Zelenskyy says peace talks with Russian close to collapse as battle rages in the east
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a joint news briefing with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Latvian President Egils Levits and Estonian President Alar Karis (not pictured), as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 13, 2022.
Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there was a high risk that peace talks with Moscow would end, and U.S. lawmakers pledged to move fast on a plan to send as much as $33 billion to help Kyiv keep fighting Russia’s assault.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said during a visit to Kyiv on Thursday that intense discussions were underway to evacuate civilians from the steel works in Mariupol, which is under heavy Russian attack as part of an offensive in the south and east.
One of the fighters holed up in the city, a major target of Russia’s invasion, told Reuters the comments gave him hope hundreds of civilians blocked with them at the plant for weeks would be evacuated after many failed attempts.
Zelenskyy’s office had said an operation was planned to get civilians out of the plant on Friday but there was no sign of an evacuation as dusk fell. He later expressed pessimism over the prospect of continued peace talks with Russia, blaming public anger with what he said were atrocities by Russian troops.
“People (Ukrainians) want to kill them. When that kind of attitude exists, it’s hard to talk about things,” Interfax quoted him as telling Polish journalists.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby becomes upset reflecting on war in Ukraine
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby became visibly upset during a press briefing when reflecting on the ongoing conflict and the horrific reports of potential war crimes in Ukraine.
When asked if the U.S. believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was a rational actor, Kirby quickly said that he was not a psychologist and could not make such an assessment.
“I’m not going to go into the psychology of Vladimir Putin. It’s hard to look at what he’s doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that,” Kirby said.
“It’s difficult to look at the … sorry,” Kirby said, taking a few moments before continuing his response. “It’s difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well thinking serious mature leader would do that.”
Kirby, who spent nearly three decades in the U.S. Navy before retiring at the rank of Rear Admiral and who has worked as a spokesman at both the Pentagon and State Department, apologized for getting emotional at the podium.
“I didn’t mean to get emotional. I apologize for that. I don’t want to make this about me,” he said.
“Innocent people shot in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs, pregnant women being killed, hospitals being bombed. I mean, it’s just unconscionable,” Kirby added.
— Amanda Macias
Pentagon slams Russian rhetoric that war in Ukraine will soon expand to Moldova
Ukrainian refugees stand next to their belongings after they arrive from Moldova at the international airport of Bordeaux on April 21, 2022.
Philippe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby slammed Russia’s recent rhetoric on expanding its war past Ukraine’s borders.
“We absolutely respect Moldova’s sovereignty. We want every other nation in the world to respect it. A Russian general out there claiming that Moldova is next is clearly irresponsible rhetoric,” Kirby said, referencing remarks made by Russian commander Rustam Minnekayev.
Last week, Minnekayev said that Moscow wanted “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine and would seek to create a “land corridor” from Russia in the east to Transnistria to Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea that Russia forcefully annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about what the Russians will do,” Kirby said, adding that the U.S. was aware of reports of attacks in Transnistria, which shares a border with Moldova and Russia.
The ongoing war next door has put the landlocked country of Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, in a precarious position. Moldova is Eastern Europe’s smallest nation, with a population of fewer than 3 million and a landmass slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
Adding to Moldova’s vulnerability on Eastern Europe’s frontlines is its complete reliance on Russian gas supplies.
— Amanda Macias
Starlink internet becomes a lifeline for Ukrainians
A shipment of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite antennas, also known as terminals, arriving in Ukraine.
Fedorov Mykhailo on Twitter
Parts of war-torn Ukraine that have little or no internet service have found an alternative: emergency Starlink receivers.
The SpaceX-run satellite internet service that CEO Elon Musk touted at the start of the war has emerged as a lifeline for many areas of the country, with over 10,000 dish antennas in service and more on the way.
In Ukraine, Starlink’s technology has found a place where it can prove itself, especially being used in ways other than how it was intended. Throughout its invasion, Russia has consistently attacked Ukrainian communications infrastructure with both military weapons and cyberattacks.
Read the full story here.
— NBC News
Cryptocurrency group lobbies U.S. Congress against bills that target Russian oligarchs
Pedestrians walk by the United States Capitol building in Washington, March 15, 2022.
Emily Elconin | Reuters
The cryptocurrency industry has been quietly U.S. lawmakers against legislation designed to prevent Russian oligarchs from using digital currencies to evade sanctions imposed on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies and their companies following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
The Blockchain Association, a lobbying group that represents more than 70 crypto platforms including Ripple, Crypto.com and Dragonfly Capital, is trying to convince Congress that cryptocurrencies aren’t being used by wealthy Russians to to avoid sanctions. It’s working with lobbying shop Forbes Tate Partners against legislation that would impose more sanctions on already penalized Russians who are aiming to use crypto as a way to avoid sanctions. The bill would also empower the Treasury secretary to block crypto trading platforms based in the U.S. from doing business with those in Russia.
Two bills have been introduced in U.S. House and Senate that gives the Biden administration the authority to prohibit U.S. crypto exchanges from processing payments from Russia. The bills would also allow U.S. authorities to sanction foreign exchanges that process transactions by sanctioned Russian people or companies.
The legislation poses a grave threat to the industry, which critics say has become popular for clandestine transactions because they cannot be traced. It would essentially subject digital currencies to some of the same rules that require federally insured banks to know their customers, combat money laundering and report suspicious transactions to regulators.
— Brian Schwartz
Netherlands reopens embassy in Kyiv, warns citizens to still not travel to Ukraine
People stand in front of the Netherlands embassy in Kyiv.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images
The Dutch Ambassador to Ukraine Jennes de Mol returned to Kyiv with a small number of embassy staff, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a statement.
“A diplomatic mission in Kyiv is of great value in maintaining contact with the Ukrainian government. Embassies of other EU countries are also returning. It is important for the Netherlands to work closely with all these countries, including in Ukraine,” the statement said.
The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that citizens should not travel to the war-weary country.
The Netherlands is the latest country to reopen its diplomatic mission in Ukraine’s capital, following France, Italy, Turkey, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Belgium and Austria. The European Union has also reopened its diplomatic mission in Kyiv while the United States has returned its diplomatic mission to Lviv.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine says Russia taking ‘colossal losses’ in eastern battle
Ukrainian soldiers stand on their armored personnel carrier (APC).
Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images
Ukraine acknowledged it was taking heavy losses in Russia’s assault in the east, but said Russia’s losses were even worse, as U.S. President Joe Biden called on Congress to send as much as $33 billion to help Kyiv withstand the attack.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Biden’s offer of help, which amounts to nearly 10 times the aid Washington has sent so far since the war began on Feb. 24.
Having failed in an assault on Kyiv in the north of Ukraine last month, Russia is now trying to fully capture two eastern provinces known as the Donbas. Ukraine has acknowledged losing control of some towns and villages there since the assault began last week, but says Moscow’s gains have come at a massive cost to a Russian force already worn down from its earlier defeat near the capital.
“We have serious losses but the Russians’ losses are much much bigger … They have colossal losses,” presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.
Two British aid workers captured by Russian forces, NGO says
Two British aid workers have been detained by Russian forces near Ukraine’s southern city of Zaporizhzhia, the U.K.-based non-profit Presidium Network said.
The group’s founder Dominik Byrne told the BBC on Friday that the two men “got through a Ukraine checkpoint to go south through Russian controlled area when we lost contact on Monday morning.”
Presidium said that the two volunteers were civilians working independently but as part of a mission in Ukraine to provide medical supplies, food and evacuation help.
Byrne said he was working “to get the support we need from the U.K. government and from the international community, as well as on the ground,” and that he was seeking “clarification about how they are and how safe they are” and whether they were being “treated properly.”
