The security in Europe since the end of World War II is at stake right now, US general says
Top US Gen. Mark Milley told CNN Tuesday that he believes "what's at stake" in this war "is much greater than Ukraine."
"What's at stake is the security, for the security of Europe since the end of World War II. And indeed, you can easily make the case that what's at stake is the global international security order that was put in place in 1945," Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN's Jim Sciutto. "That international order has lasted 78 years. It's prevented great war. And underlining that entire concept is the idea that large nations will not conduct military aggression against smaller nations, and that is exactly what's happened here, by Russia against a smaller nation."
Milley continued by saying that if Russia gets away with its aggression in Ukraine "cost-free," then "so goes the so-called international order."
"If that happens, then we're heading into an era of seriously increased instability," Milley added.
"So right now ... now is the time and right now is the opportunity here to stop aggression and to restore peace and security to the European continent."
10:53 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
Top US general: We want to see a free Ukraine and a "weakened Russia"
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley told CNN that the policy of governments supporting Ukraine is to see the embattled country free and independent and a "weakened Russia."
"At the end of the day, what we want to see, what I think the policy of all of the governments together is a free and independent Ukraine, with the territory intact and their government standing," he said. "I think that's going to involve a weakened Russia."
He added that the unity among western countries is key.
"The unity of the West and the unity of NATO, and indeed, the unity of the globe has probably never been stronger than it is in the face of this unprovoked aggression. That's where we're heading."
10:40 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
US diplomats returned to Ukraine today for first time since Russia's invasion, source says
From CNN's Kylie Atwood
US diplomats returned to Ukraine today for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The diplomats crossed into the country from Poland and traveled to the western city of Lviv for a day trip, according to the source.
The visit comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the US would send diplomats into the country starting this week when he visited the Ukrainian capital over the weekend.
The department plans to reassess the security situation for the diplomats’ day trips into Lviv constantly, the source said.
The department is also reexamining the security situation in Ukraine more broadly after Russia bombed five railway stations in central and western Ukraine on Monday, according to the source and another source familiar with the discussions. The attacks that rocked the railway stations just hours after Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin completed their visit to Kyiv.
“The Kremlin's brutal tactics and utter indifference to human life are appalling. This is the latest example of attacks that have killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure in the Russian government's brutal war against Ukraine,” said a State Department spokesperson when asked about the recent bombings and the plan to send US diplomats back into the country.
“As the secretary said, US diplomats will return to Ukraine this week. We are constantly reassessing and evaluating the security situation with a view toward resuming Embassy Kyiv operations as soon possible to facilitate our support to the government and people of Ukraine as they bravely defend their country,” the spokesperson added.
While US diplomats going into Lviv for day trips to not travel on trains, the sources said, the trains are a critical piece of the Ukrainian fight because they are one way that new military equipment is getting into Ukraine. Russia warned the US against arming Ukraine earlier this month in a diplomatic cable.
Wladimir Klitschko, a member of the key military defense in Ukraine and a former world boxing champion whose brother is the mayor of Kyiv, told CNN’s New Day it is not safe for anyone to be in Ukraine right now, including diplomats.
“If you're on Ukrainian soil, it is not safe for anybody. Eventually, and we'll look forward to have diplomats back in their embassies," Klitschko said Tuesday.
10:16 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
Ukraine begins demolishing Russian friendship monument in Kyiv
From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv
Work has begun in Kyiv on dismantling a monument to "Russian-Ukrainian friendship."
The large monument close to the Dnieper River was erected in 1982 to commemorate the reunification of Ukraine and Russia.
Vilati Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv, said: "The dismantling has started today and we plan to finish it tonight. We are removing the bronze sculpture of two workers, installed in the center of the Ukrainian capital in 1982."
Russia now demonstrated "a barbaric desire to destroy our state and peaceful Ukrainians," Klitschko said.
9:16 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
Bridge over estuary near Odesa hit in missile attack
From Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova
A road and railway bridge across the mouth of the river Dniester in southwest Ukraine has been heavily damaged in an explosion.
The bridge, which is near the city of Odesa, appears to have been damaged by a missile strike.
"Circumstances and information about the victims are being clarified," authorities said.
Images from the scene show extensive damage to the road portion of the bridge.
