April 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, April 20, 2023
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8:14 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Kremlin critic accused of spreading "false information" about war loses appeal

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Ilya Yashin is seen on a screen via a video link during a hearing to consider an appeal on his prison sentence, as his supporters look on from a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on April 19.
Ilya Yashin is seen on a screen via a video link during a hearing to consider an appeal on his prison sentence, as his supporters look on from a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on April 19. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin lost his appeal on Wednesday, with Moscow’s city court ruling to uphold his 8-and-a-half year sentence in jail for discrediting the Russian army.

A close ally of jailed regime opponent Alexey Navalny and one of the few opposition politicians who remain in Russia, Yashin was found guilty of spreading "false information" about the war in Ukraine, a charge he denied and appealed.

According to the official statement from the court’s press service, the court "upheld the verdict of the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow dated September 12, 2022 against the former municipal deputy Ilya Yashin, who was found guilty of committing a crime under paragraph 'd' part 2 of article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation."

Speaking in court, Yashin said he was guilty of "fulfilling [his] duty of a Russian politician and patriot, of speaking the truth about this war, in particular, about the crimes committed by Putin’s troops in the city of Bucha."

“While Russia is choking in blood, the court is considering an appeal against my sentence,” Yashin said in a court statement before the verdict, shared by his team on Telegram.

Yashin’s arrest and jail term further tightens the screws on opposition politicians and dissidents in Russia. The decision comes after another prominent Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison for condemning the war in Ukraine.

7:52 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Russian regions cancel Victory Day celebrations, citing security concerns

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Vasco Cotovio

Several Russian regions have canceled their May 9 Victory Day parades and other celebrations, citing security concerns over organizing large gatherings.

The governor of the Belgorod region said this year's Victory Parade would not take place so as not to "provoke" Ukrainian forces with a significant concentration of military personnel and equipment.

"No one will take risks," Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said during a live broadcast on his official page on Russia social media Vkontakte in early April.

Authorities in the western Kursk region made a similar decision for "security reasons."

"Today, the safety of fellow countrymen is a priority, so it was decided to cancel holding a parade and launching fireworks on May 9," Kursk region Gov. Roman Starovoit said on his Telegram channel Tuesday.

Key background: Both Belgorod and Kurst regions held Victory Day parades in 2022, which has analysts suggesting the decision may have been made due to shortages of military equipment, notably tanks and other armored vehicles. This week, Western officials said Russia was "going backwards" in terms of the equipment it is using in Ukraine, explaining they’ve seen Moscow deploy tanks originally built after World War II.

In Crimea, the Russian-installed head of the region, Sergey Aksyonov, also announced the cancellation of the customary festive events on May 1 and May 9, including exhibiting the military parade and holding the Immortal Regiment march — a procession in memory of the generation that fought in World War II.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ensuring citizens’ safety is "the main and only priority" when asked about the cancellations last week.

Peskov said the main parade at the Red Square in Moscow "is being prepared for and planned to be held," adding that enhanced security measures will be in place.

7:54 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

EU allocating additional $109.3 million to farmers hit by increased imports of Ukraine grain 

From CNN's Jessie Gretener

A farmer waves the Bulgarian flag during an effort to block trucks crossing the border between Bulgaria and Romania in protest against the duty-free import of grain coming from Ukraine into the European Union, on March 29.
A farmer waves the Bulgarian flag during an effort to block trucks crossing the border between Bulgaria and Romania in protest against the duty-free import of grain coming from Ukraine into the European Union, on March 29. (Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/ Getty Images)

The European Union is supporting its farmers by preparing an additional financial support package to combat increased imports of Ukrainian grain, which had sparked widespread protests from agricultural workers suffering financial blows.

“You will recall that we have already provided a support package of 56.3 million euros ($61.5 million) for the most affected farmers and we are now preparing a second financial support package of 100 million euros ($109.3 million),” European Commission deputy chief spokesperson Dana Spinant said at a briefing Wednesday. 

She added that the bloc will take preventive measures under applicable trade rules and launch an investigation on other products.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis will discuss these measures on Wednesday with the five EU states that have enforced Ukraine grain important bans, as well as counterparts in Ukraine, Spinant added.

Spinant said the EU is "committed" to supporting Ukraine's exports, which provide "an important lifeline for Ukraine’s economy," as well as helping to get the products to the world markets that depend on them. "And we are fully committed to supporting our farmers," she added.

Some context: When Russia invaded Ukraine it blocked ports and sea routes used to export grain to Africa and the Middle East.

Fearing widespread famine, the EU lifted duties on grain from Ukraine to ease distribution to those global markets.

Local producers say they cannot compete with the price of Ukrainian grain and have demanded compensation from the European Commission.

Earlier this month, the EU condemned Poland and Hungary for banning imports of grain and other food products from Ukraine following a surge in cheap goods.

CNN's Mariya Knight and Jonny Hallam contributed reporting.

7:04 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Kremlin accuses South Korea of taking "unfriendly position" toward Russia over Ukraine

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Vasco Cotovio

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is pictured during an interview at the Presidential Office in Seoul, South Korea, on April 18.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is pictured during an interview at the Presidential Office in Seoul, South Korea, on April 18. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The Kremlin says South Korea has taken an “unfriendly position” toward Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, days after the country's leader signaled Seoul could send military aid to Kyiv.

