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
7 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
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:

11:17 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.

11:49 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Zelensky says Ukrainian forces don't have enough "serious and heavy" weapons to defeat Russia in Mariupol

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston and Anastasia Graham-Yooll

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a news conference with European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a news conference with European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

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.” 

“We don’t know when we can unblock Mariupol. And I say this openly, that all the boys in Mariupol want our victory, they want a free city, none of them are going to surrender to the enemy. This is their internal feeling, this is what they are,” he added, speaking alongside European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv.

Zelensky also said that the “few thousand” Ukrainian civilians who fled the besieged city of Mariupol through evacuation corridors to Russian occupied territories is not currently known. 

Thousands of civilians have successfully left Mariupol through corridors agreed upon with Russia, but “unfortunately a few thousand civilians went to Russian occupied territories, and we don’t know the fate of these thousands of people,” he added.  

Ukraine is “ready for any format of swaps of our people for the Russian troops that they left behind, the bodies and the wounded that they abandoned here," he said. 

11:17 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Russian military carries out test launch of Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, defense ministry says

From CNN’s Nathan Hodge and Uliana Pavlova

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 defense ministry's statement said that it landed in the “designated area in Kamchatka."

The ministry noted that after the completion of a test program, the Sarmat would go into service with Russia's Strategic Missile Forces. The RS-28 Sarmat is designed to replace the Soviet-era Voevoda ICBM, known by the NATO designation SS-18 Satan.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin congratulated the military on their successful missile test, saying it would “give thought to those who are trying to threaten Russia," according to the ministry statement as quoted by the state-run TASS news agency. 

The Sarmat was one of the weapons Putin mentioned in a 2018 speech boasting of new weaponry he said would render NATO defenses "completely useless." US officials played down the threat at the time.