April 23, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Eliza Mackintosh, Thom Poole and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 0246 GMT (1046 HKT) April 24, 2023
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10:21 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023

Watch: CNN team nearly caught in bombardment that has forced Ukrainians underground

Residents remain sheltered underground in the southeast Ukrainian city of Orikhiv, facing a constant Russian onslaught that makes it too dangerous to return to the surface.

CNN's chief international security correspondent Nick Paton Walsh and his team narrowly escaped a missile strike while reporting in the area this week.

The crew was leaving Orikhiv after receiving a warning of incoming strikes. As they drove, a missile landed between the armored car carrying Paton Walsh and a trailing vehicle with his producer.

After a few tense moments, the two teams were able to communicate via radio and left the area safely.

Escape from Russia's onslaught isn't a practical reality for many Ukrainians, however. Paton Walsh and his team visited an underground shelter where residents had access to the only electricity and running water in town.

Fighting could only intensify near Orikhiv if Ukraine launches an expected counteroffensive this spring. It's a key territory for potentially cutting off Crimea — which Russia has claimed as annexed since 2014 — from the rest of Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly vowed to take back Crimea from Russian rule.

9:26 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023

Ukraine will draw inspiration from Arlington National Cemetery to create its own memorial in Kyiv

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

For Yulia Laputina, Ukraine’s minister of veterans affairs, a visit to Arlington National Cemetery was a deeply moving experience.

“I really appreciated this incredible memorializing and respect for the people who defended your country,” Laputina, who is a veteran herself, told CNN Thursday.

Ukraine plans to draw inspiration from Arlington as the country works to create its own version of a memorial and military cemetery in its capital city of Kyiv, she said.

“It will be the memorial not only for those people who will be buried there from the battles of Russian-Ukrainian war, for the heroes, but also it will be the memorial for all of the defenders of our country when Ukraine was fighting for the independence in different historical periods,” she said.

On Thursday, the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, announced the city council had “started the procedure for establishing the National Military Memorial Cemetery,” and had allocated land for its creation. According to his post on Facebook, the cemetery is nearly 250 acres.

Ukraine’s creation of a military cemetery is just one initiative that the war-torn nation plans to undertake to honor and support its veterans – a population that will grow immensely due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. There are expected to be around four million veterans and family members by the time the war comes to an end, Laputina said.

About 80% of the half million veterans that were registered with the veterans affairs office when the most recent conflict began have gone back to the battlefield, she told CNN.

The minister came to Washington, DC, to discuss best practices and to urge specific funding from the US government to help support her office’s efforts.

The United States has given billions of dollars in direct budgetary support to Ukraine, but none of the money is specifically allocated for veterans affairs, Laputina said.

Read more here.

9:37 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023

Russia launches aerial attacks across Ukraine's front lines overnight

From Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

A tank burns at a gas station after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 22.
A tank burns at a gas station after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 22. (Pavlo Pakhomenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Russia continued its bombardment of Ukrainian towns and cities along the length of the war’s front line overnight Saturday into Sunday, Ukrainian officials said.

Missile, artillery and drone attacks reached from Kharkiv in the northeast to Odesa in the southwest, according to the officials.

In Odesa, the Ukrainian military’s southern command said Russia aimed self-detonating drones at the city’s air defenses. No casualties were reported.

Over 70 artillery attacks in Zaporizhzhia left at least one man hurt and 10 houses destroyed, according to Yurii Malashko, head of the region's military administration.

A Russian attack destroyed a nine-story building in Vuhledar, of the eastern Donetsk region, according to the regional leader Pavlo Kyrylenko. Russia suffered a shambolic defeat near Vuhledar earlier in the year.

Further north, Russia hit the city of Kharkiv and broader Kharkiv region with missile attacks, destroying homes and private property, according to Ukrainian authorities.

This map shows the latest picture of the situation on the ground:

9:44 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023

Another bomb found in Belgorod just days after Russia accidentally struck the city

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova in London

More than 3,000 people were evacuated Saturday from residential buildings in the Russian city of Belgorod after a bomb was found close to the area accidentally bombed by Russia’s air force earlier this week, Russian state media reported.

Explosives specialists assessed the device and said there was no danger of explosion, according to TASS.

Late on Thursday, a Russian warplane dropped a bomb on Belgorod – a city of more than 400,000 people close to the border with Ukraine – leaving a large crater, blowing a car onto a roof and damaging nearby buildings.

Two people were reported injured in the explosion, local officials said.

State media blamed an “accidental” or “emergency” drop of munition for the incident.

Read more here.

