May 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Hafsa Khalil and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 12:12 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022
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11:55 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 Moscow 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.   

11:45 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 southeast 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 center 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."

11:46 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 Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm on Wednesday, Michel said that although he was "still confident" 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."