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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11:53 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Mariupol evacuation "thwarted" by Russian military, Ukrainian city official says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv and Radina Gigova in London 

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. 

The Russian military brought buses to another location about 200 meters away from the agreed evacuation point, and when residents had already been loaded on the buses, they were told they'll be evacuated to the city of Dokuchaevsk, "i.e. in the occupied territories," Andriushchenko said. 

"People were not given the right to leave the bus. When asked why, the answer was 'nationalists fired on the evacuation point.' That is another lie," Andriushchenko said. 

"Yes, once again, the Russians disrupted the evacuation. Brazenly using the efforts of Mariupol residents to return home and the honesty of the Ukrainian army in a ceasefire to organize their own plans," he added. 

The Ukrainian parliament also tweeted that the evacuation was "disrupted."

"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 parliament's official account. 

12:58 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

At least 5 reported killed in missile strikes on southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, according to official

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

A damaged building in Odesa after a reported missile strike, on Saturday, April 23.
A damaged building in Odesa after a reported missile strike, on Saturday, April 23. (Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Five civilians died and 18 were wounded in Russian missile strikes on the southern port city of Odesa, according to a senior Ukrainian official, as another official denounced them as "Easter gifts from Putin."

"Five Ukrainian citizens were killed and 18 wounded," Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said in a statement. "These are only those who were found. And most likely, there will be more."

Yermak said one of the dead was a 3-month-old baby, adding: "A child who had to celebrate his first Easter with his parents. Nothing is sacred. Absolutely. Evil will be punished."

Many Ukrainians celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, with Easter Sunday falling this year on April 24.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the minister of internal affairs of Ukraine, said Russian forces launched at least six cruise missiles at Odesa.

"City residents heard the blasts in different districts of the city. These were the rockets strikes as well as the work of our air-defense system," he said.

Gerashchenko added that at least one missile had landed and exploded, residential buildings were hit and one person was burned inside their car in the yard of one of the buildings.

In a statement on Telegram, Odesa City Council Deputy Petro Obukhov called the missile strikes "Easter gifts from Putin." 

​Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the strikes, saying, "The only aim of Russian missile strikes on Odesa is terror. Russia must be designated a state sponsor of terrorism and treated accordingly. No business, no contacts, no cultural projects. We need a wall between civilization and barbarians striking peaceful cities with missiles."

Ukrainian officials have warned of potential Russian attacks during Easter holiday observances in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently claimed Russian forces have "liberated" the Azov Sea port of Mariupol, although Ukrainian defenders are holding out in a massive steel works in the city. 

Ukraine's Air Command South said in a separate statement that missiles also struck a military facility and were launched by Russian bombers:

"Today ... the air defense group of the South Air Command conducted combat operations to destroy enemy cruise missiles launched by Russia's TU-95 strategic aircraft from the Caspian Sea," the statement said. "During the engagement, warriors of anti-aircraft missile units destroyed two enemy cruise missiles (preliminary X555 or X101), which struck the city of Odesa and two operational-tactical level UAVs, which presumably corrected the trajectory of cruise missiles and placed active obstacles to the air-defense system of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."

11:07 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Navalny continues to speak out behind bars

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

While in prison, Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny used social media to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine, advocating for anti-war protests across the country as "the backbone of the movement against war and death," according to Reuters.

In a tweet, Navalny said: "I am very grateful to everyone for their support. And, guys, I want to say: the best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions. Any activity against the deceitful and thievish Putin's regime. Any opposition to these war criminals."

Thousands in Russia have been detained for anti-war demonstrations in the weeks since, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg. 

One young woman CNN met on the margins of the first night of protest last month was near tears explaining that she loves Russia but not her leader, and so has concluded she must leave the country.

There is real frustration in that generation, but they are a minority — less than 10% of the nation.

​Indeed, the latest polling by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), a state-owned but nevertheless internationally respected organization, found that 68% of people say they support the decision to carry out the "special military operation," which Putin had announced alongside false accusations of Nazism and genocide in Ukraine; 22% oppose it and 10% had difficulty answering.

It is a sobering assessment that when Putin puts his finger in the wind of public opinion, he can be reasonably sure it is blowing in the direction he instructed his state organs to set it.

"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 airing Sunday.

"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 said.

Click here to read the full story.

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

11:05 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Russian strike hits gas pipe in Dnipropetrovsk region, according to regional head

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said Saturday that a Russian strike hit a gas pipe on the outskirts of a village in the region.

"We have an 'arrival' in the Dnieper district," Reznichenko said on Telegram. "The rocket landed on the outskirts of a village and left a huge funnel more than 4 meters deep in the ground. A low-pressure gas pipe was damaged. Specialists are at work on the scene."

Rezhnichenko said there were no casualties.

"The occupiers continue to target 'strategic' targets," he said. "'Demilitarize' our fields and gardens."

11:00 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Europe discussing sixth round of sanctions, including hit on Russian energy, EU Commission official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis speaks with the media in Washington on Thursday April 21.
European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis speaks with the media in Washington on Thursday April 21. (Cheriss May/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Europe is discussing a sixth round of sanctions on Russia, including a hit on Russia's energy market, a top official from the European Commission and Lithuania’s finance minister said on Friday.

European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said one of the issues under consideration concerns an oil embargo. There have been discussions about “smart sanctions” that might include tariffs rather than a full embargo at first.

“So there may be some nuances, but this work is ongoing,” Dombrovskis told reporters in Washington, DC. 

In a separate interview with CNN in the US capital, Lithuanian Finance Minister Gintarė Skaistė said she discussed a possible next tranche of sanctions with US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.  

"We are always offering to include in the sanctions the energy sector, especially oil,” as well as “additional sanctions to the financial sector of Russia," Skaistė said.

Skaistė said the sanctions must be coordinated for them to have an impact. “If we won’t agree on the sanctions together, the United States with all Western allies, it won't work,” she said.

Dombrovskis said that “technically speaking, approval of sanctions can be very quick view, can be done in a matter of one or two days.”

“The question here is basically is that sanctions require unanimity among member states, so those political discussions are ongoing in parallel, so it's important to reach unanimous political agreement,” he said.

Skaistė said it was too early to say when there will be agreement on that next round of sanctions. She noted that there is both a shorter-term and longer-term goal for the sanctions: to draw Russian President Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table and to weaken Russia’s economy so it is unable to reinforce its military.

“If there will be no possibilities to reinforce their army, we would like to think that there will be no war in Europe,” she said.

Dombrovskis said it is important that existing sanctions are actually enforced, noting they are working with EU member states as well as the broader international community.

“It's a fact that not all countries have joined those Western sanctions,” he said, noting that Beijing is “hedging its bets,” and they are trying to nudge China and other nations “to be closer to our approach to Russia.” 

Skaistė said they are also focused on helping Ukraine’s government survive in the shorter-term, and in the longer-term how to rebuild Ukraine more efficiently, which she believes “should be closely engaged with the process of Ukraine's accession to European Union.”

Both Skaistė and Dombrovskis expressed concern about Putin’s future targets if he is not decisively stopped in Ukraine.  

Skaistė told CNN that Russia is trying to impose its influence on neighboring countries, noting it’s “not the first time.”

“Russian propaganda, certain authorities, representatives are not making a secret that Russia plans to go further and if we do not stop them in Ukraine, they will be invading other neighboring countries,” Dombrovskis said, calling it not only an attack on Ukraine but on European security more broadly. 

Asked if Europe would respond with the same unity if Moldova were attacked by Russia, Dombrovskis said they needed to focus on Ukraine right now, “because Putin will go as far as we will let him to go.”

CNN's Kylie Atwood contributed reporting to this post.

10:15 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Ukrainian government announces curfews for Easter weekend

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

A boy paints an Easter egg in the traditional style during a lesson for children for the upcoming Easter holiday in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 22.
A boy paints an Easter egg in the traditional style during a lesson for children for the upcoming Easter holiday in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 22. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

The Ukrainian government announced new curfews for Easter weekend amid warnings from authorities about the potential for increased Russian military activity during holiday celebrations. 

Many Ukrainians celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, with Easter Sunday falling this year on April 24.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, announced the curfews in a statement on Saturday. Curfew hours will be in place from 7 p.m. local time Saturday until 5 a.m. local time Sunday in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, all of which have seen active fighting. 

In other regions of Ukraine, including the capital of Kyiv, curfew will run from 11 p.m. local time on Saturday until Sunday at 5 a.m.

Earlier this week, officials in Luhansk and Sumy regions urged residents to attend virtual services online, saying that possible Russian "provocations" could happen and that many churches have been destroyed as well.

9:13 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Russian missile strike hits Odesa, according to city

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

A Russian missile strike hit Ukraine's southern port city of Odesa, the city's official Telegram channel said Saturday.  

"A missile strike was launched in Odesa," the statement said. "Infrastructure facilities were hit. Do not share photos and videos, do not help the enemy. The information is being clarified."

The purported strike comes as top Russian military officials revealed that the goal of the invasion of Ukraine is to take "full control" over southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region.

Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekaev, the acting commander of Russia's Central Military District, 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 TASS, a Russian state news agency.

8:59 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

How to watch the CNN film "Navalny"

From CNN's Foren Clark and Janelle Davis

What is it about?

The CNN film “Navalny” follows Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who was poisoned in August 2020 with a nerve agent during a flight to Moscow. The film paints an intimate portrait of one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics and takes viewers inside the harrowing search for answers following his poisoning. 

When and where can I watch it?

Sunday, April 24, at 9 p.m. ET on CNN

How long is the film?

98 minutes 

Who is Navalny?

Navalny is a Russian opposition leader, Kremlin critic and activist. He has been a prominent organizer of street protests and has exposed corruption in the Russian government on social media.

He created the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a nonprofit organization that investigates corruption among high-ranking Russian government officials.

In March, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in a maximum-security jail, according to the Russian state-owned news agency TASS, after being convicted on fraud charges over allegations that he stole from his Anti-Corruption Foundation. The Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported that Navalny will appeal the guilty verdict, according to his lawyer.

Who made the film?

Daniel Roher directed the documentary.

“I want audiences to be reminded that bad guys win if people stop caring and stop paying attention, whether it be authoritarians rising in Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, China — or the US,” said Roher. “Alexey wants to remind us that we cannot be inactive. I want people to focus on that when they think about Alexey.”           

8:41 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shop following a Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Friday April 22.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shop following a Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Friday April 22. (Felipe Dana/AP)

Russian forces are continuing their assault across the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, with Ukrainian officials reporting heavy shelling and civilian casualties in cities, including Kharkiv, Popasna and Mykolaiv.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian minister announced an evacuation corridor from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol would open, following a brief halt earlier because of security concerns.

Here are the latest developments:

Russia takes small towns but makes "no major gains," say UK officials: Russia has captured dozens of small towns and settlements in its assault on the eastern Donbas region, and Ukrainian officials describe continued heavy fighting throughout Donetsk and Luhansk there. A situation report by the UK's Ministry of Defense, however, said on Saturday that Russian forces had made "no major gains" in the past 24 hours, in the face of Ukrainian counterattacks. Ukrainian air and sea defenses have also been able to stop the progress of Russian air and maritime forces, the ministry added in a post on social media.  

New plans for evacuations from Mariupol: Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced an evacuation corridor would open on Saturday, with a focus on moving "women, children and the elderly" from Mariupol to safer areas. In a statement on Telegram, Vereshchuk warned of Russian traps, where troops might open a “parallel corridor” and take residents into Russian-controlled territories instead. She urged residents to be vigilant and “not to follow any deceit and provocations” by the Russian side.

Mykolaiv official announces curfew: After Russian forces continued shelling the city of Mykolaiv overnight, Vitaliy Kim, head of the regional military administration there, announced a new curfew of 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. ahead of local Easter services. The announcement comes a day after Hanna Zamazeeva, chief of Mykolaiv's regional council, said that at least 20 people had been injured in the region in the past two days, amid attacks by Russian troops.

Russian forces target civilian infrastructure: Residents in the northeastern city of Kharkiv and Popasna in the east have experienced sustained Russian bombardment. Russian troops fired 56 strikes on civilian infrastructure of Kharkiv and the region, killing two people and wounding 19, according to a Ukrainian military governor. In Popasna, two people also died as Russian forces targeted civilian homes and high-rise buildings, a Ukrainian regional official said.