April 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Maureen Chowdhury, Ed Upright, Andrew Raine, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Ben Morse and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Updated 0632 GMT (1432 HKT) April 29, 2022
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7:19 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Mariupol warns of danger of epidemics in city where thousands of corpses remain

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

People walk along a street near a residential building in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 22.
People walk along a street near a residential building in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 22. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Local authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol have warned that it's vulnerable to epidemics given the appalling sanitary conditions in much of the city and the fact that maybe thousands of bodies remain uncollected.

An estimated 100,000 people still live in the city, despite weeks of heavy fighting, and the absence of a centralized water supply.

On Thursday, the city council said there was a risk of cholera, dysentery and Escherichia coli -- a bacterial infection that can cause severe stomach pain, bloody diarrhea and kidney failure.

The council said there were intolerable living conditions that would worsen as temperatures warmed.

"Already the air temperature has reached 20 degrees. So powerful and deadly epidemics could soon break out in the city -- due to the lack of centralized water supply and sanitation, the decomposition of thousands of corpses under the rubble, and a catastrophic shortage of drinking water and food."

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko said: "The occupiers cannot provide the existing population with food, water and medicine. Or [are] just not interested in it. They block all evacuation attempts. And without that, people will die. After all, now in the ruined Mariupol medieval living conditions. Immediate and complete evacuation is needed."

7:17 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Kremlin cautions against "pumping up" Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova with weapons

From CNN's Anna Chernova 

Ukrainian servicemen take delivery of FGM-148 Javelins, anti-tank missiles provided by the United States, at Kyiv's Boryspil airport on February 11.
Ukrainian servicemen take delivery of FGM-148 Javelins, anti-tank missiles provided by the United States, at Kyiv's Boryspil airport on February 11. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has warned against "pumping up" Ukraine and other countries, such as Georgia and Moldova, with weapons, saying this threatens security of the European continent and provokes instability in the region.

“The tendency to pump up Ukraine and other countries with weapons is the type of actions that threaten the security of the continent and provoke instability,” Peskov told reporters on Thursday's regular conference call when asked to comment on remarks about supporting Ukraine and other countries in the region with arms made by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday.

Truss suggested Wednesday it is essential to arm not just Ukraine with heavy weapons, but also Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkans.

“Some argue we shouldn’t provide heavy weapons for fear of provoking something worse. But my view, is that inaction would be the greatest provocation,” Truss said.

“And we must ensure that, alongside Ukraine, the Western Balkans and countries like Moldova and Georgia have the resilience and the capabilities to maintain their sovereignty and freedom,” she added.

9:02 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

NATO head says alliance would "find arrangements" to help Finland and Sweden before they became full members

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Ben Morse

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference along with the European Parliament president at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on April 28.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference along with the European Parliament president at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on April 28. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that should Finland and Sweden apply to join the alliance it would be able to "find arrangements" to help the two countries during the interim period before they became formal members.

When asked at a news conference about what kind of guarantees and help the alliance could give the countries before they officially joined, Stoltenberg replied: "The reality is that Finland and Sweden are already close to NATO and we work together, we operate together, we exercise together."

"And as soon as we take the decision to invite them, that will send a strong political message, that the security of Finland and Sweden matters for all NATO allies," Stoltenberg added.
"I am also certain that we will be able to find arrangements for that interim period between Finland and Sweden [applying] and until the formal ratification is finalized in all 30 parliaments.

"I am confident that there are ways to bridge that interim period in a way which is good enough and works for both Finland and Sweden."

Although previously non-aligned with NATO, Finland and Sweden are edging ever closer toward joining the US-led military alliance.

Russia has previously warned that such moves could lead to a more aggressive stance with regard to its hypersonic or nuclear weapons.

Speaking at a visit to the European Parliament in Brussels alongside President Roberta Metsola, Stoltenberg stressed should Finland and Sweden decide to apply to NATO, the accession process would “go quickly."

“We are in dialogue with Finland and Sweden, and it’s their decision. But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect the process to go quickly,” he told the press.

