April 29, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Steve George, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Jessie Yeung, Sana Noor Haq, Ben Morse, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0417 GMT (1217 HKT) April 30, 2022
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1:39 p.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Ukrainian commander inside Mariupol plant calls for safe passage of civilians as relentless attacks continue

From CNN's Scott McLean, Roman Tymotsko and Tim Lister in Lviv 

Sviatoslav Palamar of the Azov Regiment is seen recently.
Sviatoslav Palamar of the Azov Regiment is seen recently. (CNN)

A commander inside the Azovstal steel complex in the besieged city of Mariupol told CNN of the relentless bombardment of the plant, where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been trapped for weeks. 

Sviatoslav Palamar of the Azov Regiment told CNN that there was intensive shelling of the Azovstal plant last night from both ships and aircraft.  

"At the same time they shell us from the ground," he said. There had also been attempts to storm the area controlled by Ukrainian troops, he said, but they had been deflected. 

"On one side, the (Russians) had declared the silence and non-fighting mode, but on the parallel (at the same time) with infantry and equipment they try to storm the territory of the factory," he told CNN.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his defense minister in Moscow that the plant should be sealed off but not stormed and said that those who choose to surrender should be treated in accordance with international conventions.  

Palamar told CNN that there were a lot of wounded fighters and more than 500 soldiers who needed guarantees that their lives would be saved. 

"We also have civilians that will be killed if they storm the factory," he said. 

Palamar said that on Thursday morning, a shelter for the wounded at the plant was shelled.

“It’s very hard to provide medical help to our guys, because our surgical room was destroyed where the remaining medicine and surgical equipment was stored," he told CNN.

Asked if the Ukrainian troops left inside Azovstal were ready to surrender, Palamar said: "We do not think about any scenarios of giving up. We only see it possible through a guarantee of third party politicians, leaders, possibly the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel or Turkey, a guarantee that would allow every soldier to leave in safety." 

"We are ready to leave this territory because it is very hard and complicated to hold here with our personal weapons. We're ready for extraction, possibly extraction to the territory of a third country but with our weapons in our hands," he continued.

On the situation inside the plant: Palamar told CNN that there was not much food and water left for the plant's defenders. He said they had a limited amount of ammunition. "We don't have the possibility to destroy the aircraft and vessels that are shelling us," he said.

Even so, he insisted: "We do not consider giving up or the conditions of giving up. We only consider guarantees of leaving the territory of the plant. If there is no other choice left but giving up, we won't give up." 

Palamar stressed that the soldiers in the plant wanted civilians who were sheltering there to be evacuated. 

"We asked for evacuation of the civilians. We're talking to the whole world since March that international politicians or organization guarantee the safe extraction of civilians to Ukrainian territory. So if being asked whether we are ready for civilians to leave from here, we are not only ready but we ask that the civilians are saved first of all," he told CNN.

Speaking about the Ukrainian government's plan to evacuate civilians stranded in the plant, which was due to go into effect Friday, Palamar said he was aware of such a convoy that would come to Mariupol but could not speak further about it for security reasons. 

"We count on the Red Cross and the organizations that are heading here to take our heavily wounded first of all, because they need to be treated, they need to get help," he said.

Palamar said that the soldiers and civilians were in separate parts of the Azovstal plant. They were in cellars and bunkers but some had been wounded. 

"There are cellars and bunkers that we cannot reach because they are under rubble. We do not know whether the people there are alive or not. There are children aged four months to 16 years. But there are people trapped in places that you can't get to," he told CNN.

1:02 p.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Russian forces "appear to be advancing" toward Ukraine's Sloviansk and Baranivka, US official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Russian forces “appear to be advancing” toward Sloviansk and Baranivka, a senior US defense official said Friday, adding that they are making “some incremental, uneven, slow advances to the southeast and southwest of Izium,” in Ukraine. 

Russian forces “continue to use… long-range fires,” the official noted.

“What we see them doing is using artillery and some airstrikes in advance of their ground movements, and so their ground movements are fairly plotting, because a, the artillery and airstrikes that they are launching against Ukrainian positions are not having the effect that they want them to have — the Ukrainians are still able to resist. And b, they are still a little wary of getting out ahead of their supply lines,” the official added.

11:18 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Kyiv tells citizens to cut vehicle use to save fuel for the military

From Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

Authorities in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, have urged people not to use their cars to save fuel for the military.

