Russian troops that left northern Ukraine are now appearing in Donbas ahead of expected military push
From CNN's Barbara Starr and Jamie Crawford
The first Russian troops that had left northern Ukraine have begun appearing in the northern Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in preparation for what is expected to be a major push by thousands of Russian forces a senior US defense official said Thursday.
“They already have a significant amount of forces in the region," the official told reporters on Thursday. "We would assess that inside Ukraine itself, there’s 65 total operational BTGs. And they are, of the 65, they’re really in that east and south parts of Ukraine. There really isn’t any operation BTGs outside southern and eastern Ukraine ... They will try to insert additional BTGs over coming days. We just haven’t seen that really pan out of late."
These are some of the units that had left northern Ukraine and the areas north of Kyiv in recent weeks to go back to Russia and Belarus for resupply and reinforcement before going to Donbas, the official noted.
1:23 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Pentagon "mindful of the clock" as it works to ship newly approved military assistance to Ukraine
From CNN's Michael Conte and Jamie Crawford
The Pentagon is working to move the $800 million worth of weapons, ammunition and other security assistance for Ukraine announced by US President Joe Biden yesterday into Ukraine as quickly as possible, a senior defense official said Thursday.
“We’re under no illusion of the size and the scale of this thing. But we’re also mindful of the clock. We know time is not our friend. And we’re going to do the best we can to move this, to move these shipments as fast as we can,” the official told reporters during an off-camera briefing while adding “we’re going to front-load them with the kinds of capabilities that we know the Ukrainians need the most.”
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.
But the official said the material will not arrive all in one shipment.
“A package that size is going to take many shipments. I mean, the last $800 million dollars for instance took more than 20 individual shipments to close it out,” the official said. “I can assure you we’ll move with the same sense of urgency that we’ve been moving with.”
In addition, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba on Thursday to discuss the latest security assistance package to Ukraine, according to the US State Department.
“They noted that the steady supply of materiel from the United States and its Allies and partners has been instrumental in Ukraine’s successful fight against Russia’s forces. The Secretary provided an update on the most recent U.S. and global efforts to hold the Kremlin and its enablers accountable. The Secretary commended the bravery of the Ukrainian people, noting in particular those defending Mariupol,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting to this post.
1:13 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Canada to deploy up to 150 troops to Poland to assist Ukrainian refugees
From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London
Canada will deploy up to 150 military personnel in the coming days to Poland to support Warsaw’s efforts in assisting Ukrainian refugees, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand announced on Thursday.
“To help address the growing crisis at the border between Poland and Ukraine, I am announcing today the deployment of up to 150 Canadian armed forces personnel with approximately 100 personnel in the immediate term, who will assist Poland's efforts to support and assist Ukrainians fleeing violence,” Anand said, speaking from Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario, a departure point for the country’s military aid to Ukraine.
Ukrainian speakers will lead the Canadian Armed Forces’ largest component of the deployment at processing centers in Poland to provide general support, spiritual services, and limited medical care, she said.
A number of Canadian troops will also be deployed to support a Polish-led humanitarian task force, while a third group will act as a liaison between Polish defense forces and Canadian immigration officials to facilitate the resettlement of “thousands more Ukrainians” in Canada, she said.
“These efforts are being carried out as part of our Operation Reassurance – Canada’s contribution to NATO’s assurance and deterrence measures in central and eastern Europe — which we recently expanded and extended over the past few months,” the defense minister continued.
Canada will commit a further $396 million ($500 million in Canadian dollars) in military aid to Ukraine on top of the $87 million ($110 million in Canadian dollars) already pledged, “so that our Ukrainian friends have the equipment that they need to keep fighting this war and to win," according to Anand.
Canada is home to the world’s largest Ukrainian diaspora after Russia, with more than a million Canadians who claim Ukrainian heritage.
12:38 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Turkey still working to bring Russian and Ukrainian presidents to the negotiating table, foreign minister says
From CNN’s Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul and Celine Alkhaldi in Abu Dhabi
Turkey is still working on organizing a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish news channel NTV on Thursday.
“We know critical topics will be decided at leader level, so we will try to bring leaders together,” he said.
