Live Updates

April 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Putin's war on Ukraine divides Russian Orthodox Church
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What we covered

  • Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were “continuously attacking” the encircled Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol on Easter Sunday. The site has become one of the last significant holdouts of Ukrainian forces in the city, and is sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians.
  • This weekend many Ukrainians attempted to celebrate one of their most important holidays of the year, Orthodox Easter, two months after the country was thrust into a devastating war.
  • A Ukrainian presidential adviser said Russia was “trying to depopulate the east of Ukraine” amid heavy fighting there. Russia previously revealed the goal of its invasion is to take “full control” of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday, making them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since the Russian invasion began.
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US Secretaries Blinken and Austin make unannounced trip to Ukraine to meet Zelensky 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane for departure, Saturday, April 23, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced trip to Kyiv on Sunday where they met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials, making them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since the Russian invasion began. 

Though Zelensky announced the visit in a press conference Saturday, US officials had declined to comment. 

While in Kyiv, Blinken and Austin met Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, and Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky for an extended, roughly 90-minute bilateral meeting, a senior State Department official said.

Blinken said US diplomats would return to Ukraine this week, the senior State Department official said, in a strong message of solidarity from the United States. 

Blinken also relayed that US President Joe Biden would nominate Bridget Brink as US Ambassador to Ukraine, according to the senior State Department official. The post that has been without a confirmed ambassador since Marie Yovanovitch was recalled in May 2019. Brink is the current US ambassador to Slovakia.

In addition, Blinken and Austin discussed the deliveries of recent US military assistance to Ukraine, the ongoing training for Ukrainian soldiers, and the Biden administration’s intention to provide $713 million in additional foreign military financing to help Ukraine transition to NATO-capable systems, according to the senior State Department official and a senior Defense Department official. 

Both officials briefed press who traveled to the region shortly before Blinken and Austin were due to arrive in Kyiv; the traveling US press corps did not travel with the secretaries to the Ukrainian capital.

In the background briefing, the officials made clear that the US military would still not be involved directly in the war. “The President has been very clear there will be no US troops fighting in Ukraine and that includes the skies over Ukraine,” the defense official said.

 “This visit does not portend actual involvement by US forces,” they added.

Leaders of Australia and New Zealand pay tribute to Ukraine on Anzac Day

The Ukrainian flag flies on top of the museum with others to commemorate Anzac Day at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand on April 25.

As thousands gathered across Australia and New Zealand to commemorate Anzac Day on Monday, leaders in both countries paid tribute to the people of Ukraine. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the crowd at a dawn service in the city of Darwin. 

“On this particular day, as we honor those who fought for our liberty and freedom, we stand with the people of Ukraine, who do the same thing at this very moment,” Morrison said. He added that those in Ukraine “sacrifice(d) for something far greater than (themselves),” and shared a “a fierce and protective love of their nation and of their liberty.” 

At a service in neighboring New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged “all who have been affected by war,” stating Ukraine was “a most grim reminder of the fragile nature of peace, and the devastating impact of war on people’s lives.” 

“We may feel a great distance from this conflict, but we are all inextricably linked to what it represents,” Ardern said, calling the invasion of Ukraine “a senseless act of war.”
“It is a threat to the international laws that a nation like ours relies on — but it is also a threat to our sense of humanity. And that makes it a threat to all of us.”

Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Day falls on April 25. On that date in 1915, allied soldiers from Australia and New Zealand landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula during World War One. 

Ukrainian President Zelensky congratulates France's Macron on reelection

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech after his victory, in Paris, on Sunday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his reelection Sunday, calling him a “true friend of Ukraine.”

“I wish him new success for the good of the people. I appreciate his support and I am convinced that we are moving forward together towards new common victories. Towards a strong and united Europe!” Zelensky said in a tweet.

Macron won France’s presidential election, fending off a historic challenge from far-right candidate Marine Le Pen during Sunday’s runoff vote. Macron took 58.55% of the vote, making him the first French president to be reelected in 20 years.

What we know about the situation in Mariupol

A woman walks out of the Svyato-Troitsky church during the Orthodox Easter service, amid Ukraine-Russia conflict, in Mariupol, on April 24.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were “continuously attacking” the encircled Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol on Orthodox Easter Sunday. The site has become one of the last significant holdouts of Ukrainian forces in the city, and is sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians.

Here’s what we know about the situation:

  • Sunday bombardment: Russian forces continued to attack the city on Sunday, Ukrainian Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar said in an Easter message. “The enemy continues to drop aerial bombs, ships fire artillery, cannons fire, enemy tanks continue to hit, infantry tries to assault,” he said.
  • Who is still fighting there: Troops of Azov — originally formed as a nationalist volunteer battalion but subsequently folded into the Ukrainian military — continue to hold out in the besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces. The situation at the plant is “close to a catastrophe,” Yuriy Ryzhenkov, the CEO of the company that owns the plant, told CNN on Thursday
  • What about civilians: Ukrainian officials estimate that 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the devastated city. In the plant civilians have sheltered for weeks and supplies are running low. On Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there were “about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded servicemen there.”
  • “I want to see the sun”: 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.
  • Red Cross: The International Committee of the Red Cross said that “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access” to Mariupol is “urgently needed.” The ICRC said on Sunday it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.” The ICRC has made several attempts to evacuate civilians from the city, saying “each hour that passes has a terrible human cost.”
  • Forcible deportation: Russia has forcibly deported Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia’s Far East region, according to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. Lyudmyla Denisova said 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.
  • Who controls Mariupol? Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russian forces had achieved the “liberation” of Mariupol, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that the city is in Russian control, saying Ukrainian defenders continue to resist there.
  • Zelensky warns Putin: 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. 

New CNN drone footage shows destruction outside of Kyiv

New CNN drone footage shows the extent of destruction in Horenka, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine.

In Horenka, Ukraine, new CNN drone footage shows destruction outside Kyiv, on Sunday, April 24.
In Horenka, Ukraine, new CNN drone footage shows destruction outside Kyiv, on Sunday, April 24.
In Horenka, Ukraine, new CNN drone footage shows destruction outside Kyiv, on Sunday, April 24.

Clarissa Ward on Navalny: "The Kremlin has done everything within its means to try to stop him"

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CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward worked closely with Alexey Navalny and his team to investigate the people behind the poisoning.

She spoke to CNN’s Ana Cabrera about the investigation and the mistakes made by the Russian intelligence team.

Q: Why does he pose such a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he wants him either in prison or dead?

A: A lot of people have been really confused, as to why President Putin has gone to such lengths to prevent Navalny from doing his work. The easy answer, I think, is that he has exposed the rampant corruption in Russia and he has mobilized a huge amount of support online, particularly with young people.

And there’s a sense that President Putin doesn’t have any tolerance for any real political opponents. You might remember that Boris Nemtsov was assassinated just a few hundred meters away from the Kremlin some years ago.

It’s a dangerous business getting involved with opposition in any way, shape or form in Russia. And Alexey Navalny is the single most galvanizing force that the opposition has had in many years. So, I think for those reasons, the Kremlin has done everything within its means to try to stop him.

Q: You worked closely with Navalny and his team as you investigated the assassination attempt against him. What was the most surprising thing you uncovered?

A: I think the most surprising thing, honestly, was to see how Russian Security Services Forces (the FSB) were in many ways very sloppy in their tradecraft.

The extraordinary moment of this documentary is when Navalny actually calls one of his would-be assassins on an open line posing as a senior aide to the National Security Council. And this man, who he speaks to him, actually ends up spilling the beans, believing Navalny, his claim to be the senior administration official, and telling the details of how the poisoning was done – the sprinkling of the poison in his underwear. And it’s this moment where your jaw drops because you realize sometimes there’s an aura of invincibility around Putin’s Russia and this sort of machiavellian slick image that he has cultivated. But we found time and again multiple instances where they were doing things other security services would be shocked at.