"Kyivites, if you have returned to the capital, please use public transport if possible. Those in safe places [outside Kyiv], please wait before coming back," said Mykola Povoroznyk, deputy head of Kyiv City State Administration, adding that authorities are keeping the needs of the Ukrainian military and defenders in mind.

Povoroznyk said there are no problems with public transport network in the city, which was constantly expanding to provide transportation for residents returning to the capital.

The authorities in the capital have urged citizens not to return yet because of the continuing danger of missile attacks. At one point about one-third of Kyiv's population was thought to have left.

11:23 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Russian are trying to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements, senior US defense official says

From Michael Conte and Barbara Starr

The US believes Russia is attempting to disrupt the Ukrainian military’s ability to “replenish their own stores and to reinforce themselves,” according to a senior US defense official.

The official gave the example of attempted Russian attacks on electrical power facilities, which could hinder Ukrainian trains.

The US also believes that while recent strikes reportedly hit residential areas, they were intended for military production facilities, the official added.

Russian strikes in Odesa are possibly meant to pin down Ukrainian forces there and prevent them from reinforcing defenders in the Donbas region, according to the official.

The official also said that now 1,950 missiles have been launched by Russia against Ukraine since the invasion began in February, and that most of the ordnance being dropped against Mariupol is “dumb” ordnance that is not precision-guided, which suggests Russian forces are still having difficulty replenishing their precision-guided munitions.

Meanwhile, the US has also trained two groups of Ukrainian trainers so far on US artillery outside of Ukraine, according to the official, with the first group being “a little it more than 50” and the second group being “around 50.”

The US has also trained a group of about 15 Ukrainians on the US radar systems that are being provided to Ukraine, with more groups of a yet to be determined number to be trained in the future, the official said.

US training for Ukrainians will “go on for as long as it needs to go on,” the official added.

The US is helping transport some Ukrainians already outside of Ukraine for training and returning them to locations outside of Ukraine so they can reenter Ukraine, according to the official, who stressed that all US transportation of Ukrainian trainers “starts and ends outside of Ukraine.”

11:27 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

UN will redouble its efforts to save lives in Ukraine, chief says after visit

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam 

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in a tweet Friday that the UN will not give up and would redouble its efforts to save lives and reduce human suffering in Ukraine.

His tweet came after his visit to Ukraine and meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday. He also visited to Moscow on Tuesday to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During a news conference in Kyiv with Zelensky, Guterres urged for evacuation corridors to be open in Mariupol, saying, “Today the people of Mariupol are in desperate need of such an approach. Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis,” and added “Thousands of civilians need life-saving assistance. Many are elderly need medical care or have limited mobility, they need an escape route out of the apocalypse.”

11:07 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

US believes Russian intelligence behind attack on Nobel winner

From Katie Bo Lillis and Anna Chernova 

Nobel Peace Prize-winning newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov posted a selfie on Telegram after a reported attack on a Russian train.
Nobel Peace Prize-winning newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov posted a selfie on Telegram after a reported attack on a Russian train. (AP)

US intelligence has assessed that Russian intelligence was behind a recent attack in Moscow on a Nobel Prize winner and independent Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov who has spoken publicly in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The editor of the independent Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, was attacked while traveling on a train from Moscow to Samara on April 7 by an unknown assailant who doused the train compartment with red oil paint mixed with acetone.

“Eyes burn terribly,” Muratov said in a statement posted to the paper’s website. The assailant shouted, “Muratov, here’s to you for our boys,” in an apparent reference to Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, he wrote. 

“The United States can confirm that Russian intelligence orchestrated the 7 April attack on Novaya Gazeta’s editor-in-chief Dmitriy Muratov, in which he was splashed with red paint containing acetone,” a US official said in a statement. 

The US official did not provide details on how the US reached its assessment, nor did this person provide details on which arm of Russian intelligence had arranged the attack. 

A spokesperson for Novaya Gazeta appeared to cast doubt on the US assessment in a statement to CNN.  

“We have established the attackers, so it is now [sic] clear what prevents the Ministry of Internal Affairs from opening it,” said the paper's spokesperson Nadezhda Prusenkova. “We don't know if there is a ‘stinking unit’ in intelligence that is involved in such attacks. But we have experience of such attacks on the editorial office, and it was still not intelligence back then.”

Prusenkova noted that “the attack has yet to be prosecuted” and called for a criminal case to be opened. 

