May 26, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Simone McCarthy, Andrew Raine, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Leinz Vales, Matt Meyer and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 7:54 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023
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3:34 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023

Employees save animals from burning building after Russian attack hits veterinary clinic, vet says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Xiaofei Xu

A veterinary clinic lies in ruins after a Russian missile attack on Dnipro, Ukraine on Friday, May 26.
A veterinary clinic lies in ruins after a Russian missile attack on Dnipro, Ukraine on Friday, May 26. Mykola Miakshykov/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/AP

Employees are in shock after digging animals out from the rubble of a veterinary clinic that was hit by a Russian rocket in the city of Dnipro Friday, according to the clinic's owner.

Ukrainian officials say strikes on the city, which also hit a hospital and damaged surrounding buildings, killed two people and wounded at least 31 others, including two young children.

A rocket hit the vet clinic around 10:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET), causing a fire, according to clinic owner Dr. Andrii Malyshko.

“All the employees are in a state of shock,” Malyshko told Ukrainian TV. “All the animals were saved from the burning building."

The clinic had numerous dogs and some cats, which were all transferred to clinics nearby, according to Malyshko.

Local dog owners have launched a campaign to gather donations for Malyshko and his clinic. A woman named Yulia Honcharova said her dog Leia is from the clinic. She called on pet owners who Malyshko has helped in the past to now support him.

“Together it will be easier to bear," Honcharova said.

3:32 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023

Explosions reported in Russian-occupied Mariupol

From Josh Pennington and Lauren Kent 

Explosions were reported in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol Friday evening, according to social media video and officials on both the Ukrainian and Russian-backed sides. It is unclear exactly what caused the explosions. 

The deposed Mariupol City Council said in a post on Telegram that there were strikes at the steel plant Azovstal that is now under Russian control.

"We are waiting for some good news," the council said in the social media post.

Meanwhile, there was shelling coming from the Ukrainian-held side Friday evening, according to the Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic's (DPR) Joint Center for Control and Coordination.

The center said Ukraine's military launched two long-range rockets at Mariupol from the northwest around 8:10 p.m. (1:10 p.m. ET).

Social media videos posted by unofficial accounts show a smoke plume seen above Mariupol. A local Mariupol Telegram channel posted an image of a strike on Mariupol, which CNN has geolocated to the site of the Azovstal steel plant.

Mariupol has become an important staging point for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, and Russian military convoys frequently pass through.

CNN's Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.

2:27 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023

Attack on Dnipro medical center wounded 31 people, including 8 doctors, authorities say

From Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Rescuers work at the site of a clinic heavily destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, Ukraine, on May 26.
Rescuers work at the site of a clinic heavily destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, Ukraine, on May 26. Mykola Synelnykov/Reuters

The number of people injured in Friday's attack on the city of Dnipro has risen to 31 people, including eight doctors and two children, according to the head of Dnipro's regional council, Mykola Lukashuk.

Among the injured, 16 people were taken to hospitals and the others are receiving outpatient treatment, Lukashuk said in a Telegram post. 

"Two of the injured are in serious condition, 12 people are in moderate condition, and the rest have minor injuries," Lukashuk added. 

It was a ballistic missile that hit Dnipropetrovsk City Hospital No. 14, which was partially destroyed, Lukashuk said. The blast set the second floor on fire.

A one-story business nearby also caught fire, but firefighters extinguished the blaze, the official said. A sports complex, school, surrounding homes and cars were also damaged.

2:25 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023

Dnipro hospital attack proves Russia deliberately targets civilians, Ukrainian presidential adviser says

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio and Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv

Firefighters extinguish a fire in a hospital building hit by a Russian missile on May 26 in Dnipro, Ukraine.
Firefighters extinguish a fire in a hospital building hit by a Russian missile on May 26 in Dnipro, Ukraine. Yurii Tynnyi/Suspilne Ukraine/JSC/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images 

Russia's attack on a hospital in Dnipro city was a "deliberate strike on a civilian object," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said, adding that it proves Russia is targeting civilians.

"This is absolutely clear evidence that Russia has in principle changed the tactics of its rocket attacks. Now it is mainly strikes on civilians — deliberately on facilities such as the hospital in Dnipro, with the intention to inflict a psychological (blow) and obviously kill as many people as possible," Podolyak said in an interview with CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen.

The hospital attack Friday morning killed two people and wounded at least 30, including young children, local officials say.

Podolyak said similar strikes have hit residential areas and places like hospitals and schools in the last few months. Specifically in the southern Kherson and eastern Kharkiv regions, Podolyak said Russia destroys "residential areas every day with artillery, in the same way."

"It seems to me that it's time to stop expecting Russia to behave conventionally, as a country that follows some rules imposed by international law or some conventions. No, it wages war against the civilian population as demonstratively as possible," Podolyak said.

The presidential adviser said attacks on Ukraine's civilian population constitute war crimes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said of the Dnipro attack in his daily address Friday: "It is a pure atrocity: a Russian missile, ballistics – against a hospital and a veterinary clinic. Absolutely sick creatures." 

CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv contributed to this report. 

1:43 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023

EU warns against Russia's "extremely dangerous" move to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus

From CNN’s Lauren Kent in London and Xiaofei Xu

The European Union is condemning the agreement between Moscow and Minsk to deploy Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, calling it “a step which will lead to further extremely dangerous escalation,” the bloc said Friday. 

