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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2:49 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Germany will continue to provide military aid to Ukraine but through arms manufacturers, chancellor says

From Inke Kappeler in Berlin and Sugam Pokharel in Atlanta 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz issues a statement following a virtual meeting with world leaders at the Chancellery on Tuesday, April 19, in Berlin.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz issues a statement following a virtual meeting with world leaders at the Chancellery on Tuesday, April 19, in Berlin. (Clemens Bilan/Pool/Getty Images)

Germany has exhausted the weapons it can provide to Ukraine from its stocks, but will work with private military equipment makers to help Kyiv with its requirements, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday. 

“We intend to pay for these deliveries,” Scholz told a news conference in Berlin.

“Weapons with substantial impact” have already been delivered to Ukraine, he said, adding that Germany will help work with arms manufacturers to provide Kyiv anti-tank and air defense weapons.  

“We are ready to make things possible (for Ukraine),” he added.  

On Friday, Scholz said his government will boost the country's military assistance spending in 2022 to $2.16 billion, of which a large share of which will go to Ukraine.

Scholz has been criticized by his coalition partners and the opposition for his "indecision" and "lack of leadership" in the face of the Ukrainian demands for heavy weaponries to combat the Russian aggression. 

The German chancellor said he agrees with the assessment of Ukraine’s allies that “Russia may not win this war.”

He called on Moscow to “stop the bombardment of the Ukrainian cities and enable a ceasefire immediately.”

“Withdraw your soldiers from Ukraine and conduct serious negotiations with Ukraine. Stop this horrible war,” Scholz demanded. 

2:41 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Large-scale NATO cyber drill begins as Russian hacking threats loom 

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) seen here in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2015.
The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) seen here in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2015. (Maurizio Gambarini/picture alliance/Getty Images)

NATO’s annual large-scale drill for cyberattacks began Tuesday, with participants from 32 countries practicing fending off hacks against critical infrastructure like power plants and air defense systems. 

The exercise mirrors “real life attack scenarios based on cyber-attacks seen over the past 30 years,” Ian West, chief of the NATO Cyber Security Centre, told CNN in an email.

The mock hacking incident will charge participants with “maintaining and ensuring the availability of essential capabilities such as a water plant, power plant, air defence system, financial systems, etc.”

Nearly 2,000 participants from 32 countries will participate in cyber defense exercise known as Locked Shields, according to the US-based Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a threat-sharing hub for big banks that is leading a portion of the drill. 

The drill was planned months in advance and does not directly incorporate cyber threats stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine, West said. But the war, and suspected Russian and Belarusian cyber activity tied to it, is impossible to ignore. 

More background: As Russia’s invasion began in late February, suspected Belarusian hackers attempted to breach the email accounts of European government officials “involved in managing the logistics of refugees fleeing Ukraine,” according to cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, which discovered the incident.

Around that time, unidentified attackers targeted Ukrainian government contractors with a presence in Latvia and Lithuania, two NATO members, with malicious code that wiped computer systems, according to researchers at Broadcom Software. 

Locked Shields, which debuted in 2010 and is run out of NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Estonia, reflects the alliance’s increasing emphasis on cyberspace as a domain of multilateral defense. 

Though Russia invaded Ukraine to prevent it from one day joining NATO, the bloc’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence voted days after Russia’s invasion to admit Ukraine as a “contributing participant” to the cybersecurity research and training hub. 

“Ukraine could bring valuable first-hand knowledge of several adversaries within the cyber domain to be used for research, exercises and training,” said Col Jaak Tarien, CCDCOE’s director, in a apparent nod to years of Russian cyberattacks aimed at Ukraine. 

2:07 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

World Bank and IMF chiefs to meet with Ukrainian prime minister and finance minister Thursday

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty in London

The heads of World Bank and International Monetary Fund will meet with Ukraine’s prime minister and finance minister on Thursday to discuss further aid.

“We’re going to have an important meeting on Thursday, where we’ll talk with Ukraine’s prime minister and the finance minister. Some of the countries that are supporting Ukraine will be there, and we hope to both be providing assistance as they try to survive the battles,” World Bank President David Malpass said during a panel with IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva who will also be in attendance on Thursday’s meeting.

