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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9:41 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Ukrainian Marine commander sends open letter to Pope Francis: Mariupol is "hell on Earth"

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

The commander of the Ukrainian Marine unit in the besieged city of Mariupol wrote a letter to Pope Francis appealing for him to save the people remaining in the city under heavy bombardment. 

In the letter, published on the Ukrainska Pravda website, Maj. Serhii Volyna, commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, wrote, "I have not seen your appeals to the world and I have not read all your last statements, I have been fighting for more than 50 days in complete encirclement and all I have time for is a fierce battle for every meter of a city encircled by the enemy."

Volyna said he was ready to "fight to the end," despite constant artillery and rocket fire, lack of water, food and medicine, adding: "You have probably seen a lot in your life. But I am sure that you have never seen what is happening in Mariupol. Because that's what hell on Earth looks like. I have little time to describe all the horrors I see here every day. At the plant [Azovstal], women with children and babies live in bunkers. In hunger and cold. Every day being targeted by the enemy aviation. The wounded die every day because there is no medicine, no water, no food."

The officer alluded to the drama theater in Mariupol that was hit by a Russian strike while being used as a shelter for civilians in March. 

"The time has come when praying is not enough," Volyna said. "Help to save them. After the bombing of the drama theater, no one believes the Russian occupiers. Bring the truth to the world, evacuate people and save their lives from the hands of Satan, who wants to burn all living things."

9:36 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Moscow continues diplomatic retaliation and expels Bulgarian embassy employees

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The Bulgarian embassy in Moscow, Russia, on April 20, 2021.
The Bulgarian embassy in Moscow, Russia, on April 20, 2021. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Moscow is expelling employees of the Bulgarian embassy, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

"Atanas Krastin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Russian Federation, was invited to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where he was presented with a note from the Ministry declaring employees of the Bulgarian Embassy in Moscow as "persona non grata" (unacceptable)," the statement read.

The ministry noted that this measure is a response to Bulgaria's decision taken in March to declare 10 diplomats of the Russian Embassy in Sofia as "persona non grata."

9:41 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Key takeaways from Ukrainian President Zelensky’s exclusive interview with CNN

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN over the weekend. If you're just joining us, here are the key takeaways you need to know:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN over the weekend. If you're just joining us, here are the key takeaways you need to know: (CNN)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN that aired over the weekend. If you're just joining us, here are the key takeaways:

Ukraine is not willing to give up its eastern territory: Zelensky said he will not give up the eastern part of the country to end the war with Russia, and Ukraine's military is prepared to fight Moscow's military in the Donbas region in a battle he says could influence the course of the entire war.

Ukraine has no guarantee that Russia wouldn't try again to seize Kyiv if it is able to capture Donbas, he continued. "This is why it is very important for us to not allow them, to stand our ground, because this battle … it can influence the course of the whole war," Zelensky said.

“Because I don’t trust the Russian military and Russian leadership,” he added. “That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv – from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction – it doesn’t mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won’t come further towards Kyiv.”

Zelensky’s interview with CNN, more than seven weeks into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, comes as Ukraine’s military has seen successes resisting Russia’s offensive that have come as a surprise to US intelligence – and a Kremlin that had planned for a quick and decisive victory.

Asked by Tapper if Ukraine would be victorious in the conflict, Zelensky said, “Yes, of course, and will.”

What happened with Russian warship Moskva: A senior US defense official said Friday that two Ukrainian Neptune missiles had hit the Moskva, and an American official said that the strike and subsequent sinking of the ship was the result of a Ukrainian missile. Zelensky, however, was cagey about whether Ukraine had played a role.

"We know that it does not exist anymore. For us, it is a strong weapon against our country, so its sinking is not a tragedy for us. I want you, the rest of the people, to realize that. The less weapons the Russian Federation that has attacked our country has, the better for us. The less capable they are. This is important," he told CNN.

Zelensky warns that Russia could use nuclear or chemical weapons: "All of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth," Zelensky said, switching into English to emphasize his point. "We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think."

More help needed: Zelensky said the $800 million in additional funding Biden approved last week to go to Ukraine for new and more advanced weapons was helpful – but more was still needed. “Of course, we need more. But I am happy that he is helping us now,” Zelensky said. “I feel that right now we are having a cleaner dialogue. It’s been a dialogue that’s had some twists and turns. And not just talk. It’s been very, very difficult because there aren’t many countries that have really helped us.”

Zelensky said the most important factor was speed to get the weapons needed into the hands of Ukrainian forces. He dismissed some concerns the US and other countries have raised that Ukraine’s soldiers are not trained to use some of the weapons the country is asking for.

Zelensky speaks about the horrors of war: "Look what happened in Bucha. It's clear that is not even a war, it's a genocide. They just killed people. Not soldiers, people. They just shot people in the streets. People were riding bicycles, taking the bus or just walking down the street. There were corpses lining the streets," the president said.

Asked about a video released earlier this month showing a Ukrainian woman finding the body of her son in a well, Zelensky said, "This is the most horrifying thing I have seen in my life."

He grew emotional talking about the death that the war has caused in Ukraine, saying it is "a great pain for me" to see the lives lost. Zelensky, who lost family in the Holocaust, was asked what he thought about politicians around the world saying "never again" on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, given what's happening in his country.

"I don't believe the world," he said, speaking in English. "We don't believe the words. After the escalation of Russia, we don't believe our neighbors. We don't believe all of this."

"The only belief there is belief in ourselves, in our people, belief in our Armed Forces, and the belief that countries are going to support us not just with their words but with their actions," Zelensky continued in Ukrainian. "And that's it. Never again. Really, everybody is talking about this and yet, as you can see, not everyone has got the guts."

Read more from the interview here.

CNN's Devan Cole contributed to this report.

9:12 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Around 200,000 Russian jobs at risk following exit of foreign companies, Moscow mayor says

From Uliana Pavlova and Chris Liakos

Around 200,000 people are at risk of losing their jobs in the Russian capital following foreign companies leaving the country, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said in a blog post Monday.

Authorities will continue to implement plans in order to support workers at risk of being unemployed, setting aside 3.36 billion rubles ($41 million) for these plans, Sobyanin said.

“We continue to implement the plan to improve the sustainability of the capital's economy. As planned, last week we approved the program to support employees at risk of dismissal. Taking into account subsidies from the federal budget, 3.36 billion rubles will be allocated for its implementation. First of all, the program is addressed to employees of foreign companies that have temporarily suspended their activities or decided to leave Russia. According to our estimates, about 200,000 people are at risk of losing their jobs,” Sobyanin wrote.

The employment assistance plan includes personnel training, employment in temporary and public works and incentives for organizations and firms who employ these workers, he added.

8:27 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Firefighters work at the site of a military strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on April 18.
Firefighters work at the site of a military strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on April 18. (Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters)

Russian forces are bombarding cities across Ukraine, including the western city of Lviv, while heavy fighting hits the country's east.

Here are the latest developments on the war in Ukraine:

  • Missile strikes hit Lviv: Seven people were killed and 11 injured after Russia launched at least four missile strikes on Lviv, regional military governor Maksym Kozytskyy said. At least one strike hit a tire repair shop, forcing civilians to flee their homes. The toll could rise further as rescue efforts continue, Kozytskyy said. The mayor of Lviv, Andrii Sadovyi, said previously that the city had been hit by "five aimed missile hits." Strikes were also reported in Dnipro, injuring two people and destroying railway infrastructure.
  • Russia attacks in the east: Both Ukrainian officials and the Russian Ministry of Defense have reported widespread military action and a ratcheting up in fighting in the east over the past 24 hours. Ukrainian officials say forces have used fired mortars, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers, while Russia said its forces had used precision air-launched missiles.
  • Heavy fighting in Mariupol: Ukrainian forces are continuing to resist Russian attacks in the besieged southeastern city after rejecting a deadline to surrender. Russian forces have been bombarding the Azovstal steel plant, a bastion of the Ukrainian defense, said Petro Andriushchenko, a mayoral adviser.
  • Mariupol sealed?: Andriushchenko previously said that Mariupol would be closed for entry and exit starting on Monday, with Russian forces issuing passes for movement. He also said Ukrainian men would be subject to "filtration" — relocated for screening by Russian forces. CNN cannot independently verify the claims. He added that evacuations corridors were not marked with red flags and accused Russia of using them to trap those still defending the city.
  • Ground troops on the offensive: Control over the city of Kreminna has been "lost," said Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, as Russian forces try to break Ukrainian resistance in the country's east. Earlier Monday, Russian forces entered the town with "a huge amount of equipment," said Haidai.
  • Russia accused of further atrocities: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that Russia wants to “literally finish off and destroy Donbas” in eastern Ukraine and accused Russian forces of committing humanitarian violations — including use of "torture chambers," "blackmail" and "starvation" — in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. CNN cannot independently verify the claims.
  • Zelensky won't give up the east: The Ukrainian President told CNN the country is not willing to give up territory in the eastern part of the country to end the war with Russia, and Ukraine's military is prepared to fight Moscow's military in the Donbas region in a battle he says could influence the course of the entire war.
8:04 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Multiple parts of eastern Ukraine hit by heavier fighting, according to Ukrainian and Russian reports

From Tim Lister, Nathan Hodge and Yulia Kesaieva

Smoke raises from an oil refinery in Lysychansk about 120km north of Donetsk, Ukraine, on April 16.
Smoke raises from an oil refinery in Lysychansk about 120km north of Donetsk, Ukraine, on April 16. (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Both Ukrainian officials and the Russian Ministry of Defense have reported widespread military action in the east of Ukraine over the past 24 hours.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said Russian missile strikes against the town of Kramatorsk had destroyed at least eight residential buildings and educational and infrastructural facilities.

"Artillery shelling along the entire front line did not stop all night. The enemy fired most intensely in the Mariinka, Avdiivka, and Ocheretyne directions," Kyrylenko said.

All three towns have suffered extensive bombardment in recent weeks but remain under Ukrainian control.

"No civilian casualties have been reported so far, but many houses have been damaged and electricity and gas supplies have been disrupted," Kyrylenko said.

In neighboring Luhansk, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said that on Sunday, Russian forces "fired mortars, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers at Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Kreminna, Lysychansk, Popasna, Hirske, and Zolote."

"The enemy is deliberately targeting multi-storey and private households," it added.

"Due to the shelling, 29 settlements remain without electricity, 38 settlements are without gas supply ... There is no water supply in Rubizhne, Popasna."

These cities and towns form a cluster of urban settlements that have been the Ukrainian front line for several weeks and have suffered extensive damage. Ukrainian officials estimate that 70% of Severodonetsk has been destroyed.

Despite the fighting, some evacuations have continued.

Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said 67 residents were rescued from Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Popasna, Lysychansk and Hirske.

"The security situation changes every hour. Where it was still safe in the morning, Russian shells are now exploding," Haidai said.

For its part, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Monday that Russian forces had launched precision air-launched missiles around Ukraine, claiming to have destroyed 16 Ukrainian military installations overnight.

The statement claimed Russian missiles hit five Ukrainian command posts, a fuel storage facility, three ammunition depots, and personnel and military equipment. Most of the targets were in or around Donbas.

CNN could not immediately verify those claims.

The authorities in the Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, which borders Donetsk, says territorial defense brigades "have been fighting in the whole length of the front line."

The spokesperson of the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, Col. Ivan Arefyev, said there had been Russian shelling of several villages just inside the Donetsk region, including Staromayorske and Makarivka. Several settlements inside Zaporizhzhia region had also been hit, he said.

"Russian troops are using tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry. In addition, they bombard the region's settlements with aviation, GRAD multiple rocket launchers, small arms artillery, 120-mm mortars and large-caliber machine guns," Arefyev said, adding that "counter-offensive operations with the support of aviation, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, mortars, armored personnel carriers" were underway.

