9 evacuation routes agreed for Thursday: Ukraine Deputy PM
From CNN’s Nathan Hodge in Lviv
Nine evacuation routes for civilians to leave besieged Ukrainian cities have been agreed for Thursday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post.
She said four routes have been established to Zaporizhzhia by private transport.
Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia
Berdiansk to Zaporizhzhia
Tokmak to Zaporizhzhia
Energodar to Zaporizhzhia
In the Luhansk region, five routes will be operational:
Severodonetsk to Bakhmut
Lysychansk to Bakhmut
Popasna to Bakhmut
Rubizhne to Bakhmut
Hirske to Bakhmut
Vereshchuk said there were no evacuation routes on Wednesday. "In Zaporizhzhia region, the occupiers blocked evacuation buses, and in Luhansk region, they are violating the ceasefire," she said.
2:42 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
50 days since Russia's invasion began, the war in Ukraine is entering a pivotal new phase
Thursday marks 50 days since Russia began its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The initial assaultstarted before dawn with a series of missile attacks and the use of long-range artillery, before quickly spreading across central and eastern Ukraine as Russian forces attacked the country from three sides.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to quickly topple Kyiv failed in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance, a failure to achieve air superiority in Ukraine, command, control and supply problems and through heavy losses of personnel.
As Russian forces withdraw from areas near Kyiv to refocus on the east, the horrors of their occupation have been made clear with reports of widespread civilian casualties and killings, torture, disappearances, and other atrocities. Cities across the country continue to be relentlessly bombarded as Russia deploys a devastating array of aerial assaults, creating a humanitarian catastrophe.
After 50 days, the war is poised to enter a critical new stage:
War moves to the east: Putin has revised his war strategy to focus on trying to take control of Donbas and other regions in eastern Ukraine with a target date of early May, according to several US officials familiar with the latest US intelligence assessments. Ukraine is bracing for a massive escalation, with one official warning of a battle that “will remind you of the Second World War." Satellite images show increasing numbers of Russian troops and armored vehicles pouring into eastern Ukraine.
Different terrain: The easternterritory is where Russia holds many more advantages than in its earlier assault on northern Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv. The battle would take place on open terrain rather than the close fighting in urban and wooded areas. The region also borders southwest Russia, allowing Russian forces to avoid the sorts of sustainment, logistics and communication problems that derailed their all-out invasion of the country nearly from the beginning.
Rush for weapons: The US is ramping up its commitment to Ukraine — sending an additional $800 million worth of weapons and ammunition in a package that includes Mi-17 helicopters, Howitzer cannons, Switchblade drones, counter-artillery radar systems and protective equipment to guard against potential chemical attacks. For weeks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded with world leaders for more arms and equipment.
Human catastrophe: Since the invasion began, more than 4.6 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries and thousands of civilians have died, including children, according to the UN. The World Health Organization has verified nearly 120 attacks on health care since the invasion began. Trapped residents in cities under bombardment from Russian attacks have reported no food, water or medicine, and aid blocked from entering.
Accusations of genocide, war crimes: US President Joe Biden described the atrocities in Ukraine as "genocide" for the first time this week. Ukraine's prosecutor general is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the intentional targeting of civilians. Images of at least 20 bodies strewn across the street in Bucha emerged this month, while dozens of evacuating civilians were killed in a Russian missile strike on a train station. It followed bombings of hospitals, schools and a theater where hundreds of people, including children, were sheltering.
US stocks of Javelin anti-tank missiles are running low, report says
From CNN's Brad Lendon
The United States has sent so many of its Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine that its stocks are running low for possible use by its own forces, according a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Replenishing the US stockpile with new weapons will take years, according to the report from Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the International Security Program at CSIS.
What is the Javelin? It's a shoulder-fired anti-armor missile made by US defense giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The missile is a so-called “fire and forget” weapon, meaning it guides itself to its target after launch, allowing its operator to take cover and avoid counterfire.
Use in Ukraine: Ukrainian forces have used it to devastating effect against Russian tanks, negating what was, before the war, thought to be an overwhelming Russian advantage.
It could also be very useful to US forces in any unforeseen conflict, but Cancian said the Pentagon needs to keep an eye on the drawdown in its stocks.
“Military planners are likely getting nervous,” he wrote. “The United States maintains stocks for a variety of possible global conflicts that may occur against North Korea, Iran, or Russia itself. At some point, those stocks will get low enough that military planners will question whether the war plans can be executed. The United States is likely approaching that point.”
Cancian estimates there may be 20,000 to 25,000 Javelins remaining in the stockpiles and the 7,000 systems sent to Ukraine "represent about one-third of the US total inventory."
"It will take about three or four years to replace the missiles that have been delivered so far. If the United States delivers more missiles to Ukraine, this time to replace extends,” Cancian said.
