Russian warship Moskva sinks in Black Sea, Russian Ministry of Defense reported via state media
From Jorge Engels in London and Vasco Cotovio in Kyiv
The Russian warship Moskva has sunk, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
"During the towing of the cruiser Moskva to the port of destination, the ship lost its stability due to hull damage received during a fire from the detonation of ammunition. In the conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank," the statement said according to TASS.
Russia said a fire broke out on the guided-missile cruiser, causing munitions aboard to explode, inflicting serious damage to the vessel, and forcing the crew of the warship to be evacuated. Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with anti-ship missiles and later claimed that she had been sunk.
CNN has not been able to independently verify what caused the damage to the ship.
The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, on Thursday adopted a resolution declaring the actions of the Russian forces in the country are “genocide,” the legislative body said in a tweet.
"It is clear now that the actions committed by the armed forces of the Russian Federation amount not only to a crime of aggression but are also aimed at systematic and consistent destruction of the Ukrainian nation, its distinct identity and at depriving the Ukrainian nation of its right to independent development. This requires the immediate recognition of the actions committed by the armed forces of the Russian Federation during the most recent phase of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which began on 24 Feb 2022, as genocide of the Ukrainian nation," an explanatory note posted on the Verkhovna Rada site said.
The statement on Twitter listed mass atrocities, willful killing of civilians and forcible transfer of children to Russian territory as some of the actions by Russian forces that amount to genocide.
US President Joe Biden, earlier this week, called atrocities underway in Ukraine constitute a "genocide," but added that his remark was not a legal assessment.
3:57 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Ukrainian officials: Russians continue build-up in eastern Ukraine with widespread shelling reported Thursday
From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Presnokovich and Olga Voitovych
In its latest update, the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces says Russian preparations continue in the east for an offensive operation, with command and control as well as aviation being added to the gathering force.
It says Russia is training additional units of its Southern Military District "to conduct hostilities" in Ukraine and claims Russia is planning an additional mobilization nationwide.
"The enemy continues to launch missile and bomb attacks on infrastructure facilities and residential areas of cities and villages," the general staff says.
At the same time the Russian armed forces are "regrouping units in the northern direction with a further concentration in areas bordering Ukraine. From the Bryansk and Kursk regions, there is a movement to Russia's Belgorod and Voronezh regions."
The General Staff says Russian units inside Ukraine are conducting reconnaissance in areas such as Slobozhansky in Kharkiv region ahead of the planned offensive, while the shelling of Kharkiv city continues. It says they are also preparing for offensive action towards Slaviansk, an important town in Donetsk region.
Fighting continues in towns around Severodonetsk, the General Staff says. The Russians had tried to break through Ukrainian defenses in the region but had failed.
Civilians continue to be evacuated from the region, which has seen weeks of shelling as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shifted to seizing control of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said Thursday that despite the opening of humanitarian corridors the Russians continued to shell the cities of Luhansk region throughout the day.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region military administration, said the Russians had carried out three air strikes on the town of Velyka Novosilka, close to the border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia.
At least two people had been injured, he said. And further north, in Zarichne, one person was killed in Russian shelling. In Vuhledar on the frontlines in Donetsk region, one person had been killed, but a further 46 people had been evacuated from the town, Kyrylenko said.
"I once again call on all those who are not involved in the work of critical infrastructure to leave the region as soon as possible," he said.
The military landscape in eastern Ukraine shows a three-pronged offensive taking shape - with Russian forces edging forward from the north, east and south but meeting stiff resistance on all fronts.
3:53 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
US State Department: Goal is to reestablish diplomatic presence in Ukraine as soon as it is safe and practical
From CNN's Christian Sierra and Jennifer Hansler
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday the department's goal is to have the country's diplomatic presence "reestablished in Ukraine as soon as it would be safe and practical to have US diplomats on the ground there,” but did not give any indication that this would happen in the near future.
“We are constantly evaluating and reevaluating the safety and the security situation,” he said at a department briefing.
Price said that the lack of diplomatic presence on the ground “has in no way hampered our ability to coordinate and to consult with our Ukrainian partners.”
Asked about Secretary of State Antony Blinken potentially traveling to Ukraine, Price said he had no travel to announce.
Why some Belarusians want to fight Russians in Ukraine
From CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, Sarah Dean and Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou
Pohonia Battalion is a group of fewer than 30 Belarusian exiles living mostly in Poland and other countries across Europe. They hope to join hundreds of their compatriots already involved in the battle for Ukraine.
The aspiring volunteer fighters say that in order to free Belarus of Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip, he must first be defeated in Ukraine.
The group, whose ages range from 19 to 60, carry Kalashnikov replicas. Almost none have fighting experience.
Most of the members were forced to flee their country in 2020, when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko — a Kremlin-backed, Putin ally — cracked down on a mass protest movement after he claimed victory in a widely disputed election, which was marred by fraud.
"If Ukraine loses this war, Belarus will have zero chance to get free," said dissident and restaurateur Vadim Prokopiev, who is leading the group. "If Ukraine wins this war that means Putin's hands are too busy and he's too weakened and he won't be supporting Lukashenko with resources."
Hundreds of other Belarusian volunteers are already on the ground fighting alongside Ukrainian troops. Four have been killed since the start of the war, said Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
In Staryi Bykiv, Ukrainians tell CNN of tragic losses
From CNN's Clarissa Ward
Indiscriminate killings of civilians attempting to flee the violence. Victims found with their hands tied behind their backs. An attack on a maternity hospital, a theater turned shelter bombed. The list of atrocities and apparent war crimes allegedly committed by Russian troops in Ukraine gets longer by the day.
As Ukrainians reclaim areas previously occupied by invading Russian troops, evidence of the horrors of recent weeks is emerging from the rubble of shattered villages and towns. New victims are discovered on a daily basis. And those lucky enough to have survived the ordeal tell harrowing tales of kidnappings, rapes and torture.
Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said Monday that her office is investigating 5,800 cases of alleged Russian war crimes, with “more and more” proceedings opening every day.
Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians. But CNN journalists on the ground in Ukraine have seen firsthand evidence of atrocities at multiple locations across the country.
Here's CNN's Clarissa Ward's report from the ground:
Novyi and Staryi Bykiv are two tiny specks on the map, separated by a small stream. Together they form a sleepy community of about 2,000 people that you’d expect few Ukrainians — let alone the Russian army — to be familiar with.
Katerina Andrusha told me that’s why her daughter Victoria decided to leave her apartment in the Kyiv suburb of Brovary and come back here at the start of the war; she believed it would be safer at home.
But on Feb. 27, residents say Russian forces rolled into the neighboring villages, turned the local school into their base, vandalized and looted homes and terrorized the people here for five weeks.
On March 25, Katerina said Russian soldiers came to her home and took Victoria, claiming she had information about their forces on her phone.
Three days later, Katerina herself was taken captive. She said she was held in a cellar for three days. Blindfolded and terrified, she tried to find out what had happened to her daughter.
“They told me she was in a warm house and that she was working with them and would be home soon,” said Katerina.
She said she hasn’t seen Victoria since. As she spoke to us, Katerina’s gaze drifted skyward in disbelief. She showed us pictures of her daughter, a beautiful schoolteacher.
“We hope that she will get in touch with someone, somewhere,” she said.
Just a few streets away, we met another mother. Olga Yavon’s grief was raw and all-consuming. She knew why we were there and the moment she came out to greet us, she broke down in tears.
Her boys, Igor, 32, and Oleg, 33, are among six of the village’s young men who authorities say were executed by Russian soldiers on February 27.
She told us Russian forces rounded them up after a bridge nearby was blown up.
The Russians kept hold of their bodies for nine days before dumping them on the outskirts of the village, with instructions to bury them quickly, she said.
“They were very good boys,” Olga said. “How I want to see them again.”
French embassy in Ukraine set to return to Kyiv from Lviv "very soon," foreign ministry says
From CNN’s Simon Bouvier in Paris
France announced Thursday that its embassy in Ukraine would "very soon" return to the capital Kyiv from Lviv.
“This redeployment will take place very soon and will allow France to further deepen its support of Ukraine in every area in order to face the war started by Russia this past February 24,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
The French embassy had been moved to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv in early March.
According to the statement, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian informed his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba of the decision on a Thursday phone call, during which the pair also discussed France’s assistance in “gathering and documenting evidence of abuses committed by the Russian forces in Ukraine,” as well as humanitarian operations and the provision of military equipment.
2:58 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Top ICC prosecutor after visiting town of Bucha: "Ukraine is a crime scene"
From CNN's Jorge Engels and Sugam Pokharel
International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan visited the Ukrainian towns of Bucha and Borodyanka this week, where mass graves and murdered civilians were discovered in early April following the Russian forces’ withdrawal from northern Ukraine.
“Ukraine is a crime scene. We’re here because we have reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC are being committed. We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth,” Khan said after visiting Bucha on Wednesday, according to a tweet by the ICC.
Images tweeted by the court show Khan meeting with residents and visiting the devastated towns.
“The voices of those impacted by alleged crimes must be at the centre of our independent work to establish the truth. Survivors and the families of victims will be full partners in our collective efforts to deliver justice,” Khan said.
On Wednesday, Khan met Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova in Kyiv to cooperate on an independent ICC investigation.
Khan and Venediktova agreed to deepen engagement and strengthen partnerships to deliver accountability for international crimes committed in Ukraine, the ICC tweeted.
The ICC formally opened an investigation into the situation in Ukraine on March 2.
2:48 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022
Medvedev warns Russia would bolster military over potential Swedish and Finnish NATO membership
From CNN staff
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of Russia's Security Council, warned in a statement Thursday Russia's military would “more than double” its forces in Russia’s Western flank should Sweden and Finland join NATO.
Ground- and air-defense forces would be beefed up, he wrote on Telegram, and Russia would deploy “significant naval forces” in the Gulf of Finland.
If Sweden and Finland join NATO, Medevedev added, “it will no longer be possible to talk about any non-nuclear status of the Baltic — the balance must be restored."
Medvedev, who served as president of Russia from 2008 to 2012 in a four-year interregnum for Russia President Vladimir Putin's two-decade rule, has struck a bellicose pose in recent months, though he is not a top decision-maker.
A 2018 Federation of American Scientists report concluded that Russia may have significantly modernized a nuclear weapons storage bunker in Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russian territory between Poland and the Baltic states.