April 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Joe Ruiz, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes, Simone McCarthy, Amy Woodyatt, Amir Vera, Helen Regan and Andrew Raine, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022
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9:55 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

White House official says to expect more announcements on US assistance to Ukraine 

From CNN's Sam Fossum

White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said Sunday to expect more announcements on US assistance to Ukraine "in the week ahead," highlighting the billions of dollars in security aid the US has delivered so far.   

"We've been announcing deliverables, which is a fancy word for things that we are providing to the Ukrainians, to enable their fight just about every day and if not every day, every week, and we will have more to say about that in the week ahead," Finer said on NBC's "Meet the Press," stressing that US assistance has had a "significant" impact. 

When asked if the US was ready to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, Finer said that the administration continues to look into "additional steps" when it comes to punishing the Kremlin for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 

"I think we've been clear that we're looking at that as we're looking at a whole range of other additional steps that we could take to hold Russia accountable for the crimes that it's perpetrating on the ground in Ukraine," Finer said. 

CNN reported on Monday that the US State Department was looking into adding Russia to the list of countries labelled as state sponsors of terrorism — which include North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria — a move that would further cement the Kremlin's status as a pariah state.   

Finer also pointed out Russia's "shifting" war aims since its invasion of Ukraine started two months ago, noting that it is "quite clear" that the Kremlin's forces have "had to adjust" in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance to focus more on the South and East of the country. 

Asked about whether a further push by the Russians into southern Ukraine would change US strategy, Finer said that the US has remained "nimble."

"We've shown ability to be nimble to adjust our assistance and our approach as the Russian war aims have evolved. And we will continue to do that over time depending on how things evolve on the battlefield," Finer said. 

On the talks between the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Finer said that Ukrainians should be the "touchstone" in any discussions. 

Asked to confirm whether the US would be sending a high-level delegation to Ukraine, as Zelensky said would be happening, Finer reiterated that the US would not announce such a visit in advance. 

"We've also been quite clear that if we were going to take some sort of high-level visit to Ukraine, we would not be announcing that in advance," Finer said.

10:20 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

A Ukrainian-born US congresswoman traveled to Kyiv to celebrate Easter with her 88-year-old grandmother

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Rep. Victoria Spartz, a Republican from Indiana, spoke to CNN's Dana Bash this morning from Kyiv, Ukraine. Spartz, the first Ukrainian-born representative in the US Congress, said that she traveled to Ukraine to be with family to celebrate Orthodox Easter.

Spartz said that she met with the head of the Ukrainian church in Kyiv during her trip.

She said, "people, you know, even they go through trouble but they try to celebrate" the Easter holiday. She said that she was able to attend Easter church services with her 88-year-old grandmother today. She also has another grandmother, who is 95, that also still lives in Ukraine. Asked if she worries about their safety, Spartz said, "I do."

"They couldn't believe after everything Ukraine went through, Stalin, World War II, most of my family was killed," she said.

Spartz said of her grandmother that she was with earlier today, that her father and mother were shot during World War II and that what's going on in the country today is "unbelievable" to her.

"The atrocities that are happening in this country, even some man I talked to was crying," Spartz added. 

"This is so bad. You know, I mean, this is something that's unbelievable. And the world has to help Ukraine to win this war, bring the peace back to Europe and bring the international order back. That's the responsibility for us. We need to put more pressure on Russia," she said.

 

9:43 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Turkish president tells Ukrainian counterpart that evacuation of civilians from Mariupol “must be organized”

From CNN's Yusuf Gezer in Istanbul, Mariya Knight in Atlanta and Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that an evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol “must be organized.”

During a phone call with President Zelensky on Sunday, Erdogan said, “an evacuation must be organized to evacuate injured and civilians from Mariupol, where the situation is getting sadder every day,” according to a readout from the Turkish Directorate of Communications.

In a tweet Sunday, Zelensky said that "on the eve" of Erdogan's call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he stressed to the Turkish leader "the need for immediate evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, including Azovstal, and immediate exchange of blocked troops."

The two leaders' remarks echo calls Sunday from the International Committee for the Red Cross to be granted “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access" to Mariupol so that voluntary evacuations of civilians can take place.

Turkey has previously offered to evacuate people trapped in the besieged city by boat. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters in early April that the country can “provide vessel support for evacuations from Mariupol.”

On Sunday, Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s “readiness to provide any help necessary in the negotiation process” between Russia and Ukraine, maintaining that he “has a positive view on the issue of guarantees," the readout said.

Zelensky said he also raised issues relating to Ukraine's "defense capabilities and global food security," highlighting the threat posed by the blockade of navigation in the Black Sea.

View Zelensky's Twitter thread here:

8:52 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

More than 370,000 Ukrainian refugees are in Germany, says country's Interior Minister

From CNN's Nina Avramova in London

A woman takes a selfie with a group of Ukrainian refugees in front of the St. George Russian Orthodox Monastery in Milmersdorf, Germany on Sunday April 24.
A woman takes a selfie with a group of Ukrainian refugees in front of the St. George Russian Orthodox Monastery in Milmersdorf, Germany on Sunday April 24. (Fabian Sommer/DPA/AP)

Germany's federal police has recorded 376,124 refugees from Ukraine to date, according to the country's Interior Ministry. 

These are predominantly children, women and elderly people, they said in a Sunday tweet.

8:27 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

International Committee for the Red Cross says they urgently need "humanitarian access" to Mariupol

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that "immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access" to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is "urgently needed."

In a press release Sunday, the ICRC said it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.”

Russian forces continued to attack the city on Sunday, Ukrainian Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar said in an Easter message. Troops of Azov -- originally formed as a nationalist volunteer battalion but subsequently folded into the Ukrainian military -- continue to hold out in the besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces as Ukrainian officials estimate that 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the devastated city.

“Immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access is urgently required to allow for the voluntary safe passage of thousands of civilians and hundreds of wounded out of the city, including from the Azovstal plant area,” the ICRC continued.

The ICRC have made several attempts to evacuate civilians from the city with one of its teams detained overnight by police in early April during one attempt to reach the city. After the team were released, an ICRC spokesperson said the incident showed “how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team.”

“Each day, each hour that passes has a terrible human cost,” the ICRC stressed on Sunday, adding that it “stands ready” to help the parties to the conflict to agree upon voluntary evacuation arrangements. 

Its teams "are in place to facilitate safe passage operations as soon as such agreement is reached and security guarantees are provided," the ICRC concluded. 

8:18 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Lviv residents welcome displaced Ukrainians at Easter brunch

From CNN's Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Oleksandra Ochman in Lviv, Ukraine

A priest delivers a short prayer before making his way around the room blessing the meal during a special Easter Sunday brunch for displaced Ukrainians in Lviv, Ukraine, on April 24.
A priest delivers a short prayer before making his way around the room blessing the meal during a special Easter Sunday brunch for displaced Ukrainians in Lviv, Ukraine, on April 24. (Lauren Said-Moorhouse/CNN)

Orthodox Christians across Ukraine are marking Easter Sunday. But this year's celebrations have been deeply marred by Russia's ongoing and brutal invasion.

Today the sun shines brightly in the western city of Lviv -- a welcome signal of spring after days of colder temperatures, grey skies and rain. It’s fitting on this most important of holidays, which emphasizes reflection and rebirth.

At a high school in the city center, teachers are putting on a special Easter brunch for displaced Ukrainians who fled here from war-torn parts of the country.

“It’s a great honor for us. I wanted all the people to get together and to have this lunch especially because this is the day when we really hope for our victory. And I do believe that we will win,” principal Svitlana Matys tells CNN.

She explains the school has been providing food and shelter to many in the weeks since the conflict erupted. Today, a priest has come to bless a bountiful buffet of paska (traditional Easter bread), sausages and salads prepared by the school’s staff.

Matys says eight of the teachers worked until 11 p.m. last night -- delayed at one point by air raid sirens across the city -- to put finishing touches on their offerings and ensure everything was perfect for their guests.  

Shrugging it off, she says: “It was late but when we are at home preparing for this holiday, we do it all night – it’s a habit.”

