not succeed." However, images posted on social media Wednesday showed Russian soldiers at identifiable locations in northern neighborhoods of the town, which Ukrainian forces have defended in the face of an intense assault since late April.

Lyman is an important rail hub, and if the Russians are able to consolidate control over the town, the nearby city of Sloviansk becomes more vulnerable to attack by artillery — and Ukrainian troops to the south-east of Lyman become more at risk of encirclement.

Motuzyanyk added, "The enemy is conducting offensive operations, trying to surround our units near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk and reach the administrative border of Luhansk region."

On Tuesday, the head of the regional administration in Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, described the situation in Lyman as "very difficult."

"It's now under constant fire," he said. "The enemy entered the territory of the Lyman community a long time ago. Their main goal is to take the centre of the community of Lyman. The estuary is now partially under control, they enter, then they are kicked out, heavy artillery drives in, and tanks enter the outskirts of the city to conduct shelling and occupy the entire center and the entire Lyman community."

The Institute for the Study of War reported in its latest assessment Tuesday that Russian forces continued to "prioritize attacks against Lyman rather than Slovyansk on May 24, likely to support a shallow encirclement of Ukrainian troops northwest of Severodonetsk."

12:38 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Sweden doesn't fund terror organizations, prime minister says in response to Turkey's claims amid NATO bid

From CNN's Henrik Pettersson and Niamh Kennedy in London

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks during a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden on May 25.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks during a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden on May 25. (Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has said her country "does not send money to terrorist organizations," responding to claims from Turkey as the Nordic nation seeks to join NATO. 

Speaking during a news conference in Stockholm on Wednesday, Andersson said dialogue between Turkey and Sweden was "ongoing" as part of efforts to counter Turkish concerns about Sweden joining the military alliance.  

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would "say no to Sweden's and Finland's entry into NATO," accusing both countries of housing Kurdish "terror organizations." 

On Wednesday, Andersson said during discussions that the Turkish and Swedish sides "will naturally go through and discuss the list and sort out a number of things that have been unclear in reporting in the media and statements from other places."

"Clearly, it's about where we send our financial aid, for example, and that we sell weapons. We don't send money to terrorist organizations, obviously — or weapons either," Andersson continued. 

European Council chief Charles Michel, who addressed journalists alongside Andersson, said although he didn’t “want to make any statement” that would make things more difficult, he did want to express the EU’s support for the “important step” Sweden and Finland have decided to take in applying for NATO membership.