9:13 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
Japan will provide food and medicine to Ukraine, Kishida tells Zelensky in a phone call
From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo
Japan will provide additional relief supplies such as food and medicine to Ukraine, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said following a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday.
Japan will also increase its diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine together with other G7 nations, Kishida said, adding that Zelensky thanked Japan for its support.
The two discussed the situation in Ukraine, further sanctions against Russia and assistance toward Ukraine.
This is the fourth time the two leaders have spoken by phone this year, said Kishida.
8:44 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
The "sham referendum" in Kherson is straight out of Putin's playbook
From CNN's Ivana Kottasová
Russian troops have taken control of the council in the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Kherson as they prepare to hold a poll on the future of the wider region, asking people to vote on its "independence." Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the plan as a "sham referendum."
It’s a move straight out of Russia’s war playbook.
A similar referendum was held in Crimea in 2014, providing a pretext for Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula just days later.
The UN General Assembly called the Crimean referendum invalid. Western countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union, have also called the annexation and the referendum illegal.
Separately, Russian-backed separatists held their own votes in 2014, after declaring two areas in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region as independent.
The decision by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize these two entities -- self described as the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics -- as independent was seen as the opening salvo in Russia’s war on Ukraine in late February.
Another Russian-supported breakaway region, South Ossetia in Georgia, in March also announced plans to hold referendum on joining Russia. Georgia said such move was "unacceptable."
Following the same script, Russia is now calling for the Kherson region to become "the Kherson People’s Republic."
Kherson is a strategically important city on an inlet of the Black Sea with a population of nearly 300,000. Its citizens have continued defying Russia by staging protests and marches even after occupying forces took over the city center.
President Zelensky has hailed his people’s refusal to give their backing to Russia’s forces.
"People [in occupied towns] have showed with their protest their attitude towards the occupiers; [they have] showed that Ukraine will definitely win," Zelensky said in his nightly video address Monday.
Addressing the referendum planned by the Russians, Zelensky said:
Russia wants to stage a sham 'referendum' somewhere on our land? Even if they try, it will be as shameful as everything else that was 'created' in Moscow to support the occupation of Ukraine."
Russian forces have occupied the Kherson region since the opening weeks of the war, but, according to Kherson regional deputy Yuri Sobolevsky, they have until Monday "allowed" the city hall to function in a "reduced format" under Ukrainian control.
That is no longer the case. Kherson mayor Igor Kolykhaev said on his Facebook page that "armed men entered the building of the Kherson City Council, took the keys and replaced our guards with their own."
8:20 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
Ukrainian officials say eastern regions under heavy attack Tuesday
From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych
Ukrainian officials say that heavy fighting has continued Tuesday in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk regional military administration, said Russian forces had launched missile attacks against the city of Avdiivka, close to the frontlines. "The Central City Hospital, a school, and high-rise buildings were affected," he said.
Kyrylenko said another Russian attempt to attack the nearby town of Mariinka had been repelled. The Russians had also left the town of Krasnohorivka without electricity after damaging a transformer.
"Today the shelling continues almost along the entire front line. At least two civilians are currently known to have died," Kyrylenko said.
In neighboring Luhansk, three civilians died in the town of Popasna when a building collapsed amid heavy shelling, according to Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk region military administration.
"The situation in Popasna is extremely difficult. Street fights in the city continue. The enemy remotely fires heavy weapons. Aviation is constantly bombing the residential area," Hayday said.
Popasna has been on the frontlines for weeks and has sustained extensive damage.
Hayday said 95 residents of the Luhansk region had already been evacuated Tuesday, about half of them from Lysychansk, a town that has been heavily damaged in weeks of shelling.
8:02 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
Norway to allocate $44 million to British-led effort to buy arms for Ukraine
From CNN’s James Frater and Benjamin Brown
Norway will allocate 400 million Norwegian Krone ($44 million) to a British-led initiative to purchase weapons and military equipment for Ukraine, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said Tuesday.
Speaking to the Norwegian parliament, Støre said the move made it possible to support Ukraine with arms that Norway’s military did not have or could not give up.
Donating arms to a party to war was a "new experience" for Norway, the prime minister added.
Some background: Norwegian Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram last week announced that Norway had donated a Mistral air defense system to Ukraine.
Norway had previously donated a total of 4,000 anti-tank missiles and several types of protective equipment as well as other military equipment, according to the Ministry of Defense.