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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7:20 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

US has credible information that Russian military executed Ukrainians who attempted to surrender, official says

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack (UNTV)

The United States has credible information that a Russian military unit executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender near Donetsk, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack said at the United Nations Wednesday.

“We now have credible information that a Russian military unit operating in the vicinity of Donetsk executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender, rather than take them into custody,” Van Schaak said. “If true, this would be a violation of a core principle of the laws of war: the prohibition against the summary execution of civilians and combatants who are hors de combat by virtue of surrender, injury, or other forms of incapacitation.”

Van Schaak also said the US has “credible reports of individuals killed execution-style with their hands bound; bodies showing signs of torture; horrific accounts of sexual violence against women and girls.” 

“These images and reports suggest that atrocities are not the result of rogue units or individuals; they, rather, reveal a deeply disturbing pattern of systematic abuse across all areas where Russia’s forces are engaged,” Van Schaak added.

“Let us be clear: those who unleashed, perpetrated, and ordered these crimes must be held to account and the evidence of this criminality is mounting daily,” Van Schaak said. “Our simple message to Russia’s military and political leadership, and file is this: the world is watching, and you will be held accountable.”

The United States welcomes the ICC investigation into atrocities committed in Ukraine, Van Shaak said, referencing the common goal of stakeholders to achieve justice.

“The United States is supporting a range of international investigations into atrocities in Ukraine. This includes those conducted by the International Criminal Court, the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe," she said.

6:52 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

Hungarian foreign minister confirms to CNN that his country will use Russia’s energy payment scheme

From CNN's Pamela Boykoff

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (CNN)

The Hungarian Foreign Minister confirmed to CNN that his country will use the payment scheme put in place by Moscow to pay for its oil and gas. 

Defending this decision, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said: 

“85% of our gas supply comes from Russia, and 65% of our oil supply comes from Russia. Why? Because this is being determined by infrastructure. This is not for fun, we have not chosen the situation,” he told CNN’s Richard Quest.

Szijjártó said there are no alternative sources or routes which makes it possible for them to stop importing Russian energy in the next few years. 

Under the Russian payment scheme, energy importers have had to open two bank accounts with Gazprombank — a foreign currency account and a rubles account. The proceeds of sales are paid in foreign currency (dollars or euros) which is then converted by Gazprombank into the ruble account. 

Several other countries are reportedly using the scheme. A European Commission document release last week advised that it “appears possible” to comply with the new Russian rules without getting into conflict with EU law. 

Sanctions experts say the Russian payment system allows Moscow access to energy proceeds regardless of the sanctions in place on foreign currencies.

CNN’s Richard Quest notes two things — the entire process is extremely legally murky and the scheme also gives Putin the political advantage — that he is forcing the companies into his scheme to pay in rubles.

6:01 p.m. ET, April 27, 2022

It's 1 a.m. on Thursday in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

In an image taken from video released on April 27, former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is escorted to a plane by Russian service members as part of a prisoner swap between the US and Russia, in Moscow, Russia.
In an image taken from video released on April 27, former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is escorted to a plane by Russian service members as part of a prisoner swap between the US and Russia, in Moscow, Russia. (RU24 via REUTERS)

The family of former US Marine Trevor Reed said Wednesday he has been released from Russian custody.

"Our family has been living a nightmare. Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is safely on his way back to the United States," the family said in a statement.

"We’d respectfully ask for some privacy while we address the myriad of health issues brought on by the squalid conditions he was subjected to in his Russian gulag," the family continued, although they did not specify how many days Reed was detained.

They thanked US President Joe Biden "for his kindness, his consideration, and for making the decision to bring Trevor home," adding that Biden's action "may have saved Trevor's life."

Biden also confirmed Reed's release, saying he had shared the news with his family.

Reed was exchanged for Russian national Konstantin Yaroshenko, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. 

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

US Drug Enforcement Agency agents ostensibly obtained evidence Yaroshenko had criminal intent to transport a large batch of cocaine, according to TASS.

The Russian pilot has pled not guilty, describing his arrest as a provocation and all charges against him as fake, according to TASS.

At least two other Americans — basketball star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan —remain detained in Russia.

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Zelensky looks ahead to post-war Ukraine and expresses gratitude to protesters in nightly remarks: 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.
  • Ukraine is concerned about provocations in pro-Russian region of Moldova: 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 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."
  • Russian military strike causes "significant" damage at hospital in Ukraine’s Severodonetsk: 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.  
  • Russian hacking in Ukraine has been extensive and intertwined with military operations, Microsoft says: 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. 
  • Poland and Bulgaria are receiving gas from EU neighbors: Poland and Bulgaria are receiving gas from their EU neighbors, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday. This comes after Russian energy giant Gazprom halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday, after both countries refused to pay the Russian energy giant in rubles, the company said in a statement. In a statement, von der Leyen called it “another provocation from the Kremlin" and accused Moscow of using gas to "blackmail" the bloc.
  • More than 20,000 Ukrainians have been processed at the US-Mexico border since mid-March: 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 newly filed court declaration. Blas Nuñez-Neto, a top Homeland Security official, outlined the Biden administration’s plans for an influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border when a public health authority, known as Title 42, lifts in a court filing following a federal judge’s intent to temporarily block the wind down. DHS, Nuñez-Neto said, will be “significantly curtailing” those exception, given the launch of Uniting for Ukraine, a streamlined process for Ukrainians seeking to come to the United States. 

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: