April 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Jessie Yeung, Andrew Raine, Ben Morse and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 8:21 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
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11:44 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

An ammunition depot in Russia's Belgorod region is on fire, regional governor says

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Josh Pennington and Hannah Ritchie

An ammunition depot is on fire in a rural village in Russia's Belgorod region, said regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov on his Telegram Wednesday.

"According to preliminary information, an ammunition depot is on fire near the village of Staraya Nelidovka. No damage has been incurred by residential buildings and houses. There were no casualties among the civilians," Gladkov said.

Staraya Nelidovka is about 10 miles north of the Ukrainian border, and about 10 miles south of the city of Belgorod. 

CNN cannot independently confirm that there were no casualties or damage to residential buildings.

10:20 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Scores flee ahead of Russia's sham independence vote in Kherson

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Natalie Gallón, Maryna Marukhnych and Brice Laine

A steady flow of people make their way across fields and rivers dotting southern Ukraine's countryside. As night falls, the crowds swell. They travel on foot, by bicycle or by wheelbarrow.

They are desperate to leave behind the Russian occupation of their hometown, Kherson, and are willing to take -- and risk -- any route possible out of the city to the rest of the country.

Over a hundred miles away, at a central hall in Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's hometown, local authorities welcome the resettled.

A man and his son speak of their wife and mother being killed by a bomb.

Even here, in comparative safety, they did not want to be identified for fear that the Russians might target other family members they left behind.

"If they see us, they'll shoot everyone left there," the son told CNN. "We left on foot, over the water in the river."

The occupied areas around Kherson -- the first to be taken by advancing Russian forces in the opening days of the war -- have been terrorized in the past week by the advancing second phase of Moscow's offensive.

Ukraine has said Russia plans to hold a vote in the region -- widely viewed there as a sham referendum -- to try to show popular support for the creation of a new entity called the Kherson People's Republic, which would mirror similar entities in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. (Moscow sent in troops to the self-declared republics -- and began its war in Ukraine -- after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized their independence.)

Multiple locals and several Ukrainian officials told CNN the vote had been scheduled for Thursday.

Read the full story here:

9:57 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

NASA astronaut recounts being in space with Russian cosmonauts as war in Ukraine began

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

In this NASA handout image, Expedition 66 crew members, from left to right,  Mark Vande Hei of NASA, cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, are seen inside their Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft after it landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 30.
In this NASA handout image, Expedition 66 crew members, from left to right, Mark Vande Hei of NASA, cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, are seen inside their Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft after it landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 30. (Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images/FILE)

Mark Vande Hei, a NASA astronaut who was on the International Space Station with Russian cosmonauts when the war in Ukraine began, described his experience with CNN's Erin Burnett.

Vande Hei returned to Earth last month with two Russian cosmonauts on a Soviet-era spacecraft after spending a record-breaking 355 days in space.

"The world is so beautiful and it's awe-inspiring to look down at the Earth but it's also extremely sad to recognize that there's a lot of suffering that's happening and personally I think it's a very, very avoidable suffering," Vande Hei said.

He continued, "At the same time I felt a strong sense of honor that I was able to participate in a program that, I think, helps provide a path to having the peace we so desperately need in the future because those paths always require some conversations between people who trust each other and I think that's what the space program is providing and hopefully we will continue to provide no matter what type of international conflicts we run into."

US Vice President Kamala Harris congratulated the astronaut for his stay in space in a phone call on April 6.

"I hope you know and feel that our nation, our planet, is so thankful to you for your years of dedicated service certainly to our country," Harris said. "Welcome home."

More background: The dynamic between the US and Russia changed quite drastically on Earth from when Vande Hei first launched in April 2021 to the space station. Tensions between the US and Russia turned frosty as the Russians were preparing for, and eventually launched, an invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

Ahead of Vande Hei's return, there were brief concerns that the Russians would abandon the astronaut in space, after Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin shared a heavily edited video showing two Russian cosmonauts floating inside the space station waving goodbye to Vande Hei. NASA has repeatedly reaffirmed that it continues to work closely with Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Watch the full interview here:

CNN's Jasmine Wright contributed reporting to this post.

7:22 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Zelensky: Russia is trying to destabilize region through occupation of breakaway region in Moldova

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is trying to destabilize the region through military activity in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria.

“This is just one of the steps of the Russian federation. This is happening to destabilize the region and threaten Moldova,” Zelensky said when asked by a journalist during a joint press conference in Kyiv with IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi on Tuesday.

“This is showing that if Moldova supports Ukraine this is what’s going to happen,” he said.  

In recent days, Ukraine has accused Russian troops of firing missiles and conducting operations in Transnistria.

When asked about the number of Russian troops present in Transnistria, Zelensky said Ukrainian armed forces are “prepared and not afraid” to deal with a new front of the military invasion.  

“With regard to certain Russian troops that are constantly present in the temporarily occupied territory — this has been so for many, many years. We know they’re on alert, just waiting for the order,” Zelensky said.

7:42 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Germany has agreed to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. Here's why that is significant. 

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Stephanie Halasz and Ulrike Heil

Germany will provide Gepard anti-aircraft systems, similar to the one seen here.
Germany will provide Gepard anti-aircraft systems, similar to the one seen here. (Sven Eckelkamp/IMAGO/Reuters/FILE)

Germany has agreed to deliver anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, the German Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday, a move that underscores a major shift in its approach to providing military help to Ukraine.

The commitment to deliver the Gepard anti-aircraft systems was announced by defense minister Christine Lambrecht during a meeting of international defense officials at the Ramstein US Air Force base in Germany on Tuesday.

"We decided yesterday that we will support Ukraine with anti-aircraft systems ... which is exactly what Ukraine needs now to secure the airspace from the ground," Lambrecht said during the meeting at the base.

This is significant as it is the first time Germany has agreed to provide this type of heavy weaponry to Ukraine as it fights off the Russian invasion. The Gepard systems were phased out from active duty in Germany in 2010.

Germany initially resisted calls to provide weaponry to Kyiv, agreeing only to provide humanitarian help and medical equipment. That approach was in line with Germany's decades-long policy of not supplying lethal weapons to crisis zone.

Just months before Russian President Vladimir Putin order the invasion into Ukraine, the then new German government agreed to include the restrictive arms export policy into its coalition agreement.

But facing pressure from allies and the German public, the government was forced to overhaul the rules. By late February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Germany would start delivering some weapons to Ukraine, although at that point he insisted on calling them "defensive."

He also announced Germany would start pumping more money into its own armed forces.

First such investment was publicly confirmed last month when Germany announced it would buy 35 US-made F-35A fighter jets.

Read more here.

9:09 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Exclusive: New drone video shows Russian military vehicles and forces on Bucha street strewn with civilian bodies

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Sandi Sidhu

(Obtained by CNN)
(Obtained by CNN)

Despite Russia's repeated denials they were responsible for any carnage in Bucha, Russian military vehicles and forces were seen on a Bucha street near civilian bodies, new drone video obtained exclusively by CNN shows. 

CNN has geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of the videos, which were taken by a drone on March 12 and 13. CNN is not naming the individual that took the video over concerns for their safety.

A Russian military vehicle is seen sitting at an intersection in the video from March 13. CNN has identified three objects in the video — just down the street from the military vehicle — are the same bodies that were seen in the video from April 1 and satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies on March 18.

Additional drone video from March 13 shows another Russian military vehicle traveling further up the street, in the direction of the bodies.

In the March 12 video, a number of Russian soldiers are seen around a military vehicle parked outside of a house, just down the street from the bodies. It's unclear what they are doing at the house.

CNN asked the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Russian officials — President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — have repeatedly claimed that the videos and satellite images that show bodies in Bucha are fake.

This drone video is the first piece of evidence to emerge from Bucha that shows Russian vehicles and troops operating on the street, where the bodies were found by Ukrainian forces when they retook the town on April 1.

The images that emerged from Bucha after Russian forces retreated have drawn enormous outrage from the international community.

It's also led some leaders, including US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, to call for the atrocities that took place in Bucha war crimes.

Watch the report here:

5:55 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

CNN tours devastated city of Kharkiv, weeks after Russian attacks

From CNN's Clarissa Ward / Written by CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

After nearly nine weeks of shelling by Russian forces, CNN toured the devastated northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

In one neighborhood that was hit repeatedly, CNN's Clarissa Ward witnessed building after building left in destruction. "No site was spared, not even the local nursery school," Ward reported.

"Mercifully, the school had been evacuated so no children were killed in the strikes. The mayor of Kharkiv says that 67 schools and 54 kindergartens have been hit here since the war began. And what's so striking, when you look around, is that it's so clearly not a military target. This is a residential neighborhood," she said.

In another residential building in the city, that was severely damaged, Ward found a 73-year-old woman.

"So, she saying that she does have a sister who she can stay with but she also lives in an area that's being heavily hit and she's living in a shelter at the moment," Ward explained after speaking with her. "It's from all sides, she says, from there and there they can shell."

The city still continues to be shelled.

Watch the full report here:

5:49 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

Russia will shut off gas deliveries to Bulgaria starting Wednesday, Bulgarian energy ministry says

From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel and Josh Pennington 

Russia's Gazprom has told Bulgaria’s state-owned gas company Bulgargaz that it will shut off gas supplies starting Wednesday, Bulgarian energy ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Bulgaria is now the second country, after Poland, to face Russia's gas embargo starting Wednesday after they refused to pay in rubles.

The energy ministry said that the new payment procedure proposed by Russia was not compatible with the existing contract until the end of this year and posed "significant risks" to Bulgaria.

It said the Bulgarian side has “fully fulfilled its obligations and has made all payments required under this contract in a timely manner, diligently and in accordance with its provisions."

The Bulgarian government agencies have taken steps to make alternative arrangements for the supply of natural gas and to address the situation, it said.  

“At present, no restrictive measures have been imposed on gas consumption in Bulgaria,” the ministry added. 

Bulgarian Minister of Energy Alexander Nikolov will make a statement on the situation on Wednesday, according to the statement.

7:29 p.m. ET, April 26, 2022

UK prime minister says he doesn't expect Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he does not expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

When asked during a sit-down interview with Britain’s "Talk TV" if he fears that Putin may use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine if Moscow faced defeat in its ongoing invasion, Johnson said that he does not share the same worry.

Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that nuclear deterrence is Russia’s “principled position," but he added that “the danger is serious, it is real, it cannot be underestimated.”

Johnson said Putin had the “political space” to be able to back down and withdraw from Ukraine.  

“[Putin] could come to a point, when you look and say to the Russian people: The military technical operation that we launched in Ukraine has been accomplished. We had to go into to accomplish certain protectors to protect the rights of certain people that’s been done,” Johnson said.