According to a CNN analysis of the battlefields, most of the villages reportedly hit inside Zaporizhzhia had not previously been targeted.

8:10 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

Death toll in Lviv missile strikes rises to seven

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Jo Shelley in Lviv

Seven people are dead and 11 injured after Russia launched four missile strikes in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, regional military governor Maksym Kozytskyy said.

The toll could rise further as rescue efforts continue, he added.

"The rubble is still being dismantled, so the numbers [are] not final yet," said Kozytskyy. "Three are heavily injured, a child is mildly injured."

Three missiles hit warehouses and a fourth hit a tire repair shop, said Kozytskyy.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said the strikes shattered windows in eight residential buildings as well as a school.

Mariya Holovchak, 67, who lives across a tire repair shop that was hit in a missile strike.
Mariya Holovchak, 67, who lives across a tire repair shop that was hit in a missile strike. (Jo Shelley/CNN)

Maria Holovchak, who lives across the road from the tire repair shop, said her neighbor's windows were shattered. The 67-year-old told CNN she was in bed when she heard the explosions and saw her neighbors running out of the building.

"I prayed that God would protect us," she said.

7:02 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

"No parts of Ukraine should be on the negotiating table," Ukrainian lawmaker tells CNN

Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko has said that “no parts of Ukraine should be on the negotiating table” as the country continues its resistance, despite Russia's bombardment of cities across the country Monday.

Vasylenko, a Member of Parliament for the Holos Party who was elected in 2019, was speaking to CNN after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was not willing to give up territory in eastern Ukraine to end the war with Russia.

“Ukraine is writing its own, new history and it’s also writing the new history of the world as it goes,” Vasylenko told CNN New Day from Prague, Czech Republic.

“If under any circumstances Ukraine is made to give up territories, it’s going to be a risk not just to Ukrainians living in Ukraine, but to the whole world," she added.

“Because then a message will be sent to aggressors loud and clear that it’s okay to go in for land grabs, it’s okay to start aggressive wars and to terrorize civilian population, because nobody is actually going to be doing anything about it.”

She also said that Russia has committed “multiple war crimes” during the course of the war in Ukraine, a claim made by several Ukrainian officials that the Kremlin has denied.

Following Russia’s invasion nearly two months ago, Vasylenko told CNN that she had undertaken shooting practice and armed herself with an AK-47 and pistol.

“Are we not clear still that Russia is the one in the wrong here? That Russia has committed a crime of aggression?” she said.

She also said that Russia has committed “multiple war crimes” during the course of the war in Ukraine, a claim made by several Ukrainian officials that the Kremlin has denied.

7:23 a.m. ET, April 18, 2022

"A trap for our defenders": Mariupol adviser accuses Russia of offering false evacuation corridors

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works company in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 18.
Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works company in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 18. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russian forces have been bombarding the Azovstal steel plant, a bastion of the Ukrainian defense, in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, said Petro Andriushchenko, a mayoral adviser, who accused Russia of trying to trap those defending the city.

Ukrainian forces are continuing to resist Russian attacks in the city after rejecting a deadline to surrender.

"The fighting in the Left Bank (Livoberezhnyi) district has been ongoing all day long," Andriushchenko said in a statement on Telegram. "The occupiers continue to fire on and bomb Azovstal with all weapons."

"Realizing that the defenders are not going to give up, the occupiers' plans are clear," Andriushchenko said.

"According to their message, the corridor for safe exit should have been marked with red flags, but no marks were made," he said. "That once again confirms that they are only preparing a trap for our defenders."

CNN cannot independently verify those claims.

Andriushchenko previously said that Mariupol would be closed for entry and exit starting on Monday, with Russian forces issuing passes for movement.

Andriushchenko also said Ukrainian men would be subject to "filtration" — relocated for screening by Russian forces. CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

Andriushchenko is not in Mariupol but works to gather information collected from people in the city, which has been under a weekslong siege.