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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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.

8:53 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

OSCE expert report finds "clear patterns" of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

A wooden cross stands near the site of a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
A wooden cross stands near the site of a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Mikhail Palinchak/SOPA Images/Sipa/AP)

An expert report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found “clear patterns” of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in Ukraine and detailed numerous incidents that it says could constitute war crimes.

The report says it found “credible evidence” suggesting violations of “even the most fundamental human rights (right to life, prohibition of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment) have been committed, mostly in the areas under the effective control of Russia or entities under overall control of Russia.”

“Taken as a whole, the report documents the catalog of inhumanity perpetrated by Russia’s forces in Ukraine," US Ambassador Michael Carpenter said in a statement at the OSCE on Wednesday. “The report is powerful in documenting the sheer scope of the Russian government’s cruelty."

The 110-page report details reports of targeted killings, torture, forced disappearances, and notes that the fact-finding mission “received several reports, sometimes accompanied by photographic evidence, alleging the use by Russian troops of the red cross emblem to mark military non-medical vehicles, of Ukrainian flags, army or police uniforms or vehicles, white flags, civilian clothes, and OSCE symbols to facilitate their military operations.” 

It includes reports of a Ukrainian interpreter who was “held in captivity for nine days” by Russian forces. Left in an icy cellar, he was repeatedly beaten with an iron bar and rifle butts, tortured with electricity, deprived of food for 48 hours and subjected to a mock execution.

For many of the incidents, the report says they would constitute war crimes, but does not fully declare them as such. However, it calls the attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol "a clear violation of (international humanitarian law) and those responsible for it have committed a war crime.”

“While it may be that one hospital was used by the defender for military purposes or destroyed by mistake, it is hardly possible that this is the case when 50 hospitals are destroyed,” the report states.

The report was the result of a three-weeks-long fact-finding mission by three OSCE experts, and covers the time period from the start of the war on Feb. 24 to April 1. The report notes that the experts faced a number of limitations – time and resource constraints, lack of access to Ukraine – so “a detailed assessment of most allegations of IHL violations and the identification of war crimes and crimes against humanity concerning particular incidents has not been possible.”

The report did not cover the time period when developments like the atrocities in Bucha came to light.

It acknowledged that “violations occurred on the Ukrainian as well as on the Russian side” but added that the violations committed by Russia "are by far larger in nature and scale.” Most of the reported violations by Ukraine are related to the treatment of Russian soldiers, it added. 

The report also notes that Russia did not participate in the fact-finding mission. 

The fact-finding mission that was used to produce the report was launched after 45 countries triggered the rarely-used Moscow Mechanism. It is a serious step, and according to the OSCE, it has been triggered only nine other times since its establishment in 1991.

It was most recently used in 2020 to investigate human rights abuses in Belarus.

9:23 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Russian missile strike on civilian areas leaves 7 injured in Donetsk

From Maria Kostenko in Chernivtsi

At least seven people were injured in a Russian missile strike that damaged an apartment block in the Cherkaske in the Donetsk region.

Russia’s “main tactic now is to kill and terrorize” civilians, in light of its military failure in Ukraine, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration. 

Russia “over and over again” has reaffirmed that it is “incapable of waging a fair convention war, incapable of resisting the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” Russian forces continue to fire on towns and villages along the entire front line, he claimed.

Two cities in the eastern region of Donetsk, Avdiivka and Velyka Novosilka, have come under attacks targeting residential buildings, city infrastructure and a private home, on Wednesday, he added.

8:24 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Putin says "new windows of opportunity are opening up" as West targets energy imports

From CNN’s Clare Sebastian, Anna Chernova and Chris Liakos

A railway worker walks among tank cars used carrying petroleum products refined from Russian oil, in Spergau, Germany, on April 12.
A railway worker walks among tank cars used carrying petroleum products refined from Russian oil, in Spergau, Germany, on April 12. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said "new windows of opportunity are opening up" elsewhere for the country's energy exports, while the West faces "a real energy crisis."

During a virtual meeting on Arctic development, Putin said the "refusal by a number of western countries to engage in normal cooperation, including with Russian energy resources," was already "hitting millions of Europeans" and "being reflected also in the United States."

