April 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Rhea Mogul, Andrew Raine, Jack Guy, Ben Morse and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Updated 12:11 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
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4:34 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Drone video shows village of Novotoshkivka in Luhansk region completely destroyed by fighting

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Drone footage shows the destruction in Novotoshkivka, on Monday, April 25.
Drone footage shows the destruction in Novotoshkivka, on Monday, April 25. (Luhansk People’s Republic)

There is not much left of Novotoshkivka, a small village about 16 miles — or 26 kilometers — southeast of Severodonetsk, new drone video published on Monday by the Russian-backed separatist government Luhansk People's Republic shows.

CNN has geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of the video.

Novotoshkivka was a very dense but small village in the Luhansk oblast, in eastern Ukraine; it only stretches about half a mile long, and a third of a mile wide. 

Now, fighting in the new war between Russian and Ukrainian forces have left it completely destroyed. Russian backed separatists claim the Ukrainians blew it up when they retreated from their positions in the village.

Serhiy Hayday, the Luhansk regional administrator, confirmed Ukrainian forces there had retreated but claimed on his Facebook page that the Russians had decimated the village through repeated airstrikes.

In remarks made on Ukrainian television Monday, Hayday said that the Russians "keep razing everything to the ground."

"Unfortunately, there are almost no houses left in Novotoshkivka. Our [troops] retreated a little, but not much, because there was no longer anything to hold on to, there was nowhere to keep the defense," he said.

Novotoshkivka had been the site of intense fighting over the last week. At the time, the Ukrainian government and Luhansk regional administration said Russian forces there had been repelled after repeatedly trying to take over the village.

4:35 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Defense Secretary Austin's remark on weakening Russia was about stalling Putin's intentions, White House says 

From.CNN's Kevin Liptak

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, right, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speak with reporters after returning from their trip to Kyiv, where they spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on Monday, April 25, in Poland near the Ukraine border.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, right, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speak with reporters after returning from their trip to Kyiv, where they spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on Monday, April 25, in Poland near the Ukraine border. (Alex Brandon/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House says Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's declaration the US wants to "see Russia weakened" is in line with the administration's long-held goal to prevent Moscow from consuming Ukraine.

"I think what Secretary Austin, in his press conference, was referring to was if you go back about two months ago, remember President Putin gave a speech where he talked about the aspirations — his aspirations, the aspirations he had for the Russian military — which were to degrade Ukraine, subsume Ukraine, to take over their sovereignty, their territorial integrity," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday during a news briefing.

"What Secretary Austin was talking about is our objective to prevent that from happening," she went on. "Obviously right now the war is in Ukraine. We’re proud of the Ukrainians’ success, their efforts to fight back, to push back on the Russian military, thanks to their bravery and also to our support."

"We are also looking to prevent them from expanding their efforts and President Putin’s objectives beyond that too," she continued.

More on Austin's comments: Speaking after visiting Kyiv on Sunday, Austin outlined some of the United States' goals as the country continues to support Ukraine's efforts in the war.

"We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine," Austin said at a news conference at an undisclosed location in Poland near the Ukrainian border following the trip to Kyiv. 

Psaki said the comment was in line with the administration's views of the conflict.

"I would say it’s consistent with our view, and the President’s view, and Secretary Austin’s view that we are going to do everything we can to push back on President Putin’s aspirations to subsume Ukraine, to take over their territorial integrity and their sovereignty, and aspirations he had as of two months ago to go beyond that," she said.

3:53 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

US secretary of state tweets photos of train travel to Kyiv

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin took the train from Poland to meet with Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, in Kyiv on Sunday.

“We saw people on the streets and clear evidence that the battle for Kyiv has been won. But we know that’s in stark contrast to other parts of Ukraine, where the Russian military continues to commit atrocities,” he said in a tweet Monday along with two photos of his travel.

View the tweet here:

3:29 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Ukraine Defense Ministry describes explosions in Transnistria region in Moldova

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv and Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

The Defense Ministry in Ukraine has described explosions that took place in the Transnistria region of neighboring Moldova as a "planned provocation" by the Russian secret services.

The ministry's defense intelligence department said in a statement on its Telegram channel that three days before the incident, the leaders of the breakaway region "were already preparing for it and took care to install a secure and comfortable bunker" at the Ministry of State Security, which was damaged in the explosions. 

"Obviously, this case is one of a number of provocative measures organized by the FSB (the Russian security service) to instill panic and anti-Ukrainian sentiment," it said.

What Russia is saying: Earlier Monday, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported a series of explosions were heard around the building of the Ministry of State Security in Tiraspol, the capital of the separatist statelet of Transnistria in Moldova.

A correspondent for Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported explosions, saying that powerful booms were heard on the scene and that windows in neighboring houses were damaged. Traffic near the ministry building was blocked, the agency reported.

Russia has maintained a contingent of troops inside Transnistria since the early 1990s. Last week, a top Russian general said Russia intended to establish "full control" over southern Ukraine in the second phase of its invasion of Ukraine, adding that control over Ukraine's south would give Russian forces access to Transnistria. 