“This is fundamentally about the right of every nation in Europe to decide its own future. So when Russia tries in a way to threaten, to intimidate Finland and Sweden from not applying it just demonstrates how Russia is not respecting the basic right of every nation to choose its own path,” Stoltenberg added.
6:16 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Two European energy firms confirm talks with Gazprom over paying for Russian gas

From CNN's Robert North

Two of Europe’s leading energy companies have confirmed they are in talks with Gazprom about how to pay for Russian gas, while complying with EU sanctions and Russia’s new rules demanding that all gas be paid for in rubles.

German firm Uniper said: “We consider a payment conversion compliant with sanctions law and the Russian decree to be possible. Uniper will continue to pay in euros. Uniper is in talks with its contractual partner about the concrete payment modalities and is also in close coordination with the German government.”

And Austrian firm OMV said: “We have analyzed the Gazprom request about payment methods in light of the EU-sanctions and are now working on a sanctions-compliant solution."

This comes after Russia said it has cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, dramatically escalating its response to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom said in a statement Wednesday that it had fully halted supplies to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgaria's Bulgargaz after they refused to meet a demand by Moscow to pay in rubles, rather than euros or dollars.

Uniper, which is one of Europe’s leading gas companies, added: “For our company and for Germany as a whole, it is not possible to do without Russian gas in the short term; this would have dramatic consequences for our economy.”

Under the new Russian payment scheme, energy importers have had to open two bank accounts with Gazprombank -- a foreign currency account and a ruble account. Buyers are required to deposit foreign currency (dollars or euros) with Russia’s Gazprombank, which then converts it into rubles for onward payment to Moscow.

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.

On Wednesday, 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. 

6:23 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Trevor Reed's mother says he is back in the US

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

Paula and Joey Reed speak at a news conference in Granbury, Texas, U.S, concerning the homecoming of their son, U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was convicted in 2019 in Russia and released in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko on April 27.
Paula and Joey Reed speak at a news conference in Granbury, Texas, U.S, concerning the homecoming of their son, U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was convicted in 2019 in Russia and released in exchange for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko on April 27. (Shelby Tauber/Reuters)

Trevor Reed’s mother, Paula Reed, tweeted in the early hours of Thursday that her son is back in the United States.

“It's been very exciting day for the Reed family,” Paula tweeted. “Trevor is back in the USA.”

Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine who had been detained in Russia since 2019, was released in a prisoner swap Wednesday.

In her tweet, Paula also advocated for the release of Paul Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine who was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 and arrested on espionage charges, which he has consistently and vehemently denied.

“It's been a day of joy for us, but not for #PaulWhelan and his family. I know this is a hard day for them. Pls keep them (and the MANY others) in your prayers.),” she tweeted.

5:57 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Germany must "try the unrealistic'' to break away from Russian gas, says vice chancellor

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt and Lindsay Isaac

The Mallnow natural gas compressor station of Gascade Gastransport GmbH on April 27. The compressor station in Mallnow near the German-Polish border mainly receives Russian natural gas.
The Mallnow natural gas compressor station of Gascade Gastransport GmbH on April 27. The compressor station in Mallnow near the German-Polish border mainly receives Russian natural gas. (Patrick Pleul/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Germany's Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said that his government's goal must be to ensure independence from Russian energy supplies, even if it means pushing for alternative solutions previously considered “unrealistic.”

Following Russia's decision to stop gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday over their refusal to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin's demand for payment in rubles, Habeck told journalists at a press briefing in Berlin that Germany's dependence on Russian gas has rapidly decreased in recent weeks. 

“Germany has now slashed its gas imports from Russia to 35 percent -- compared to 55 percent before the start of the war,” he said. 

While it is "not realistic" for Germany to completely ban Russian gas before next year given the new infrastructure required to diversify gas imports, ''nevertheless, we have to try the unrealistic in some ways now,” Habeck said.

Habeck urged Germany to speed up the building of a liquid natural gas terminal within ten months’ time. Habeck described Russia's decision to cease supplies of gas to Poland and Bulgaria as an example of ''the reality where energy is used as a weapon'' and said that ''Russia is showing that it's ready to get serious.'' 

They’re ready to put a stop to gas deliveries. We have to take that seriously, and that also goes for other European countries,” Habeck said. 

