Russia's war in Ukraine

By Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Amy Woodyatt, Sana Noor Haq, Emma Tucker, Angela Dewan, Adrienne Vogt and Joe Ruiz, CNN

Updated 12:36 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022
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4:33 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Ukraine claims Mariupol citizens forcibly deported to Far East region of Russia

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam and Nathan Hodge

Ukraine officials claimed on Saturday that Russia has forcibly deported Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia's Far East region. 

"Russia sent forcibly deported citizens of Ukraine from Mariupol to the Primorsky Krai - 8,000 kilometers from the homeland," said Lyudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, in a Telegram post.

According to Denisova, volunteers told her a train arrived in the city of Nakhodka on April 21 with 308 Ukrainians from Mariupol, including mothers with young children, people with disabilities and students.

Denisova also included photos showing the Ukrainian citizens' arrival at the train station in her Telegram post.

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol's mayor, also claimed on April 21, "the Russians brought 308 deported Mariupol residents to Vladivostok."

The Mariopul mayor's official telegram post said 90 out of 308 deported residents were children.

"People were accommodated in schools and dormitories. Later it is planned to send them to different settlements of the Primorsky Krai," the mayor's Telegram post reads.

Photo and videos published on a Russian local news portal in Vladivostok, vl.com, also showed evacuees from Mariupol arriving by train. 

Denisova also claimed Mariupol residents were sent by bus to temporary accommodation in the city of Wrangel and were expected to receive new documents that will allow them to work in Russia.

"The occupying country of Russia grossly violates the provisions of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which prohibits the forced relocation or deportation of persons from the occupied territories," Denisova added in her Telegram post.
4:00 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

It's 11 p.m. in Ukraine. Catch up on today's developments here

Worshippers attend a service marking Orthodox Easter at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church, in Lviv, on Saturday, April 23. Ukrainian authorities urged those celebrating Orthodox Easter to follow religious services online and to respect curfews amid fighting with Russian troops despite a holiday that usually attracts crowds.
Worshippers attend a service marking Orthodox Easter at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church, in Lviv, on Saturday, April 23. Ukrainian authorities urged those celebrating Orthodox Easter to follow religious services online and to respect curfews amid fighting with Russian troops despite a holiday that usually attracts crowds. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia's military has shown no signs of stopping during the Orthodox Easter weekend in Ukraine. Here's what you need to know.

Odesa strikes: Five civilians died — including an infant — and 18 were wounded as Russian missile strikes hit the southwestern port city of Odesa, according to a senior Ukrainian official. A city council deputy called the strikes "Easter gifts from Putin."

Mariupol evacuations: The evacuation of civilians from the besieged southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been "thwarted" by the Russian military, an adviser to the city's mayor said.

"About 200 Mariupol residents were going to leave, but when they arrived at the assembly point, the [Russian] military told them to disperse because 'there will be shelling now'," according to the Ukrainian parliament's Twitter account.

Easter warnings: The Ukrainian government announced new curfews for Easter weekend as authorities cautioned residents about the potential for increased Russian military activity during holiday celebrations. Officials in some regions urged people to attend virtual services.

Top US officials to Kyiv: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv tomorrow. Zelensky made the remarks during a press conference in a Kyiv subway station, where he also reiterated his willingness to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

More sanctions?: Europe is discussing a sixth round of sanctions on Russia, including a hit on Russia's energy market, officials say. European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said one of the issues under consideration concerns an oil embargo.

3:43 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

What's it like being the family of Alexey Navalny?

From CNN's Foren Clark

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny (R), his daughter Dasha (2R), son Zakhar (2L) and wife Yulia (L) arrive at a polling station during to the Moscow city Duma elections in Moscow on September 8, 2019.
Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny (R), his daughter Dasha (2R), son Zakhar (2L) and wife Yulia (L) arrive at a polling station during to the Moscow city Duma elections in Moscow on September 8, 2019. (Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)

The family of Russian dissident Alexey Navalny has always supported his efforts to combat Russian President Vladimir Putin’s corrupt leadership. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and their children, Dasha and Zakhar, have had to watch Navalny face arrests, violence, and even an attack on his own life.  

In August 2020, Navalny’s family got the call that he had taken ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow and was undergoing treatment. 

“To have your dad, an opposition leader, being poisoned by we don’t know what, we don’t know how, we don’t know when, and just be in a random hospital, it was just … it was surreal, it was literally like a book,” Dasha said.  

Yulia Navalnaya quickly made her way to the hospital where Navalny was being treated and began putting public and international pressure on the Russian government to allow him to be medically evacuated to Germany. 

She described the fear she had when she first arrived at the hospital and was physically barred from seeing her husband. “I thought since he was all alone, the [Federal Security Service] and Putin would make the most of the situation and try to make sure he’s dead.” 

Her efforts to secure his release, which included sending a personal letter to Putin himself, eventually paid off – and may have saved Navalny’s life. His sudden illness was later tied to exposure to the nerve agent Novichok. 

After a long recovery in Germany, Navalny announced that he would return to Russia in January 2020. His family once again faced the possibility of losing him, this time to arrest and detainment, but they understood that Navalny’s mission was more important than their worry. 

“There was a point a year ago, where my dad was almost not there for my high school graduation. He was in jail once again and, like, the whole day I was just thinking about how [he] would’ve been proud to see me walk on the stage and get my certificate. And he wouldn’t get that option, because he was in jail for doing the right thing,” Dasha said before her father made his return to Russia. “I know that my dad misses Russia, even though it’s scary to go back. And if he didn’t go back, I would say you need to go back and fight. It’s something worth fighting for.”

Navalny was immediately arrested after his plane landed in Moscow, and he has been a prisoner ever since. In March, he was sentenced to another nine years in jail after being convicted on fraud charges, according to the Russian-owned state news agency TASS.

The director of the CNN film “Navalny," Daniel Roher, who spent time with the entire family while following Navalny’s story for the film, described how their support allows Navalny to continue with his mission. 

“It is like the entire family has this iron spine, their character is extraordinary, and I think … the foundation for his strength is the strength of his extraordinary wife Yulia and their children,” Roher said. “Everyone believes in what he’s doing, and everyone supports the sacrifice that he’s making. 

Although they have faced violence and harassment of their own, Navalny’s family continues to support his anti-corruption message, and they express their pride in his accomplishments. 

Dasha wrote on Instagram: “I am very proud of my dad, and I am glad that his incredible story of the last few years will be told.”

 

 

Tune in tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET to watch the CNN Film “Navalny” on CNN. 

2:29 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Zelensky says US secretary of state and defense secretary will visit Kyiv on Sunday

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jonny Hallam in Atlanta

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pose for a group photograph with Australian Minister of Defense Peter Dutton and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pose for a group photograph with Australian Minister of Defense Peter Dutton and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv tomorrow.

"I don't think this is a secret that people from the US are coming to us tomorrow, State Secretary Mr. Blinken and the defense secretary (Lloyd Austin) who are coming to us," Zelensky said at a press conference held in an underground subway station in Kyiv.

Zelensky also said, "we will be expecting, when the security will allow, the President of the United States to come and to talk to us."

CNN has reached out to the US Department of Defense and Department of State for comment. The White House declined to comment on the potential trip.

US President Joe Biden said last week that he was still working with his team to determine whether he should dispatch a senior member of his administration to Ukraine.

On Sunday, many Ukrainians will observe Easter, in accordance with the Julian calendar.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Zelensky in Kyiv on April 9.

2:21 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

A Q&A with Navalny's right-hand woman

From CNN's Janelle Davis

CNN spoke with Maria Pevchikh, the head of the investigative department for Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. She's also an executive producer of CNN's film "Navalny."

Here’s what she said: 

Q: What can Navalny's story tell us about Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime, as we watch this war that they started?

A: It's a pretty good prequel. It explains a lot, actually. This film gives a lot of context and it explains how we ended up at this point in time and where Putin is invading countries and killing people, and kind of gets away with it.

Q: You've been keeping the Anti-Corruption Foundation running since Navalny was arrested. Why is it important to keep this work going?

A: It's not only me. There are dozens of other people who work with us. 

It's a matter of principle for us just continue our work despite the fact that Alexey is in prison. This is exactly what Putin wanted to happen. Putin wanted to imprison Navalny and destroy his work – stop our investigations, stop our political work, stop everything. For us, it is a matter of principle to show Vladimir Putin and whoever is responsible for this that this is not going to work. That we're going to continue our work and we're going to work harder and more than we did before. And we intend to keep going as long as it takes. 

Q: As the head of investigations at this foundation, what have you uncovered recently? 

A: This month, we’ve done two. There was an investigation that we did about the yacht Scheherazade. It is parked somewhere in Italy, and it has no owner. I think it is the 11th or 12th most expensive yacht in the world. No one knows to whom it belongs to. In our investigation, we proved that it belongs to Vladimir Putin. 

And last week, we published an investigation about Valery Gergiev, a Russian conductor and classical musician, who is very famous and a frequent guest at places like the Metropolitan Opera and Grand Opera. He is not only a very famous musician, but a prominent supporter of Putin and Putin's war. So, we did a big investigation into how Valery Gergiev gets paid for publicly whitewashing Putin abroad. 

Q: Navalny was recently sentenced to more time in prison. What do you think the future holds for him? Will he be able to get out of this prison?

A: I think that those numbers mean nothing. He can be sentenced to nine years to 99 years to 900 years. It is virtually meaningless.

Navalny’s case is purely political. Vladimir Putin decided to throw him into jail indefinitely. So as many people say, Navalny's sentence is essentially a life sentence. The question is whose life it will be? I'm pretty sure that Navalny is going to stay in prison probably until Putin leaves the office, until Putin is removed from power. Our mission is to make sure that this day comes as quickly as possible and Alexey is out of prison as soon as possible. 

Q: We learn in this documentary what Navalny's vision is for Russia, what he imagined the future will be. Do you expect that Russia will ever come to fruition? 

A: Absolutely. That's the plan. That's what we are working on for many years. It would be strange if we did something for a decade that we didn't believe in and we didn't believe that it was possible. 

I am convinced that the so-called “beautiful Russia of the future” – this is how Alexey refers to it – it is indeed possible. It is achievable and attainable, and yes, it will take a lot of effort and a lot of work to make sure that it materializes but there are so many people, so many Russians who are willing to do this work, who are willing to risk their life, their careers, their everything, just to make sure that Russia one day becomes a free and democratic country. 

Tune in tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET to watch the CNN Film “Navalny” on CNN. 

3:57 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Zelensky: Ukraine will stop negotiations if Russia kills people in Mariupol and organizes "pseudo" referendums

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Adrienne Vogt

Russian military vehicles move in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, on Saturday, April 23.
Russian military vehicles move in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, on Saturday, April 23. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that if Ukrainians in the besieged city of Mariupol are killed by Russian forces, and if Russia organizes "pseudo" referendums in occupied territories, Ukraine will stop negotiations with the Russian side. 

Zelensky also reiterated his willingness to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying "I don't have a right to be afraid" as the Ukrainian people have shown they are not afraid of the Russian military. 

"As for the topic of the meeting with the president of Russia, yes, I would like to start to finalize the war. There is a diplomatic way, and there is the military way. So any healthy and sane person always chooses diplomatic way, because he or she knows even if it's hard, it may stop the losses of thousands, of tens of thousands. And with such neighbors, hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of victims," he said, via translated remarks, while holding a press conference in an underground subway station.

While Zelensky said he's "not afraid" to meet with Putin, it's difficult to trust what Russia says.

