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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3:15 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Russian shelling continues in Mariupol amid evacuation effort, military commander says

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works company in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 20.
Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works company in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 20. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The co-commander of one of the Ukrainian units encircled in the port of Mariupol said Thursday that Russian forces continued their bombardment of the city amid negotiations to evacuate civilians. 

Maksym Zhorin, co-commander of Ukraine's Azov regiment, said in televised remarks that Russian forces "have not stopped shelling areas of Mariupol" amid negotiations on so-called "green corridors" for evacuation from the city, limiting the number of people who can be evacuated. 

"Think about it, there are more than 100,000 people in the city, some of them under rubble, some in basements," he said.
"Many of them are in the territory of Azovstal [steel factory], there are a lot of children, a lot of women, the elderly. And today, while agreeing on a green corridor, the Russians simply cynically fired on fortifications, on shelters where civilians were. So, of course, the Russians cannot be trusted in any case."

Two senior Ukrainian officials said Wednesday they were ready to meet their Russian counterparts to negotiate safe passage for civilians and Ukrainian troops holding out in the city. Zhorin expressed the hope that a third country could act as a guarantor for an evacuation agreement.

Ukrainian officials said they hoped they would be able to resume evacuations Thursday. 

"Today, indeed, a number of people were still able to find and get on buses, but they are still in uncontrolled territory," Zhorin said. "And we can consider this evacuation at least a little successful when Ukrainians, civilians, will be in the territory controlled by Ukraine. This has not happened so far."
2:39 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022

4 buses departed Mariupol through evacuation corridor, Ukraine deputy PM says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk speaks with reporters in Kyiv on April 11.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk speaks with reporters in Kyiv on April 11. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Four evacuation buses managed to leave the besieged city of Mariupol on Wednesday through an evacuation corridor, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday.

"They spent the night in Berdiansk and are now heading to Vasylivka," Vereshchuk said in a statement on Telegram. "We are waiting for them in Zaporizhzhia soon."

Some context: Early on Wednesday, Vereshchuk said an evacuation corridor had been agreed upon with the Russians for women, children and the elderly. And people were asked to gather departure on Shevchenko Boulevard near the Port City shopping mall at 2:00 p.m. local time.

However, officials said it did not proceed as hoped.

"Due to the lack of control over their own military on the ground, the occupiers were unable to ensure a proper ceasefire," Vereshchuk said Wednesday. "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."

According to officials, tens of thousands of civilians remain in Mariupol, which is encircled by Russian forces and has endured weeks of intense bombardment.

2:23 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Russia presses offensive in eastern Ukraine, regional military governor says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Russian forces continued to press an offensive in eastern Ukraine, according to Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration.

Haidai told CNN on Wednesday that 80% of Luhansk's territory is under Russian control amid a major battle for the control of the Donbas region.

"The enemy tried to entrench in the western and northwestern parts of Rubizhne, but failed," he said. "They carried out unsuccessful assaults in the direction of Novotoshkivske, the assault on Popasna continues.

Residential buildings in the towns of Rubizhne and Novodruzhesk were destroyed by Russian fire and that no food warehouses remained in Severodonetsk, he said. CNN is unable to confirm the details of the destruction described by Haidai.

"Much of the destruction caused by the Russian invasion in the last 24 hours is in Rubizhne and Novodruzhesk," he said. "People are receiving food only from humanitarian supplies."

"Six fires broke out in residential buildings in the region," he said, adding that they have been extinguished and five people were rescued.

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

Director of children's cancer foundation in Ukraine describes chaos of moving patients to safety

From CNN's Travis Caldwell

Yuliya Nogovitsyna, director of program development at children's cancer foundation Tabletochki, speaks with CNN from Poland on Wednesday.
Yuliya Nogovitsyna, director of program development at children's cancer foundation Tabletochki, speaks with CNN from Poland on Wednesday. (CNN)

The director of the largest children's cancer foundation in Ukraine says an all-hands-on-deck effort from volunteers, doctors and officials in Ukraine and abroad has been needed to get children undergoing cancer treatment out of harm’s way during the Russian invasion.

Yuliya Nogovitsyna, director of program development at Tabletochki, told CNN on Wednesday that evacuating patients to western Ukraine — and then onward to bordering nations — "was a sort of 'Mission: Impossible.'"

"From the very first days of the war, we tried to evacuate children from the biggest hospitals. We took them in rather large groups and we sought for either buses or train cars to bring them to Lviv," Nogovitsyna said.
"It was very difficult and challenging because it was just near impossible to find any means of transport to move these kids."

Many children were in "severe conditions,” Nogovitsyna said, some with low blood counts or fever. Ukrainian officials would help evacuate whenever possible by providing buses or transport, she said, "but every time it was an ad hoc situation and we had to find the solution."

Lviv and other parts of western Ukraine are not near the frontlines of the Russian invasion but have faced missile attacks, which "didn't stop us from evacuating children" as the city was struck, she said.

"It just demonstrated that you cannot be safe anywhere in Ukraine. And regardless where the children are, they are to be taken out-of-country for the reason of safety," she said.

Nogovitsyna hailed the parents, saying they are "resolved to save their children" and are bravely facing the "double threat" of not only dealing with their child’s cancer diagnosis but also knowing their lives could be lost due to the interruption of treatment or being fatally wounded by Russian bombing.

