April 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Brad Lendon, Ivana Kottasová, Sana Noor Haq, Joe Ruiz, Adrienne Vogt and Ray Sanchez, CNN

Updated 12:40 a.m. ET, April 17, 2022
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7:21 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

Civilians urged to leave Luhansk region as Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine escalates

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Presniakova and Celine Alkhaldi

Residents stay in the basement of a residential building to protect themselves from shelling in Lysychansk, Luhansk region on April 13.
Residents stay in the basement of a residential building to protect themselves from shelling in Lysychansk, Luhansk region on April 13. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Civilians remaining in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine have been urged to leave by a local official, as fighting in the area escalates.

More than 70,000 residents of Luhansk region have not yet left for safe cities, according to Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional administration.

About 330,000 people lived in the parts of Luhansk not under separatist control before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Haidai said on his Telegram account on Saturday.

More than 32,000 people have been evacuated in 52 days by organized transport, and more than 200,000 had left on their own.

"It is extremely dangerous to stay in the cities now. The shelling intensified," Haidai said.

He also accused the Russian forces of attacking civilian areas in the worst-affected towns of Rubizhne, Popasna and Hirske, which he said had been "destroyed beyond recognition."

About 70% of Severodonetsk -- the main city in the area under Russian attack -- was destroyed, but about 20,000 of the 130,000 citizens who lived there before the war remained in the city, he said.

Shelling in Kreminna and Lysychansk continued day and night, Haidai added. A CNN team in Lysychansk Saturday morning witnessed the shelling of a market in the town.

"Destruction of the area on a ​​terrible scale. It becomes extremely difficult to help those who remain. Volunteers die," Haidai said.

Haidai's comments come amid warnings of a major Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, where new satellite images have captured increasing numbers of Russian troops and armored vehicles pouring into the region.

Despite economic sanctions and pointed criticism from global leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears ready to use almost any means necessary to fulfill his ambition of gaining control of that region.

CNN's Maeve Reston contributed reporting to this post.

6:26 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

"Increasingly hostile" situation in southern Ukraine after sinking of Russian ship, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Julia Presniakova in Lviv

The situation in Ukraine's southern Mykolaiv and Kherson regions is "increasingly hostile" following the loss of a Russian warship in the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday.

"During the past day, the situation in the south of Ukraine has been characterized by increasing hostile aggression," Ukraine's Operational Command South said in a video statement.

"Desperately trying to gain a foothold and hold on to the positions of the southern front, the world's most shameful army is pursuing civilians in Mykolayiv and Kherson regions," the statement added. "The work of snipers has been recorded in some areas."

Russian forces were "enraged by the losses in the Black Sea" -- an apparent reference to the sinking of the Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva -- and had "intensified the missile threat" in the region, the statement continued.  

Mykolaiv and several other settlements of the region have come under heavy fire, including from cluster munitions, the statement said.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has previously said it had received credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas in Ukraine. 

The nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also confirmed Russia's use of cluster munitions throughout the conflict.

Some background: The Moskva -- one of the Russian Navy's most important warships -- sunk in the Black Sea on Thursday.

Ukraine claims that it hit Moskva with missiles, causing it to sink. Russia has insisted the reason for the sinking was a fire. On Friday, the United States supported Ukraine's account, with a senior defense official saying that it believes that two Ukrainian Neptune missiles hit the Russian warship in the Black Sea.

Whether the ship lies at the bottom of the sea as the victim of Ukrainian missiles, Russian incompetence, bad luck or a combination of all three remains disputed

On Friday, 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 Moskva's descent, telling a media briefing, "we all realize that we will not be forgiven."

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

CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Brad Lendon contributed reporting to this post.

1:00 p.m. ET, April 16, 2022

Russian attacks intensify in eastern Ukraine, ahead of a planned ground offensive

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Firefighters drive towards a fire at a factory after a Russian attack, on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 15.
Firefighters drive towards a fire at a factory after a Russian attack, on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 15. (Felipe Dana/AP)

Russian attacks have intensified in a range of locations in eastern Ukraine including Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, according to Ukrainian military and regional officials.