''It would be cynical if big and powerful Germany thought: 'Oh well, you can beat up the little guys a bit -- that's a warning for you.' No this is reality -- this is the reality where energy is used as a weapon and we have to see that we are not defenseless when energy is used as a weapon.”  

Germany's goal is to diversify energy infrastructures accordingly and ''revamp our energy infrastructure based on renewable energy and massive savings so that we are not defenseless,” he added.

On Tuesday during a visit to Poland, Habeck said that Germany could handle an embargo on Russian oil imports, hinting that the country could end its dependence on Russian oil imports shortly. Habeck told journalists that Germany's share of crude oil imported from Russia has fallen from 35 percent before the war to around 12 percent, adding that a European embargo on Russian oil would be "manageable.”

Habeck stressed Wednesday that Germany would continue to make its energy payments in euros or dollars in line with its European partners.

5:33 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Dozens of houses hit by shelling in one Donetsk village, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv and Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv

A social media image shows one of the damaged houses in the village of Lastochkine, Ukraine, on April 28.
A social media image shows one of the damaged houses in the village of Lastochkine, Ukraine, on April 28. (Telegram)

As Russian shelling intensifies across a wide swathe of eastern Ukraine, officials in Donetsk have posted photographs of one small hamlet in the region in which over two dozen homes have been hit.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, Head of Donetsk regional military administration, said on his Telegram channel that 27 houses just in the village of Lastochkine had been damaged by shelling. He gave no information on casualties. 

The village is near the small town of Ocheretyn, a few miles from the current front lines. Ocheretyn has also seen widespread shelling by Russian forces trying to break through Ukrainian lines.

Since they launched the second phase of their military operation, Russian forces have intensified artillery and rocket fire against towns and villages along the front lines, which run for hundreds of kilometers from Luhansk and Donetsk in the east to Kherson and Mykolaiv in the south.

8:46 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Japan protests Russia’s retaliatory expulsion of 8 diplomats

From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno attends a press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Japan, on April 28.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno attends a press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Japan, on April 28. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

Japan has lodged a protest with Moscow over its decision to expel eight Japanese diplomats from Russia, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Thursday. 

"We absolutely cannot accept Russia issuing this notice," Matsuno told reporters, blaming Moscow for the breakdown in bilateral ties. 

Moscow announced on Wednesday the retaliatory expulsion of the Japanese diplomats, who must leave the country by May 10, Russia's Foreign Ministry said, according to state news agency TASS. The move comes after Tokyo expelled eight Russian diplomats and officials in April over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Japanese Ambassador to Moscow Toyohisa Kozuki is not among those expelled, Matsuno said on Thursday. 

On Wednesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said a representative of the Embassy of Japan was summoned and told that Tokyo has embarked on a "deliberately anti-Russian course" since Russia's operation in Ukraine, according to TASS. 

Japan's Embassy in Moscow also issued a statement Wednesday calling the invasion "a clear violation of international” and “absolutely unacceptable,” adding that Russia's killing of innocent citizens is a "war crime."

4:22 a.m. ET, April 28, 2022

Kherson "sham referendum" is ruled out as Russian-appointed official says return to Ukrainian control is "impossible"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Poryshenko

A Russian-appointed official in the occupied region of Kherson says its return to Ukrainian control is "impossible" – and has ruled out a referendum to decide its future.

The Deputy Chairman of the Russian-appointed administration of the region, Kirill Stremousov, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti:

"The issue of returning the Kherson region to Nazi Ukraine is excluded. This is impossible. The Kherson region will develop economically. "

Stremousov, who is Ukrainian and has a long record on the fringes of regional politics, added:

Kyiv will no longer be able to impose its ugly Nazi policy on our land, aimed at destroying people and their identity."

Last month, Ukrainian prosecutors opened a case against Stremousov for "assisting a foreign state in carrying out subversive activities against Ukraine."

There had been reports that the Russians would organize some form of a referendum in Kherson on whether the southern region should become an independent republic, like the self-declared republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. But Stremousov said that would not happen. 

He said the main task was to restore the region's economy, and "no referendums are planned."

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Zelensky derided reported plans to hold a referendum in Kherson.

"Russia wants to stage a sham 'referendum' somewhere on our land? Even if they try, it will be as shameful as everything else that was 'created' in Moscow to support the occupation of Ukraine,” he said.