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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7:29 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

UK prime minister says he doesn't expect Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he does not expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

When asked during a sit-down interview with Britain’s "Talk TV" if he fears that Putin may use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine if Moscow faced defeat in its ongoing invasion, Johnson said that he does not share the same worry.

Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that nuclear deterrence is Russia’s “principled position," but he added that “the danger is serious, it is real, it cannot be underestimated.”

Johnson said Putin had the “political space” to be able to back down and withdraw from Ukraine.  

“[Putin] could come to a point, when you look and say to the Russian people: The military technical operation that we launched in Ukraine has been accomplished. We had to go into to accomplish certain protectors to protect the rights of certain people that’s been done,” Johnson said.

5:45 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Ukrainian president says Russia has no right to "blackmail the world" with the threat of nuclear weapons

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey and Jennifer Deaton

(Aleksey Filippo/AFP/Getty Images)
(Aleksey Filippo/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about Russia and nuclear weapons while criticizing recent Russian troops’ operations at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on Tuesday during a joint news conference in Kyiv with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Mariano Grossi.

“Today on the 36th anniversary of the disaster at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, again the world was just a step from disaster because for the Russian troops, the plant and the entire was just another combat action zone where they didn’t care for nuclear safety,” Zelensky said. 

Zelensky accused the Russian troops of operating with little regard to nuclear danger and of looting and damaging several areas of the plant, including the system control center and laboratory. 

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine was occupied by Russian forces just a few weeks ago and is now back under Ukrainian control. 

He warned that their carelessness signals the danger of Russia using nuclear weapons.  

“Given the level of the threat, we believe Russia has no right to turn nuclear energy into weapons and blackmail the world with the use of nuclear weapons,” Zelensky said. 

During the news conference, Zelensky personally thanked the staff members who stayed to maintain the plant as the Russian troops occupied. The staff was offered medals for their work. 

Zelensky and Grossi discussed the current level of nuclear threat and damage to the facilities. 

Grossi said he agreed that the IAEA would continue to work to restore the capacity and infrastructure that was damaged in recent weeks. 

“In spite of these difficulties, it’s important to look into the future, look into peace, the moment that Ukraine will regain its peace, its tranquility, and the safety that all its citizens deserve,” Grossi said.

Grossi made a working visit to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, marking 36 years since an explosion there “spread a radioactive cloud over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” as the UN describes it. 

Nearly 8.4 million people in the three countries are known to have been exposed to the radiation, the UN also says. 

The IAEA chief said of the visit, “We are marking the day. We are remembering what needs to be remembered. We are paying respect and honor to those who deserve it, but we are working.”  

During the working visit, the IAEA delivered a first batch of equipment, including radiation-monitoring equipment, Grossi said. IAEA safety inspectors are working closely with their Ukrainian counterparts to monitor and compare radiation measurements at the plant and the exclusion zone and then maintain a presence “for as long as the situation requires,” Grossi added, while speaking on scene to reporters. 

When asked by one reporter how close Chernobyl had been to another disaster while under Russian occupation, Grossi said that while the situation was “completely different” than the 1986 explosion with a then working nuclear reactor, that it still “could have developed into an accident.” 

All credit for avoiding a worse fate was due to the operators, the IAEA chief said. 

“I think the first credit must go to the operators. To these people here, because they carried on their work in spite of all the difficulties. In spite of the stress, in spite of the fact that they could not be working normally," he said

8:21 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022

US Department of Defense establishes control center for Ukraine military aid in Germany, official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

The Department of Defense has established a control center to coordinate shipments and “streamline the delivery” of military assistance to Ukraine with both US and allied forces in Stuttgart, Germany, within the US European Command area of responsibility, a senior US defense official told reporters on Tuesday.

The EUCOM Control Center of Ukraine, or ECCU, is based at US European Command headquarters in Stuttgart and is run by a US two-star admiral, the official said. The center works closely with what the US military calls the international donor coordination center, or IDCC, which is run by a one-star general from the United Kingdom, the official added.

“This was set up to support this security system’s efforts,” the official said. 

The control center, along with US personnel, includes staff from 15 other supporting nations in Stuttgart, the official said. The control center will also manage the network of more than 40 partner and allied nations that met in Germany earlier Tuesday and are providing assistance to Ukraine, the official said. 

This new group of allies will meet once a month, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced earlier Tuesday. The first meeting was hosted by Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Tuesday.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described who runs the EUCOM Control Center of Ukraine. It is run by a US two-star admiral.

6:36 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Ford will take "long view" on Russia and is in no rush to reopen business once Ukraine conflict ends

From CNN's Robert North

American motor company Ford will be in no rush to reopen its Russian businesses, whatever happens with the conflict in Ukraine, according to Bill Ford, the company's executive chair.

Speaking to CNN's Richard Quest, the boss of the carmaker said that it would take the “long view” on Russia.

“There will be a new Russia one day. But it will take a little time to sort out what that means and we'll take our time with that. It's important that that we do get the human rights equation correct. And that, that we feel that the country is headed in the right path," Bill Ford explained.

Ford suspended its Russian operations indefinitely on March 1. The motor company has a 50% stake in Ford Sollers, a joint venture between the American automaker and Russian company Sollers.

Ford Sollers operated three plants in Russia and employed around 4,000 people. Bill Ford said the move was the “right thing to do” even though it affected employees who weren’t part of Russian politics.

4:39 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

US forces have had close encounters with drones on Belarusian border, defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

There have been close encounters between US forces and “Russian armaments,” specifically unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, during the ongoing war in Ukraine, a US defense official said during a background briefing with reporters on Tuesday. 

