April 27, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

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
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1:49 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Bulgaria is open to exploring legal ramifications against Russia for shutting off gas supplies, official says

From CNN’s Zeena Saifi in London

Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov told CNN on Wednesday that his government was open to exploring legal ramifications against Moscow after Russian energy giant Gazprom shut off gas supplies to the country. 

“Bulgargaz, the state-owned entity, has executed the payment and then the money got returned from Gazprom. If we’re talking about a breach of the contract, then it is absolutely clear from a legal and legislation perspective who has breached the contract,” Nikolov told CNN’s Eleni Giokos in an interview.  

When Russia demanded all gas payments be done in rubles, Nikolov said Bulgaria refused to comply and asked for clarification on the details of the mechanism, but did not receive a response from Gazprom.  

“We were pretty clear that we will follow a common position regarding the European Union standpoint. We will not accept the fact that one of the parties within the contract decided to change entirely the payment mechanism, so we ended up where we are today … but still we are trying under these tough circumstances to follow all prerequisites under the existing contract,” he added. 

Bulgaria has relied on Russia for about 90% of its gas imports, making Moscow’s latest move a disruption to most of the country’s energy supplies. The energy minister said Bulgaria has examined all possible solutions in terms of energy diversification, and is trying to extend its partnerships with other regions. 

He pointed to some progress on a long-delayed gas link, the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) between Bulgaria and its neighbor Greece. 

“Practically, coming from 90% to zero is of course going to be tough and of course we’ll have a price to pay, but at the end of the day, sovereignty and solidarity is much more important,” he said. 

“We are on the eastern flank, the closest possible to Russia, where war is coming to a different dimension. Utility is being used not only as an energy tool but as a social distress tool and an economic weapon,” the minister continued. 

1:39 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Russian hacking in Ukraine has been extensive and intertwined with military operations, Microsoft says

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

At least six different Kremlin-linked hacking groups have conducted nearly 240 cyber operations against Ukrainian targets, Microsoft said Wednesday, in data that reveals a broader scope of alleged Russian cyberattacks during the war on Ukraine than has previously been documented. 

"Russia's use of cyberattacks appears to be strongly correlated and sometimes directly timed with its kinetic military operations," said Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president. 

The Microsoft report is the most comprehensive public record yet of Russian hacking efforts related to the war in Ukraine. It fills in some gaps in public understanding of where Russia's vaunted cyber capabilities have been deployed during the war. 

Burt cited a cyberattack on a Ukrainian broadcast company on March 1, the same day as a Russian missile strike against a TV tower in Kyiv, and malicious emails sent to Ukrainians falsely claiming the Ukrainian government was "abandoning" them amid the Russian siege of the city of Mariupol. 

Suspected Russian hackers "are working to compromise organizations in regions across Ukraine," and may have been collecting intelligence on Ukrainian military partnerships many months before the full-scale invasion in February, the Microsoft report says. 

Russia's military attacks on Ukraine sometimes "correlate with cyberattacks, especially when it involves attacks on telecom infrastructure in some areas," Victor Zhora, a senior Ukrainian government cyber official, told reporters Wednesday. 

In the weeks after Russia's latest invasion of Ukraine, some pundits and US officials were surprised that there hadn't been more noticeably disruptive or debilitating Russian cyberattacks on the country. Possible explanations ranged from disorganization in Russian military planning to hardened Ukrainian defenses to the fact that bombs and bullets take precedence over hacking in wartime.

But a barrage of alleged Russian and Belarusian hacks aimed at destabilizing Ukraine has indeed taken place, with some hacks emerging weeks after they took place. Some hacking attempts have been more successful than others. 

A multi-faceted cyberattack at the onset of the war knocked out internet service for tens of thousands of satellite modems in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe; US officials are investigating the incident as a potential Russian state-sponsored hack, CNN previously reported. 

