April 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Jessie Yeung, Andrew Raine, Ben Morse and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 8:21 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
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6:36 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Ukrainian officials claim attacks in and around Moldova suggest Russia is planning a new front of war

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Ukrainian officials are claiming that a spate of unexplained attacks in and around neighboring Moldova suggest Russia may be trying to open a new front in the two-month war.

On Monday, a rocket attack damaged a government security building in the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transnistria inside Moldova. Around 1,500 Russian troops are deployed in Transnistria, ostensibly as a peacekeeping force.

On Tuesday, a communications tower in Transnistria was damaged by unexplained explosions, leading the Moldovan president to call an emergency meeting of the country's security council.

Those two incidents led Ukraine to accuse Russia of planned provocations in Transnistria. 

Ukraine also blamed Russia for firing cruise missiles Tuesday at a bridge across the estuary of the river Dniester. The road and rail bridge links Odesa with the far southwest corner of Ukraine bordering Moldova, and the damage essentially cuts the region off.

Maksym Marchenko, head of the Odesa region military administration, said Russia had used three missiles, one of which had struck the bridge.

"By his actions, the enemy is trying to cut off part of the Odesa region and create tension amid the events" in Transnistria, Marchenko said. 

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, alleged that "the Russian authorities at the level of the highest representatives of the state are declaring that it is necessary to occupy Moldova."

"Today's cruise missile strikes on our southern region may indicate Russia's intentions to add the region of Ukrainian Bessarabia (the far south-west) to all areas of its offensive," he added.

The Ukrainian military's Operational Command "South" said that in the Odesa region, "collaborators and agitators of the 'Russian world'" had been identified amid provocations and allegations that Ukraine was planning to attack Transnistria.

Read more about Transnistria and why is it important to Russia here.

2:26 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

UN says Putin agreed "in principle" to UN and Red Cross involvement in evacuating civilians from Mariupol

From CNN's Laura Ly

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a news conference following their meeting in Moscow, on April 26.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a news conference following their meeting in Moscow, on April 26. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed “in principle” to United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in the evacuation of citizens from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, according to a readout of the UN secretary-general’s Tuesday meeting with Putin in Moscow. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also “reiterated the United Nations’ position on Ukraine, and they [Guterres an Putin] discussed the proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones,” the readout from the UN secretary-general's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.  

Further conversations between UN United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defense Ministry will be had at a later date, the UN said.

1:56 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

US says Russia has tarnished the UN and welcomes veto resolution

From CNN's Laura Ly

The United States called out Russia’s multiple vetoes in the UN Security Council on Tuesday, saying they were “extraordinarily troubled by Russia’s pattern of abusing its veto right over the past decade.” Richard Mills, Jr., deputy US Ambassador to the UN, called Russia’s history of vetoes a “long and shameful list.”

The United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (also referred to as the "P5") and all five countries have veto power. 

“The veto was not intended as a carte-blanche for impunity for the P5. It was not meant to confer automatic protection from accountability in perpetuity,” Mills said Tuesday. “Russia has diminished the role and reputation of the UN Security Council … and has tarnished the UN as a whole.” 

According to Mills, Russia has vetoed: 

  • Resolutions seeking accountability in Syria, including resolutions that would have continued the mandate of the joint-investigative mechanism on chemical weapons
  • A resolution referring the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court 
  • A resolution that would have established a criminal tribunal on the downing of flight MH 17 over Ukraine
  • A resolution when Russia attempted to illegally annex Crimea
  • A Security Council resolution deploring its aggression against Ukraine, deciding that the use of force should end, and deciding on the withdrawal of all Russian forces from the internationally-recognized borders of Ukraine

Gennady Kuzmin, Russian deputy ambassador to the UN, spoke earlier during the UN General Assembly session on Tuesday, stating that they “categorically reject” the approach that the newly-adopted veto resolution takes.  

“The right of the veto for the permanent members of the Security Council is a cornerstone of the United Nations architecture. Without it, the Security Council would become a rubber-stamping body, rubber-stamping questionable decisions imposed by the nominal majority, Kuzmin said. “The decision which was made today, whilst it does have a very pretty packaging is without any doubt an attempt to create an instrument of exerting pressure on the permanent members of the Security Council. And this is an approach that we categorically reject.” 