To give you one more example, one of the would-be assassins actually made a call — opened his cell phone the night that Navalny was poisoned from a hotel just a few blocks away from where Navalny was. And this is what made it possible for Bellingcat and the Navalny team with us and some others to put together the pieces of the puzzle.

Read more:

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a demonstration in Moscow on September 29, 2019. - Thousands gathered in Moscow for a demonstration demanding the release of the opposition protesters prosecuted in recent months. Police estimated a turnout of 20,000 people at the Sakharov Avenue in central Moscow about half an hour after the start of the protest, which was authorised. The demonstrators chanted "let them go" and brandished placards demanding a halt to "repressions" of opposition protesters. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny dupes spy into revealing how he was poisoned | CNN

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

Russian forces forming for 'offensive' in Kherson region, Kryvyi Rih military chief says

The military head of the south-central city of Kryvyi Rih said Sunday that Ukraine had observed preparations for a possible offensive by Russian forces from the Kherson region, adding defenses were being bolstered in the area.

In televised remarks, Oleksandr Vilkul said Russian forces were “forming an offensive strike formation in our direction in the Kherson region. We are waiting for their possible transition to the offensive in the coming days. But we know more about them than they think; we understand all their plans; and we are fully prepared for any development in the situation.”

Vilkul said the Krivyi Rih garrison was in a state of readiness and had defenses prepared.

“A lot of work continues to help in evacuating people from the frontline zone,” he said. “Kryvyi Rih is providing buses and ambulances. We have provided medical assistance and social workers. But people are going out on bicycles and taking old people and children out in wheelbarrows.”

Earlier this week, a top Russian general said Moscow plans to establish “full control” over southern Ukraine in the second phase of its invasion of Ukraine.

Kremenchuk hit by nine missiles, Ukrainian regional military governor says

Dmytro Lunin, head of the Poltava Regional Military Administration, said Sunday nine Russian missiles struck the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk. 

Most Ukrainians observed Easter celebrations on Sunday. Lunin gave no further details about the consequences of the strikes.

CNN's "Navalny" premieres tonight. So where is he now?

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused of fraud and contempt of court, is seen on a screen via a video link during a court hearing at the IK-2 corrective penal colony in the town of Pokrov in Vladimir Region, Russia March 22.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was sentenced to nine years in a maximum-security jail in March, according to Russian state-owned news agency Tass. He was convicted on fraud charges by Moscow’s Lefortovo court over allegations he stole from his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Navalny, 45, was previously serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a detention center east of the Russian capital after being arrested in February 2021 for violating probation terms, a verdict he said was politically motivated.

After the sentence was announced, Navalny wrote on Twitter: “9 years. Well, as the characters of my favorite TV series ‘The Wire’ used to say: ‘You only do two days. That’s the day you go in and the day you come out.’”

He added: “I even had a T-shirt with this slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist.”

The Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported that Navalny will appeal the guilty verdict, according to his lawyer.

Click here to read the full story.

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

Go behind-the-scenes with the director of CNN's "Navalny"

The new CNN Films documentary “Navalny” chronicles the aftermath of top Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s poisoning, allegedly carried out by Russian agents (a charge the Kremlin denies).

CNN Audio talked with the film’s director, Daniel Roher, about how he was able to obtain intimate access to Navalny and his family, why it’s important to him for Russians to see the movie and what Putin’s response to Navalny can tell us about his invasion of Ukraine. 

Here are some highlights from the Tug of War podcast:

Daniel Roher on what made Navalny a captivating subject: 

Navalny’s greatest asset, I think, is his willingness to talk about anything. There was nothing that was off-limits when we interviewed him. There was nothing that I couldn’t ask him about, that he wouldn’t discuss. And I think that openness really comes through in the film.” 

Daniel Roher on Putin’s response to his documentary: 

“Putin was personally furious about the film and ordered it to be taken down from Russian torrent sites.”  

Daniel Roher on his hopes for Navalny: 

I think if you spend enough time working with Navalny, you learn to have hope and optimism for the future, no matter how bleak things can be. And what I hope is that Alexey Navalny is able to one day get out of prison and that he is able to compete in a competitive, free and fair democratic election for the Russian presidency.” 

Click here to listen to the Tug of War episode.

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

Ukrainian official: Evacuation corridor for Mariupol not opened Sunday

A boy stands near damage and debris in Mariupol, Ukraine on April 24.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that a evacuation corridor for Mariupol was not opened Sunday because the Russian side did not guarantee a ceasefire. 

“We could not open humanitarian corridor for Mariupol, as Russia did not confirm the guarantee of a ceasefire regime,” Vereshchuk said in remarks on national television. “We will try again tomorrow.”

Vereshchuk expressed hope that the United Nations could broker a humanitarian evacuation, saying, “I think the UN should have been and should be the most effective now [in providing evacuation corridors]. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, is going to visit Moscow sometime around April 26. We are not asking anymore, we are demanding the UN ensure a ceasefire regime and providing a humanitarian corridor from Azovstal [a steel factory that is a last stronghold for Ukrainian forces] — it’s important to emphasize this, and from Mariupol as well — because there are currently 1,000 women and children in Azovstal now. Plus 500 or more wounded, 50 of whom require urgent medical care. And this is what Mr. Guterres should say in Moscow if he considers talking about peace.”

Guterres is expected to travel to Moscow Tuesday. The UN secretary-general is also expected to travel next week to Ukraine, where he is expected to meet with President Zelensky on Thursday, according to a UN spokesperson.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Sunday said that “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access” to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is “urgently needed.”

How to watch the CNN film "Navalny"

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.”           

It's 6 p.m. on Sunday in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

An Orthodox priest sprinkles holy water during the Orthodox Easter service next to The Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church damaged by shelling in the village of Peremoha, Ukraine on April 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he will meet top US officials in Kyiv on Sunday, as heavy fighting continues in the east and south of the country over Ukraine’s Easter weekend. 

Meanwhile, many Ukrainians are attempting to celebrate one of their most important holidays of the year, Orthodox Easter, two months after the country was thrust into a devastating war

Zelensky said he was “expecting specific things and specific weapons” from world leaders who come to the country, after announcing that he would meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Kyiv on Sunday.

The White House has declined to comment or confirm the potential trip, which would be the first visit to Ukraine by top US officials since the war broke out.

Here are more of the latest headlines on the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Russian forces continuing attack on Mariupol, Ukrainian commander says in Easter message: In an Easter message, Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said Sunday that Russian forces were continuing to bombard the city of Mariupol, underscoring the need for evacuation of civilians and encircled Ukrainian forces. “Christ is Risen, dear Ukraine,” he said. “Today is a big day but even so, the enemy continues to drop aerial bombs, ships fire artillery, cannons fire, enemy tanks continue to hit, infantry tries to assault.”
  • White House official says to expect more announcements on US assistance to Ukraine: White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said Sunday to expect more announcements on US assistance to Ukraine “in the week ahead,” highlighting the billions of dollars in security aid the US has delivered so far. “We’ve been announcing deliverables, which is a fancy word for things that we are providing to the Ukrainians, to enable their fight just about every day and if not every day, every week, and we will have more to say about that in the week ahead,” Finer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” stressing that US assistance has had a “significant” impact. 
  • Republican congresswoman urges US to restart diplomatic work in Ukraine: Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Illinois, who is the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress, on Sunday urged the US to restart diplomatic work in Ukraine, saying the move would send “a strong message for Ukrainian people.”
  • More than 370,000 Ukrainian refugees are in Germany: Germany’s federal police has recorded 376,124 refugees from Ukraine to date, according to the country’s Interior Ministry. These are predominantly children, women and elderly people, they said in a Sunday tweet.
  • International Committee for the Red Cross says they urgently need “humanitarian access” to Mariupol: The International Committee of the Red Cross said that “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access” to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is “urgently needed.” In a press release Sunday, the ICRC said it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.” Russian forces continued to attack the city on Sunday, Ukrainian Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar said in an Easter message.
  • Melitopol mayor says Putin wants to “kill all of Ukrainian nation”: Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov, who was detained by Russian forces for five days in March, told CNN Sunday that his city is in a “very difficult and dangerous situation.” Russian forces occupied Melitopol, in southeastern Ukraine, within days of the invasion beginning, but the city has seen sporadic protests since. A new mayor was installed in the city, which is under Russian military control, after Fedorov was kidnapped. Fedorov was later released as part of a prisoner exchange. He told CNN’s Boris Sanchez on “New Day” that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal was to “kill all of Ukrainian nation,” starting by occupying its cities.
  • Russia is “trying to depopulate the east of Ukraine,” says Zelensky administration adviser: An adviser to President Zelensky’s administration said Sunday that Russia was “trying to depopulate the east of Ukraine,” amid heavy fighting there. “I think the message they’re sending is very clear,” Tymofiy Mylovanov told CNN’s Isa Soares in Lviv. “If you surrender, like Crimea in 2014, nothing is going to happen to you. If you resist, like Donbas, like the east of Ukraine, you’ll be destroyed. (It) doesn’t matter if you’re military or civilians. So the message Russia is sending is, ‘surrender or be erased.’”
  • OSCE says several staff have been detained in eastern Ukraine: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is working to “facilitate the release” of several of its Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) members who have been “deprived of their liberty in Donetsk and Luhansk,” it said Sunday. “The OSCE is extremely concerned that a number of SMM national mission members have been deprived of their liberty in Donetsk and Luhansk,” it said in a statement posted to Twitter. “The OSCE is using all available channels to facilitate the release of its staff.” The SMM is an unarmed civilian division of the OSCE, which is tasked with observing and reporting on conflict zones.

