News of the meetings expected next week comes as Russia admits it wants to establish a land corridor through Ukraine connecting Russia to Crimea
The World Health Organization has reported at least 162 attacks on health care in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, the agency tweeted on Thursday.
“Attacks on health care violate international law and endanger lives. Health workers, hospitals, and ambulances should NEVER be targets,” the WHO wrote.
The attacks occurred between February 24 and April 16, causing 52 injuries and 73 deaths, according to the WHO. They targeted health facilities, transport, personnel, patients, supplies and warehouses.
Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said the WHO has been working to ensure medical and health supplies reach cities and towns across Ukraine despite the attacks.
“Peace is the only way forward. I again call on the Russian Federation to stop the war,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called the situation in Mariupol the “biggest humanitarian catastrophe” since Russia’s invasion — and perhaps the worst catastrophe of the century, as the southeastern port city faces constant bombardment from Russian forces.
Speaking at a press conference in Washington on Friday, Shmyhal said thousands of people had died in Mariupol, adding: “We will see the terrible atrocities when it will be liberated from Russians.”
He said Russian troops are “absolutely destroying everything,” including shelters where civilians are staying.
An estimated 100,000 people remain trapped in Mariupol since it was surrounded by Russian forces on March 1, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian officials claim that more than 20,000 people in the city have died during the assault.
CNN cannot independently identify these figures, as a firm death toll following weeks of heavy bombardment is not available.
The last holdout of resistance: On Friday, Shmyhal said civilians including women and children are hiding at the Azovstal steel plant, the final bastion of Ukrainian defenders inside the city. He said the Russian army is still surrounding the area, and Ukraine is speaking with partners to negotiate an evacuation corridor.
He also called on ambassadors from all countries, including the United States, to return to their embassies in Kyiv.
Moldova’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration has summoned Russia’s ambassador to Moldova, after Russia announced Friday that its military is aiming to control southern Ukraine and access Moldova.
In a statement, the Moldovan ministry said it “took note of the statements of the representative of Russia’s Ministry of Defense” and “expressed deep concern over the statements made by the Russian official.”
“Full control”: Earlier on Friday, Russian state media said the Russian military is aiming to establish “full control” over southern Ukraine in the second phase of its invasion of Ukraine.
State news agency TASS quoted the acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekaev, as saying the aim was to create a land corridor between Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and Crimea. He added that control over Ukraine’s south would give Russian forces access to Transnistria, a separatist statelet in Moldova, where a contingent of Russian forces has been stationed since the early 1990s.
“Since the beginning of the second phase of the special operation, which began literally two days ago, one of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish full control over Donbas and southern Ukraine, this will provide a land corridor to Crimea,” Minnekaev said according to TASS.
Moldovan response: Moldova’s Foreign Ministry said the statements made by the Russian general were “unfounded and contradict the position of the Russian Federation supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within its internationally recognized borders.”
It added that during the meeting with the Russian ambassador, Moldovan officials reiterated that Moldova is a “neutral state and this principle must be respected by all international actors, including the Russian Federation.”
If you’re just catching up on the latest developments in Russia’s war in Ukraine, here’s what you need to know:
- UN chief will meet with Zelensky and Putin separately: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Ukraine next week where he is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, according to a UN spokesperson. Guterres will also meet with Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and UN staff to discuss scaling up humanitarian assistance. Earlier today, the UN said Guterres “will be received by President Vladimir Putin” on Tuesday in Moscow after having a working meeting and lunch with the foreign minister of Russia. On Wednesday, a UN spokesperson said Guterres was requesting separate audiences with Putin in Moscow and Zelensky in Ukraine.
- Diplomatic presence in Kyiv: The US is not actively discussing resuming its embassy operations in Kyiv, according to multiple sources.The State Department ended operations at the US Embassy in Kyiv over a month ago. This comes after the UK’s announcement that it will resume its diplomatic mission in the capital city soon. Zelensky thanked the UK for its decision in a video address Friday, saying this would be the 21st state to resume its diplomatic mission in the Ukrainian capital.
- Russia acknowledges casualty from the Moskva: At least one person was killed and another 27 are missing after the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sank earlier this month, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Friday, according to Russian state media TASS. Another 396 crew members were evacuated to nearby ships and sent on to Sevastopol, a city in Crimea, TASS reported. The Russian government, as of Tuesday, had not acknowledged any casualties. The Moskva, a guided-missile cruiser, sank on April 14, though the cause remains disputed.
- Situation on the ground in Ukraine: Fighting continued in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Tavriya, according to a statement from the Armed Forces of Ukraine published on Facebook on Friday. This is notable since Russia’s latest revelation that its goal is to take “full control” over southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region, and establishing a land corridor connecting Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed in 2014. Ukrainian officials described heavy fighting throughout the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in addition to at least 20 injured in “intensified” shelling in the southern Mykolaiv region. Meanwhile, a number of homes have been destroyed in Moschun, a small village to the north of Kyiv and near the Hostomel Air Base, new drone video taken on Friday and obtained by CNN shows. Ukrainian officials say they have identified mass graves outside the city of Mariupol, which they say adds to mounting proof of Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians. The claim is supported by photos collected and analyzed by US satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies that appear to show more than 200 new graves at a site on the northwestern edge of Manhush, a town to the west of Mariupol.
- Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office launches probe: The Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into the alleged shelling of the town of Sloviansk by the Russian army with cluster munitions, it said on Telegram on Friday. According to the preliminary data, Russian troops used “Tochka-U,” a missile system with a cluster warhead, the statement added. Use of cluster munitions — which scatter submunitions over a wide area — is banned by many countries. Russia and Ukraine are not signatories to an international convention barring their use.
- Turkey hopes to resume Russia-Ukraine talks: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is expecting to hold phone calls with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in the next 48 hours with the hope of meeting them both in Istanbul to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has a unique profile and position. Besides being a NATO member, the country also has maritime borders with both Ukraine and Russia. Plus, Turkey is Russia’s largest trade partner in the Middle East and North Africa region.
- Zelensky says life is returning to normal in liberated areas: Zelensky said Friday that normal life is returning to areas that have been freed from Russian control and that 184 settlements have been de-mined, humanitarian operations are taking place in more than 500 liberated settlements, and medical and educational services along with financial institutions are also returning to many settlements.
- No evacuation corridors Friday for Ukrainian cities: Meanwhile, civilians remain trapped in Ukrainian cities like Mariupol and Luhansk, with no new evacuation corridors agreed upon in Ukraine Friday with the Russians due to “danger on the routes,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. Ukrainian officials have appealed for the Russians to guarantee safe passage for civilians, particularly those trapped in Mariupol. Mariupol’s mayor told CNN in an interview that “one clear day of cease fire” is needed to evacuate civilians sheltering in the Azovstal iron and steel plant in the besieged city.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Ukraine next week where he is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, according to a UN spokesperson.
Guterres will also meet with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as well as UN agency staff members to discuss the scaling up of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
Earlier today, the UN said Guterres “will be received by President Vladimir Putin” on Tuesday after having a working meeting and lunch with the foreign minister of Russia.
A UN spokesperson said Wednesday that Guterres was requesting separate audiences with Putin in Moscow and Zelensky in Ukraine to discuss the urgent need to bring about peace.
CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia contributed reporting to this post.
Ukraine is looking at weapons, ammunition, sanctions against Russia, financing for Ukraine and “European perspectives” rather than “Soviet” ones to win the war against Russia, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.
Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department Friday in Washington, DC, Shmyhal thanked the United States for its support.
Ahead of his Blinken meeting, he noted that he had met with US President Joe Biden and finance leaders from across the world while in Washington and that he’s “sure that after this visit during the next day, days, weeks and months, Ukraine will win and will have absolutely perfect recovery plan.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier on Friday that it’s a “realistic possibility” that Russian President Vladimir Putin win the war in Ukraine, calling the situation “unpredictable” at the moment.
Shmyhal said that Ukraine strongly wants to join Europe, “and because of this, many of our young guys and girls pay their lives in this war for this Ukrainian perspectives, European perspective and civilized perspectives.”
Blinken, who spoke ahead of the prime minister, noted that this is the first visit by a Ukrainian senior official since the war began. However, he did not answer a question about the US Embassy in Ukraine. CNN has reported there are not active conversations about reopening the embassy in Ukraine. It has relocated to Poland.
US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan also met with Shmyhal on Friday afternoon to discuss economic and humanitarian assistance, according to National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson.
“Mr. Sullivan conveyed the United States’ unwavering commitment to supporting the government and people of Ukraine. The two discussed the security, economic, and humanitarian assistance the United States is providing, including the new support announced by President Biden yesterday, and ongoing efforts with international partners to impose further costs on Russia for its unprovoked aggression,” Watson said in a written statement.
Biden announced Thursday that the US will send an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine as Russia’s war enters what he called a “critical window,” but warned congressional action is necessary for further shipments as the war grinds on.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins contributed reporting to this post.
When Russian troops invaded Ukraine and began closing in on its capital, Kyiv, Andrii Dereko begged his 22-year-old stepdaughter Karina Yershova to leave the suburb where she lived.
But Yershova insisted she wanted to remain in Bucha, telling him: “Don’t talk nonsense, everything will be fine — there will be no war,” he said.
With her tattoos and long brown hair, Yershova stood out in a crowd, her stepfather said, adding that despite living with rheumatoid arthritis, she had a fiercely independent spirit: “She herself decided how to live.”
Yershova worked at a sushi restaurant in Bucha, and hoped to earn her university degree in the future, Dereko said: “She wanted to develop herself.”
As Russian soldiers surrounded Bucha in early March, Yershova hid in an apartment with two other friends. On one of the last occasions Dereko and his wife, Olena, heard from Yershova, she told them she had left the apartment to get food from a nearby supermarket.
“We did not think that Russians would reach such a point that they would shoot civilians,” he said. “We all hoped that at least they would not touch women and children — but the opposite happened.”
When weeks went by without a word from Yershova, the family became desperate for news. Her mother left a message on Facebook begging anyone who knew what had happened to her to get in touch.
