April 22, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Ivana Kottasová, Adrienne Vogt, Tori B. Powell and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 8:14 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023
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2:48 p.m. ET, April 22, 2023

Wagner chief claims son of Kremlin spokesperson has served with his Russian mercenary force

From CNN's Jonny Hallam and Josh Pennington

Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen in Moscow on April 8.
Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen in Moscow on April 8. (Yulia Morozova/Reuters/FILE)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, claimed the son of Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has served as a gunner with the fighting force.

"Dmitry Sergeevich Peskov, who at one time had the reputation of being a complete liberal, asked me to take his son — who lived part of his life in America, if I'm not mistaken, or in England — came to me and said: 'Take him as a simple artilleryman,'" Prigozhin claimed in a video interview with Alexander Simonov, RIA FAN military correspondent. 

"By the way, he worked absolutely fine, as a simple gunner knee-deep in mud and s*** ... Few people know about it," the mercenary leader added.

Prigozhin did not name the gunner, but Russian media has reported Prigozhin to be talking about Nikolai Peskov. Prigozhin also did not specify what period of time he was talking about, or whether Peskov's son had served for Wagner in Ukraine.

The outspoken Wagner boss has a track record of making unsubstantiated claims, often employing sarcasm, and CNN is unable to verify his claim.

CNN has reached out to Dmitry Peskov for comment but is yet to receive a response.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated who Prigozhin says asked him to recruit Peskov's son. It was Peskov himself, according to the Wagner head.

8:40 a.m. ET, April 22, 2023

Russian Foreign Ministry official warns of "uncontrollable" arms race

From CNN's Darya Tarasova and Sarah Dean

The Russian Foreign Ministry's ambassador-at-large has warned of an "uncontrollable" arms race and emphasized the need for Russia to build up its tactical missile potential.

"In essence, we are witnessing a missile arms race with consequences that are difficult to predict. Tens of billions of dollars are being invested in improving rocket technology. This process becomes uncontrollable," Grigory Mashkov wrote in the Russian Foreign Ministry magazine International Affairs.

Mashkov also wrote "there is an obvious need for Russia to build up its tactical missile potential, to further increase the effectiveness of its use and to stockpile missile weapons in advance to effectively respond to any challenges to national security, including in Kaliningrad, where NATO set out to take Russian territory under the guns of American MLRS [multiple launch rocket systems]." 

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is an isolated but strategically significant territory on the Baltic coast.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, experts have feared that Kaliningrad could become a flashpoint in tensions between Moscow and Europe. It is Russia’s westernmost territory, and the only part of the country surrounded by EU states; Lithuania stands between it and Belarus, a Russian ally nation, while Poland borders it to the south.

In the article, Mashkov also said once the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty expires in 2026 there could be a "vacuum" in strategic stability.

More on the treaty: Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February he was suspending his country’s participation in the treaty with the United States, imperiling the last remaining pact that regulates the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

The treaty puts limits on the number of deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides would soon need to begin negotiating on another arms control agreement.

4:31 a.m. ET, April 22, 2023

Nuclear experts at Zaporizhzhia power plant have heard shelling "almost every day" this week 

From CNN's Sarah Dean in London 

A Russian military truck is seen on the grounds of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on March 29.
A Russian military truck is seen on the grounds of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on March 29. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

International Atomic Energy Agency experts at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant have heard shelling nearly every day over the past week, the agency said in an update on Friday. 

At one point, they were told to shelter at the site because of the potential dangers, according to an update from IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi.

"I saw clear indications of military preparations in the area when I visited the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant just over three weeks ago. Since then, our experts at the site have frequently reported about hearing detonations, at times suggesting intense shelling not far from the site. I’m deeply concerned about the situation at the plant," Grossi said.

The plant still relies on one functioning power line "for the external electricity it needs for reactors cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions," Grossi added. Prior to the war, the plant had four such power lines.

In addition, due to the "significant reduction" of staff at the site, the plant "currently does not have a systematic maintenance and in-service inspection schedule," Grossi said.

Some background: Russian forces continue to control the plant, which is the largest nuclear power station in Europe and sits in a part of the Zaporizhzhia region that Russia occupied after its invasion of Ukraine last February. The plant has frequently been disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid due to intense Russian shelling in the area, raising fears across Europe of a nuclear accident.

The IAEA announced in January that it would establish a continuous presence of nuclear safety and security experts at all of Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities, significantly stepping up its efforts to help prevent a nuclear accident during the current military conflict.

This week, CNN viewed a letter dated from March that the US Department of Energy sent to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy firm Rosatom, warning Russia not to touch sensitive nuclear technology the US has at the plant.

4:02 a.m. ET, April 22, 2023

Russian foreign ministry says NATO statements about Ukraine joining alliance are "dangerous"

From CNN's Darya Tarasova

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a warning Friday about NATO's "dangerous" statements regarding Ukraine joining the alliance. 

It comes after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Kyiv on Thursday and said that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO."

He later said all NATO members have agreed Ukraine should be a member, but did not give a definitive date for when this would happen.

Russia opposes further expansion of the security bloc and pushed back against Stoltenberg's statements.

"NATO sets itself the goal of 'defeating' Russia in Ukraine, and to motivate Kyiv, it promises that after the end of the conflict, the country can be accepted into the alliance," ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

"Such statements are short-sighted and downright dangerous. This can lead to the final collapse of the European security system," Zakharova said.