April 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Sana Noor Haq, Jack Bantock, Laura Smith-Spark, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0408 GMT (1208 HKT) April 16, 2022
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11:28 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022

Zelensky tells CNN world should be prepared for possibility Putin could use nuclear weapons

From CNN's Jeremy Herb


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN Friday that "all of the countries of the world" should be prepared for the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons in his war on Ukraine.

Zelensky told CNN's Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview from the office of the president in Kyiv on Friday that Putin could turn to either nuclear or chemical weapons because he does not value the lives of the people of Ukraine.

"Not only me — all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth," Zelensky said, speaking in English.

"Chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it, for them the life of the people, nothing. That's why," Zelensky said. "We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think."

Zelensky has remained in Ukraine throughout the course of the 50-day war with Russia, as Ukraine's forces have resisted the Kremlin's attempts to seize Kyiv and forced Russia to refocus its war efforts on the eastern and southern regions of the country, where Ukraine is anticipating a significant escalation in fighting in the days to come.

One of Russia's most important naval warships sunk in the Black Sea this week, which Ukraine said was the result of a missile strike, while Russia claimed it was due to a fire from the detonation of ammunition.

At the same time, Russia is firing cruise missiles into the outskirts of Kyiv and still maintains the ability to target Ukraine's capital with long-range weaponry.

US officials have warned about the possibility that Putin, if backed into a corner, could turn to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. CIA Director Bill Burns said Thursday that the CIA watches "very intently" over the possibility, while emphasizing that the US has not yet seen any signs that Russia is preparing to take such a step.

"Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they've faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low yield nuclear weapons," he said in public remarks at Georgia Tech.

Watch a clip of the interview here.

You can see more of the interview on "The Lead" at 4 p.m. ET and the full interview will run on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on "State of the Union."

11:08 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022

US doesn't believe Russian cruiser was carrying nuclear weapons when it sunk, officials say 

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

The United States does not believe the Russian cruiser Moskva was carrying nuclear weapons at the time of its sinking, according to the latest US intelligence assessment, two senior US officials with knowledge of the intelligence tell CNN.

The US has been monitoring Russian military forces for any unusual movement of nuclear weapons and has not yet detected such movements to date. 

Given the Moskva was an air defense cruiser, one senior US official added, such a deployment of nuclear weapons on board would be especially unusual.

More context: Russian state news agency TASS reported Thursday evening that the guided-missile cruiser Moskva had sunk, citing a statement from the Russian defense ministry.

Conflicting accounts have emerged about the incident.

Ukraine's Operational Command South claimed earlier on Thursday that the Moskva had begun to sink after it was hit with Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.

Russia said a fire broke out on the cruiser, causing munitions aboard to explode, inflicting serious damage to the vessel and forcing the crew of the warship to be evacuated.

CNN has not been able to independently verify what caused the damage to the ship.

CNN's Brad Lendon contributed reporting to this post. 

12:08 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022

First flight of new US military aid for Ukraine expected to arrive in next 24 hours, defense official says

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The first flight of the $800 million in new aid for Ukraine from the United States is expected to arrive in the region in the next 24 hours, according to a senior defense official.

The official said the material will be picked up at the border by Ukrainians and taken into the country.

The manifest is not being disclosed, but officials have previously said the most urgent requirements such as howitzers and related ammunition as well as radars will be among the first items to be shipped.

US President Joe Biden's administration announced the new package on Wednesday, which included 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had initially been earmarked for Afghanistan, 18 155 mm Howitzer cannons and 300 more Switchblade drones, in addition to 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.

4:07 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022

Putin's ex-economic adviser explains why he believes a full oil embargo would stop the war "within a month" 

Russian economist Andrei Illarionov speaks during a debate on Russian television in this file photo from Oct. 9, 2012
Russian economist Andrei Illarionov speaks during a debate on Russian television in this file photo from Oct. 9, 2012 (Sergey Ponomarev/AP)

Andrei Illarionov, a former chief economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, explained on CNN why he thinks a full embargo of Russian oil would quickly end the war.

He recently told BBC that if Western countries implemented a "real embargo" on oil and gas exports from Russia, Russian operations in Ukraine would probably be stopped "within a month or two."

"I think it is a very important nonmilitary instrument to influence decision-making process in Kremlin," Illarionov told CNN's Brianna Keilar. "The reason is very simple. Right now, the direct revenues from export of oil and gas from Russia [is] considered around 40% of all budget revenues in Russia. It will take into account direct and indirect revenues. Altogether it will be probably close to 60% of all revenue for the federal budget."

Illarionov went on to explain the conditions needed to create enough economic pressure to halt Russia's operations in Ukraine.

"Assuming that these revenues would be reduced substantially as a result of implementation of full embargo for energy export from Russia, we understand it cannot be absolutely full because we have China, maybe some other smaller consumers; nevertheless, it would affect the main bulk of importers of energy from Russia," he said.

"And assuming that Russia at this moment does not have access to [the] credit market because of sanctions, and assuming that foreign exchange reserves of the Central Bank of Russia are frozen, the Russian government, Putin's government, does not have resources to finance spending," he continued.

Illarionov noted that all these spendings would be forced to be "reduced by 40% to 50%," a figure that was not even seen back in the 1990s. 

"That is why the regime will be in the position that it would need to stop operations, to look for some armistice and to see some negotiations with Ukraine," he continued.

Watch the full interview here:

10:19 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022

On the ground: 86-year-old Ukrainian tells CNN she "never imagined that my end would be like this"

In the frontline town of Avdiivka, Ukraine, 86-year-old Lidia spends her nights in pitch darkness while praying for an end to shelling.

"When there's no electricity and it is so dark and there's shelling, she says, you can't imagine how scary it is," CNN's Clarissa Ward reported.

A volunteer who visits her and other elderly and disabled people said while wiping away tears that he promised her he would get her out, but he has yet to find an organization able to evacuate her.

“'I never imagined that my end would be like this,' she says. 'You can’t even die here because there’s no one to provide a burial ceremony,'” Ward said as she translated the woman's words.

A volunteer who visits her and other elderly and disabled people said — while wiping away tears — that he promised her he would get her out, but he has yet to find an organization able to evacuate her.

Lidia, who uses a wheelchair, was reluctant to say goodbye to Ward and held Ward's hand up to her cheek.

"'It's so nice to see real people,' she says. 'Probably it's going to get worse,'" Ward reported.

While residents are used to hearing shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian troops in the town on the front line in the Donetsk region for eight years now, they say they've never experienced anything like this.

A crying man approached Ward and her team as a missile was heard overhead. Ward advised him to return home, but he said there was more shelling where he lived.

Watch Ward's report:

2:15 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022

Russia warned US of "unpredictable consequences" if weapons shipments to Ukraine continue, sources say 

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Kaitlan Collins, Evan Perez and Kylie Atwood

Ukrainian servicemen load a truck with American FGM-148 Javelins as they arrive at the Boryspil airport in Kyiv, on February 11.
Ukrainian servicemen load a truck with American FGM-148 Javelins as they arrive at the Boryspil airport in Kyiv, on February 11. (Sergei/Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia this week formally protested the US’ ongoing shipment of weapons to Ukraine, sending a diplomatic note to the State Department warning of “unpredictable consequences” should the support continue, according to two US officials and another source familiar with the document.

The note, known as a démarche, was sent earlier this week as the administration was preparing to announce that it would be sending a new military aid package worth $800 million to the Ukrainians. The Washington Post first reported on the document. 

The US has for the first time agreed to provide Kyiv with the types of high-power capabilities some officials in US President Joe Biden's administration viewed as too much of an escalation risk a few short weeks ago, including 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 18 155 mm Howitzer cannons and 300 more Switchblade drones.

A source familiar with the Russian diplomatic note said it was expected that Moscow would protest the shipments, and it was still unclear whether it means Russia will change their behavior in any way. But this person acknowledged that it could signal a more aggressive Russian posture against the US and NATO as the war drags on. 

CNN previously reported that the United States believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s risk tolerance has increased, and that he may be willing to take more aggressive action against the US in response to its support for Ukraine. 

Asked for comment, a US official said “we won’t confirm any private diplomatic correspondence. What we can confirm is that, along with Allies and partners, we are providing Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of security assistance, which our Ukrainian partners are using to extraordinary effect to defend their country against Russia's unprovoked aggression and horrific acts of violence.”

Referring to the formal protest from Moscow, one administration official told CNN the Russian notice indicates how effective the US weapons shipments to Ukraine have been. The official suggested the Russians were also concerned by the latest announcement, which includes more sophisticated and heavier-duty weaponry. 

Some Biden administration officials believe that the diplomatic note shows the Russians are hurting, a second administration official said. The official explained that they believe the Russians would not have sent that message if they felt they were in a strong place on the battlefield. 