The new journalism uncovering poisoning and war crimes

If you want to understand Vladimir Putin’s stranglehold on power in Russia, watch the new film “Navalny,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.

Russia’s government has gone to great lengths to sideline the opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who was sentenced to prison after surviving a poisoning attempt.

The film documents the improbable detective work that identified the team of Russian spies who hunted and then tried to kill Navalny, as well as his recovery in Germany and return to Russia, where he was immediately arrested.

I talked to one of the investigators who unmasked the spies, Christo Grozev — who works with the investigative group Bellingcat — about his methods, his new mission documenting war crimes in Ukraine and his views about how the ethics of journalism must change to fight government corruption.

Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, is below:

Catching Russian poisoners with digital breadcrumbs

WHAT MATTERS: In the documentary, you put all these pieces together – from telephone numbers to car registrations and so forth — to figure out who poisoned Navalny. How have you and Bellingcat developed this process of investigation? And what made you apply it to Russia in particular?

GROZEV: We started in a different way, by just piecing together social postings in the context of the initial Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

The first investigation that Bellingcat did by just piecing together available pieces of data from the internet was the downing of (Malaysia Airlines) MH17 in July 2014.

At that time, a lot of public data was available on Russian soldiers, Russian spies, and so on and so forth – because they still hadn’t caught up with the times, so they kept a lot of digital traces, social media, posting selfies in front of weapons that shoot down airliners.

That’s where we kind of perfected the art of reconstructing a crime based on digital breadcrumbs. … But as time went by, sort of the bad actors that we were investigating, they started hiding their stuff better. … By 2016, it was no longer possible to find soldiers leaving status selfies on the internet because a new law had been passed in Russia, for example, banning the use of mobile phones by secret services and by soldiers.

So we had to develop a new way to get data on government crime. We found our way into this gray market of data in Russia, which is comprised of many, many gigabytes of leaked databases, car registration databases, passport databases.

Most of these are available for free, completely freely downloadable from torrent sites or from forums and the internet.

And for some of them, they’re more current. You actually can buy the data through a broker, so we decided that in cases when we have a strong enough hypothesis that a government has committed the crime, we should probably drop our ethical boundaries from using such data – as long as it is verifiable, as long as it is not coming from one source only but corroborated by at least two or three other sources of data.

That’s how we develop it. And the first big use case for this approach was the … poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018 (in the United Kingdom), when we used this combination of open source and data bought from the gray market in Russia to piece together who exactly the two poisoners were. And that worked tremendously.

Click here to read the full story.

Republican congresswoman urges US to restart diplomatic work in Ukraine

Rep. Victoria Spartz of Illinois speaks with CNN on Sunday April 24.

Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Illinois, who is the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress, on Sunday urged the US to restart diplomatic work in Ukraine, saying the move would send “a strong message for Ukrainian people.”

“A lot of countries are actually bringing (diplomatic work) back to Kyiv. The least we can do – actually bring it maybe to Lviv,” Spartz told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “In any job – whether it’s a political job or diplomatic job – you do take some risks. You need to be smart. But also, that’s a part of your job, to do your service. And if you’re not on the ground, it’s very difficult to do your job.”

The US and other countries pulled their diplomats and evacuated embassies and consulates from Kyiv in the days leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shifting them to the western city of Lviv. Those officials were soon moved to Poland, commuting into Lviv, and the State Department suspended all diplomatic services in Lviv just before Russia’s invasion began.

Spartz also called on President Joe Biden to visit Ukraine, saying: “I think we can do it. We’re strong people, we’re a strong country. We definitely can arrange for our people to come here and visit Ukraine.”

The comment comes the same day US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin plan to visit Kyiv.

White House official says to expect more announcements on US assistance to Ukraine 

White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said Sunday to expect more announcements on US assistance to Ukraine “in the week ahead,” highlighting the billions of dollars in security aid the US has delivered so far.   

“We’ve been announcing deliverables, which is a fancy word for things that we are providing to the Ukrainians, to enable their fight just about every day and if not every day, every week, and we will have more to say about that in the week ahead,” Finer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” stressing that US assistance has had a “significant” impact. 

When asked if the US was ready to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, Finer said that the administration continues to look into “additional steps” when it comes to punishing the Kremlin for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 

“I think we’ve been clear that we’re looking at that as we’re looking at a whole range of other additional steps that we could take to hold Russia accountable for the crimes that it’s perpetrating on the ground in Ukraine,” Finer said. 

CNN reported on Monday that the US State Department was looking into adding Russia to the list of countries labelled as state sponsors of terrorism — which include North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria — a move that would further cement the Kremlin’s status as a pariah state.   

Finer also pointed out Russia’s “shifting” war aims since its invasion of Ukraine started two months ago, noting that it is “quite clear” that the Kremlin’s forces have “had to adjust” in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance to focus more on the South and East of the country. 

Asked about whether a further push by the Russians into southern Ukraine would change US strategy, Finer said that the US has remained “nimble.”

“We’ve shown ability to be nimble to adjust our assistance and our approach as the Russian war aims have evolved. And we will continue to do that over time depending on how things evolve on the battlefield,” Finer said. 

On the talks between the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Finer said that Ukrainians should be the “touchstone” in any discussions. 

Asked to confirm whether the US would be sending a high-level delegation to Ukraine, as Zelensky said would be happening, Finer reiterated that the US would not announce such a visit in advance. 

“We’ve also been quite clear that if we were going to take some sort of high-level visit to Ukraine, we would not be announcing that in advance,” Finer said.

A Ukrainian-born US congresswoman traveled to Kyiv to celebrate Easter with her 88-year-old grandmother

Rep. Victoria Spartz, a Republican from Indiana, spoke to CNN’s Dana Bash this morning from Kyiv, Ukraine. Spartz, the first Ukrainian-born representative in the US Congress, said that she traveled to Ukraine to be with family to celebrate Orthodox Easter.

Spartz said that she met with the head of the Ukrainian church in Kyiv during her trip.

She said, “people, you know, even they go through trouble but they try to celebrate” the Easter holiday. She said that she was able to attend Easter church services with her 88-year-old grandmother today. She also has another grandmother, who is 95, that also still lives in Ukraine. Asked if she worries about their safety, Spartz said, “I do.”

“They couldn’t believe after everything Ukraine went through, Stalin, World War II, most of my family was killed,” she said.

Spartz said of her grandmother that she was with earlier today, that her father and mother were shot during World War II and that what’s going on in the country today is “unbelievable” to her.

“The atrocities that are happening in this country, even some man I talked to was crying,” Spartz added. 

“This is so bad. You know, I mean, this is something that’s unbelievable. And the world has to help Ukraine to win this war, bring the peace back to Europe and bring the international order back. That’s the responsibility for us. We need to put more pressure on Russia,” she said.

Turkish president tells Ukrainian counterpart that evacuation of civilians from Mariupol “must be organized”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that an evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol “must be organized.”

During a phone call with President Zelensky on Sunday, Erdogan said, “an evacuation must be organized to evacuate injured and civilians from Mariupol, where the situation is getting sadder every day,” according to a readout from the Turkish Directorate of Communications.

In a tweet Sunday, Zelensky said that “on the eve” of Erdogan’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he stressed to the Turkish leader “the need for immediate evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, including Azovstal, and immediate exchange of blocked troops.”

The two leaders’ remarks echo calls Sunday from the International Committee for the Red Cross to be granted “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access” to Mariupol so that voluntary evacuations of civilians can take place.

Turkey has previously offered to evacuate people trapped in the besieged city by boat. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters in early April that the country can “provide vessel support for evacuations from Mariupol.”

On Sunday, Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s “readiness to provide any help necessary in the negotiation process” between Russia and Ukraine, maintaining that he “has a positive view on the issue of guarantees,” the readout said.

Zelensky said he also raised issues relating to Ukraine’s “defense capabilities and global food security,” highlighting the threat posed by the blockade of navigation in the Black Sea.

View Zelensky’s Twitter thread here:

More than 370,000 Ukrainian refugees are in Germany, says country's Interior Minister

A woman takes a selfie with a group of Ukrainian refugees in front of the St. George Russian Orthodox Monastery in Milmersdorf, Germany on Sunday April 24.

Germany’s federal police has recorded 376,124 refugees from Ukraine to date, according to the country’s Interior Ministry. 

These are predominantly children, women and elderly people, they said in a Sunday tweet.

International Committee for the Red Cross says they urgently need "humanitarian access" to Mariupol

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access” to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is “urgently needed.”

In a press release Sunday, the ICRC said it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.”

Russian forces continued to attack the city on Sunday, Ukrainian Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar said in an Easter message. Troops of Azov – originally formed as a nationalist volunteer battalion but subsequently folded into the Ukrainian military – continue to hold out in the besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces as Ukrainian officials estimate that 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the devastated city.

“Immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access is urgently required to allow for the voluntary safe passage of thousands of civilians and hundreds of wounded out of the city, including from the Azovstal plant area,” the ICRC continued.

The ICRC have made several attempts to evacuate civilians from the city with one of its teams detained overnight by police in early April during one attempt to reach the city. After the team were released, an ICRC spokesperson said the incident showed “how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team.”

“Each day, each hour that passes has a terrible human cost,” the ICRC stressed on Sunday, adding that it “stands ready” to help the parties to the conflict to agree upon voluntary evacuation arrangements. 

Its teams “are in place to facilitate safe passage operations as soon as such agreement is reached and security guarantees are provided,” the ICRC concluded. 

Lviv residents welcome displaced Ukrainians at Easter brunch

A priest delivers a short prayer before making his way around the room blessing the meal during a special Easter Sunday brunch for displaced Ukrainians in Lviv, Ukraine, on April 24.

Orthodox Christians across Ukraine are marking Easter Sunday. But this year’s celebrations have been deeply marred by Russia’s ongoing and brutal invasion.

Today the sun shines brightly in the western city of Lviv – a welcome signal of spring after days of colder temperatures, grey skies and rain. It’s fitting on this most important of holidays, which emphasizes reflection and rebirth.

At a high school in the city center, teachers are putting on a special Easter brunch for displaced Ukrainians who fled here from war-torn parts of the country.

“It’s a great honor for us. I wanted all the people to get together and to have this lunch especially because this is the day when we really hope for our victory. And I do believe that we will win,” principal Svitlana Matys tells CNN.

She explains the school has been providing food and shelter to many in the weeks since the conflict erupted. Today, a priest has come to bless a bountiful buffet of paska (traditional Easter bread), sausages and salads prepared by the school’s staff.

Matys says eight of the teachers worked until 11 p.m. last night – delayed at one point by air raid sirens across the city – to put finishing touches on their offerings and ensure everything was perfect for their guests.  

Shrugging it off, she says: “It was late but when we are at home preparing for this holiday, we do it all night – it’s a habit.”

Tetiana, 73, from Severodonetsk in Luhansk region is seen during special Easter Sunday brunch on Sunday April 24.

It’s a welcomed gesture from those here today, who include 73-year-old Tetiana from Severodonetsk in Luhansk region.

“We feel joy and gratitude for sheltering us. We were provided with all the convenience here and now such a nice holiday was organized for us,” she says.

“Yesterday we went to the church and today we are here. Easter for me is first of all peace. We wish the war to be finished as soon as possible,” she continues as tears started to fall from her eyes.

After mingling among the diners, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi reflects on the significance of celebrating this year.

“For Ukrainians, Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year – it symbolizes resurrection,” he explains. “Always when there are hard times for Ukraine we say: ‘Christ was resurrected, and Ukraine will be resurrected.’ And it’s really a sign, because Ukrainians in their nature are optimistic and believe in kindness.”

Russian forces continuing attack on Mariupol, Ukrainian commander says in Easter message

In an Easter message Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said Sunday that Russian forces were continuing to bombard the city of Mariupol, underscoring the need for evacuation of civilians and encircled Ukrainian forces.  

Palamar added: “We would like to thank those who are trying to help the civilians of Mariupol to evacuate from this dangerous area, with actions, not just words. I thank those who are making every effort to withdraw our military from the encirclement, who were left alone with the overwhelming forces of the enemy.”

The Azov Regiment, sometimes referred to as the Azov Battalion, is a unit that began as an ultra-nationalist volunteer battalion but has since integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces.

Azov troops have been holding out in Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said earlier that Russian forces were “continuously attacking” the encircled Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Easter Sunday.

Ukrainian officials have said around 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the city, which has been ruined by weeks of Russian bombardment.

Ukraine needs support "today, not tomorrow" to "win this war," says Melitopol mayor

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov speaks with CNN on Sunday April 24.

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov told CNN’s Boris Sanchez Sunday that Ukraine urgently needs support to win the war.

“We need support, but what’s important we need it today, not tomorrow. We need it today,” Fedorov said.

Fedorov called on the United States and the European Union specifically, saying he hopes they will give enough support and enough weapons “to win this war.”

Remember: Fedorov was detained by Russian forces for five days in March and was later freed as part of a prisoner exchange.

Melitopol fell to Russian control in early March and a new, pro-Russian mayor was installed. The unelected mayor has since instituted a number of pro-Russian moves, including mandating the broadcasting of Russian news outlets.

Melitopol mayor says Putin wants to "kill all of Ukrainian nation"

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov, who was detained by Russian forces for five days in March, told CNN Sunday that his city is in a “very difficult and dangerous situation.”

Russian forces occupied Melitopol, in southeastern Ukraine, within days of the invasion beginning, but the city has seen sporadic protests since. 

A new mayor was installed in the city, which is under Russian military control, after Fedorov was kidnapped. Fedorov was later released as part of a prisoner exchange.

He told CNN New Day’s Boris Sanchez that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal was to “kill all of Ukrainian nation,” starting by occupying its cities.

The mayor added that Melitopol’s citizens are not able to receive aid:

“We can’t deliver humanitarian aid. We can’t deliver pharmacy. We can’t deliver for emergency services … That’s why it’s a very dangerous situation.”

Fedorov spoke to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, saying that Ukrainians “are not thinking about comfort. They’re thinking about mere survival” and urging European lawmakers “to help Ukraine” through all possible means.

He said that the conflict in Ukraine was “a full-scale war — not only against Ukraine, but against the entire civilized world,” cautioning that “war will come to European cities and households” without an appropriate and time