April 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Jessie Yeung, Sana Noor Haq and Ben Church, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, April 8, 2022
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8:44 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Russian forces are trying to wipe Mariupol "off the face of the Earth," Ukrainian military commander says

From CNN’s Ivan Watson, AnneClaire Stapleton and Niamh Kennedy

An aerial view shows residential buildings that were damaged during the Russian attack in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 3.
An aerial view shows residential buildings that were damaged during the Russian attack in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 3. (Pavel Klimov/Reuters)

Russian military forces are trying to wipe the besieged southern city of Mariupol “off the face of the Earth,” a Ukrainian military commander currently in Mariupol told CNN Wednesday night.

“It is a humanitarian catastrophe. The military that were involved in active hostilities here are completely surrounded. There are supply problems with water, food, medication and general supply. It’s a very difficult situation,” said Serhiy Volyna, deputy commander of the Marine Battalion in Mariupol, who has been fighting in the region since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.

“We have been encircled in Mariupol for more than 40 days. The enemy outnumbers us and in terms of weaponry, their artillery, they have sea-based artillery, tanks, armored vehicles and of course mortars. It is difficult for us,” Volyna said.

“It's just air bombardment… They are just wiping the city off the face of the Earth and wherever any reinforcements they are also using their tanks to crush that,” he continued. 

Volyna served with Ukrainian forces during the Crimean annexation of 2014 and also served with Ukrainian forces and took part in military operations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, now partially controlled by Russian backed separatists.  

When asked if he may now be fighting against former colleagues who crossed over to the Russian side, he replied: “Yes, of course it is entirely possible.”

He called it a “strange situation” that former members or the Ukrainian marines and the Coast Guard of the Black Sea Fleet are “now fighting” in Russian units, labelling them “enemies of our country.”

As far as what Russia’s goals are when it comes to Mariupol, he said that first, Russia wants to use the city to “provide water supply to Crimea.” Russia’s second goal in Mariupol is “to seize the entire coastal territory, near the Azov and the Black Sea and to cut Ukraine off from access to the sea,” he said.

Russia has only made the gains it has due its significant air power, calling their forces less skillful than the Ukrainian troops as far as ground combat is concerned, he said. 

“Whenever they approach us, they suffer huge losses. That's why after this, having suffered the initial defeat, their marines are demoralized so they're trying to enter a city only when it's destroyed,” he added.

8:25 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers' Facebook accounts targeted by hackers, Meta says

From CNN’s Donie O'Sullivan and Sean Lyngaas

Facebook parent company Meta detailed Thursday an array of shady cyber tactics that it says groups linked to Russia and Belarus are using to target Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.

The tactics the groups are using include posing as journalists and independent news outlets online to push Russian talking points, attempting to hack dozens of Ukrainian soldiers' Facebook accounts, and running coordinated campaigns to try to get posts by critics of Russia removed from social media, according to Meta.

A hacking group known as "Ghostwriter," which cyber experts believe is linked to Belarus, attempted to hack into the Facebook accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military personnel, the company said.

The hackers were successful in "a handful of cases," Meta said, and "they posted videos calling on the Army to surrender as if these posts were coming from the legitimate account owners. We blocked these videos from being shared." 

Meta also noted that actions by groups linked to the Russian and Belarusian government appeared to intensify shortly before the invasion, adding that it had observed that accounts linked to the Belarusian KGB "suddenly began posting in Polish and English about Ukrainian troops surrendering without a fight and the nation's leaders fleeing the country on February 24, the day Russia began the war."  

Meta also said it had removed a network of about 200 accounts operated from Russia that repeatedly filed false reports about people in Ukraine and Russia in an attempt to get them and their posts removed from the platform. The accounts regularly falsely reported to Meta that people in Ukraine and Russia had broken the company's rules on hate speech as well as other policies. This tactic, known as "mass-reporting," is commonly used by people trying to have an opponent's social media accounts shut down. 

Russia's invasion brought a "huge surge in attacks against social media accounts via mass reporting," said Vadym Hudyma, co-founder at Digital Security Lab Ukraine, an organization that helps secure the online accounts of journalists and activists.

Many of the targeted Twitter and Facebook accounts were not verified, which made it harder to recover the accounts of organizations that were, for example, raising money and coordinating medical supplies in response to the Russian invasion, Hudyma told CNN. "Many social media pages were temporarily shut down. We've probably recovered most of them quite quickly. But that was a mess." 

Meta also said it continues to see the use of fake profile photos in disinformation campaigns. 

In a previous announcement in February, Meta said it had had discovered and shut down a covert Russian influence operation that ran accounts posing as people in Kyiv, including news editors, and targeting Ukrainians. 

"They claimed to be based in Kyiv and posed as news editors, a former aviation engineer, and an author of a scientific publication on hydrography — the science of mapping water," Meta said in a blog post. 

It tied the fake accounts to people previously sanctioned by the US government. The accounts and websites run by this influence operation do not appear to have been very successful in reaching a lot of people, according to data reviewed by CNN.

8:05 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

What's happening in Ukraine seen as a "systematic slaughter of innocent people," says UK prime minister 

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that “people looking at what has been happening in Ukraine" can see "that this is systematic slaughter of innocent people, whatever term you want to use.”

He was responding to a question about the use of the word “genocide," and whether that was his “assessment” in relation to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is totally unconscionable and the world, I think, is now overwhelmingly on the side of the Ukrainians,” Johnson said. 

“The UK will continue with our friends and partners to do everything that we can to help,” he added. “We are certainly looking at what more military assistance we can give.” 

8:03 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

"Those who choose war always lose," Zelensky tells Greek Parliament

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

Greek MP's listen to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece, on April 7.
Greek MP's listen to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece, on April 7. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Greek Parliament Thursday that “those who blackmail Europe with an economic and energy crisis always lose.”

In a virtual address, Zelensky urged the Greek Parliament to “do more” and use its “opportunities as a member of the European Union to organize the salvation of Mariupol.”

"Those who choose war always lose. Those who try to deprive a country of its independence and its territorial integrity always lose. Those who blackmail Europe with an economic and energy crisis always lose," he said.

Zelensky said that Russia’s actions were not only directed at Ukraine, but also at Europe. 

Russia is trying to ensure that “energy poverty becomes a new reality on this continent,” he said, adding that Russia is “doing all they can to provoke inflation for many people.”

The Ukrainian President also called for the blocking of all Russian banks from the world financial system.

“While the Russian troops block peaceful cities and deport our people, no Russian bank has the right to earn money in the world financial system,” Zelensky said. “They need to be blocked. All of them must be blocked and not only some of them.”

He added that “no Russian ship should have a possibility of entering any part in the democratic world.”

7:19 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Ukrainian goalkeeper says "Putin is a killer" as he sends message of hope to his country

From CNN's Ben Church and Matias Grez

Anatoliy Trubin of FC Shakhtar Donetsk plays in a match between FC Internazionale and Shakhtar Donetsk at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on November 24, in Milan, Italy.
Anatoliy Trubin of FC Shakhtar Donetsk plays in a match between FC Internazionale and Shakhtar Donetsk at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on November 24, in Milan, Italy. (Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

Anatoliy Trubin should be enjoying life as a professional footballer. Instead, the 20-year-old is doing his part to help Ukraine survive the Russian invasion.

The Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper, who has also played for the national team, was living in the city of Lutsk, western Ukraine, as he spoke to CNN about life in his war-torn country.

"My heart is bleeding. A lot of people, a lot of children, are killed and I don't understand this," he said.
"Putin is a killer and I don't understand how it is possible."

Lutsk has been the target of Russian missile strikes over the past month and Trubin has been left heartbroken by the devastation he's seen across his homeland.

Now, he wants to use his platform to send messages of hope to those faced with the brutal reality of war.

Read the full story here:

7:12 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Japan requests ICC investigation into war crimes in the Kyiv region

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, second right, speaks at a ministerial meeting at the premier's office in Tokyo, Japan, on April 5.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, second right, speaks at a ministerial meeting at the premier's office in Tokyo, Japan, on April 5. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

Japan has requested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate the killing of civilians in the Kyiv region by Russia as a possible war crime, the country's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday. 

"The killing of these innocent civilians is a war crime, and our country has requested the International Criminal Court investigate this. I believe that Russia must be held strictly accountable," Kishida told reporters.

On Monday, Kishida expressed shock and dismay in response to the "terrible atrocities" perpetrated against Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv. 

Some background: Images of bodies strewn across the street in Bucha emerged over the weekend following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area, prompting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to call for an end to Russian "war crimes." On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden declared "major war crimes" were being discovered in Ukraine as Russian forces retreat from areas around Kyiv.

