By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Jessie Yeung, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Ben Morse, Jeevan Ravindran and Ed Upright, CNN
Updated 12:06 AM ET, Thu April 28, 2022
8:18 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Kremlin rejects accusations of blackmail in stopping gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria
From CNN's Anna Chernova
The Kremlin has rejected accusations of blackmail in its move to halt gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, after they refused to pay in rubles.
“This is not blackmail,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had accused Russia of using gas to “blackmail” the bloc, after Gazprom said it halted supplies to the two countries on Wednesday.
“The need for the conditions that were documented in President [Putin’s] decree, meaning the new payment method, was caused by unprecedented unfriendly steps in the economy and financial sector undertaken against us by unfriendly countries,” Peskov said.
According to Peskov, Russia was forced to switch to payment in rubles for gas supply to Europe due to the new restrictions.
“We had a significant amount of our reserves blocked, or 'stolen', putting it simply. All this required a transition to a new payment system,” Peskov went on to say.
Peskov added that all the new conditions “were brought to the attention of buyers in advance.”
7:25 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Almost 2 million barrels of Russian oil have been imported into UK since Ukraine invasion, says Greenpeace
From CNN's Robert Iddiols in London
The United Kingdom has imported nearly 2 million barrels of Russian oil since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to figures released by Greenpeace on Wednesday.
Shipments totaling 1.9 million barrels, with an estimated value of $276 million, have flowed into the UK despite a raft of international sanctions leveled against Russian businesses intended to weaken the Kremlin’s war machine, Greenpeace said.
“A total of eight tankers have delivered shipments of Russian oil to the UK since Russia first invaded Ukraine on 24 February, averaging one every week,” Greenpeace said in the statement.
The UK government has imposed a ban on Russian owned, operated or flagged ships from entering the UK. However, Russian fossil fuels are still able to pour into Britain via tankers owned and flagged by other nations.
“The UK government is no stranger to hypocrisy but pledging ‘unwavering support’ to Ukraine while shipping in almost 2 million barrels of Russian oil is utterly disingenuous, even by Boris Johnson’s standards,” Georgia Whitaker, oil and gas campaigner at Greenpeace UK said.
Downing Street has said it will phase out imports of Russian oil, but only by the end of the year.
“Despite the mounting death toll, the UK government has given itself until the end of the year to stop importing Russia’s bloody oil," Whitaker added.
“Sanctions don’t work until they’re implemented and eight more months of oil and gas imports is eight months too many. It’s clear we need an explicit and immediate ban on all Russian fossil fuels,” Whitaker said.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We will phase out Russian oil by the end of the year, and imports of Russian liquid natural gas as soon as possible thereafter."
“The UK has no issues with either gas or oil supply, and unlike Europe we are not dependent on Russian energy imports," the spokesperson said.
On Monday, Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the anchor of a Russian oil tanker bound for a Norwegian port, demanding the Nordic nation cease importing Russian fossil fuels.
7:23 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Russia sanctions hundreds of British lawmakers
From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London
Russia has sanctioned 287 members of the British Parliament, including Downing Street Chief of Staff Steve Barclay and speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday.
The retaliatory move bans the politicians from entering Russia and comes in response to the UK sanctioning 386 Russian lawmakers on March 11, it says.
Both Conservative and Labour party lawmakers are among those sanctioned by Moscow.
“These persons, who are no longer allowed to enter the Russian Federation, took the most active part in the establishment of anti-Russian sanctions instruments in London, and contribute to the groundless whipping up of Russophobic hysteria in the UK,” the Russian Foreign Ministry's statement said.
“The hostile rhetoric and far-fetched accusations coming from the mouths of British parliamentarians not only condone the hostile course of London, aimed at demonizing our country and its international isolation, but are also used by opponents of mutually respectful dialogue with Russia to undermine the foundation of bilateral cooperation,” it said.
British Environment Secretary George Eustice, Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Conservative lawmakers Jeremy Hunt and Steve Baker are among the most prominent British political figures to feature in Russia’s list.
7:13 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Polish leader accuses Russia of "direct attack" by halting gas supplies
From CNN’s Anna Odzeniak and Amy Cassidy
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Wednesday accused Russia of a “direct attack” on his country by halting gas supplies.
Speaking in Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm, Morawiecki sought to reassure lawmakers about increased supply through other pipelines, and that come the fall, “Poland will not need Russian gas.”
This is a direct attack on Poland ... but we were preparing ourselves up to that point,” he told the Sejm according to his official Twitter account.
He announced that Poland’s Świnoujście terminal is operational and will expand its production from six billion cubic meters of LNG (liquified natural gas) to between seven and eight billion cubic meters.
Morawiecki also noted a new gas pipeline under construction in Norway called the Baltic Gas Pipeline will be completed in three months time, which he said will pump 10 billion cubic meters of LNG into Poland.
A new cross-border pipeline under construction with Slovakia will pump more than five billion cubic meters of LNG once completed, he said.
Poland also has interconnectors with Germany and the Czech Republic, and “in a few days, we are opening an interconnector with Lithuania,” he said. He said this was all on top of between 20 and 21 billion cubic meters of domestic LNG production.
We will not bow to this blackmail. I want to assure my fellow citizens that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's actions will not affect the situation in Poland. Russia not only carried out a brutal, murderous attack on Ukraine but also attacked energy and food security," he said.
“Ukraine is on the front line. We, all European countries, must be aware that this is a fight for peace, a fight for sovereignty, a fight for security, and we must not bow,” he said.
7:06 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
CNN witnesses heavy shelling in Severodonetsk
From CNN's Sam Kiley, Mick Krever, Mark Phillips and Olha Konovalova
The Ukrainian-held city of Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, was subject to heavy shelling during a CNN team’s visit on Wednesday.
The team was able to hear the launch, flight and impact of what appeared to be heavy Russian artillery rounds -- an indication that Russian forces are within just a few kilometers of the city center.
Local police told CNN that the artillery was landing at or near the city’s hospital.
The Ukrainian military said Wednesday that the Russian military was advancing through the town of Rubizhne, to the north, in order to further contest Severodonetsk city.
Though most civilians appear to have left, some remain -- both sheltering in basements and walking the streets.
6:56 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Adviser to Zelensky makes opaque reference to reports of blasts in three Russian regions
From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made cryptic references to reports of overnight explosions in regions of Russia bordering Ukraine.
Myhailo Podolyak said that "the Belgorod, Voronezh, and Kursk regions are now also beginning to actively study such a concept as 'demilitarization.'"
In these Russian regions, large fuel depots that provide fuel for the Russian army's armored vehicles periodically burn and ammunition depots explode. For various reasons."
It comes after blasts were heard early Wednesday in three Russian regions bordering Ukraine, local authorities and Russian state media reported.
A blast in Belgorod was followed by a fire at the ammunition depot in the village of Staraya Nelidovka, about 10 miles north of the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram on Wednesday.
In the region of Kursk, residents “heard explosions” around 2:45 a.m. local time. The governor, Roman Starovoyt, said the details surrounding the explosions are still "being clarified," but that there were no casualties or destruction.
Two loud bangs were heard by residents in the Shilovo neighborhood of the Russian city Voronezh at 4:40 a.m., according to Russian state media TASS, citing authorities.
Podolyak added: "How can this be explained? Very simply. If you (the Russians) decide to attack another country en masse, kill everyone there en masse, crush peaceful people en masse with tanks, and use warehouses in your regions to provide the killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be paid back.
"That is why disarming the Belgorod-Voronezh depots is an absolutely natural process. Karma is a cruel thing," Podolyak said.
There has been no acknowledgment by the Ukrainian military or Ministry of Defense that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the latest incidents across the border.
8:08 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
Russia will have "a case to answer" for alleged war crimes in Bucha, ICC chief prosecutor tells CNN
From CNN's Hannah Ritchie in Hong Kong
There will be “a case to answer in due course” on Russia’s alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan told CNN Tuesday.
“We will get to the truth because there's no place to hide in the courtroom. Whatever the narratives and counter-narratives, the evidence should properly be tested … and there will be — I think — a case to answer in due course,” Khan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a wide-ranging interview, when asked how the ICC might build a case in Ukraine.
Located on the outskirts of Kyiv, Bucha was occupied by Russian forces for roughly three weeks in March. The photos -- which were taken from March 5-7 -- show the bodies of civilians littered in the streets of several locations around the town.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings of civilians in Ukraine, while reiterating baseless claims that images of bodies on the streets of Bucha are “fake.”
Khan addressed Russia’s disinformation directly. “Those bodies that are in those bags on the screen are not fake. I’ve seen them. I stood beside them. The issue is how did they die, who is responsible and in what circumstances?” Khan said, adding that the world was watching to see how “effective the rule of law” would be regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
We need to go forward in a way that’s much more effective perhaps than in the past,” Khan explained, hinting at jurisdictional issues faced by the ICC.
On Monday, the ICC joined an EU investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion, marking the court's first joint investigation in its twenty-year history.
“The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in The Hague will become a participant in the joint investigation team (JIT) on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine,” the EU’s judicial cooperation agency said in a statement.
During a visit to the towns of Bucha and Borodianka in mid-April, Khan said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC” were being committed there.
But Khan also warned that it would be “challenging” to guarantee justice would be served in Ukraine, given Russia’s decision to withdraw its signature from the ICC statute, which gives the court jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
Russia also doesn’t extradite its citizens to other countries.
Evidence of mass graves in the towns of Bucha and Borodianka has continued to emerge since early April, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region.
8:13 a.m. ET, April 27, 2022
People flee for their lives from Ukraine's southern city of Kherson
From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Natalie Gallón, Maryna Marukhnych and Brice Laine
A steady flow of people have been making their way across fields and rivers dotting southern Ukraine's countryside through the day. As night falls, the crowds swell. They travel on foot, by bicycle, or 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.
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 both the advancing second phase of Moscow's offensive, but also fears of a referendum on Wednesday.
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. Multiple locals and several Ukrainian officials told CNN the vote had been scheduled for April 27.
Yet the day before, Russian-backed officials announced a series of new government officials in the occupied city, leading some observers to think the referendum may have been postponed in favor of these new appointments.
Ukrainian officials also say Russia is running into trouble over plans to hold a poll as early as Wednesday.
Regardless, fear of the impending vote and its implications — a possible strengthening of Russia's control — has led many residents to flee fast.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will urge Western allies to supply Ukraine with warplanes and other heavy weapons, according to a news release from the UK’s Foreign Office published Tuesday.
In a keynote foreign policy speech that she is expected to deliver at London’s Mansion House on Thursday, Truss will argue the need to “double down” on supporting Ukraine’s military.
“We cannot be complacent -- the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance,” Truss will say, according to the release.
“And let’s be clear -- if Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe. We would never feel safe again. So we must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine."
“Heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes -- digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this,” she is expected to say.
The global security architecture “that was designed to guarantee peace and prosperity has failed Ukraine” and a “new approach” is needed, Truss will say.
It comes as NATO countries ramp up their military support for Ukraine. In a major policy U-turn on Tuesday, Germany announced it will supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft tanks. Canada and the UK also announced they would supply more heavy weapons on Tuesday.
This post has been updated to correct the name of Mansion House, where Foreign Secretary Truss is expected to deliver her speech on Thursday.