Some context: A senior US defense official said Wednesday the massive shipments of weapons to Ukraine, including thousands of Javelin anti-armor missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, have not affected the readiness of US forces.
1:32 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
The fight for Mariupol is at a critical stage. Here's what we know
Ukraine said its last two remaining units in the besieged southern city of Mariupol have been able to join forces thanks to a "risky maneuver," bolstering their resistance against Russian forces.
Meanwhile, Russia said Mariupol's commercial seaport had been captured and 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered.
Here's what we know about the latest situation in the port city:
Defenders join forces: Commanders of two Ukrainian units defending Mariupol issued a video statement saying they had been able to join forces. Denys Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov Regiment, said his unit had linked up with troops from the 36th Marine Brigade. Serhii Volyna, commander of the Marine Brigade said, "We will do whatever is necessary to successfully complete our combat mission."
"Risky" move: Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych had said earlier that the join up was a "risky maneuver." Arestovych said, "This is what happens when officers do not lose their heads, but firmly maintain command and control of the troops." CNN cannot independently confirm the details of the operation. Arestovych said the move has "seriously strengthened their defense area."
Surrounded: Both units have been involved in a last-ditch attempt to resist a Russian offensive against the city that has lasted over a month. The units are surrounded by Russian forces and running low on supplies.
Key sites: The Ukrainian defenders have been fighting to hold parts of the port and Azovstal, a giant steel factory that lies on Mariupol's eastern outskirts.
Crucial moment: Independent analysis of the situation in Mariupol on Sunday by the Institute for the Study of War said the defense of the city had reached a critical stage. The join up of Ukrainian forces came after "Russian forces bisected Mariupol from the city center to the coast on April 10, isolating the remaining Ukrainian defenders in two main locations: the main port of Mariupol in the southwest and the Azovstal steel plant in the east," the analysis said.
Russia claims advances: In a statement Wednesday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Mariupol's commercial seaport had been captured. CNN was not independently able to verify that claim. The Russian military has repeatedly claimed to have taken strategic positions in the city, but has also faced stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces.
Marines surrender: The Russian military claimed in a statement Wednesday that 1,026 Ukrainian marines — including 162 officers and 47 women servicemembers — had surrendered in the vicinity of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, a claim that could not be verified. Prokopenko, of Ukraine's Azov regiment, acknowledged that some Ukrainian defenders had surrendered.
Propaganda battle: Russia has focused an intense propaganda effort around the battle for Mariupol. Russian state TV aired footage Wednesday allegedly showing Ukrainian marines surrendering to Russian forces in the city. Photos have also emerged from AFP photographers on a trip organized by the Russian military in Mariupol. The images show Russian soldiers in the bombed-out theater hit by a Russian strike, and patrolling a street.
Residents can't get out: About 180,000 civilians remain trapped in and around the city amid widespread devastation and relentless bombardment, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Wednesday. Ukraine's President has said "tens of thousands" have died in Mariupol, a figure that cannot be independently verified.
3:08 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Russia's loss of naval flagship is a devastating blow, experts say
From CNN's Brad Lendon
One of the Russian Navy’s most important warships is either floating abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighbor.
Russian sailors have evacuated the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, after a fire that detonated ammunition aboard, Russian state media reported Wednesday.
State media outlets TASS and RIA, citing the Russian Defense Ministry, said the Moskva had been seriously damaged in the incident and that the cause of the fire was being investigated. The Russian reports gave no information on possible casualties.
But hours earlier, a Ukrainian official claimed the Russian warship had been hit by cruise missiles fired from Ukraine.
Due to large storms over the Black Sea obscuring satellite imagery and sensory satellite data, CNN has not been able to visually confirm the ship has been hit or its current status, but analysts noted that a fire on board such a ship can lead to a catastrophic explosion that could sink it.
Whatever the reason for the fire, the analysts say it strikes hard at the heart of the Russian navy as well as national pride, comparable to the US Navy losing a battleship during World War II or an aircraft carrier today.
“Only the loss of a ballistic missile submarine or the Kutznetsov (Russia’s lone aircraft carrier) would inflict a more serious blow to Russian morale and the navy’s reputation with the Russian public,” said Carl Schuster, a retired US Navy captain and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.
"Massive blow": Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College in London, said losing the warship would be a “massive blow” for Russia.
“Ships operate away from public attention and their activities are rarely the subject of news. But they are large floating pieces of national territory, and when you lose one, a flagship no less, the political and symbolic message — in addition to the military loss — stands out precisely because of it,” he said.
Analysis: US faces a race against time to get massive security aid to Ukraine with fresh assault looming
Analysis from CNN's Maeve Reston
US officials are confronting fresh questions about whether a massive aid package for Ukraine will arrive soon enough and whether it will be enough to sustain Ukrainian forces in what is turning into a protracted war with Russia.