Days prior to the attack, Novaya Gazeta had suspended its operations until the end of the war in Ukraine, amid mounting pressure from Russian authorities and a wartime censorship law that threatened up to 15 years in prison for publishing what Russia terms “fake” news about the conflict. 

CNN has reached out to the Russian embassy for comment.

The Washington Post first reported the US assessment. 

10:26 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

White House weighing number of considerations on G20 after Putin's attendance confirmed

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

White House press secretary Jen Psaki calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington D.C, on April 28.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington D.C, on April 28. (Susan Walsh/AP)

US President Joe Biden and his advisers are still in conversations about how to approach November’s G20 summit, whose hosts received confirmation Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend.

Biden has said Russia should be ejected from the G20. Senior members of his administration have walked out of G20 events where Russian delegates are present. And there were discussions with Indonesia, who is hosting the summit, about stepping up its condemnation of Russia and how to approach the sticky situation.

But no decision on boycotting the leaders’ summit, still six months away, has been made. And officials are weighing the downsides of skipping the event and ceding the table to Russia and China.

“The President has been clear about his view: This shouldn’t be business as usual, and that Russia should not be a part of this,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “But, again, it’s six months away.”

White House aides are realistic the G20 will not collectively remove Russia from its ranks, since the decision requires consensus and China has been clear they don’t support such a move. That makes this a different scenario than when Russia was expelled from the G8 after its annexation of Crimea.

That sets up a potentially complicated summit on the Indonesian island Bali, which is scheduled to begin in the beginning of November. White House officials have mulled a number of different scenarios, including potentially sending a lower-level delegation or participating remotely. But Biden attending in person is still considered the likeliest outcome, even if Putin is also there.

10:11 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

NATO scrambled fighter jets multiple times this week to intercept Russian aircraft near alliance airspace

From CNN's Barbara Starr

NATO fighter jets stationed in both the Baltic and Black Sea regions scrambled “multiple times over the past four days” to track and intercept Russian aircraft near alliance airspace, according to a statement posted by NATO’s Allied Air Command.

NATO radars tracked a number of unidentified aircraft over the Baltic and Black Sea since Tuesday. NATO noted that Russian aircraft often “do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate.”

A Polish Air Force fighter jet F16 flies in the airspace of Poland as part of NATO's enhanced Air Policing (eAP) to secure the skies over Baltic allies, March 29.
A Polish Air Force fighter jet F16 flies in the airspace of Poland as part of NATO's enhanced Air Policing (eAP) to secure the skies over Baltic allies, March 29. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

In the Baltic region, fighter jets from Poland, Denmark, France and Spain were used at various times to intercept and identify approaching aircraft. In the Black Sea region, aircraft from Romania and the UK were used to investigate tracks of unknown aircraft approaching allied airspace, the statement said. There is no indication that US aircraft participated in the interceptions.

NATO said that the Russian aircraft never entered the alliance's airspace, and the “interceptions were conducted in a safe and routine manner.”

9:49 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Norway closes borders and ports to Russian freight vehicles and ships

From CNN’s James Frater

A 68 meters luxury yacht called Ragnar, owned by a former KGB officer, Russian oligarch Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, is pictured at the quay in Narvik, north Norway, on March 21.
A 68 meters luxury yacht called Ragnar, owned by a former KGB officer, Russian oligarch Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, is pictured at the quay in Narvik, north Norway, on March 21. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Norway has said it is following the European Union's fifth sanctions package on Russia and will introduce a ban on Russian road transport and Russian vessels being allowed to dock.

In a statement Friday, Anniken Huitfeldt, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, said, “We know that sanctions work best when several countries agree on them,” and “with this, we are implementing the EU's fifth and final sanctions package.”

“The sanctions are our most important means of pressure against the Russian regime” and it is “crucial that we stand with the EU and other countries to continue to weaken Russia's ability to finance the war in Ukraine,” she said.

A news release from the Norwegian government announced that starting on May 7, “there will be a ban on port calls for Russian-flagged vessels,” including commercial ships, yachts, some pleasure craft and recreational vessels.

Due to the special agreement between Norway and Russia on the management and conservation of fish stocks in the Barents Sea, the ban will not include fishing vessels, search and rescue vessels or research vessels, according to the news release. 

“The ban on freight transport by road will apply to transport companies established in Russia and apply immediately,” the news release added. 

The European Union adopted a fifth round of sanctions against Russia on April 8. 

Norway is part of the European Economic Area which gives the country access to the European Union’s internal market, but the country does not have to adopt EU foreign policy or rules on justice and home affairs.