April 5, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Melissa Macaya, Jason Kurtz, Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, Travis Caldwell, Ben Church, Lianne Kolirin and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022
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8:26 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Austrian chancellor will visit Ukraine to meet Zelensky

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine in the coming days, his office said Tuesday.

Nehammer spoke to Zelensky on Monday evening, a spokesperson added.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer gives a press statement on the current situation in Ukraine after a meeting of the crisis cabinet in Vienna, Austria, on February 22.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer gives a press statement on the current situation in Ukraine after a meeting of the crisis cabinet in Vienna, Austria, on February 22. (Georg Hochmuth/APA/AFP/Getty Images)

Austria aims to continue to offer "the best possible humanitarian and political support" to Ukraine, a statement by the Austrian Chancellery said, adding that Vienna had already provided funding and equipment to Ukraine and will provide further help soon.

Nehammer's office said it would be making no further details of the trip public for security reasons.

9:36 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

EU finance ministers ready to step up sanctions on Russia

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in London and James Frater in Brussels

European finance ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss imposing further sanctions on Russia following reports of alleged war crimes in Bucha.

"We have new images from satellites on what is happening, what was happening in Bucha. And we have to react," Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, said Tuesday. He reiterated that "nothing is off the table."

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that oil and coal sanctions "are a possibility."

Le Maire said he was not sure what the position of the 27 member states will be, but said he thinks there is "total determination" of all the member states to "enforce sanctions."

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire give a joint press statement in Berlin, Germany, on March 31.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire give a joint press statement in Berlin, Germany, on March 31. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

Lithuanian Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste also called for taking the sanctions to the next level by cutting Russia from its main revenues resources -- its energy sector.

"I think we should cut buying from Russia, oil, gas and coal. And Lithuania is the first country in the European Union to say goodbye to Russian gas," Skaiste said.

Skaiste added that in refusing to buy gas from Russia her country had set "a good example" to other European countries.

She added that closing ports and roads for Russian goods and cutting Gazprombank from SWIFT should also be considered.

Gazprombank is used by foreign buyers to pay for Russian gas purchases.

The EU is expected to announce further sanctions on Russia as early as this week and working on it as a "matter of urgency." The bloc could strengthen existing sanctions or move forward with cutting off some Russian energy exports.

Germany’s Finance Minister Christian Lindner said Monday that cutting off gas supplies was not possible right now. "We need some time and so we have to differentiate between oil, coal and gas at the moment," he added.

7:32 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

People instructed to stay indoors after nitric acid tank hit by Russian strike in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lyiv

Residents in the eastern Ukrainian town of Rubizhne have been told to stay indoors after a Russian strike hit a tank of nitric acid, causing a cloud of toxic smoke to cover the area.

It is unclear how much acid was in the tank but the substance is “quite toxic,” the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Serhiy Haidai, warned on Tuesday.

People have been told to stay indoors or wear a face mask dipped in sodium solution and watch the direction of the wind.

“It's better to wait inside, this acid will decompose after the rain. But nobody knows when it's going to rain. So please watch this pink cloud and if it moves towards you — please hide inside and wait inside. This was a direct hit in the tank,” Haidai said in a statement.

It comes as the Russian military said it is shifting its focus to the eastern Donbas region following a withdrawal of forces from around Kyiv and northern Ukraine.

7:25 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Denmark expels 15 alleged Russian intelligence officers

From Amy Cassidy in London and James Frater in Brussels

Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod speaks to press members ahead of EU General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on January 25.
Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod speaks to press members ahead of EU General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on January 25. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Denmark has expelled 15 alleged Russian intelligence officers it claims were working undercover as diplomats, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

Russia’s ambassador to Denmark was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen, where the government relayed its "strong condemnation of Russia's brutality against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha" and "emphasized that deliberate attacks against civilians are a war crime," it said. They have been given 14 days to leave the country.

The Russian Embassy in Denmark responded by saying "no evidence" was offered to the ambassador to prove the diplomats were spies.

"All employees of Russian foreign institutions in Denmark strictly follow the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in their activities," the Russian Embassy said in a statement. 

"This step of the Danish side has no grounds and is aimed at further destruction of relations between our countries. It is not going to remain unanswered."

Denmark’s move follows the expulsion of Russian intelligence officers from several other European countries, including France, Germany and the Netherlands in response to the war in Ukraine. 

However, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in parliament that Denmark does not want to break diplomatic relations with Moscow and clarified that the expulsion does not include the Russian ambassador or the rest of the embassy staff in Copenhagen. 

"It is only a matter of expelling intelligence officers," he said in response to dramatic changes in the European security picture in recent weeks. 

With this decision, we are sending a clear signal to Moscow that we will not accept Russian intelligence officers spying on Danish soil. They pose a risk to our national security that we cannot ignore."
7:09 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Historic Russian human rights center closes, warns of "return to the totalitarian past"

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Lawyer of the human rights group 'Memorial' Ilya Novikov, center, speaks to the media after Moscow City Court ordered the closure of a branch of the Memorial group, in Moscow, Russia, on December 29.
Lawyer of the human rights group 'Memorial' Ilya Novikov, center, speaks to the media after Moscow City Court ordered the closure of a branch of the Memorial group, in Moscow, Russia, on December 29. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Memorial Human Rights Center, one of Russia’s most prominent and storied human rights organizations, announced its closure Tuesday in a statement published online.

Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the closure of Memorial last December as part of a campaign of legal and administrative attacks on the country’s civil society and human rights organizations.

"Today, on April 5, 2022, the Memorial Human Rights Center will be liquidated," the official statement reads, warning that "a return to the totalitarian past is possible, it is happening now, in front of the whole world."

Memorial, one of the country's oldest human-rights organizations, monitors political repressions in modern Russia and has documented the crimes of totalitarian rule in the Soviet Union.

The Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, among other human rights watch groups, condemned the court’s decision to shut down the center.

Some context: Human rights groups and advocates for democracy have come under increasing attack in Russia in recent years.

Thousands of protesters were detained last year for taking part in several demonstrations supporting Alexey Navalny, the country's best-known political opponent of Putin.

Demonstrations during the first few months of 2021 were met with a strong crackdown by police, including widespread arrests and an allegedly disproportionate use of force.

Several rights groups -- including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International -- wrote in an open letter published in early December: "Memorial is at the very heart of Russia's civil society, and by targeting it, authorities are hoping to destroy Russia's civil society at large."

7:02 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to address the United Nations Security Council at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday after warning that worse atrocities may emerge amid the ongoing retreat of Russian forces around Kyiv.

World leaders have continued to condemn civilian deaths as Ukrainian forces liberate more cities and expose the true horrors of the war.

Here are the latest developments on the war in Ukraine:

Red Cross workers released: Aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who were initially detained in Russian-held territory while attempting to evacuate desperate residents of Mariupol, have been released, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. An evacuation convoy of seven buses accompanied by the ICRC was held in Manhush, a Russian-held town to the west of Mariupol, on Monday but were released later that night.

"Difficult" situation in Luhansk region: The situation in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine is "difficult" amidst heavy Russian bombardment, according to Serhiy Haidai, chair of the Luhansk regional military administration. It comes as the Russian military said it is shifting its focus to the eastern Donbas region following a withdrawal of forces from around Kyiv and northern Ukraine.

Zelensky on Russia negotiations: Ukrainian leader Zelensky has cast doubt on the possibility of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after he accused Russia of genocide. Zelensky paid a visit to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha on Monday, an area where shocking images of civilian bodies strewn on the streets emerged over the weekend. A meeting could happen if Russia were to "bear all the punishments" of committing genocide, Zelensky said.

Satellite images undermine Russia's claims: New satellite images from Maxar Technologies show the bodies of dead civilians in Bucha had been laying in the street for weeks, including when the town was under Russian control. Moscow claimed footage from Bucha was "fake" but the new pictures show objects on Yablunska street match the exact locations where bodies are seen in the street in the video.

