April 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Maureen Chowdhury, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Jack Guy and George Ramsay, CNN

Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT) April 19, 2022
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7:35 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Ukrainian commander: Russian forces firing "willingly" on Mariupol factory where people are sheltering

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London and Karen Smith in Atlanta

Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works company and buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Monday, April 18,
Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works company and buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Monday, April 18, (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

In an address on Monday to world leaders, commander of the Azov Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Denys Prokopenko, said Russian forces are firing on the Azovstal steelworks factory “willingly” in Mariupol as hundreds of people are sheltering inside. 

Prokopenko is the commander of one of the Ukrainian units defending the port city of Mariupol.

Prokopenko said in a post on Telegram account that among those sheltering are, “people of all ages, women, children, and families of Mariupol defenders. They are sheltering in the basements and bunkers from the ‘Russian world.'"

According to Prokopenko, those sheltering “found their only available shelter next to the Ukrainian soldiers, who are still defending the city from Russian invaders.”

“Russian occupational forces and their proxy from Luhansk People’s Republic/Donetsk People's Republics know about civilians and keep their fire on the factory willingly. They use free-fall bombs, rockets, bunker-buster bombs, and all varieties of artillery, both ground and naval, for indiscriminate attacks,” Prokopenko said.

He added, “City theatre, maternity hospital, schools, kindergartens, and houses were destroyed by those who now offer civilians evacuation and safety. These are the same people. And nobody believes.”

7:07 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

It's just after 2 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

Russia bombarded cities across Ukraine on Monday, with at least four missile strikes reported in the western city of Lviv and at least seven people killed. 

Ukraine’s defense ministry, meanwhile, says Russian forces have completed the regrouping of troops to launch an offensive in the east. Control of Kreminna, a town in the eastern Luhansk region, has been "lost" during heavy fighting, a Ukrainian official said.

Here are the latest developments on the war in Ukraine:

  • The battle for Donbas: Russian forces have started the battle for Donbas, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Monday. The president underscored that Ukrainian forces will continue to fight against a Russian incursion in the region. “I’m thankful to all of our warriors, our soldiers, our heroic towns and towns in the region who are resisting and standing firm,” he added.
  • No plans for Biden to visit Ukraine: White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Monday that there are no plans in place for US President Joe Biden to travel to Ukraine, following comments from Zelensky encouraging him to do so. “That has not changed — what our focus continues to be on is providing Ukraine, the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian leaders — a historic amount of security assistance,” Psaki told CNN.
  • Civilians sheltering in Ukrainian plant: Civilians — including women, children, and the elderly — are sheltering inside the Azovstal iron and steel plant in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol, according to Myhailo Vershynin, the chief of the Mariupol patrol police. Vershynin told CNN he was at the Azovstal plant, one of the city’s last bastions still under Ukrainian control which has been the focal point of heavy Russian bombardment following weeks of grinding warfare in the city that has leveled much of its infrastructure.
  • US describes "campaign of terror": State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Russia’s attacks in Ukraine in recent days further illustrate that the country is “undertaking a campaign of terror” against the people of Ukraine. “The fact is that Russia, more than just launching an invasion, more than just launching a war, has launched, is undertaking a campaign of terror, a campaign of brutality, a campaign of despicable aggression against the people of Ukraine.
  • Ceasefire "not on the horizon": A ceasefire in Ukraine is not on the horizon, but may come in the coming weeks depending on how the war and ongoing negotiations continue, according to Martin Griffiths, UN under secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “Ceasefires … they’re not on the horizon right now, but they may be in a couple of weeks. They may be a little bit longer than that,” Griffiths said in his remarks Monday.
  • No safety from Russia's "onslaught," EU says: The European Union has condemned the latest round of Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities and said the recent shelling in western Ukraine show no part of the country is safe. "Ukraine is being struck by the most intensive missile attacks by the Russian Federation since weeks. The EU condemns the continued indiscriminate and illegal shelling of civilians and civilian infrastructure by Russian armed forces,” the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement Monday.
7:02 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Ukrainian official: There is not "a town, a city or a village left where it is safe now in Ukraine"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Ihor Zhovkva, chief diplomatic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that there isn't a "single place" in Ukraine that's safe now following Russian missile strikes in Lviv Monday.

"There is not a single place, a town, a city or a village left where it is safe now in Ukraine," Zhovkva told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"That's what [the Russians] were trying to implement since the beginning of the war. Because look, they not only fight the military people. They not only fight the military infrastructure. They fight with civilian Ukrainians. I mean what a auto service shop, a car repairing shop has to do with the military infrastructure, but they bombed it today in Lviv, having killed civilian people. Not a single soldier but civilian people, killed," he said.

He made a plea for additional military aid so that Ukraine can "win" the war.

"Please support Ukraine with more arms, and we'll be able to win," Zhovkva said.