President Yoon Suk Yeol said in an interview with Reuters that South Korea would consider sending lethal aid to Ukraine if there was a large scale attack on civilians, in a major shift that would see Seoul changing its stance against arming Kyiv for the first time.

“To our regret, Seoul has taken a rather unfriendly position in this whole story,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday when asked about Yoon’s remarks. “Of course, there will be attempts to drag increasingly more countries into this conflict.”

“Certainly, the start of arms supplies will indirectly mean a certain stage of involvement in this conflict,” Peskov added.

Moscow was responding to remarks made by Yoon ahead of a visit to the United States.

“If there is a situation the international community cannot condone, such as any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre or serious violation of the laws of war, it might be difficult for us to insist only on humanitarian or financial support,” Yoon told Reuters.

"I believe there won't be limitations to the extent of the support to defend and restore a country that's been illegally invaded both under international and domestic law," Yoon added.

"However, considering our relationship with the parties engaged in the war and developments in the battlefield, we will take the most appropriate measures."

Yoon's comments come ahead of a momentous trip to the White House next week, when he is set to meet US President Joe Biden on the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the US and the Republic of Korea.

6:49 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Spanish Leopard 2 tanks due to be deployed to Ukrainian front line by end of April

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

The six Leopard 2 tanks that Spain is donating to Kyiv have arrived at the port of Santander, in the northern part of the country, as the US and Western allies send military supplies to bolster Ukrainian defenses.

Footage and stills released by Spanish media showed a video of the six tanks at the city, according to a video recorded on Monday. The tanks, along with other armored vehicles donated by Spain, are expected to be ready to deploy to the front line in Ukraine by the end of the month.

Spain's defense minister said last month the tanks would be sent after Easter, after undergoing repairs and testing at a facility in Cordoba, in southern Spain.

Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces more than one year into the war. The Leopard’s relatively low-maintenance demands compared to other models lead experts to believe the tanks could help Ukraine quickly.

CNN's Rob Picheta contributed reporting.

4:43 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Germany delivers Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine

From CNN's Chris Stern in Berlin and Jessie Gretener in London

Germany has dispatched a Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, as Kyiv tackles depleted ammunition stocks in a grinding war of attrition against Russian forces.

Updating its list of delivered lethal and non-lethal German military support to Ukraine, the government confirmed that, in the last week, military deliveries included a Patriot missile defense system with missiles, 16 additional Zetros trucks, and two additional border protection vehicles.

The Patriot missile defense system, which is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles, is broadly seen as one of the most advanced and effective air defense systems.

Germany and the US pledged to send Ukraine the advanced long-range air defense system last December, following repeated requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Netherlands has also expressed its “intention” of sending Ukraine a Patriot missile defense system.

3:59 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Russian officials claim Ukraine probing defenses in Zaporizhzhia region

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych

Russian officials claim Ukrainian forces are probing their defenses in the occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia region. 

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed council of the military-civilian administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, said a group of Ukrainian Armed Forces "tried to probe" Russian defense in "the area of responsibility of the 291st regiment."

Rogov said in his official Telegram on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces made an "unsuccessful attempt to break through near Orikhiv," which is in the southeastern part of the Zaporizhzhia region.

“After an artillery preparation, an AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) armored group went on the offensive near the town of Orikhiv in the Polohy district of Zaporizhzhia region," Rogov said.

Rogov added that it had been unusual for Ukrainian forces to test Russian defenses during the night. 

“The enemy is again probing our defense in this section of the front, but now doing so in the dark. Probably because of getting new night-time equipment,” he wrote.

In comments to Russian state news agency RIA, Rogov went further by saying Ukrainian forces had intensified shelling of settlements on the frontline, including Vasylivka, Tokmak and Polohy in the Zaporizhzhia region, and Vodiane in the adjacent Donetsk region.

“What is it connected to, we can only guess," Rogov said, according to RIA.

Some context: Rogov had previously said Ukraine was accumulating reserves close to the intersection of the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and Donetsk regions. 

Ukrainian officials have yet to comment on Rogov’s claims, but traditionally do not comment on offensive operations until they are concluded. 

4:47 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Ukraine says Russia launched 60 airstrikes in past 24 hours

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Vasco Cotovio in London

People view the damage at a market that was shelled by Russian forces, in Kherson, Ukraine, on April 18.
People view the damage at a market that was shelled by Russian forces, in Kherson, Ukraine, on April 18. (Hryhorii Shmatko/Suspilne Ukraine/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images)

Russia launched 60 air strikes in the past 24 hours as fierce fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, especially in and around the beleaguered eastern city of Bakhmut, according to the Ukrainian military.

“Over the past day, the enemy launched four missiles and 60 air strikes, carried out 58 rounds from MLRS; civilians were also injured,” the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said in a situational update on Wednesday morning.

It added that units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine repelled more than 60 Russian attacks in areas on the front over the past 24 hours.

The military went on to say Russia was on the defensive in the Zaporizhzhia region and mining areas in the occupied Kherson region

2:35 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Russia launches overnight drone attack on Odesa, Ukraine says

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Vasco Cotovio

Russian forces launched an overnight attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa using Iranian-made "Shahed" drones, the Ukrainian Airforce said on Tuesday.

“This time, soldiers of the Odesa anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Air Command South destroyed 10 out of 12 Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones," the Ukrainian Airforce said.

Ukraine’s Operational Command South added that one of the drones hit a recreational facility causing a fire, but that it was quickly extinguished. There were no reported casualties.