By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Jessie Yeung, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Ben Morse, Jeevan Ravindran and Ed Upright, CNN
Updated 0406 GMT (1206 HKT) April 28, 2022
1:54 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022
UN secretary-general to meet with Ukrainian president on Thursday, UN says
From CNN's Mirna Alsharif
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a briefing on Wednesday.
Guterres traveled Wednesday morning from Poland to Ukraine and recently arrived in Kyiv, where he will meet Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday, Haq said.
"We expect him to speak to the press as well," said Haq about Guterres during Thursday's meeting.
Haq said Thursday's meeting will "be a joint one" but did not specify who will be joining Guterres in the meeting with Zelenskyy and Kuleba. Haq also did not mention what time of day the meeting will take place.
The secretary-general was received by Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday evening in Poland and briefed him on his meetings in Moscow and Ankara, Haq also said.
"The Secretary-General expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude to the President for the generosity of the Polish people for the manner in which they opened their homes and their hearts to almost two million Ukrainian refugees," said Haq.
4:04 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022
What it's like in the city of Severodonetsk, with Russia just kilometers away
From CNN's Mick Krever and Olha Konovalova
An artillery shell screams overhead driving Oleksandr underground into into a warren of basement rooms into darkness. When the light comes on, a family is revealed. Igor, a boy with bloodshot eyes, sits on the edge of his a bed. In silence.
Most people have left the city of Severodonetsk in Ukraine's Luhansk region. It’s about as far to the east as Ukrainian-controlled territory goes these days. The Russian military is just a couple of kilometers away.
The artillery is so close that you can hear it launch, whistle through the air, and explode and a couple seconds later close to city’s hospital.
Oleksandr is a widower. An artillery round hit his house on April 1. Since then, he’s been living in the basement more or less continuously. He emerges only to cook meals in an apartment, where mercifully he still has gas supply.
“All the days are similar, we don’t count them anymore,” he says. “They pass and pass. Nothing depends on us.”
Like many in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, he thought he knew what war meant. It’s been raging here on the border with a separatist region since 2014. His house was also hit that year, burned to the ground.
“I’ve been through it. The only thing is that when it all started full-scale like this, I had no idea it could be like this," he said.
Oleksandr’s lifeline is Bogdan, a police officer from Severodonetsk’s sister city across the river, Lysychansk.
His 4x4 Lada is packed with boxes of food, medicine and any other special requests that have been made of him that day. He races his little jeep through the canyons of the city’s Soviet towers.
The near empty quiet on the streets frequently shattered by incoming shells. The aftermath of artillery strikes is every to see – in missiles embedded in the street, shattered windows, and blackened walls.
There are odd signs of normality: A elderly woman in a colorful sweater carries her groceries home. A young girl holds her mother’s hand as they walk past a playground painted in Ukrainian yellow and blue.
Bogdan drives down narrow alleyways, and pulls up to doorways whose stillness belies the life that lies below.
“Water is our problem,” one woman says to Bogdan as he carries boxes inside. “And candles. Because the light is out of order.”
A woman in a purple fleece, Olga, comes down the staircase from her apartment.
“I have double hell,” she explains. “My husband is dying. For two months he has lost a lot of weight. A living corpse. That’s why it’s very scary.”
Another door opens. Another middle-aged woman, another “Olga.” She wraps herself in a red shirt as she steps into the hallway. When there’s a “big bang,” they go to the basement, she explains. Otherwise, they stay at home.
There are 20 people left in the building. She says she will stay.
“I have sore feet. I walk with a stick. I have a dog. Nobody needs us anywhere. We’re needed only in our place. We’ll wait for it to be over," she said.
12:31 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022
The war in Ukraine sparks biggest commodity shock in half a century, World Bank says
From CNN’s Matt Egan
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has contributed to a historic shock to commodity markets that will keep global prices high through the end of 2024, according to the World Bank.
The spike in energy prices over the past two years is the biggest since the 1973 oil crisis, while the jump in food prices is the most since 2008, the World Bank said Tuesday in its commodity markets outlook report.
“Overall, this amounts to the largest commodity shock we’ve experienced since the 1970s,” said Indermit Gill, the World Bank’s vice president for equitable growth, finance and institutions.
Russia is a leading exporter of oil, natural gas and coal, while Ukraine is a major source of wheat and corn. The situation has been exacerbated by soaring fertilizer costs and price spikes for key metals.
After nearly doubling last year, energy prices are expected to jump more than 50% this year before easing in 2023 and 2024, the World Bank said. Food prices will soar by 22.9% this year, highlighted by a 40% rise in wheat prices, according to the report.
“These developments have started to raise the specter of stagflation,” the World Bank warned. “Policymakers should take every opportunity to increase economic growth at home and avoid actions that will bring harm to the global economy."
Prices are expected to stay at “historically high levels” through the end of 2024, the World Bank said.
The fear is that high prices for necessities will hit low-income families the hardest.
“The resulting increase in food and energy prices is taking a significant human and economic toll – and it will likely stall progress in reducing poverty,” Ayhan Kose, director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, said in the report.
12:29 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Vice president of private Russian bank quits and plans to join territorial defense forces in Ukraine
From CNN's Anna Chernova
Igor Volobuev, vice president of Gazprombank, one of Russia’s largest private banks and part of the Gazprom holding, quit his post and left Russia in dissent over the war in Ukraine and is planning to join the Kyiv territorial defense, he told in an interview with an independent Russian online publication "The Insider."
“I could no longer be in Russia. I am Ukrainian by nationality, I was born in Akhtyrka, I could no longer observe from the outside what Russia is doing to my homeland,” Volobuev said in a video posted by "The Insider" on YouTube.
In the video, Volobuev claimed he managed to get to Kyiv despite holding a Russian passport and said he wants “to stay in Ukraine until the victory.”
Explaining his departure, Volobuev said, “My homeland is in danger now, and I cannot live a well-fed, contented life while my father, who lives in Akhtyrka, is being killed, when my relatives, acquaintances, friends are being killed.” Volobuev’s father spent a month in a cold basement but is now safe, he added.
Volobuev added that he has been thinking about fighting for Ukraine and joining Ukrainian territorial defense since the start of the war on Feb. 24.
“This is a crime on the part of Putin, the Russian authorities, and, in fact, the Russian people,” Volobuev said referring to the atrocities and war crimes committed in Ukraine.
According to Volobuev, he had been working at Gazprombank for the last 6 years and previously at Gazprom for over 16 years.
CNN has reached out to Gazprombank for a confirmation.
12:38 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Homeland Security secretary urges Ukrainians to use new refugee program instead of trying to enter US border
From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez and Christian Sierra
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized Wednesday the newly established streamlined process for Ukrainians seeking to come to the United States, adding that Ukrainians shouldn’t travel to the US-Mexico border to gain entry.
“We believe that if indeed Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine want to come to the United States and seek relief, humanitarian relief here in the United States, the most effective and efficient and assured process is to actually proceed through our means that I have outlined directly and not seek to go to the southern, to Mexico and enter through a port of entry. That is not the way to do it,” Mayorkas told a US House panel Wednesday.
The administration, Mayorkas said, is trying to convey the message to Ukrainians in the US and abroad about how to use the streamlined process, known as Uniting for Ukraine, that launched this week.
CNN reported last week that the humanitarian parole program will require Ukrainians seeking entry to the US to be sponsored by a US citizen or individual, which would include resettlement organizations and non-profit organizations.
"This program will be fast. It will be streamlined. And it will ensure the United States honors its commitment to go to the people of Ukraine and (they) need not go through our southern border," US President Joe Biden said last Thursday when announcing the program while delivering an update on Ukraine and Russia.
The Ukrainian applicants will need to undergo rigorous security vetting and checks, including biographic and biometric screening, and complete vaccinations and other public health requirements, including receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, to be eligible. Ukrainians must have also been residents in Ukraine as of February 11.
Where things stand at the border: The Department of Homeland Security processed more than 20,000 Ukrainians at the US-Mexico border and granted them humanitarian parole since March 11, when officials began exempting them on a case-by-case basis following Russia’s invasion, according to a court declaration.
Mayorkas told lawmakers that the department surged resources to the California-Mexico border, where hundreds of Ukrainians gathered, to help with processing.
“We have focused resources on the port of entry at San Ysidro with a majority of Ukrainians who flew to Mexico with the hope of entering the United States assembled. We have drawn down that population of Ukrainians dramatically. We surged resources of US Customs and Border Protection,” Mayorkas said.
CNN's Arlette Saenz and Kate Sullivan contributed reporting to this post.
10:48 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Putin vows "lightning-fast" response to any foreign interference in Ukraine
From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Anastasia Graham-Yooll
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that any country interfering in Ukraine would be met with a “lightning-fast” response from Moscow.
“If someone intends to intervene into the ongoing events (in Ukraine) from the outside and creates unacceptable strategic threats for us, then they should know that our response to those strikes will be swift, lightning fast,” Putin said during an address to lawmakers in St Petersburg.
“We have all the tools for this — ones that no one can brag about. And we won't brag. We will use them if needed. And I want everyone to know this,” he added.
He did not provide further details on the "tools" he was referring to.
“All the decisions have been made in this regard,” Putin told lawmakers, vowing to achieve “all the goals” of the Russian “special operation” in Ukraine.
This post has been updated to reflect the timing of Putin's comment.
10:11 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Luhansk bears brunt of heavy artillery and rockets attacks
From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Julia Kesaieva
Parts of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine have endured intense attacks over the past 24 hours, according to regional officials.
Serhiy Haidai, head of the regional military administration, said a woman died in shelling that hit the hospital in Severodonetsk, a city that has seen widespread destruction after weeks of attacks.
"They [the Russians] wanted to finish off the wounded," Haidai said. "The Russians knew that the hospital was not empty, there were patients in different conditions with doctors; it did not stop them."
"The destruction of the building is significant. Several floors were damaged at once," he added.
A CNN team in the city Wednesday heard frequent artillery barrages, which local police said were around the hospital.
Ukrainian officials said that almost the entire territory of the Luhansk region suffered from shelling over the past 24 hours, with the worst hitting Rubizhne and Lysychansk. The Russians have been trying to force the towns' surrender for weeks.
The shelling had destroyed gas pipelines to most of the region, Haidai said. "The gas companies repairing damaged areas every single day. Gas is supplied to only six towns and villages."
Mykola Khanatov, head of Popasna city military administration, told Ukrainian television that there were just three words to describe the situation there: horror, sorrow, pain.
"Still around 2,000 people remain in Popasna. We are trying to organize the evacuation every day. We evacuate around 50 people daily. But unfortunately, we only control half of the city, the other half is occupied," Khanatov said, adding that there had been an airstrike on a nine-story building on Tuesday night, and it collapsed. Rescue work was continuing.
"Popasna is Armageddon. Nothing is working there right now: there's no gas, electricity or water. There are no doctors," Khanatov said.
The Luhansk authorities said one person had been killed in nearby Hirske.
"Russian troops are continuously shelling the settlements of the Hirske Community starting from 5 a.m. They are using GRAD [rockets] and artillery," Haidai said.
11:52 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Poland and Bulgaria are receiving gas from EU neighbors, European Commission president says
From CNN’s James Frater in Brussels
Poland and Bulgaria are receiving gas from their EU neighbors, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
In a statement, von der Leyen called it “another provocation from the Kremlin" and accused Moscow of using gas to "blackmail" the bloc.
"This is something the European Commission has been preparing for, in close coordination and solidarity with Member States and international partners. Our response will be immediate, united and coordinated," she said in a statement. “First, we will ensure that Gazprom’s decision has the least possible impact on European consumers. Today, Member States met in the Gas Coordination Group. Poland and Bulgaria updated us on the situation. Both Poland and Bulgaria are now receiving gas from their EU neighbours."
The official also stressed the need for reliable energy partners, promising the end of the era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe.
Further in her statement, she committed to ensuring a plan for the "medium term" for sufficient gas supply and storage, and also looked forward to investing in a "green transition."
“In the longer term, REPowerEU will also help us move to a more reliable, secure and sustainable energy supply. We will present our plans to speed up the green transition in mid-May. Every euro we invest in renewables and energy efficiency is a down payment on our future energy independence," she said.
Bulgaria is "in constant communication" with the European Commission as "joint supplies at the EU level are being discussed," Bulgaria's Energy Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
Speaking at a briefing in the capital Sofia, Bulgaria's Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said "the consumption of natural gas in Bulgaria is guaranteed for at least a month ahead and at the moment there is no need to limit consumption."
Nikolov said a warning from Russia's Gazprom was received on Tuesday that said supplies would be interrupted. He said under the current contract, Bulgaria's gas operator Bulgargaz has fulfilled all of its obligations and that Gazprom is not fulfilling the contractual commitments on the part of the supplier.
"It is obvious that in the current situation of war in Ukraine, natural gas is used by Russia as a political and economic weapon," said Nikolov, adding that Bulgaria won't hold talks under pressure.
Bulgaria's natural gas operating companies have ensured the continuity of "alternative supplies," the ministry said.
"Our country is a loyal partner in existing contracts and we will not jeopardize supplies to our neighbors," Nikolov said.
CNN's Radina Gigova contributed reporting to this post.
9:56 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Trevor Reed's release a result of "months and months" of work, US official says
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood
A senior US administration official said the release of Trevor Reed was the result of “months and months of hard careful work across the US government” on the matter, noting that “the conversations on this particular issue have accelerated recently to get us to this point.”
One driving factor was concern of Reed’s health. His family has expressed worry about his likely exposure to tuberculosis as well as lingering effects from having Covid-19.
The official, speaking to reporters on a background call Wednesday, said that “ultimately, those negotiations led the President to have to make a very hard decision with a decision to commute the sentence of Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian smuggler convicted of conspiring to import cocaine.”
The official did not provide details about how or why Yaroshenko was chosen for the swap, but noted that he had served the majority of his US sentence and is now in Russian custody.
“This is a tough call for a President, President Biden made it to bring home an American whose health was a source of an intense concern, and to deliver on his commitment to resolve these hard cases and reunite Americans with their loved ones,” the official added.
Reed is now on his way back to his family in the United States.