May 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Nectar Gan, Andrew Raine, Luke McGee, Joe Ruiz, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 23, 2022
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11:51 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

New Zealand to offer more support in training Ukrainian forces, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says

From CNN's Lauren Lau

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on May 23.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on May 23. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that her country would deploy an extra 30 defense force personnel to the United Kingdom to support the training of Ukrainian armed forces.

The soldiers will be stationed in the United Kingdom until the end of July," Ardern said.

They will train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the L-119 light gun, she added.

The troops, training ammunition and surplus equipment including aiming systems will be moved in an airlift coordinated by the UK.

This follows a previous deployment of 66 New Zealand defense force personnel in April along with a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules.

9:53 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Another casualty of Russia's war: Ukraine's natural environment

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

Trees in a forest area damaged by Russian attacks are seen in Irpin, Ukraine on April 1.
Trees in a forest area damaged by Russian attacks are seen in Irpin, Ukraine on April 1.  (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The pine forests around Irpin are Oleh Bondarenko's happy place. He discovered them as a child, when his mom sent him to the area for summer camp, and he has been coming back ever since.

It's a place full of memories. Vorzel, Irpin, Bucha, the forests, the fresh air. For me, this is a place of respite," the 64-year-old environmental scientist told CNN during a recent trip to Irpin.

The hour-long journey from Kyiv -- a trip he has made many times over the decades -- was filled with anguish for Bondarenko, who worried what he would find in Irpin.

This area was under Russian control for several weeks in March; it has subsequently become known around the world as the site of some of the worst atrocities committed by Russia in this war. At least 1,200 bodies of civilians have been discovered in the region since Russian troops withdrew from there, according to the Kyiv region police. At least 290 of them were found in Irpin, according to the city's mayor.

In addition to the human toll, the destruction Russian forces caused to the landscape here is brutal and omnipresent: Scorched earth, forest floors ravaged by missiles, and trees broken down and uprooted, while abandoned military equipment litters the ground. Many of the town's neat houses lie in ruins; the woodland and green spaces around them are off limits.

Anzhelika Kolomiec, Bondarenko's friend who lives in Irpin, told CNN the authorities have banned people from going into the woods. "We have a beautiful forest here, but this year there won't be any walks, there won't be any mushroom picking, there won't be berries. We are not allowed to go in because of mines and unexploded missiles," she said.

While the world's eyes are focused on the human suffering brought about by Russia's invasion, environmental experts in Ukraine are keeping a close record of the environmental damage it has caused, to try to repair it as soon as possible, and in hopes of extracting reparations.

Read more:

9:49 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Russian officer risked it all to quit Putin's war

Exclusive by CNN's Uliana Pavlova

It took a few weeks of sleeping on crates of grenades for a bed and hiding his face from Ukrainians amid a growing sense of guilt, for the Russian junior officer to come to his conclusion: This wasn't his battle to fight.

"We were dirty and tired. People around us were dying. I didn't want to feel like I was part of it, but I was a part of it," the officer told CNN.

He said he went to find his commander and resigned his commission on the spot.

His story is remarkable, but it could also be one of many, according to opponents of the war in Russia as well as in Ukraine who say they have heard of a lot of cases of soldiers -- both professional and conscript -- refusing to fight.

Russian troops have been struggling with low morale and heavy losses in Ukraine, according to the assessments by Western officials including the Pentagon.

The UK's Intelligence, Cyber and Security Agency says some have even refused to carry out orders.

Read more:

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

"Staggering milestone" as over 100 million people forced to flee conflict, a record propelled by Ukraine war

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan

A man gets out of an evacuation van in Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on May 21.
A man gets out of an evacuation van in Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on May 21. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Over 100 million people have been forced to flee conflict, violence and persecution, a record figure setting a “staggering milestone,” the United Nations refugee agency said Monday.

The number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record, propelled by the war in Ukraine and other deadly conflicts,” the UNHCR said in a statement.

“One hundred million is a stark figure – sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”

The UNHCR said the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country this year, and more than 6 million refugee movements from Ukraine have been registered. The number has also been propelled by "new waves of violence" or conflict in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Ukrainian President Zelensky announces "historic" joint customs control with Poland

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Pierre Meilhan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his nightly address, on Sunday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his nightly address, on Sunday. (Youtube/Office of President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a “historic” joint customs control with Poland on Sunday, stressing “unity of Ukrainians and Poles is a constant that no one will break.”

"A solution has been reached that is revolutionizing the order on our border," Zelensky said during his nightly video address. "We are introducing joint customs control with Poland. This will significantly speed up border procedures. It will remove most of the corruption risks. But it is also the beginning of our integration into the common customs space of the European Union. That is a truly historic process."

