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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12:25 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Defense official: US military looking at options to train Ukrainians on Switchblade drones and other systems

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Michael Conte

The Pentagon is examining options for how it can train more Ukrainian forces to use Switchblade drones that the US is providing to the Ukrainian military, according to a senior defense official.

Future trainings might occur with the US troops who have deployed to bolster NATO’s eastern flank over the past several months amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the official told reporters Wednesday.

The Pentagon was looking at “a range of options” for training Ukraine on the Switchblade drones and other weapons systems, the official said, on top of the trainings that occurred with Ukrainians who already were in the United States for previously scheduled engagements.

One option would be the troops that are on NATO’s eastern flank, the official said, adding that no decisions had been made yet.

“We have absolutely added to our ability in these eastern flank countries,” the official said. “Soldiers with various sets of capabilities and various professional skills, whether it’s artillery, long-range missiles, air defense, infantry, armor — you name it. And so if there’s a need for additional training to be done on any systems that are provided to Ukraine, we will look at a range of options for how that training would have to be delivered.”

Additionally, the official said that the US continues to see “significant morale issues” anecdotally among Russian forces, a senior US defense official said Wednesday.

The official said that the US has recent evidence that Russian troops “have been disillusioned by this war, weren’t properly informed, weren’t properly trained, weren’t ready, not just physically, but weren’t ready mentally for what they were about to do.”

The US also has indications that Russian officers are “frustrated with their troops’ performance, frustrated with their colleagues’ performance,” said the official.

The official also reminded reporters on a background call that “almost half” of the invading Russian forces are “conscripts who don’t receive a lot of training.”

“So, there still are morale and unit cohesion problems that are bedeviling the Russians even as they now try to refit, resupply, and focus on a more concentrated geographic area,” the official said.

11:50 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Russia could relaunch offensive to "conquer" Donbas region in days, French military spokesperson says

From CNN’s Camille Knight and Joseph Ataman in Paris

The Russian military is potentially preparing for a “large-scale offensive” in the east of Ukraine in the coming days, French military spokesperson Col. Pascal Lanni said on Wednesday. 

“Within the next few days, 10 days or so maybe, Russia could relaunch its efforts with a large-scale offensive in the east and south to conquer the Donetsk and Luhansk regions […] or even to push as far as the Dnipro [river] if its capacities allow it,” Lanni told journalists.

The spokesperson said that the Russian forces were carrying out air strikes and bombings in Ukraine not only “to weaken the coherence of the Ukrainian defense system, but also to disrupt Ukrainian logistical movements and capacity,” which explained the “total destruction” of Dnipro's airport by Russian troops. 

He also noted that there were “no significant advances at this stage in terms of territorial gains for the Russian forces on the eastern front.”

11:40 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Italy will not veto sanctions on Russian energy, but wants EU ceiling on gas prices

From CNN's Abby Baggini

Italy will continue its efforts to lower its dependency on Russian oil and gas as a response to the invasion of Ukraine despite concerns about rising fuel costs, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has told CNN.

"The cost of energy is our first worry at the moment," but Italy "is not going to put up any veto to these sanctions that affects energy," Di Maio said Wednesday.

"There are businesses, for example, that are paying 400% more for electric energy. At this moment in time, we have to stop that speculation which is happening by putting a ceiling on energy prices," Di Maio told CNN. "We are trying to get that through the EU and if we can do that through the European energy stock exchange, we will be able to at least stabilize the increase in prices for families. We are going to certainly put that forward before the next European Council."

Di Maio's comments come after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced Monday that an initial deal had been struck to increase energy imports from Algeria after a meeting with the country’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in Algeria.

11:22 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

European Union approves further military aid to Ukraine, taking total to $1.63 billion 

From CNN’s James Frater in Brussels 

The European Union on Wednesday approved a further $543 million in military aid for Ukraine. In total, the EU has allocated $1.63 billion of aid to help the country defend itself against Russian forces.

The new package would finance the provision of equipment and supplies to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which includes “personal protective equipment, first aid kits and fuel, as well as military equipment designed to deliver lethal force for defensive purposes," the European Council said in a statement.

“As Russia prepares for an offensive on the east of Ukraine, it is crucial that we continue and step up our military support to Ukraine to defend its territory and population and prevent further suffering,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said in a statement.

10:38 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Finnish government publishes security report with assessment of possible NATO membership amid Ukraine invasion

From CNN's James Frater in Brussels

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto  present the report on changes in the foreign and security policy of Finland, in Helsinki on Wednesday.
Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto present the report on changes in the foreign and security policy of Finland, in Helsinki on Wednesday. (Lehtikuva/Reuters)

The Finnish government presented a report Wednesday to the country’s parliament on the fundamental security changes that have occurred following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The wide-ranging report included an assessment on whether Finland should purse closer cooperation with NATO and considered the effects of a possible NATO membership.

If Finland and Sweden become full NATO members, the report said “the threshold for using military force in the Baltic Sea region would rise,” enhancing “the stability of the region in the long term.” 

Membership would include signing up to NATO’s founding principle of collective defense — commonly referred to as Article 5 — which means that an attack against one NATO ally is considered as an attack against all allies.

For Finland, the report outlined that “the most significant effect of its possible NATO membership would be that Finland would be part of NATO’s collective defence, and be covered by the security guarantees enshrined in Article 5.”

The deterrent effect of being a NATO member would be “considerably stronger than it is at present, as it would be based on the capabilities of the entire Alliance,” the report said, and “Finland would be prepared to support other NATO member countries in a possible Article 5 situation.”

The report outlined that possible membership in NATO “would significantly expand the area of the Alliance, double its land border with Russia, and move the Alliance closer to strategically important areas in Russia,” such as the Kola Peninsula and St. Petersburg.

Finland “would aim to continue to maintain functioning relations with Russia in the event it becomes a NATO member,” it added.

The report cautioned that given Russia’s “negative view towards NATO enlargement,” if Finland applied for NATO membership, it should be prepared for “risks that are difficult to anticipate, such as increasing tensions on the border between Finland and Russia.”

And the country would have to “strengthen its preparedness for becoming a target of wide-ranging hybrid influence activities,” it said.

The report added that “close cooperation between Finland and Sweden during possible accession processes would be important,” saying that a “simultaneous accession processes” from the two countries could also “facilitate preparation for and response to Russia’s possible reaction.” 

As part of accession talks to the alliance, the Finnish government said it would raise NATO’s military presence in the country, saying that “membership would not oblige Finland to accept nuclear weapons, permanent bases or troops in its territory."

This, the report said, is similar to the agreement that Norway and Denmark have, which does not permit “permanent troops, bases or nuclear weapons of the Alliance in their territory during peacetime.”

Finland’s “contribution to the collective defence of the Alliance” would be negotiated during the accession process.

12:14 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Austria's Nehammer says he visited Putin to look him in the eyes and confront him

From CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi in Abu Dhabi

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Wednesday he decided to go to Moscow to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin with what he saw in Ukraine. 

“I made the decision to go to Moscow, to look in President Putin’s eyes and confront him with what I saw,” the chancellor said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson. 

When asked about Putin’s mindset during the meeting, Nehammer said Putin was “very tough” and “clear” in his messages.

“In his point of view, he has to defend the Russian Federation, the Russians living in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

The Austrian chancellor went on to say that “it’s not easy for Putin to talk about war crimes,” adding that he confronted Putin about war crimes and told him “it’s necessary to have international justice, the United Nations there.”  

Asked whether Putin accepted there are war crimes bring committed, Nehammer responded, “Well, you know, it’s President Putin. In this position, he was not clear.”

Nehammer said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told him to tell Russian President Putin that evacuation corridors are needed in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. 