The western city of Lviv, seen as a safe haven due to its proximity to the border, came under attack on Monday. Maksym Kozytskyy, the Lviv regional military governor, said three missile strikes hit warehouses that were not being used by the military, and a fourth hit a tire-repair shop. Seven people have died, he said.

Watch the full interview with Zhovkva here:

CNN's Ivana Kottasová contributed to this report.

5:31 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Zelensky: Russia will have difficulty replenishing arsenal amid sanctions

From CNN staff

The Russian army will have difficulty replenishing their arsenal of missiles, helicopters, and other military equipment, amid international sanctions, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a video address on Monday. 

“The Russian army is not slowing down the use of missiles against Ukraine, although it should have realized that it will be extremely difficult to restore its missile stockpile in the face of even existing sanctions,” Zelenksy said, “Without imports, they can't even do that. And when all the loopholes used to circumvent sanctions are closed, and even tougher sanctions are imposed, restoring Russia's missile capabilities will be unrealistic,” he said.

“A similar process is taking place with other Russian weapons. Producing new artillery, planes, new helicopters, and cruisers under sanctions will be a daunting task for Russia,” he added.

5:16 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

US State Department looking at possibly labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

US State Department officials are looking at every tool available to them to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine, including the possibility of labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, according to a senior administration official. The process could take weeks before a determination is made, the official said.

“We're taking a close look at the facts. We're taking a close look at the law,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on CNN Monday when asked about the possibility of designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism on Monday. “Whether it is this authority, whether it's any other authority available to us under the law, we will apply it if it's effective and appropriate.” 

The definition of a state sponsor of terrorism is a country that has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” according to the State Department. There are only four countries that are currently labeled state sponsors of terrorism by the US: North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked US President Biden in one of their recent phone conversations to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, CNN reported last week. 

The US has already rolled out severe sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war, but adding Russia to the list would be a symbolic move that would also inflict an even greater cost on Russia’s economy. It would lead to actions such as prohibiting Russia from buying certain items that can be used commercial or militarily, and sanctions on other people and countries still engaged in certain trade with Russia.

5:17 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Russian forces have started the battle for Donbas, Zelensky says

From CNN Staff

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

Russian forces have started the battle for Donbas, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Monday.

“Russian forces have started the battle for Donbas for which they've been preparing for a long time and a considerable amount of the Russian forces are concentrated and focused on that offensive,” Zelensky said. 

The president underscored that Ukrainian forces will continue to fight against a Russian incursion in the region.

“No matter how many Russian servicemen they're bringing into that area, we will keep on fighting and defending and we will be doing this daily. We will not give up anything that is Ukrainian but we don't need anything that is not ours,” Zelensky said. 

“I’m thankful to all of our warriors, our soldiers, our heroic towns and towns in the region who are resisting and standing firm,” he added.

5:08 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Ukrainian national security official: Russians launched an effort to breakthrough front lines Monday

From CNN's Julia Presniakova in Lviv 

In frame taken from a video posted to social media, a long column of Russian military vehicles is seen heading from the Russian border toward the city of Izium, where Russian forces have been gathering.  The vehicles are seen moving through the city of Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region. 
In frame taken from a video posted to social media, a long column of Russian military vehicles is seen heading from the Russian border toward the city of Izium, where Russian forces have been gathering.  The vehicles are seen moving through the city of Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region.  From Twitter

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said Monday that Russian forces had launched an effort to break through Ukrainian front lines in three regions.  

"Today, almost along the entire front line of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv regions, the occupiers tried to break through our defenses," he said in remarks on television.

"Fortunately, our military is holding on, and only in two cities they [the Russians] have passed: Kreminna and another small town. But the fighting continues, we are not surrendering our territories and the attempt to start an active phase has begun this morning," he said.

4:39 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

White House says there are still no plans for Biden to visit Ukraine

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Monday that there are no plans in place for US President Joe Biden to travel to Ukraine, following comments from Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky encouraging him to do so.

“That has not changed — what our focus continues to be on is providing Ukraine, the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian leaders — a historic amount of security assistance,” Psaki told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins adding that while “there's no plans for the President to go” at this time, “if anyone were to go…we would not outline from here or anywhere from the government, who, if, and when, for security reasons, so we wouldn't have any details to preview regardless.”

Some context: In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that aired Sunday, Zelensky said he wants Biden to come to Ukraine. The US President suggested last week that he wanted to go, though he said US officials are still “in discussions” on whether a high-level US official will visit Ukraine.

“I think he will,” Zelensky said of Biden when asked if there were any plans for the US President to visit. “I mean, his decision, of course. And as well, the safety situation depends – I mean that – but I think he’s the leader of the United States, and that’s why he should come here to see.”

4:31 p.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Ukrainian official: "Second phase of the war has begun" in Donbas

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv and Kostan Nechyporenko in Vasylkiv

Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said Monday the "second phase of the war" had begun in Ukraine's Donbas region, amid clear signs of a stepped-up Russian offensive. 

"Donbas. The second phase of the war has begun, but I will tell you to believe in the Armed Forces," Yermak said.