April 20, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Andrew Raine, Travis Caldwell, George Ramsay, Jack Bantock, Laura Smith-Spark, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 21, 2022
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3:14 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Humanitarian corridor agreed for Mariupol today, Ukraine deputy PM says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv

A local resident walks along a street past burnt out buses in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 19.
A local resident walks along a street past burnt out buses in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 19. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A humanitarian corridor had been agreed on with Russia for the evacuation of women, children and the elderly from the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. 

"Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, it is in this direction that we will focus our efforts today," she said on Telegram.
"We managed to agree in advance on a humanitarian corridor for women, children and the elderly. Gathering in Mariupol today, April 20, from 14:00 [2:00 p.m. local] on the corner of Taganrog Street and 130th Taganrog Division."

The convoy would move from Mariupol toward Manhush and then onward through the Russian-held city of Berdyansk, then north toward the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, Vereshchuk said.

"Due to the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor," she said. "So, please follow the relevant official announcements. We will do our best to make everything work properly."

Tens of thousands of civilians remain in the city, which has been encircled by Russian forces for weeks and under relentless bombardment.

2:08 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

An abandoned Russian military camp in a forest near Kyiv reveals horrors of the invasion

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu, Phil Black, Daria Markina and Victoria Butenkow

Dmitry Nekazakov was walking his dog before he went to work when the Russian shelling started on Hostomel, a city on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv. The sky buzzed with low-flying helicopters from which Russian troops jumped, while rockets rained down.

It was 6:40 am on Feb. 24, the first day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and for almost a month, the bombardment didn't stop. Nekazakov said he spent 20 days sitting on the ground in his basement during the night. In the cold light of day, he and other residents would emerge to witness the damage that had been inflicted on their homes and devise plans to find safer places to shelter.

"For a long time, the shells were coming — the rockets were coming," he said.

The Russian missiles and rockets that decimated buildings, lives and homes were fired from a sprawling Russian base, hidden in the forest some 4 kilometers (around 2.5 miles) away.

Now, only the remains of that sprawling military camp sit among the trees. CNN was shown around the camp by Ukrainian special forces, who are picking up clues as to what Russia's plans may have been for the capital among the debris.

Read the full story:

2:30 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Mariupol is under heavy bombardment, officials say. Here's the latest in the besieged city

Local resident Tamara, 71, cries in front of a destroyed apartment building in Mariupol, on Tuesday.
Local resident Tamara, 71, cries in front of a destroyed apartment building in Mariupol, on Tuesday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russian attacks on the besieged southern port city of Mariupol continue and the situation remains "brutal and unchanged," according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Conditions may soon worsen, with a Ukrainian military commander telling CNN from one of the remaining holdouts that they may have "only a few days or even hours left."

Here are the latest developments:

  • Ukrainians still defending city: Mariupol continues to be in Ukrainian control, the Donetsk’s military governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said, and the changing Russian tactics — including an offensive to the south — are an attempt to further "close the circle" around the city.
  • Troops and civilians trapped at steel plant: Maj. Serhii Volyna spoke by phone with CNN and requested international assistance with evacuating hundreds of troops and civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant under heavy Russian bombardment. The situation is "critical," he said, with a number of wounded troops and limited medical care, adding "We are completely surrounded."
  • Video purportedly shows women and children sheltering: A video shared by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to show dozens of children and families who have been sheltering for weeks at the plant. CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video or when it was taken. However, after reviewing thousands of photos and videos of the steel plant, the walls of the shelter appear to match the lime-green painted walls of the steel plant's basements.
  • Unclear how many troops holding out: The Azovstal plant is a sprawling industrial complex in the southeastern corner of Mariupol. The compound spans an area of more than 4 square miles and used to employ more than 10,000 people. It is unclear how many Ukrainian troops are still holding out there.
  • Evacuations blocked, Zelensky says: The Ukrainian president claimed in a video address on Tuesday that Russian forces are blocking corridors and evacuations from Mariupol. Zelensky added he had signed a decree to honor Ukrainian armed forces defending Mariupol. 
  • Shipyard damaged: Part of Mariupol's Azov shipyard has been heavily damaged by fighting in the city, according to a new video released by the Mariupol City Council. In the footage, the shipyard's entrance sign and gate can be seen. Debris is scattered outside the gate, where a car and a forklift appear to have been strategically placed to block access. CNN has geolocated the video and verified its authenticity. 
  • Mariupol is a 'critical logistics hub' for Ukrainian forces: Retired Lt. General and CNN military analyst Mark Hertling said Mariupol is a critical logistics hub. Its strategic position on the coast of the Sea of Azov makes it a key target. Taking it would allow Russia to create a continuous land bridge from Donbas to Crimea, the peninsula it illegally annexed in 2014. "It not only has roads, but it also has railroads and it has ports," Hertling said.
1:07 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Russian-backed separatist leader says he will support "appeal" of district to join breakaway region

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Denis Pushilin arrives to deliver a press conference in Donetsk, on April 11.
Denis Pushilin arrives to deliver a press conference in Donetsk, on April 11. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

A Russian-backed separatist leader said that the so-called Donetsk People's Republic would support a Russian-occupied district in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region after it purportedly made what he called “an appeal" to secede from Ukraine and join the breakaway republic.

Separatist leader Denis Pushilin made his comments to Russian state media outlet Russia-24 on Tuesday, saying that the separatist republic would not immediately accept the district into its "administrative border," but instead would resolve that question at a later date. 

Video published by a Russian journalist on Tuesday claimed that the Rozovsky district, which is located just 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Mariupol, held a vote on Tuesday in favor of seceding from Ukraine to join Pushilin's Russia-backed separatist region. 

CNN is not airing the video because it could not verify its authenticity, that it was taken in the Rozovsky district, that the individuals were actually Ukrainian citizens, or that they were not pressured into voting in favor of the measure. 

Some context: This is the first time during the war that a Russian-occupied area of Ukraine has purportedly tried to secede from the country, and it could end up being the first attempt by the Russians and Russian-backed separatists to annex additional Ukrainian territory.

However, it's not the first time during the war that an area of Ukraine has had its political status changed significantly while under Russian occupation.

Shortly after Melitopol fell to Russian control in early March, the city's mayor was detained by armed men and a new pro-Russian mayor was installed. The unelected mayor has since instituted a number of pro-Russian moves, including mandating the broadcasting of Russian news outlets.

City workers and Russian troops also staged a propaganda stunt in which they took down the Ukrainian flag, signed it, and claimed they were sending it to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

12:42 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Analysis: Signs point to more economic turbulence in US as the war in Ukraine intensifies

Analysis from CNN's Maeve Reston

President Joe Biden's visit to the critical swing state of New Hampshire to sell his domestic agenda was overshadowed by new economic warning signs of how Russia's invasion of Ukraine is creating greater uncertainty and volatility in the world economy, compounding the obstacles the President and his party are facing in November.

This time last year, Democratic strategists had hoped Biden and his Democratic colleagues in Congress would be out on the campaign trail this spring pointing to America's roaring comeback after the dark days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, Biden and many vulnerable Democrats are gingerly trying to maneuver around inflation that is at a 40-year high, the threat that new Covid-19 variants could derail the recovery — amid fresh confusion over masking — and the ripple effects of a war in Ukraine that some western officials now believe may stretch until the end of the year.

Read the full analysis:

12:23 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Major German manufacturer Henkel to exit Russia

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

A man walks by racks of Moment glue by Henkel at a store in Moscow, on Tuesday.
A man walks by racks of Moment glue by Henkel at a store in Moscow, on Tuesday. (Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images)

German manufacturer Henkel will cease operations in Russia, the company announced on Tuesday.

"Against the background of the current developments of the war in Ukraine, Henkel has decided to exit its business activities in Russia. We will now work closely with our teams in Russia on the details to ensure an orderly process," the company said in a statement.

The Düsseldorf-based company manufactures various consumer goods, such as laundry and cleaning products. Its 2,500 employees in Russia will continue to be employed and paid, Henkel said. The company was not able to provide an outlook on how this will impact the company’s finances.

“Henkel condemns the Russian war against Ukraine and the violence against innocent civilians. Our priority remains to do everything we can to support our colleagues in Ukraine,” said Henkel CEO Carsten Knobel said in a statement.
“We are providing extensive support to our employees and the people in Ukraine and neighboring countries by offering financial donations as well as food and material donations. Many Henkel employees are also helping at the borders by distributing urgently needed goods or offering people from Ukraine a place to stay.”

In March, Henkel announced that it would freeze future investments in Russia and launched a financial aid package for Ukraine, but stopped short of closing down operations altogether.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the move in a video address on Tuesday.

“More and more global companies are announcing the shutdown in Russia. Today, the German company Henkel has joined hundreds of other such large companies,” he said.
“I want to emphasize that this is inevitable: any normal business will have to make such a decision and leave Russia. Now the Russian state is at a level where any association with it and any support for it means complicity in mass killings. Complicity in what will be called crimes against humanity and genocide.”

Zelensky has made it a point while speaking in addresses to other nations that more multinational corporations should cease business in Russia due to their invasion of Ukraine.

12:41 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

2 employees of Kharkiv zoo were found dead after staying behind to feed animals

From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey

A white lion that was evacuated from the Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv is seen in Odesa, Ukraine on April 14.
A white lion that was evacuated from the Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv is seen in Odesa, Ukraine on April 14. (Stringer/NurPhoto/AP)

Two employees of a zoo in Kharkiv who stayed behind last month to take care of animals amid heavy shelling from Russian forces were found dead, the zoo said in a statement Tuesday.

The Feldman Ecopark zoo said it received confirmation on Monday that the employees had been shot and killed by Russian soldiers and found barricaded in a room. 

It was not clear from the statement when the employees died but the zoo said they went missing in early March.

Several animals were evacuated during the shelling, the zoo said, including lions, jaguars, silver foxes and hyenas.

The two employees stayed behind to feed the remaining animals. When other staff returned to the park on March 7, the employees were missing, according to the zoo.

“The staff searched for them and informed law enforcement,” Feldman Ecopark said.
“We’ll cherish the blessed memory of these wonderful and courageous people. Sincere condolences to their families and friends. We believe the inhumane people who have committed this will definitely be punished!”

Parts of the park have been damaged from shelling. A pair of bison were killed, leaving behind a 10-month old calf, the zoo said.

Some context: Kharkiv, located in northeast Ukraine, has faced intense shelling and attacks since the start of the Russian invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian shelling had killed five residents and wounded 15 others on Sunday. He added that in the last few days, 18 people in total have been killed and 106 have been wounded by Russian shelling in the city.

12:22 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

Videos show damage caused by Russian military strikes in 2 towns in the Luhansk region

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Two new videos posted on social media show the damage caused by Russian military strikes in Rubizhne and Lysychansk, two towns on the outskirts of Severodonetsk in Ukraine's Luhansk region.

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos.

A video taken Tuesday in Lysyschansk shows a car driving northwest on Route 66 and pans to the damage surrounding it. The images show a shopping center, a seafood market and a grocery store, all of which appear to have been destroyed in a strike. Nearby, a sheet metal blue fence has been ripped to shreds.

"Yesterday, the orcs began to break through," a voice says, using a derogatory term for Russian soldiers. "Now, shelling has become more frequent here." 

The person speaking says the Ukrainian forces are holding their ground, despite the shelling. 

The second video, taken on Monday, shows the damage to a residential area on the southeastern side of Rubizhne. It shows the ruins of an apartment building, still smoking after a military strike, and debris from the building that has been thrown roughly 100 feet (32 meters) onto the road.

"In short, everything is smoking," a voice in the video says. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post gave the incorrect location for the towns of Rubizhne and Lysychansk, which are in the Luhansk region.

12:01 a.m. ET, April 20, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

Russian forces have begun a new phase in the war, launching the battle for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Satellite images have shown Russian military convoys moving toward the region in preparation for a large-scale invasion — one that is likely to shape the fate of the war.

In the southeastern port city of Mariupol, an unknown number of defenders are making their last stand at the Azovstal steel plant.

If you’re just catching up on the news, here are the latest developments:

  • Mariupol situation "brutal and unchanged": Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday that Russian forces are blocking evacuation routes from Mariupol. Meanwhile, the Security Service of Ukraine released a purported communications intercept of a Russian ground unit commander, who said Russian aircraft were planning to “level everything to the ground” around the Azovstal steel factory.
  • Call for international evacuation effort: Maj. Serhii Volyna, commander of Ukraine's 36th Separate Marine Brigade, spoke by phone with CNN from Mariupol and requested a third country provide evacuation for the troops and civilians trapped in the Azovstal plant. He appealed to world leaders to "take us to the territory of a third country and provide us with security."
  • Russian advances "repelled" in Donbas: Ukrainian fighters have repelled "numerous attempted advances" by Russian forces on the Donbas line of control as Moscow's shelling and attacks "continue to increase" on Tuesday, according to the latest British defense intelligence update. However, control over Kreminna, a town in the Luhansk region of the Donbas, has been "lost" to Russia, according to Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration.
  • Civilian districts hit in Kharkiv, mayor says: In the northeast of the country, Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov told CNN that there has been "non-stop bombardment of civilian districts" of his city since Sunday. "In the last few days, [Russian shelling] has been in the center and it’s targeting peaceful civilians," Terekhov said.
  • Ukraine receives fighter aircraft: Ukraine has received additional fighter aircraft from other countries not including the US, as well as parts to enable them to get more planes in the air, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. "I would just say, without getting into what other nations are providing, that they have received additional platforms and parts to be able to increase their [aircraft fleet size]. I think I'd leave it at that," he said.
  • US urges UN action on refugees: US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday called on the organization to step up in response to the massive refugee crisis.
  • More US assistance on the way: Three senior administration officials say the US is preparing another $800 million security assistance package for Ukraine. Details are still being discussed and could change, but earlier on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said the US plans to send more artillery to Ukraine.