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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11:15 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

US believes Russia will target routes used for weapons shipments, defense official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The United States believes Russia will target routes used for weapons shipments, according to a defense official, in an attempt to slow the supply of US and partner weapons flowing into Ukraine.

Russian forces have not frequently struck moving targets such as convoys or rail deliveries, but they could try to destroy the bridges, roads and rails used to transport the weapons and supplies into the country, the official said.

Even if the Russians were successful in striking those routes, the official said, they would be unable to stop the shipments in their entirety. There are simply too many shipments going in. 

Weapons into Ukraine: The US and partner nations have shipped nearly 70,000 anti-tank and anti-armor weapons into Ukraine, including Javelins, NLAWs, RPGs and more, the official said. The shipments have also included nearly 30,000 anti-aircraft missiles, such as Stingers, and some 7,000 launchers for these weapons.

Earlier this month, Joints Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee that some 60,000 anti-tank weapons and 25,000 anti-aircraft weapons had been sent into the country. Since then, the US has authorized hundreds of millions more dollars in military assistance.

Slowing down Russian invasion: The US and NATO have assessed that Ukrainian forces have used these systems very effectively to slow down and in some places stymie the Russian invasion. Part of that success has come from Ukraine’s adaptation of a decentralized command and control which allows junior commanders to make important battlefield decisions without higher authorization, the official said

Russia retains some advantage: The official also noted that Ukraine has had years to prepare for Russia’s offensive in southeast Ukraine, since the Donbas region has seen regular fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed proxies.

Ukraine has prepared trenches, anti-armor ambushes and more ahead of this imminent fight, the official said, but warned that Russia still retains the advantage in military technology and overall military power. Instead of spreading that power out over much of Ukraine, it is now concentrated in the south and east for what may be a massive assault.

 

11:15 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."

11:15 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.