Serhii Dvornyk, counsellor to the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN, said Tuesday that P5 members have extraordinary power granted to them and that Russia has abused that power. 

“Let me remind that almost every draft resolution in the Security Council on the Russian aggression against Ukraine was blocked. It happened due to the abuse of veto by the country which occupies the Soviet seat in the Security Council, the Russian Federation,” Dvornyk said. “Every veto with respect to crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide is a manifestation of utmost disregard for those who have been killed and injured, as well as those who could be killed – killed in particular, because Russia considers their veto as a greenlight for such crimes," he continued.

1:51 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Putin: Talks with Ukraine achieved "serious breakthrough" but Bucha allegations changed that "drastically"

From Uliana Pavlova and Sugam Pokharel

Relatives of Mykola Moroz, 47, gather during a funeral service at his home at the Ozera village, near Bucha, Ukraine, on April 26.
Relatives of Mykola Moroz, 47, gather during a funeral service at his home at the Ozera village, near Bucha, Ukraine, on April 26. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine had managed to achieve a “serious breakthrough” during talks in Istanbul, Turkey, but the situation changed “dramatically” following the allegations against Russia for crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

“In Istanbul, we managed to achieve a serious breakthrough, because our Ukrainian colleagues did not associate the requirements of security, international security of Ukraine, with such a concept as internationally accepted borders of Ukraine … But, unfortunately, after reaching agreements and after our clearly demonstrated intentions to create conditions for favorable conditions for the continuation of negotiations, we encountered a provocation in the village of Bucha, to which the Russian army has nothing to do,” Putin said, speaking alongside United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Moscow. 

“And the position of our negotiators from Ukraine on a further settlement, it changed dramatically after that. They departed from their previous intentions to put aside the issues of security guarantees and the territories of Crimea, Sevastopol and the republics of Donbass. They just gave up on it,” he continued.

Guterres said he proposed to create a three-party humanitarian group between the UN, Russia, and Ukraine to coordinate cooperation on evacuation corridors in Ukraine.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that possible future talks in Turkey depend on Putin as he reiterated his willingness to participate in talks. 

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Zelenesky, said Thursday that the war in Ukraine "can end in direct talks" between Zelensky and Putin, but he cautioned that he was waiting to assess how Russia's military offensive in the east of the country progresses in the coming days.

Remember: Bucha became a byword for war crimes, after images and accounts of summary executions, brutality and indiscriminate shelling emerged in the wake of Russia's hasty retreat, as the Kremlin shifted its focus away from the Ukrainian capital to the country's east.

Moscow claimed — without evidence — that the atrocities in Bucha were staged, calling it "fake," and part of a "planned media campaign." But witnesses who spoke to CNN said the carnage in the town began weeks ago. There have also been reports of looting, disappearances, and evidence of the indiscriminate killings of civilians since the war began.

Read the full report from Bucha here.

1:09 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Russia struggles to hold referendum in Kherson, succeeds in changing local government, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Andrew Carey, Paul P. Murphy, Julia Presniakova, Olga Voitovytch and Josh Pennington

Ukrainian officials say Russia is running into trouble over plans to hold a referendum in occupied Kherson in Ukraine’s south as early as Wednesday.

Ukraine has said Russia plans to hold a vote in the region to try to win popular support for the creation of a new entity called the Kherson People’s Republic, which would mirror similar entities in Ukraine’s far east, around Donetsk and Luhansk, which were created eight years ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the independence of those two entities in February was among the Russian President’s key announcements in the days leading up to the launch of his attack on Ukraine two months ago.

But on Tuesday morning, Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Vadym Denysenko said that pro-Russian officials were struggling to find enough people to facilitate a popular vote in Kherson.

“They cannot even hold a mock referendum, as they did in 2014 in Luhansk and Donetsk, because they realize they do not have a critical mass of people [to support them], even just to get a picture for TV,” Denysenko said, adding, “Besides, there are no people who will be ready to work at the polling stations.”