He used hospital workers as an example of assistance, and also said that the meeting will look at how a rebuilding phase for Ukraine could be done “most effectively.”

IMF’s Georgieva said she had spoken to President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend about “reconstructing” Ukraine but also about keeping the economy functioning whilst the war was still happening.

She said there was a “duty” to support Ukraine during the next couple of months and doing so would require more financial aid than had already been given.

“We have provided $1.4bn in emergency financing, but more would be necessary, and it would be a great investment over the next couple of months to keep the economy functioning and prevent inflation shooting up,” she said.

2:14 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Biden says the US will send more artillery to Ukraine

From CNN's DJ Judd

US President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, April 19.
US President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, April 19. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden said he 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 supply Ukraine with more artillery, which he answered "yes" before boarding his motorcade, according to pool reporters.

Over the weekend, CNN reported shipments from the administration’s latest $800 million security assistance package to Ukraine “have begun arriving,” including heavier-duty equipment, like 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 18 155mm Howitzer cannons and 300 more Switchblade drones.

1:43 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

What Donbas means to Putin

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Donbas, a sprawling and beleaguered heartland region that blankets much of eastern Ukraine, has been the front line of the country’s conflict with Russia since 2014.

But now its people, already scarred by eight years of fighting, are bracing for an assault even more intense. An impending battle for control of the territory is expected to define Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, after his forces suffered costly failures in Kyiv, and across central and northern Ukraine.

But what does the Donbas region mean to Putin? Despite its move into independence along with the rest of Ukraine in 1991, Donbas has maintained a place in the psyche of Russian leadership.

A famous Soviet propaganda poster from 1921 dubbed Donbas “the heart of Russia,” depicting the region as a beating organ with vessels stretching across the Russian empire. Before then, the region was part of the concept of “Novorossiya,” or New Russia, a term given to territories towards the west of which the Russian empire had expansionist ideas.

Cities like Luhansk and Donetsk are historically “places that (Russians) could see a certain version of themselves,” Rory Finnin, associate professor of Ukrainian studies at the University of Cambridge, told CNN.

And that historical image could still persist inside Putin’s own worldview, experts suggest.

Observers have often suggested that Putin’s desired endgame is to rebuild the Soviet Union in which he first rose up the ranks. Anna Makanju, former director for Russia at the US National Security Council, last month suggested that Putin “believes he is like the czars,” the imperial dynasties that ruled Russia for centuries, “potentially called by God in order to control and restore the glory of the Russian empire.”

But such a project could not be attempted without an effort to recapture Donbas, given its emotional resonance as the Russian empire’s industrial backbone. “It’s symbolically very important; the Donbas supplied the entire Soviet Union with raw materials,” Markian Dobczansky, an associate at Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute, said.

It is in that context that Putin has refocused his stuttering invasion on the region where his conflict with Ukraine began eight years ago. US intelligence intercepts suggest Putin has refocused his war strategy on achieving some kind of victory in the east by May 9, Russia’s “Victory Day” that marks the Nazi surrender in World War II.

“There’s every possibility that Putin will move now to effectively bisect Ukraine; that will give him enough to be able to declare a victory domestically, and allay his critics that this has been a botched invasion,” said Samir Puri, a senior fellow in urban security and hybrid warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), who worked as a ceasefire observer in Donbas between 2014 and 2015.

“Taking the Donbas (would be) a consolation prize, because Kyiv is now out of Russia’s military grasp, but it’s a good consolation prize,” Puri said.

Read more about Donbas here and learn more about Russia's strategy in the region in the video below:

1:34 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

World leaders discussed security assistance and sanctions on video call

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden and fellow world leaders "reiterated" their commitment to providing Ukraine with security, economic and humanitarian assistance on a secure video call Tuesday, the White House said.

On the call, which included the leaders of several European countries along with Canada and Japan, the leaders "affirmed their solidarity" with the Ukrainian people and condemned humanitarian suffering in the country.

They also discussed their "respective diplomatic engagements" and efforts to "impose severe economic costs to hold Russia accountable."

The leaders agreed to continue their discussions going forward.