“There’s been a couple of occurrences of UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles, that have really been near the border of Belarus, that are near some of our forces,” the official said. 

The official added that these instances of drones getting close to US forces did not cause the US “alarm,” but “yes that has occurred.”

“Nothing that has caused us alarm, or nothing that we wouldn’t be ready for, but yes that has occurred,” the official said.

The official could not say if the drones were Belarusian or Russian, but, “either way we consider them a threat.”

4:38 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Russia will suspend gas supplies to Poland starting Wednesday, Polish state-run gas firm says

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel, Anna Odzeniak, Uliana Pavlova and David Goldman

A view of giant tubes part of one of the physical exit points at the compressor gas station of the Yamal–Europe gas pipeline on February 19, in Wloclawek, Poland.
A view of giant tubes part of one of the physical exit points at the compressor gas station of the Yamal–Europe gas pipeline on February 19, in Wloclawek, Poland. (Omar Marques/Getty Images/FILE)

In a dramatic escalation of tensions with the West, Russian energy giant Gazprom informed Poland’s state-run gas firm PGNiG that it will “entirely suspend” gas supplies along the Yamal pipeline starting Wednesday morning, PGNiG said in a statement on Tuesday. 

“On April 26, Gazprom informed PGNiG of its intention to entirely suspend deliveries under the Yamal contract at the beginning of the contract day on April 27,” the statement read.    

The news sent US natural gas futures up about 3% Tuesday. 

Gazprom did not confirm that the supply of Russian gas to Poland had been stopped, Russian state news agency TASS reported Tuesday, citing the company’s spokesperson Sergey Kupriyanov. 

Kupriyanov however emphasized that Poland must pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles, a demand Warsaw has refused. 

Russia delivered an ultimatum last month to "unfriendly" nations to pay for their energy in rubles starting April 1 or risk being cut off from vital supplies. But the flow of gas has continued. The Kremlin said payments for gas being delivered at the time of its announcement would fall toward the end of April or the beginning of May, which is why Russia didn’t immediately shut off the flow of gas to Europe. 

Putin's high-stakes threat has sent shockwaves through Europe, which cannot keep its economy running for long without Russian energy. Moscow sent a clear signal that it could at some point reduce natural gas flows — perhaps to deter or respond to even tougher Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine. 

PGNiG said it’s prepared to obtain gas from various directions, including through gas connections on the western and southern borders and the liquefied natural gas terminal (LNG) in the northwest Polish port city of Swinoujscie. 

It also said its underground gas storage is almost 80% full. 

“The balance sheet is supplemented by domestic gas production and fuel reserves accumulated in underground gas storage facilities. Currently, the warehouse filling level is around 80% and is significantly higher than in the corresponding period in previous years,” it added.  

The Polish gas firm said that all deliveries to customers are currently being carried out in accordance with their needs, adding that the company is monitoring the situation and are prepared for various scenarios. 

Poland's Climate Minister Anna Moskwa affirmed on Tuesday that there will be no shortage of gas in Poland despite Russia's halt of exports.  

“Poland has the necessary gas reserves and sources of supply that protect our security - we have been effectively independent of Russia for years,” she said in a tweet.  

“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” the minister wrote. 

  

4:10 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

UN secretary-general's meeting with Putin lasted about 1 hour, spokesperson says 

From CNN's Laura Ly

Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images
Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

The meeting between United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday lasted about an hour, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the secretary-general, said during a news briefing. 

While part of the meeting included aides, part of the meeting was also one-on-one between Guterres and Putin, Haq said.

Haq also said that work to establish a humanitarian contact group and a specific effort with the Red Cross to assist people in Mariupol, Ukraine, will start “on the ground as soon as we can.”

“It is important to get this moving as quickly as we can, so that is what we’ll proceed to do,” Haq said.

CNN’s Liam Reilly contributed reporting to this post.

3:24 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

US State Department confirms temporary return of some diplomats to Lviv Tuesday

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Christian Sierra

The deputy chief of Mission for the US Embassy in Ukraine and members of the embassy team traveled to Lviv Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Speaking at a State Department briefing, Price said the embassy team “met with interlocutors from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” 

“Today's travel was a first step ahead of more regular travel in the immediate future,” he said, noting it was temporary for now. 

“We're accelerating preparations to resume embassy Kyiv operations just as soon as possible," Price continued.

He said the State Department is “constantly assessing and evaluating and reassessing the security situation with a view towards resuming those embassy operations as soon as possible again to facilitate our support to the government and people of Ukraine as they bravely defend their country.”

3:25 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Russia remains focused on attempts to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east, adviser to Zelensky says

From CNN's Andrew Carey, Julia Presniakova and Kostan Nechyporenko

Russia remains focused on attempts to surround Ukrainian forces in the east of the country, a Ukrainian presidential advisor said Tuesday.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia’s main efforts in the east were around the towns of Popasna, Severodonetsk and Rubizhne, with further fighting around Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

“Although the enemy resorted to powerful artillery and airstrikes, our troops successfully maneuver and repel attacks,” Arestovych said.

Regional officials also announced what they said was the first successful evacuation from the village of Bilohorivka, which has seen frequent shelling in the last week.

Oleksiy Smyrnov, from the Donetsk regional administration, said 49 people, among them eight children, had been moved out of the village under Russian fire and taken by train to safety in western Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in nearby Kreminna, which was captured by Russian forces last week, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Hayday hinted at significant Russian casualties when two buildings in the city exploded on Monday.

The blasts — at the city council buildings and another building used by Russian forces – were both caused by gas explosions, Hayday said.  

“There are huge losses. The so-called people's mayor died in the city hall building. We are still finding out what happened, there were a lot of people [inside the buildings],” he said.