April 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Jessie Yeung, Sana Noor Haq and Ben Church, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, April 8, 2022
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10:01 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Battle for Donbas will be reminiscent of World War II, Ukraine's foreign minister says

 From CNN's Jennifer Hansler in Brussels

“The battle for Donbas” is underway, and it “has not reached its maximum scale," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday.

“Every day, the heaviest fighting takes place in that part of Ukraine and more is to come, unfortunately,” Kuleba said at a press conference in Brussels.

“The battle for Donbas will remind you of the Second World War, with large operations, maneuvers, involvement of thousands of tanks, armored vehicles, planes, artillery. This will not be a local operation based on what we see in Russia's preparations,” he said.

“Russia has its plan, we have ours, and the battlefield will decide the outcome,” Kuleba said.

10:10 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Ukraine's foreign minister says he is "cautiously optimistic" about outcome of NATO discussions

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 7.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 7. (Evelyn Hockstein/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was “very specific” in his requests to NATO on Thursday, and said he was “cautiously optimistic about the outcomes of our discussions.” 

Speaking to the press after attending the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Kuleba said he believed there was a growing understanding that Ukraine was not fighting just for its own security but for that of the countries in the alliance.

Kuleba reiterated his earlier remarks, saying the deal Ukraine is proposing to NATO is simple: “You provide us with everything we need and we will fight for our security and your security so that President Putin has no chance to test Article V.” 

He would not go into specific details about those discussions, but said he did not raise future security guarantees “because we know exactly the list of allies that who we see as potential security guarantors” and that would be negotiated bilaterally.

9:29 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Senior Ukrainian official warns of "most difficult situation" in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

The "the most difficult situation" Ukraine now faces is in the country's east, Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the Interior minister of Ukraine, warned Thursday.

Ukrainian military officials say they have observed a buildup of Russian forces here.

"The most difficult situation now is, of course, in eastern Ukraine," he said in televised remarks. "This is the Luhansk region — in the area of ​​Rubizhne, in the area of ​​Popasna … [where] there is, in fact, the destruction of cities. Unfortunately, the Russians continue to do everything they did before in Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, and so on — to destroy civilian infrastructure. And, of course, this is Mariupol, which is still under Ukrainian control and which is still fighting."

Recent advances by Russian forces in the Kharkiv region could be setting the stage for the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk to become the next target of Russia's offensive, said the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.

"The situation now is very difficult in the direction of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk," Denysenko said. "These are the key points at this stage of this war. I believe, in fact, the results of at least this stage of this war will largely depend on the fighting in the east."

The heads of the Donetsk and Luhansk regional military administrations have asked residents in some of those eastern regions to evacuate, Denysenko noted.

"All the humanitarian corridors that are being opened are officially declared by the state," he said. "Keep this in mind, and if you have the opportunity to go through these corridors — be sure to use them. Because we realize that the only strategy of the Russian Federation is the strategy of destruction of settlements."

9:12 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Russia's effort to prop up ruble will "deplete" its war resources, US treasury official says

From CNN's Allie Malloy

U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo speaks at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 29.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo speaks at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 29. (Johanna Geron/AP)

Russia’s efforts to prop up the ruble will eventually “deplete” its resources to fight the war in Ukraine, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told CNN.

“We’ve worked with our European allies and partners to level a set of devastating sanctions against the Russian economy and what they’ve done because of our sanctions is they’ve taken the money that they’re earning from selling things abroad and they’re forcing those exporters to take that money and to bring it back to Russia and to buy Rubles,” Adeyemo said.

“Every time they take a dollar or a euro and bring it back to Russia and they force their companies to buy rubles, it’s depleting their resources they will have to fight the war.”

Adeyemo wouldn’t directly answer whether Europe should stop buying gas from Russia, saying that Europe has a “commitment to removing themselves from Russian energy and that’s what they started to do” citing the ban of Russian coal Wednesday. 

The treasury is now focused on making sure they stop sanctions evasion and going after the “Russian war machines,” including its aerospace and military industries, Adeyemo added. 

“The key thing for us is to make sure that we do this in a way that hurts the Russian economy more than it hurts our economy,” he said.

8:44 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

G7 foreign ministers jointly condemn Russia's atrocities in Bucha

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

A general view of the second meeting of the North Atlantic Council with participation of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 7.
A general view of the second meeting of the North Atlantic Council with participation of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 7. (Olivier Matthys/AP)

The foreign ministers of the G7 countries jointly condemned “in the strongest terms the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in Bucha and a number of other Ukrainian towns.”

“The massacres in the town of Bucha and other Ukrainian towns will be inscribed in the list of atrocities and severe violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights, committed by the aggressor on Ukrainian soil,” the top diplomats from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the European Union in a lengthy statement following their meeting in Brussels Thursday, which was attended by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. 

“We underscore that those responsible for these heinous acts and atrocities, including any attacks targeting civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure, will be held accountable and prosecuted,” the statement added.

Underlining their “unwavering support for Ukraine," the foreign ministers stressed the importance of "further increasing the economic pressure" on Russia and its ally, Belarus.

"Together with international partners, the G7 will sustain and increase pressure on Russia by imposing coordinated additional restrictive measures to effectively thwart Russian abilities to continue the aggression against Ukraine,” the statement continued. “We will work together to stop any attempts to circumvent sanctions or to aid Russia by other means. We are taking further steps to expedite plans to reduce our reliance on Russian energy, and will work together to this end.”

8:44 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Russian forces are trying to wipe Mariupol "off the face of the Earth," Ukrainian military commander says

From CNN’s Ivan Watson, AnneClaire Stapleton and Niamh Kennedy

An aerial view shows residential buildings that were damaged during the Russian attack in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 3.
An aerial view shows residential buildings that were damaged during the Russian attack in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 3. (Pavel Klimov/Reuters)

Russian military forces are trying to wipe the besieged southern city of Mariupol “off the face of the Earth,” a Ukrainian military commander currently in Mariupol told CNN Wednesday night.

“It is a humanitarian catastrophe. The military that were involved in active hostilities here are completely surrounded. There are supply problems with water, food, medication and general supply. It’s a very difficult situation,” said Serhiy Volyna, deputy commander of the Marine Battalion in Mariupol, who has been fighting in the region since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.

“We have been encircled in Mariupol for more than 40 days. The enemy outnumbers us and in terms of weaponry, their artillery, they have sea-based artillery, tanks, armored vehicles and of course mortars. It is difficult for us,” Volyna said.

“It's just air bombardment… They are just wiping the city off the face of the Earth and wherever any reinforcements they are also using their tanks to crush that,” he continued. 

Volyna served with Ukrainian forces during the Crimean annexation of 2014 and also served with Ukrainian forces and took part in military operations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, now partially controlled by Russian backed separatists.  

When asked if he may now be fighting against former colleagues who crossed over to the Russian side, he replied: “Yes, of course it is entirely possible.”

He called it a “strange situation” that former members or the Ukrainian marines and the Coast Guard of the Black Sea Fleet are “now fighting” in Russian units, labelling them “enemies of our country.”

As far as what Russia’s goals are when it comes to Mariupol, he said that first, Russia wants to use the city to “provide water supply to Crimea.” Russia’s second goal in Mariupol is “to seize the entire coastal territory, near the Azov and the Black Sea and to cut Ukraine off from access to the sea,” he said.

Russia has only made the gains it has due its significant air power, calling their forces less skillful than the Ukrainian troops as far as ground combat is concerned, he said. 

“Whenever they approach us, they suffer huge losses. That's why after this, having suffered the initial defeat, their marines are demoralized so they're trying to enter a city only when it's destroyed,” he added.

8:25 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers' Facebook accounts targeted by hackers, Meta says

From CNN’s Donie O'Sullivan and Sean Lyngaas

Facebook parent company Meta detailed Thursday an array of shady cyber tactics that it says groups linked to Russia and Belarus are using to target Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.