5:56 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023

Spain sends 6 tanks to Ukraine, becoming latest Western power to do so

From CNN's Al Goodman in Madrid and Duarte Mendonca in London

Leopard 2 6A4 tanks being delivered to Ukraine are driven onto a cargo ship in Santander, Spain, on Friday.
Leopard 2 6A4 tanks being delivered to Ukraine are driven onto a cargo ship in Santander, Spain, on Friday. (Vincent West/Reuters)

Six Leopard 2 tanks bound for Ukraine have left the Spanish port city of Santander in northern Spain and are en route to their destination, the Spanish Minister of Defense Margarita Robles says.

Robles told journalists the tanks left Santander “along with 20 heavy transport vehicles” and the trip by sea would take from five to six days.

Some context: Ukraine has been reliant on outdated Soviet-era tanks throughout the Russian invasion and has appealed to the West for modern battle tanks to bolster Kyiv’s forces.

Spain is only the latest Western power to send tanks, but as we have previously reported they are unlikely to be an immediate game-changer on the battlefield.

5:05 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023

Hundreds of captured Ukrainians have returned from Russian captivity. Some disappeared without a trace

From CNN's Pauline Lockwood

Ukrainian prisoners of war look out of a bus window as they arrive in Zaporizhzhia on October 17, 2022.
Ukrainian prisoners of war look out of a bus window as they arrive in Zaporizhzhia on October 17, 2022. (Stringer/Reuters/FILE)

The Ukrainian government is demanding the return of every Ukrainian captured by Russia, a top military official said Saturday.

"If there is at least a small hope that this person is alive, we will demand from (Russia) that this person returns home. The work will not stop until we return everyone, the living and the dead," said Bohdan Okhrimenko, an official from the Coordination Headquarters on the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Speaking at an event in Kyiv, Okhrimenko said some 2,230 Ukrainians have been brought home from Russian captivity since the beginning of its full-scale invasion.

Around 20% of those people had been reported missing, according to Okhrimenko. He said there had been "no confirmation, no evidence” that these people were in captivity, so they were designated missing until they were found.

Oleh Kotenko, the Ukrainian commissioner for missing persons, said Saturday:

In times of war, we have to do everything we can to make sure that families (of missing persons) know that the state cares about them."

The commissioner's office is tasked with searching for people, analyzing information and communicating with relatives of those who are missing, Kotenko said. The office includes a call center as well as several on-the-ground teams that are searching through recently liberated areas.

5:04 a.m. ET, April 23, 2023

Russia and Ukraine are trading positions in the grueling fight for Bakhmut, Ukrainian commanders say

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

A Ukrainian service member walks near residential buildings damaged by a Russian military strike in Bakhmut on Friday.
A Ukrainian service member walks near residential buildings damaged by a Russian military strike in Bakhmut on Friday. (Anna Kudriavtseva/Reuters)

Russia's regular forces and fighters from the Wagner private military company are launching nonstop assaults on the eastern city of Bakhmut, according to Ukrainian commanders on the front lines.

The situation there "remains extremely tense," Yurii Fedorenko, the commander of a company in Ukraine's 92nd Mechanized Brigade, told Ukrainian television.

"The fighting is extremely difficult," Fedorenko said. "The enemy is using all available attack and assault potential, both in terms of equipment and manpower.”

Russian paratroopers and special forces have joined the assault, and they've had some tactical success, according to the commander. Russia uses onslaughts from aircraft to "literally destroy" Ukrainian positions, then moves forward to fill up the vacuum, Fedorenko said.

But, the commander continued, Kyiv's troops are conducting "active defense" and retaking some positions, "both on the outskirts of the town and in the town itself, pushing the enemy away from the communication routes and driving them out of their positions."

Some positions change hands back and forth through the course of battle.

Another officer, Lt. Roman Konon, said Russian forces are pushing ahead with unprecedented force, destroying everything in their path. Each side is suffering casualties, Konon said.

Chipping away at Russia's forces: Fedorenko endorsed the grinding, monthslong efforts to defend Bakhmut, claiming "the enemy suffers much greater losses during the assault than the Ukrainian forces."

And if Ukraine allowed Russia to achieve its objectives in Bakhmut, the commander said it would free up "an extremely large number of forces and means, which are quickly redeployed to other areas of priority and importance to the enemy."

That could include the eastern cities of Marinka or Lyman.

As long as Russia is tied up fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine is able to "destroy this strike and assault potential of the enemy," Fedorenko said.

"Sooner or later, we will have to regain every centimeter, every meter of Bakhmut — which means everything that we can hold here and now, needs to be held now," the commander said.