Follow the latest news on Russia's war in Ukraine here and read more about today's developments in the posts below.
April 4, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news
By Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan, Sana Noor Haq and Aditi Sangal, CNN
Ukrainian soldier says high ground west of Bakhmut remains firmly in Ukraine's hands
From Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv
A Ukrainian soldier who has been serving in the Bakhmut area for many weeks has told CNN that the town of Chasiv Yar – on high ground to the west of the city – is firmly in Ukrainian hands.
The soldier, with whom CNN has spoken in the past, is with the 46th separate airmobile brigade.
He said that Chasiv Yar, a town of several thousand inhabitants before the war, “is the dominant height above the area around it. This means an advantage for conducting fire, especially with artillery. Therefore, the city is of particular importance to either side.”
He said that Russian forces were unable to break through Ukrainian defenses to the south-east of Chasiv Yar (around Ivanivske).
“The orcs [Russians] had a chance about a month ago, when they were standing almost a few hundred meters from the road,” the soldier told CNN. “But they did not have enough reserves and were thrown back, now they are two kilometers from the road.”
The road runs west from Bakhmut through lower ground.
The soldier said the Russians now had no way to advance to Chasiv Yar because the area of the road around Ivanivske “is quite strongly defended.”
They would also be vulnerable to an attack on their flanks if they tried to reach Chasiv Yar.
“So Chasiv Yar is a long story for Russians,” the soldier told CNN. “But if we leave Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar will be the next target” for the Russians.
Lawyers get access to jailed Wall Street Journal reporter
From CNN's Tim Lister
The Wall Street Journal said that its reporter Evan Gershkovich has been able to meet with his lawyers Tuesday.
In a statement, the Journal said:
“Evan’s lawyers were able to meet with him in prison today. They said Evan’s health is good, and he is grateful for the outpouring of support from around the world. We stand with Evan and continue to call for his immediate release.”
The Journal’s statement, from Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker and Almar Latour, the CEO of Dow Jones, which publishes the Journal, said that Gershkovich “was doing what journalists do – asking questions and providing an eyewitness account in the region to help keep the world well informed.”
“His imprisonment is wholly unjustified and an attack on a free press. We are doing everything in our power to bring Evan home safely and will not rest until he is reunited with his family.”
EU chief speaks with Ukraine's Zelensky ahead of China visit
From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel in London
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she held a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Tuesday ahead of her visit to China on Wednesday.
Ukraine will be an “important topic" of her meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, von der Leyen said in a tweet.
“The EU wants a just peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she wrote.
China’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine will be a “determining factor” for European Union’s relations with Beijing going forward, von der Leyen said last week.
“How China continues to interact with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward,” she said in Brussels.
The EU chief will accompany French President Emmanuel Macron to China on Wednesday.
Ukraine's Zelensky invited to NATO summit in July, alliance's chief indicates
From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has indicated that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to the alliance’s summit taking place in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in July.
"A strong independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area, and we look forward to meeting President Zelensky at our Vilnius summit in July," Stoltenberg said.
He made the remark in Brussels on Tuesday, following a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission – the body responsible for the relationship between Ukraine and the alliance.
Ukrainians will start training on Abrams tanks soon, defense official says
From CNN's Haley Britzky
Training for Ukrainians on US M1-A1 Abrams tanks has not yet started, but will begin “relatively soon,” a senior defense official told reporters Tuesday.
“Abrams training has not yet begun…We are still working on the equipment procurement so we haven't we have not yet begun the training, but I would expect that that will happen relatively soon,” the official said during a background briefing.
In total, the official said the US has trained more than 7,000 Ukrainian troops since the beginning of Russia’s invasion more than a year ago. The US plans to send 31 M1-A1 tanks to Ukraine — the size of a Ukrainian tank battalion.
The US agreed to send the tanks in January after a sudden reversal on its stated policy that Abrams were too complex and difficult to maintain for Ukrainian forces in the middle of a war.