“The Belarusian regime is an accomplice in Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine,” the European External Action Service said in a statement, calling on Belarus to “reverse decisions that can only contribute to heightening tensions in the region, and undermine Belarus’ sovereignty.” 

“Any attempt to further escalate the situation will be met by a strong and coordinated reaction,” the European Union warned in the statement. 

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday that the transfer of some tactical nuclear weapons from Russia to Belarus has begun, according to state news agency Belta. 

12:49 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023

More than 900 attacks on health care in Ukraine since Russian invasion began, WHO says

From CNN's Lauren Kent in London

There have been more than 900 attacks on health care in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization

Of the 967 total attacks, 868 of them impacted medical facilities, WHO data shows. In total, strikes on health care in Ukraine have resulted in at least 97 deaths and 126 injuries since February 25, 2022. 

Russia's attack on a medical facility in Dnipro city on Friday is not yet included in the WHO data or death toll, given that the organization's process for verifying attacks takes some time. The most recent attack on health care in Ukraine that is recorded by WHO occurred on May 7, 2023, and impacted a mobile clinic.

"WHO condemns all acts of violence against healthcare. These attacks not only kill and maim but also deprive people of urgently needed care, endanger healthcare providers, and undermine health systems," WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris said in a statement to CNN. 

"Attacks on health care workers, patients, transport, supplies, and health facilities are a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law and must stop now," Harris added. "We call for an immediate cessation of all activities that endanger the lives of health care workers and patients or impede delivery of essential health services."

12:02 p.m. ET, May 26, 2023

Brazilian president rejects invite to Russia, but backs Ukraine peace talks

From CNN's Mia Alberti and Uliana Pavlova

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a press conference in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 9.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a press conference in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 9. Evaristo Sa/AFP via Getty Images/FILE

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has rejected an invitation from his counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit Russia, he said Friday. Lula said Putin invited him over the phone to visit the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. 

"I replied I cannot go to Russia right now, but I repeated Brazil's availability to, along with India, Indonesia and China, to talk with both sides of the conflict in search for peace," Lula tweeted.

In turn, Putin said Russia is open "to dialogue on the political and diplomatic track, which is still blocked by Kiev and its Western sponsors," the Kremlin said in a statement Friday, adding the phone call was initiated by the Brazilian side.

The two heads of state also talked about the recent Group of Seven meeting, and about Russian-Brazilian cooperation.

The Kremlin did not mention an invitation to St. Petersburg.

On Thursday, Lula also tweeted he talked on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the "need for peace in Ukraine."

Some background: Lula has been trying to position himself as a possible mediating force in the conflict for months now.

The Brazilian president has proposed creating “a G20 for peace” — a group of countries strong enough to be respected at the negotiating table, but that are still considered by some as neutral in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Indonesia, India, and China would play a crucial role in his vision, but Latin American countries are also invited to join the apparent initiative. He also revealed that during his talks with Xi in April, they discussed forming a group of like-minded leaders on Ukraine.

Lula has struggled to make his proposals widely persuasive. One controversial idea that he floated would see Ukraine cede Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, in exchange for peace — a concession Kyiv has ruled out and which the White House described as “simply misguided.”

CNN's Julia Jones contributed to this post.

11:33 a.m. ET, May 26, 2023

Netherlands is undecided on giving F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, prime minister says

From CNN’s Mick Krever in London

Despite leading a new coalition to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 fighter jet, the Dutch prime minister was guarded Friday on committing to actually sending the aircraft to Ukraine.

“The decision to deliver F-16s, that has not yet been made,” Mark Rutte told journalists during a news conference. “Again, American permission first applies for this. If you’re going to train, it’s obvious that you would seriously think about it. But it has not yet been decided.”

President Joe Biden informed G7 leaders last week that the US will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth generation aircraft — a modern class of fighters that includes F-16s. The Biden administration has also signaled it would not block the planes' export, sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.

The Netherlands is leading the joint training mission, together with Belgium and the United Kingdom, Rutte said. There are additional European countries who have told the Dutch government they are interested in helping, he added.

Rutte said starting the training mission was important, but the discussion on actually sending planes should happen separately. 

Rutte did acknowledge the Netherlands has a fleet of F-16s that it will no longer need, as it transitions to the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet. But when pressed by a journalist, he refused to comment on any Dutch desire to send those planes to Ukraine.

“The Netherlands really does play, I think, a role that’s important at this moment in the whole question about Ukraine and weapons deliveries," Rutte said. "But we are not so big that we can afford to put out all kinds of releases through the media that might give other partners the feeling that, ‘Hey, we’re now being pressured through the media.’ That’s why we never say anything about it until it’s over.”

10:13 a.m. ET, May 26, 2023

France slams Russian attack on Dnipro hospital as "war crimes"

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

France condemned Russia's strikes on Ukraine, including on a Dnipro hospital Friday morning, calling them “war crimes” that “cannot go unpunished,” according to a statement from the French Foreign Ministry. 

The missile and drone attacks on Kyiv and the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions of Ukraine “once again deliberately targeted civilian sites,” the ministry said, “in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

Where things stand: At least two people are dead and at least 30 people, including two children are among the injured, according to the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region military administration. Rescuers are searching for survivors in the rubble of a clinic. Officials said authorities still can't reach three people who may have been at the facility at the time of the attack. 

CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv contributed to this post.