April 19, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Andrew Raine, Travis Caldwell, George Ramsay and Jack Bantock, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022
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7:45 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Communication has been restored with the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the IAEA says

From CNN's Maija Ehlinger

A shelter above the sarcophagus covering the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, seen on Saturday, April 16.
A shelter above the sarcophagus covering the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, seen on Saturday, April 16. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP/FILE)

Direct communications between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was restored late Tuesday, according to a press statement from IAEA's Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

Russian forces held Chernobyl for five weeks before withdrawing on March 31. IAEA lost contact with the nuclear power site on March 10.

“This was clearly not a sustainable situation, and it is very good news that the regulator can now contact the plant directly when it needs to,” Grossi said in the statement.

The statement added that a "mission of IAEA experts" plans to visit the site later this month to "conduct nuclear safety, security and radiological assessments, deliver vital equipment and repair the Agency’s remote safeguards monitoring systems."

6:54 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

US ambassador to the UN calls on organization to step up response to the Ukraine refugee crisis

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting at the United Nations on Tuesday, April 19 in New York City. 
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting at the United Nations on Tuesday, April 19 in New York City.  (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday called on the organization to step up in response to the massive refugee crisis triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Every day I'm asked … is the Security Council irrelevant to this crisis?” Thomas-Greenfield said at a UN Security Council meeting.

“We know that the world is looking to the UN and wondering how to respond in the wake of Russia's unconscionable actions,” she said. “Supporting refugees and the countries taking them in is one of the most powerful and immediate ways that we all can help and it is so important that the UN plays a key role in that.”

Thomas-Greenfield called on her fellow nations on the council to “show the world what we have learned from decades of addressing refugee crises and humanitarian situations” and support not only Ukrainians, but also third-country nationals fleeing the war. She also said they must make sure to take steps to mitigate the risk of women and children facing trafficking or gender based violence.

“Let's show the world that when Russia provoked the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, the rest of the Security Council and the United Nations stepped up and helped those most in need,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield praised the work of humanitarian aid workers, noting “they are impartial, and they should be protected, not shelled indiscriminately.”

6:23 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Zelensky says situation in Mariupol remains "brutal and unchanged"

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

Russia will be marked as a “source of evil” for targeting civilians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday. 

“Forever the Russian army will be written in history as the most barbaric and inhumane army in the world,” Zelensky said, “The targeted killing of civilians and destruction of residential buildings with all kinds of weapons, including those that are forbidden by international conventions — this is just a trademark of the Russian army and this will truly mark the Russian Federation as the source of evil.”

The intensity of Russian fire towards the regions of Kharkiv and Donbas has “significantly increased,” Zelensky said. 

In Mariupol, the situation remains “brutal and unchanged,” Zelensky said. He claimed that Russian forces are blocking corridors and evacuations from Mariupol. Zelensky added that he had signed a decree to honor Ukrainian armed forces defending Mariupol. 

Zelensky met with members of parliament to recommend the extension of martial law in Ukraine, he said. 

“It’s very important to ensure stable activities at all of the borders,” he said.

6:12 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Ukrainian-born US lawmaker recounts visiting war-torn homeland: "The destruction was just unbelievable"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Rep. Victoria Spartz, a Republican from Indiana who is the first Ukrainian-born member of US Congress, described her recent visit to her war-torn homeland in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

"I grew up in Chernihiv originally ... big part of my life," Spartz said. "And I have to tell you, you know, the city is heroic to hold the ground for over a month and really helped to save Kyiv. But the destruction was just unbelievable. Most villages almost burned to the ground," she said.

The Ukrainian-American lawmaker said that 70% of the city of Chernihiv was "left in destruction" and many people survived without basic necessities.

"I really can't believe things like that are happening in the 21st century. You know you read things like that in the books about World War II. Well, my grandma, who is is 95, said this destruction, this area hasn't seen even during Stalin times and World War II. But this is the tragedy of women and children. You look at the kids playing in the rubble. Really cleaning the rubbles and women are trying to get their life together," she said.

Spartz added, "I just cannot believe that one person can hold the whole world hostage. And we see what is happening in Mariupol. I mean a ton of women and children are going to be killed ... This is atrocities and this is not a war. This is a genocide of the people."

The Republican lawmaker called for continued pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin "to get to the table."

"I think the West, if we do not want to destabilize the world and have this crisis and war continue even further, we have to get serious and put pressure on Putin to get to the table. And unfortunately, the only pressure he will understand now is military pressure," she said.

"If we supply proper weapons in western Europe, in eastern Europe, to help Ukrainian people to fight this war, and stop him, then we will have a resolution and discussion," Spartz continued.

Watch the full interview here:

5:48 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

The US is preparing another $800 million security assistance package for Ukraine, multiple sources say

From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Alex Marquardt, Kaitlan Collins, Jennifer Hansler and Oren Liebermann

The US is preparing another $800 million security assistance package for Ukraine, according to three senior administration officials and two sources familiar with the planning.

Details of the latest package were still being discussed and could change, but earlier Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said the US plans to send more artillery to Ukraine. 

Upon arrival in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Biden was asked by reporters on the tarmac if he plans to send more artillery to Ukraine.

Per the pool, Biden told reporters, “Yes,” before boarding his motorcade.

One senior administration official said the newest package could be approved within the next 36 hours, though another administration official said the timing isn’t locked down and it could be within the coming days. 

The size of the package could also change at the last minute, the second official said.

The latest package comes just a week after the Biden administration authorized another $800 million security package, which included artillery and anti-artillery radars for the first time since the Russian invasion began.

The Biden administration is working to get the security assistance to Ukraine as quickly as possible because they believe the war is in a critical stage and the continued US assistance could make a difference when Russia’s more aggressive assault begins in Eastern Ukraine, the third administration officials said. 

