April 20, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Andrew Raine, Travis Caldwell, George Ramsay, Jack Bantock, Laura Smith-Spark, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022
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10:38 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Russians take control of central Rubizhne in Luhansk, videos show

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Russian forces in Ukraine's Luhansk region have taken central Rubizhne and the nearby village of Kreminna, videos circulating on social media show.

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos. CNN is not airing the propaganda videos, which were published on Wednesday, as they were produced and released by Russian-backed separatist forces and pro-Russian media outlets. 

In the videos from Rubizhne, significant destruction is seen in the city's center and northern districts. Russian forces and Russian-backed separatists appear to be moving freely in Rubizhne. 

On Tuesday, Luhansk regional military administrator Serhii Haidai pushed back against reports that Rubizhne had fallen, instead saying that Russian and Russian-backed separatist forces controlled only parts of the city. However, he did tell CNN that 80% of the Luhansk region is under Russian control.

In Kreminna, a town roughly 7 miles (11 kilometers) west of Rubizhne, Russian-backed separatist forces were seen in the video installing Russian and separatist flags on government buildings.

Some context: Rubizhne is part of a cluster of small towns and villages that were in Ukrainian hands but lie close to two breakaway pro-Russian statelets inside eastern Ukraine.

Kreminna was earlier taken by Russian forces, Haidai said Tuesday, adding that Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from the city and taken up new positions.

9:14 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

More US security assistance for Ukraine coming "in very short order," White House says

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

The US will announce a new round of security assistance to Ukraine “in very short order,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday evening, as Russia’s brutal invasion continues.

Psaki told CNN that Russia’s test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile would not change the White House’s posture in aiding Ukraine, vowing that the US would proceed in providing both military and security assistance.

US President Joe Biden, she said, will “have more to announce on the next round of security assistance in very short order. You’ll hear more soon.”

CNN previously reported that the US is prepping another $800 million military assistance package for Ukraine, according to three senior administration officials and two sources familiar with the planning.

Read more here:

8:50 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

A "lawyer by day and a boot smuggler by night," this Ukrainian American is helping funnel supplies to Ukrainian soldiers

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

Tetiana Poudel’s father, a deputy commander in Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, needed combat boots.

Russia had just invaded Ukraine, and his unit was desperately lacking basic protective gear and medical supplies.

So Poudel, a 31-year-old Ukrainian American citizen – who’s on leave from her California day job as an attorney for the music-streaming service Spotify – packed up her life in Silicon Valley, moved to Poland and raised $13,000 for around 100 pairs of boots for her dad and members of his unit.

I like to tell people I’m a lawyer by day and a boot smuggler by night,” she said earlier this month in an interview with CNN.

A photo she shared with CNN shows her father and another soldier beaming next to new boots stacked on top of cardboard boxes.

Poudel’s initiative is a microcosm of a much larger network of private citizens, many of them veterans, from around the world who are working to provide Ukrainian soldiers with additional equipment they say they need to continue effectively fighting off the Russians.

Read the full story:

7:04 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

US defense official: Ukrainian Air Force adds about 20 more operational aircraft due to influx of spare parts

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

A Ukrainian Air Force Mig-29 takes off from Mykolaiv Air Base for a training mission in Ukraine in 2016. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked other countries for Soviet-era Mig-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly.
A Ukrainian Air Force Mig-29 takes off from Mykolaiv Air Base for a training mission in Ukraine in 2016. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked other countries for Soviet-era Mig-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly. (Giovanni Colla/Stocktrek Images/AP/FILE PHOTO)

The Ukrainian Air Force has added about 20 more operational aircraft to its fleet because of an influx of spare parts, according to a senior US defense official.

Though the official wouldn’t specify which country provided the aircraft parts, the official said Wednesday that the US and other countries worked “to get them the parts they need to get them in the air.”

The flow of spare parts has allowed Ukraine to expand its fleet of operational military aircraft, despite Russia’s ongoing invasion. They have more aircraft now than they did three weeks ago, the official said.

One day earlier, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Ukraine had received additional fighter aircraft to add to their existing numbers. 

But on Wednesday, the senior defense official walked that back, saying that Ukraine had not received more aircraft, but had in fact received aircraft parts to make more of their existing aircraft functional.  

Still, the official intimated that at least one country was considering sending Ukraine more aircraft.

“I was given to understand that an offer made by another country had actually been effected,” the official said. “That offer has not been effected, so I was ahead of where things actually were.” It is not known which country has made such an offer.

