Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Vatican scraps plans for Pope Francis to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch

A planned meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem in June has been canceled by the Vatican. The Russian patriarch has vocally supported Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Francis told local Argentinian newspaper La Nación that the meeting was “suspended” because Vatican officials said it “could lend itself to much confusion at this moment.”

Pope Francis has been openly critical of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and has urged an end to the conflict. In early April he was photographed holding a Ukrainian flag from the town of Bucha, which he said had been “martyred” after evidence emerged of Russian atrocities committed against civilians there.

Pope Francis holds the Ukrainian flag that was sent to him from the town of Bucha, where tied bodies of civilians who were shot at close range, a mass grave and other signs of executions were found, during the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, April 6, 2022.

Vatican Media | Reuters

UN says international humanitarian law is being ‘tossed aside’ as Russian war crimes mount

A woman walks next to an armoured vehicle of pro-Russian troops the building of a theatre destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 10, 2022. 

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet outlined several horrific episodes from the ongoing war in Ukraine where respect for “humanitarian law has not merely been ignored but seemingly tossed aside.”

Bachelet said that the UN was gathering evidence of indiscriminate shelling and bombing in populated areas and on civilian infrastructure, unlawful killings and executions, indecent treatment of human remains, forced detentions, sexual assault and torture.

“Our work to date has detailed a horror story of violations perpetrated against civilians. First and foremost, this senseless war must stop. But as the fighting shows no sign of abating, it is vital that all parties to the conflict give clear instructions to their combatants to strictly respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” Bachelet said.

“Those in command of armed forces must make it clear to their fighters that anyone found to have been involved in such violations will be prosecuted and held accountable,” she added.

Since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor in late-February, the United Nations says it has confirmed 2,435 civilian deaths and 2,946 injuries in Ukraine.

“We know the actual numbers are going to be much higher as the horrors inflicted in areas of intense fighting, such as Mariupol, come to light,” the UN Human Rights Chief said of the death toll.

— Amanda Macias

Germany’s Scholz says avoiding escalation between NATO and Russia is ‘top priority’

Avoiding a confrontation between Russia and the NATO alliance is the top priority for Germany’s leader, he told local newspaper Der Spiegel.

When it comes to weapons transfers to Ukraine, Germany has changed its long-held policy in order to allow arms transfers into conflict zones, though has held back on delivering heavy equipment like tanks into the country for fear of potential nuclear escalation with Russia.

“That’s why it is all the more important that we consider each step very carefully and coordinate closely with one another,” Olaf Scholz was quoted as saying, according to a translation by Reuters. “To avoid an escalation towards NATO is a top priority for me.”

“That’s why I don’t focus on polls or let myself be irritated by shrill calls,” he added, referencing criticism that he has not done enough to support Ukraine. “The consequences of an error would be dramatic.”

— Natasha Turak

UN says 2,435 killed in Ukraine since start of war, warns death toll is likely higher

A grave with a wreath and a Ukrainian flag in Chernihiv, Ukraine on April 16, 2022. As many as 9,000 people may be buried in a mass grave in a village outside the city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, NBC News reported.

Andre Luis Alves | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The United Nations says it has confirmed 2,435 civilian deaths and 2,946 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

Of those killed, the U.N. has identified at least 48 girls and 66 boys, as well as 70 children whose gender is unknown.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Monday that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, citing delayed reporting due to the armed conflict.

The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Cost of damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure rises to $60 billion, World Bank says

The damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure has now hit $60 billion and will continue to rise as the war goes on, World Bank President David Malpass told a conference.

That figure, which Malpass described as an early estimate of “narrow” damage costs, did not include the losses to Ukraine’s economy. Analysts have estimated that the country’s economy has been cut in half.

“Of course the war is still ongoing, so those costs are rising,” Malpass said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told World Bank and International Monetary Fund leaders on Thursday via video that Ukraine needs $7 billion monthly to prevent its economy from collapsing under the Russian invasion.

A service member of pro-Russian troops stands in front of the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022.

Chingis Kondarov | Reuters

British embassy in Kyiv set to open next week

A man comes out of a building next to the UK Embassy building in Kyiev on January 24, 2022. – Britain’s foreign ministry said on January 24, 2022 it was withdrawing some staff and their relatives from its embassy in Ukraine in response to the “growing threat from Russia”.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The British government will re-open its embassy in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv next week after its temporary closure amid Russia’s invasion in late February.

A small number of British staff remained in western Ukraine to provide humanitarian support following the temporary closure of the compound in Kyiv.

“The extraordinary fortitude and success of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people in resisting Russian forces, means we will shortly be re-opening our British Embassy in Kyiv,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

The British government added that the embassy is currently undergoing security updates before staff and U.K. Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons arrive.

Meanwhile, the U.K. continues to advise against all travel to Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

No humanitarian corridors planned for today, Ukraine’s deputy PM says

Routes for civilian evacuations out of eastern and southern Ukraine are currently too dangerous to use, meaning there will be no humanitarian corridors open today, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has announced.

A corridor had initially been agreed to evacuate 6,000 civilians on 90 buses from the heavily bombarded city of Mariupol, where an estimated 120,000 civilians are still trapped. But a much smaller number have been able to leave than hoped due to continued Russian shelling, Ukrainian officials say.

“Due to the lack of control over their own military at the place, the occupiers were unable to ensure a proper ceasefire,” Vereshchuk wrote on Facebook, according to a Reuters translation.

“Also due to their own disorganisation and negligence, the occupiers could not provide the timely transport of people to the meeting point where dozens of our buses and ambulances were waiting,” she added.

A Ukrainian refugee from Mariupol area cries after arriving in a small convoy that crossed through a territory held by Russian forces, after the opening of a humanitarian corridor, at a registration center for internally displaced people, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine April 21, 2022.

Ueslei Marcelino | Reuters

Moscow did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment, but it has previously blamed Ukraine for the failure of humanitarian corridor agreements and denies targeting civilians, despite well-documented evidence to the contrary.

— Natasha Turak

Moscow openly declares intention to control Donbas and southern Ukraine

Russia has for the first time disclosed its goal to fully control Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region as well as southern Ukraine as part of the second phase of its invasion.

“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way to Transnistria, where there is also evidence that the Russian-speaking population is being oppressed,” Russian military official Rustam Minnekayev said at a meeting, according to Russian media and a translation by Reuters. Russian forces have significantly ramped up their bombardment of eastern and southern Ukraine in recent days.

Russian control of southern Ukraine would give Moscow a land bridge between the Russian-backed separatist territories in the Donbas and the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014.

Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway state that is officially part of Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the south. Russian forces have been stationed in Transnistria since the 1990s, and Kyiv has warned that Moscow could stage false flag operations there to justify an invasion.

In March 2022, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe designated Transnistria as a Moldovan territory occupied by Russia.

Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armored personnel carrier during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022.

Chingis Kondarov | Reuters

Russia says it hit 58 military targets in Ukraine overnight

Russian forces struck 58 military targets in Ukraine overnight, its Defense Ministry said. The sites hit included areas where Ukrainian military equipment, troops and fuel supplies were concentrated, Reuters reported the ministry as saying.

The ministry said it also hit three targets with high-precision missiles, including an S-300 air defense system and a large group of Ukrainian soldiers. NBC has not been able to independently verify the claims.

— Natasha Turak

EU urges citizens to work from home, drive less to reduce Russian gas reliance

The EU is calling on people to switch up their habits in order to use less energy, which it says will help to reduce reliance on Russian gas. The EU imports roughly 40% of its natural gas from Russia.

The European Commission and the International Energy Agency has compiled put together a list of energy-saving measures and say they could save households an average of up to 500 euros ($540) annually.

“People across Europe have helped Ukraine by making donations or aiding refugees directly, and many would like to do more. Most households are also experiencing higher energy bills because of the energy crisis exacerbated by the war,” the Commission and IEA said in a joint report.

“Using less energy is not only an immediate way for Europeans to reduce their bills, it also supports Ukraine by reducing the need for Russian oil and gas, thereby helping to reduce the revenue streams funding the invasion,” the organizations added.