The U.K.’s Foreign Office “is doing all it can to support and identify these two people,” British trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told Sky News on Friday.
— Natasha Turak
Former U.S. Marine reportedly killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces
American citizen Willy Joseph Cancel was killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces in Ukraine, CNN has reported.
Cancel, a former U.S. Marine, was 22 years old and working for a private military contractor when he was sent by his company to fight in Ukraine, his mother Rebecca Cabrera said.
“He wanted to go over because he believed in what Ukraine was fighting for, and he wanted to be a part of it to contain it there so it didn’t come here, and that maybe our American soldiers wouldn’t have to be involved in it,” Cabrera told CNN in a phone interview.
Cancel entered Ukraine via Poland in mid-March and was killed on Monday, his mother said.
NBC has reached out to Cancel’s family and the State Department. Quoted by CNN, a State Department official said they are “aware of these reports and are closely monitoring the situation.”
“Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” the official added. “We once again reiterate U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials, and that U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so, using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options.”
More than 20,000 foreign fighters from 52 countries, many of whom are military veterans, have volunteered to fight against the Russian invasion in Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, which created the International Legion to serve that purpose.
— Natasha Turak
Should the West prepare for war with Russia? Strategists examine what could come next
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the executive board of the General Procurator’s Office in Moscow, Russia April 25, 2022.
Valery Sharifulin | Sputnik | Reuters
Russia has repeatedly warned of the risks of nuclear war and of swift retaliation “if necessary” as its invasion of Ukraine continues and it faces stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces armed with advanced Western weaponry.
Moscow has warned NATO states to stop arming Ukrainian forces, and has made frequent reference to its war arsenal, which includes nuclear weapons. But strategists have told CNBC that Putin is playing on risk aversion in the West and that the chances of a nuclear war are remote.
One close Russia watcher said Western governments need to imbue their populations with a “war mentality” to prepare them for the hardships they could face as the economic fallout from the war continues.
Those include rising energy costs and disrupted supply chains and goods from Russia and Ukraine, among the world’s biggest “bread baskets.”
— Holly Ellyatt
There will be ‘lessons learned’ over Ukraine war, UN deputy secretary-general says after criticism
The United Nations has faced scathing criticism over what many describe as its slow and ineffective response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In response to that, its Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed admitted that there will be “lessons learned” over the conflict, and that it came as “a big shock to the system.”
“Of course, there are things that we could have done to stop the war, but perhaps those are going to be lessons learned again, when the Security Council, the General Assembly leaders will look back and say, ‘what could we have done, and make sure that we prevent the next war, the next pandemic’,” Mohammed told CNBC.
“These are all things that we are learning. I think history tells us that we’re not very good learners when it comes to that.”
“I hope that the learnings will find ways to make us more accountable to put in the checks and balances that this doesn’t ever happen again, and that we are working towards peace,” Mohammed added.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Moscow to meet with Putin and later traveled to Kyiv, after being criticized for not playing a strong enough role in the conflict and for visiting Russia before Ukraine.
— Tania Bryer and Natasha Turak
Difficult ‘if not impossible’ for Europe to substitute Russian gas in the short term, CEO says
Replacing Russian gas with other sources will be next to impossible in the near term, Alfred Stern, CEO of Austrian oil and gas company OMV, told CNBC.
“On the supply of gas for Europe, I think we should be rather clear, that in the short run it will be very difficult for Europe if not impossible to substitute the Russian gas flows,” Stern told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”
Some countries have the possibility of drawing on alternate sources of the commodity, “but if you look at the total European picture, the quantities just work out in such a way that we will not be able to substitute in the short run the full quantity with European production or imports from other sources,” the CEO said.
“The capacity currently is not here, it can be built up over time, but in the short run this is not possible.”
The comments come days after Russia announced it was cutting off its gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, after the two countries refused a Russian demand to pay for the imports in rubles, since Moscow is cut off by sanctions from being paid in euros or dollars.
As the EU, which imports 40% of its gas from Russia, grapples with the reality of Moscow using its energy as a weapon, analysts and executives have warned of a recession in Europe if Russia fully turns off the taps.
“It will be critical because it could have significant impact on our economy, on the running of industry, because we depend on the availability of energy for this,” Stern said.
Russian strikes in Kyiv injure 10 people amid UN leader’s visit
Russian strikes in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Thursday hit residential buildings and wounded 10 people, Ukrainian emergency services said.
Witness reported large explosions in Kyiv’s northwestern Shevchenkivsky district that left windows blown out and parts of buildings blackened. It came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov visited the city, and as Ukrainian residents begin to return.
“Shocked and appalled about the Russian missile strikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Russia demonstrates again its blatant disregard for intl law by bombarding a city while @UN Secretary General @antonioguterres is present, alongside Bulgarian PM @KirilPetkov,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet.
— Natasha Turak
Russia may be preparing to hold “sham referenda” in Ukraine, U.S. ambassador says
Russia may be preparing to stage “sham referenda” in Ukraine’s south and east — in areas it has illegally seized since Feb. 24 — to legitimize its illegal invasion and assert control there, said the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Russia is planning to force Ukraine’s government to surrender, including dissolving all local municipal governments, while setting up new government structures in “liberated” territories under Russian control, ambassador Michael Carpenter said in a speech to OSCE.
He added that Russian officials and so-called separatists are developing plans for a new government and constitution.
“This planning includes a moratorium disallowing legitimate Ukrainian leaders and those supporting Ukraine’s legitimate government from any leadership positions,” Carpenter said.
A Ukrainian soldier in front of a residential building destroyed by a Russian artillery strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Russia is likely to intensify ongoing deportations of Ukrainians, said the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images
He added that the plans are “straight out of Russia’s playbook” of orchestrating “so-called referenda in the Ukrainian regions of Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk — each time with faked high percentages of public support” and installing puppet regimes there.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and the country has been supporting a separatist rebellion in the Donbas — made up of Ukrainian cities Luhansk and Donetsk — since 2014.
Carpenter added that Russia is likely to intensify ongoing deportations of Ukrainians.
“We should expect Russia to intensify its ongoing forced transfers of local populations from areas of Ukraine’s south and east to Russia or Russia-controlled parts of the Donbas via so-called “filtration camps,” Carpenter said.
— Chelsea Ong
Battle for Donbas is Russia’s main focus, but Ukrainian resistance is limiting its gains: UK MoD
Ukrainian soldiers rest at their position near Lyman, eastern Ukraine, on April 28, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (
Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images
The battle for Donbas is Russia’s primary focus, as it aims to take over Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the U.K. Ministry of Defence wrote in its daily intelligence update Friday.
So far, significant Ukrainian resistance is hampering Moscow’s progress, it added.
In the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (or administrative districts), “fighting has been particularly heavy around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, with an attempted advance south from Izium towards Slovyansk,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.
“Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces.”
— Natasha Turak
Ukraine’s prosecutor identifies 10 Russian soldiers accused of Bucha atrocities
A grave digger arranges flowers atop the grave of a woman as her husband and son watch on April 20, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova has identified 10 Russian soldiers she previously accused of atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
John Moore | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Ukraine’s prosecutor general has identified 10 Russian soldiers she said were involved in the atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.
Iryna Venediktova appealed to the public on Facebook to help gather evidence against those soldiers whom she said were “involved in the torture of peaceful people.” They were from Russia’s 64th Separate Motorized Rifle Ground Forces Brigade whose work President Vladimir Putin recently honored, the AP said.
“During the occupation of Bucha, they took unarmed civilians hostage, killed them with hunger and thirst, kept them on their knees with hands tied and eyes taped, mocked and beat them,” she reportedly said, adding that the soldiers threatened to shoot the civilians and looted houses.
On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Bucha, calling for an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.
— Chelsea Ong