"There is no trust to Russia. Those are not synonyms, those are antonyms: Russia and trust. Because they're just saying something, and their words do not coincide with actions," he said.

Zelensky said possible future negotiations in Turkey depend on Putin, and the Ukranian president reiterated his willingness to participate in talks. 

Zelensky also said Kyiv is "in permanent contact" with Ukrainians in Mariupol but couldn't share details about the messaging. "These are our people and our town," he said. 

Zelensky said eight people, including a baby, were killed in missile strikes in the southern port city of Odesa on Saturday.

12:50 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Ukraine claims strike on command post kills 2 Russian generals, according to military intelligence service

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Kostan Nechyporenko

The Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine issued a statement Saturday claiming that a strike on a Russian command post in the southern Kherson region killed two Russia generals.

"On April 22, 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine struck a devastating blow at a forward command post of the 49th Combined Arms Army of Russian occupation troops located a short distance from the battle line in the Kherson region," the statement said. "The result: The Field Control Point of the 49th Combined Arms Army was destroyed. Two occupier generals were eliminated, and one was seriously wounded and evacuated in critical condition."

CNN could not immediately verify that claim or that casualties may have been inflicted on that unit. Several Russian generals have been killed in Ukraine, with military observers and analysts saying that communication issues and a top-down command style have forced Russia's top officers to move forward to resolve tactical issues.

The Russian defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for​ comment. 

12:18 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

"I want to see the sun": Women and children in Azovstal steelworks bunker for months as Mariupol besieged

From CNN's Sarah Diab

A woman holding a child speaks as they take shelter in a bunker of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine in this image released on April 23. A portion of this photo has been blurred by CNN to protect identity.
A woman holding a child speaks as they take shelter in a bunker of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine in this image released on April 23. A portion of this photo has been blurred by CNN to protect identity. (Azov Battalion/Reuters)

For women and children stuck in the bunker of the Azovstal steelworks, daylight is a rarity.

"I want to get out of here and see the sun. We’ve been here for two months now and I want to see the sun," said one boy.

As the barrage of Mariupol continues, the plant is among the last significant holdouts of Ukrainian forces in the city and is sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians.

"Because they switch the lights on and off here. When they rebuild our houses we can live in peace. Let Ukraine win this war because Ukraine is our dear home," he added.

Some background: Ukrainian officials have said more than 100,000 people still remain in Mariupol. The Russian government claims to control the strategic port, but Ukrainian fighters remain holding out in the city's massive Azovstal steelworks.

On Friday, Russian troops also continued to launch air strikes on Mariupol and ​restrict Ukrainian units in the area of the Azovstal plant.

The situation at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol is “close to a catastrophe," Yuriy Ryzhenkov, the CEO of the company that owns the plant, told CNN on Thursday.

“When the war started we had stocked quite a good stocks of food and water in the bomb shelters and the facilities at the plant so for some period of time the civilians, they were able to use it and basically survive on that. Unfortunately all the things, they tend to run out, especially the food and daily necessities. I think now it’s close to a catastrophe there,” Ryzhenkov, who runs Metinvest Holding, told CNN's Julia Chatterly on the "First Move" podcast.

Ryzhenkov said originally there had been enough supplies for two to three weeks but they were almost eight weeks into the blockade. He added that those still there “were not giving up.” 

Evacuation corridor "thwarted": The evacuation of civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol has been "thwarted" by the Russian military, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol said on his official Telegram account Saturday. 

At 11 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) Saturday, at least 200 residents had gathered near a shopping center in Mariupol, waiting to be evacuated to Zaporizhzhia. But "instead of the buses promised by the Russian side, the Russian military approached the Mariupol residents and ordered them to leave because 'there will be shelling now,'" Petro Andriushchenko said. 

12:23 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

"We don't realize how strong we actually are": How Alexey Navalny became Russia's opposition leader

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

Russian opposition leader. Anti-corruption campaigner. Assassination attempt survivor. Prisoner.

