April 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, April 20, 2023
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2:35 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Russia launches overnight drone attack on Odesa, Ukraine says

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Vasco Cotovio

Russian forces launched an overnight attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa using Iranian-made "Shahed" drones, the Ukrainian Airforce said on Tuesday.

“This time, soldiers of the Odesa anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Air Command South destroyed 10 out of 12 Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones," the Ukrainian Airforce said.

Ukraine’s Operational Command South added that one of the drones hit a recreational facility causing a fire, but that it was quickly extinguished. There were no reported casualties. 

1:56 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Russia having difficulty making new weapons, but might have enough older ones, report says

From CNN's Brad Lendon

A destroyed Russian tank is seen in Chornobaivka, outside of Kherson, Ukraine on November 16, 2022.
A destroyed Russian tank is seen in Chornobaivka, outside of Kherson, Ukraine on November 16, 2022. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Battlefield losses and Western sanctions have left the Russian military in a state of decline, but Moscow will still have enough firepower to extend the war in Ukraine, according to a new independent analysis.

The report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies gives stark numbers of Russian military losses – almost 10,000 units of key equipment such as tanks, trucks, artillery pieces and aerial drones, according to one estimate.

But it also says Russia can dip into Cold War-era and older stocks on the front lines to make up in numbers what it may have lost in technology.

“The quality of the Russian military in terms of advanced equipment will likely decline, at least over the near term,” the CSIS report says.

It notes how Russian losses of main battle tanks, especially modern ones, have been severe.

“Moscow is estimated to have lost anywhere from 1,845 to 3,511 tanks one year into the war,” the CSIS report says, with losses of its newer, upgraded T-72B3 main battle tank, first delivered in 2013, noted as especially damaging.

The CSIS report says Moscow has to refurbish and put its decades-old tanks back into action because it just doesn’t have the resources to build new ones, with Western sanctions leaving it unable to source parts and tools needed to put together a modern tank.

Read the full story.

6:15 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

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

From CNN staff

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will remain in a Russian jail after a Moscow court decided to uphold the terms of his detention. US officials looking at "creative and sometimes quite challenging options" to bring him home.

On the frontlines, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited hard-hit troops in the easter town of Avdiivka, which is surrounded by Russian forces on three sides, according to the president's office Tuesday. Zelensky's trip to the beleaguered town came hours after President Vladimir Putin visited troops at a military base in Russian-occupied Kherson, in southern Ukraine.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Leaked documents: The leaked Pentagon documents are not impacting the actions of NATO allies when it comes to Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN Tuesday, adding some of the items leaked are "incorrect and manipulated." Western officials also told CNN during a Tuesday briefing the leaked documents have had no visible impact on the battlefield in Ukraine.
  • US warns Russia: The US has sensitive nuclear technology at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine and has warned Russia not to touch it, according to a letter the US Department of Energy sent to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy firm Rosatom last month. The letter comes as Russian forces continue to control the plant, which is the largest nuclear power station in Europe and sits in one part of a region Russia occupied after its invasion of Ukraine last February. The plant is still physically operated by Ukrainian staff, but Rosatom manages it.
  • Russia's using post-WWII equipment: Western officials say Russia is "going backwards" with the equipment it is using in Ukraine, and add that they've seen Moscow deploy tanks that were originally built after World War II while it struggles to replenish stocks of lost armored vehicles. The officials also said Russia was continuing to struggle with manpower, saying that despite being able to muster large numbers of personnel, Moscow was not providing them with adequate training.
  • Biden extends ban on Russian-affiliated vessels: US President Joe Biden extended the ban on Russian-affiliated vessels from US ports, an order that was originally published last April and set to expire this week. Russia's policies and actions "continue the premeditated, unjustified, unprovoked, and brutal war against Ukraine," Biden wrote in a letter to Congress, explaining the extension.
1:40 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Russian Foreign Minister praises framework proposed by China and Brazil to end conflict in Ukraine

From CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon in Bogotá

Sergei Lavrov speaks during a conference in Caracas, Venezuela on April 18.
Sergei Lavrov speaks during a conference in Caracas, Venezuela on April 18. (Pedro Rances Mattey/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised a framework introduced by China and Brazil, which proposed an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

“We applaud the position from China, and we have also held talks with Brazil on this, and these are very useful proposals because they can help to share ideas and help resolve problems,” Lavrov said Tuesday during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela. “All this, however, is not part of the West’s rules.”

Lavrov explained the West would not accept the so-called “peace proposal” that would see the Crimean Peninsula fully integrated into the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has repeatedly said peace in the conflict will only be achieved if Russia restores the country's borders and Kyiv takes back Crimea.

“We hope the regime in Kyiv respects the rights of Crimea, we already know the West, it’s demanding that Crimea is returned,” Lavrov said.

Since taking office this year, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has suggested his country could help broker a negotiation in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, arguing Kyiv should relinquish sovereignty claims over Crimea in exchange for the end of the conflict. 

Last week, Lula traveled to China and both countries reiterated calls for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Lula has largely adopted a policy of non-intervention over the war in Ukraine, following in the same footsteps of many leaders in middle-income and developing countries.

On Saturday, Lula said the US and the EU need to start talking about peace between Ukraine and Russia.

“The United States needs to stop encouraging war and start talking about peace; the European Union needs to start talking about peace so that we can convince Putin and Zelensky that peace is in the interest of everyone and that war is only interesting, for now, to the two of them,” Lula told reporters in Beijing on Saturday.

Some context: The US and EU have been major suppliers of arms and aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

Lavrov is in Caracas as part of a five-day trip to Latin America, visiting Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. On Tuesday, Lavrov criticized US sanctions on Venezuela and said Russia intends to strengthen diplomatic and commercial relationships with the Andean country.

CNN's Tatiana Arias and Duarte Mendonca contributed reporting.

12:05 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Biden extends order blocking Russian-affiliated vessels from US ports

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington DC on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington DC on Tuesday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

President Joe Biden extended the ban on Russian-affiliated vessels from US ports. The order, originally published last April, was originally set to expire this week.

“The policies and actions of the Government of the Russian Federation to continue the premeditated, unjustified, unprovoked, and brutal war against Ukraine continue to constitute a national emergency by reason of a disturbance or threatened disturbance of international relations of the United States,” Biden wrote in a letter to Congress. “Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Proclamation 10371.”
12:05 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Russian who said he was a former Wagner fighter appears to recant claim that he killed civilians

From CNN's Tim Lister and Saskya Vandoorne

This screengrab shows two Russians claiming to be former Wagner commanders.
This screengrab shows two Russians claiming to be former Wagner commanders. (Gulagu.net)

A Russian man who said he had killed children and other civilians while serving with the Wagner private military company in Ukraine appears to have recanted the claim, suggesting he was blackmailed into making it.

Azamat Uldarov, a former convict, made his retraction in a video call with the Russian news agency RIA-FAN. It’s unclear if there were any conditions to the interview.

He and another former convict, Alexey Savichev, previously gave long and rambling interviews to Russian human rights group Gulagu.net, saying they were among the tens of thousands of Wagner fighters recruited from Russian jails to fight in Ukraine.

Speaking with Gulagu founder Vladimir Osechkin, Uldarov said he shot and killed a young girl, calling it “a management decision.”

“I wasn’t allowed to let anyone out alive, because my command was to kill anything in my way,” he said, estimating that the girl was five or six years old.

In his interview with RIA-FAN — which is associated with Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin — Uldarov said he was drunk when he gave the interview, and alleged that Osechkin had blackmailed him about his time in prison.

Asked by RIA-FAN: “They made you say what you said in the video, correct?” Uldarov replied: “Not only correct, it’s [expletive] correct. I had to say it because I had no choice.”

“I said whatever I was told to say,” Uldarov then said.

“Prigozhin is a great guy,” he added, giving a thumbs up. “He saved our lives.”

But Gulagu’s Osechkin, who is based in France, told CNN he stood by the content of his interviews with the two men, citing Uldarov’s retraction as proof of how quickly dissenting voices are silenced in Russia.

Osechkin also claimed that both interviewees, Uldarov and Savichev, had been threatened with murder if they didn’t retract their statements to him. Savichev told Gulagu that his unit was ordered to kill any men 15 years old or older.

Read more here

12:04 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

US "will look at creative and sometimes quite challenging options" to get Gershkovich home, official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich is shown in this undated photo.
The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich is shown in this undated photo. (The Wall Street Journal/AP)

The United States “will look at creative and sometimes quite challenging options” to try to bring home detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, but the process could take a long time, a senior administration official told CNN on Tuesday.

The official declined to provide details on these options and also on whether any proposals have been discussed with Russia.

“Until an American is home, we're always exploring and re-exploring and re-exploring what the options might be available to bring that American home,” the official added.

In the past the Russians have wanted legal proceedings — which the US views as “illegitimate” — to play out in court first before they will engage in any serious negotiations, the official said, and the process may take a long time

On Tuesday, a Russian court denied Gershkovich’s appeal to serve out his pre-trial detention under house arrest rather than at the notorious Lefortovo Prison. He will be held there until at least May 29 and faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years on espionage charges that the US has strongly condemned. 

Calling the lack of regular consular access for Gershkovich “appalling,” the senior administration official said that the US hasn’t heard “specific” concerns about the conditions of the US national's detention, but said that his detention writ large is “inhumane.”

The US State Department has officially designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained by Russia. “I think the starting point for our position on this, including engaging with the Russians, but also for helping the world to understand what's happened, is that this just should never have been this way in the first place,” the official said, adding that officials are “still figuring out exactly where all of this goes” in terms of negotiations.

Last week, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens said that the Russians have not indicated what they would want in exchange for the release of Gershkovich.

12:03 a.m. ET, April 19, 2023

Leaked US documents will not impact actions of NATO allies regarding Ukraine, chief says

From CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Radina Gigova

The leaked Pentagon documents are not impacting the actions of NATO allies when it comes to Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN Tuesday. 

"We have all seen that some of these leakages are incorrect and manipulated," he said. "I don't think they will impact what NATO allies are doing when it comes to Ukraine."

Fact check: CNN has reviewed 53 leaked documents, all of which appear to have been produced between mid-February and early March. They contain a wide range of highly classified information — providing a rare window into how the US spies on allies and adversaries alike. Some of the documents, which US officials say are authentic, expose the extent of US eavesdropping on key allies, including South Korea, Israel and Ukraine.