7:00 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

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

World leaders have continued to condemn the ongoing violence in Ukraine as Russian forces ramp up their attacks in the east of the country.

As a result of the fighting, 10 evacuation corridors have been agreed for Thursday as civilians try to flee the violence, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced.

Here are the latest developments from the war in Ukraine:

Bucha curfew: Curfews have been announced in the vicinity of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, due to looting, a senior Ukrainian official said Thursday, adding that the presence of mines and unexploded ordnance remained a problem in areas recently wrested from Russian control. Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister, said more than 1,500 explosive devices were demined in the Kyiv region alone on Wednesday.

Missiles shot down near Zaporizhzhia: Ukraine says its anti-air defense shot down three cruise missiles near the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday night as the Russian military shifts its focus to the east of the country. A CNN team in the city heard what sounded like an aircraft and one loud explosion around 11 p.m. local time. It comes as the civilian evacuation of Zaporizhzhia has been stepped up after Russian forces occupied a nearby nuclear power plant last week.  

Refugees flee to Poland: More than 2.5 million refugees have crossed the border into Poland, the Polish Border Guard said Thursday. While it is unclear how many remain in the country, an interior ministry spokesperson told CNN that 700,000 Ukrainians had registered in a Polish database allowing refugees to take up employment or continue their education. More than 4.3 million people have now fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion started on February 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

EU sanctions: The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has expressed his hope that the bloc’s fifth round of sanctions against Russia will be agreed by either Thursday or Friday. It comes after the EU announced proposed plans for a five-pillar package of sanctions, including a ban on Russian coal imports and a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks.

Global condemnation: Australia unveiled new sanctions on 67 Russian officials on Thursday as world leaders continue to condemn the violence in Ukraine. On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden declared "major war crimes" were being discovered as the White House announced new sanctions on Russia's largest financial institutions and a number of individuals tied to the Kremlin. It comes as the UK’s top diplomat told NATO foreign ministers that the "age of engagement with Russia is over." 

NATO warning: Despite Russia focusing its attentions to the east, NATO's chief warned the war could stretch on for years, as Russian President Vladimir Putin wants "to control the whole of Ukraine." Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said NATO will "address the need for more air defense systems, anti-tank weapons, lighter but also heavier weapons, and many different types of support to Ukraine."

6:57 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

Zelensky to meet with European Commission chief on Friday

From CNN’s Katharina Krebs and Niamh Kennedy in London

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 23.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 23. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Friday, according to Ukrainian presidential spokesman Sergei Nikiforov.

"I cannot tell you the exact time due to security reasons. But sometime during the day, the President of Ukraine will meet with Ursula von der Leyen," Nikiforov told Ukrainian TV program "UAtogether" on Thursday.

Von der Leyen and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, will meet with Zelensky in Kyiv this week, spokesman Eric Mamer announced on Tuesday.

He did not specify which day the meeting would take place.

Some background: Zelensky has been making the rounds with global leaders in recent weeks, pushing for harsher sanctions and war crimes investigations on Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.

He made an emotionally charged address to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, in which he accused Russian troops of indiscriminately killing civilians "just for their pleasure," and questioned the very mandate of the Security Council itself.

6:27 a.m. ET, April 7, 2022

A Ukrainian mother had plans to change her life this year. Russian forces shot her as she cycled home.

From CNN's Tara John, Oleksandra Ochman, Eoin McSweeney and Gianluca Mezzofiore

Iryna Filkina had big plans for the year. She was turning 53 in April and planned to start focusing on herself after spending the past three decades working tirelessly and raising her two daughters between the towns of Bucha and Irpin, in the suburbs of Ukraine's capital Kyiv.

But her plans stalled at the end of February when Russia invaded Ukraine. Her daughters decided to cross the border into Poland, but Filkina stayed back to help people.

On March 5, Filkina tried to get a seat in one of the cars that was evacuating people from the shopping center out of the town. But when there was no room, she decided to cycle home.

One of Filkina's daughters, 26-year-old Olga Shchyruk, said she begged her mother not to ride her black bike home that day. She asked her to take the train out of the city instead.

I told her that it was unsafe there. Russia occupied the whole village -- they killed people," Shchyruk told CNN.

"Olga, don't you know your mom? I can move mountains!" Filkina replied, according to Shchyruk, a child psychologist who was in Poland at the time helping other Ukrainian refugees.

It was the last conversation they had. Filkina never made it home that day.

Read the full story: