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 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.
The Pentagon is meeting today with top weapons makers to discuss capacity needed to support Ukraine
From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Barbara Starr
The Pentagon is convening a meeting of its top weapons makers Wednesday to discuss the industry’s capacity to support Ukraine in a protracted war with Russia, according to a defense official and an industry official.
The meeting today at the Pentagon will be classified and chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. The attendees will represent Boeing, L3Harris, Raytheon, BAE, Lockheed Martin, Huntington Ingalls, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, a US official tells CNN.
The three main topics to be discussed are supplying Ukraine, re-supplying partners and allies as well as resupplying US inventories.
With regards to Ukraine, they will discuss more about immediate security needs of Ukraine but also look out two to four years at least.
The official says the assessment is even if the Russian troops somehow leave, there will still be enduring security concerns. They will also discuss that over time, some of what is being provided will be obsolete production and new versions will have to be supplied as replacements.
With regards to partners and allies, the participants will discuss what might be in production or going into production that is a reasonable backfill (especially the Patriot system). US production will become obsolete with new versions over time, and they will discuss if those are available and exportable.
More on the meeting: The meeting between the defense contractors and the Pentagon, first reported by Reuters, was organized just a few days ago, according to the defense industry official with direct knowledge of the arrangements.
The official said the contractors have been told the focus of the meeting is on the “capacity of the industry” to support Ukraine if the war goes on for several years.
The sense of things, the official said, is the US is “assuming this is going to be a years long endeavor” in a scenario where, at a minimum, Ukraine will not able to safely manufacture weapons in its own country.
But in the meeting, the official said, the contractors are likely to bring up the serious challenges still facing defense manufacturing in the US including ongoing and severe supply chain issues and a lack of affordable labor.
All of this continues to constrict defense manufacturing capacity right now, and could grow worse as increased defense spending in the budget and Ukraine contracts vie for manufacturing capacity, the official said.
The issue of capacity is also impacting the manufacture of critical ammunition supplies, even though most of it is done in government-owned contractor-operated facilities.
The US is expected to announce on Wednesday it is sending hundreds of millions of dollars in new military assistance to Ukraine, three sources familiar with the package tell CNN.
11:08 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022
Biden's "genocide" declaration not expected to trigger immediate changes to US policy
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
US President Joe Biden's declaration that the atrocities now underway in Ukraine are a "genocide" is not expected to trigger any immediate changes to US policy toward the conflict, according to US officials familiar with the matter.
Biden made clear in Iowa he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is committing genocide in Ukraine, but said he would "let the lawyers decide" to use that designation internationally.
That was a signal the US is not making a formal declaration of genocide in Ukraine, the officials said. The US has only made eight formal determinations of genocide, most recently labeling Myanmar's persecution of the Rohingya minority a genocide.
Doing so would trigger legal obligation under the United Nations Genocide Convention, which would require countries to intervene to prevent the genocide from advancing.
Already, Biden's use of the word genocide has drawn some blowback from a key US ally.
“I want to continue to try, as much as I can, to stop this war and rebuild peace. I am not sure that an escalation of rhetoric serves that cause,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday.
“We consider such attempts to distort the situation unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters during his regular conference call with journalists.
“Moreover, this is hardly acceptable for the United States, a country that has committed well-known deeds in modern and recent history,” added Peskov, referring to US-led military activity overseas.
This reiterates the Kremlin’s chosen rhetoric tactic of "whataboutism" when it comes to the US accusations. Commenting on Biden calling Putin a “war criminal” in March, Peskov said that the president of a country that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki doesn’t have the right to make such statements.
Mass graves and horrific apparent executions have been uncovered in areas in Ukraine where Russian troops have withdrawn, particularly in the town of Bucha near Kyiv.
CNN staff contributed reporting to this post.
9:35 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022
Sweden will make a decision on NATO membership after serious analysis, prime minister says
From CNN’s Radina Gigova in London
Sweden would make a decision on a possible NATO membership only after serious analysis of the situation and considering its best interest, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Wednesday.
"The security landscape has completely changed" after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and "given this situation, we have to really think through what is best for Sweden and our security and our peace in this new situation," Andersson said speaking alongside her Finish counterpart in Stockholm following a bilateral meeting.
"This is a very important time in history. There is a before and after 24th of February," Andersson said. "I think you really have to analyze the new situation, do it very seriously, think about the consequences, the pros and cons of all potential ways forward."
9:29 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022
About 180,000 people waiting to be evacuated from Mariupol, mayor says
From Amy Cassidy in London
Up to 180,000 people are waiting to be evacuated from in and around the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Wednesday.
This comes as no evacuation corridors were operating Wednesday due to Russian forces blocking evacuation buses, Deputy Ukrainian Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced earlier.
A total of 150,000 people have been evacuated from Mariupol so far, Boychenko added, speaking during an online media briefing. Boychenko’s comments were interpreted in English via Ukraine’s government-supported Media Center.
The strategic port city is one of Russia's main targets and has been destroyed by constant shelling throughout the war.
9:01 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022
World’s leading oil trader to stop trading Russian oil
From CNN’s Livvy Doherty in London
The world’s top independent oil merchant Vitol Group will stop trading Russian oil by the end of the year, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CNN
The move is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 and the company would not be entering into any new Russian crude and product transactions, the source added.
8:37 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022
CNN team observes stepped-up shelling of residential district of Kharkiv
From CNN's Nima Elbagir and Barbara Arvanitidis in Kharkiv
A CNN team witnessed intense shelling of the residential district of Saltivka, in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv, with a local official saying they believed Russia was stepping up attacks amid a new phase of military operations.
Ukrainian officials have warned for days that they expect a major offensive push by Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region, as Russia repositions troops and equipment following a failed push to take Kyiv, the capital.
The CNN team was on the ground in Saltivka, a district in the northeast of Kharkiv along the E40 highway, as shelling intensified. Incoming rounds and small-arms fire were heard before Ukrainian forces warned the team to move to a safer position.
The shelling was evidence that a broad Russian military push was underway, mirroring recent remarks by top government officials in recent days, a representative of the regional Kharkiv Prosecutor General's Office told CNN.
Russian forces had continued shelling Kharkiv and its environs, hitting residential areas around the region with fire from multiple rocket launchers, artillery and tanks, Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said. A number of civilians have been killed and injured in those strikes.
"The occupiers continue to terrorize the civilian population," Syniehubov said. "They are shelling residential areas with artillery and Grad and Smerch multiple rocket launchers. The districts of Oleksiyivka, Kharkiv Tractor Plant, Saltivka, North Saltivka, Odesa, and the airport were affected again."
"During the past 24 hours, 22 civilians were injured, including three children. Seven people died," he added. "Unfortunately, the two-year-old boy died in the hospital."
Syniehubov claimed Russian forces were also scattering landmines in the city in the areas of Forest Park and Saltivka.
The heaviest fighting, Syniehubov said, was around Izium in southeastern Kharkiv region.
"This area remains the most tense in the Kharkiv region," he said. "We will do everything to prevent the occupiers from entering the Donetsk and Luhansk regions from the direction of Izium."
Syniehubov added that there were no grounds for the evacuation of the city of Kharkiv.
In remarks on national television Monday, Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs, said: "From my point of view, this big offensive [in the east] has already started. We have to understand it's not going to be the repetition of Feb. 24, when the first airstrikes and explosions started and we said, 'The war has begun.' The big offensive de facto has already started."
Some of the heavier fighting in Ukraine has been reported around Izium, a heavily contested area in southeastern Kharkiv region. Russian troop movements are concentrated to the south and east of Kharkiv, according to the latest satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies and analyzed by CNN. Russian officials have said their objective is to win control of the Donbas — the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
CNN's Maria Kostenko contributed reporting to this post from Chernivtsi.