Ukraine is bracing for the expected escalation of Russian attacks in the Donbas region in the country's east. As they try to adapt to that challenging new terrain, the US is ramping up its commitment to help — sending an additional $800 million worth of weapons and ammunition in a package that includes additional Mi-17 helicopters, Howitzer cannons, several hundred Switchblade drones, counter-artillery radar systems and protective equipment to guard against potential chemical attacks.
But getting that aid in the hands of Ukraine's armed forces is now facing a race against time.
As Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its 50th day, there are growing signs the war is shifting. Ukrainian officials have warned for days they expect a major offensive by Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region — a new theater of war on the open plains, rather than the urban and wooded areas of the north.
French military spokesperson Col. Pascal Lanni said Wednesday Russia is potentially preparing for a “large-scale offensive” in the east in the coming days.
Here are the latest developments:
Russian warship evacuated: Conflicting reports have emerged from the Russians and Ukrainians about an incident involving a Russian warship in the Black Sea. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed the Moskva was evacuated after a fire onboard detonated ammunition, seriously damaging the vessel, according to Russian state media. But Odesa state regional administrator Maxim Marchenko claimed Ukrainian forces hit the ship with "Neptune" missiles, causing serious damage to it.
New, heavier weapons: For the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US is providing Kyiv with high-power capabilities, including Mi-17 helicopters and 18 155 mm Howitzer cannons. The new weapons package represents the starkest sign to date that the war in Ukraine is shifting, to deal with the type of fighting that’s likely to take place in the Donbas region — open terrain rather than the close fighting in urban and wooded areas. The EU has also approved an additional 500 million euros for military equipment for Ukraine.
Genocide claim: President Joe 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. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the legal process for determining whether genocide was underway would proceed.
Not war but "terrorism": Polish President Andrzej Duda said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is "not war," but “terrorism," and those who committed war crimes must be punished, after he and Baltic leaders met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Wednesday.
The fight for Mariupol: The commanders of two Ukrainian units defending besieged Mariupol said they had been able to join forces, as Russia claimed advances in the city. It comes as Ukrainian forces remain blockaded inside Mariupol. The Russian military has repeatedly claimed to have taken strategic positions in the city, but has also faced stiff resistance. On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Mariupol's commercial seaport had been captured. CNN was not independently able to verify that claim.
Bodies in Sumy: Ukrainian officials say more than 100 bodies have been discovered, some tortured, after Russian forces left the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine. The head of the Sumy regional military administration said the number of bodies was growing every day and "a lot of people found dead with their hands tied with the signs of torture." Others remain held captive and "daily negotiations" are ongoing for them to be exchanged or set free, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said.
2:19 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Russian warship evacuated in Black Sea was involved in Snake Island exchange
From CNN's George Kazarian, Masha Angelova and Brad Lendon
A Russian warship that was evacuated in the Black Sea on Wednesday was one of the vessels involved in the famous exchange at Snake Island in February, according to a Ukrainian presidential adviser.
Some context: Conflicting reports have emerged from the Russians and Ukrainians about the incident onboard the Moskva on Wednesday. Russia said in state media the cruiser was evacuated after a fire onboard detonated ammunition. The Odesa state regional administrator claimed it was hit by Ukrainian missiles. CNN is unable to independently verify what took place.
However, comments from Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy, suggest there is confusion over what occurred.
"There's a big fire ... The sea is stormy so it’s unknown whether it’ll be possible to get them help. There are 510 crew members there. We can’t figure out what happened, either two sailors were smoking in the wrong place, or once again certain safety measures were violated," Arestovych said.
The ship is currently in the Black Sea basin, he added.
Regarding the February Snake Island incident, Arestovych confirmed the Moskva was involved. "Yes specifically this one, it was firing at the defenders. It’s the flagship of the (Russian) navy," he said.
9:46 p.m. ET, April 13, 2022
Why the Biden administration is giving new, heavier weapons to Ukraine
From CNN's Oren Liebermann, Jeremy Herb and Kaitlan Collins
For the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US is providing Kyiv with the types of high-power capabilities some Biden administration officials viewed as too much of an escalation risk a few short weeks ago.
The $800 million list is driven not only by direct requests from Ukraine, but also in preparation for a new type of fight on the open plains of southeast Ukraine right next to Russia, terrain that plays into Russia’s natural military advantages.
The new weapons package represents the starkest sign to date that the war in Ukraine is shifting — and with it the weapons Ukraine will need if it hopes to continue to stymie a Russian military that has regrouped and resupplied after its initial failures in the opening weeks of the war.
What the package includes:
The Biden administration said the package included 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had initially been earmarked for Afghanistan
18 155 mm Howitzer cannons
300 more Switchblade drones
And radar systems capable of tracking incoming fire and pinpointing its origin
This package stands out from previous security assistance in part because this tranche includes more sophisticated and heavier-duty weaponry than previous shipments.