“If all EU citizens were to follow the recommendations below at home and in their workplace, it would save 220 million barrels of oil a year, which is enough to fill 120 supertankers, and around 17 billion cubic metres of gas, which is enough to heat almost 20 million homes,” the IAE said on its website.

Cars drive on the city highway A100 in Berlin Germany, April 18, 2022.

Carsten Koall | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

The list of measures encourages people to:

  • Turn down heating and use less air conditioning
  • Adjust the boiler’s settings
  • Work from home
  • Use the car more economically
  • Reduce speed on highways, with the car air conditioning turned down
  • Leave the car at home on Sundays in large cities
  • Walk or bike for short journeys instead of driving
  • Use public transport
  • Skip the plane, take the train

— Natasha Turak

Mariupol mayor appeals for a full evacuation of the city

People walk past cars damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The mayor of Mariupol has called for a full evacuation of the besieged southern port city, which Russia says it has captured, except for the Azovstal steel plant complex, where a few thousand Ukrainian troops and civilians are holding out. It has been the site of the heaviest shelling since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, cut off from electricity, water and food for nearly two months.

The city has lost roughly 80% of its pre-war population of around half a million people. Ukraine’s government now says that satellite imagery shows mass graves in the area.

“We need only one thing – the full evacuation of the population. About 100,000 people remain in Mariupol,” Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on national television, according to Reuters.

— Natasha Turak

Putin’s decision not to storm Mariupol plant may be aimed at freeing up Russian forces: UK

Intense fighting continues in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, with Putin’s decision to blockade the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol likely aimed at freeing up his forces for fighting elsewhere, the U.K.’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.

A few thousand Ukrainian troops and civilians are still holed up inside the plant, and several attempts to create humanitarian evacuation corridors have failed.

“Despite Russia’s renewed focus they are still suffering from losses sustained earlier in the conflict,” the U.K.’s ministry wrote. “In order to try and reconstitute their depleted forces, they have resorted to transiting inoperable equipment back to Russia for repair.”

— Natasha Turak

Ukrainian officials say up to 9,000 people may be buried in a mass grave near Mariupol

As many as 9,000 people may be buried in a mass grave in a village outside the city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said in a statement on Telegram.

Satellite images captured by the U.S. defense contractor Maxar show mass graves 20 times bigger than a cemetery discovered this month in the city of Bucha, the Mariupol City Council said, according to NBC translation. The site in the village of Mangush could hold 3,000 to 9,000 — and 70 bodies have been found so far, the city council.

Maxar said the graves appeared toward the end of March and expanded in April.

CNBC and NBC were not able to independently confirm the report.

A grave with a wreath and a Ukrainian flag in Chernihiv, Ukraine on April 16, 2022. As many as 9,000 people may be buried in a mass grave in a village outside the city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, NBC News reported.

Andre Luis Alves | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

“The biggest war crime of the 21st century was committed in Mariupol. This is the new Babyn Yar,” said Mariupol’s Mayor Vadym Boychenko, referring to the Kyiv ravine where Nazi forces killed an estimated 33,000 Jews in 1941.

“And now Putin is destroying Ukrainians. He has already killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol. And this requires a strong reaction from the entire civilized world. Anything needs to stop the genocide,” said the mayor.

The embattled city of Mariupol has been hit especially hard as victory there will be a prized target for Russia. The capture of the southern port city will give Moscow control over much of Ukraine’s southern coast and provide a land corridor to Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

— Chelsea Ong

Zelenskyy says Russia rejected Easter truce proposal

Ukrainian soldiers patrol in the frontline of Mykolaiv surrounded of the destruction after the Russian shelling over a village in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that Russia has rejected an Easter truce proposal.

Celestino Arce | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Russia rejected an Easter truce proposal, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“This shows very well how the leaders of this state actually treat the Christian faith, one of the most joyful and important holidays,” he added, though he said he still hopes for peace.

Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a four-day pause to the fighting in Ukraine during the Orthodox Christian Easter to evacuate civilians and allow humanitarian aid to be sent into needy areas.

Zelenskyy also said Mariupol continues to resist Russia, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim of victory in the city.

— Chelsea Ong

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here: Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Chrissy Callahan

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