At least 20 injured in Ukraine's Mykolaiv region in past 48 hours, official says
From CNN's Katharina Krebs
At least 20 people were injured in Mykolaiv region in the past two days in attacks by Russian troops, the head of Mykolaiv regional council, Hanna Zamazeeva, said in a Telegram post on Friday.
"Fortunately, there are no children among the victims," she added.
Zamazeeva said the victims were taken to regional hospitals.
10:48 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
Netherlands says it is "firmly committed" to ending Russian energy imports by end of 2022
From CNN’s Benjamin Brown in London
The Netherlands is “firmly committed” to ending the import of Russian oil and gas by the end of the year, Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy Policy Rob Jetten said Friday.
The Dutch government will subsidize energy companies to fill its Bergermeer gas storage facility to 70% capacity by the end of the year, spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Pieter ten Bruggencate told CNN Friday.
Subsidies were necessary as an incentive to import gas at current price levels, ten Bruggencate said, adding that the Netherlands would make an estimated 623,000,000 euros (about $672,000,000) available.
The state-owned energy firm Energie Beheer Nederland would top up the remaining capacity should the subsidy program not prove sufficient, ten Bruggencate added.
12:25 p.m. ET, April 22, 2022
Evacuation bus from eastern Ukrainian city of Popasna came under fire, Ukrainian authorities say
From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London
Russian troops opened fired at an evacuation bus with 25 people onboard from the city of Popasna, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram statement on Friday.
"This evacuation was special and extremely dangerous. 22 passengers were seated. There were a 25-year-old boy, who was injured in the back and leg, and a paralyzed elderly woman in a stretcher on the floor," Haidai said.
He added that a mother with a baby were also rescued from a bomb shelter.
According to Haidai, no one was injured and the passengers are now safe.
10:25 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
France to send self-propelled artillery system to Ukraine
From CNN's Dalal Mawad and Camille Knight in Paris
France is sending French-made CAESAR self-propelled howitzers — long-range weapons — to Ukraine by the end of the month, the Elysée Palace confirmed Friday.
In an interview with French media outlet Ouest-France on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the country was “delivering substantial equipment, from MILAN to CAESAR and several types of weapons.”
“I think we have to continue on this path. Always with a red line, which is not to enter into co-belligerence,” the French president added.
About 40 Ukrainian military service members will arrive in France to get trained on the military equipment, according to the Elysée.
MILAN anti-tank weapons systems have already been delivered, the Elysée said.
The CAESAR is a truck-mounted artillery system with a self-propelled gun developed by Nexter Systems.
According to the company, CAESAR units have been deployed by the French army since 2009 in various countries, including “Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali and the Sahel, Iraq, and East Asia.”
"France continues to support Ukraine militarily," the French defense ministry said Friday. "The President of the Republic has decided to deliver several CAESAR artillery guns and thousands of shells. We stand with the Ukrainian people."
9:58 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
European Council president "strongly urged" for immediate Mariupol humanitarian access in call with Putin
From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Radina Gigova in London
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said he "strongly urged" for immediate humanitarian access and safe passage from Mariupol and other besieged cities in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Michel "firmly reiterated the EU’s position: support for Ukraine and her sovereignty, condemnation and sanctions for Russia’s aggression," he said Friday in a tweet on his verified account.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that Putin had "a lengthy telephone conversation" with Michel.
"The development of the situation in Ukraine was discussed in detail. Charles Michel briefed Vladmir Putin on his contact with the Ukrainian leadership during his recent trip to Kyiv," according to a statement from the Kremlin.
Putin "outlined his principled assessments in connection with a special military operation to protect the republics of Donbass" and spoke about "measures taken on an ongoing basis to protect civilian population, the daily opening of humanitarian corridors and ceasefire declaration for the safe evacuation of civilians from the combat zone," the Kremlin said.
"It was noted that after the liberation of Mariupol, for humanitarian reasons, an order was given to cancel the storming of the industrial zone of the Azovstal plant. At the same time, all servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, militants of the nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries who lay down their arms are guaranteed life, dignified treatment in accordance with international law and the provision of qualified medical care. But the Kyiv regime does not allow them this opportunity," the Kremlin said.
"Attention was drawn to the irresponsible statements of EU representatives about the need to resolve the situation in Ukraine by military means, as well as ignoring the numerous war crimes committed by the Ukrainian security forces," the Kremlin said. "It was noted that Brussels could influence the Kiev authorities in order to force them to stop the massive shelling of Donbas settlements and other gross violations of international humanitarian law."
Some context: World leaders have accused Russia of carrying out war crimes for weeks. There have been mass graves and murdered civilians found in Bucha and outside of Mariupol. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor called Ukraine a "crime scene," following the ICC formally opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine on March 2. And just today, London’s Metropolitan Police said it has received around 50 referrals of alleged war crimes in Ukraine, as it collates evidence to assist the ICC with its ongoing investigation.
Responding to a call by Michel for direct contact between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Putin "reaffirmed the well-known position on this matter, noting that such a possibility depends, in particular, on concrete results in the ongoing negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian representatives, during which the Ukrainian side is showing inconsistency and is not ready to seek mutually acceptable solutions."
The Kremlin also reiterated unfounded claims that the leadership of "most" EU countries "indulge" in Russophobia, "which manifests itself, for example, in the cultural, humanitarian and sports fields."
9:22 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
One dead as shelling intensifies in Mykolaiv, mayor says
From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll, Julia Presniakova and Olga Voitovych
One person has died and six were wounded as a result of "intensified" shelling in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv, according to the city's Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych.
“In recent days, shelling has intensified. Just half an hour ago, we were fired upon again. They shoot all sorts: mostly cluster munitions, which are aimed at killing people,” Sienkevych said Friday.