CNN's Nathan Hodge contributed reporting to this post.

4:33 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Heavy fighting reported in Luhansk and Donetsk Monday

From CNN's Tim Lister, Paul Murphy and Kostan Porychenko

Ukrainian officials and the Russian Defense Ministry have reported another day of heavy fighting in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said on Ukrainian television Monday that the Russians "keep razing everything to the ground."

He referred to a village on the frontlines, Novotoshkivka, which now lies in ruins.

"Unfortunately, there are almost no houses left in Novotoshkivka. Our [troops] retreated a little, but not much, because there was no longer anything to hold on to, there was nowhere to keep the defense," he said.

Drone video from the area showed that much of the village has been destroyed.

Hayday said Russian forces were still trying to break through in the neighboring towns of Rubizhne and Popasna. "They don't get anything there. But they throw huge forces there. And shelling is carried out there around the clock."

Hayday also said that the Russians had "damaged the electricity substation that powered the entire region."

Further west, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that four command posts and one ammunition depot near the town of Sloviansk had been destroyed. Russian forces have been targeting Sloviansk and nearby Kramatorsk as they try to reach the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It also said another Ukrainian military target — in the town of Novogrodovka — had been hit. 

The Russians have amassed forces around the town of Izium, which they occupied at the beginning of April, but have made little progress since. Ukrainian officials reported fighting around the nearby village of Zavody Monday. 

The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said the "enemy continues to carry out offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone to defeat the Joint forces, establish full control over the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and maintain the land route with the occupied Crimea."

2:46 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

It's Monday night in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

Local resident Oksana surveys the destroyed second floor of her multi-generational home while searching for salvageable items on Monday, April 25, in Hostomel, a suburb of Kyiv.
Local resident Oksana surveys the destroyed second floor of her multi-generational home while searching for salvageable items on Monday, April 25, in Hostomel, a suburb of Kyiv. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Russian forces struck five railway stations in central and western Ukraine on Monday morning as part of a campaign to "systematically destroy railway infrastructure," according to the chairman of Ukrzaliznytsia, Ukraine's state railway company. The rail system has become a vital cog in the country's war effort, ferrying essential supplies in, and desperate civilians out of harm's way.

Russia has made only "minor advances" since shifting their focus to taking control over the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Monday. "Without sufficient logistical and combat support enablers in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough," said the MoD on Twitter.

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • UN secretary general is on his way to Moscow, UN spokesman says: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is currently on a plane en route to Moscow, deputy spokesperson for the secretary-general Farhan Haq said Monday. Guterres will be “received” by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and will have a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He is also scheduled to travel to Kyiv and meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday. 
  • Explosion in Russian-occupied Kreminna results in casualties: A senior official in Ukraine's Interior Ministry says there has been a large explosion in the town of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, an area recently occupied by Russian forces. Anton Gerashchenko said the explosion took place at an administrative building in the town. Ukrainian forces withdrew from Kreminna last week. "As a result of a gas explosion in the city council's building in Kreminna, no one survived," he said on Telegram. CNN cannot verify the number of casualties nor the origin of the explosion. 
  • Russian diplomat says ceasefire unlikely "right now": A deputy to Russia's ambassador to the UN took to the stakeout podium at the UN Monday to say that a ceasefire in Ukraine is not a good option right now. “We don’t think that ceasefire is a good option right now because the only advantage it will give it will give possibility for Ukrainian forces to regroup and to stage more provocations like Bucha,” Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia's mission to the United Nations, said. “Frankly it’s not up to me to decide but I don’t see any reasons (this would be pursued) right now."
  • US aid to Ukraine faces an uncertain future in the Senate: US military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine could be at risk of being bogged down in the immigration battle brewing on Capitol Hill between Republicans and the Biden administration. The Biden administration is expected to send another supplemental request to Congress this week for Ukraine after warning that money from the last package is nearly depleted. But, while there is broad support on Capitol Hill to give Ukraine more assistance, the path to passage is much more uncertain in the U.S. Senate.
  • Russia expels 40 German diplomats in retaliatory move: Russia announced on Monday that it was expelling 40 German diplomats from the country in a retaliatory move to Berlin’s decision in early April to expel a "substantial number" of officials at the Russian embassy.  Summoned by the Russian foreign ministry Monday, the German ambassador to Moscow was "met with strong protest in connection with the openly hostile decision of the German government," the ministry said. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called Moscow’s decision to expel diplomats "unjustified." 
  • US State Department approves foreign military sale of $165 million worth of ammunition to Ukraine: The US State Department approved a foreign military sale to Ukraine of $165 million worth of “non-standard ammunition” Monday, according to a release from the State Department. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the sale on April 24, the release said. The move was relayed to the Ukrainians during US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s trip to Kyiv over the weekend.
  • No agreement with Russia on corridor to evacuate Azovstal plant in Mariupol: No agreement on a corridor had been reached with Russia for the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Monday. "Today, the Russian side once again announced the existence of a corridor for civilians to leave Azovstal," she said in a statement on Telegram. "This could be believed if the Russians had not broken the humanitarian corridors many times before. I know what I am saying because, on behalf of the president, I am personally conducting such negotiations and organizing humanitarian corridors. It is important to understand that the humanitarian corridor is opened by agreement of both sides. The corridor, announced unilaterally, does not provide security, and therefore, in fact, is not a humanitarian corridor."
3:47 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

