April 18, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Christina Maxouris, Tori B. Powell and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Updated 11:49 p.m. ET, April 18, 2023
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9:54 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

Zelensky visits front lines in beleaguered town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the front line in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on April 18.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the front line in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on April 18. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontline town of Avdiivka, which is surrounded on three sides by Russian forces, according to the president’s office.

Zelensky's office said that he listened to the report of the commander of the Donetsk operational-tactical group and talked with the servicemen of the Marines, airborne assault, mechanized and artillery units.

According to his office, Zelensky told the soldiers:

"I have the honor to be here today, to thank you for your service, for defending our land, Ukraine, our families. Congratulations on the holidays, on Easter, I wish you only victory — this is what I wish for every Ukrainian, this is what is very important to all of us. I wish good health to all of you and your families, and I am sincerely grateful on behalf of every Ukrainian for the great path that you overcome every day."

Zelensky handed out military awards and, in turn, was presented with insignia from the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade.

Zelensky also visited a hospital in the Donetsk region where Ukrainian soldiers are being treated and awarded medals to the injured troops.

Current status of Avdiivka: The town has seen intense fighting for months and is largely destroyed, although about 1,800 civilians still remain despite efforts to persuade them to leave.

There are no safe routes out of the town, but Ukrainian forces still control the routes to the west.

The town is under fire almost daily by Russian artillery, but Ukrainian defenses have largely held, despite marginal Russian advances to the north.

8:17 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

Wall Street Journal reporter's legal team had offered bail of $613,000 — but it was denied

From Anna Chernova

Lawyers Maria Korchagina and Tatiana Nozhkina talk to the media outside the Moscow City Court after a hearing to consider an appeal on the arrest of US journalist Evan Gershkovich, held on espionage charges, in Moscow on April 18, 2023. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP) (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)
Lawyers Maria Korchagina and Tatiana Nozhkina talk to the media outside the Moscow City Court after a hearing to consider an appeal on the arrest of US journalist Evan Gershkovich, held on espionage charges, in Moscow on April 18, 2023. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP) (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images) (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

The legal team for jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich says it offered bail amounting to about US $613,000 to the court to release the reporter from detention. The court denied bail. 

"We suggested that the court consider the choice of preventive measures not related to isolation from society, including house arrest, since Evan has a registration in the territory of Moscow; or a ban on certain actions; or a bail in the amount of 50 million rubles ($612,000)," Maria Korchagina said.
"Dow Jones, the owner of the WSJ, provided a letter of guarantee that if Evan is released from custody, they are ready to provide bail in the amount of 50 million rubles. But our request was denied," she added.

When his decision was being read out in court, Gershkovich told the judge that he did not need the decision translated into English, “No no, I don’t need translation.”

Gershkovich is a bilingual Russian-English speaker.

The Moscow City Court also published an official statement on the decision.

“On April 18, 2023, the Moscow City Court upheld the decision of the Lefortovsky District Court of Moscow dated March 30, 2023 against Evan Gershkovich, who is suspected of committing a crime under Art. 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation,” it said.

7:43 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

US ambassador to Russia calls on Moscow to immediately release WSJ reporter

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy waits in a hall of the Moscow City Court prior to a hearing to consider an appeal on the arrest of US journalist Evan Gershkovich in Moscow, Russia, on April 18.
US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy waits in a hall of the Moscow City Court prior to a hearing to consider an appeal on the arrest of US journalist Evan Gershkovich in Moscow, Russia, on April 18. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

After a Moscow City Court decided to uphold the terms of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich's detention, US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy called the charges "baseless" and urged Russia to "immediately release him.”

Tracy also said that she visited Gershkovich in prison yesterday and that he remains strong and is in good health.

Gershkovich was detained in late March and formally charged with espionage. The US State Department has officially designated him as wrongfully detained by Russia.

8:28 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

Moscow City Court denies Gershkovich appeal

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz and Anna Chernova

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on April 18.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on April 18. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The Moscow City Court has decided to uphold the terms of the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

The US citizen appeared at the hearing on Tuesday to appeal the terms of his detention.

Gershkovich asked that his pre-trial detention be under house arrest rather than in jail.

"On April 18, 2023, the Moscow City Court upheld the decision of the Lefortovsky District Court of Moscow dated March 30, 2023 against Evan Gershkovich, who is suspected of committing a crime under Art. 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation," according to an official statement from the court.

US ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy said she spoke to Gershkovich on Monday, and he remains strong and is in good health.

“The charges against Evan are baseless, and we call on the Russian Federation to immediately release him,” she said, speaking after the court made its ruling on Tuesday.

Lawyer for Gershkovich plans further appeal: Tatyana Nozkhkina, a lawyer for Gershkovich, told journalists outside the court that his team would continue to appeal.

“Most of you were present at the concluding part, and you saw that our appeal was denied, and, accordingly, for the time being, Evan will be staying in the pre-trial detention center," she said. "We will continue to further appeal this measure of restraint.”

The next hearing is scheduled for the end of May, Nozkhina said, when the court will decide whether to extend his detention.

Nozkhina said that Gershkovich is keeping in good spirits and reading Russian classic novels, as well as watching cooking shows on TV and exercising.

“He does not complain,” she said.

10:18 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has appeared in court to appeal the terms of his detention in Russia.

Elsewhere, four Ukrainian civilians have been killed by Russian strikes in the past day, with almost 30 others injured.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Jailed US reporter appears in court: Jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is appearing at the Moscow City Court hearing to appeal the terms of his detention. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated calls for his release.
  • Four civilians killed by Russian strikes: Four civilians have been killed and nearly 30 injured in the latest Russian artillery and missile attacks across the front lines in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.
  • Russian attacks mostly unsuccessful: The commander of Ukraine’s land forces said that despite multiple assaults, Russian forces have failed to break through Ukrainian defenses along several parts of the front line where they have concentrated forces. 
  • Wagner chief threatens former fighters: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's Wagner private military company, has threatened retribution against two former Wagner fighters who claimed they had been ordered to commit atrocities against civilians in eastern Ukraine.
  • Putin visits occupied Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin visited troops on Monday at a military base in Ukraine's southern Kherson region, which is partly held by Russia.
  • G7 warns Russia against unconventional weapons: G7 foreign ministers said Russia would be met with "severe consequences" for any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and that those supporting Russia in Ukraine would face "severe costs."

 

6:43 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

Four Ukrainian civilians killed in Russian attacks, officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Four civilians have been killed and nearly 30 injured in the latest Russian artillery and missile attacks across the front lines in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

Kherson regional military administration said that one person was killed in Russian shelling of Kherson city center Tuesday, and nine were injured.

The city is frequently shelled by Russian forces based on the east bank of the Dnipro river.

Sloviansk, where 15 people were killed in a missile strike last Friday, again came under fire.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk regional military administration said the Russians had used S-300 missiles and drones, damaging a number of buildings but causing no casualties.

Fighting continues around Avdiivka, Kyrylenko said, and one person had been wounded in Siversk, north of Bakhmut, which has been frequently bombarded as the Russians try to make further westward advances in Donetsk region.

The Ukrainian military said the Russians used attack aircraft in the Avdiivka area, which has become one of several hotspots along the frontline.

It listed nearly 20 settlements which it claimed had come under fire in that part of the front.

It said a similar number of places had been hit by Russian fire along front lines further south – in Zaporizhzhia, where the Russians “continue to conduct defensive actions.”

The Zaporizhzhia regional military administration said most of the strikes were by artillery fire, but said there had also been two air strikes.

Anatolii Kurtev, secretary of Zaporizhzhia city council, said the “contact line” was unchanged.

6:39 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

Jailed WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich appears at Moscow court to appeal terms of detention

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

US journalist Evan Gershkovich stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, on April 18.
US journalist Evan Gershkovich stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, on April 18. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is appearing at the Moscow City Court hearing to appeal the terms of his detention.

He is asking that his pre-trial detention be under house arrest rather than in jail.

Gershkovich is standing in a glass cage, arms folded, standing up as journalists scramble in.

The US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy is standing to the right of the cage with lawyers.