Speaking on national television, Sienkevych urged residents to stay indoors during the curfew and hide between two walls to try to protect themselves.
“Yesterday, three people were injured; one unfortunately died," he said. "Yesterday, people came out at curfew. It is necessary to understand that the curfew is not for walks. And today three more people were injured."
Mykolaiv remains without a central water supply after a missile damaged the main pipeline early last week. The city has organized water distribution with trucks as well as additional well drilling in busy areas, Sienkevych added.
Russian forces have stepped up attacks in the regions of Mykolaiv and Kherson, as the Ukrainian armed forces called the assault in the country’s southern region more “aggressive and bold” on Sunday.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine , said Friday that Moscow "has announced its plan for the second phase of the war. They think they can capture Donbas and the south of Ukraine, counting on the economic pressure of our state."
The acting commander of Russia's Central Military District said Friday that Russia had expanded its military goals to control southern Ukraine.
Yermak added, "We have our own scenarios for the defense of Ukraine and I’d like to remind that many of the Kremlin's plans have already been destroyed by our army and people."
8:46 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
British prime minister says it's a "realistic possibility" Russia may win war in Ukraine
From CNN's Alex Stambaugh
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that Russia has a "realistic possibility" of winning the war in Ukraine, calling the situation there "unpredictable" at the moment.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin has a "huge army," but added:
"He has a very difficult political position because he's made a catastrophic blunder. The only option he now has really is to try to continue to use his appalling, grinding approach led by artillery, trying to grind the Ukrainians down. He's very close to securing a land bridge in Mariupol now. The situation is, I'm afraid, unpredictable at this stage. We just have to be realistic about that."
Johnson said Britain is now looking to send "backfill" equipment to countries such as Poland, which may send "heavier weaponry" to support Ukraine's resistance.
"We're looking at sending tanks to Poland to help as they send some of their T-72s to Ukraine," Johnson announced, adding that Britain is looking at other options such as "anti-ship defenses."
"We've got to look at what more we can do militarily, we've got to keep intensifying the economic sanctions ... and we've also got to set out a vision for the future of Ukraine in the security architecture of Europe," he said.
Johnson also said that the British Embassy in Ukraine will reopen in Kyiv "very shortly."
8:10 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
Avoiding direct military confrontation with Russia should be NATO's top priority, German chancellor says
From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin
NATO must avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia that could lead to a third world war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel, when he was asked to comment on why Germany has not delivered heavy weapons to Ukraine.
''There is no rule book for this situation that states at what point we are considered a party to the war in Ukraine,'' Scholz said in the interview, which was published Friday, when asked why he thought delivering tanks to Ukraine could lead to nuclear war.
"That's why it is all the more important that we consider each step very carefully and coordinate closely with one another," Scholz said, adding that avoiding "an escalation towards NATO is a top priority for me."
"There must be no nuclear war,'' Scholz said.
"That's why I don't focus on polls or let myself be irritated by shrill calls. The consequences of an error would be dramatic," he added.
Scholz is facing growing criticism from within Germany and abroad for his government's alleged reluctance to deliver heavy weapons, such as tanks and howitzers, to Ukraine as Russia’s invasion has entered a new and potentially decisive phase.
In the interview, Scholz warned he does not ''think it is justified for Germany and NATO to become warring parties in Ukraine.''
Scholz also said he does not believe an embargo on Russian gas would end the war in Ukraine.
"I absolutely do not see how a gas embargo would end the war. If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin were open to economic arguments, he would never have begun this crazy war," he said. "Secondly, you act as if this was about money. But it's about avoiding a dramatic economic crisis and the loss of millions of jobs and factories that would never again open their doors," he said.
The German chancellor and his government have also come under fire for not weaning off Russian energy immediately. Scholz said in early April that his country is doing all it can to achieve this goal "very soon."
Scholz said the most important goal in the current situation is a ceasefire and that Russian troops must withdraw. ''There must be a peace agreement that enables Ukraine to defend itself in future,'' he said.
7:55 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
"One clear day of cease fire" is needed to evacuate civilians from Mariupol plant, mayor tells CNN
The Mayor of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has told CNN that "one clear day of cease fire" is needed to evacuate civilians sheltering in the Azovstal iron and steel plant.
Hundreds of soldiers and civilians are believed to be hunkered down in the huge industrial complex that has become the final bastion of Ukrainian defenders in the city.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the "liberation" of Mariupol by Russian forces, but ordered troops to blockade the steel plant rather than storm it.
Ukrainian officials have denied that the city has fallen to Russia.
"The day before yesterday, we planned to open up an evacuation route that these people [inside the plant] could join," Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko told CNN New Day on Friday.
"However, the Russian forces continued bombarding the plant and shelling the plant and we weren't able to get the people out of there."
Yuriy Ryzhenkov, the CEO of Metinvest Holding which owns the Azovstal plant, recently told CNN that the situation inside is "close to catastrophe" as food and water supplies dwindle.
Boichenko added that around 20,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Mariupol, which has been leveled by Russian attacks during the course of the war.
CNN cannot independently verify the death toll following weeks of heavy bombardment of Mariupol. Evidence has emerged of mass graves outside the city following the publication of satellite images collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies.
Boichenko said that 90% of the city's buildings were destroyed as of March 21.
"It is very painful for me to see this, very painful and sad," Boichenko said.
For eight year, we were trying to develop Mariupol as a showcase for Ukrainian Donbas, for a restored Donbas since the 2014 attempts [by Russia] to take it.
"And it was blossoming. It was turning into a modern city. We were developing it as a modern, state-of-the-art city to fulfil people's dreams as we imagined ... I feel as if my heart has been torn out," he said.