Cavusoglu said that Turkey continues to approach the negotiations with “cautious optimism,” particularly after recent events of alleged war crimes in Bucha and Irpin which “negatively affected the process.”
“The inhumane images from regions such as Bucha and Irpin, which we also condemn, changed the atmosphere. It created a negative atmosphere on the Ukrainian side. While there were different statements by the Russian Federation regarding this, this ultimately negatively affected the negotiation process," he said.
“Despite all those challenges, President Zelensky said talks may continue… But it takes two leaders to say yes. Especially President Putin,” he added.
The foreign minister said that while there is possibility of a ceasefire, “if the fighting lasts and new attacks happen in Donbas, this will be harder to reach.”
Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Putin that he would like to bring him together with President Zelensky, following an in-person meeting that was held between Russian and Ukrainian negotiation delegations in Istanbul in March.
11:47 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Opposition leader Navalny calls on West to launch huge social media campaign against "Putin's insane regime"
From CNN's Tim Lister
Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny has issued a series of tweets urging a new front of "truth and free information" against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he calls the "war criminal from the Kremlin."
Navalny, who is serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony after being convicted of fraud last month, said in his tweets that "truth and free information hit Putin's insane regime just as hard as Javelins," the US anti-tank weapons being used by Ukrainian forces against Russian armor.
Navalny said the Kremlin has lied in asserting there is widespread public support in Russia for the war, asking: "What kind of sociology is there even to talk about when both the question 'Do you support the war in Ukraine?' and the answer 'no' could result in 15 years of imprisonment for the sociologist and the respondent respectively?"
He pointed to criminal cases brought against Russian individuals, saying that one man was arrested in Moscow for standing in the street holding Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace."
Navalny said that "Russia has shut down and blocked ALL independent media, including the rather cautious ones, in just a month and a half. Would this have been necessary if the war with Ukraine really had that kind of support?"
But he acknowledged that the shutdown is "slowly doing [its] job," as most Russians "have a completely distorted view of what is happening in Ukraine."
Navalny called for a new campaign to get the facts in front of the Russian public, saying that "more than 85% of Russian adults still use @YouTube, @instagram, @WhatsApp, @Google and Facebook (@Meta) every day."
"We need ads. Lots of ads. A huge national anti-war campaign will start with an advertising campaign," he said.
Navalny urged Western leaders and institutions, including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Union, "to urgently find a solution to crush Putin's propaganda using the advertising power of social media."
"Even if such advertising is bought for the full commercial price, its cost will be laughable compared to the price of this war," Navalny said, adding: "One shot from Javelin costs $230,000. For the same money we would get 200 million ad views in different formats and provide at least 300,000 link clicks or at least 8 million views on a video with the truth about what is happening in Ukraine."
He ended his appeal by writing: "It should be an unprecedented huge national advertising campaign. Just like in a real election. Our candidate Peace versus Putin's candidate War.”
“And Peace must win. We can’t allow any other outcome."
11:39 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
US assesses Russian warship still battling fire, but cannot confirm cause, defense official says
From CNN's Michael Conte
The United States assesses that the Russian cruiser Moskva is still battling a fire onboard but still cannot confirm what caused the damage, according to a senior US defense official.
The official also said that the ship is moving east, and the US assumes it will be heading to the port of Sevastopol for repairs.
The US has seen that other Russian ships in the northern Black Sea near the Moskva have all subsequently moved further south, according to the official.
Ukraine claimed to have hit Moskva with a missile, while Russia said the cause of the fire is still “being established” and that there is no “open fire” on the ship.
“We cannot confirm what caused the damage to the cruiser Moskva. We do believe that she has experienced significant damage. Our assessment is that she still appears to be battling a fire onboard. But we do not know the extent of the damage. We don’t know anything about casualties to her crew. And we cannot definitely say at this point what caused that damage,” the US official said.
“We hold the ship moving to the east. Our assumption is that she’ll be heading to Sevastopol for repairs. But that’s really all we can say. The only other maritime activity worth noting is that we did note that other Black Sea ships that were operating in the vicinity of her or in the northern Black Sea have all moved further south, in the wake of the damage that the Moskva experienced. So they’ve all, all of the northern Black Sea ships have now moved out, away from the northern areas where they were operating in,” the official added.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby echoed similar comments in an interview with CNN earlier Thursday, saying that “there was an explosion” on the Russian cruiser, but that the United States cannot assess at this point if the ship was hit by a missile.