The Biden administration relented under pressure from Germany, which said that it would only approve the transfer of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the US agreed to send Abrams tanks as well.
But the US cautioned that delivering tanks to Ukraine would take time. “We just don’t have these tanks available in excess in our US stocks,” said Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh shortly after the US announcement.
Turkey welcomes new NATO ally Finland as it continues to block Sweden from joining alliance
From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel and Ivana Kottasová in London
Turkey on Tuesday welcomed Finland as a new NATO member as Ankara continues to block Helsinki's Scandinavian neighbor Stockholm from joining the transatlantic military alliance.
“I would like to welcome Finland as a new ally. With Finland, now our alliance is much more stronger,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Brussels, speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier today as the minister handed ratification document to the American diplomat.
The Turkish Parliament voted unanimously in favor of Finland’s membership on Thursday, clearing the last hurdle in the accession process.
Both Finland and Sweden requested to join the military alliance in May last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian military says more than 45 Russian assaults in Donetsk repelled over past day
From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva
The Ukrainian military says it continues to repel Russian attacks in several places along the front lines in Donetsk region, with more than 45 assaults in the past day focused on the Bakhmut area, as well as around Avdiivka and Mariinka near Donetsk city, and Lyman near the border with Luhansk.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces said that about 20 of those attacks had been around Bakhmut. It gave no indication that Ukrainian units had lost ground.
Separately, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, said that he had spoken with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. “Attention was paid to the weapons and ammunition supplies issue. We emphasized the importance of the Ukrainian AD [air defense] system augmentation. We discussed further steps of the AF [armed forces] in order to de-occupy our territories,” Zaluzhyni tweeted.
The conversation came after further drone attacks by Russian forces.
The General Staff confirmed that over the past day, the Russians launched 17 Shahed-136 drones against Ukraine. As it has been the case for several weeks, Russian forces continued offensive actions in the Avdiivka and Mariinka areas, “but did not succeed,” according to the General Staff.
Oleksii Dmytrashkivskyi, the military spokesperson for that area, said there had been 35 combat engagements near Avdiivka and Mariinka in the past day. “The towns of Orikhiv and Preobrazhenka were hit by air strikes,” he said, but Ukrainian units had hit Russian forces with artillery.
He said that around Vuhledar, Russian forces were making fewer attempts to conduct assaults compared to the first three months of the year.
“The occupiers are hiding in fox-holes,” Dmytrashkivskyi said – but were still being targeted.
Further south, in the Zaporizhzhia sector, he said the Russians are actively mining the area and arranging anti-tank barriers – in anticipation of a Ukrainian counter-offensive in that region. The Russians were also moving ammunition and equipment depots from Mariupol, Dmytrashkivskyi said.
The General Staff claimed that in parts of occupied territory, the Russians were appropriating private homes. “For example, in the city of Starobilsk, Luhansk region, the so-called occupation 'authorities' use representatives of public utilities to move servicemen of the Russian occupation forces into apartments and houses temporarily abandoned by Ukrainian citizens.”
Finland takes part in first NATO meeting since accession
From CNN's Jessie Gretener in London
Finish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto took part in country’s first NATO round table meeting in Brussels Tuesday, following Finland’s accession ceremony earlier in the day.
Haavisto was seen smiling and shaking hands with other NATO leaders, before taking a seat next in between Estonia and France.
The alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg opened the meeting by saying, “Let me start by welcoming Finland as the newest member of our alliance.”
Stoltenberg’s comments were met by a long round of applause, with Haavisto smiling and mouthing the words, "Thank you."
“Mr Haavisto you have attended many meetings, but this is the first time you sit down there between France and Estonia. It is really a great privilege to have you now as a full-fledged member,” Stoltenberg said, adding, “and as we stated so clearly outside, soon we will also have Sweden as a full-fledged member of our alliance.”