More background: Earlier this month, a Russian military-linked hacking group targeted a Ukrainian power substation in a hack that, had it been successful, could have cut power for 2 million people, according to Ukrainian officials. But while the same hacking group succeeded in cutting power in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016, the recent cyberattack did not affect the provision of electricity at the targeted power company, according to Zhora.

NATO officials David Cattler and Daniel Black noted a series of alleged Russian data-wiping hacks aimed at Ukrainian organizations over multiple weeks.

"If observers see this cyber-offensive as a series of isolated events, its scale and strategic significance get lost in the conventional violence unfolding in Ukraine," Cattler and Black wrote in Foreign Affairs this month. "But a full accounting of the cyber-operations reveals the proactive and persistent use of cyberattacks to support Russian military objectives."

Officials from the White House, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies have worked closely with Ukrainian counterparts to try to defend against Russian hacking and gain insights into Russian capabilities that might be used against the US. 

"Ukraine was, unfortunately, kind of a playground for cyber weapons over the last eight years," Zhora said. "And now we see that some technologies that were tested or some of attacks that were organized on Ukrainian infrastructure continue in other states." 

Zhora touted the resilience of Ukrainian network defenders. 

Russian hackers "continue to be dangerous," Zhora said Wednesday. "They continue to threaten democracies, threaten Ukrainian cyberspace. Nevertheless, I don't think they can scale their cyber warriors or they can use some completely new technologies that can attack Ukrainian infrastructure." 

CNN has requested comment from the Russian embassy in Washington, DC, on the Microsoft report.

2:20 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Estonia is "waiting" for Sweden and Finland to join NATO, defense minister says

From CNN's Eoin McSweeney

Defense Minister of Estonia Kalle Laanet speaks to the press in Brussels, Belgium on March 16.
Defense Minister of Estonia Kalle Laanet speaks to the press in Brussels, Belgium on March 16. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Estonia would gladly welcome the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO to strengthen its eastern flank, the Baltic state's defense minister said Wednesday amid reports its neighbors were planning to join the security alliance.   

"I am waiting that they join NATO; it makes Europe, their security more strong," Kalle Laanet told CNN's Eleni Giokos.   

"Estonia welcomes Sweden and Finland to our group, our allies to NATO. It will strengthen our, let's say, eastern part of NATO,” he said, speaking from Poland on a visit to see Estonian troops stationed there.  

Laanet called for more NATO troops and military equipment to be sent to Baltic states, in the face of a security order which has "totally changed" following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

1:11 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Freed Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko has returned home, foreign ministry says 

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was released as part of a prisoner swap for American citizen Trevor Reed, has returned "home to his family," Russia said Wednesday.

The prisoner swap for Reed and Yaroshenko occurred in Turkey, Reed’s parents told CNN Wednesday.

“The return to the homeland of Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was illegally sentenced in 2010 by an American court to 20 years in prison, is the result of a long-term coordinated work of interested Russian departments,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.  

Yaroshenko is a Russian pilot who had been detained in Liberia by undercover US Drug Enforcement Administration agents on May 28, 2010, and brought to the US, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

US DEA agents ostensibly obtained evidence Yaroshenko had criminal intent to transport a large batch of cocaine, according to TASS. He had been serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. 

“We will continue to make every effort to free all Russians who have fallen into the millstones of punitive American justice, to protect their rights and ensure an unhindered return to Russia,” the Russian foreign ministry added.

  

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

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks during a press conference in Moscow on April 26.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks during a press conference in Moscow on April 26. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

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

Igor, a boy with bloodshot eyes, sits on the edge of his a bed. In silence.
Igor, a boy with bloodshot eyes, sits on the edge of his a bed. In silence. (Mick Krever/CNN)

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.

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.
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. (Mick Krever/CNN)

“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

Ukrainian refugees are seen at a humanitarian shelter in Tijuana, Mexico on Saturday, April 23.
Ukrainian refugees are seen at a humanitarian shelter in Tijuana, Mexico on Saturday, April 23. (Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

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.