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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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. 

4:10 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

European Council chief "confident" Russia oil ban issues will be resolved by next meeting on Monday

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London 

European Council chief Charles Michel, left, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speak at a joint press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 25.
European Council chief Charles Michel, left, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speak at a joint press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 25. (Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/AP)

European Council chief Charles Michel is "confident" that any issues over a proposed ban on Russian oil imports will be resolved by the next council meeting on May 30. 

Addressing a news conference alongside the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm on Wednesday, Michel said that although he was "still confident" that the bloc will be able to resolve any issues, it will require "a lot of dialogue." 

"We are working very hard in order to be able to stay united," Michel stressed. 

The Swedish prime minister publicly declared the country's desire "to go further" with sanctions against Russia. 

The proposed ban has been largely opposed by Hungary, which has said that such a measure would be "against Hungarian national energy security." 

12:39 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

Putin signs decree streamlining Russian citizenship for Ukrainians in regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia  

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on May 16.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on May 16. (Alexander Nemenov/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on Wednesday making it easier for Ukrainians in the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions occupied by Russian troops to obtain Russian citizenship. 

According to the decree published on a government portal, amendments will be made to an existing decree used to simplify the process for the residents of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic or the Luhansk People's Republic. 

Russia handed out hundreds of thousands of Russian passports to residents of the DPR and LPR ahead of the massive Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, helping create one of the pretexts for a wider war.

4:18 p.m. ET, May 25, 2022

"Fierce battles" occur around Severodonetsk as Russian troops advance, Ukraine says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Maria Kostenko

Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on May 21.
Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on May 21. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian presidential administration on Wednesday reported "fierce battles" around the industrial city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Luhansk region, with a top military official saying shelling of the town had increased "exponentially." 

A statement on Wednesday from the presidential administration reported "fierce battles for Severodonetsk," with constant mortar shelling, adding, "In the morning, with the support of artillery, the Russian occupiers are advancing on Severodonetsk."

According to the statement, six civilians have died and eight were wounded in the region amid the stepped-up fighting. 

Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, said the shelling of Severodonetsk had "increased exponentially" in recent hours. 

"Russian troops are very close; they can already fire mortars," he said. "The fighting was on the outskirts of the city yesterday. [Russian] forces are being transferred here from different regions — from Kharkiv, Mariupol, even from Donetsk in order to push through in the Luhansk region at any cost."

He added that "the next week is important; if they do not succeed by Saturday or Sunday, they will run out of steam, and the situation will at least stabilize for us."

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian military acknowledged Wednesday that it had launched cruise missiles at targets in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia. A statement by Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defense ministry spokesperson, said the strikes on Zaporizhzhia had targeted production workshops of the Motor Sich plant, an aerospace facility. 

Ukrainian officials previously reported strikes in Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk without giving extensive details on the facilities targeted. Officials in Zaporizhzhia subsequently posted video showing damage to a shopping mall. 

8:23 a.m. ET, May 25, 2022

It's 2:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's everything you need to know about the war in Ukraine today

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Monday, May 23.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Monday, May 23. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The World Economic Forum opens. Fighting rages in Ukraine's east. And a state of emergency is declared in Hungary.

Here's the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Dire warnings in Davos: Business and political leaders are descending on the Swiss ski resort town for the WEF, with the war in Ukraine one of the main points of conversation. Two of the early speakers addressed the conflict with stark predictions. Slovakia's Prime Minister warned his country would be next if Ukraine fell, while Hungarian-born billionaire and philanthropist George Soros said the invasion may have marked the start of "a third world war."
  • 'His bubble of this alternative reality': Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking via videoconference at a breakfast event in Davos, said his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin needs to "leave his bubble of this alternative reality into the real world and talk to us, understand that a lot of people are being killed, including civilians." Zelensky said he was willing to talk to Putin, but directly, "with no intermediaries, no brokers.”
  • Hungary emergency: Hungary will enter a "state of emergency" due to the war in Ukraine, the country's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. The ruling will allow Orban to continue to rule by decree. Hungary was already in a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic but that was set to expire at the end of May
  • Food exports blocked: Russia has established an "effective blockade" in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to a US official who provided a declassified map of the region to CNN on the condition of anonymity. Ukraine provides about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, the official noted — the vast majority of which exit the country from Black Sea ports. The head of the UN's World Food Programme has urged Putin to reopen ports in Ukraine to exports to prevent children around the world from starving.
  • Mariupol death toll: At least 22,000 residents are believed to have died during Russia's three-month assault on Mariupol, according to an official from the Ukrainian port city. Petro Andriushchenko said the figure is based on the many contacts he and other town hall officials continue to have with officials trapped inside, and believes the true number could be much higher. The figures cannot be independently verified.