April 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Ivana Kottasová, Travis Caldwell, Andrew Raine, Lianne Kolirin, George Ramsay, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:13 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022
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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

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on April 11.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on April 11. (Soeren Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

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

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko gives an interview at an undisclosed location in Ukraine on April 21.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko gives an interview at an undisclosed location in Ukraine on April 21. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

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.

Journalists in the city have also documented the hasty burial of civilians there, and images have surfaced on social media showing bodies apparently left for collection in the city.

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.

7:34 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

More than 1,000 bodies being examined by forensic investigators in Kyiv, police reveal

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A grave digger prepares the ground for a funeral at a cemetery on April 21, in Irpin, just outside Kyiv, Ukraine. At least 700 murdered civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv, according to Ukrainian authorities.
A grave digger prepares the ground for a funeral at a cemetery on April 21, in Irpin, just outside Kyiv, Ukraine. At least 700 murdered civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv, according to Ukrainian authorities. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Forensic investigators are examining 1,084 bodies of civilians found in the Kyiv region following the withdrawal of Russian forces, according to the police.

Andrii Nebytov, the head of police for Kyiv region, said the bodies had been examined by forensic investigators following the recapture of the region by Ukrainian forces. 

"Currently, the number of dead bodies is 1,084, they were examined by investigators and taken to forensic facilities," Nebytov said, adding:

These are civilians who had nothing to do with territorial defense or other military formations. The vast majority -- between 50 percent and 75 percent -- are people killed by small arms -- either a machine gun or a sniper rifle, depending on the location." 

Nebytov said that more than 300 bodies have not yet been identified, adding: "I’d like to appeal to the citizens: inform us about your acquaintances and relatives who have disappeared and are not in touch. Do not wait."

Investigators in the Kyiv region and other parts of Ukraine wrested from Russian control said they have found widespread evidence of the killing of civilians by Russian forces. 

7:29 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

British Embassy in Kyiv to reopen in "very shortly," UK PM says

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong

Britains Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in New Delhi, India, on April 22.
Britains Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in New Delhi, India, on April 22. (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday that the British Embassy in Ukraine will reopen in Kyiv "very shortly."

"The extraordinary fortitude and success of President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people in resisting Russian forces in Kyiv means that I can announce today that we will very shortly, next week, reopen our embassy in Ukraine's capital city," Johnson said in a press conference following his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Johnson paid tribute to British diplomats who have remained elsewhere in the region and said his country will continue to support Ukraine:

The United Kingdom and our allies will not watch passively as Putin carries on this onslaught."

"What I think we've seen here in New Delhi is one of the world's oldest democracies and the world's largest democracy sticking together and confronting our shared anxieties about autocracies and autocratic coercion around the world and acting together to make our countries safer and more prosperous," he added. 

Some context: The UK is one of a number of countries that has recently announced the reopening of embassies in Ukraine's capital.

On Monday, Spain said it would reopen its embassy in Kyiv "in the coming days."

France also announced last week that its embassy in Ukraine would "very soon" return to Kyiv from Lviv, while Italy said previously that it intended to reopen its embassy in Kyiv after Easter.

The European Union is also resuming its diplomatic presence in Kyiv after moving it temporarily to Poland following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the bloc announced earlier this month. 

Slovenia has reopened its embassy in Kyiv on March 28, according to Slovenia's Foreign Ministry.   

7:22 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Lithuania's president says NATO should "boost forces" in eastern Europe

From CNN's James Frater and Amy Cassidy

Gitanas Nausėda, left, President of the Republic of Lithuania, talks to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Vilnius, Lithuania, on April 22.
Gitanas Nausėda, left, President of the Republic of Lithuania, talks to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Vilnius, Lithuania, on April 22.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has called on NATO to send more troops to eastern Europe including to his own country.

Nausėda dicsussed the issue on Friday with Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was visiting the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

The pair also discussed military assistance to Ukraine, Ukraine's status as an EU candidate country, and sanctions against Russia and Belarus, according to a statement from the President’s office.

Germany leads NATO’s battle group in Lithuania. At least 28,000 allied troops were stationed there as of March 22, according to the latest figures from NATO.

Nausėda said he wants to see an upgrade of air policing to air and missile defense, and a switch from forward presence to forward defense, according to the statement. He said:

With the outbreak of a large-scale military offensive in the Donbas region, rapid and effective delivery of weaponry to Ukraine could become a decisive factor in this war. We no longer have time to hesitate, we must act decisively and quickly.”

Nausėda also says he wants to strengthen NATO’s presence on the Suwałki Corridor, which sits on Lithuanian-Polish border and links Belarus to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad in the Baltics.

The West should also impose more sanctions on Russia and Belarus, Nausėd said. 

Some background: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has prompted NATO to deploy more troops to the Eastern Flank.

As of March 21, 40,000 allied troops were stationed in the Baltics as well as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, according to NATO’s most recent information.

Battle groups are military forces from different NATO countries that train and are stationed together so that, if a conflict arises, they are prepared as a united NATO force.

Since the beginning of Russia's invasion, NATO has agreed to establish four more battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Those forces add to the battle groups that were established by NATO in 2017 in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, meaning NATO now has forces deployed all along its Eastern European flank.

7:14 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Pope says meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch is off as it "could lead to much confusion"

From CNN's Livia Borghese in Rome

Pope Francis meets with catholic teenagers in St Peter's Square, Vatican City, on April 18.
Pope Francis meets with catholic teenagers in St Peter's Square, Vatican City, on April 18. (Stefano Spaziani/Archivio Spaziani/Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images)

Pope Francis said Thursday that his planned June meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has been cancelled because at this time it "could lead to much confusion.”

Kirill has previously backed Russia's war in Ukraine, alleging last month that gay pride parades were part of the reason for the invasion.

