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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4:55 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Pentagon: “More than half” of the 90 Howitzers the US is sending to Ukraine are in country

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Christian Sierra

Howitzers are seen prior to being loaded onto a U.S. Air Force aircraft at March Air Reserve Base, California, April 22,  to be shipped to  Ukraine.
Howitzers are seen prior to being loaded onto a U.S. Air Force aircraft at March Air Reserve Base, California, April 22, to be shipped to Ukraine. (Cpl. Austin Fraley/U.S. Marine Corps/FILE)

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said “more than half” of the 90 Howitzers, long range weapons, the US is sending to Ukraine are now country, during a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

“Today, without giving whole numbers, more than half of those Howitzers are in Ukraine,” Kirby said. 

50 Ukrainians have been trained on the Howitzers. The Ukrainians are going to go back to Ukraine and “train their teammates,” Kirby said. Those 50 Ukrainians who have already been trained on the Howitzers were part of the “first tranche” of training, Kirby added.

Kirby did not know if the second tranche of training, the next group of 50 Ukrainians to be trained, has started yet, he said.

4:33 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Zelensky looks ahead to post-war Ukraine and expresses gratitude to protesters in nightly remarks

From CNN's Andrew Carey in Lviv 

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/YouTube)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/YouTube)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looked forward to a post-war Ukraine in his nightly video address Wednesday, saying he wanted to provide housing for all those serving in the armed forces, working as emergency responders, police officers, and otherwise working for the state.

This was in addition to the goal of rebuilding everything destroyed in Russian attacks, he said, issuing an appeal to local communities to provide information on damaged buildings so that post-war reconstruction could happen quickly and effectively.

He also hailed a move by the European Union to remove all duties and quotas on Ukrainian exports for a year, as well as suspending anti-dumping tariffs.

Zelensky said it would benefit not just Ukraine’s economy, but also that of Europe, since Russia was determined to cause a spike in global prices, especially those of foodstuffs, he said.

Ukraine, along with Russia, is one of the world’s biggest exporters of grains, and fears over shortages have driven up cereal prices since the beginning of the war.

He also gave a particular shout-out to people in the south of Ukraine who continue to protest the presence of Russia’s occupying forces.

In Kherson — where Ukrainian officials said pro-Russians had been planning to hold a referendum Wednesday to show support for Moscow — demonstrators carrying Ukrainian flags rallied in the city’s main square before being dispersed with tear gas.     

Zelensky said he wanted to express his gratitude to those who refused to give up. 

“The stronger our resistance now, the more rejection the occupiers will see, the sooner normal life will return to our land,” he said.

3:43 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Zelensky thanks European Commission president for the EU's tariff proposal for Ukraine  

From CNN’s Hira Humayun

In an address on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is grateful to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the European Union's proposal for a series of temporary “trade-liberalizing measures” for Ukraine.  

“An important decision of the European Union is being prepared,” Zelensky said in the address posted to social media, “the European Commission has agreed to remove all duties and quotas on Ukrainian exports for a year, as well as to suspend anti-dumping tariffs.”  

He went on to say, “I discussed the details of this proposal with President Ursula von der Leyen today. I am grateful to her personally and to all our European friends for this step.”  

More on the proposal: According to the European Commission, the measure would enable Ukraine “to maintain its trade position with the rest of the world and further deepen its trade relations” with the European Union. The Commission proposal would remove all tariffs, import duties on industrial products, fruit and vegetables as well as drop quotas on agricultural and processed agricultural products.  

Zelensky said while this measure will allow Ukraine to maintain its economic activity, that “sufficient export” of Ukrainian products to European and global markets will also be a “significant anti-crisis tool” amid Russia’s attempts to “provoke a global price crisis.” He added that Ukrainian exports will help stabilize markets and that such trade measures are beneficial for all Europeans and for “residents of all countries that can be affected by Russia's destructive ambitions.”  

“It is because of this war waged by Russia that dozens of states have found themselves in a situation where they cannot be sure of stability for their people,” Zelensky said.  

The Ukrainian president also said he spoke with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi for Italy’s involvement in investigating crimes committed by the Russian military.  

“We appreciate Italy's support for truly effective sanctions that can end the war,” he said. In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Zelensky also thanked Italy for sheltering more than 100,000 Ukrainians who were forced to flee.

CNN’s James Frater contributed to this report.

3:26 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Ukraine concerned about provocations in pro-Russian region of Moldova

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova

Ukrainian officials have been talking about the risk of another front in the conflict with Russia opening up — along the border with Moldova in the southwest.

Part of the Moldovan border region is controlled by a pro-Russian administration in what's called Transnistria. Unexplained explosions there earlier this week prompted Ukrainian officials to allege that Russia's security services were planning provocations in Transnistria as a pretext to open up a new front in the war. 

Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Ukrainian television Wednesday: "We have always considered Transnistria as a springboard from which there may be some risks for us, for [the] Odesa and Vinnytsia regions."

"There is a certain [military] contingent of Russians, it is somewhere between 1,500-2,000 people, of which only 500-600 are Russians," Podoliak said.

But he said that most people in Transnistria were integrated into Moldova and Europe.

"Therefore, for Transnistria, active involvement in the conflict in Ukraine will practically mean total isolation and destruction of the enclave," Podoliak noted.

Podoliak suggested that through the incidents this week in Transnistria, Russia was trying to provoke Ukraine.

Roman Kostenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament from Odesa, said Transnistria did not pose a strategic threat to Ukraine.

"It could be a tactical threat, in some direction, in order to bind our troops," the official said.

Kostenko said the Russians were counting on Transnistria as "another front that could directly support them when they attack, for example, Mykolayiv, Odesa from the sea, because Mykolayiv blocks the land corridor."

Ukrainian defenses around the city of Mykolaiv have prevented Russian forces from reaching Odesa overland. 

The far southwest corner of Ukraine is now cut off from the rest of the country after a road and rail bridge over the estuary of the river Dniester was struck by a second cruise missile Wednesday after first being hit Tuesday. Russia has not said it carried out the missile strike.

Ukraine's Southern Military Command claimed that Russian submarines continued to threaten missile strikes from the Black Sea. "Enemy forces are also preparing provocations with missile strikes on Transnistria to accuse Ukraine of attacking the unrecognized republic," it said.

2:55 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Russian military strike causes "significant" damage at hospital in Ukraine’s Severodonetsk, video shows 

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Josh Pennington

Damage is seen inside a hospital in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, in this screengrab from a video released by the Luhansk regional administration.
Damage is seen inside a hospital in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, in this screengrab from a video released by the Luhansk regional administration. (Luhansk Regional Administration)

A Russian military strike caused "significant" damage to a regional hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, video released by the Luhansk regional administration shows. 

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the video. 

The video begins with scenes of blown out windows in a hospital stairwell. As the individual taking the video climbs the stairs, more debris and damage are seen, including a door blown off its hinges.   

Once out of the stairwell a tangle of metal, drywall and debris is seen outside of a hospital room. In one room the windows have been blown out; the room next to it is missing an entire wall — there is a large hole in the building. 

Down a hallway, more debris strewn around hospitals beds is seen. 

Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said that a woman was killed in the military strike. CNN could not independently verify the fatality. 

Damage is seen inside a hospital in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, in this screengrab from a video released by the Luhansk regional administration.
Damage is seen inside a hospital in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, in this screengrab from a video released by the Luhansk regional administration. (Luhansk Regional Administration)

"The Russians knew that the hospital was not vacant, and that there were patients with different conditions being treated by doctors," Hayday said. "Even that didn't stop them. In fact, the Orcs wanted to kill off the wounded and those who trying to help these locals survive, their doctors." 

Ukrainians frequently refer to Russian soldiers with the pejorative, "orcs," likening them to the antagonist army of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy "Lord of the Rings."

Hayday said that there are only two functioning hospitals left in the Luhansk oblast: this one in Severodonetsk and another in the nearby city of Lysychansk. 

He added that the regional hospital in Severodonetsk is continuing to operate, despite there being "significant" damage and several floors being damaged. 


2:37 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

UN World Tourism Organization suspends Russia’s membership

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

A tourist boat sails on the Moskva river in Moscow, Russia on February 15.
A tourist boat sails on the Moskva river in Moscow, Russia on February 15. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) suspended Russia’s membership on Wednesday in an extraordinary session. 

The Russian government announced its withdrawal a few hours before the meeting.

"UNWTO Members voted to suspend Russia. Meeting for a first extraordinary UNWTO General Assembly, Members debated the suspension of Russia from the Organization. Russia declined to step up and defend its position and announced its withdrawal from UNWTO, " UNWTO announced in its tweet

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba also wrote in his tweet, “Russia has been suspended from @UNWTO at its General Assembly’s first extraordinary session.”

“Grateful to all members who backed this move. The only travel direction for Russian war criminals should be The Hague. Russia’s isolation will deepen with each day of its war on Ukraine,” Kuleba added.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has confirmed Russia’s exit from the UN World Tourism Organization in a statement published Wednesday.

“The Russian side does not consider it expedient to continue working in the UNWTO, whose leadership condones the politicization of its activities and openly supports discrimination against our country. In this regard, the Russian Federation has decided to withdraw from the World Tourism Organization," the statement said.

View UNWTO's tweet:

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.