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

President Duque: Colombia ready to step up energy supplies to the west to replace Russian imports

From CNN's Steffano Pozzebon in Atlanta

Colombian President Iván Duque speaks to media ahead of the closing bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan on April 11.
Colombian President Iván Duque speaks to media ahead of the closing bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan on April 11. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Colombia is ready to play a central role in helping supply Western countries with energy resources after the gaps caused by sanctions on Russia, Colombian President Iván Duque told CNN.

During an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, Duque said: “[North American and European countries] know for sure that they can no longer rely for the energy supplies from Russia. Now, can Colombia contribute to the solution? The response is yes.”

Duque listed three areas where Colombia would be ready to increase production: traditional oil and gas extraction, renewables such as clean hydrogen, and coal.

“Colombia today immediately can have an increase on coal. … We have some of the biggest resources in the world, and we don’t use it [for power production],” Duque told Quest while he announced that Colombia will increase coal supplies to Germany — which recently approved plans to phase out Russian coal imports – following direct conversations between Duque and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Asked about US President Biden’s use of the world "genocide" to describe Russian actions in Ukraine, Duque told Quest he agreed with his US counterpart. “What is happening in Ukraine is a genocide. And it has to stop. … This is insane,” Duque told Quest.

Duque is in New York City on a three-day visit to promote foreign investment in Colombia and present his government's actions on security and the war on drugs, the Colombian President’s office said in a statement.

He visited the New York Stock Exchange and participated in meetings at the UN Security Council on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

7:40 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

White House: US in early talks to send high-ranking official to Ukraine, decision far from finalized

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

US officials have internally had preliminary discussions about sending a high-ranking member of the administration to Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the talks.

While President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are unlikely to visit Kyiv anytime soon, officials have discussed sending Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or Secretary of State Antony Blinken. But a decision is far from finalized and the visit could ultimately not materialize.  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv in recent days. US officials said afterward that Biden was not currently planning a trip of his own. 

9:29 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

A group of Ukrainians tried to take a boat to safety, then Russian rockets came raining down

From CNN's Tara John, Oleksandr Fylyppov, Sandi Sidhu and Julia Presniakova

Vladimir Nesterenko and his father Oleh, seen during happier times prior to Russia's invasion.
Vladimir Nesterenko and his father Oleh, seen during happier times prior to Russia's invasion. (Courtesy Julia Nesterenko)

All Vladimir Nesterenko wanted to do when he grew up was to play basketball. The brown haired 12-year-old dribbled and shot hoops with his dad Oleh in the village where they lived in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region. He idolized NBA legend Michael Jordan.

His mother Julia Nesterenko was happy to encourage the habit. “We even had a basketball hoop at home,” the 33-year-old told CNN as she described their first family home. It was their “nest,” she said, with a small garden and a vegetable patch.

When Russian forces captured the regional capital, also called Kherson, and its surrounding area soon after the invasion began, the family knew they could not stay, Julia said. Russian checkpoints, armed forces, and officers of the FSB intelligence agency were reportedly flooding the region at the same time as disappearances and detentions of local mayors, journalists, and civilians became rife, according to local officials and rights groups.

It was time “to get out of the occupied territories to safety… in order to survive,” Julia said. Russians had taken over their village, Verkhnii Rohachyk, and the Nesterenko family feared the consequences.

With nothing more than a backpack and their important documents, the family took what appeared to be the easiest route out to Ukrainian-held areas, she said. On April 7, the family of three and 11 other people boarded an evacuation boat, operated by a local resident, crossing the Dnipro River from the southern, Russian-occupied part of Kherson region to the Ukrainian controlled territory on the other side of the river. The Dnipro, one of Europe’s longest waterways, cuts through Ukraine and its Kherson region before flowing into the Black Sea.

The boat crossing, which began at the bank of the fishing village of Pervomaivka, should have been simple. It was the seventh evacuation trip via boat from the village to a Ukrainian-held area on the north bank of the Dnipro River since the war began, according to Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the military administration of Kryvyi Rih, in the neighboring region of Dnipropetrovsk.

Instead, it turned into a bloodbath, according to Julia, two other survivors, a friend of one victim and several regional officials. They described how Russian rockets and gunfire targeted the boat after it unintentionally drifted into the frontline.

Roman Shelest, head of the Kryvyi Rih Eastern District Prosecutor’s Office for Ukraine told CNN that the boat drifted into the frontline between Russian and Ukrainian forces, and was fired upon 70 meters from the shore.

One survivor, who declined to be named due to safety fears, explained that the boat got lost in a smoke screen, believed to have been created by the Russians. CNN has been unable independently to verify this claim.

“This firing was made using a multiple rocket launching system, possibly Grad, but we would (only) be able to tell the exact type of weapon only after (the) forensic (investigation) is completed,” Shelest added.

One of the survivors also said he believed they were hit by Russian Grad rockets.

When the boat’s navigator indicated that the group had drifted close to the Russian-held village of Osokorivka, the morning’s silence was soon punctured with the sound of exploding rockets, the survivors said.

Vladimir slumped bleeding into Julia’s arms. “My husband behind me also fell on me when he was shot in the head,” Julia told CNN, her voice soft and monotone, seemingly bereft of emotion after all she lost on that journey.

Four people were killed in the attack that day. Oleh was among three to die on the boat; Vladimir died shortly after at a hospital. Another victim was a lawyer who had travelled into Kherson region to rescue her son and deliver humanitarian aid, the lawyer’s friend, Tatyana Denisenko, told CNN.

Photos of the attack’s aftermath showed what looked like the remnants of a rocket on the shore, and bullet and shrapnel holes in the hull of the boat.

The remnants of what appears to have been a rocket, seen on the banks of the Dnipro river.
The remnants of what appears to have been a rocket, seen on the banks of the Dnipro river. (Courtesy Anton Gerashchenko)

“Based on the shells and ammunitions we saw in the area and on the shoreline, we could see the direction of shooting – which demonstrates that (they) were coming from the southern direction, and that is the territory occupied at this time and under the control of the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” prosecutor Shelest, who is investigating the attack, told CNN.

CNN has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment. Since the outbreak of war, Russia has repeatedly denied it targets civilians – a claim disproven by attacks on civilians and civilian targets that have been verified by CNN and other news organizations.

Read more.

6:00 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022

European Union gives another 500 million euros to Ukraine for military aid

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai

The European Union has approved an additional 500 million euros ($544 million USD) for military equipment for the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Wednesday, according to a news release from the European Council of the European Union.  

“The next weeks will be decisive. 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,” said Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.   

The additional 500 million euros brings the total financial assistance from the European Union for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to 1.5 billion euros, the release states. The financial assistance was approved through the European Peace Facility, “an off-budget instrument that enhances the EU’s ability to act as a global security provider,” according to the website of the European Commission for the European Union.   

The 500 million euros will finance personal protective equipment, military equipment, fuel, and first aid kits, the release said.  

“The European Council demands that Russia immediately stop its military aggression in the territory of Ukraine,” the release stated. 

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.