Russian forces appear to be heavily shelling areas of all three regions ahead of a planned ground offensive.

Around Slobozhansky, which is an area south of Kharkiv, "the main focus of the Russian enemy is on the regrouping and strengthening of troops," the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.

Russian forces aim to block off the city of Kharkiv, which continues to see persistent shelling, and have concentrated up to 22 battalion tactical groups around Izium, the General Staff added. A battalion tactical group normally comprises about 1,000 troops.

"The main efforts of the enemy are focused on maintaining the previously occupied positions," it said, noting the deployment of additional Russian units.

In Donetsk region, Russian efforts were focused on taking the towns of Popasna and Rubizhne, while also establishing full control over the strategic port city of Mariupol, it added.

The General Staff also spoke of constant fire against Ukrainian positions around Popasna, saying that Russian forces are "trying to improve the tactical situation, to advance deep into the settlement of Popasna," but were eventually foiled.

It reported intensified shelling around the city of Severodonetsk, "in order to inflict losses, deplete our troops and possibly prepare for offensive operations," as well as shelling further south in Toretsk.

One person was killed in Kreminna, just to the north-west of Severodonetsk, a local official said.

Efforts are continuing to get residents of the towns of Rubizhne and Kreminna to safety amid heavy fighting in the area, Serhii Haidai, head of Luhansk regional administration said. He added that there is no water or gas in Severodonetsk.

In the last day, 10 Russian enemy attacks were held off in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the General Staff added.

"The main events that we will talk about in the coming days, or rather weeks, will be events related to the fighting in Ukrainian Donbas," Vadym Denysenko, an adviser at the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, said on Saturday.

Russian missile attacks have expanded to other areas beyond the Donbas region, Ukrainian officials say.

One person was killed in an attack on a village near the city of Poltava, Dmytro Lunin, the head of the Poltava military administration, said.

The country's top general said he spoke with the top US military official on Friday.

Valery Zaluzhny said he discussed "heavy fighting on the Kharkiv-Izium border, deterrence of the Russian offensive in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the critical situation around Mariupol, and rocket fire throughout Ukraine," with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.

"I reiterated the urgent needs for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in armaments and ammunition to strengthen our defense capabilities," Zaluzhny added. 

The news comes as Russian preparations continue in eastern Ukraine for an offensive operation.

5:44 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

Russian strikes damage gas pipelines in Luhansk region, says Ukrainian official

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Shelling overnight by Russian forces damaged gas pipelines in the Ukrainian towns of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, a local official said.

One person was killed and three were injured in the bombardment, which damaged pipelines in the two towns, and also struck the town of Kreminna, Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk regional administration, said in a statement on Telegram.

"Late in the evening, firefighters found the body of a man without signs of life under the rubble of one of the vocational schools in Kreminna," he said. "Three women were injured as a result of the shelling in Lysychansk. They were evacuated from the damaged house and received timely medical care."

The central gas pipeline in Severodonetsk was damaged, and work was underway Saturday to restore water supply infrastructure that was damaged on Friday, Haidai added.

"There is no water and gas in the city," he said. "An enemy shell also hit the gas pipeline in Lysychansk, but the consequences are less significant."

On Friday, Haidai said that shelling in Severodonetsk had damaged the water supply system and destroyed two food warehouses.

The Russians are cynically hitting infrastructure," he said at the time.

The shelling came amid warnings of a major Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine in the coming days.

CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Yulia Kesaieva contributed reporting to this post.

5:34 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

200 children killed since the invasion started, Ukrainian officials say

From Olga Voitovich in Lviv

A family sits in the hallway of their apartment building as Russian attacks continue in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 15.
A family sits in the hallway of their apartment building as Russian attacks continue in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 15. (Felipe Dana/AP)

Two hundred children have been killed in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to attack the country in late February, the office of Ukraine's Prosecutor General said in a statement on Saturday.

The office added that more than 360 children have been injured during the war so far.

Five children were injured and two of them died -- including a 7-month-old baby -- in a Russian strike on Kharkiv on Friday, the office said.

It added that a 15-year-old boy was injured on Thursday as a result of the detonation of a cluster munition on the outskirts of Novovorontsovka settlement in the Kherson region.

Earlier this week, UNICEF said that nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children are now displaced due to the ongoing conflict.

UNICEF's emergency programs director Manuel Fontaine told the UN Security Council on Monday that he had "rarely seen so much damage caused in so little time" after returning from a visit to Ukraine.

They have been forced to leave everything behind: Their homes, their schools, and often, their family members," he said.

Fontaine said the UN had verified the deaths of 142 children with 229 injured as of Sunday, but that "the true figures are most certainly much higher given the scale of attacks."

He also drew attention to the 3.2 million children estimated to still be in their homes.

"Nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food," he said. "Attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people without access to water in Ukraine. Another 4.6 million people have only limited access.

"The situation is even worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson, where children and their families have now gone weeks without running water and sanitation services, a regular supply of food, and medical care. They are sheltering in their homes and underground, waiting for the bombs and violence to stop."

He also said unaccompanied children in Ukraine face a "much higher risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, and trafficking," and pointed to the impacts of school closures on 1.5 million students in higher education and 5.7 million school-age children.

CNN's Richard Roth and Yulia Kesaieva contributed reporting to this post.

4:38 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

Ukraine says it downed Russian cruise missiles fired at Lviv region

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

The head of the Lviv regional military administration in western Ukraine said Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems downed Russian cruise missiles that were fired on Saturday morning toward the Lviv region.

"In the morning of April 16, missiles were fired at the Lviv region from Su-35 aircraft of the Russian occupiers," Regional military governor Maksym Kozytsky said. "Units of anti-aircraft missile forces Air Command West of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed four cruise missiles." 

Kozytsky also claimed the Russian aircraft that fired the missiles had taken off from Baranovichi airfield in neighboring Belarus.

Some context: Belarus has been used as a springboard for many of Russia's air operations in Ukraine, according to intelligence collected by NATO surveillance planes.

The Ukrainian military previously said it has shot down several missiles fired towards its territory from Belarus.

After Russia failed to gain the ground it wanted around Kyiv, forces retreated back into Belarus to regroup and redeploy. Belarus has also been recognized as a key ally for Russia on the world stage.

While NATO fears that the Kremlin may call on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to deploy his army to bolster Moscow's forces on the battlefield, US President Joe Biden leveled twin sanctions against both countries on April 8.

One bill suspends normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and punishes the countries by paving the way for higher tariffs on imports from them, while the other prohibits energy imports from Russia, including oil, coal and natural gas.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, Sarah Dean, Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou and Nikki Carvajal contributed reporting to this post.

3:58 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

Civilians fleeing Mariupol urged to make their own way out, as wet weather halts bus evacuations

From CNN's Julia Presniakova in Lviv

Civilians fleeing the besieged port city of Mariupol have been told to make their own way to the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, as wet weather has halted bus evacuations.

Buses are unable to travel through a washed-out section of road between the town of Vasylivka and Zaporizhzhia to its north, according to a social media post by Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Instead, people leaving the cities of Mariupol, Berdiansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar have been told to travel to Zaporizhzhia themselves.

Five evacuation corridors have been set up in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. All are directed toward Bakhmut, directly east of the town of Luhansk.

Vereshchuk called on Russia to respect the corridors. She added that the evacuation corridors in the Luhansk region "will operate subject to the cessation of shelling by the occupying forces."

Some context: Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of stalling evacuation efforts across the country.

Vereshchuk announced nine evacuation routes on Thursday, adding that there were no corridors on Wednesday in the Zaporizhzhia region because "the occupiers blocked evacuation buses, and in Luhansk region, they are violating the ceasefire."