CNN team witnesses removal of bodies: Ukrainian officials have shown international media the removal of five bodies from a basement in Bucha. A CNN team visited the basement before the removal and saw the bodies, which were in an advanced stage of decomposition. Five men had been tortured and executed by Russian soldiers, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, told CNN on the ground. CNN cannot independently verify Gerashchenko’s claims.

6:47 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Civilian ship attacked in Mariupol port by Russian military, Ukraine says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

A civilian ship in the port of Mariupol is on fire and sinking after being hit by Russian troops, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Interior.

The ship, under a Dominican Republic flag, was berthed in the port when it was hit by shells during an ongoing attack on the besieged southern Ukrainian city, the ministry said in a statement Tuesday on its Telegram channel.

A fire broke out in the engine room before spreading and at least one crew member is known to have been injured, the statement said.

Maritime border guards were able to evacuate some crew to safety but say it is it impossible to continue the rescue operation due to "constant shelling."

According to the ministry, the captain sent a distress signal using the international maritime safety channel when it came under fire. 

"Warning! Warning! The ship under the flag of the Dominican Republic was brutally destroyed, everything was destroyed, the captain’s bridge was destroyed. Fire in engine room. There are wounded on board,” the captain reportedly said.

6:26 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

Zelensky says negotiations with Putin might not happen after accusing Moscow of genocide

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London and Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks on Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 on April 5.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks on Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 on April 5. (1+1)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has cast doubt on the possibility of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after he accused Russia of genocide.

"It might happen that there will be no negotiations," Zelensky said on Ukrainian state TV on Tuesday. 

Zelensky said it would be understandable to not speak to Putin after accusing Russian troops of carrying out war crimes in Ukraine. "It would be easy to say I’m not going to talk to you -- and it would be understandable, after what you have done, that’s why."

A meeting could happen if Russia were to "bear all the punishments" of committing genocide, he said.

And in this meeting, we could find the way out of this situation, without losing our territory. I think that this is the bar we have to set for these negotiations. And then we will see. It might happen that there will be no negotiations. It might happen."

Zelensky paid a visit to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha on Monday, an area where shocking images of civilian bodies strewn on the streets emerged over the weekend. During the visit he said that it was "very difficult to negotiate" with Russia "when you see what they have done here."

6:18 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022

German President expresses regret over previous stance on Russia

From Reuters

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, shakes hands with Russian president Vladimir Putin ahead of a joint press conference following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on 25 October 2017.
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, shakes hands with Russian president Vladimir Putin ahead of a joint press conference following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on 25 October 2017. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance/Getty Images)

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, long an advocate of Western rapprochement with Russia, expressed regret for his earlier stance, saying his years of support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline had been a clear mistake.

Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who served as Foreign Minister under Chancellor Angela Merkel before being elevated to the presidency, said Russia's invasion of Ukraine meant he and others had to reckon honestly with what they had got wrong.

My adherence to Nord Stream 2 was clearly a mistake," he said. "We were sticking to a bridge in which Russia no longer believed and which other partners had warned us against."

Steinmeier was a prominent member of a wing of his Social Democratic Party, led by former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, that argued close economic ties to Russia were a way of anchoring it within a Western-oriented global system.

The now-canceled Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which critics said would have weakened Ukraine by cutting it out of the energy transit business, was a centerpiece of that strategy.

That has triggered a growing backlash, with critics on social media repeatedly tweeting past pictures of him affectionately embracing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while Ukraine's ambassador Andrij Melnyk has been outspoken in his criticism.

When Steinmeier arranged a "solidarity concert" for Ukraine, Melnyk tweeted sarcastically that the only soloists appeared to be Russian. "An affront," he wrote. "Sorry, I'm not coming."

Germany's president is meant to be a unifying figure who stands above the cut and thrust of daily politics, one who enjoys the moral authority to exhort people to better behavior.

We failed to build a common European house," Steinmeier said. "I did not believe Vladimir Putin would embrace his country's complete economic, political and moral ruin for the sake of his imperial madness," he added. "In this, I, like others, was mistaken."