"Everywhere inflation, prices are rising. It’s simply off the scale, for these countries it’s taken on an unprecedented character. Of course even we are encountering problems, but for us alternative opportunities, options, new windows of opportunity are opening up. So as far as Russian oil, gas, and coal are concerned, we can increase the use of them in the internal market, stimulate the deep processing of raw materials, and also increase our deliveries of energy resources to other regions of the world, where they are really needed."

More context: The EU last week agreed to phase out Russian coal imports as part of a new package of sanctions and the bloc has confirmed that they’re already discussing Russian oil.

Putin also said that “unfriendly countries” have caused disruption in the Arctic supply chains and some companies are not fulfilling their contractual obligations.

“Some authority companies do not realize their contractual obligations, and that creates certain difficulties for us, but we have all resources and opportunities in order to find alternative solutions for this in long term to strengthen our independence from the external factors. That's why all the institutions involved should rearrange their work. First of all, in order to provide the population of Arctic territories with food and medicines, fuel, building materials and equipment."

Putin's insistence that Russia can increase oil and gas consumption domestically, and also deliver supplies to other regions in the world, follows him seeking that "unfriendly" countries pay for gas in rubles.

Russian gas accounts for some 40% of Europe's total consumption. EU gas imports from Russia this year have fluctuated between 200 million euros to 800 million euros ($880 million) a day.

8:16 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

US expected to announce hundreds of millions in new security assistance to Ukraine today, source says

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Jim Sciutto and Oren Liebermann 

The Pentagon is expected to announce the hundreds of millions in new security assistance to Ukraine today, according to a source familiar. 

CNN reported yesterday that the US was expected to announce the new package soon.  

The final amount had not been finalized as of Tuesday but is expected to be close to $700 million. 

US President Joe Biden is expected to use his drawdown authority to authorize the new aid package for Ukraine.

If approved, the addition of approximately $700 million in security assistance would bring the total aid to Ukraine to more than $3 billion since the start of the Biden administration, including nearly $2.5 billion since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s 2020 defense budget was only about $6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In less than two months, the US has provided nearly half of that in security assistance to Ukraine, underscoring the pace at which the White House has worked to send in weaponry and equipment.

 

8:15 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

UK sanctions separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine  

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

The United Kingdom is sanctioning 178 "Russian separatists" in breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, the British Foreign Office said Wednesday.

“In the wake of horrific rocket attacks on civilians in Eastern Ukraine, we are today sanctioning those who prop up the illegal breakaway regions and are complicit in atrocities against the Ukrainian people," UK Foreign secretary Liz Truss said in a statement. "We will continue to target all those who aid and abet Putin's war."

The new sanctions target oligarch family members, close associates, and employees, the foreign office said, bringing the total number of the sanctioned individuals to 206. Individuals sanctioned include Alexander Ananchenko and Sergey Kozlov, self-styled prime minister and chair of government of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic.

Starting on Thursday, the UK government is "banning the import of Russian iron and steel, as well as the export of quantum technologies and advanced materials that Putin sorely needs. We will not rest in our mission to stop Putin's war machine in its tracks," Truss said.

8:00 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Journalists document as bodies are exhumed from a mass grave on the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, outside of Kyiv on April 13.
Journalists document as bodies are exhumed from a mass grave on the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, outside of Kyiv on April 13. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the country is expected to decide within weeks rather than months whether it will apply for membership to NATO, while her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson said her country was still weighing up the decision. 

The decision could be a significant blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose war has united the West against Moscow in ways that seemed unimaginable in January.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron declined to refer to Russian actions in Ukraine as "genocide," saying: “I would be careful with such terms today because these two peoples [Russians and Ukrainians] are brothers.” His comment came the day after US President Joe Biden described the atrocities in Ukraine as "genocide" for the first time.

Ukrainian officials say nearly 200 children have been killed and more than 300 others injured since Russia's invasion began.

Here are the latest developments on the war in Ukraine:

  • Finland and Sweden to make NATO decision: Finland is expected to decide "within weeks" rather than months whether it will apply for membership to NATO, the Finnish Prime Minister said Wednesday. Speaking in Stockholm following a bilateral meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Sanna Marin said it would be best to coordinate with Sweden to make similar security decisions. 
  • Ukraine hails "risky maneuver" in Mariupol: A Ukrainian presidential adviser said that after a "risky maneuver" the last remaining defenders of the besieged port city of Mariupol have been able to join forces. Oleksiy Arestovych said the "units of the 36th Independent Marine Brigade broke through to [join] the Azov regiment," consolidating Ukraine's position against the Russian offensive.
  • Questions over chemical weapon use: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he cannot say with certainty if chemical weapons were used in Mariupol. His comments follow unverified reports of a possible such strike in the city. The US and the UK said they were working to verify the details but have not confirmed their use.
  • Biden labels atrocities "genocide": The US President said Russian actions being uncovered in Ukraine qualify as genocide, a designation he’d previously avoided but said he now believes is warranted as scenes of devastation emerge from towns previously overrun by Russian troops. It was a dramatic rhetorical escalation in the US view of what is happening on the ground and garnered near-immediate praise from Zelensky. The US government rarely uses the term genocide.
  • Macron declines to use term "genocide": In an interview with public broadcaster France 2, the French President rejected the use of the term "genocide" to refer to Russian actions in Ukraine. “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," he said.
  • Nearly 200 children killed in conflict: Some 191 children have been killed and 349 others injured in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, Ukrainian prosecutors said in a news release on Wednesday. The United Nations said separately that at least 1,892 civilians had been killed and 2,558 injured since the war began.
  • No evacuation routes opened: There will be no evacuation corridors for civilians in Ukraine on Wednesday, the country's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement. Vereshchuk blamed Russian troops for creating a dangerous situation along the routes.
  • Russia begins redeploying forces: Satellite images captured on Monday show Russian forces redeploying and moving into eastern Ukraine. The deployments consist of dozens of armored vehicles, troops with tents and support equipment, the images appear to show.
  • European presidents to meet Zelensky: The presidents of the Baltic states and Poland are on their way to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to meet with Zelensky.
  • On the ground: The Ukrainian military reported heavy fighting in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday, saying a five-hour battle took place in the Polohy district as Ukrainian forces tried to liberate the area. Polohy is northeast of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol. The Pentagon assesses that Mariupol remains contested amid Russia’s bombardment.
7:10 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Decision on application for NATO membership likely to come "within weeks," Finland PM says

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Luke McGee

Finland is expected to decide within weeks rather than months whether it will apply for membership to NATO, the Finnish Prime Minister said Wednesday.

Speaking in Stockholm following a bilateral meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Sanna Marin said it would be best to coordinate with Sweden to make similar security decisions. 

“We need to have a view on the future and we are using this time to analyze and also building common views on the future when it comes to security," Marin said.

I won't give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months."

The Finnish parliament on Wednesday received a white paper on changes to the nation’s security environment following its neighbor Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The report is expected to be signed off by lawmakers and made public later today.

Andersson didn’t go as far as Marin, saying Sweden was still weighing up the decision and pointing out that there are elections there in September.

Some background: When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, his goals were clear. He wanted to bring his neighbor to heel, assert Russian authority in Eastern Europe and make the West think twice about expanding militarily and politically toward Russia's borders.

But in one important respect, Putin's plan appears to have failed: The war has united the West against Moscow in ways that seemed unimaginable in January.

Now, Finland and Sweden -- nations that are officially non-aligned -- are edging ever closer toward joining NATO, the US-led military alliance.

6:02 a.m. ET, April 13, 2022

Video shows what appears to be cluster munition explosions in Kharkiv

From CNN's Celine Alkhaldi

A frame from a video shared via Telegram shows an apparent use of cluster munitions in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 11.
A frame from a video shared via Telegram shows an apparent use of cluster munitions in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 11. (Telegram)

A video shared to social media on Sunday shows what appear to be explosions from cluster munitions in a civilian area in the Kharkiv region.

At least four explosions, seconds apart, can be seen spanning about 90 meters (98 yards) along a road in Pisuchyn. An aerially dispensed submunition is seen falling on the street moments after and causes another blast.

Russian forces have been accused of regularly using cluster munitions against civilian targets in Ukraine. Last week, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it had received credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times.

A convention backed by more than 100 countries has banned the use of cluster munitions because of the widespread and indiscriminate damage they cause. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are state parties to the treaty, however.

"Cluster munitions pose an immediate threat to civilians during conflict by randomly scattering submunitions or bomblets over a wide area. They continue to pose a threat post-conflict by leaving remnants, including submunitions that fail to explode upon impact becoming de facto landmines," according to Human Rights Watch.

Such attacks “may amount to war crimes,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.