April 6, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes, Jason Kurtz, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Amy Woodyatt, Jack Bantock, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022
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12:29 p.m. ET, April 6, 2022

Russia forces near Kyiv and Chernihiv have completely withdrawn, US defense official says

From CNN's Michael Conte

People walk in front of a destroyed building in Chernihiv on April 5.
People walk in front of a destroyed building in Chernihiv on April 5. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The US assesses that Russian forces have completely withdrawn from areas near Kyiv and Chernihiv to “reconsolidate and refit in Belarus and in Russia,” according to a senior US defense official.

The official also said Russia has still not “secured” Mariupol despite isolating the city.

Russia has now launched more than 1,450 missiles against Ukraine since the invasion, the official said.

The alleged atrocities in Bucha appear to be “premeditated,” “planned” and “very, very deliberate,” the official added, saying it’s “difficult to know” what motivated Russian forces to commit such acts, but that they sent a message to the world of “Russia’s brutality.”

11:49 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

UK will ban Russian coal and freeze asset of Russia's largest bank 

From CNN's Mia Alberti and Lauren Kent 

The United Kingdom on Wednesday announced a new set of sanctions against Russia "to starve Putin's war machine,” according to a statement by the British Foreign Office.

Britain's fifth package of sanctions on Moscow over the war in Ukraine include a full asset freeze on Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, and Credit Bank of Moscow, as well as a ban on new British investment in Russia which was worth over $14 billion in 2020, the statement said.  

Britain will end all its dependency on Russian coal and oil by the end of 2022, and end imports of gas “as soon as possible thereafter,” as well as exports of oil equipment and catalysts and imports of iron and steel products, it added.

"This will be another major hit to the Russian economy and further limit their future capabilities,” the British government said in the statement. 

The UK also sanctioned eight additional Russian oligarchs, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin "uses to prop up his war economy," the statement added.  

"Our latest wave of measures will bring an end to the UK's imports of Russian energy and sanction yet more individuals and businesses, decimating Putin’s war machine," British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, calling the newest sanctions the "toughest" yet.  

"Together with our allies, we are showing the Russian elite that they cannot wash their hands of the atrocities committed on Putin's orders. We will not rest until Ukraine prevails," she added. 

11:45 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

Heavy shelling strikes residential districts of Ukraine's Luhansk region, military governor says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

The town of Severodonetsk has been heavily shelled, the head of the Luhansk region's military administration said Wednesday, adding that 10 high-rise buildings in the town were on fire. 

"The Russians fired on Severodonetsk — 10 high-rise buildings are on fire," regional governor Serhii Haidai said on Telegram. "Information about casualties is being clarified."

While the shelling did not hit any strategic or military facilities, it did hit a factory workshop in Lysychansk and a house in Rubizhne, Haidai said.

Russian forces had hit towns and villages of Luhansk region a total of 81 times over the previous night, Haidai added.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were observing the arrival of new Russian forces, in preparation for what Ukrainian officials have warned may be an offensive in the coming days, he wrote.

Earlier in the day, Haidai issued a statement calling for the evacuation of several towns in the region.

"To date, about 30,000 people have been evacuated," he said. "How many people have left on their own is impossible to calculate."

12:56 p.m. ET, April 6, 2022

US won't participate in G20 meetings with Russians

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The United States won't participate in G20 meetings that Russia is participating in, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday.

Speaking at the House Financial Services Committee, Yellen said she'd made that position clear to other finance ministers in the group.

"President Biden’s made clear, and I certainly agree with him, that it cannot be business as usual for Russia in any of the financial institutions," Yellen said. "He’s asked that Russia be removed from the G20 and I’ve made clear to my colleagues in Indonesia that we will not be participating in a number of meetings if the Russians are there."

Yellen was referring in her remarks to a number of upcoming G20 finance ministers meetings scheduled for later this month, a person familiar with the matter said.

Another official said the White House had not ruled out US President Joe Biden attending this year's G20 summit should Russia participate. The leaders' summit is not for another seven months.

Biden said during a news conference in Brussels last month that Russia should be ejected from the G20, but there would need to be agreement among other members to formalize the move.

The next G20 leaders summit is set for November in Indonesia. There are ministerial meetings ahead of that gathering. 

10:50 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

US sanctions on Russia are not "permanent" and can be reversed

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

US sanctions on Russia are not permanent and may be reversed if Moscow changes course in Ukraine, a senior administration official said.

"It's a negative feedback loop. So we deny capital, we deny technology, we deny talent that can flow into Russia, and the combination of the steps that we're taking create this downward spiral that accelerates the more that Putin escalates," the official said.

The White House has not said specifically what Russian President Vladimir Putin must do to see the sanctions reversed, but the official said Wednesday they are willing to scale down should Russia "change course."

"And if he were to change course, someday, that negative feedback loop would slow and could possibly reverse," the official went on. "None of this is permanent. The only aspect that's permanent are the lives that he's taken away and he can never bring those back.  

"But the sanctions are designed to be able to respond to the conditions on the ground and to create leverage for the outcome we seek," the official went on.

11:25 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

US officials have disrupted a Russian botnet. Here's what that means.

From CNN's Sean Lyngass

US officials have seized control of a vast Russian government-controlled “botnet” — or army of thousands of infected computers that can be used for cyberattacks, saying that the Russians have used "similar infrastructure" against Ukranian targets.

The botnet was controlled by a unit within the Russian GRU military intelligence agency known for disruptive cyberattacks such as the 2015 and 2016 hacks that cut power in Ukraine, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

Botnets have a range of potential uses, from knocking websites offline to more disruptive hacks that render computers inoperable. It was not immediately clear what specific hacks may have been thwarted, but Wray said that thousands of small businesses around the world had been infected with the GRU malware. 

US officials have been on high alert for potential Russian cyberattacks, particularly following President Joe Biden’s recent warning to business executives that “Russia's cyber capacity is fairly consequential and it's coming.”

10:43 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

Why the US is targeting Putin's adult daughters in the latest round of sanctions

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The US is targeting Vladimir Putin's two adult daughters in the latest round of sanctions because they believe the Russian president may be hiding some of his assets with them, according to the senior administration official.

Without detailing which of Putin's assets could be hiding with Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, the official said the practice was common among the Russian elite.

"We have reason to believe that Putin and many of his cronies and the oligarchs hide their wealth, hide their assets, with family members, that have placed their assets and their wealth in the US financial system, but also many other parts of the world," the official said.

"That's why the coordination, the coordinated efforts to freeze their assets and seize their physical luxury goods — their cars, their yachts, their homes, etc — that's why it's so important that we act together," the official went on.

"We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members, and that's why we're targeting them," the official said.
10:42 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

Biden administration imposes new sanctions on Russia banking institutions and Putin's daughters

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Kevin Liptak 

The US is taking additional actions to increase economic pressure on Russia and President Vladimir Putin following horrific images from the Ukrainian city of Bucha, announcing new sanctions Wednesday on Russian financial institutions, as well as some people, including Putin’s adult daughters and the wife and daughter of his foreign minister. 

“Today we’re dramatically escalating the financial shock by imposing full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and its largest private bank, Alfa Bank,” a senior administration official briefing reporters said. 

Sberbank holds nearly one-third of Russia’s total banking sector assets, the official noted, adding that the US has now fully blocked “more than two-thirds of the Russian banking sector.”  

Second, the senior official announced, “In alignment with the G7 and the EU, we’re announcing a ban on new investment in Russia.” That will be implemented with an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden. 

The administration is also putting full blocking sanctions on a new set of Russian elites and their family members, including Putin’s adult daughters Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter and members of Russia’s Security Council, including former President and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The US has already sanctioned more than 140 oligarchs and their family members and over 400 Russian government officials, the senior official said. 

The US will also apply full blocking sanctions on critical major Russian state-owned enterprises, which will be announced by the Department of Treasury on Thursday. The official also noted Tuesday’s announcement that the Department of Treasury has blocked Russia from making debt payments with dollars stockpiled at US banks. 

The senior official noted the crippling effect of US measures on the Russian economy since its invasion of Ukraine. 

“Russia’s GDP is projected to shrink by double digits this year… It’s not in the process of being isolated as a pariah state. The economic shock this year alone is projected by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to wipe out the past 15 years of economic gains,” the official said. 

Pressed about the efficacy of sanctions in ending Putin’s war in Ukraine, the senior official sought to underscore the effect they are having on life in Russia and said Putin would eventually have to reckon with his people. 

“Even an autocrat like Putin has a social contract with the Russian people. He took away their freedom in exchange for promising stability and so he's not giving them stability,” the official said.

“The question really is not so much: What can we do and when will that have an effect? I think it’s: What's the endgame here for Putin? What’s he playing for?” the official added. “This is very clearly becoming a failure for him and at some point he will have to recognize that reality.”

10:33 a.m. ET, April 6, 2022

DOJ says it disrupted a botnet run by Russian military intelligence agency

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, left, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, right, speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington D.C, on April 6.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, left, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, right, speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington D.C, on April 6. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday the Justice Department had successfully disrupted of a botnet, or a network of infected devices, that was being controlled by the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU. 

“The Russian government has recently used similar infrastructure to attack Ukrainian targets,” Garland said. ”Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used. Thanks to our close work with international partners, we were able to detect the infection of thousands of network hardware devices.”  

Garland touted the disruption among several actions the Justice Department has taken against the Russian regime that he highlighted at news conference with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, FBI Director Chris Wray and other DOJ officials.

Garland also announced that that the Department was charging Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev with sanctions violations.  

“As the indictment charges, the Treasury Department previously identified Malofeyev as one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea, and for providing material support for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic,” Garland said. “After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe.” 

The new actions come in addition to a yacht — owned by another Kremlin tied oligarch facing sanctions, Viktor Vekselberg — that was seized earlier this week. 

Additionally, Garland said Wednesday, the department, in coordination with its German law enforcement partners, seized the “Russia-affiliated Hydra darknet market — the world’s largest illegal marketplace on the dark web.” Charges had been brought, according to Garland, against a Russian national who allegedly administered the market’s technical infrastructure.