April 13, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Helen Regan, Matias Grez, Jeevan Ravindran, Laura Smith-Spark, Maureen Chowdhury and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
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6:03 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

White House: Biden declaring "genocide" in Ukraine won't change policy and shouldn't confuse world leaders

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One at Des Moines International Airport in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 12.
US President Joe Biden speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One at Des Moines International Airport in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 12. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

US President Biden's declaration that a genocide is underway in Ukraine won't change US policy and shouldn't be confusing to other world leaders, the White House insisted Wednesday.

Biden made the remark as observers gain greater access to devastated areas of Ukraine, and was speaking to "what we all see, what he feels as clear as day in terms of the atrocities happening on the ground," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

She was speaking a day after Biden made the remark in Iowa, first in passing during a speech about ethanol and later more directly on a tarmac.

Psaki said the legal process for determining whether genocide was underway would proceed. But she said Biden was voicing his views as the US president, not just a personal stance.

"He's the President and we are here to implement his views," she said.

"He's the President of the United States and the leader of the free world and he is allowed to make his views known at any point he would like," she went on, adding later: "I think we shouldn't misunderstand who he is and where he stands on the totem pole, which is at the top."

Psaki told CNN's MJ Lee that fellow world leaders shouldn't be confused by Biden's statements, which often outpace official US designations — first on war crimes and now on genocide.

"I don't think anybody is confused about the atrocities of what we're seeing on the ground," she said.

"President Putin is brutally targeting civilians and brutalizing a country right now. So the President — this President — was speaking to what those atrocities are," she said.

She said even an official designation of genocide wouldn't necessarily change US policy.

"It doesn't change a policy," she said. "There would be an international effort to explore that and an investigation at an international level. Those often take many years."

5:38 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Polish president: Russian invasion of Ukraine is "not war, it’s terrorism”

From CNN’s Anna Odzeniak in Warsaw and Amy Cassidy in London

Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky along with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia following their talks in Kyiv on Wednesday, April 13.
Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky along with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia following their talks in Kyiv on Wednesday, April 13. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Polish President Andrzej Duda said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is "not war," but “terrorism”, and said those who committed war crimes must be punished, after he and Baltic leaders met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Wednesday.   

“It's not war. It's terrorism when soldiers are sent to murder civilians. It is a face of war that we are not able [to] and cannot accept,” he wrote on Twitter.  

“The perpetrators of these crimes, both direct and indirect, must be punished. Prosecutors collect evidence in places where mass murders took place. It is inconceivable that such things should happen in the modern world,” he added.  

“There is no dialogue with those who break all the rules”, he said. “I hope that Ukraine will soon become part of the European Union as a free and sovereign state making decisions about itself.” 

Poland has played a key role in helping the people fleeing the war — which has sparked Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the second world war — taking in 2.68 million Ukrainian refugees since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, according to figures from the Polish Border Guard on Tuesday.   

It marks a significantly warmer stance compared to its response to the last refugee crisis which began in 2015, when it subsequently resisted taking in an EU-proposed quota of migrants seeking refuge from predominantly war-torn Middle Eastern countries.   

“We are Ukraine's neighbors not only literally, but also in the sense of the common history and understanding of the situation,” Duda said on Wednesday.

4:46 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Top US State Department official: US will likely determine genocide has been committed in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler


A top US State Department official said Wednesday that it is likely United States will ultimately determine that genocide has been committed in Ukraine. 

In an interview with CNN Newsroom, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said US President Joe Biden “spoke from his heart when he called what we’re seeing in Ukraine genocide by the Russian Federation and its forces.”

Nuland said that the US has “a process of collecting evidence over time” in order to make a formal government determination of genocide.

“But I am going to predict that what President Biden called it is what we will ultimately likely find when we are able to gather all of this evidence,” Nuland said, “because what is happening on the ground is not an accident. It is an intentional decision by Russia by its forces to destroy Ukraine and its civilian population.”

Asked why sanctions haven’t had a deterrent effect on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Nuland replied that it is because Putin “doesn't care about his people or his country, he only cares about his own imperial ambition.”

“He doesn't see that what he is doing is not only turning Ukraine into rubble, it's also turning Russia into a prison,” she said.

4:31 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Russia announces retaliatory sanctions on 398 members of US Congress

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova and Zahra Ullah

The US Capitol is seen in the evening from the National Mall in Washington, DC on March 8.
The US Capitol is seen in the evening from the National Mall in Washington, DC on March 8. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia said Wednesday that it had imposed sanctions on 398 members of the US Congress in retaliation against Washington blacklisting hundreds of Russian lawmakers last month. 

Moscow’s “mirror sanctions” include “the leadership and committee chairmen of the lower house of the U.S. Congress,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. 

The US Treasury Department on March 24 announced sanctions against 328 members of the 450-seat Russian State Duma — the lower level of the two-tiered Russian Parliament. 

“Further announcements of Russian countermeasures are planned in the near future,” including adding more Americans to the sanctioned list, Moscow said in Wednesday’s statement.

7:22 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Ukrainian commanders defending Mariupol say their units were able to link up despite relentless attacks

From CNN staff

(Azov Battalion)
(Azov Battalion)

The commanders of two Ukrainian units defending the besieged port city of Mariupol issued a video statement saying they had been able to join forces, as Russia claimed advances in the city.

Their statement comes as Ukrainian forces remain blockaded inside Mariupol, which has been under weeks of relentless bombardment. The Russian military has repeatedly claimed to have taken strategic positions in the city, but has also faced stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces.

Denys Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov Regiment, said his unit had linked up with troops from the 36th Marine Brigade, but acknowledged that some Ukrainian defenders had surrendered. 

"These are real men [of the 36th] who have chosen the path of war," he said. "Do not make heroes out of deserters and fighters who voluntarily surrendered. They chose the path of shame, and shouldn’t be heroized in any case."

"We know what we are doing, why we are here. We will do whatever is necessary to successfully complete our combat mission," said Serhii Volyna, commander of the Marine Brigade said.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych had said earlier on Wednesday that after a "risky maneuver" the last remaining defenders of the besieged port city of Mariupol have been able to join forces.

"This is what happens when officers do not lose their heads, but firmly maintain command and control of the troops," Arestovych said.

CNN cannot independently confirm the details of the operation. 

Meanwhile, in a statement Wednesday, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Mariupol's commercial seaport had been captured. CNN was not independently able to verify that claim.

3:27 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Analysis: Putin has shown no hint of introspection despite heavy losses in Ukraine

Analysis From CNN's Nathan Hodge

International sanctions may be starting to bite, his troops are seeing “significant” losses in Ukraine and US President Joe Biden just called his war a genocide, but for Russian President Vladimir Putin, everything is still going to plan.

In remarks this week, Putin has shown no hint of introspection, spinning Russia’s pariah status on the international stage as a sort of victory.

Take his remarks in a virtual meeting on Russia’s development of the Arctic. Western oil companies may be abandoning ventures in Russia, taking their technical expertise with them, Biden has slapped a ban on Russian oil, gas and coal imports and the EU, though far from going cold turkey, is looking to decouple from Russian energy.

Putin’s take? The pain inflicted on European energy consumers is a good thing, and Russia will find other markets.

“The refusal by a number of Western countries to engage in normal cooperation, including with Russian energy resources … is hitting millions of Europeans,” he said. “It’s sparked a real energy crisis. It’s being reflected also in the United States. Everywhere inflation, prices are rising.”
To be sure, Putin continued, “even we are encountering problems, but for us alternative opportunities, options, new windows of opportunity are opening up.”

That sort of glass-half-full message may be meant to reassure uneasy Russians. But Putin is also presenting a blithe confidence about how the war in Ukraine is going, despite massive setbacks in the effort to “denazify” Ukraine — the Kremlin leader’s ugly shorthand for overthrowing the democratically-elected government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and ending Ukrainian statehood as we know it.

Read the full analysis here.

2:59 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

France will provide Ukraine with additional military aid

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris 

At the request of Kyiv, France will provide Ukraine with a new round of military aid, French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly said Wednesday. 

“Following new Ukrainian requests, I announced to my [Ukrainian] counterpart that France will provide additional military capabilities, in addition to the 100 million euros of equipment donations already made,” Parly said in a tweet.

The minister did not say what the additional military aid would include.

French President Emmanuel Macron will speak with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, according to the Élysée Palace. 

2:25 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

US President Biden unveils $800 million security package for Ukraine in call with Zelensky

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart Wednesday that the US was sending an additional $800 million worth of weapons, ammunition and other security assistance.

"The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect. As Russia prepares to intensify its attack in the Donbas region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself," Biden said in a statement.

The package will include both new types of weapons and the types of equipment the US has been providing to Ukraine for weeks.

The new equipment includes "artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers," the statement from Biden read. 

"I have also approved the transfer of additional helicopters," he wrote.

The $800 million shipment brings to more than $3 billion the total amount of military assistance the US has provided to Ukraine.

"The steady supply of weapons the United States and its Allies and partners have provided to Ukraine has been critical in sustaining its fight against the Russian invasion. It has helped ensure that Putin failed in his initial war aims to conquer and control Ukraine. We cannot rest now," Biden wrote in a statement.

The US President said he assured Zelensky that the "American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom."

1:45 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Russian military threatens to strike Ukrainian "decision-making centers"

From CNN staff

The Russian military in a statement Wednesday threatened to strike Ukrainian "decision-making centers" — including those in Ukraine's capital — in response to what Russia said were "attempts of sabotage and strikes" on Russian territory.

"We see attempts of sabotage and strikes by Ukrainian troops on objects on the territory of the Russian Federation," said Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, in a statement. "If such cases continue, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will strike at decision-making centers, including in Kyiv, from which the Russian army has thus far refrained."

Russia, earlier this month, accused Ukraine of mounting a helicopter attack on a fuel depot inside Russian territory. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has neither confirmed nor denied the attack.