Alexey Navalny's crusade against the Kremlin has brought him many labels.

And with the eyes of the world now on Russian President Vladimir Putin amid his brutal invasion of Ukraine, Navalny's message of resistance is finding new weight inside and outside of Russia, even as he remains behind bars.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing," he says, reprising the famous quote of unknown origin, in the new CNN film "Navalny," which premieres this Sunday, April 24, at 9 p.m. ET on CNN. "So don't be inactive."

Here's what you need to know about Navalny's political rise, attempted assassination and future in Russia:

Rise to prominence Navalny first gained visibility in 2008, when he started blogging about alleged corruption within Russian state-run companies. By 2011, he had emerged as one of the leaders of the massive protests that had broken out after allegations of fraud in parliamentary elections.

"Those who have gathered here can kick these thieved ass***** out of the Kremlin tomorrow," Navalny said at one 2011 protest.

He posted his first YouTube video, a step-by-step instruction guide showing how to build an "agitation cube," a boxlike tent structure with his image emblazoned on the side, in July 2013. The clip marked the start of the Russian dissident's campaign to be elected Moscow mayor, and the humble beginning of his YouTube revolution.

But his movement was blunted when he was convicted on embezzlement charges, just as he was preparing to run for mayor. Navalny has denied the charges and called them politically motivated. A retrial in 2017 barred him from running for public office — this time for president against Putin.

While Navalny is most well known as an activist, it's his investigations that have been the biggest thorn in the side of some of Russia's powerful people. His videos about the apparent unexplained wealth of top government officials have particularly raised the ire of the Kremlin.

One video about former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev drew more than 35 million views on YouTube.

But with increased results came increased risks. In March 2017, that video lit a spark under the biggest anti-government protests Russia had seen in years. Thousands joined rallies in almost 100 cities across Russia. Navalny himself was arrested and jailed for 15 days.

The following month, he was splashed with an antiseptic green dye, damaging his vision in one eye.

"Listen, I've got something very obvious to tell you. You're not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong," Navalny said to his supporters in the CNN film.

"We need to utilize this power, to not give up, to remember we are a huge power that is being oppressed by these bad dudes. We don't realize how strong we actually are," he continued.

Poisoning and recovery By 2020, there were signs that the ground was shifting beneath Navalny's opposition movement.

The Kremlin had taken on a more publicly confrontational posture toward its chief critic, culminating in accusations of a poisoning attempt in August of that year.

Navalny had started feeling unwell on a return flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk. Loud groaning can be heard in video footage apparently recorded on the flight he took. More video apparently recorded through the airplane window showed an immobile man being taken by wheeled stretcher to a waiting ambulance.

Navalny was treated at a Berlin hospital, and the German government later concluded he had been poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.

A joint investigation by CNN and the group Bellingcat implicated the Russian Security Service (FSB) in Navalny's poisoning, piecing together how an elite unit at the agency had followed Navalny's team throughout a trip to Siberia, when Navalny fell ill from exposure to Novichok.

The investigation also found that this unit, which included chemical weapons experts, had followed Navalny on more than 30 trips to and from Moscow since 2017. Russia denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning. Putin himself said in December that if Russian security services had wanted to kill Navalny, they "would have finished" the job.

Nevertheless, several Western officials and Navalny himself have openly blamed the Kremlin.

"It's impossible to believe it. It's kind of stupid that the whole idea of poisoning with a chemical weapon, what the f**k?" Navalny says in the new CNN film. "This is why this is so smart, because even reasonable people they refuse to believe like, what? Come on ... poisoned? Seriously?"

News that Navalny had fallen gravely ill sent a fresh shock wave through Russian society, raising worrying parallels with some of the more brazen political killings in Russia's recent past.

Western governments, independent researchers and Russia watchers have noted a consistent pattern of Russian state involvement in assassinations both inside Russia and abroad.

Click here to read the full story.

Tune in tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET to watch the CNN Film “Navalny” on CNN.