April 5, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Melissa Macaya, Jason Kurtz, Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, Travis Caldwell, Ben Church, Lianne Kolirin and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022
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7:09 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Historic Russian human rights center closes, warns of "return to the totalitarian past"

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Lawyer of the human rights group 'Memorial' Ilya Novikov, center, speaks to the media after Moscow City Court ordered the closure of a branch of the Memorial group, in Moscow, Russia, on December 29.
Lawyer of the human rights group 'Memorial' Ilya Novikov, center, speaks to the media after Moscow City Court ordered the closure of a branch of the Memorial group, in Moscow, Russia, on December 29. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Memorial Human Rights Center, one of Russia’s most prominent and storied human rights organizations, announced its closure Tuesday in a statement published online.

Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the closure of Memorial last December as part of a campaign of legal and administrative attacks on the country’s civil society and human rights organizations.

"Today, on April 5, 2022, the Memorial Human Rights Center will be liquidated," the official statement reads, warning that "a return to the totalitarian past is possible, it is happening now, in front of the whole world."

Memorial, one of the country's oldest human-rights organizations, monitors political repressions in modern Russia and has documented the crimes of totalitarian rule in the Soviet Union.

The Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, among other human rights watch groups, condemned the court’s decision to shut down the center.

Some context: Human rights groups and advocates for democracy have come under increasing attack in Russia in recent years.

Thousands of protesters were detained last year for taking part in several demonstrations supporting Alexey Navalny, the country's best-known political opponent of Putin.

Demonstrations during the first few months of 2021 were met with a strong crackdown by police, including widespread arrests and an allegedly disproportionate use of force.

Several rights groups -- including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International -- wrote in an open letter published in early December: "Memorial is at the very heart of Russia's civil society, and by targeting it, authorities are hoping to destroy Russia's civil society at large."

7:02 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to address the United Nations Security Council at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday after warning that worse atrocities may emerge amid the ongoing retreat of Russian forces around Kyiv.

World leaders have continued to condemn civilian deaths as Ukrainian forces liberate more cities and expose the true horrors of the war.

Here are the latest developments on the war in Ukraine:

Red Cross workers released: Aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who were initially detained in Russian-held territory while attempting to evacuate desperate residents of Mariupol, have been released, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. An evacuation convoy of seven buses accompanied by the ICRC was held in Manhush, a Russian-held town to the west of Mariupol, on Monday but were released later that night.

"Difficult" situation in Luhansk region: The situation in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine is "difficult" amidst heavy Russian bombardment, according to Serhiy Haidai, chair of the Luhansk regional military administration. It comes as the Russian military said it is shifting its focus to the eastern Donbas region following a withdrawal of forces from around Kyiv and northern Ukraine.

Zelensky on Russia negotiations: Ukrainian leader Zelensky has cast doubt on the possibility of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after he accused Russia of genocide. Zelensky paid a visit to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha on Monday, an area where shocking images of civilian bodies strewn on the streets emerged over the weekend. A meeting could happen if Russia were to "bear all the punishments" of committing genocide, Zelensky said.

Satellite images undermine Russia's claims: New satellite images from Maxar Technologies show the bodies of dead civilians in Bucha had been laying in the street for weeks, including when the town was under Russian control. Moscow claimed footage from Bucha was "fake" but the new pictures show objects on Yablunska street match the exact locations where bodies are seen in the street in the video.

CNN team witnesses removal of bodies: Ukrainian officials have shown international media the removal of five bodies from a basement in Bucha. A CNN team visited the basement before the removal and saw the bodies, which were in an advanced stage of decomposition. Five men had been tortured and executed by Russian soldiers, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, told CNN on the ground. CNN cannot independently verify Gerashchenko’s claims.

6:47 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Civilian ship attacked in Mariupol port by Russian military, Ukraine says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

A civilian ship in the port of Mariupol is on fire and sinking after being hit by Russian troops, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Interior.

The ship, under a Dominican Republic flag, was berthed in the port when it was hit by shells during an ongoing attack on the besieged southern Ukrainian city, the ministry said in a statement Tuesday on its Telegram channel.

A fire broke out in the engine room before spreading and at least one crew member is known to have been injured, the statement said.

Maritime border guards were able to evacuate some crew to safety but say it is it impossible to continue the rescue operation due to "constant shelling."

According to the ministry, the captain sent a distress signal using the international maritime safety channel when it came under fire. 

"Warning! Warning! The ship under the flag of the Dominican Republic was brutally destroyed, everything was destroyed, the captain’s bridge was destroyed. Fire in engine room. There are wounded on board,” the captain reportedly said.

6:26 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Zelensky says negotiations with Putin might not happen after accusing Moscow of genocide

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London and Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks on Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 on April 5.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks on Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 on April 5. (1+1)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has cast doubt on the possibility of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after he accused Russia of genocide.

"It might happen that there will be no negotiations," Zelensky said on Ukrainian state TV on Tuesday. 

Zelensky said it would be understandable to not speak to Putin after accusing Russian troops of carrying out war crimes in Ukraine. "It would be easy to say I’m not going to talk to you -- and it would be understandable, after what you have done, that’s why."

A meeting could happen if Russia were to "bear all the punishments" of committing genocide, he said.

And in this meeting, we could find the way out of this situation, without losing our territory. I think that this is the bar we have to set for these negotiations. And then we will see. It might happen that there will be no negotiations. It might happen."

Zelensky paid a visit to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha on Monday, an area where shocking images of civilian bodies strewn on the streets emerged over the weekend. During the visit he said that it was "very difficult to negotiate" with Russia "when you see what they have done here."

6:18 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

German President expresses regret over previous stance on Russia

From Reuters

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, shakes hands with Russian president Vladimir Putin ahead of a joint press conference following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on 25 October 2017.
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, shakes hands with Russian president Vladimir Putin ahead of a joint press conference following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on 25 October 2017. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance/Getty Images)

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, long an advocate of Western rapprochement with Russia, expressed regret for his earlier stance, saying his years of support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline had been a clear mistake.

Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who served as Foreign Minister under Chancellor Angela Merkel before being elevated to the presidency, said Russia's invasion of Ukraine meant he and others had to reckon honestly with what they had got wrong.

My adherence to Nord Stream 2 was clearly a mistake," he said. "We were sticking to a bridge in which Russia no longer believed and which other partners had warned us against."

Steinmeier was a prominent member of a wing of his Social Democratic Party, led by former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, that argued close economic ties to Russia were a way of anchoring it within a Western-oriented global system.

The now-canceled Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which critics said would have weakened Ukraine by cutting it out of the energy transit business, was a centerpiece of that strategy.

That has triggered a growing backlash, with critics on social media repeatedly tweeting past pictures of him affectionately embracing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while Ukraine's ambassador Andrij Melnyk has been outspoken in his criticism.

When Steinmeier arranged a "solidarity concert" for Ukraine, Melnyk tweeted sarcastically that the only soloists appeared to be Russian. "An affront," he wrote. "Sorry, I'm not coming."

Germany's president is meant to be a unifying figure who stands above the cut and thrust of daily politics, one who enjoys the moral authority to exhort people to better behavior.

We failed to build a common European house," Steinmeier said. "I did not believe Vladimir Putin would embrace his country's complete economic, political and moral ruin for the sake of his imperial madness," he added. "In this, I, like others, was mistaken."
6:05 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to travel to Kyiv

From CNN’s James Frater in Brussels

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press conference after a virtual summit with China's President in Brussels, Belgium, on April 1.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press conference after a virtual summit with China's President in Brussels, Belgium, on April 1. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

Top European Union diplomats will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv this week, according to the chief spokesperson of the European Commission.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, will meet Zelensky "prior to the pledging event ‘Stand Up For Ukraine’ on Saturday in Warsaw," spokesman Eric Mamer said.

Last week, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, traveled to meet with Zelensky and addressed a special session of the Ukrainian parliament.

Her visit was welcomed by the Ukrainian leader who, in a speech posted to social media, called it an "important moment" for the country. 

Last month, the Prime Ministers of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovenia journeyed to Kyiv.

5:31 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Russian military claims strikes on Ukrainian military training center

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv

The Russian military has claimed it carried out long-range strikes with sea-launched missiles on what it described as a training center for Ukrainian special operations forces in southern Ukraine.

"On the evening of April 4, sea-based high-precision long-range weapons near the town of Ochakiv destroyed a training center for Ukrainian Special Operations Forces, which was used, among other things, to accommodate foreign mercenaries," Russian Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson, said in a statement.

CNN could not immediately verify that claim. The Russian military describes foreigners who have volunteered to fight for Ukraine as "mercenaries."

Konashenkov added that Russian forces air-launched precision missiles targeting fuel storage facilities in four locations: In Kremenets, Cherkasy, Zaporizhzhia and Novomoskovsk.

Russian forces have targeted fuel supply and storage facilities around Ukraine since the invasion.

4:46 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Ukraine needs "serious players" when it comes to security guarantees, says Zelensky

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his office in
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his office in (President of Ukraine)

Ukraine needs "serious players who are ready to go all the way" when it comes to security guarantees, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking to journalists on Ukrainian state TV Tuesday, Zelensky said Ukraine has not yet received "a specific list of these countries that are prepared to 100% stand up for us."

He said Ukraine is currently discussing security guarantees with countries including France, US, Germany, Turkey, Britain and Poland.

"We need serious players who are ready to go all the way. We need a circle of countries who would within 24 hours provide us with any weapons," said Zelensky.

These countries need to be states "who have real influence over the sanctions policy" and who are prepared to mobilize "as soon as we hear any threats from the Russian Federation," he added.

"These countries would come together. And within 24 hours, two or three days will impose everything, block everything. And simply put this country in a containment," he said.

On the topic of NATO membership, Zelensky said that even if Russia "sets it as a condition" that Ukraine does not join the alliance, the country has "given away too many lives not to be frank."

"If we are offered NATO membership tomorrow without playing with our lives, then we will join," he added.
4:32 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

South Korea expresses concern over alleged massacre of civilians

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

Graves with bodies of civilians next to apartments blocks in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 4.
Graves with bodies of civilians next to apartments blocks in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 4. (Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has expressed concern over the alleged massacre of civilians in Ukraine.

The discovery of civilian bodies strewn across streets as well as a mass grave in Bucha, outside Kyiv, has stirred international outrage.

"A wartime massacre of civilians is a clear violation of international law," the ministry said in a press release Tuesday.

The ministry also said it supports UN Secretary General António Guterres’ earlier statement which called for an independent investigation on the killing of civilians in Bucha.