Tetiana, 73, from Severodonetsk in Luhansk region is seen during special Easter Sunday brunch on Sunday April 24.
Tetiana, 73, from Severodonetsk in Luhansk region is seen during special Easter Sunday brunch on Sunday April 24. (Lauren Said-Moorhouse/CNN)

It’s a welcomed gesture from those here today, who include 73-year-old Tetiana from Severodonetsk in Luhansk region.

“We feel joy and gratitude for sheltering us. We were provided with all the convenience here and now such a nice holiday was organized for us,” she says.

“Yesterday we went to the church and today we are here. Easter for me is first of all peace. We wish the war to be finished as soon as possible,” she continues as tears started to fall from her eyes.

After mingling among the diners, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi reflects on the significance of celebrating this year.

“For Ukrainians, Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year -- it symbolizes resurrection,” he explains. “Always when there are hard times for Ukraine we say: ‘Christ was resurrected, and Ukraine will be resurrected.’ And it’s really a sign, because Ukrainians in their nature are optimistic and believe in kindness.”

7:58 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Russian forces continuing attack on Mariupol, Ukrainian commander says in Easter message

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Olga Voitovych

In an Easter message Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of Ukraine's Azov Regiment, said Sunday that Russian forces were continuing to bombard the city of Mariupol, underscoring the need for evacuation of civilians and encircled Ukrainian forces.  

Christ is Risen, dear Ukraine," he said. "Today is a big day but even so, the enemy continues to drop aerial bombs, ships fire artillery, cannons fire, enemy tanks continue to hit, infantry tries to assault."

Palamar added: "We would like to thank those who are trying to help the civilians of Mariupol to evacuate from this dangerous area, with actions, not just words. I thank those who are making every effort to withdraw our military from the encirclement, who were left alone with the overwhelming forces of the enemy."

The Azov Regiment, sometimes referred to as the Azov Battalion, is a unit that began as an ultra-nationalist volunteer battalion but has since integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces.

Azov troops have been holding out in Mariupol's besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said earlier that Russian forces were "continuously attacking" the encircled Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Easter Sunday.

Ukrainian officials have said around 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the city, which has been ruined by weeks of Russian bombardment.

8:55 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Ukraine needs support "today, not tomorrow" to "win this war," says Melitopol mayor

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov speaks with CNN on Sunday April 24.
Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov speaks with CNN on Sunday April 24. (CNN)

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov told CNN's Boris Sanchez Sunday that Ukraine urgently needs support to win the war.

"We need support, but what's important we need it today, not tomorrow. We need it today," Fedorov said.

Fedorov called on the United States and the European Union specifically, saying he hopes they will give enough support and enough weapons "to win this war."

Remember: Fedorov was detained by Russian forces for five days in March and was later freed as part of a prisoner exchange.

Melitopol fell to Russian control in early March and a new, pro-Russian mayor was installed. The unelected mayor has since instituted a number of pro-Russian moves, including mandating the broadcasting of Russian news outlets.

7:26 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Melitopol mayor says Putin wants to "kill all of Ukrainian nation"

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov, who was detained by Russian forces for five days in March, told CNN Sunday that his city is in a "very difficult and dangerous situation."

Russian forces occupied Melitopol, in southeastern Ukraine, within days of the invasion beginning, but the city has seen sporadic protests since. 

A new mayor was installed in the city, which is under Russian military control, after Fedorov was kidnapped. Fedorov was later released as part of a prisoner exchange.

He told CNN New Day's Boris Sanchez that Russian President Vladimir Putin's goal was to "kill all of Ukrainian nation," starting by occupying its cities.

The mayor added that Melitopol's citizens are not able to receive aid:

"We can't deliver humanitarian aid. We can't deliver pharmacy. We can't deliver for emergency services ... That's why it's a very dangerous situation."

Fedorov spoke to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, saying that Ukrainians "are not thinking about comfort. They're thinking about mere survival” and urging European lawmakers "to help Ukraine" through all possible means.

He said that the conflict in Ukraine was "a full-scale war — not only against Ukraine, but against the entire civilized world," cautioning that "war will come to European cities and households" without an appropriate and timely response to Russia's "significant threat."