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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4:44 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Explosions damage two radio towers in Moldova’s breakaway region Transnistria

From CNN's Teele Rebane and Hannah Ritchie 

Explosions in Transnistria, Moldova, on April 26.
Explosions in Transnistria, Moldova, on April 26. (Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Transnistrian Moldavian Republic)

Two radio towers in Moldova's unrecognized breakaway territory of Transnistria were damaged by explosions in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Transnistrian Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement.

"In the early morning of April 26, two explosions occurred in the village of Mayak, Grigoriopol district: the first at 6:40 and the second at 7:05," the statement said.

"Law enforcers and Transnistrian emergency services were immediately dispatched to the scene…As of 9 am (local) the two most powerful [radio] antennas are known to be out of order,” it continued, adding that a bomb squad from the Ministry of Defense was undertaking an "investigation."

No radio tower staff or local residents were hurt, according to the ministry.

The site where the explosions occurred is known as the Transnistrian radio and television center, which was built in the 1960s and is one of 14 Soviet-era radio transmitting centers, the statement said.

No information was given about the cause of the explosions.

On Monday, a series of explosions were heard near the Ministry of State Security building in Transnistria’s capital Tiraspol, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

Ukraine described those blasts as a planned provocation by the Russian security services. 

Some background: Transnistria is a breakaway republic in eastern Moldova that borders Ukraine. It has a population of nearly 500,000 and is internationally recognized as part of Moldova.

Russia has maintained a military presence in Transnistria since the early 1990s.

Last week, a top Russian general said Russia intended to establish "full control" over southern Ukraine during the second phase of its invasion, adding that doing so would give its forces access to Transnistria. 

3:04 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022

What is Transnistria and why is it important to Russia?

A view of the city council of Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, Moldova on November 25, 2021.
A view of the city council of Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, Moldova on November 25, 2021. (Alexander Hassenstein/UEFA/Getty Images)

The self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria — which has its own constitution, military, currency and flag but has never been recognized by the international community — could be pulled into Russia's war in Ukraine.

A top Russian general said last week that the military is aiming for "full control" over the eastern Donbas region and southern Ukraine -- and to gain access to Transnistria, the breakaway territory in the neighboring country of Moldova.

TASS quoted the acting commander of Russia's Central Military District Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekaev as saying the goal was to create a land corridor between Donbas and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

On Monday, there were explosions in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, which Ukraine's Defense Ministry called a "planned provocation" by the Russian secret services.

Here's what you need to know about Transnistria, and why it's important to Russia.

A separatist statelet: Transnistria is a narrow sliver of land about 1,350 square miles in size, sandwiched between Ukraine and the rest of Moldova -- only a little larger than Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US.

It is home to about half a million people, most of whom are Russian-speaking.

Some history: Transnistria declared independence from the former Soviet republic of Moldova following a two-year war (1990-1992) that erupted during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russians stepped in to back Transnistria but never recognized it as an independent state. The conflict between the Moldovan government and the separatists ended in a ceasefire in 1992 -- but about 1,500 Russian troops have remained in Transnistria since then.

Russia eyeing Transnistria: The statement by Maj. Gen. Minnekaev, laying out Russia's strategy for the "second phase" of the war, prompted immediate alarm from Moldovan authorities, who summoned the Russian ambassador.

The statements about Transnistria are “unfounded and contradict the position of the Russian Federation supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within its internationally recognized borders," said the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.

It added that during the meeting with the Russian ambassador, Moldovan officials reiterated that the country was a "neutral state and this principle must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation."

Role in the war: Some military analysts suspect Russia plans to lean on Transnistria for logistical support -- and to take advantage of its strategic position, to establish a land corridor along the Black Sea to capture the port city of Odesa.

Watch more here:

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

Ukraine says Russia escalating offensive in south and east, but facing stiff resistance in areas

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Russian forces have stepped up their offensive in both the south and east of the country -- but resistance has been able to push back in some locations, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.

"Russian troops have launched an offensive in all directions," said Alexei Arestovych, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, on Ukrainian television.

Russian forces are focusing particularly on the Kramatorsk and Sloviansk towns in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, and on Kryvyi Rih in the southern Kherson region, he said.

The Russians have held Kherson since the early days of the invasion, and have been trying to push northward from there.  

Russia is also continuing to build up troops in the northeast, intended to partially blockade the heavily hit city of Kharkiv, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said on Tuesday.

It added that Russian forces had tried unsuccessfully to launch attacks elsewhere in the Donetsk region.  

"Over the past 24 hours, six enemy attacks have been repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, four tanks, five artillery systems, thirteen units of armored vehicles, fifteen units of motor vehicles, two tankers and one anti-aircraft gun have been destroyed," the General Staff said.

Russian troops are also conducting an offensive to the south, in the region of Zaporizhzhia, the General Staff said. Ukrainian forces have struck back, destroying a Russian ammunition depot, the military leadership said, claiming that some 70 Russian soldiers had been killed and that the Russians also suffered losses in two settlements south of Kryvyi Rih. 

CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

In the same region, the Southern Command of the Ukrainian Infantry said Russian forces had again tried to advance toward the city of Mykolaiv with increased shelling and artillery but two attacks "were repelled by our units, including the destruction of tanks and an APC (military vehicle)," it said. "The rest of the forces retreated under our fire to the previous positions."