The participants on the call included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

1:34 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Kyiv's deputy mayor asks for 200,000 gas masks to protect Ukrainians from possible chemical weapons attack

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

The Ukrainian Freedom Fund (UFF), a non-profit that has a footprint in Ukraine and is working to procure defense materials for Ukrainian troops, received a letter from Kyiv’s deputy mayor yesterday requesting 200,000 respirators — also known as gas masks — to shield Ukrainians from any potential chemical weapons attacks. 

“Due to the large-scale invasion of Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine, there is a threat of chemical damage to the population of Ukraine and the citizens of Kyiv in particular,” Kyiv's Deputy Mayor Volodymyr Bondarenko wrote to UFF in a letter reviewed by CNN. “On behalf of the Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko, citizens of Kyiv municipality and Ukrainian society, we ask for humanitarian assistance, mainly in the form of personal protective equipment (respirators, according to technical requirements in the attachment), for Kyiv humanitarian aid center.”

This request shows how urgently the Ukrainians believe they need this equipment. As part of the new security assistance announced last week by US President Biden's administration has given some protective equipment to Ukraine to shield them from possible chemical weapons attacks and more will follow, a US State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday. The department would not detail the amount of this material provided so far.

Last week there were unconfirmed reports of the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol. US officials have also warned that they have had credible information that Russian forces may use a variety of riot control agents, like tear gas mixed with chemical agents, as part of their Mariupol assault.

The risk of Russia carrying out a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine still stands, but the likelihood has not gone up or down in recent days, a US intelligence official said. 

Yet because the risk remains, Ukrainians want to be prepared which has driven this urgent effort. The demand is much higher than it has ever been, making procurement challenging.  

“Gas masks are hard to come by right now,” explained a US military veteran who is living in Ukraine and working for the UFF. 

The organization is working on procuring those gas masks now and has already provided thousands of bullet proof vests, helmets, vehicles and field first aid kits (IFAKS) to Ukraine's Territorial Defense forces, and is continuing its efforts.

1:32 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

After weapons from the US enter Ukraine, sources say there's really no way to track them

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Jeremy Herb, Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann

The US has few ways to track the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other weaponry it has sent across the border into Ukraine, sources tell CNN, a blind spot that's due in large part to the lack of US boots on the ground in the country — and the easy portability of many of the smaller systems now pouring across the border.

It's a conscious risk US President Joe Biden's administration is willing to take.

In the short term, the US sees the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of equipment to be vital to the Ukrainians' ability to hold off Moscow's invasion. A senior defense official said Tuesday that it is "certainly the largest recent supply to a partner country in a conflict." But the risk, both current US officials and defense analysts say, is that in the long term, some of those weapons may wind up in the hands of other militaries and militias that the US did not intend to arm.

"We have fidelity for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero," said one source briefed on US intelligence. "It drops into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short period of time."

In making the decision to send billions of dollars of weapons and equipment into Ukraine, the Biden administration factored in the risk that some of the shipments may ultimately end up in unexpected places, a defense official said.

But right now, the official said, the administration views a failure to adequately arm Ukraine as a greater risk.

Continue reading here:

12:56 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Flight of US security assistance for Ukraine arrived in Europe yesterday, senior defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

A flight carrying US security assistance for Ukraine from the $800 million drawdown package signed last week arrived in Europe yesterday, and seven more flights with security assistance are expected to arrive in Europe in the next 24 hours, a senior US defense official told reporters Tuesday.

The official could not say when that assistance will arrive in Ukraine via “ground transportation” but said “none of these shipments sit around very long before being offloaded off of” airplanes and “onloaded appropriately” to be sent to Ukraine.

“Then the next 24 hours, we expect there’ll be more than a half a dozen, probably more like seven, flights coming from the United States into the theater with various amounts of material based on the $800 million dollar drawdown package approved last week,” the official said.

More on the package: The US is providing Ukraine with 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 300 Switchblade drones, 18 Howitzers and protective equipment to guard against chemical attacks in the latest batch of security assistance approved by the White House, the Pentagon announced.

In addition, the new weapons package includes 200 M113 armored personnel carriers, 10 counter-artillery radars, 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 30,000 sets of body armor and helmets.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the $800 million package was intended to “meet urgent Ukrainian needs for today’s fight” as Russian forces shift the focus of their attack to eastern and southern Ukraine.

The $800 million shipment brings the total amount of military assistance the US has provided to Ukraine to more than $3 billion. 

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.