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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11:14 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Ukrainian prosecutor general's office charges Russian suspects in murder of mayor and family

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Nathan Hodge

The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said Tuesday it had charged members of the Russian military and a Russian mercenary group as suspects in the high-profile murder of a Ukrainian village mayor and two members of her family.

Olha Sukhenko, the mayor of the village of Motyzhyn, was found murdered along with her husband and son after Russian forces withdrew from the Kyiv region. The prosecutor general's office said it had identified and charged five Russian servicemen and three members of the Wagner private military group. The regional prosecutor's office had charged them in absentia of violating the laws of war combined with premeditated murder.

According to investigators, the suspects abducted the mayor of Motyzhyn and her husband and son to a temporary base, where they tortured them in an attempt to obtain information about Ukrainian troops and territorial defense forces and subsequently murdered them. 

The bodies of the mayor and her family members were found partly buried in a shallow grave.

According to the statement from the prosecutor general's Office, the suspects allegedly robbed civilians, tortured and killed them and burned their homes. The statement said pre-trial investigations had been carried out by the investigative department of the main directorate of the Security Service of Ukraine in Kyiv and Kyiv region; it did not name the suspects. 

Russian officials have dismissed allegations of war crimes by Russian troops as fake, despite firsthand evidence gathered by international news media. The participation of Wagner mercenaries in several conflicts, including in Ukraine, has been widely documented.

10:52 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

NATO leader says there is "broad support" for adding Finland and Sweden to alliance

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

NATO member countries broadly support welcoming Finland and Sweden as members, the alliance’s secretary general told CNN’s Richard Quest in Davos. 

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he is “confident” that NATO will find a solution to Turkish concerns about the membership bid of the two countries. 

“When an ally is concerned we do as we always do in NATO and sit down and look for a solution. Normally we find a solution and I am confident we will find that also in this case," he said. 

Stoltenberg said it is important for member states to “recognize that Turkey is an important ally,” and is “key in both the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but also in addressing Russia in the Black Sea.” 

To grant membership to Finland and Sweden, there would need to be an agreement by the 30 current NATO allies. Turkey has said it won't support their joining unless certain demands are met.

“We are in close contact with Stockholm, Helsinki and Ankara and I am confident we will be able to find a solution,” Stoltenberg said, adding that he expects Russia to “protest” if NATO does decide to accept the two new member states.

12:20 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

UN World Food Programme head calls on Putin to reopen Ukraine ports to prevent further food crisis

From CNN's Robert North

David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, during a panel session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23.
David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, during a panel session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23. (Hollie Adams/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The head of the UN World Food Programme called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen ports in Ukraine to prevent children around the world from starving.

Speaking to CNN's Julia Chatterley at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, David Beasley called on the Russian leader to “have a heart.”

The growing food crisis has been a major issue at the forum, with Beasley being one of the leading voices calling for action. He warned that the Ukraine war has meant that “the breadbasket of the world was becoming the bread line of the world.”

Some background: Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost 30% of global trade, and Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. 

Beasley said that 325 million people around the world are facing starvation, with 49 million people in 43 countries now “knocking on famine’s door.”

“The world is facing a food security crisis. It is immediate and long term. If we are struggling now to feed 7.7 billion, what is going to happen when we have 10, 12, 13 billion? That is on top of climate impact. It's going to be resonating around the world,” he added.

He also said that renewed focus on the food crisis was a good thing, with world leaders recognizing the size of the problem, with solutions to solve issues.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier today accused Putin of "weaponizing" food supplies in his invasion of Ukraine. 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.

10:31 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

EU president expects deal on Russian oil embargo within weeks

From CNN's Gayle Harrington

President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission in Davos, Switzerland.
President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission in Davos, Switzerland. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

The president of the European Commission said a European embargo on Russian oil could come soon. 

President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to CNN's Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum.

"We are working hard on it right now, it's a matter of weeks but we really must find a solution for the investment needs. And therefore, this is important, we have to tailor it in a way that we do not have the situation that Putin can take the oil. That he doesn't sell it to us and [then] sells it at a higher price on the world market," von der Leyen said.

Some EU members, including Hungary, continue to oppose a European Commission proposal to phase out Russian oil by early 2023. A Russian oil embargo would be the sixth package of EU sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Von der Leyen also said Russia must play a role in Ukraine's reconstruction. "The needs of reconstruction, financial needs are massive, and all of us should pay in, also the international financial institutions," she said. "And I think it would be only fair that Russia also pays its share. Therefore we are now looking into the legal possibilities to also add the assets that are frozen to this reconstruction effort. It's not trivial, it's not easy on the legal ground but we are working on it."

10:28 a.m. ET, May 24, 2022

US climate envoy warns against using Ukraine as "a lever" for more fossil fuels

From CNN’s Angela Dewan

John F. Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States, speaks during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24.
John F. Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States, speaks during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

United States climate envoy John Kerry warned business and world leaders on Tuesday against locking in long-term fossil fuel use as countries shun Russia’s energy exports. 

The US has banned the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal in response to its invasion of Ukraine, and the European Union is working toward phasing out Russian oil by the year end, while replacing much of its gas.

“Ukraine is being used as a lever to make the argument that you got to have this energy security, which you do have to have — nobody doubts that. But there's a headlong plunge to sort of say, ‘well, that means we've got to drill a lot more and pump a lot more, and we've got to build out more infrastructure in order to be able to deliver the gas to Europe,'” he said at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Europe is importing more liquified natural gas from the US to replace some of the Russian gas imports it usually relies on. 

“We have to do some of those things, we have to make up for the gas,” Kerry said. “So, where are you going to get it from? Well, Europe has made a decision to completely accelerate their deployment of renewables and France has determined that they're going to have to double down on nuclear and make different choices.”

He added that the basic technologies were now available for the world to reach its climate goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over this decade.

“We can't do it if the new theology is going to be ‘we got to build out a massive gas infrastructure’ without regard to abatement and mitigation of that gas. The reason we're in the predicament we're in today is fossil fuel burning in a way that has polluted the atmosphere,” he said. “And so much so that this blanket is heating up the planet at an unacceptable rate.”

12:20 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minister says he discussed "ways to unblock" Ukraine's food exports with Blinken

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Radina Gigova in London 

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba talks to the press in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 23.
Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba talks to the press in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 23. (Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday he discussed with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken military aid and ways to unblock Ukraine's food exports. 

"Spoke with @SecBlinken to thank the U.S. for its ironclad support of Ukraine. More weapons, including heavy, are headed to Ukraine as Russia continues its devastating attacks in the Donbas. We also discussed ways to unblock Ukraine’s exports and ensure global food security," Kuleba tweeted Tuesday. 

"Russian thieves steal Ukrainian grain, load it onto ships, pass through Bosporus, and try to sell it abroad," Kuleba ​wrote in another tweet. "I call on all states to stay vigilant and refuse any such proposals. Don’t buy the stolen. Don’t become accomplices to Russian crimes. Theft has never brought anyone luck."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum on Tuesday that Russia is "weaponizing" the food and energy sector and that the Russian army is confiscating grain suppliers and machinery in parts of Ukraine, and blocking exports from ports in the Black Sea. 

View Kuleba's tweet here:

12:20 p.m. ET, May 24, 2022

US secretary of state and Ukrainian counterpart discuss how to get grain out of country

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on May 23.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on May 23. (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Tuesday with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and discussed diplomacy and potential ways to get Ukrainian grain out of the country, according to a statement from the US State Department.

"The Secretary noted the global food security crisis resulting from President Putin’s brutal war requires a global response, and they discussed potential means to export Ukraine’s grain to international markets," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in the statement.

Blinken also gave Kuleba details about the $40 billion in supplemental appropriations that was signed into law this weekend, the readout said.

"The Secretary again underscored the United States’ strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Moscow’s aggression," according to Price.

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.