The US has committed to sending Ukraine 16 Mi-17 helicopters, but the administration has declined to get involved in a transfer of Mig-29s from another country to Ukraine via the United States.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked other countries for Soviet-era Mig-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly.

Zelensky has asked other eastern European countries with the fourth-generation airframes to send them to Ukraine, but no country has yet agreed to do so. 

On Wednesday, the official Twitter account of Ukraine’s Air Force said, “Ukraine did not receive new aircraft from partners! With the assistance of the US Government, @KpsZSU received spare parts and components for the restoration and repair of the fleet of aircraft in the Armed Forces, which will allow to put into service more equipment.” 

Ukraine’s Air Force has been part of its aerial defense network, which also includes S-300 surface-to-air missiles and portable anti-aircraft missiles. The combination of platforms has prevented Russia from establishing air superiority over Ukraine and controlling the skies. 

Despite the constant bombardment from Russian missiles and artillery, as well as the strikes on military bases, Ukraine’s Air Force has remained largely intact, though it has suffered some losses. 

In early March, approximately two weeks into the war, the defense official said Ukraine has 56 fighter aircraft, which comprised about 80% of their fixed-wing fighters. But the Ukrainians weren’t using their aircraft much, flying only 5 to 10 missions per day, the official said.

CNN's Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.

5:44 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

US unveils latest sanctions targeting Russia

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

The United States on Wednesday unveiled its latest round of sanctions going after Russia over its war on Ukraine, this time targeting a key commercial bank and "a global network of more than 40 individuals and entities led by US-designated Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev."

In a news release, the US Treasury Department said it was also targeting "companies operating in Russia's virtual currency mining industry, reportedly the third largest in the world," noting it was the first time it has "designated a virtual currency mining company."

In addition, the State Department is imposing a slew of visa restrictions in response to the Russian war and for "undermining democracy in Belarus."

Wednesday's actions are the latest by the Biden administration meant to punish the Kremlin and its enablers for invading Ukraine at the end of February. The war has taken the lives of hundreds of service members and civilians, and US and European officials say it could last months. Experts who spoke with CNN have said that sanctions are unlikely to immediately deter Russian President Vladimir Putin against pursuing aggression in Ukraine.

Wednesday's sanctions: The US previously sanctioned Malofeyev in December 2014 for funding "separatist activities in eastern Ukraine" and for his close links to "Aleksandr Borodai, Igor Girkin (a.k.a. Igot Strelkov), and the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, which have all been previously sanctioned as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs)," according to a Treasury release from the time.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice unveiled its first criminal charges since Russia's war in Ukraine began against Malofeyev, indicting him for sanctions evasion attempts.

Malofeyev was again sanctioned by the US on Wednesday "for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly," the government of Russia.

The Treasury Department also sanctioned members of Malofeyev's "vast global network of cut-outs and proxies to attempt to evade sanctions and conduct malign influence activities," including those involved in pro-Kremlin propaganda. Those sanctioned include entities in Russia, Moldova, Singapore, and a number of Russian individuals, including Malofeyev's son.

The Treasury Department also went after "Public Joint Stock Company Transkapitalbank (TKB)" for being "at the heart of sanctions evasion" and its subsidiary, as well as companies in Russia's virtual currency mining industry.

"The United States is committed to ensuring that no asset, no matter how complex, becomes a mechanism for the Putin regime to offset the impact of sanctions," the release issued Wednesday said.

In a separate statement Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the State Department is imposing visa restrictions on 635 Russian individuals, including members of the Russian Duma and "ten purported 'authorities' of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic." 

It is also imposing visa restrictions on Russian officials Khusein Merlovich Khutaev, Nurid Denilbekovich Salamov, and Dzhabrail Alkhazurovich Akhmatov, "for their involvement in a gross violation of human rights perpetrated against human rights defender Oyub Titiev."

Additionally, the State Department is targeting "17 individuals responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus" with visa restrictions, Blinken said.

"We will use every tool to promote accountability for human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine," Blinken said.

Rachel Rizzo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Europe Center, said Wednesday said these sanctions "are really meaningful," noting the US keeps "adding different Russian oligarchs, different Russian banks that perhaps weren't in the first few rounds of sanctions."

"They'll continue to cripple the Russian economy even though Putin continues to paint a rosy picture of what the Russian economy looks like," she said. "There's no doubt that it should see a major contraction in the next year."