Zelensky's comments came on the heels of Polish President Andrzej Duda’s visit to Kyiv earlier in the day. Duda also emphasized the unity between the two countries as he became the first foreign leader since the Russian invasion to address Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada.

Zelensky described Ukrainian-Polish relations as "finally on a completely clean, sincere basis, without any quarrels and old conflict heritage. This is an achievement — the historic achievement of our people. And I want the brotherhood between Ukrainians and Poles to be preserved forever. As I talked about it today in front of the deputies, our unity of Ukrainians and Poles is a constant that no one will break."

Zelensky also said he signed a decree introducing a new award "to thank those cities of partner countries that have helped the most. And Rzeszow became the first such city. The savior city. It is fair to say."

The Ukrainian leader went on to announce the preparation of a bill that will mirror the law passed in Poland about Ukrainian citizens who sought refuge in Poland and who "have been legally given the same opportunities as Poles."

Nearly 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland since the Russian invasion in February, making it by far the single largest host nation for people fleeing the country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

"It will be the right gesture to pass such a law in Ukraine," Zelensky said. "Let it be so that the citizens of Poland will never have to use such a law. But let us show our gratitude and our respect."

The Ukrainian leader also said he spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and "discussed ways to increase the volume of our exports, especially agricultural products. As well as the volume of fuel imports to Ukraine."

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

"You are not alone," UK PM tells Ukrainian children 3 months into war

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau in London

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Ukrainian children they should be "immensely proud" of themselves in an open letter published Sunday, three months into the Russian invasion that has displaced millions of refugees within Ukraine and abroad.

"Many of you have seen or experienced things no child should have to witness. Yet, everyday Ukrainian children are teaching all of us what it means to be strong and dignified. To hold your head high in the toughest of times. I can think of no better role model for children and adults everywhere," Johnson wrote.

The British PM said "the absence of children and young people on the streets and in the parks" he saw when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky showed him around Kyiv last month made him "feel very sad." According to UNICEF, more than half of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children have been forced to flee the ongoing violence, as homes, schools, water supplies and hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.

Boris Johnson also told Ukrainian children: "you are not alone," echoing many messages of solidarity expressed in the United Kingdom and in many other countries.

You may be separated from your friends at home, but you have millions of others all over the world.

"Here in the United Kingdom. We fly Ukrainian flags from our homes, offices, churches, shops and playgrounds. Even from my own roof in Downing Street, where the windows are filled with sunflowers drawn by British children. Our young people are painting your flag in their classrooms and making blue and yellow bracelets in support of your country," his letter read.

Johnson shared Zelensky’s hopes regarding the end of the conflict: "I believe, like your president, that Ukraine is going to win this war," he wrote.

"I hope with all my heart that one day soon, you will be free to return to your homes, your schools, your families, and whatever happens, however long it takes."

“We in the UK will never forget you and we'll always be proud to call you our friends,” Johnson’s letter concluded.

11:12 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

UK Prime Minister to "redouble efforts" to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine: Downing Street

From CNN’s Cecelia Armstrong in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Paddington Station in London, England, on May 17.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Paddington Station in London, England, on May 17. (Andrew Matthews/Pool/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will "redouble efforts to provide vital food and humanitarian aid" to Ukraine, his office said Sunday.

During a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Johnson spoke about the "despicable" blockade of the key port city of Odesa, according to the statement. The Prime Minister will work to "ensure that the country is able to export to the rest of the world," according to a 10 Downing Street statement.

The leaders agreed on the need for the international community to remain united in its condemnation of Putin’s barbarism," Downing Street said.

In Johnson’s view, "every country has a duty to help Ukraine in their struggle for freedom, both now and in the long-term." He reiterated the British people are "1,000% behind the people of Ukraine."

Johnson also "expressed his profound hope that they would, along with all the people of Ukraine, be able to return to life as normal one day soon."

4:28 p.m. ET, May 22, 2022

Russians shelled 3 settlements in Kryvyi Rih, regional official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Russian forces shelled three settlements in the Kryvyi Rih district, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional council, Mykola Lukashuk, said Sunday.

Lukashuk said in a post on his Telegram page "ten shells flew into Maryanske village, and two more strikes hit Apostolove Community."

Infrastructure facilities were not affected, he added.

He also reported one Russian missile fell into the Samara River in Pavlograd district. According to Lukashuk, there were no casualties.

"Other districts of Dnipropetrovsk region were not attacked today. There are no Russian occupation troops in the region," he said.