12:14 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Kyiv residents walk around the city on Monday.
Kyiv residents walk around the city on Monday. (Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Heavy fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, with Russian attacks now also targeting parts of the country's central and western regions. Meanwhile, diplomacy efforts are ongoing with the United Nations chief on his way to visit leaders of both countries.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Kherson under control: Russian troops took control of the Kherson City Council on Monday, weeks after first occupying the Ukrainian city. The mayor posted on Facebook that armed men entered the building, "took the keys and replaced our guards with their own." 
  • "Sham referendum": Russia announced it will stage a referendum in the broader occupied Kherson region on Wednesday, asking people to approve the "independence" of a new entity called “the Kherson People’s Republic.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called it a "sham referendum," saying civilians have already shown "their attitude toward the occupiers" by protesting in occupied towns.
  • Curfew in the capital: Kyiv will be placed under a nighttime curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, Monday through Friday, this week to protect civilians from Russia's "provocative actions," said the head of the city's Regional Military Administration. Those working in critical infrastructure or who have a special permit are exempt.
  • UN diplomacy: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is arriving in Moscow on Tuesday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian foreign minister. He will then travel to Kyiv to meet Zelensky and the Ukrainian foreign minister on Thursday.
  • US officials visit: Top US diplomats visited Kyiv on Sunday, pledging US support in the war and announcing that US diplomats would be returning to Ukraine. At a news conference afterward in Poland, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, "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."
  • Assault on the east: Heavy fighting continued in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk on Monday, with one village on the frontlines, Novotoshkivka, now in ruins with homes razed to the ground. There was also a large explosion in the town of Kreminna in Luhansk, though CNN cannot verify the number of casualties or the origin of the explosion. However, the UK Ministry of Defense said on Monday that Russia has only made "minor advances" in the eastern Donbas region, without enough logistical and combat support in place.
  • Fighting elsewhere: Russian forces also struck five railway stations in central and western Ukraine on Monday morning. In the besieged port city of Mariupol, civilians and the last Ukrainian defenders are sheltering at the Azovstal steel plant, with the situation becoming dire as families inside run out of food, water and basic supplies. On Monday, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister said no evacuation agreement had been reached with Russia yet for civilians in the plant.
12:02 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Nighttime curfew declared in Kyiv to protect population from Russia's "provocative actions"

From CNN's Sharif Paget and Mariya Knight

A nighttime curfew has gone into effect in Kyiv from Monday to Friday this week because of Russia's "provocative actions," Oleksandr Pavliuk, the head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration, said in a Telegram post Monday. 

The curfew will last from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time.

"We remind you that during the curfew it is forbidden to be on the street and in other public places, to move by transport or on foot," Pavliuk said. 

Those involved in the work of critical infrastructure who have a special permit and ID are exempt, he said.

"During martial law, it is important to adhere to the requirements and decisions that are implemented on the ground. Such measures help protect the population from the provocative actions of the enemy," Pavliuk added.
12:02 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Weeks after occupying city, Russian troops take control of Kherson City Council, officials say

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Josh Pennington and Natalie Gallon

Weeks after first occupying the major Ukrainian city of Kherson, Russian troops have taken control of the Kherson City Council, according to two members of the city government.

Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhaev said on his Facebook that on Monday night, "armed men entered the building of the Kherson City Council, took the keys and replaced our guards with their own." 

Addressing rumors that the Ukrainian flag that flew over city council had also been taken down, Kolykhaev noted that the flag was still flying over the building when he left.

Yuri Sobolevsky, Kherson regional deputy, described the incident on his Facebook page as a "seizure," saying it was "unfortunately, quite expected."  

"Kherson's city hall was 'allowed' to function in a reduced format for a while, but that time seems to be over, too," Sobolevsky continued

12:12 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Zelensky scoffs at Russia's planned "sham referendum" in occupied Kherson

From CNN's Andrew Carey, Kostan Nechyporenko and Victoria Butenko

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his nightly address, on Monday, April 25.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his nightly address, on Monday, April 25. (Zelensky/Youtube)

Two days ahead of Russia’s plans to stage a referendum in the occupied Kherson region of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed his people’s refusal to give their backing to Russia’s occupying forces.

“People [in occupied towns] have showed with their protest their attitude toward the occupiers; [they have] showed that Ukraine will definitely win,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address on Monday.

“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,” he added.

Russian occupation: Russia has announced it will hold a vote in the southern region of Kherson — which It has occupied since the opening weeks of the war — on Wednesday, in which people will be asked to approve the "independence" of a new entity called “the Kherson People’s Republic.”

Meanwhile, as the war enters its third month, Zelensky said Russia had fired more than 1,100 missiles at Ukrainian targets, in addition to “countless bombs and artillery.”

The Ukrainian president said 931 settlements in Ukraine had been liberated by Ukrainian forces after temporary occupation by Russian forces. 

In addition, since the start of hostilities some 9,781 Ukrainians had been presented with state awards for their defense of their country, and 142 people had been given a ‘Hero of Ukraine’ award.

“The lessons of history are well known. If you are going to build a millennial Reich, you lose. If you are going to destroy the neighbours — you lose. If you want to restore the old empire, you lose. And if you go against the Ukrainians — you lose,” Zelensky said.

EU membership: And he struck an upbeat note about Ukraine’s advance towards possible membership of the European Union, which has become a key goal for the Ukrainian leadership.

Joining the EU: And he struck an upbeat note about Ukraine’s advance towards possible membership of the European Union, which has become a key goal for the Ukrainian leadership.

“We are accelerating our movement to the European Union as much as possible. We have already passed a historic moment, an important stage — with the receipt and answering a special questionnaire, which was provided to each country before they acquired the status of a candidate for EU membership.”
5:29 a.m. ET, April 26, 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.