Up to 180,000 people are waiting to be evacuated from in and around the strategic port city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said on Wednesday during an online media briefing. Boychenko’s comments were interpreted in English via Ukraine’s government-supported Media Center.

At the end of March, Boychenko echoed the words of his compatriots and said that evacuation corridors had come largely under the control of Russian forces.

"Not everything is in our power," Boychenko said, in a live television interview at the time. "Unfortunately, we are in the hands of the occupiers today."

CNN's Nathan Hodge and Amy Cassidy contributed reporting to this post.

9:41 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

It's 10:30 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Barricades built by citizens at neighborhood entrances are seen as Russian attacks continue on Ukraine in Lviv, Ukraine on April 15.
Barricades built by citizens at neighborhood entrances are seen as Russian attacks continue on Ukraine in Lviv, Ukraine on April 15. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Kyiv has once again come under fire on Saturday, with several explosions on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, according to the city's mayor Vitali Klitschko.

More than 900 bodies of Ukrainian civilians have been discovered in the Kyiv region since Russia's withdrawal.

And a senior US defense official said Ukrainian missiles hit Russia's flagship in the Black Sea earlier this week -- supporting Ukraine's account.

If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know:

  • Kyiv under fire: Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko has urged residents who have evacuated from the capital not to return just yet after the city "came under fire" on Saturday morning. "I ask you to refrain from this and stay in safer places." Klitschko said in a statement there were explosions in the Darnytsky district on the outskirts of the city. "Rescuers and medics are currently working on the scene. Information about casualties is being clarified." 

  • Lviv air raid: Maksym Kozytskyy, the military governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, said Saturday that "air defenses were working" during an air raid alarm that began at 5:46 a.m. and lasted until 7:02 a.m.

 

  • Bodies discovered in Kyiv: More than 900 bodies of civilians have been discovered since the Russian army withdrew from the area, Andrii Niebytov, the head of the Kyiv regional police, said during a briefing on Friday. Niebytov also said that the bodies of some people in the village of Shevchenko ​had been identified, adding that "they were ordinary locals, unfortunately also tortured, and we see that they were shot." 

  • US assesses Ukraine hit Russian warship: Two Ukrainian Neptune missiles hit the Moskva — Russia’s flagship that sunk in the Black Sea — earlier this week, a senior US defense official said Friday. Ukraine claimed it had hit the Russian guided-missile cruiser with anti-ship missiles, while the Russian military acknowledged only that the ship had sunk after a fire on board and the detonation of ammunition. The crew of the guided-missile cruiser was delivered to the port of Sevastopol, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing an unnamed source. 

  • Strikes across multiple regions: Ukrainian officials on Friday reported Russian strikes across the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions in eastern Ukraine, amid warnings of a major Russian offensive in the coming days. Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said in a statement on television, that the situation in the region was "getting more tense."

  • Zelensky warns that Russia could use nuclear weapons: 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. He added Putin could turn to either nuclear or chemical weapons because he does not value the lives of the people of Ukraine. Watch a clip of the interview here.

  • Zelensky's request to Biden: Zelensky made a request to US President Joe Biden in one of their recent phone conversations to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, according to a person familiar with the matter.
9:41 a.m. ET, April 16, 2022

Ukrainian officials report explosions in Kyiv and air defenses activated in Lviv

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Smoke is seen rising over Darnytskyi District of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 16.
Smoke is seen rising over Darnytskyi District of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 16. (Metin Semiz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement that the Ukrainian capital "came under fire" on Saturday morning. 

"The explosions were in Darnytsky district on the outskirts of the city," he said. "Rescuers and medics are currently working on the scene. Information about casualties is being clarified." 

Some residents have begun returning to Kyiv after the failure of a Russian offensive launched from the north of Ukraine. Klitschko urged Kyiv residents to reconsider returning for the time being, saying: "I ask you to refrain from this and stay in safer places."

Maksym Kozytskyy, the military governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, said Saturday that "air defenses were working" during an air raid alarm that began at 5:46 a.m. local time and lasted until 7:02 a.m.