Gershkovich was detained in late March and formally charged with espionage.

The US State Department has officially designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained by Russia.

 

5:35 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

Wagner chief threatens former fighters who claim to have been ordered to commit atrocities

From CNN's Tim Lister

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, attends a funeral ceremony at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, on April 8.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, attends a funeral ceremony at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, on April 8. (AP)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's Wagner private military company, has threatened retribution against two former Wagner fighters who claimed they had been ordered to commit atrocities against civilians in eastern Ukraine.

The two men appeared on a video made by Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of Gulagu.net, a human rights organization targeting corruption and torture in Russia.

Prigozhin confirmed on his Telegram channel that he had watched parts of the video.

“I can say the following: if at least one of these accusations against me is confirmed, I am ready to be held accountable according to any laws," he said.

“If none is confirmed, I will send a list of 30-40 people who are spitting at me like Osechkin ... that the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine is obligated to hand over to me for a 'fair trial,' so to speak.”

Prigozhin said the account was a "fragrant lie" and Wagner fighters "have never touched and do not touch" children.

These people (spreading the lies) are our enemies, and we will deal with them in a special way.”

Some context: Prigozhin was referring to video interviews with former Russian convicts Azamat Uldarov and Alexey Savichev – who were both pardoned by Russian presidential decrees last year, according to Gulagu.net.

Uldarov, who appears to have been drinking, details how he shot and killed a 5 or 6-year-old girl.

He called it: “A management decision. I wasn’t allowed to let anyone out alive, because my command was to kill anything in my way.”

CNN cannot independently verify their claims or identities in the videos but has obtained Russian penal documents showing they were released on presidential pardon in September and August 2022.

Read more here:

10:16 a.m. ET, April 18, 2023

Putin asked for situation update during visit to troops in Russian-occupied Kherson, Kremlin says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Teele Rebane

Russian President Vladimir Putin disembarks a helicopter as he visits the headquarters of the "Dnieper" army group in the Kherson Region, Ukraine, in this still image taken from handout video released on April 18, 2023.
Russian President Vladimir Putin disembarks a helicopter as he visits the headquarters of the "Dnieper" army group in the Kherson Region, Ukraine, in this still image taken from handout video released on April 18, 2023. (Kremlin.ru/Reuters)

In video released by the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s convoy can be seen passing a sign that indicates he visited Henichesk, a town in southern Kherson that has become a headquarters for Russian forces.

Putin spoke with senior commanders about the situation in the south of Ukraine while he was there on Monday.

“I do not want to distract you from your direct duties related to command and control,” Putin said. “Therefore, we are working here in a business-like manner, briefly, but concretely.”

“It is important for me to hear your opinion on how the situation is developing, to listen to you, to exchange information. I would ask you to start your report with the situation in the Kherson direction, then in the Zaporozhzhia direction," he continued, according to the Kremlin.

Some context: Russian forces occupy parts of both regions and some analysts think the front will be the focus of a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the coming months.  

Airborne Forces: Putin also said that he had asked Mikhail Yuryevich Teplinsky, the head of Russia's Airborne Forces called the VDV, to "express his thoughts," adding that Teplinsky has been at the front line "for quite a long time and made a very detailed report.”

Until recently, Teplinsky was thought to have fallen out of favor with the Russian defense ministry, but UK intelligence suggested last week that he had been rehabilitated.

“Teplinsky is likely one of the few senior Russian generals widely respected by the rank-and-file... His recent turbulent career suggests intense tensions between factions within the Russian general staff about Russia’s military approach in Ukraine,” the UK Ministry of Defence said.

Teplinsky was in charge of the relatively successful withdrawal from west of the Dnipro River in November 2022 and had been "previously dismissed from the theatre in January," the UK Ministry of Defence added.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based analytical group, said that “Teplinsky remains highly unlikely to restore the VDV to its prior status as an elite force due to widespread losses to the most elite Russian units that are now being restaffed with poorly trained mobilized personnel.”

It said his reappearance “additionally suggests that the Russian military command is likely seeking to place an increased emphasis on the role of VDV elements in Russian offensive operations.”