April 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Andrew Raine, George Ramsay, Lianne Kolirin, Ivana Kottasová, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022
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3:11 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Mark Zuckerberg among latest banned from entering Russia in sanctions 

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova 

Russia on Thursday expanded its “stop list” banning a further 29 American officials and figures from entering Russia on an indefinite basis, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that the list was published “in response to the ever-expanding anti-Russian sanctions” and includes US individuals of “the top leaders, businessmen, experts and journalists who form the Russophobic agenda.” 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, ABC TV host George Stephanopoulos, and Bank of America head Brian Moynihan have also been added to the list. 

 “In the near future, a new announcement will follow about the next replenishment of the Russian ‘stop list," the statement said.  

 

2:54 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Ukraine successfully evacuated 79 civilians from besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday, regional official says

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

People fleeing fighting in Mariupol meet with relatives and friends as they arrive at a registration center for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on April 21. They were part of a small convoy that was able to evacuate and cross through territory held by Russian forces.
People fleeing fighting in Mariupol meet with relatives and friends as they arrive at a registration center for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on April 21. They were part of a small convoy that was able to evacuate and cross through territory held by Russian forces. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk regional military administrator, said 79 residents of the besieged city of Mariupol were safely evacuated to Zaproizhzhia on Thursday. 

In a Telegram post, Kyrylenko said that after several delays and failed attempts to open an evacuation corridor from the besieged city, "this is the first time since the beginning of the blockade of Mariupol by the Russian occupation forces, we managed to evacuate local residents in an organized manner and take them to safety."

Kyrylenko said almost 100,000 residents of Mariupol have already arrived in Zaporizhzhia, promising that Ukrainian authorities will continue to work hard so that everyone who wants to escape the besieged city can do so.

Kyrylenko said during previous attempts to pull civilians out, the Russian forces broke their agreements, forcing those escaping to rely on private transport.

"This time, four buses managed to leave the besieged city in an organized manner. It is much less than agreed, but we still rejoice for every life saved," Kyrylenko said before congratulating all the evacuees who had managed to escape.

4:39 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

It's just past 9:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

US President Joe Biden announced a separate tranche of $500 million in US assistance for the Ukrainian government in addition to the $800 million in military aid he pledged Thursday.

The new aid brings the total US economic support for Ukraine, the President said, to $1 billion in the past nearly two months since Russia’s invasion.

The $500 million in funding can be used by Ukraine’s government “to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught, and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.

He also announced “Unite for Ukraine,” a new effort to support Ukrainians seeking to come to the US amid the ongoing, brutal invasion, with approximately two-thirds of Ukrainian children displaced.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Ukraine, evacuation efforts have become difficult.

Here's what you need to know:

Ukraine's military release apparent Russian communications intercept with alleged order to kill Ukrainian POWs: Ukraine’s military intelligence on Wednesday released a purported communications intercept of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk, which is bearing the brunt of Russia’s renewed attack.   

“The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine received an audio interception of the occupiers' conversation, which refers to the order to kill all prisoners of war of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are in their captivity in the area of Popasna (Luhansk Region),” Ukrainian military intelligence tweeted on Wednesday. 

“This is a blatant war crime, a violation of international law, and another striking example that the Russian military are murderers, rapists, and looters,” it added. 

The alleged intercepted audio recording released Wednesday appears to feature the voices of unknown Russian soldiers saying: “What can I tell you, damn it, [expletive], for [unintelligible] — you keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever. Let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.” 

CNN cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recording and has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment. 

Evacuations from Azovstal plant not possible Thursday as there is no stable ceasefire: There is no possibility to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal plant on Thursday as there isn't a stable ceasefire that will provide for safe evacuation, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said Thursday during an online briefing. The mayor appealed to international partners to facilitate a ceasefire and a corridor for evacuation. In addition, he noted that around 200 people are currently awaiting evacuation buses in Mariupol, but the buses have not arrived yet. Four evacuation buses with 80 civilians onboard left Mariupol on Wednesday and are currently heading to Zaporizhzhia, the mayor said. He also said that on Wednesday, during an attempt to evacuate civilian population, Russian troops began shelling. 

More than 7.7 million people internally displaced in Ukraine, according to report: More than 7.7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine after being forced to flee their homes due to Russia's invasion, according to the latest International Organization for Migration report. According to the third Ukraine Internal Displacement Report, published Thursday, the number of internally displaced people in Ukraine has risen to at least 17.5% – or more than one in six – of Ukraine’s pre-war population. The latest survey, conducted between April 11 and April 17, found that at least 60% of those internally displaced are women. More than half of IDPs reported a lack of some food products. According to IOM, 28% of families with children under the age of five said they had faced difficulties in getting enough food for their children.

Another Russia-Ukraine prisoner exchange takes place, Ukrainian deputy prime minister says: Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday that another exchange of prisoners had taken place between Ukraine and Russia. 

"Today we are returning home 19 people, including 10 military (including 2 officers) and nine civilians," she said. "This time there are wounded among the released, and this is very important. After this they will be able to receive full treatment and undergo rehabilitation."

Russia closes consulates of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania: Russia is closing the consulates of three ex-Soviet Baltic nations, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement said the consulates of Latvia in St. Petersburg and Pskov, as well as the consulates general of Estonia and Lithuania in St. Petersburg will be shuttered and all of their employees declared "persona non grata." The phrase "persona non grata" literally means “an unwelcome person”. Declaring someone as such usually means they have to leave the country.

3:55 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Pro-NATO group of opposition leaders from Finland and Sweden in DC

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

A pro-NATO group of opposition leaders from Finland and Sweden was in Washington, DC, this week for meetings with the Biden administration and the Hill, sources familiar with the meetings told CNN.

While in the US capital, the small delegation led by Finland’s Petteri Orpo and Sweden’s Ulf Kristersson met with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Karen Donfried, Amanda Sloat of the National Security Council, a number of staff on Capitol Hill and think tanks including the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund.

Henri Vanhanen, foreign policy adviser to Finland’s center-right party, said they wanted to give the message that Finland and Sweden are contributors to security, they bring something to the table and won’t be a burden by joining NATO as they already have very strong national defense. Vanhanen said this message was well received.

In the joint meetings at State and the NSC, there was common understanding that “security guarantees” are only given to NATO members and that it is up to Sweden and Finland to decide about joining, said a Swedish parliamentary official and Vanhanen, the latter of which noted they are not in a position to negotiate with the US government. However, there was discussion about how to improve overall safety and security, particularly in the interim period between application and accession. This Swedish official familiar said discussion included cyber issues and bigger exercises in the Baltics.

Both nations are aiming to apply by the June NATO summit in Madrid at the latest, the opposition hopes.

Vanhanen said it is a “pragmatic” issue for Finland as it shares a border with Russia and has been at war with them, and said joining the alliance is a question of “when” not “if.” 

Officials from Sweden and Finland said there is no doubt that the US Senate would vote to approve their countries’ accessions to NATO. The Senate must approve Sweden and Finland joining NATO by at least a two-thirds vote. 

1:53 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Work from home and turn down heat to reduce Russian fuel reliance and help Ukraine, IEA and EU Commission say

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty in London

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and EU Commission have outlined a range of energy-saving tips to encourage EU citizens to cut their energy bills and reduce reliance on Russian fuel.

In a news release Thursday, IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol said “using less energy is a concrete way to help the Ukrainian people – and to help ourselves.”

Birol added that the suggested steps can “reduce the flow of money to Russia’s military and help put us on a path to a cleaner and more sustainable planet.”

The steps recommended include: turning down heating, using less air conditioning, working from home and traveling by public transport when possible. It also states that governments could provide “financial incentives” reducing fares for travel and by supporting the installation of solar panels. 

According to the news release, if these actions were supported by all European Union citizens, then “that would save enough oil to fill 120 super tankers and enough natural gas to heat almost 20 million homes.”

4:31 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Ukraine's military release apparent Russian communications intercept with alleged order to kill Ukrainian POWs

From CNN's Jorge Engels

Ukraine’s military intelligence on Wednesday released a purported communications intercept of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk, which is bearing the brunt of Russia’s renewed attack.   

“The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine received an audio interception of the occupiers' conversation, which refers to the order to kill all prisoners of war of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are in their captivity in the area of Popasna (Luhansk Region),” Ukrainian military intelligence tweeted on Wednesday. 

“This is a blatant war crime, a violation of international law, and another striking example that the Russian military are murderers, rapists, and looters,” it added. 

The alleged intercepted audio recording released Wednesday appears to feature the voices of unknown Russian soldiers saying: “What can I tell you, damn it, [expletive], [unintelligible] – you keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever. Let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.” 

CNN cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recording and has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment. 

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has previously released a purported communications intercept of a Russian ground unit commander, who said Russian aircraft were planning to "level everything to the ground" around Azovstal, the steel factory that is a redoubt of Ukrainian defenders in the besieged port city of Mariupol. 

On Thursday, in a meeting with his defense minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is no need to storm the plant, but it should be surrounded, and those inside should be offered a chance to surrender.  

"Block off this industrial area so a fly cannot get through,” he said.    

The SBU also previously released audio from purported intercepted radio traffic revealing Russian soldiers discussing killing and raping civilians, bolstering allegations of war crimes by Russian troops.   

Germany’s foreign intelligence service has also intercepted alleged radio communications where Russian soldiers talked about shooting soldiers and civilians in Ukraine. Military observers have also noted a tendency of Russian troops to use unsecured communications in Ukraine. 

Speaking from an undisclosed location to CNN on Wednesday, Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said 80% of his region's territory is under Russian control, and if Ukraine doesn’t resist, “Russia is certainly not going to stop here and will push further on.” 

“Certainly they [Russians] are spreading out a lot," he said. "We’ve established our defenses in a lot of towns. They’re trying to encircle our troops, a lot of nasty business is going on there…but they haven’t had any successes so far. We are doing well to destroy their equipment."

Haidai went on to say that “We have a very serious situation here. The whole of Luhansk territory is being shelled. There is no safe town… We understand that the Russian government is going to push ahead and going to destroy everything in its path. So what we are doing is trying to evacuate everyone as much as possible.” 

1:24 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Russia’s behavior "so offensive" to international norms, US Treasury secretary says

From CNN's Alison Kosik

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen talks to reporters during a news conference in the Cash Room at the Treasury Department on April 21 in Washington, DC.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen talks to reporters during a news conference in the Cash Room at the Treasury Department on April 21 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she and other finance ministers walked out of a closed-door G20 meeting with Russia on Wednesday because “it simply cannot be business as usual for Russia in terms of its participation in our global forums" where countries meet to address common challenges.

Yellen’s comments on the walkout came during a press conference with reporters on Thursday. The treasury secretary departed along with European and other Western officials who were participating in the meeting, according to a person familiar with the session.

“I think participation in those forums requires a commitment on the part of countries to obey the fundamental norms and values underlying international cooperation," Yellen said Thursday. "My decision, along with that of others to leave when the Russian finance minister began to speak, was to make clear that Russia’s behavior ... is so offensive to international norms that we’re not willing to allow Russia to participate or to listen to what the Russians have to say.”

Ahead of the meeting, US officials had said Yellen would not participate in certain sessions of the gathering that included Russia. 

Ukrainian officials also spoke at the session as invited guests, but departed along with Yellen and other officials when Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov began speaking virtually.

1:12 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Ukrainian officials and satellite images point to evidence of mass graves outside of Mariupol

From CNN's Nathan Hodge, Julia Presniakova and Katie Polglase

A satellite image shows an alleged mass grave in the village of Manhush, outside the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, on April 3.
A satellite image shows an alleged mass grave in the village of Manhush, outside the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, on April 3. (2022 Maxar Technologies)

Ukrainian officials on Tuesday identified the location of apparent mass graves outside the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol — claims bolstered by the publication of satellite images collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies.

In a post Thursday on Telegram, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote: "As a result of a long search and identification of places of mass burial of dead Mariupol residents, we established the fact of arrangement and mass burial of the dead Mariupol residents in the village of Manhush." 

Andriushchenko — who is not in Mariupol but has served as a clearinghouse for information from inside the besieged city — posted the coordinates on Telegram, saying Russian forces had dug several mass graves, each measuring about 30 meters (around 100 feet), in Manhush, a town around 12 miles (about 19 kilometers) to the west of Mariupol. 

"Trucks carry in the bodies of the dead, in fact, simply dumping them on the embankment," he said. "This is direct evidence of war crimes and attempts to cover them up."

Maxar published analysis of satellite imagery Tuesday appearing to show evidence of new graves at a site on the northwestern edge of Manhush.

An overview of a cemetery and expansion of graves is seen on March 23.
An overview of a cemetery and expansion of graves is seen on March 23. (2022 Maxar Technologies)

"According to recent media reports, Russian soldiers have been taking the bodies of people killed in Mariupol to this location," Maxar said in its analysis. "A review of our satellite images from mid-March through mid-April indicate that the expansion of the new set of graves began between March 23-26, 2022 and has continued to expand over the past couple of weeks. The graves are aligned in four sections of linear rows (measuring approximately 85 meters per section) and contain more than 200 new graves." 

Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, also alleged Thursday that Russian forces have buried bodies in mass graves in Manhush, amid claims by Ukrainian officials that as many as 20,000 people have died in weeks of bombardment.

"More than 20,000 civilians — women, children, elderly people — died on the streets of our city from enemy artillery, aircraft," he said. "And this is also [based] on the evidence of the heads of our municipal services, who saw it. And unfortunately, we have seen that the bodies of dead Mariupol residents have begun to disappear from the streets of our city." 

Boichenko said the mass graves were off a bypass road, near a cemetery.

"And there is a field near the cemetery, and in this field there are ditches, 30 meters (about 90 feet) long, and there they bury them, bring the bodies of the dead by trucks and throw them into these ditches," he said.  

CNN cannot independently verify claims that Russians have disposed of bodies in mass graves at that location, and a firm death toll following weeks of heavy bombardment of Mariupol is not available. Journalists in Mariupol have documented the hasty burial of civilians in the besieged city, and images have surfaced on social media showing bodies apparently left for collection in the city. 

Evidence of mass graves outside Mariupol surfaced as Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the "liberation" of the city by Russian forces, although he also called off an attempt to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the final bastion of Ukrainian defenders inside the city, where civilians have also sheltered.

"Unfortunately, it is not possible today to evacuate civilians from Azovstal," Boichenko said. "Because we are asking for a stable ceasefire. Somewhere we need one day to be able to accommodate those residents who have been hiding there for 57 days in a row, and they are being bombed, bombed and bombed."

Boichenko estimated that around 100,000 people remain in Mariupol. 

12:11 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Ukrainian prime minister outlines financial needs while speaking with US House speaker in Washington

From CNN's Clare Foran and Daniella Diaz 

US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi meets with Ukranian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 21.
US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi meets with Ukranian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 21. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal spoke briefly on Capitol Hill Thursday. 

Shmyhal said that Ukrainians “feel great support from the United States, from President Biden.”

He discussed the importance of sanctions in addition to other forms of aid, and outlined a number of financial needs, including for internally displaced people, Ukrainian refugees and “mine-cleaning activity,” saying, “we need money, we need technologies, we need support.”

Shmyhal said people are suffering in areas close to major battles and need help. “There is no food, no water, no electricity,” he said.

Pelosi referenced President Joe Biden’s announcement that he will make a formal request for Congress to approve a second supplemental funding package to aid Ukraine, saying “we want to do more.” 

"The President said he will be asking Congress for more. We’ll learn about that in the next day or so to be taken up as soon as we can next week,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi praised Biden’s leadership amid the crisis in Ukraine, saying that he has “been a unifier.”

She condemned Russia’s actions. “Words are almost inadequate to describe it,” Pelosi said.