11:51 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Finland is prepared "for different kinds of threats" from Russia if it joins NATO, foreign minister tells CNN
From CNN’s Zeena Saifi in Abu Dhabi
A day after the country’s prime minister confirmed a decision on NATO membership will be made “within weeks,” Finland’s foreign minister told CNN that it was expecting a reaction from Russia and was “prepared for different kinds of threats.”
“Finland actually has quite a strong conventional army. We have more than 280,000 reservists, we have a conscription army, we have just invested in F-35 fighters, 60 of them are coming to Finland, and so forth. So we have been taking quite good care of our national defense forces. But of course we live in a world, as we see from Russia’s attack against Ukraine, that also new security threats appear. … Through closer cooperation with NATO, we can address all those different threats,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in an interview Thursday with CNN’s Becky Anderson.
Russia has long made threatening statements about Sweden and Finland joining NATO, saying it would have “serious military and political repercussions.” At the beginning of the war, Putin made it clear that one of his aims was to roll back NATO deployments in Eastern Europe to where they had been in the 1990s. Now, Finland and Sweden — nations that are officially non-aligned —are edging ever closer toward joining NATO, the US-led military alliance.
When asked by CNN why Finland has changed its position with regard to military neutrality, Haavisto said the nature of Russia’s attack on Ukraine has changed.
“First, Russia is ready to take higher risks in its neighborhood. Second, it’s ready to concentrate more than 100,000 soldiers in one spotlight, we have seen on the border of Ukraine. And third — this is more of an open speculation — but the potential use of nuclear or even chemical weapons. All of this is of course affecting also the Finnish security," the foreign minister said.
According to the prime minister, Finland hopes to wrap up discussions regarding the country’s potential application for NATO membership “by mid-summer.” Haavisto told CNN Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed the public discourse inside his country.
Sweden is due to complete an analysis of its security policy by the end of May. A Swedish official previously told CNN that the nation could make its position public sooner, depending on when neighboring Finland does.
“We have seen a major shift in public opinion in Finland during the recent weeks. A clear majority of the population is now supporting NATO membership. … The Finnish parliament will discuss this matter in the coming weeks, and if the majority clearly will state that, then the process will go on. Then, it’s depending on the 30 NATO member states how rapid the process can be,” he added.
US President Joe Biden said this week that the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine as Russia continues its invasion qualify as "genocide." Other leaders have rejected the use of the term, such as French President Emmanuel Macron. Haavisto said Finland supports the International Criminal Court investigating what exactly happened.
“I think it's very important that firstly, before the definition of what exactly happened, we have the full investigation from places like Bucha, and other places where certainly civilians have been attacked in a way that is not allowed under international legislation,” he said.
CNN's Luke McGee and Maeve Reston contributed reporting to this post.
11:43 a.m. ET, April 14, 2022
UN: Nearly 2,000 civilians killed in Ukraine since invasion began, but actual figures "considerably higher"
From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London
As of April 12, the civilian death toll in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24 stood at 1,932, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said Thursday. It warned that "the actual figures are considerably higher."
As the “receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed, and many reports are still pending corroboration,” it added.
The OHCHR also said that at least 2,589 civilians have been injured since the start of the invasion.
"Escalating and sustained hostilities in the eastern & southern regions of Ukraine continue to drive rising humanitarian needs," the UN said Thursday.
12:00 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
UK supports potential Sweden and Finland NATO membership, foreign secretary says
From CNN’s Amy Cassidy and staff
The United Kingdom would support Sweden and Finland in a NATO membership bid, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday.
“Sweden and Finland are free to choose their future without interference - the UK will support whatever they decide," she wrote on Twitter.
Prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changing the security landscape in Europe, Sweden and Finland are edging closer to NATO membership. Both countries are set to decide by the summer whether to apply to join the military alliance.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a call with journalists Thursday that Russia’s defense ministry is under the instruction of Russian President Vladimir Putin to submit proposals on strengthening forces near Russia’s borders with NATO countries.