Nehammer said Zelensky told him: "Please, if you go there, tell him that it's now needed to have safe corridors, humanitarian corridors for the people in Mariupol. They don't have water, no electricity. We have to think about the wounded there."

Nehammer also said he consulted with Zelensky on whether it would be useful to visit Putin. 

“These were the messages I confronted to Putin,” Nehammer added.

10:00 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

More bodies were found, some tortured, after Russians retreated from northeast Ukraine, officials say

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv and Tim Lister

In the days since Russian forces left the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine, authorities say a growing number of bodies have been discovered.

"There are more than 100 dead among the civilians in the Sumy region. Unfortunately, this number is growing every day," Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, head of Sumy regional military administration, said in a briefing Wednesday.

"A lot of people found dead with their hands tied with the signs of tortures, shot in the head," he added.

Zhyvytskyi alleged that "there are people who are held captive and there are daily negotiations for them to be exchanged or set free. A lot of people whose fate remains unknown as of today."

Sumy saw widespread damage in the early days of the Russian invasion, with several confrontations between civilians and Russian soldiers in the region. 

This week, the Ukrainian cabinet allotted about $8 million to the Sumy region to begin the task of repairing housing, roads and utilities.

9:58 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Switzerland adopts latest round of EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

Switzerland has adopted the latest round of EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus, "in light of Russia’s continuing military aggression against Ukraine and reports of atrocities (committed by the Russian armed forces) in Bucha," the Swiss government said Wednesday in a statement.

The Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research has also imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on a further 200 individuals, including two of Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughters, the statement added.

"Switzerland’s list of sanctions now fully mirrors that of the EU," the government said, adding that the relevant amendments will come into force at 6 p.m. local time (12 p.m. ET) on Wednesday.

The European Union approved on Thursday a fifth round of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

10:27 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

It's "not possible" to cut off all Russian gas right now, Austrian chancellor tells CNN

From CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi, Chris Liakos and Benjamin Brown

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks with CNN on Wednesday.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks with CNN on Wednesday. (CNN)

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said that cutting off Russian gas right now is "not possible" and that the European Union must look at sanctions that hurt Russia more than the European Union.

“Austria is not alone with this argument against the gas embargo," he said, citing Germany and Hungary's positions. "And on the other side, Austria stands strong with the other EU member states with the sanctions against the Russian Federation. But sanctions must hurt Russia more than the European Union,” Nehammer told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Wednesday.

“Oil is already discussed now in the European Commission and in the EU Council. The gas question is separate, you know, it's not only the Austrian position, it's also this position of Germany, Hungary or Bulgaria, for example, because we depend on the gas. Our industries depend on the gas. And so we have to decide about sanctions who hurt Russia more than the sanctions hurt us,” the chancellor added.

Asked whether the question of gas embargo could fracture the EU, Nehammer said he doesn’t believe so.

“We decided to gather about the sanctions against the Russian Federation, and the sanctions already decided are really tough and strong. And we will decide about more sanctions against Russia, because, you know, we want to show that there is unity in the European Union, that this war has to end,” he said.

Pressed on what more the EU can do as current sanctions have not stopped Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Austrian chancellor said: “I think we should think about sanctions now in a more intelligent way how we can hurt the Russian Federation but not hurt us. I think this is the main important thing. You know, there is a decision in the European Union that we try everything to become independent from Russian gas, and it's also the willing of Austria for sure. But it's not possible now. It will take time.”

The EU last week agreed to phase out Russian coal imports as part of a new package of sanctions. Earlier today, German government spokesperson Wolfgang Büchner said that Germany has taken steps to reduce its dependence on Russian energy but at this time continues to reject an immediate ban on Russian gas or oil imports.

Nehammer had a face-to-face meeting with Putin on Monday, the first Western sit-down with the Russian President since he launched his invasion in February. Nehammer said he raised alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine during the "tough" and unfriendly meeting.