Read more about the latest round of sanctions.

5:58 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Top Ukrainian officials ready to head to Mariupol to negotiate evacuation of civilians and soldiers

From CNN's Jorge Engels in London and Victoria Butenko in Kyiv

Local civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday, April 19.
Local civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday, April 19. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

Two top Ukrainian officials are ready to head to the besieged city of Mariupol to negotiate the evacuation of soldiers and civilians trapped in the city, Captain Svyatoslav Palamar of Ukraine's Azov Regiment said on Wednesday in a video statement.

The two officials are Ukrainian Parliamentary Majority Leader David Arakhamia and Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to the President’s Chief of Staff. 

“Yes. Without any conditions. We’re ready to hold a 'special round of negotiations' right in Mariupol. One on one. Two on two. To save our guys, Azov, military, civilians, children, the living & the wounded. Everyone. Because they are ours. Because they are in my heart. Forever,” Podolyak tweeted on Wednesday.

Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol are ready to evacuate with their small arms with the assistance of a third party “to rescue personnel, to evacuate our wounded and take the bodies of the dead and bury them with honors in the territory not controlled by the Russian Federation,” Palamar said.

Palamar added that the Ukrainian negotiators were ready to negotiate with their Russian opposite numbers, presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky and parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky. 

5:06 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Zelensky says discussions with European Council president were “substantive”

From CNN's Hira Humayun

(Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)
(Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his discussions with European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday were “substantive” regarding the EU’s support of Ukraine.

During his nightly address posted to social media Wednesday night, Zelensky said he and Michel discussed specific ways the EU can help Ukraine, regarding providing aid —particularly defense, finances and sanctions.

"Another great topic of our discussion is our advancement toward integration,” Zelensky said.

“We have already proved that Ukrainian state and civic institutions are effective enough to withstand a war ordeal,” Zelensky added, “We have already been doing for the defense of freedom on the European continent so much that it hasn't been the other nations' lot to do.”

Michel and Zelensky also discussed specific steps to restore Ukraine after the war, and how the EU and Ukraine can work together to diminish threats from Russia regarding food, energy and safety in Europe and the rest of the world.

“To resume export of Ukrainian agrarian products and to disable Russia's blackmailing with energy resources — those are top priorities for everyone on the continent,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky said after Michel and his team visited Borodianka in the Kyiv region, they “made a very correct conclusion: there cannot be peace without justice.”

The Ukrainian president said he also discussed strengthening sanctions with Michel.

“At present European Union is working on the sixth package of sanctions,” Zelensky said, “We discussed this matter with Charles Michel today. We are making sure that it is truly painful for the Russian war machine and the Russian state in general.”

He added that in all negotiations, he has emphasized that sanctions are not needed as an end in itself, but as an “instrument to make Russia seek peace.”

4:29 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Biden is processing horrific images out of Ukraine "with sadness" and "fear for the people," White House says

From CNN's Sam Fossum

Responding to pleas for help from Ukrainian forces besieged in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House continues to urge Russian forces to "guarantee safe passage" for civilians.  

"We have certainly seen these cries for help, and these asks for help. We will we certainly urge the Russian government to do the right thing, guarantee safe passage for any civilians or others who wish to leave the city," Psaki told CNN's MJ Lee. 

Asked about how US President Joe Biden is processing the horrific images coming out of Ukraine, Psaki said he is doing so in a way similar to many other America

"The President is processing these images as many Americans are with or with sadness with, you know, fear for the people of Ukraine, for the families, for the children for innocent civilians who are at risk," Psaki said.  

She added: "This conflict is consuming a great deal of his time as, as much as he is working on a range of other priorities here."

5:54 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

It's Wednesday night in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

Evacuees wait to board a bus to leave Mariupol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 20.
Evacuees wait to board a bus to leave Mariupol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 20. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukrainian forces are continuing to resist Russian attacks in the southeastern port city of Mariupol. A Ukrainian commander told CNN the situation at a steel plant, one of the last sites still under Ukrainian control in the city, is "critical," as hundreds of civilians take shelter inside. 

Mariupol's mayor called on residents of the besieged city to evacuate along a corridor as the city faces heavy Russian bombardment.

Some 120,000 people remain trapped in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday. 

“According to our information, they are keeping 120,000 people in besieged Mariupol. Crimes that are happening there are far more scary and large scale than in Borodyanka,” Zelensky said while speaking alongside European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv. 

