April 6, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes, Jason Kurtz, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Amy Woodyatt, Jack Bantock, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022
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10:50 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

US sanctions on Russia are not "permanent" and can be reversed

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

US sanctions on Russia are not permanent and may be reversed if Moscow changes course in Ukraine, a senior administration official said.

"It's a negative feedback loop. So we deny capital, we deny technology, we deny talent that can flow into Russia, and the combination of the steps that we're taking create this downward spiral that accelerates the more that Putin escalates," the official said.

The White House has not said specifically what Russian President Vladimir Putin must do to see the sanctions reversed, but the official said Wednesday they are willing to scale down should Russia "change course."

"And if he were to change course, someday, that negative feedback loop would slow and could possibly reverse," the official went on. "None of this is permanent. The only aspect that's permanent are the lives that he's taken away and he can never bring those back.  

"But the sanctions are designed to be able to respond to the conditions on the ground and to create leverage for the outcome we seek," the official went on.

11:25 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

US officials have disrupted a Russian botnet. Here's what that means.

From CNN's Sean Lyngass

US officials have seized control of a vast Russian government-controlled “botnet” — or army of thousands of infected computers that can be used for cyberattacks, saying that the Russians have used "similar infrastructure" against Ukranian targets.

The botnet was controlled by a unit within the Russian GRU military intelligence agency known for disruptive cyberattacks such as the 2015 and 2016 hacks that cut power in Ukraine, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

Botnets have a range of potential uses, from knocking websites offline to more disruptive hacks that render computers inoperable. It was not immediately clear what specific hacks may have been thwarted, but Wray said that thousands of small businesses around the world had been infected with the GRU malware. 

US officials have been on high alert for potential Russian cyberattacks, particularly following President Joe Biden’s recent warning to business executives that “Russia's cyber capacity is fairly consequential and it's coming.”

10:43 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

Why the US is targeting Putin's adult daughters in the latest round of sanctions

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The US is targeting Vladimir Putin's two adult daughters in the latest round of sanctions because they believe the Russian president may be hiding some of his assets with them, according to the senior administration official.

Without detailing which of Putin's assets could be hiding with Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, the official said the practice was common among the Russian elite.

"We have reason to believe that Putin and many of his cronies and the oligarchs hide their wealth, hide their assets, with family members, that have placed their assets and their wealth in the US financial system, but also many other parts of the world," the official said.

"That's why the coordination, the coordinated efforts to freeze their assets and seize their physical luxury goods — their cars, their yachts, their homes, etc — that's why it's so important that we act together," the official went on.

"We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members, and that's why we're targeting them," the official said.
10:42 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

Biden administration imposes new sanctions on Russia banking institutions and Putin's daughters

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Kevin Liptak 

The US is taking additional actions to increase economic pressure on Russia and President Vladimir Putin following horrific images from the Ukrainian city of Bucha, announcing new sanctions Wednesday on Russian financial institutions, as well as some people, including Putin’s adult daughters and the wife and daughter of his foreign minister. 

“Today we’re dramatically escalating the financial shock by imposing full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and its largest private bank, Alfa Bank,” a senior administration official briefing reporters said. 

Sberbank holds nearly one-third of Russia’s total banking sector assets, the official noted, adding that the US has now fully blocked “more than two-thirds of the Russian banking sector.”  

Second, the senior official announced, “In alignment with the G7 and the EU, we’re announcing a ban on new investment in Russia.” That will be implemented with an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden. 

The administration is also putting full blocking sanctions on a new set of Russian elites and their family members, including Putin’s adult daughters Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter and members of Russia’s Security Council, including former President and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The US has already sanctioned more than 140 oligarchs and their family members and over 400 Russian government officials, the senior official said. 

The US will also apply full blocking sanctions on critical major Russian state-owned enterprises, which will be announced by the Department of Treasury on Thursday. The official also noted Tuesday’s announcement that the Department of Treasury has blocked Russia from making debt payments with dollars stockpiled at US banks. 

The senior official noted the crippling effect of US measures on the Russian economy since its invasion of Ukraine. 

“Russia’s GDP is projected to shrink by double digits this year… It’s not in the process of being isolated as a pariah state. The economic shock this year alone is projected by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to wipe out the past 15 years of economic gains,” the official said. 

Pressed about the efficacy of sanctions in ending Putin’s war in Ukraine, the senior official sought to underscore the effect they are having on life in Russia and said Putin would eventually have to reckon with his people. 

“Even an autocrat like Putin has a social contract with the Russian people. He took away their freedom in exchange for promising stability and so he's not giving them stability,” the official said.

“The question really is not so much: What can we do and when will that have an effect? I think it’s: What's the endgame here for Putin? What’s he playing for?” the official added. “This is very clearly becoming a failure for him and at some point he will have to recognize that reality.”

10:33 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

DOJ says it disrupted a botnet run by Russian military intelligence agency

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, left, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, right, speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington D.C, on April 6.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, left, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, right, speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington D.C, on April 6. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday the Justice Department had successfully disrupted of a botnet, or a network of infected devices, that was being controlled by the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU. 

“The Russian government has recently used similar infrastructure to attack Ukrainian targets,” Garland said. ”Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used. Thanks to our close work with international partners, we were able to detect the infection of thousands of network hardware devices.”  

Garland touted the disruption among several actions the Justice Department has taken against the Russian regime that he highlighted at news conference with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, FBI Director Chris Wray and other DOJ officials.

Garland also announced that that the Department was charging Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev with sanctions violations.  

“As the indictment charges, the Treasury Department previously identified Malofeyev as one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea, and for providing material support for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic,” Garland said. “After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe.” 

The new actions come in addition to a yacht — owned by another Kremlin tied oligarch facing sanctions, Viktor Vekselberg — that was seized earlier this week. 

Additionally, Garland said Wednesday, the department, in coordination with its German law enforcement partners, seized the “Russia-affiliated Hydra darknet market — the world’s largest illegal marketplace on the dark web.” Charges had been brought, according to Garland, against a Russian national who allegedly administered the market’s technical infrastructure.

10:20 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

Ukraine war could last for years as Putin still wants the "whole of Ukraine," NATO chief says

From Amy Cassidy in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks as he arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 6.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks as he arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 6. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

Although Russia is now concentrating its assault on eastern Ukraine, NATO has seen “no indication” that Russian President Vladimir Putin's aim of controlling the whole country has changed, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters before a meeting in Brussels of foreign ministers of NATO allies, Stoltenberg also warned the war in Ukraine could last for years.

“We have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order, so we need to be prepared for the long haul,” he said. “We have to be realistic and realize that this may last for a long time, for many months or even years.”

The foreign ministers of NATO countries are meeting Wednesday and Thursday to discuss ramping up support for Ukraine.

Kyiv has been calling for tanks and fighter jets on top of the defense systems already provided by the West.

“I will not go into all details of exactly what kind of weapons equipment allies are providing, but I can say the totality of what the allies are doing is significant, and that includes some heavier systems combined with lighter systems,” Stoltenberg said.

He warned the Ukraine war will have long term security implications for Europe regardless of when it ends. 

“We have seen the willingness by President Putin to use military force to reach his objectives. And that has changed the security reality in Europe for many, many years," the secretary general said.

10:18 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

At least 1,563 civilians killed since Russia's invasion of Ukraine started, UN says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Chris Liakos in London 

A resident searches for the graves of relatives in a cemetery in Chernigiv, northern Ukraine, on April 5.
A resident searches for the graves of relatives in a cemetery in Chernigiv, northern Ukraine, on April 5. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 1,563 civilians have been killed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The UN agency has recorded 3,776 civilian casualties in Ukraine so far: 1,563 killed and 2,213 injured, it said in its latest update posted Wednesday. 

The OCHCR reiterated its belief that "the actual figures are considerably higher as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration."

It listed Mariupol and Volnovakha (Donetsk region), Izium (Kharkiv region), Popasna (Luhansk region), and Borodianka (Kyiv region) as examples of places where there have been "allegations of numerous civilian casualties."

On Tuesday, OHCHR spokesperson Liz Throssell spoke of the UN's condemnation of images that emerged last weekend of civilian bodies strewn across the town of Bucha, saying they showed "all the signs" that civilians "were directly targeted and directly killed." 

10:00 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

At least 89 killed, including children, in Kyiv since invasion

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

At least 89 people have been killed, including four children, and 167 homes damaged in Kyiv since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Kyiv City State Administration wrote in a statement on a verified Telegram page on Wednesday.

Another 398 people, including 20 children, were injured in the war.  

Since Feb. 24, Russian troops have damaged 44 schools, 11 administrative buildings, 26 kindergartens and an orphanage.

In addition to that, two sports facilities, five social facilities, 17 health care facilities, 10 cultural facilities and 48 facilities of transport infrastructure were hit by Russian attacks. 

The administration urged its residents not to lose vigilance and to take shelter at the first signs of air alarms.  

"It has become safer in Kyiv today, but the threat of air strikes remains," the statement read.

Those who left the capital are asked to refrain from returning for the time being.

10:11 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

US will announce sanctions on Putin's adult children today

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

Katerina Tikhonova, deputy director of the Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University and daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is seen on a screen as she takes part in a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 4.
Katerina Tikhonova, deputy director of the Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University and daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is seen on a screen as she takes part in a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 4. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)

The US is expected to announce it is sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin's adult children when it rolls out the new sanctions package today, according to sources familiar with the package.  

CNN reported last night that the US could apply sanctions on Putin’s adult children as early as Wednesday, according to a western official familiar with the plans. Putin has acknowledged two adult daughters.

The Biden administration is also eyeing an expansion of sanctions on Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, and Alfa Bank, another large lender, the official said.