April 14, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Helen Regan, Travis Caldwell and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022
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2:36 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022

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

Workers remove bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine on April 14.
Workers remove bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine on April 14. (Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

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, speaks in Moscow, Russia in 2021.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of Russia's Security Council, speaks in Moscow, Russia in 2021. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

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.

1:59 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022

It's 8:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN staff

The Russian Navy cruiser Moskva, bottom, is seen in port in Sevastopol, Crimea, on April 7.
The Russian Navy cruiser Moskva, bottom, is seen in port in Sevastopol, Crimea, on April 7. (Satellite image ©2022MaxarTechnologies)

Thursday marks 50 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and there has been a marked shift in Moscow's approach. Ukrainian officials have warned for days they expect a major offensive by Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region.

The US and EU have pledged a combined $1.3 billion more in military aid for Ukraine as Russia prepares to launch an eastern offensive.

Meanwhile, organizations like the United Nations have warned that the prolonged war in Ukraine could lead to more problems in an already struggling global economy with food insecurity as a top concern.

Here are the latest developments:

Casualties of war: As of April 12, the civilian death toll in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24 stood at 1,932, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said Thursday. It warned that "the actual figures are considerably higher."

Global impact: The United Nations secretary-general has warned that the world is on the brink of a "perfect storm" as the war in Ukraine exacerbates an already struggling global economy. In a news release Wednesday, the UN said the war could lead to a "three-dimensional crisis" of food, energy and finance — areas that have already been hit hard by Covid-19 and climate change. "We are now facing a perfect storm that threatens to devastate the economies of developing countries," Secretary-General António Guterres said."The people of Ukraine cannot bear the violence being inflicted on them. And the most vulnerable people around the globe cannot become collateral damage in yet another disaster for which they bear no responsibility," he said.

Key Russian warship damaged: One of the Russian Navy's most important warships has been badly damaged in the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into Russia's invasion of his neighbor. Russian sailors evacuated the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, after a fire that detonated ammunition aboard, Russia's defense ministry said. Ukraine's Operational Command South claimed Thursday that the Moskva had begun to sink after it was hit Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles. Russia's defense ministry said Thursday that the Moskva "remains afloat" and that measures were being taken to tow it to port. The ministry said the crew had been evacuated to other Black Sea Fleet ships in the area. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told CNN's Brianna Keilar that "there was an explosion" on the Moskva, but said the United States cannot say at this point if the ship was hit by a missile. Whatever the reason for the fire, analysts say it strikes hard at the heart of the Russian Navy as well as national pride, comparable to the US Navy losing a battleship during World War II or an aircraft carrier today.

Ukrainian National Security Advisor Oleksiy Danilov told CNN Thursday that the alleged strike on the cruiser was a very important mission for his country’s military and vowed there would be more such dramatic actions. “It is a very important mission for us. The Moskva was there near the Snake Island and was hit yesterday by two powerful Ukrainian-made missiles,” Danilov told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen in an interview. “[Putin] came to kill our children, our women, our civilians. That is our gift to him. And this is just the beginning. There will be more than one Moskva." The Ukrainian national security advisor went on to commend the Ukrainian military for the way they were defending the country but cautioned against underestimating the Russian military. Danilov also reiterated his country’s request for the international community to send more weapons. "We are, first of all, grateful for what we already have been given,” he said “We need helicopters, planes, powerful weapons, howitzers… We need a lot.”

Potential meeting between Zelensky and Putin: Turkey is still working on organizing a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish news channel NTV on Thursday.“We know critical topics will be decided at leader level, so we will try to bring leaders together,” he said. Cavusoglu said that Turkey continues to approach the negotiations with “cautious optimism,” particularly after recent events of alleged war crimes in Bucha and Irpin which “negatively affected the process.”

The condition for a possible meeting between Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky is an agreement document ready for the two leaders to sign, the Kremlin said Thursday. Since the start of Russia's invasion, Zelensky has repeatedly called for talks with the Russian president, but there have been no talks at the highest level so far. 

Russian opposition figure urges the West to wage a social media against Putin regime: Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny has issued a series of tweets urging a new front of "truth and free information" against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he calls the "war criminal from the Kremlin." 

Navalny, who is serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony after being convicted of fraud last month, said in his tweets that "truth and free information hit Putin's insane regime just as hard as Javelins," the US anti-tank weapons being used by Ukrainian forces against Russian armor. 

Increased international defense aid for Ukraine: The Pentagon is working to move the $800 million worth of weapons, ammunition and other security assistance for Ukraine announced by US President Joe Biden yesterday into Ukraine as quickly as possible, a senior defense official said Thursday. “We’re under no illusion of the size and the scale of this thing. But we’re also mindful of the clock. We know time is not our friend. And we’re going to do the best we can to move this, to move these shipments as fast as we can,” the official told reporters during an off-camera briefing.

The European Union has approved an additional 500 million euros ($544 million USD) for military equipment for the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Wednesday, according to a news release from the European Council of the European Union.  

“The next weeks will be decisive. As Russia prepares for an offensive on the East of Ukraine, it is crucial that we continue and step up our military support to Ukraine to defend its territory and population and prevent further suffering,” said Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

3:33 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022

Russian officials allege cross-border strikes by Ukrainian forces amid threat of retaliation by Moscow 

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv and Kostan Nechyporenko in Vasylkiv

Russian officials on Thursday alleged Ukrainian forces had carried out cross-border attacks on Russian territory, claims that a Ukrainian government agency said were made to stoke "anti-Ukrainian sentiment."

The village of Spodaryushino, near the border with Ukraine, had been shelled by Ukraine, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia's Belgorod region, said in a statement on Telegram.

He said there were no casualties or destruction of residential buildings, but added that residents in two villages, Bezymeno and Spodaryushino, had been evacuated. Later in the day, Gladkov said in a separate statement there had been "shelling from the Ukrainian side" on the village of Zhuravlyovka, also in Belgorod region, adding that there had been damage to residential buildings and social facilities, but no information about casualties.

The alleged strikes come days after Russia accused Ukraine of mounting a helicopter attack on a fuel depot in Belgorod region. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense neither confirmed nor denied the attack.

Separately, the Investigative Committee, Russia's top law-enforcement body, issued a statement Thursday saying it was launching an investigation into an alleged strike in Bryansk region by Ukrainian helicopters.

"On April 14, 2022, using two combat helicopters equipped with heavy offensive weapons, military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine illegally entered the airspace of the Russian Federation. Moving at low altitude, they carried out at least 6 air strikes on residential buildings in the village of Klimovo, Klimovsky district, Bryansk region," the statement said.

Klimovo is situated north of Ukraine's Chernihiv oblast. The Investigative Committee said at least six residential buildings were damaged and that seven people were injured, including one child.

More context: The Russian military in a statement Wednesday threatened to strike "decision-making centers" including those Kyiv in response to what Russia said were "attempts of sabotage and strikes" on Russian territory.

Such claims were part of an attempt by Russia to stage so-called false flag attacks to justify attacking Ukraine and stir popular outrage, said the Center for Countering Disinformation at the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

"Russia has stated that the Armed Forces of Ukraine shelled the Bryansk region's border area with helicopters, injuring civilians and homes," the statement read. "However, Ukrainian intelligence warned that Russia was preparing terrorist attacks on its territory to inject anti-Ukrainian sentiment." 

The Ukrainian center's statement alleged that Russian special services had plans to stage "terrorist attacks" on Russian soil as a provocation. 

"Thus, as of April 14, there have been several 'terrorist attacks' on the Russian border, in which the Russian leadership accuses Ukrainian sabotage and intelligence groups," the statement read, citing Russian statements about alleged attacks. 

3:19 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022

CIA director warns Russian threat of tactical nuclear weapons should not be taken "lightly"

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis

CIA Director Bill Burns testifies during a Senate hearing in Washington, DC in 2021.
CIA Director Bill Burns testifies during a Senate hearing in Washington, DC in 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

The United States does not “take lightly” the possibility that Russia could seek to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine as Moscow continues to face difficulties on the battlefield, CIA Director Bill Burns said Thursday.

"Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they've faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low yield nuclear weapons,” he said in public remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The CIA “watch[es] for that very intently,” Burns said. But he emphasized that the US has yet to see any signs that Russia is preparing to take such a step.

"While we've seen some rhetorical posturing on the part of the Kremlin about moving to higher nuclear alert levels, so far we haven't seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern—but we watch for that very intently,” Burns said.

Still, in the same remarks, Burns warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin has become increasingly isolated and his "risk appetite has grown as his grip on Russia has tightened.”

“His circle of advisors has narrowed and in that small circle it has never been career-enhancing to question his judgment or his stubborn, almost mystical belief that his destiny is to restore Russia's sphere of influence,” Burns said.

1:24 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022

US President Biden says he's deciding on whether to send a senior administration official to Ukraine

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday, April 12.
President Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday, April 12. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

US President Joe Biden said Thursday he was still working with his team to determine whether he should dispatch a senior member of his administration to Ukraine, a potentially dramatic show of support for the nation as it comes under attack from Russia.

"We're making that decision now," Biden said when asked whether he would send a senior official to Ukraine. Asked who he would send, Biden turned back to a reporter and said, "You ready to go?"

The White House echoed Biden's comments, saying "we’re still in discussions, deciding this."

"As you know, obviously we’re in contact with the Ukrainian government every day – pretty regularly and so I just don’t have anything to preview any further,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One when pressed for further information.

Since Russian forces withdrew from the region surrounding Kyiv, a number of Western leaders have made their way to the Ukrainian capital to demonstrate support.

US officials have held preliminary discussions about sending a high-ranking member of the administration to Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the talks.

While Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are unlikely to visit Kyiv themselves anytime soon, officials have discussed sending Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Still, sources said a decision is far from finalized and the visit could ultimately not materialize. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv last weekend. US officials said afterward that Biden was not currently planning a trip of his own. 

"We're not currently planning a trip by the President of the United States to Ukraine," press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. She said more important that a presidential visit was a continued supply of weapons and support.

"What is most important to the Ukrainian leadership is that we are expediting weapons and getting them the assistance and security systems they need and that is what our focus is on," she said.

In a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, Biden informed his counterpart of a new $800 million security assistance package, including 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 300 Switchblade drones, 18 Howitzers and protective equipment to guard against chemical attacks.

Read more about the potential trip here.

CNN's Betsy Klein contributed reporting to this post.

12:55 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022

Russian troops that left northern Ukraine are now appearing in Donbas ahead of expected military push

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Jamie Crawford

The first Russian troops that had left northern Ukraine have begun appearing in the northern Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in preparation for what is expected to be a major push by thousands of Russian forces a senior US defense official said Thursday. 

“They already have a significant amount of forces in the region," the official told reporters on Thursday. "We would assess that inside Ukraine itself, there’s 65 total operational BTGs. And they are, of the 65, they’re really in that east and south parts of Ukraine. There really isn’t any operation BTGs outside southern and eastern Ukraine ... They will try to insert additional BTGs over coming days. We just haven’t seen that really pan out of late."

These are some of the units that had left northern Ukraine and the areas north of Kyiv in recent weeks to go back to Russia and Belarus for resupply and reinforcement before going to Donbas, the official noted.

1:23 p.m. ET, April 14, 2022

Pentagon "mindful of the clock" as it works to ship newly approved military assistance to Ukraine

From CNN's Michael Conte and Jamie Crawford

The Pentagon is working to move the $800 million worth of weapons, ammunition and other security assistance for Ukraine announced by US President Joe Biden yesterday into Ukraine as quickly as possible, a senior defense official said Thursday.

“We’re under no illusion of the size and the scale of this thing. But we’re also mindful of the clock. We know time is not our friend. And we’re going to do the best we can to move this, to move these shipments as fast as we can,” the official told reporters during an off-camera briefing while adding “we’re going to front-load them with the kinds of capabilities that we know the Ukrainians need the most.” 

The new weapons package represents the starkest sign to date that the war in Ukraine is shifting — and with it, the weapons Ukraine will need if it hopes to continue to stymie a Russian military that has regrouped and resupplied after its initial failures in the opening weeks of the war. 

But the official said the material will not arrive all in one shipment.

“A package that size is going to take many shipments. I mean, the last $800 million dollars for instance took more than 20 individual shipments to close it out,” the official said. “I can assure you we’ll move with the same sense of urgency that we’ve been moving with.”

In addition, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba on Thursday to discuss the latest security assistance package to Ukraine, according to the US State Department.

“They noted that the steady supply of materiel from the United States and its Allies and partners has been instrumental in Ukraine’s successful fight against Russia’s forces. The Secretary provided an update on the most recent U.S. and global efforts to hold the Kremlin and its enablers accountable. The Secretary commended the bravery of the Ukrainian people, noting in particular those defending Mariupol,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting to this post.