Two officials in the region also told CNN that pro-Russian forces were finding it difficult to arrange a planned referendum.

Yurii Sobolevskyi, a deputy head of the Kherson regional council, told CNN that when votes took place in Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014, and in Crimea’s independence referendum the same year, many local officials had supported the pro-Russian initiative. 

“This greatly simplified the task of holding a referendum and absorbing the territories [so they came under Russia’s influence]. It's not like that here,” he said.

Another local official said a lack of support among regional councilors was holding up the preparation of lists of eligible voters and ballot printing but admitted a vote could still take place at some point.

“They will theoretically be able to hold it, but it will take time to prepare,” Hlan Serhii, a Kherson city council deputy, said.

In another development in Kherson on Tuesday, the Ukrainian administrator for the region said that Russian forces had installed a new local government.

Hennadii Lahuta, the Kherson regional administrator, made the announcement in a video posted to his social media accounts. The installation of the new government took place less than 24 hours after Russian forces took control of the Kherson City Council building, removing the elected government and replacing its security with Russian military troops.

According to Lahuta, a meeting was held at the Kherson City Council building on Tuesday, "to install the so-called 'Mayor of the Kherson Regional Administration,' Volodymyr Saldo and the 'Head of the Kherson City Administration,' Oleksandr Kobets." 

Saldo, a former mayor of Kherson, has been accused in the past of cooperating with the Russian KGB but has never been charged. Under martial law, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council banned his party, the Bloc of Volodymyr Saldo, for its alleged ties to Russia.

CNN reached out to Saldo for comment but did not received a response. CNN was unable to reach Kobets for comment. 

The new Russian-installed government in Kherson mirrors similar action in Melitopol, another Russian-occupied city in southern Ukraine. In that city, armed men arrested the elected mayor as Russian troops installed their own mayor, who quickly began making pro-Russian moves, such as mandating the broadcasting of Russian television channels.

1:41 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

It's 8 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

People shelter in the basement of a residential building during a Russian attack in Lyman, Ukraine, on April 26.
People shelter in the basement of a residential building during a Russian attack in Lyman, Ukraine, on April 26. (Leo Correa/AP)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday during a news conference that for the war in Ukraine to come to an end Russian President Vladimir Putin "needs to make a decision to end this conflict." 

"I think the first step is to end this conflict. And I think that what needs to happen to cause the conflict to come to an end is Mr. Putin He's the person that started it," Austin said.

Austin called Putin's decision to attack Ukraine "unjustified." He added that it will be Putin's decision "to de-escalate and then go back to the negotiating table" 

"And we really all would like to see that happen," Austin said. 

Austin thanked the countries that have stepped up to help Ukraine noting, "We don't have any time to waste."

Austin said Germany just announced today that it will send Ukraine 50 anti-aircraft armored vehicles. This announcement came one day after the British government announced that it would provide Ukraine with additional anti-aircraft capabilities as well, Austin said.

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

  • Ukrainian officials say eastern regions under heavy attack Tuesday: 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.
  • 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." Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN's Jim Sciutto, "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 continued by saying that if Russia gets away with its aggression in Ukraine "cost-free," then "so goes the so-called international order."
  • Milley says US wants to see a free Ukraine and a "weakened Russia": Gen. Milley also told CNN Tuesday that the policy of governments supporting Ukraine is to see the embattled country free and independent and a "weakened Russia." Milley said: "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 continued, "I think that's going to involve a weakened Russia." He added that the unity among Western countries is key.
  • Lavrov's comments on nuclear war "completely irresponsible," Milley says: Milley said it was “completely irresponsible” for any senior leader of a nuclear power to start “rattling a nuclear saber” when asked about Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calling the danger of a nuclear war “serious and real.” Milley said, “Any time a senior leader of a nation state starts rattling a nuclear saber, then everyone takes it seriously." Lavrov said Monday that nuclear deterrence is Russia’s “principled position," but he added “the danger is serious, it is real, it cannot be underestimated.”
  • US diplomats returned to Ukraine today for the first time since Russia's invasion began: 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. 
  • Bridge over estuary near Odesa hit in missile attack: 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.
  • "No one wants to see a third world war break out," China's foreign ministry says: China's foreign ministry said Tuesday that "no one wants to see a third world war break out," following Lavrov's comments that the risk of nuclear war was a real danger. In an interview aired on Russian television on Monday, Lavrov was asked about the risks of a third world war in comparison to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. 
  • UN is investigating 300 unlawful killings in Ukraine, head of monitoring mission tells CNN: The UN is investigating 300 unlawful killings in Ukraine, the head of its monitoring mission in the country Matilda Bogner told CNN Tuesday. Speaking on CNN Newsroom, Bogner relayed the scale of civilian atrocities the mission has documented throughout the war so far, including cases of sexual violence and arbitrary detentions. So far the mission has documented up to 5,000 civilian casualties, Bogner said, noting the actual number will be "thousands" higher. Currently, the UN is investigating 150 cases of enforced disappearances.
  • Key US senator says he expects the US will "get further pulled in" to the war against Russia: Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who is a moderate and key swing vote in the Senate, predicted the United States will get further pulled into the war against Russia and said, "We're going to have more troops involved. We're going to be involved. It could be engagements." Manchin added: "As soon as they reach over that line and hit our supply lines coming in from Poland and different NATO countries, we've got to move because we have to defend NATO." The senator said that "we're all in on this one. And I think we're going to get further pulled in than we'd like, but we've got to now, you cannot stop and not support these people and stop Russia there" and noted that "I think that we could be pulled in. I absolutely do ... I hope we don't. I'm praying to God we don't but you can't leave anything off the table." Asked whether the US should be prepared for that, Manchin said, "Well I would hope that we're prepared for that. I mean, we have the ability, and we have a military, and it's unbelievable what we can do." 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 Senate.
12:14 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

US defense secretary denies war in Ukraine is becoming a proxy fight between US and Russia

From CNN's Michael Conte

Asked by a reporter if the war in Ukraine was becoming a proxy war between the United States and Russia, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied that it was and said it is “clearly Ukraine’s fight.” 

“Ukraine’s neighbors and allies and partners are stepping up to make sure they have what they need in order to be successful,” Austin said in a network pool interview. “Ukrainians are there fighting to protect their sovereignty.”

Austin’s comments come after previous remarks that one of the goals of the US was to “weaken” Russia to the point that they would not be able to threaten their allies as they did to Ukraine.

12:28 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

US defense secretary says that Putin "needs to make a decision to end this conflict"

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that for the war in Ukraine to come to an end Russian President Vladimir Putin "needs to make a decision to end this conflict." 

"I think the first step is to end this conflict. And I think that what needs to happen to cause the conflict to come to an end is Mr. Putin He's the person that started it," Austin said.

Austin called Putin's decision to attack Ukraine "unjustified." He added that it will be Putin's decision "to de-escalate and then go back to the negotiating table" 

"And we really all would like to see that happen," Austin said. 

12:29 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

US defense secretary says allies "don't have any time to waste" in providing help to Ukraine

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, on April 26.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, on April 26. (Michael Probst/AP)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin opened his news conference Tuesday by thanking the countries that have stepped up to help Ukraine noting, "We don't have any time to waste."

"The work that we've done together in record time has made a huge difference on the battlefield. President (Volodymyr) Zelensky made that clear when we met Sunday in Kyiv. And countries all around the world have been stepping up to meet Ukraine's urgent needs," Austin said. 

Austin said Germany just announced today that it will send Ukraine 50 anti-aircraft armored vehicles. This announcement came one day after the British government announced that it would provide Ukraine with additional anti-aircraft capabilities as well, Austin said.

"And so that's important We're seeing more every day. And I applaud all the countries that have risen and are rising to meet this demand. The briefings today laid out clearly why the coming weeks will be so crucial for Ukraine," Austin said. "So we've got to move at the And I know that all the leaders leave today more resolved than ever to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression and atrocities. And I know that we're all determined to do even more to better coordinate our efforts." 

The allies will meet monthly to discuss the Ukraine war strategy, Austin said.