A team of psychologists, volunteers and international partners such as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital are assisting and providing updates to families in Ukraine as children are transported to care centers in other nations, she said.

Her organization has received guarantees from the hospitals abroad that the children may remain throughout their treatment even if the war ends soon, she said. And rebuilding collapsed health care systems would be the next step.

“As soon as Ukraine wins this war and the peace is restored, we want to rebuild the Ukrainian pediatric oncology service,” Nogovitsyna said, “and make it even better than it used to be before the war.”

12:18 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Analysis: Western pressure on Russia hasn't stopped Putin's latest provocations

Analysis from CNN's Maeve Reston

The US took new steps to ratchet up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday — announcing new economic sanctions to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine on the same day that US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other finance ministers walked out of a G20 summit in Washington in protest once Russia's delegate began his remarks.

Those moves were rich with symbolism about Western intentions to keep tightening the vise around Russia's economy as the US and its allies try to isolate Putin on the world stage. But they looked feeble against the backdrop of Putin's provocative test launch of Russia's new intercontinental ballistic missile and the allies' inability to save civilians as the latest evacuation attempts from Mariupol collapsed Wednesday.

US officials downplayed the importance of the missile test, noting they had been alerted of the launch window through international notification agreements, that they had tracked the missile's path and believe it is not yet operational in Russia's inventory.

But after weeks of saber-rattling from Putin — including his February order putting nuclear forces on high alert — the Russian leader clearly hoped the move would unnerve the US and its allies as they weigh their next moves to help Ukraine.

Read the full analysis:

12:16 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022

World War II Soviet victory flag begins to appear across parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

The Soviet victory flag from World War II is beginning to appear across occupied parts of Ukraine ahead of Russia's May 9 WWII Victory Day celebration. 

The red flag — flown over Berlin's Reichstag on May 9, 1945, when the Nazis surrendered to the Soviets — bears the Soviet hammer and sickle insignia with the inscription, "150th Rifle, Order of Kutuzov Second Class, Idritz Division, 79th Rifle Corps, 3rd Shock Army, 1st Belorussian Front." 

May 9 has since become a revered holiday in Russia and the flag an important icon.

Russian troops raised a large flag as part of a staged propaganda stunt in occupied Kherson, videos published on Tuesday show. Propaganda videos published on Wednesday by Russian-backed separatists in Kreminna showed troops fixing the victory flag to a Ukrainian government building.

Kreminna fell under Russian and Russian-backed separatist control earlier this week, Ukrainian officials said.

The flag was also placed atop the regional council building in the Russian-occupied town of Henichesk in Kherson province. A statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was reinstalled in front of the council building earlier this week, CNN has previously reported.

Two European officials told CNN that Russian forces are feeling "self-imposed pressure" to achieve any semblance of a victory ahead of Russia's May 9 Victory Day celebration. Russia generally marks the holiday with a military parade through Red Square and a speech from President Vladimir Putin.

12:00 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

As Russian troops bear down on the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned his forces don't have enough "serious and heavy" weapons. Some 120,000 people remain trapped in the city, he said.

Here are the latest developments on Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Heavy weapons shortage: The Ukrainian President said his forces don’t have enough "serious and heavy" weapons to defeat the Russian army in Mariupol. He said there were two paths to ending the standoff in the city: “[The first] involves serious and heavy weapons […] The second path is diplomatic. So far Russia hasn't agreed to this."
  • Ukrainian officials "ready" for Mariupol evacuation talks: Two top Ukrainian officials said they are ready to head to Mariupol to negotiate the evacuation of soldiers and civilians, Captain Svyatoslav Palamar of Ukraine's Azov Regiment said. An evacuation corridor from the city "did not work as planned" Wednesday, said Ukraine's deputy prime minister.
  • Russians take central Rubizhne: Videos on social media and verified by CNN show Russian forces in Ukraine's Luhansk region have taken central Rubizhne and the nearby village of Kreminna. The videos come after the regional military administrator said 80% of the Luhansk region is under Russian control.
  • Air force extra parts: The Ukrainian Air Force has added about 20 operational aircraft to its fleet because of an influx of spare parts, a senior US defense official said. Without specifying which country provided the parts, the official said the US and other countries worked "to get them the parts they need to get them in the air."
  • More US help on way for Ukraine: The US will announce a new round of security assistance to Ukraine “in very short order,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. CNN previously reported the US is prepping another $800 million military assistance package.
  • New sanctions: The US has unveiled its latest round of sanctions against Russia, 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."
  • Russia tests intercontinental ballistic missile: The Russian defense ministry said it had conducted a test launch of its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile was fired from the Arkhangelsk region of northern Russia toward the Kura test site in Russia's far east. The US was notified ahead of the missile test and tracked it closely. “Such testing is routine,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
  • G20 walkout: Finance ministers from multiple nations walked out of a closed-door G20 session in Washington, DC, when the Russian delegate began his prepared remarks, a person familiar with the session said. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took part in the walkout, as did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with other Western and European officials.
11:58 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Russians take control of central Rubizhne in Luhansk, videos show

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A video grab from Facebook on Monday shows destruction in Rubizhne, Ukraine.
A video grab from Facebook on Monday shows destruction in Rubizhne, Ukraine. (From Facebook)

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.

11:37 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: