US assesses two Ukrainian missiles struck Russian warship
From CNN's Barbara Starr
Two Ukrainian Neptune missiles hit the Moskva — Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea — earlier this week, a senior defense official said Friday.
A more detailed assessment from an American official said that the strike and subsequent sinking of the ship was the result of a Ukrainian missile.
CNN reported yesterday the US believed with “medium confidence” that Ukraine’s version of events regarding a missile strike on the warship — which Moscow has disputed — was accurate, according to a source familiar with the intelligence.
1:04 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022
Crew of Moskva ship delivered to port of Sevastopol, according to Russian state media
From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Uliana Pavlova
The crew of the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, which sank Thursday in the Black Sea, was delivered to the port of Sevastopol, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing an unnamed source.
TASS provided no additional details about the number of crew members rescued from the ship.
The Moskva was the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet. Ukraine claimed it had hit the Russian guided-missile cruiser with anti-ship missiles, while the Russian military acknowledged only that the ship had sunk after a fire on board and the detonation of ammunition.
The Russian government has provided no details on casualties.
12:02 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022
EU condemns Russia's decision to expel 18 EU diplomats
From CNN's James Frater in Brussels
The European Union condemned Russia's "baseless decision" to expel 18 EU diplomats from the country, EU spokesperson Peter Stano said in a statement Friday.
"The European Union deplores the unjustified, baseless decision of the Russian Federation to expel 18 members of the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation," Stano said. "The EU diplomats in question exercise their functions in the framework of and in full respect for the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."
Stano called Russia's decision "a pure retaliatory step" that "will further deepen its international isolation."
"The European Union continues to strongly call on Russia to stop its aggression against Ukraine and to return to respect of international rules and to a cooperative approach in its international relations," he said.
12:34 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022
US State Department: "Nothing will dissuade" Biden administration from supporting Ukraine
From CNN's Kylie Atwood
When asked about the impact of the diplomatic cable from Russia warning the United States not to continue arming Ukraine, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that “nothing will dissuade” President Joe Biden's administration from continuing to support Ukraine.
“The Russians have said some things privately, they have said some things publicly; nothing will dissuade us from the strategy that we've embarked on,” Price told CNN's Kate Bolduan.
Price said he is “not in a position to confirm any private diplomatic correspondence.”
But he added: “If the allegation from the Kremlin is that the US and our partners around the world are providing billions of dollars worth of security assistance to our Ukrainian partners, precisely what our Ukrainian partners have requested, and that our Ukrainian partners are using that very security assistance to extraordinary effects to repel this Russian aggression, well, then we're guilty as charged.”
The Kremlin “shouldn’t be surprised” by US support for Ukraine, given the commitments the Biden administration made to supporting Ukraine even before Russia’s invasion began, Price added.
12:13 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022
Finland is "highly likely" to join NATO but more discussions are needed, minister says
From CNN's Radina Gigova in London
Finland is "highly likely" to join NATO following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland's Minister of European Affairs and Corporate Governance Tytti Tuppurainen told Sky News in a video interview Friday.
Tuppurainen said "there is a huge majority" in support of a NATO membership, but "we need to discuss this issue thoroughly in our parliament."
"So at this point, I can say that it's highly likely but the decision is not yet made," she said. "But of course, the Russian action, the brutal war in Ukraine, that is a wakeup call to us all," she added.
On Wednesday, speaking at a joint news conference with her Swedish counterpart in Stockholm, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said her country's decision on whether to apply for membership would be made within "weeks, not within months."
"We need to have a view on the future and we are using this time to analyze and also build common views on the future when it comes to security," Marin said. "I won't give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast — within weeks, not within months."
11:28 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022
Zelensky tells CNN world should be prepared for possibility Putin could use nuclear weapons
From CNN's Jeremy Herb
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN Friday that "all of the countries of the world" should be prepared for the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons in his war on Ukraine.
Zelensky told CNN's Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview from the office of the president in Kyiv on Friday that Putin could turn to either nuclear or chemical weapons because he does not value the lives of the people of Ukraine.
"Not only me — all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth," Zelensky said, speaking in English.
"Chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it, for them the life of the people, nothing. That's why," Zelensky said. "We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think."
Zelensky has remained in Ukraine throughout the course of the 50-day war with Russia, as Ukraine's forces have resisted the Kremlin's attempts to seize Kyiv and forced Russia to refocus its war efforts on the eastern and southern regions of the country, where Ukraine is anticipating a significant escalation in fighting in the days to come.
One of Russia's most important naval warships sunk in the Black Sea this week, which Ukraine said was the result of a missile strike, while Russia claimed it was due to a fire from the detonation of ammunition.
At the same time, Russia is firing cruise missiles into the outskirts of Kyiv and still maintains the ability to target Ukraine's capital with long-range weaponry.
US officials have warned about the possibility that Putin, if backed into a corner, could turn to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. CIA Director Bill Burns said Thursday that the CIA watches "very intently" over the possibility, while emphasizing that the US has not yet seen any signs that Russia is preparing to take such a step.
"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 Georgia Tech.
You can see more of the interview on "The Lead" at 4 p.m. ET and the full interview will run on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on "State of the Union."
11:08 a.m. ET, April 15, 2022
US doesn't believe Russian cruiser was carrying nuclear weapons when it sunk, officials say
From CNN's Jim Sciutto
The United States does not believe the Russian cruiser Moskva was carrying nuclear weapons at the time of its sinking, according to the latest US intelligence assessment, two senior US officials with knowledge of the intelligence tell CNN.
The US has been monitoring Russian military forces for any unusual movement of nuclear weapons and has not yet detected such movements to date.
Given the Moskva was an air defense cruiser, one senior US official added, such a deployment of nuclear weapons on board would be especially unusual.
More context: Russian state news agency TASS reported Thursday evening that the guided-missile cruiser Moskva had sunk, citing a statement from the Russian defense ministry.
Conflicting accounts have emerged about the incident.
Ukraine's Operational Command South claimed earlier on Thursday that the Moskva had begun to sink after it was hit with Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.
Russia said a fire broke out on the cruiser, causing munitions aboard to explode, inflicting serious damage to the vessel and forcing the crew of the warship to be evacuated.
CNN has not been able to independently verify what caused the damage to the ship.
CNN's Brad Lendon contributed reporting to this post.
12:08 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022
First flight of new US military aid for Ukraine expected to arrive in next 24 hours, defense official says
From CNN's Barbara Starr
The first flight of the $800 million in new aid for Ukraine from the United States is expected to arrive in the region in the next 24 hours, according to a senior defense official.
The official said the material will be picked up at the border by Ukrainians and taken into the country.
The manifest is not being disclosed, but officials have previously said the most urgent requirements such as howitzers and related ammunition as well as radars will be among the first items to be shipped.
US President Joe Biden's administration announced the new package on Wednesday, which included 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had initially been earmarked for Afghanistan, 18 155 mm Howitzer cannons and 300 more Switchblade drones, in addition to radar systems capable of tracking incoming fire and pinpointing its origin.
This package stands out from previous security assistance in part because this tranche includes more sophisticated and heavier-duty weaponry than previous shipments.
4:07 p.m. ET, April 15, 2022
Putin's ex-economic adviser explains why he believes a full oil embargo would stop the war "within a month"
Andrei Illarionov, a former chief economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, explained on CNN why he thinks a full embargo of Russian oil would quickly end the war.
He recently told BBC that if Western countries implemented a "real embargo" on oil and gas exports from Russia, Russian operations in Ukraine would probably be stopped "within a month or two."
"I think it is a very important nonmilitary instrument to influence decision-making process in Kremlin," Illarionov told CNN's Brianna Keilar. "The reason is very simple. Right now, the direct revenues from export of oil and gas from Russia [is] considered around 40% of all budget revenues in Russia. It will take into account direct and indirect revenues. Altogether it will be probably close to 60% of all revenue for the federal budget."
Illarionov went on to explain the conditions needed to create enough economic pressure to halt Russia's operations in Ukraine.
"Assuming that these revenues would be reduced substantially as a result of implementation of full embargo for energy export from Russia, we understand it cannot be absolutely full because we have China, maybe some other smaller consumers; nevertheless, it would affect the main bulk of importers of energy from Russia," he said.
"And assuming that Russia at this moment does not have access to [the] credit market because of sanctions, and assuming that foreign exchange reserves of the Central Bank of Russia are frozen, the Russian government, Putin's government, does not have resources to finance spending," he continued.
Illarionov noted that all these spendings would be forced to be "reduced by 40% to 50%," a figure that was not even seen back in the 1990s.
"That is why the regime will be in the position that it would need to stop operations, to look for some armistice and to see some negotiations with Ukraine," he continued.