April 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Joe Ruiz, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes, Simone McCarthy, Amy Woodyatt, Amir Vera, Helen Regan and Andrew Raine, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022
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7:58 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

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

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Olga Voitovych

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.  

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."

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.

8:55 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

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

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

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

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.

7:26 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

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 timely response to Russia's "significant threat."

6:44 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Russian forces continued heavy shelling of Ukrainian cities on eve of Orthodox Easter celebrations, says ombudsman

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Russian forces continued heavy shelling of Ukrainian cities on the eve of Orthodox Easter celebrations, Liudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament's human rights ombudsman, said Sunday.

On the eve of one of the biggest Orthodox holidays, the Russian army continued to actively shell peaceful cities in Ukraine and kill civilians," she said.

Among the strikes Denisova reported were the shelling of the city of Kharkiv, which injured three policemen and one woman, and the shelling of a house in the village of Slatine in Kharkiv region, which killed two men.

Denisova said Russian strikes killed four civilians in the Donetsk region, and a further eight people in the Luhansk region. Three people working in a garden in Zaporizhzhia were killed by Russian artillery on Saturday, she said.

In Kherson region, where Ukrainian officials have warned of Russian preparations to stage a sham independence referendum, Denisova said the situation was "tense."

Russian forces "are shelling the settlements of the region and in the direction of neighboring regions," she said, adding: "Kherson region is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe."

6:31 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Russia is "trying to depopulate the east of Ukraine," says Zelensky administration adviser

From CNN’s Maddie Araujo and Isa Soares in Lviv, Ukraine

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.'"

When asked about the hope Ukraine is still holding out for a visit by US President Joe Biden, Mylovanov said Biden should go to Kyiv since that would help demoralize Russian troops and further isolate Moscow.

Russia has revealed that the goal of its invasion is to take "full control" of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region and to establish a land corridor connecting Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed in 2014.

Ukraine has "repelled numerous Russian assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week," according to an intelligence update from the UK's Ministry of Defence Sunday. 

Mylovanov, who is also president of the Kyiv School of Economics, said Ukraine needs long-range artillery from the U.S. to fight Russia.

He explained that "the terrain is different" in Donbas, so "the tactics of Russian forces (are) different." He added that financial assistance and military training is also needed.

6:14 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

OSCE says several staff have been detained in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

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."

Some context: The SMM is an unarmed civilian division of the OSCE, which is tasked with observing and reporting on conflict zones.

The mission has maintained a presence in Ukraine since 2014 -- at the request of the government -- following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of conflict in the Donbas region.

On March 31, the OSCE SMM’s mandate in Ukraine expired after Russia, which is one of the organization’s 57 participating states, blocked its extension.

The SMM has been operating in an administrative capacity in Ukraine to ensure the security and safety of its staff since April 1, but the OSCE has continued to report on violations of international law by Russian forces in Ukraine.

6:06 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

It's just after 1 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

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. 

The White House has not confirmed the visit, which Zelensky said Saturday would include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

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

Here’s what you need to know.

Expected visit: Zelensky said he was "expecting specific things and specific weapons" from world leaders who come to the country, after announcing that he would meet Blinken and Austin in Kyiv on Sunday.

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

Steel plant under attack: Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were "continuously attacking" the encircled Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Easter Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russia forces had achieved the "liberation" of Mariupol, but ordered his forces to stop short of taking the Azovstal plant, which is the last major bastion of Ukrainian defense in the city. 

Podolyak said the Russian Federation "should think about the remnants of its reputation," urging Russia to announce an Easter truce in Mariupol, open an evacuation corridor and agree on a "special round of negotiations" for exchanging military forces in the city.

Ukraine successfully "repelled" numerous Russian assaults in Donbas: Ukraine has "repelled numerous Russian assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week," the UK Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence update on Sunday. 

"Despite Russia making some territorial gains, Ukrainian resistance has been strong across all axes and inflicted significant cost on Russian forces," the assessment continued, without clarifying whether the resistance was being led by Ukrainian armed forces or civilian groups. 

Moscow’s plan: Russia revealed the goal of its invasion is to take "full control" of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region and to establish a land corridor connecting Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed in 2014.

Humanitarian crisis: An evacuation corridor from the besieged southern city of Mariupol was "thwarted" by Russian forces on Saturday, according to a Ukrainian official. Ukrainian officials have said more than 100,000 people remain in the bombarded city, which the Russian government claims to control. Ukrainian fighters continue to hold out in the city's massive Azovstal steelworks, where civilians have sheltered for weeks and supplies are running low.

Forced deportations: Ukraine officials claimed on Saturday that Russia was forcibly deporting some Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia's Far East region, some 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) from Ukraine. In early April, Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereschuk estimated that some 45,000 Ukrainian citizens had been forcibly deported to Russia since the war began.

Civilian conscription: Ukrainian intelligence has also accused Russia of planning to conscript Ukrainian civilians from the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, according to a Saturday UK military intelligence update. This would be in violation of international law, the UK Ministry of Defense statement said.

5:36 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Two children killed in Donetsk as home destroyed, regional governor says

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

Two children were killed in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk amid Russian fighting, according to the region's governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

In a tweet posted on Sunday Kyrylenko said two girls, aged 5 and 14, died after their family home was destroyed "by Russian occupiers."

Russia has stepped up its offensive in the Donbas region in recent weeks, according to Ukrainian officials, with heavy fighting reported almost daily throughout the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

At least 184 children have been killed and 286 injured since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, according to the latest report from the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which recorded casualties up to 21 April.

5:54 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Russian forces "continuously attacking" Mariupol's encircled Azovstal steel plant, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine is seen on April 22.
The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine is seen on April 22. (Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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

"Orthodox Easter 2022. But right now, RF (the Russian Federation) is continuously attacking the Mariupol Azovstal," he said on Twitter.
"The place where our civilians and military are located is shelled with heavy air bombs and artillery. RF accumulates forces and equipment for the assault. Who gave the order 'not to storm'?"

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russia forces had achieved the "liberation" of Mariupol, but ordered his forces to stop short of taking the Azovstal plant, the last major bastion of Ukrainian defense in the city. 

"RF should think about the remnants of its reputation," Podolyak said, urging Russia to announce an Easter truce in Mariupol, open an evacuation corridor for civilians and agree on a "special round of negotiations" for exchanging military forces encircled in the city.

As the barrage of Mariupol continues, the city's sprawling Azovstal steel plant has become one of the last significant holdouts of Ukrainian forces.

The industrial complex is sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians -- 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."

Yuriy Ryzhenkov, the CEO of the company that owns the plant, told CNN on Thursday that the situation there was "close to a catastrophe."