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Mariupol evacuation corridor "did not work as planned": Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said an evacuation corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol "did not work as planned" Wednesday, providing few details but promising to resume efforts Thursday. "Due to the lack of control over their own military on the ground, the occupiers were unable to ensure a proper ceasefire. Also, due to the inherent disorganization and negligence, the occupiers were unable to provide timely transportation of people to the point where dozens of our buses and ambulances were waiting," she said. The mayor of Mariupol had called on residents of the city to evacuate along a corridor announced earlier in the day by Vereshchuk, including three assembly points.
  • Zelensky says Ukrainian forces don't have enough "serious and heavy" weapons to defeat Russia in Mariupol: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that the country's forces don’t have enough "serious and heavy" weapons to defeat the Russian army in the southeastern port city of Mariupol. He outlined two potential ways to end the standoff in the city: “First, it involves serious and heavy weapons […] at the moment we don't have enough of these weapons to free Mariupol. The second path is diplomatic. So far Russia hasn't agreed to this.” 
  • US unveils new round of sanctions against Russia: The United States on Wednesday unveiled its latest round of sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine, this time targeting a key commercial bank and “a global network of more than 40 individuals and entities led by U.S.-designated Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev.” In a news release, the US Treasury Department said it was also targeting “companies operating in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry, reportedly the third largest in the world,” noting it was the first time they have “designated a virtual currency mining company.”
  • US Treasury and other finance ministers walked out of G20 meeting with Russia: Finance ministers from multiple nations walked out of a closed-door G20 session in Washington, DC, on Wednesday when the Russian delegate began his prepared remarks, a person familiar with the session said. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen participated in the walkout, as did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with other European and Western officials who were participating in the meeting, the source said. Ahead of the meeting, US officials had said Yellen would not participate in certain sessions of the gathering that included Russia.
  • Russia has added 17 battalion groups in Ukraine in the last week: Russian forces have added 17 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in Ukraine over the past week, with four more BTGs in just the last 24 hours, a senior US defense official said Wednesday.  Altogether, the US assesses that there are now 82 BTGs inside of Ukraine. Out of the four BTGs added in the last 24 hours, three of them have “gone into the east” into the Donbas area, the official added. 
  • European Council president after visiting Ukraine: There are "no words" to explain what I feel: European Council President Charles Michel said that there were "no words" to explain what he feels after visiting Ukraine on Wednesday, adding that Russia "must be punished" for the events unfolding in the country. "There are no words in order to explain what I feel, not as the President of the European Council, but as father, as a human being. These are atrocities. These are war crimes. It must be punished. It will be punished. They must pay for what they have done, there and in many other cities and other locations in Ukraine," Michel said in a news conference in Kyiv. 
  • IMF says Ukraine estimates it needs $5 billion per month to keep economy functioning: Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance has estimated it will take $5 billion a month to keep the economy functioning, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Wednesday. “We have been engaged very closely with the Ministry of Finance on the estimates they have provided or what would be necessary to retain the functioning of the economy over the next three months and they came up with the number of $5 billion a month,” she said.
  • Germany will phase out Russian oil imports "by the end of the year": Germany will phase out Russian oil imports "by the end of the year," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Wednesday. “Germany will completely phase out Russian energy imports,” Baerbock said. Oil imports “will be halved by the summer” and phased out entirely and “at 0 by the end of the year,” she added. Speaking at a news conference in Riga with Baltic Foreign Ministers, Baerbock reiterated that coal imports would be phased out by the end of the summer. Gas imports would be phased out over a longer timeframe, she added.
  • 80% of Luhansk territory is under Russian control: Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said 80% of his region's territory is under Russian control. If Ukraine doesn’t resist, the official said, “Russia is certainly not going to stop here and will push further on.” Speaking to CNN’s Becky Anderson from an undisclosed location, Haidai concurred with the Russian characterization that the second phase of the war has begun, but cautioned that it is not yet a “complete and total invasion.” 
  • Russian military carries out intercontinental ballistic missile test: The Russian defense ministry announced Wednesday that it had conducted a test launch of its intercontinental ballistic missile, the Sarmat. The missile was fired from a silo launcher at 3:12 p.m. Moscow time at the Plesetsk State Test Cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk Region of northern Russia toward the Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's far east. The US was notified ahead of the missile test and tracked it closely. “Such testing is routine, and it was not a surprise,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.