The more open terrain in that region favors the use of artillery and long-range systems, which is why the administration has placed a premium on getting those types of systems in quickly as the fighting moves away from Kyiv and into the Donbas region.

The region also borders Russia, allowing the Russian forces to maintain shorter supply lines needed to sustain an assault. Ukraine and Russia, through its own forces and proxies, have fought in the Donbas region for the last eight years, making it familiar territory for both forces.

More background: This week US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, in Washington, DC, to discuss aid for Ukraine and holding Russia accountable. A Ukrainian delegation will be in the capital this week as part of the 2022 IMF-World Bank Spring meetings.

If approved, the latest package of $800 million would mean the US has committed approximately $3.4 billion dollars in assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24th.

This would be the last presidential drawdown until Congress approves more money for weapons to Ukraine. In a presidential drawdown, the Defense Department pulls weapons and equipment from US inventories to send to Ukraine instead of purchasing new weapons from manufacturers.

5:42 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Ukrainian commander requests international evacuation effort at Mariupol plant as situation is "critical"

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Julia Presniakova and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Maj. Serhii Volyna, commander of Ukraine's 36th Separate Marine Brigade, spoke by phone with CNN from the besieged city of Mariupol Tuesday evening and requested that a third country provide evacuation for troops and civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant under heavy Russian bombardment. 

"I have a statement to the world," Volyna said. "It may be my last statement, because we have only a few days, or even hours, left. We appeal to world leaders to apply the extraction procedure to the military of the Mariupol garrison, to the civilians who are with us here at the plant. We ask you to take us to the territory of a third country and provide us with security."

Ukrainian forces inside the besieged city have consolidated around the massive Azovstal steel factory. 

Ukrainian officials have said hundreds of civilians are sheltering in the basements of the massive steelworks. A Mariupol police official told CNN food and water supplies were dwindling amid heavy bombardment. 

Asked how an evacuation might be facilitated, Volyna said, "This should be at the level of agreements. If we talk about practical application, it could be a ship with helicopters, for example, that could pick us up. Or an international humanitarian mission that can come to us and guarantee our security and accompany us on the way to the state that will make such commitments."

Volyna described the situation at the plant as "critical," with a large number of wounded troops and limited medical care. 

"We are completely surrounded," he said. "There are about 500 wounded military, it is very difficult to provide them with medical care. They literally rot. There are civilians on the territory. They are also suffering from explosions, blasts on them, next to them. They [the Russians] use heavy aircraft bombs against us and strike with artillery."

"This happens all the time. The city is destroyed. Enemy groups outnumber us dozens of times, they have a complete advantage in air, artillery, equipment, manpower. We fight to the last, but we have very little time left," he continued.

The Ukrainian commander estimated that there were "hundreds of civilians" sheltering on the territory of the plant. 

"We appeal to absolutely all world leaders: Whoever will be able to make such commitments, whoever will be able to succeed in the short term in agreeing on such a procedure," he said. "We know that there are some developments and talks with the Turkish side that it is acting as a guarantor. Probably the United States, because we believe that this is a very powerful state with a strong leader, [President Joe] Biden, and that he can personally resolve this issue in the shortest possible time. Or this issue can be resolved with his help in a short time."

Volyna declined to comment on the number of military holding out at Azovstal. 

"If the world hears us, if the world leaders hear us, we very much hope so, and the extraction procedure will be carried out, then everyone will understand the quantitative composition of the people who were in captivity," he said. 

5:10 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Top US general held virtual meeting with US allies about ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a virtual meeting with several US allies on Tuesday.

The military leaders “shared assessments of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, including multilateral security assistance to help Ukraine regain and defend their sovereignty,” a readout of the meeting from spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said.

The call included leaders from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the readout said.

Milley “urged Allies to continue to expedite additional military assistance to Ukraine and reaffirmed the importance of engagements with Allies and partners to meet urgent needs for Ukraine,” the readout added.

4:26 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Biden says he doesn't know if he'll travel to Ukraine

From CNN's DJ Judd

(Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
(Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden told reporters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Tuesday he’s not sure if he’ll travel to Ukraine.

“The answer is, I don’t know,” Biden told reporters following his remarks on infrastructure, later adding, “I’ve been to Ukraine many times, just haven’t been there recently.”

“More than any other — I’m the only one who’s spoken to the Rada twice,” he said, referring to the parliament of Ukraine.

Previously, the White House has said there are no plans for the President to travel to Ukraine, but added if there were, they were unlikely to preview a trip due to security concerns.

“If anyone were to go," Psaki told reporters Monday, "We would not outline from here or anywhere from the government, who, if, and when, for security reasons, so we wouldn't have any details to preview regardless."

Last Thursday, Biden said he was still working with his team to determine whether he should dispatch a senior member of his administration to Ukraine, a potentially dramatic show of support for the nation as it comes under attack from Russia.

Since Russian forces withdrew from the region surrounding Kyiv, a number of Western leaders have made their way to the Ukrainian capital to demonstrate support.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv earlier this month.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.

4:06 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Ukrainian forces have repelled "numerous" Russian attempted advances in Donbas, UK defense intelligence says  

From CNN’s Mia Alberti and Sugam Pokharel 

Ukrainian forces have repelled "numerous attempted advances" by Russian forces on the Donbas line of control as Moscow’s shelling and attacks in the area "continue to increase” on Tuesday, according to the latest British defense intelligence update.

"Russia's ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly-motivated Ukrainian armed forces,” the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted

Russian forces have not been able to "stamp out resistance" in Mariupol, despite several "indiscriminate" attacks, which is "indicative of their failure to achieve their aims as quickly as they would like," it added.