The tactics the groups are using include posing as journalists and independent news outlets online to push Russian talking points, attempting to hack dozens of Ukrainian soldiers' Facebook accounts, and running coordinated campaigns to try to get posts by critics of Russia removed from social media, according to Meta.

A hacking group known as "Ghostwriter," which cyber experts believe is linked to Belarus, attempted to hack into the Facebook accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military personnel, the company said.

The hackers were successful in "a handful of cases," Meta said, and "they posted videos calling on the Army to surrender as if these posts were coming from the legitimate account owners. We blocked these videos from being shared." 

Meta also noted that actions by groups linked to the Russian and Belarusian government appeared to intensify shortly before the invasion, adding that it had observed that accounts linked to the Belarusian KGB "suddenly began posting in Polish and English about Ukrainian troops surrendering without a fight and the nation's leaders fleeing the country on February 24, the day Russia began the war."  

Meta also said it had removed a network of about 200 accounts operated from Russia that repeatedly filed false reports about people in Ukraine and Russia in an attempt to get them and their posts removed from the platform. The accounts regularly falsely reported to Meta that people in Ukraine and Russia had broken the company's rules on hate speech as well as other policies. This tactic, known as "mass-reporting," is commonly used by people trying to have an opponent's social media accounts shut down. 

Russia's invasion brought a "huge surge in attacks against social media accounts via mass reporting," said Vadym Hudyma, co-founder at Digital Security Lab Ukraine, an organization that helps secure the online accounts of journalists and activists.

Many of the targeted Twitter and Facebook accounts were not verified, which made it harder to recover the accounts of organizations that were, for example, raising money and coordinating medical supplies in response to the Russian invasion, Hudyma told CNN. "Many social media pages were temporarily shut down. We've probably recovered most of them quite quickly. But that was a mess." 

Meta also said it continues to see the use of fake profile photos in disinformation campaigns. 

In a previous announcement in February, Meta said it had had discovered and shut down a covert Russian influence operation that ran accounts posing as people in Kyiv, including news editors, and targeting Ukrainians. 

"They claimed to be based in Kyiv and posed as news editors, a former aviation engineer, and an author of a scientific publication on hydrography — the science of mapping water," Meta said in a blog post. 

It tied the fake accounts to people previously sanctioned by the US government. The accounts and websites run by this influence operation do not appear to have been very successful in reaching a lot of people, according to data reviewed by CNN.

8:05 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

What's happening in Ukraine seen as a "systematic slaughter of innocent people," says UK prime minister 

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that “people looking at what has been happening in Ukraine" can see "that this is systematic slaughter of innocent people, whatever term you want to use.”

He was responding to a question about the use of the word “genocide," and whether that was his “assessment” in relation to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is totally unconscionable and the world, I think, is now overwhelmingly on the side of the Ukrainians,” Johnson said. 

“The UK will continue with our friends and partners to do everything that we can to help,” he added. “We are certainly looking at what more military assistance we can give.” 

8:03 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

"Those who choose war always lose," Zelensky tells Greek Parliament

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

Greek MP's listen to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece, on April 7.
Greek MP's listen to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece, on April 7. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Greek Parliament Thursday that “those who blackmail Europe with an economic and energy crisis always lose.”

In a virtual address, Zelensky urged the Greek Parliament to “do more” and use its “opportunities as a member of the European Union to organize the salvation of Mariupol.”

"Those who choose war always lose. Those who try to deprive a country of its independence and its territorial integrity always lose. Those who blackmail Europe with an economic and energy crisis always lose," he said.

Zelensky said that Russia’s actions were not only directed at Ukraine, but also at Europe. 

Russia is trying to ensure that “energy poverty becomes a new reality on this continent,” he said, adding that Russia is “doing all they can to provoke inflation for many people.”

The Ukrainian President also called for the blocking of all Russian banks from the world financial system.

“While the Russian troops block peaceful cities and deport our people, no Russian bank has the right to earn money in the world financial system,” Zelensky said. “They need to be blocked. All of them must be blocked and not only some of them.”

He added that “no Russian ship should have a possibility of entering any part in the democratic world.”