She was told by friends that images of a dead woman with similar tattoos to Yershova’s — which included a rose on her forearm — had been posted on a Telegram group set up by a detective in Bucha who was trying to identify hundreds of bodies found in the town after Russian troops withdrew from the area two weeks ago.
Dereko says the images, seen by CNN, show his stepdaughter’s mutilated body. Police told the family she had been killed by Russian soldiers.
It looked like she was tortured or put up a fight, he said. “They mutilated her. They shot her in the leg, and then gave her a tourniquet to stop her bleeding. And then they shot her in the temple.”
Dereko also believes Yershova was sexually abused by Russian troops. “The [police] investigator hinted” that she had been raped, he said.
CNN has not been able to independently verify this claim. Officers who oversaw the case declined to comment to CNN due to the ongoing investigation. CNN has reached out to Kyiv prosecutors for comment.
The Dereko family’s agonizing wait for answers reflects the rising anxiety amid reports of wartime rape in the country.
Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have been sexually abusing women, children and men since the invasion began, using rape and other sexual offenses as weapons of war.
Human rights groups and Ukrainian psychologists who CNN spoke to say they have been working around the clock to deal with a growing number of sexual abuse cases allegedly involving Russian soldiers.
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One crew member died and 27 are missing after Russia’s guided-missile cruiser, the Moskva, sank last week in the Black Sea, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Friday, according to Russian state media TASS.
It added that the remaining 396 crew members were evacuated from the Moskva cruiser to nearby Black Sea fleet ships and sent to Sevastopol, a city in Crimea. The state media outlet said that the crew member who died, Ivan Leonidovich Vakhrushev, saved “hundreds” of his fellow servicemen.
The Russian government, as of Tuesday, had not previously acknowledged any casualties.
Ukraine and Russia have provided conflicting accounts of what happened that day.
Ukrainians said the Moskva sunk after being struck by Ukrainian missiles, but Russia denies the claim, insisting that the reason for the sinking was a fire. But the US on April 15 confirmed Ukraine’s account, with a senior defense official saying that the US believes that two Ukrainian Neptune missiles hit the Russian warship.
“And now we’ll have to look into the matter as to how long this ‘gone missing’ in the open sea can continue,” said Dmitry Shkrebets, the father of a conscript aboard the ship, in a post on the Russian social network Vkontakte in reaction to Friday’s announcement.
Earlier, Shkrebets posted to the network seeing information on the sailors missing after the ship sank, and claimed his son, Yegor Shkrebets, had been aboard the ship and served as a ship’s cook.
Shkrebets said in his earlier post, “It was reported that the entire crew had been evacuated. It’s a lie! A blatant and cynical lie!”
The ship sank in the Black Sea on April 14, and CNN reported that it was the biggest wartime loss of a naval ship in 40 years.
The state media outlet quoted the Russian Defense Ministry, saying it is providing all necessary support and aid to the relatives and close ones of the dead and the missing in action.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the UK for planning to reopen its embassy in Kyiv, in his nightly address posted to social media on Friday. This would be the 21st state to resume its diplomatic mission in the Ukrainian capital, he added.
Earlier on Friday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the British Embassy in Ukraine will reopen in Kyiv next week and said that the UK and its allies will “not watch passively as Putin carries on this onslaught.”
“This shows that we are not the only ones who believe in the victory of life over death,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky also reacted to an announcement made by a Russian general earlier on Friday regarding Moscow’s aim to create a land corridor between Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and Crimea. The general said that control over Ukraine’s south would give Russian forces access to Transnistria, a separatist statelet in Moldova, where a contingent of Russian forces has been stationed since the early 1990s, according to Russian state media TASS.
“Allegedly there, in Moldova, the rights of Russian speakers are violated. Although, to be honest, the territory in which Russia should take care of the rights of Russian speakers is Russia itself — where there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of choice. Where there is simply no right to dissent. Where poverty thrives and where human life is worthless,” Zelensky said regarding the announcement.
He went on to say that this “only proves” that the Russian invasion of Ukraine “was intended only as a beginning, then they want to capture other countries.”
The Ukrainian president also thanked Ukraine’s allies who have been supplying weapons.
“I am grateful to all our partners who finally heard us, who provide us with exactly what we asked for,” he said. “Because we know for sure that with these weapons, we will be able to save the lives of thousands of people. And we will be able to show the occupiers that the day when they will be forced to leave Ukraine is approaching.”
Zelensky said normal life is returning to areas that have been freed from Russian control and that 184 settlements have been de-mined, humanitarian operations are taking place in more than 500 liberated settlements, and medical and educational services along with financial institutions are also returning to many settlements.
Transportation infrastructure is being restored at a “fairly fast pace” with 96 settlements regaining transportation connections on Friday, 183 settlements now with functioning gas stations and 90 settlements with restored electricity, he added.
“The return of Ukraine to cities and communities means the return of life in the full sense of these words,” Zelensky said, adding, “I believe that such a return will take place in the south of our country and in the east of Ukraine. In all areas where degradation, destruction and death have been brought under the Russian flag.”