10:03 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022

Russian long-range bombers struck Mariupol, Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says 

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

Col. Oleksandr Motuzianyk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, said Friday that Russian long-range bombers struck the besieged city of Mariupol.

"On April 14, two Russian strategic heavy bombers Tu-95/-160 have launched cruise missiles hitting the territory of Ukraine from Krasnodar Krai of Russian Federation airspace," he said. "Also for the first time from the start of the armed aggression bombs were dropped by a long-range bombers Tu-22M3. This airstrike took place, hitting Mariupol."

Separately, Oleh Syniehubov, the head of Kharkiv region military administration, said Friday Ukrainian forces had downed a Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter, killing the Russian crew. 

9:23 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022

Ukrainian Armed Forces say Russia is striking the south in retaliation of Moskva warship sinking

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych 

A man checks the damage to a building from Russian missile attacks, in Mykolaiv, on Apr. 15
A man checks the damage to a building from Russian missile attacks, in Mykolaiv, on Apr. 15 (CNN)

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in southern Ukraine suggested that Russian missile attacks in the south since Thursday night were in retaliation for the sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva.

Natalia Humeniuk said the attack had "affected not only [Russia's] ships, but also the enemy’s imperial ambitions."

She told a media briefing Friday that after the attack on the Moskva, "we all realize that we will not be forgiven."

Ukraine said two of its anti-ship missiles hit the Moskva, while the Kremlin has said only that a fire on board led to the eventual capsizing of the flagship of its Black Sea fleet.  

Humeniuk said that "when the ammunition detonated, that showed they had been loaded enough to keep destroying Ukraine. ...The impact led to the detonation of ammunition, they started struggling for survival." 

"We saw other ships try to help the cruiser, but even the nature was on Ukraine’s side, because the storm did not allow to carry out either a rescue operation or evacuate personnel," she continued.

Humeniuk referenced Russian missile attacks in the south since Thursday night after the Moskva attack.

"Currently there is an attack in Mykolaiv. We see that this is again the use of cluster munitions prohibited by international conventions," she said.

A CNN team in Mykolaiv Friday heard multiple rounds of explosions in the morning between 10:20 a.m. and 12 p.m. local time. At least two people were killed in front of an Orthodox church in the city.

Humeniuk said that the situation in Mykolaiv and Kherson regions "is characterized by the fact that the enemy uses its brutal manners in the placing of equipment and units in-between the local civilians and the civilian infrastructure like schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and the yards of local residents."

"Then at night they disappear from these positions, leave the villages and shell them, while accusing the Ukrainian Armed Forces of shelling civilians," she said.

"Such actions are conducted in order to justify their status of liberators in the occupied territories," she added.

"We realize that attacks on us will increase, that the enemy will try to take revenge," Humeniuk said. "We are ready, we are resisting."

9:52 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022

In Kramatorsk, CNN reporter describes the aftermath of the deadly train station missile attack

From CNN's Ben Wedeman In Kramatorsk

Note: This post contains graphic imagery.

At 10:30 a.m. local time last Friday, as many as 4,000 people in and around the train station in Kramatorsk were waiting to be evacuated when a missile exploded overhead, raining down chunks of metal. Shrapnel ripped through the crowd, which was largely composed of women, children and the elderly. The latest death toll is more than 50, with more than 100 injured.

When we visited the station 48 hours after the blast, we found the concourse still stained with blood, littered with the scattered possessions of the dead and wounded.

On one platform, we found a large pool of congealed blood in a shrapnel impact point with several false teeth nearby. Someone, probably an elderly person, must have been hit and killed there.

City officials believe Kramatorsk could be surrounded, besieged and pulverized by Russian forces if and when the much-anticipated offensive in the east gathers pace.

The mayor had been urging residents to leave, and prior to last Friday's strike around 8,000 people a day were boarding westbound trains. The evacuation effort had been publicly announced, with people from surrounding towns and villages urged to gather at the railway station in Kramatorsk, which was the major regional hub. There was nothing secret about it.

Russia has denied targeting the station, claiming the missile — a Tochka-U — is no longer used by Russian forces, and alleging that it was a Ukrainian missile that hit the station. Military analysts dismiss the claim.

Part of the missile crashed into a small park in front of the station. Someone, somewhere wrote on it in Russian "for the children."

While tagging and writing slogans on missiles, bombs and shells is a very old tradition, it is not for certain what the intended message was.

Read more about what CNN journalists have witnessed in Ukraine here: