April 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Andrew Raine, George Ramsay, Lianne Kolirin, Ivana Kottasová, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
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4:58 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

US welcomes suspension of Russia's Permanent Observer Status at the Organization of American States 

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States welcomed Russia’s suspension from its permanent observer status at the Organization of American States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Thursday.

“With the passage of this resolution, OAS member states demonstrated that we do not stand on the sidelines in the face of the Russian government’s violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses,” Blinken said. “Our Hemisphere stands with Ukraine.”

There were 25 votes in favor, zero against, eight abstentions and one absence on the resolution titled “Suspension of the Status of the Russian Federation as a Permanent Observer of the Organization of American States.” 

Blinken said they “commend the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala for leading the adoption of the resolution, and all the governments that supported it.”

4:47 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Evacuation going "very slowly" in Mariupol, Ukraine's deputy prime minister says 

From Kostan Nechyporenko in Vasylkiv 

People fleeing fighting Mariupol meet with relatives and friends as at a registration center for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, April 21.
People fleeing fighting Mariupol meet with relatives and friends as at a registration center for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, April 21. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

The evacuation of civilians is going “very slowly” in the besieged eastern city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday.

“There is nothing to delight about Mariupol. Everything is going very slowly. On the Russian side, everything is very complicated, chaotic, slow and, of course, dishonest,” she said in a post on Telegram messaging app. 

Vereshchuk noted that, for the first time, people went from Mariupol to Zaporizhia directly on Wednesday, and that it gives her “hope.”

She apologized to those who did not get evacuated on Thursday. “The shelling started near the collection point, which forced the corridor to be closed," the official said.

“Dear citizens of Mariupol: as long as we have at least some opportunities, we will not give up trying to get you out of there! Hold on!" she concluded.

4:05 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Zelensky says Ukraine needs $7 billion in assistance per month to make up for economic losses from war

From CNN's Livvy Doherty

(World Bank Group/Reuters)
(World Bank Group/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that Ukraine needs $7 billion per month in financial assistance to make up for the economic losses from the war. 

In a virtual address to a World Bank forum, Zelenksy also said that it would take “hundreds of billions of dollars” to rebuild his country later. 

He said every country must be prepared to break all relations with Russia and that Moscow should “immediately” be excluded from all international financial institutions including the IMF and the World Bank.

Zelensky went on to say that Russia was “using aggressive methods in world markets while fighting this war” and these institutions were no place for them. 

Zelensky ended his address by saying he hoped the next meeting would take place in one of the cities in Ukraine that had been rebuilt with the support of the IMF and World Bank.

3:01 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

"Nothing less than an accolade," US State Department spokesperson says of Russian sanction against him

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department on March 10 in Washington, DC.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department on March 10 in Washington, DC. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday “it is nothing less than an accolade to earn the ire” of the Russian government by being sanctioned.

“In addition to the Vice President, today's tranche included journalists and spokespeople for this administration, myself included,” Price said at a State Department briefing. “I have to say it is nothing less than an accolade to earn the ire of a government that lies to its own people, brutalizes its neighbors and seeks to create a world where freedom and liberty are put on the run and, if they had their way, extinguished.”

It is “a great honor to share that enmity with other truth tellers, my colleagues John Kirby and Jen Psaki, as well as a number of journalists who have done incredible work, sharing the jarring, bloody truth of Russia's actions in Ukraine,” he added.

Russia has banned a slew of US figures including US Vice President Kamala Harris from entering the country, Reuters quoted the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying.

3:11 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Mark Zuckerberg among latest banned from entering Russia in sanctions 

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova 

Russia on Thursday expanded its “stop list” banning a further 29 American officials and figures from entering Russia on an indefinite basis, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that the list was published “in response to the ever-expanding anti-Russian sanctions” and includes US individuals of “the top leaders, businessmen, experts and journalists who form the Russophobic agenda.” 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, ABC TV host George Stephanopoulos, and Bank of America head Brian Moynihan have also been added to the list. 

 “In the near future, a new announcement will follow about the next replenishment of the Russian ‘stop list," the statement said.  

 

2:54 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Ukraine successfully evacuated 79 civilians from besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday, regional official says

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

People fleeing fighting in Mariupol meet with relatives and friends as they arrive at a registration center for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on April 21. They were part of a small convoy that was able to evacuate and cross through territory held by Russian forces.
People fleeing fighting in Mariupol meet with relatives and friends as they arrive at a registration center for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on April 21. They were part of a small convoy that was able to evacuate and cross through territory held by Russian forces. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk regional military administrator, said 79 residents of the besieged city of Mariupol were safely evacuated to Zaproizhzhia on Thursday. 

In a Telegram post, Kyrylenko said that after several delays and failed attempts to open an evacuation corridor from the besieged city, "this is the first time since the beginning of the blockade of Mariupol by the Russian occupation forces, we managed to evacuate local residents in an organized manner and take them to safety."

Kyrylenko said almost 100,000 residents of Mariupol have already arrived in Zaporizhzhia, promising that Ukrainian authorities will continue to work hard so that everyone who wants to escape the besieged city can do so.

Kyrylenko said during previous attempts to pull civilians out, the Russian forces broke their agreements, forcing those escaping to rely on private transport.

"This time, four buses managed to leave the besieged city in an organized manner. It is much less than agreed, but we still rejoice for every life saved," Kyrylenko said before congratulating all the evacuees who had managed to escape.

4:39 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

It's just past 9:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

US President Joe Biden announced a separate tranche of $500 million in US assistance for the Ukrainian government in addition to the $800 million in military aid he pledged Thursday.

The new aid brings the total US economic support for Ukraine, the President said, to $1 billion in the past nearly two months since Russia’s invasion.

The $500 million in funding can be used by Ukraine’s government “to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught, and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.

He also announced “Unite for Ukraine,” a new effort to support Ukrainians seeking to come to the US amid the ongoing, brutal invasion, with approximately two-thirds of Ukrainian children displaced.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Ukraine, evacuation efforts have become difficult.

Here's what you need to know:

Ukraine's military release apparent Russian communications intercept with alleged order to kill Ukrainian POWs: Ukraine’s military intelligence on Wednesday released a purported communications intercept of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk, which is bearing the brunt of Russia’s renewed attack.   

“The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine received an audio interception of the occupiers' conversation, which refers to the order to kill all prisoners of war of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are in their captivity in the area of Popasna (Luhansk Region),” Ukrainian military intelligence tweeted on Wednesday. 

“This is a blatant war crime, a violation of international law, and another striking example that the Russian military are murderers, rapists, and looters,” it added. 

The alleged intercepted audio recording released Wednesday appears to feature the voices of unknown Russian soldiers saying: “What can I tell you, damn it, [expletive], for [unintelligible] — you keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever. Let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.” 

CNN cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recording and has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment. 

Evacuations from Azovstal plant not possible Thursday as there is no stable ceasefire: There is no possibility to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal plant on Thursday as there isn't a stable ceasefire that will provide for safe evacuation, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said Thursday during an online briefing. The mayor appealed to international partners to facilitate a ceasefire and a corridor for evacuation. In addition, he noted that around 200 people are currently awaiting evacuation buses in Mariupol, but the buses have not arrived yet. Four evacuation buses with 80 civilians onboard left Mariupol on Wednesday and are currently heading to Zaporizhzhia, the mayor said. He also said that on Wednesday, during an attempt to evacuate civilian population, Russian troops began shelling. 

More than 7.7 million people internally displaced in Ukraine, according to report: More than 7.7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine after being forced to flee their homes due to Russia's invasion, according to the latest International Organization for Migration report. According to the third Ukraine Internal Displacement Report, published Thursday, the number of internally displaced people in Ukraine has risen to at least 17.5% – or more than one in six – of Ukraine’s pre-war population. The latest survey, conducted between April 11 and April 17, found that at least 60% of those internally displaced are women. More than half of IDPs reported a lack of some food products. According to IOM, 28% of families with children under the age of five said they had faced difficulties in getting enough food for their children.

Another Russia-Ukraine prisoner exchange takes place, Ukrainian deputy prime minister says: Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday that another exchange of prisoners had taken place between Ukraine and Russia. 

"Today we are returning home 19 people, including 10 military (including 2 officers) and nine civilians," she said. "This time there are wounded among the released, and this is very important. After this they will be able to receive full treatment and undergo rehabilitation."

Russia closes consulates of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania: Russia is closing the consulates of three ex-Soviet Baltic nations, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement said the consulates of Latvia in St. Petersburg and Pskov, as well as the consulates general of Estonia and Lithuania in St. Petersburg will be shuttered and all of their employees declared "persona non grata." The phrase "persona non grata" literally means “an unwelcome person”. Declaring someone as such usually means they have to leave the country.

3:55 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Pro-NATO group of opposition leaders from Finland and Sweden in DC

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

A pro-NATO group of opposition leaders from Finland and Sweden was in Washington, DC, this week for meetings with the Biden administration and the Hill, sources familiar with the meetings told CNN.

While in the US capital, the small delegation led by Finland’s Petteri Orpo and Sweden’s Ulf Kristersson met with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Karen Donfried, Amanda Sloat of the National Security Council, a number of staff on Capitol Hill and think tanks including the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund.

Henri Vanhanen, foreign policy adviser to Finland’s center-right party, said they wanted to give the message that Finland and Sweden are contributors to security, they bring something to the table and won’t be a burden by joining NATO as they already have very strong national defense. Vanhanen said this message was well received.

In the joint meetings at State and the NSC, there was common understanding that “security guarantees” are only given to NATO members and that it is up to Sweden and Finland to decide about joining, said a Swedish parliamentary official and Vanhanen, the latter of which noted they are not in a position to negotiate with the US government. However, there was discussion about how to improve overall safety and security, particularly in the interim period between application and accession. This Swedish official familiar said discussion included cyber issues and bigger exercises in the Baltics.

Both nations are aiming to apply by the June NATO summit in Madrid at the latest, the opposition hopes.

Vanhanen said it is a “pragmatic” issue for Finland as it shares a border with Russia and has been at war with them, and said joining the alliance is a question of “when” not “if.” 

Officials from Sweden and Finland said there is no doubt that the US Senate would vote to approve their countries’ accessions to NATO. The Senate must approve Sweden and Finland joining NATO by at least a two-thirds vote. 

1:53 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Work from home and turn down heat to reduce Russian fuel reliance and help Ukraine, IEA and EU Commission say

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty in London

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and EU Commission have outlined a range of energy-saving tips to encourage EU citizens to cut their energy bills and reduce reliance on Russian fuel.

In a news release Thursday, IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol said “using less energy is a concrete way to help the Ukrainian people – and to help ourselves.”

Birol added that the suggested steps can “reduce the flow of money to Russia’s military and help put us on a path to a cleaner and more sustainable planet.”

The steps recommended include: turning down heating, using less air conditioning, working from home and traveling by public transport when possible. It also states that governments could provide “financial incentives” reducing fares for travel and by supporting the installation of solar panels. 

According to the news release, if these actions were supported by all European Union citizens, then “that would save enough oil to fill 120 super tankers and enough natural gas to heat almost 20 million homes.”