A long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kirill is a major religious figure in Russia, where the Russian Orthodox religion is considered an integral part of the country's identity.

Speaking to the Argentinean newspaper La Nacion, Pope Francis said his relationship with Kirill was "very good."

"I regret that the Vatican has had to suspend a second meeting with Patriarch Kirill, which we had scheduled for June in Jerusalem. But our diplomacy understood that a meeting of the two at this time could lead to much confusion.”

Asked about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Francis answered:

I am willing to do anything to stop the war. Anything."

Asked why he never publicly mentioned Russia or Putin, Francis said "a pope never speaks about a head of state, and even less about a country, who is superior to [its] head of state.

The pope also said the Vatican could play a role in negotiations. "There are always procedures. The Vatican never rests. I cannot tell you the details because they would cease to be diplomatic efforts. But the attempts will never stop," he told the newspaper.

On Friday, the Vatican’s press office director Matteo Bruni said Francis is slowing down his agenda due to medical checks. Due to pain in his right knee, he needed to sit while reading his Easter message and celebrating the Easter vigil mass.

7:02 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Germany promises more aid for Ukraine as minister rules out "ceasefire at any price"

From CNN's Claudia Otto and Nadine Schmidt

Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister, speaks during a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on April 22.
Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister, speaks during a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on April 22. (Michael Kappeler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

Germany will provide a further 37 million euros ($40.12 million) aid to Ukraine for reconstruction, the country's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development said Friday.

The announcement came as the country’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said that an early end to the war is unlikely. 

There cannot be a ceasefire at any price," Baerbock said at a joint press conference in Vilnius with her Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Baerbock went on to say that a "dictatorial peace" with the Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be accepted.

Stephanie von Ehrlich, a spokeswoman of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development told CNN the 37 million euros would go towards different initiatives:

  • Some 22.5 million euros into the reconstruction of the power grid
  • 14.4 million euros into rebuilding houses for displaced Ukrainian
  • 2 million euros into medical equipment

"My ministry has reallocated funds for this via an emergency program," German Development Minister Svenja Schulze said in a written statement obtained by CNN.

Schulze said the reconstruction of Ukraine will require the solidarity of the international community. "The World Bank was once founded to rebuild Europe after World War II. In the future, it can play an important role in helping Ukraine rebuild," she added.

7:47 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Japan labels four disputed islands "illegally occupied" by Russia

From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka

Kunashiri Island, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan, is seen in this photo taken 2005.
Kunashiri Island, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan, is seen in this photo taken 2005. (Kyodo/Reuters)

As relations between Russia and Japan deteriorate over the war in Ukraine, Japan has, for the first time in almost 20 years, described four disputed islands as “illegally occupied” by Russia.

Relations between Russia and Japan have soured since the invasion of Ukraine was launched back in February, and this appears to be the first time Japan has invoked such language in almost two decades.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also referred to the islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils, as “Northern Territories” in its annual diplomatic report released Friday.

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Japan has not referred to the islands as being “illegally occupied” since 2003.

The report states that Japan sees the islands as “Japanese territories over which Japan holds sovereign rights, but are currently illegally occupied by Russia.”

Located off the coast of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, the disputed territories were captured by Soviet forces following Japan's surrender to Allied Forces in 1945.

The disagreement over who has rightful ownership of these islands has resulted in one of the world's longest-running unresolved territorial disputes, causing friction between Japan and Russia for decades. 

Some background: Back in 2019 the leaders of Russia and Japan said at a meeting in Moscow that they remain committed to eventually signing a peace treaty, decades after the end of World War II, but that serious differences remain over the fate of a small group of islands off the coast of Japan.

The disputed territory, located off the coast of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, consists of four separate islands: Iturup, known in Japanese as Etorofu, Kunashir, or Kunashiri, Shikotan and the islet group of Habomai.

The islands were occupied by Soviet forces at the end of WWII, when as many as 17,000 Japanese citizens were expelled. Around 19,000 settlers currently live on the islands, according to intelligence firm Stratfor.

6:36 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

UN human rights office documents some 50 "unlawful" killings in Bucha, it says

From CNN's Chris Liakos and Sharon Braithwaite

Relatives of Mykhailo Romaniuk, 58, who was shot dead on his bicycle on March 6, help to bury his coffin at a cemetery in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 19.
Relatives of Mykhailo Romaniuk, 58, who was shot dead on his bicycle on March 6, help to bury his coffin at a cemetery in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 19. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

UN human rights officers have documented the "unlawful killing, including by summary execution, of some 50 civilians" in Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, the UN Human Rights Office said Friday.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) has documented and verified at least 5,264 civilian casualties -- 2,345 killed and 2,919 injured, the UN said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said:

We know the actual numbers are going to be much higher as the horrors inflicted in areas of intense fighting, such as Mariupol, come to light.”

“The scale of summary executions of civilians in areas previously occupied by Russian forces are also emerging. The preservation of evidence and decent treatment of mortal remains must be ensured, as well as psychological and other relief for victims and their relatives,” Bachelet went on to say.

“Almost every resident in Bucha our colleagues spoke to told us about the death of a relative, a neighbor or even a stranger. We know much more needs to be done to uncover what happened there and we also know Bucha is not an isolated incident.”

Some background: Earlier this month, accounts of summary executions, brutality and indiscriminate shelling emerged in the wake of Russia's hasty retreat from central Ukraine. CNN teams saw dozens of bodies buried or strewn across the ground in the devastated suburb of Bucha, after a brutal occupation that lasted over a month.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has blamed Russia for the killings and called on Moscow to stop committing "war crimes."

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings, while reiterating baseless claims that the images of civilian bodies on the streets of Bucha are fake.