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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8:14 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russian forces have made only "minor advances" in eastern Ukraine, but authorities in the country's south-central region have warned Moscow may be planning a new offensive there. Meanwhile, Russian forces have struck five railway stations in central and western Ukraine, according to Ukraine's state railway company.

Here's the latest on Russia's invasion into Ukraine if you're just joining us:

  • Rumors of new Russian offensive: The Zaporizhzhia regional council said it was preparing for defense after reports of Russian forces massing in south-central Ukraine. The city of Zaporizhzhia has been a key way station for evacuees departing the encircled city of Mariupol and Russian-held areas of southern Ukraine. 
  • Russia hits railway stations: 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.
  • Luhansk suffers water and power outages: Heavy Russian shelling means "almost the entire Luhansk region is without water supply," said Serhiy Hayday, head of the regional military administration, adding that 30,000 families were without electricity.
  • Russian progress limited: Russian forces have 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.
  • US visit: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday, making them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since the Russian invasion began. Blinken said during the meeting that US diplomats would return to Ukraine this week.
  • Mariupol under attack: Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were "continuously attacking" the encircled Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol on Orthodox Easter Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russia forces had achieved the "liberation" of Mariupol, but ordered his forces to stop short of taking the Azovstal plant, the last major bastion of Ukrainian defense in the city. 
  • Kherson: The military head of the south-central city of Kryvyi Rih said Sunday that Ukraine had observed preparations for a possible offensive by Russian forces from the Kherson region, adding defenses were being bolstered in the area. In televised remarks, Oleksandr Vilkul said Russian forces were "forming an offensive strike formation in our direction in the Kherson region." Vilkul said the Kryvyi Rih garrison was in a state of readiness and had defenses prepared.
  • UN visit: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “will be received by President Vladimir Putin” on Tuesday in Moscow, after having a working meeting and lunch with the foreign minister of Russia, the UN said. He is also expected to meet Zelensky on Thursday in Ukraine, according to a UN spokesperson.
  • Russia's onslaught: An adviser to Zelensky's administration said Sunday that Russia was "trying to depopulate the east of Ukraine," amid heavy fighting there. Earlier this week, Russia revealed that the goal of its invasion of Ukraine is to take "full control" over southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region, which has been the front line of the country's conflict with Russia since 2014.
8:41 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Analysis: Putin just lost an opportunity to gain a major ally in the West

Analysis from CNN's Joshua Berlinger in Paris

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen gestures as she arrives to speak after the early result projections of the French presidential election runoff were announced in Paris, France, on April 24.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen gestures as she arrives to speak after the early result projections of the French presidential election runoff were announced in Paris, France, on April 24. (Francois Mori/AP)

With Marine Le Pen's loss in the runoff of the French presidential election on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin may have just lost his best shot at getting a major geopolitical partner in the West.

Le Pen has, historically, been a vocal admirer of Putin, even visiting him while campaigning for the presidency in 2017. She is famously critical of France's commitments to the European Union and NATO, and wants France to pull out of the latter's integrated command. Any action along those lines would align with Putin's geopolitical goals of fracturing Western partnerships and alliances, which he views as existential threats to Russia.

Had she won, Putin might have had a future partner inside Europe and NATO and an ally among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is also one.

Le Pen backtracked on her support for Putin after Russia invaded Ukraine, but in a news conference focused on foreign policy held before the election, she said she wanted France to spearhead an approach of “strategic rapprochement" between Russia and NATO once the war in Ukraine ended. Given the West's outrage and unity in response to the Kremlin's invasion, it's highly unlikely the two sides will find common ground any time soon.

She's not done yet: During her concession speech Sunday, Le Pen chose to highlight her strong performance -- she won 41% of the vote -- and looked ahead to June's parliamentary elections in France.

"The historic score of this evening puts us in an excellent position," she said. "The game is not quite over."

Despite her decision to backtrack on her support for Putin, Le Pen's previous positions -- and her party's decision to take out a loan from a Russian-Czech bank several years ago -- almost certainly cost her votes.

Whether those positions will cost her in the next vote remains to be seen.

7:20 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Zaporizhzhia region "preparing for defense," says regional council 

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Worshippers take part in a procession as they mark orthodox easter day at the cathedral of the Holy Protection of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on April 24.
Worshippers take part in a procession as they mark orthodox easter day at the cathedral of the Holy Protection of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on April 24. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

The Zaporizhzhia Regional Council said Monday that the region was "preparing for defense" amid warnings that Russian forces were readying an offensive in the south-central part of Ukraine. 

"The enemy is preparing for the offensive," the council said in a statement. "Occupying Russian troops have gathered a lot of equipment and personnel on the section of the front line Velyka Novosilka - Novodarivka - Malynivka. The enemy is trying to move in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, but no success. Location of forces at the front has not changed."

The city of Zaporizhzhia has been a key way station for evacuees departing the encircled city of Mariupol and Russian-held areas of southern Ukraine. 

The council said an evacuation column had departed from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol, but lost communication less than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the town of Manhush, west of Mariupol.

Evacuation columns have been hampered by active fighting and have been held frequently at Russian checkpoints. 

"Zaporizhzhia is preparing for defense," the statement added. 
6:01 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

It's 1 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russian forces continue to target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, shelling five railway stations on Monday morning as well as causing widespread water and power outages in the eastern Luhansk region.

Here's the latest on Russia's invasion into Ukraine if you're just joining us:

  • Russia hits railway stations: 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 Oleksandr Kamyshin, chairman of Ukrzaliznytsia, Ukraine's state railway company.
  • Luhansk suffers water and power outages: Heavy Russian shelling means "almost the entire Luhansk region is without water supply," said Serhiy Hayday, head of the regional military administration, adding that 30,000 families were without electricity.
  • Russian progress limited: Russian forces have 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.
  • US visit: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday, making them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since the Russian invasion began. Blinken said during the meeting that US diplomats would return to Ukraine this week.
  • Mariupol under attack: Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were "continuously attacking" the encircled Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol on Orthodox Easter Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russia forces had achieved the "liberation" of Mariupol, but ordered his forces to stop short of taking the Azovstal plant, the last major bastion of Ukrainian defense in the city. 
  • Kherson: The military head of the south-central city of Kryvyi Rih said Sunday that Ukraine had observed preparations for a possible offensive by Russian forces from the Kherson region, adding defenses were being bolstered in the area. In televised remarks, Oleksandr Vilkul said Russian forces were "forming an offensive strike formation in our direction in the Kherson region." Vilkul said the Kryvyi Rih garrison was in a state of readiness and had defenses prepared.
  • UN visit: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “will be received by President Vladimir Putin” on Tuesday in Moscow, after having a working meeting and lunch with the foreign minister of Russia, the UN said. He is also expected to meet Zelensky on Thursday in Ukraine, according to a UN spokesperson.
  • Russia's onslaught: An adviser to Zelensky's administration said Sunday that Russia was "trying to depopulate the east of Ukraine," amid heavy fighting there. Earlier this week, Russia revealed that the goal of its invasion of Ukraine is to take "full control" over southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region, which has been the front line of the country's conflict with Russia since 2014.
8:41 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

OSCE calls for immediate release of 4 of its detained officials in eastern Ukraine

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid attends a media conference after meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on January 13, in Vienna, Austria.
OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid attends a media conference after meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on January 13, in Vienna, Austria. (Michael Gruber/Getty Images)

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has called for the immediate release of four members of its Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine who have been “detained in non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk" in the country's east.

“The detention of SMM national mission members in Donetsk and Luhansk is unacceptable, and we call for their immediate release,” OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Zbigniew Rau said in a statement late Sunday. 

The OSCE announced several of its staff members were being held on Saturday but hasn't confirmed publicly who is responsible for their detention -- however, the non-government areas of Donetsk and Luhansk are controlled by Russian-backed separatists. 

On Monday, a spokesperson for OSCE told CNN they were "still working to secure the release of their mission staff."

The SMM is an unarmed civilian division of the OSCE tasked with observing and reporting on conflict zones; it has maintained a presence in Ukraine since 2014 at the request of the government, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. 

On March 31, the OSCE SMM’s mandate in Ukraine expired after Russia -- which is one of the organization’s 57 participating States -- blocked its extension, but the SMM has continued to operate in an administrative capacity in Ukraine. 

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid said SMM staff had been subjected to “intimidation, harassment and hostile public rhetoric” in the Russian-backed separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk following the collapse of the mandate. 

“I condemn the deplorable acts of intimidation, harassment, and hostile public rhetoric against the SMM and mission staff in non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. All our national mission members remain OSCE officials and should be afforded functional immunity, including during this period when the mandate has lapsed,” Schmid said.
8:42 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Power and water outages throughout Luhansk region, regional military governor says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Internally displaced people wait for food distribution in a bunker at a factory in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 22.
Internally displaced people wait for food distribution in a bunker at a factory in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 22. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

The Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine has seen extensive cuts to water and power supply due to heavy Russian shelling, said Serhiy Hayday, head of the regional military administration.