"It all comes from the heart": 21-year-old volunteer delivers food and medicine to frontline towns in Ukraine

From CNN's Mick Krever

Maria Shtern, 21, stands in front of her car which she uses to deliver supplies to frontline towns in Ukraine, on Monday, April 25.
Maria Shtern, 21, stands in front of her car which she uses to deliver supplies to frontline towns in Ukraine, on Monday, April 25. (Mick Krever/CNN)

Day after day, Maria Shtern gets into her rusty Lada car and drives the rutted roads of eastern Ukraine.

Shtern, 21, has been volunteering for more than five years on the frontlines of Ukraine’s conflict with Russia – first with its proxies in the Donbas region, now with its military.

On this sunny spring Monday, in a uniform of camouflage cargo pants and hemp leaf bucket hat, she’s delivering food and medicine to homes to the village of Mykolaivka.

“Many people just do not understand that what was in 2014 in Slovyansk and what can happen now are two very different scenarios,” she told CNN.

Every day, Shtern tries to put herself out of a job, telling her patrons to evacuate.

“I am asking people a specific question: Are you ready to hear your children crying and saying, 'Mom, I’m scared to die?'" she said.

As the Russian military closes in, and commercial supply lines stop, Shtern's deliveries of food and medicine are the only lifeline for many people. The Russians have captured Izium, a nearby urban center, and their artillery is bombarding the town of Lyman, just a few miles down the road.

She weaves though the chicanes of checkpoints, past the husks of buildings destroyed in 2015, and alongside gardens blooming with tulips planted long before people even in this war-torn region could have imagined a full-scale war with Russia.

“There is the expression, ‘Who else but us?’ It all comes from the heart. When you realize that your own home could be taken away from you and you could be killed, or your friends and your family could be killed — you simply have no choice but to do it, she told CNN.”

In Mykolaivka, each resident is faced with the same decision every day: stay or go.

The torment is visible in a woman who approaches us and yells that she has no idea what will happen, but she cannot leave.

“My elderly grandmother, who is 80 and can hardly walk, I can’t leave her. Do you understand? It’s my family. Don’t you have families at home that you can’t leave behind? Not under any circumstances," she tells CNN.

Natalia Maligon is among the residents who have had enough and have chosen to leave.

“My sister woke up this morning and said we had to leave,” she explains as her twin nieces run between the elder branches. “We didn’t want to leave until the last minute, but then something made her want to. So we had to.”

Olha Konovalova contributed reporting to this post.

1:45 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

European Union evacuates 200 Ukrainians in need of urgent medical care 

From CNN’s James Frater in Brussels 

The European Union has evacuated around 200 Ukrainian patients requiring urgent medical care from Ukraine and neighboring countries to hospitals in other European nations, European Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari said on Monday. 

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Ujvari said: “As the war continues, and the population of Ukraine continues to migrate out of the country, the health care systems in neighboring countries are under a great deal of pressure.” 

Following requests from Poland, Slovakia, Moldova and also Ukraine, the EU has transferred Ukrainian patients who need specialized medical help to hospitals in “11 different European countries,” Ujvari explained.  

The transfer of patients has been supported the EU’s first dedicated medical evacuation plane, which has been operational since March. 

4:24 p.m. ET, April 25, 2022

UN secretary general is on his way to Moscow, UN spokesperson says

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is currently on a plane en route to Moscow, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq said Monday.

Guterres will be “received” by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and will have a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He is also scheduled to travel to Kyiv and meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday. 

“It’s important that he [the Secretary-General] is able to talk clearly with the leadership on both sides and see what progress we can make. Ultimately, the end goal is to have a halt to fighting, and to have ways to improve the situation of the people in Ukraine, lessen the threat that they’re under and provide humanitarian aid towards them,” Haq said to reporters during an afternoon press briefing.

Haq also said that while Guterres has not spoken with United States President Joe Biden ahead of his upcoming trip to Moscow and Kyiv, he has spoken with other senior US officials.

“He has been speaking to senior US officials and indeed, many other senior officials by phone in recent days,” Haq said. “He talks to a number of different leaders. I wouldn’t characterize what their discussions are in any particular detail, but certainly, he is apprised of the viewpoints of most of the key governments in terms of what needs to be achieved.”

Haq declined to go into detail Monday about the sort of proposals Guterres is bringing to his meetings but noted that officials from both Ukraine and Russia accepted the itinerary. He added that there is no significance to the Secretary-General visiting Russia before visiting Ukraine. Travel plans remain in flux and it’s possible that Guterres will stop in a third country in between his meetings in Moscow and Kyiv, Haq said.