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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
Russian foreign minister praises framework proposed by China and Brazil to end conflict in Ukraine
CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised a framework introduced by China and Brazil, which proposed an end to the conflict in Ukraine.
“We applaud the position from China, and we have also held talks with Brazil on this, and these are very useful proposals because they can help to share ideas and help resolve problems,” Lavrov said Tuesday during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela. “All this, however, is not part of the West’s rules.”
Lavrov explained the West would not accept the so-called “peace proposal” that would see the Crimean Peninsula fully integrated into the Russian Federation.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has repeatedly said peace in the conflict will only be achieved if Russia restores the country's borders and Kyiv takes back Crimea.
“We hope the regime in Kyiv respects the rights of Crimea, we already know the West, it’s demanding that Crimea is returned,” Lavrov said.
Since taking office this year, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has suggested his country could help broker a negotiation in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, arguing Kyiv should relinquish sovereignty claims over Crimea in exchange for the end of the conflict.
Last week, Lula traveled to China and both countries reiterated calls for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Lula has largely adopted a policy of non-intervention over the war in Ukraine, following in the same footsteps of many leaders in middle-income and developing countries.
On Saturday, Lula said the US and the EU need to start talking about peace between Ukraine and Russia.
“The United States needs to stop encouraging war and start talking about peace; the European Union needs to start talking about peace so that we can convince Putin and Zelensky that peace is in the interest of everyone and that war is only interesting, for now, to the two of them,” Lula told reporters in Beijing on Saturday.
Some context: The US and EU have been major suppliers of arms and aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.
Lavrov is in Caracas as part of a five-day trip to Latin America, visiting Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. On Tuesday, Lavrov criticized US sanctions on Venezuela and said Russia intends to strengthen diplomatic and commercial relationships with the Andean country.
CNN's Tatiana Arias and Duarte Mendonca contributed reporting.
Detained WSJ journalist has a “very intimate view of Russian society,” bureau chief says
Ann Simmons, Wall Street Journal Moscow bureau chief, described detained journalist Evan Gershkovich as a “terrific reporter, largely because he is very familiar with Russian culture and history and tradition."
“He is from a Russian family, and his parents were Soviet immigrants to the United States. And so, he has got this very intimate view of Russian society," Simmons told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday night.
“He's very passionate about Russia and Russians and the story in general. And being able to have that kind of intimate view is so powerful, especially when reporting from Russia," she said.
Some context: Gershkovich, a US citizen, was arrested in Russia last month on espionage charges. He is currently being held at the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow, where he’s expected to remain through at least May 29 and faces up to a 20-year-sentence.
The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the spying accusations against Gershkovich.
During a court hearing Tuesday, Gershkovich was denied an appeal to change the terms of his detention – a ruling the WSJ had expected, Simmons said.
“It was good to see a colleague despite the fact that we saw him in a glass box and in the courtroom essentially detained,” Simmons added.
Gershkovich’s attorneys are able to speak with him, and that’s how the newspaper has been gaining insight into his case. Gershkovich is in “good spirits right now,” she said, and has been watching culinary shows on TV while being held.
“We don't know much more than that,” she said. “Espionage cases are typically classified, and a lot of the information is not revealed.”
Russian activist arrested for "justifying terrorism" in death of pro-war blogger
From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova
A local Russian activist has been arrested after writing he didn’t “feel a shadow of sadness” about the death of Vladlen Tatarsky, a pro-war blogger who was killed in a bombing at an event in a St. Petersburg cafe this month.
Russian law enforcement authorities opened a criminal case against Yaroslav Shirshikov, accusing him of justifying terrorism, according to state news agency TASS.
In a Telegram post, Shirshikov wrote, in part, to "Tatarsky, who wanted to kill and rob everyone, as he liked, I wish glass wool lining his grave, as well as to those who voluntarily came to the creative evening of this scumbag in St. Petersburg."
Shirshikov was also one of the first people to publicly post on Telegram about Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich’s arrest in Yekaterinburg last month. He told CNN earlier in a phone call that Gershkovich was looking into a number of stories and had texted him to say he was returning to the city. Shirshikov said they met up in Yekaterinburg before Gershkovich was arrested.
CNN has reached out to the WSJ for comment.
US will look at options to get WSJ reporter home, official says. Catch up on the latest
From CNN staff
The US will look at "creative and sometimes quite challenging options" to try and bring detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich home, but the process could take a long time, a senior administration official told CNN Tuesday.
At a Tuesday court hearing in Moscow, Gershkovich was denied an appeal to change the terms of his detention.
Gershkovich, a US citizen, was arrested in Russia last month. He is being held in a pre-trial detention center at the notorious Lefortovo prison until at least May 29 and faces up to 20 years in prison on espionage charges. The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the spying accusations against him and the US State Department has officially designated him as wrongfully detained by Russia.
Here are the latest headlines:
- Leaked documents: The leaked Pentagon documents are not impacting the actions of NATO allies when it comes to Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN Tuesday, adding some of the items leaked are "incorrect and manipulated." Western officials also told CNN during a Tuesday briefing the leaked documents have had no visible impact on the battlefield in Ukraine.
- US warns Russia: The US has sensitive nuclear technology at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine and has warned Russia not to touch it, according to a letter the US Department of Energy sent to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy firm Rosatom last month. The letter comes as Russian forces continue to control the plant, which is the largest nuclear power station in Europe and sits in one part of a region Russia occupied after its invasion of Ukraine last February. The plant is still physically operated by Ukrainian staff, but Rosatom manages it.
- Russia's war equipment: Western officials say Russia is "going backwards" with the equipment it is using in Ukraine, and add that they've seen Moscow deploy tanks that were originally built after World War II while it struggles to replenish stocks of lost armored vehicles. The officials also said Russia was continuing to struggle with manpower, saying that despite being able to muster large numbers of personnel, Moscow was not providing them with adequate training.
- Biden extends ban on Russian-affiliated vessels: US President Joe Biden extended the ban on Russian-affiliated vessels from US ports, an order that was originally published last April and set to expire this week. Russia's policies and actions "continue the premeditated, unjustified, unprovoked, and brutal war against Ukraine," Biden wrote in a letter to Congress, explaining the extension.
Biden extends order blocking Russian-affiliated vessels from US ports
From CNN's DJ Judd
President Joe Biden extended the ban on Russian-affiliated vessels from US ports. The order, originally published last April, was originally set to expire this week.
“The policies and actions of the Government of the Russian Federation to continue the premeditated, unjustified, unprovoked, and brutal war against Ukraine continue to constitute a national emergency by reason of a disturbance or threatened disturbance of international relations of the United States,” Biden wrote in a letter to Congress. “Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Proclamation 10371.”
5 drones downed in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian official says
From CNN's Victoria Butenko and Yulia Kesaieva
Five Shahed drones have been downed in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine's president's office.
“Tonight, our Air Defense Forces performed masterfully in Zaporizhzhia,” Anatolii Kurtev, secretary of Zaporizhzhia City Council, said on Telegram.
The head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration, Yurii Malashko, said that “enemy ‘tin cans’ have been successfully landed today.”
Russian who said he was a former Wagner fighter appears to recant claim that he killed civilians
From CNN's Tim Lister and Saskya Vandoorne
A Russian man who said he had killed children and other civilians while serving with the Wagner private military company in Ukraine appears to have recanted the claim, suggesting he was blackmailed into making it.
Azamat Uldarov, a former convict, made his retraction in a video call with the Russian news agency RIA-FAN. It’s unclear if there were any conditions to the interview.
He and another former convict, Alexey Savichev, previously gave long and rambling interviews to Russian human rights group Gulagu.net, saying they were among the tens of thousands of Wagner fighters recruited from Russian jails to fight in Ukraine.
Speaking with Gulagu founder Vladimir Osechkin, Uldarov said he shot and killed a young girl, calling it “a management decision.”
“I wasn’t allowed to let anyone out alive, because my command was to kill anything in my way,” he said, estimating that the girl was five or six years old.
In his interview with RIA-FAN – which is associated with Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin – Uldarov said he was drunk when he gave the interview, and alleged that Osechkin had blackmailed him about his time in prison.
Asked by RIA-FAN: “They made you say what you said in the video, correct?” Uldarov replied: “Not only correct, it’s [expletive] correct. I had to say it because I had no choice.”
“I said whatever I was told to say,” Uldarov then said.
“Prigozhin is a great guy,” he added, giving a thumbs up. “He saved our lives.”
But Gulagu’s Osechkin, who is based in France, told CNN he stood by the content of his interviews with the two men, citing Uldarov’s retraction as proof of how quickly dissenting voices are silenced in Russia.
Osechkin also claimed that both interviewees, Uldarov and Savichev, had been threatened with murder if they didn’t retract their statements to him. Savichev told Gulagu that his unit was ordered to kill any men 15 years old or older.
Read more here
US "will look at creative and sometimes quite challenging options" to get Gershkovich home, official says
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood
The United States “will look at creative and sometimes quite challenging options” to try to bring home detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, but the process could take a long time, a senior administration official told CNN on Tuesday.
The official declined to provide details on these options and also on whether any proposals have been discussed with Russia.
“Until an American is home, we're always exploring and re-exploring and re-exploring what the options might be available to bring that American home,” the official added.
In the past the Russians have wanted legal proceedings – which the US views as “illegitimate” — to play out in court first before they will engage in any serious negotiations, the official said, and the process may take a long time
On Tuesday, a Russian court denied Gershkovich’s appeal to serve out his pre-trial detention under house arrest rather than at the notorious Lefortovo Prison. He will be held there until at least May 29 and faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years on espionage charges that the US has strongly condemned.
Calling the lack of regular consular access for Gershkovich “appalling,” the senior administration official said that the US hasn’t heard “specific” concerns about the conditions of the US national's detention, but said that his detention writ large is “inhumane.”
The US State Department has officially designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained by Russia. “I think the starting point for our position on this, including engaging with the Russians, but also for helping the world to understand what's happened, is that this just should never have been this way in the first place,” the official said, adding that officials are “still figuring out exactly where all of this goes” in terms of negotiations.
Last week, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens said that the Russians have not indicated what they would want in exchange for the release of Gershkovich.