There had been "7,500 more power outages, almost the entire Luhansk region is without water supply," Hayday said in a statement on Telegram on Monday. "In the last 10 days, 10 settlements have seen power cut off due to Russian shelling, nine of which have been completely cut off. That makes 30,000 families without electricity. In the past day alone, 7,500 apartments and private houses were cut off."

Hayday said Russian forces had shifted to destroying infrastructure because of a lack of progress on the battlefield. 

"In total, 39 settlements have had power cuts, 26 completely and 13 partially," he said, adding that "121,746 consumers are without electricity."

Due to power cuts, pumping stations that supply water to Severodonetsk and Popasna district have been shut down, and water supply infrastructure in Rubizhne, Popasna, and nearby villages is also damaged, Hayday said.

8:42 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Russia strikes 5 railway stations in central and western Ukraine, head of Ukraine state railways says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge, Petro Zadorozhnyy and Sofiya Harbuziuk in Lviv

Oleksandr Kamyshin, chairman of Ukrzaliznytsia -- Ukraine's state railway company -- said Monday that Russian forces had struck five railway stations in central and western Ukraine.

"Russian troops continue to systematically destroy railway infrastructure," he said in a statement. "This morning, within one hour, five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were struck."

Kamyshin said at least 16 passenger trains would be held. He added that there were casualties, without providing specifics. 

In a separate statement, Ukrzaliznytsia said there was no power on the Shepetivka - Koziatyn, Zhmerynka - Koziatyn, and Koziatyn - Fastiv lines, forcing delays. 

Maksym Kozytskyy, the head of the Lviv regional military administration, gave details earlier Monday of a Russian strike that damaged a railway station in western Ukraine.

"Today, on April 25 at about 08:30 am, as the result of a missile attack, an explosion occurred at a substation of the Krasne railway station," he said. "Units of the State Emergency Service are working on the site and extinguishing the fire."

 Kozytskyy said there was no information on casualties at this stage. 

According to Kozytskyy, one of the incoming weapons was downed by anti-aircraft missile troops of the Air Command West of Ukraine's air force. He said the missiles were launched into Ukraine from the southeast, saying Russian forces likely launched them from strategic bombers.

Some context: The Ukrainian rail system -- one of the world's largest -- has become a vital cog in the country's war effort, ferrying essential supplies in, and desperate civilians out of harm's way.

Earlier this month, at least 50 people, including five children, were killed after Russian forces carried out a missile strike on a railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, which was being used by civilians trying to flee the fighting.

By mid-March, barely three weeks into the war, the network said it had moved more than 2.1 million passengers domestically, plus roughly quarter of a million more who'd gone to Poland. Many more have followed since. Some train cars have been refitted to carry medical supplies to the front lines and the wounded to hospitals.

Not only is the railway having to coordinate military and passenger trains, as well as aid shipments, but freight routes are also being ramped up. The Russians have cut off Ukrainian access to many Black Sea ports, which is how nearly 95% of agricultural output is normally shipped to markets abroad.

Now, Ukrainian Railways is attempting to compensate by sending more trains to Europe loaded with grain and produce. That's no small feat, considering Ukrainian tracks have a different gauge size than most European countries, so cargo has to be reloaded at the border.

4:50 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Putin congratulates Macron on French election win 

From CNN's Radina Gigova

French President Emmanuel Macron celebrates with thousands of his supporters in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, as he wins the French presidential election on April 24.
French President Emmanuel Macron celebrates with thousands of his supporters in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, as he wins the French presidential election on April 24. (Siavosh Hosseini/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his re-election as President of France in a statement Monday. 

“I sincerely wish you success in your state activities, as well as good health and well-being,” reads the message, published by the Kremlin.

Macron won the French presidential election with 58.55% of the votes, according to results posted by the French Ministry of Interior Sunday night.

His right-wing rival Marine Le Pen took 41.45% of the vote.

8:23 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

US defense secretary: Ukraine can win the war "if they have right equipment, support"

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie in Hong Kong

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks with reporters on April 25, in Poland, after returning from a weekend trip to Kyiv, Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks with reporters on April 25, in Poland, after returning from a weekend trip to Kyiv, Ukraine. (Alex Brandon/Reuters)

The US believes Ukraine can win the war against Russia with “the right equipment and the right support,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters Monday, from an undisclosed location in Poland near the Ukrainian border. 

“In terms of their ability to win — the first step in winning is believing that you can win. And so, they believe that we can win. We believe that we — they — can win, if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we're going to do everything we can and continue to do everything we can,” Austin told reporters. 

Some context: Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Kyiv on Sunday where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials, making them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since Russia's invasion began.