April 1, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Simone McCarthy, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Sana Noor Haq, Sara Spary and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022
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2:30 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Towns in Luhansk region hit by heavy shelling, regional military governor says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Several towns in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region have been hit by "heavy shelling" from Russian forces, the regional military governor said on Friday.

Some of the towns and cities struck include Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Lysychansk, Kreminna and Ivanivka, Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration said in a statement.

"Two people died in Severodonetsk, residents of Lysychansk and Toshkivka were injured, four people were rescued," he said.
"There is no centralized water supply in Rubizhne, Popasna, Severodonetsk, part of the Hirske community and in Lysychansk. Twenty-eight settlements remain without gas supply and 22 without electricity." 

Ukrainian forces had also fought off attempts by Russian troops to bypass their positions near the settlements of Popasna and Novotoshkivske, Haidai said in a separate statement.

Some context: Ukrainian military governors in the country's east also reported heavy shelling on Thursday amid an apparent shift by the Russian military to redirect military efforts to the Donbas region. Haidai said earlier this week efforts had been underway to evacuate civilians from small towns in his region, even without such agreements with the Russian side.

2:15 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Ukrainian deputy defense minister: Russia is "trying to concentrate" missile systems in Belarus

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Ukraine's deputy defense minister said Russia is "trying to concentrate" missile systems in southeastern Belarus for potential use against Ukraine.

The assessment comes despite Russia's recent claims of a de-escalation around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

"The enemy is not abandoning its plans to completely capture the Donetsk and Luhansk regions," Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said late Thursday in televised remarks.
"He is also encroaching on the Kharkiv region and trying to strengthen his position, to regroup troops."

Ukrainian forces are seeing Russian missile systems being sent near Gomel city in Belarus, Maliar said.

"The enemy is trying to concentrate them there, apparently due to plans to launch missile strikes or use them as a tool for blackmail and intimidation. Therefore, the territory of Belarus continues to be actively used by Russia to carry out aggression," she said.

Asked if she expected to see continued missile strikes on Ukrainian territory, Maliar said, "We have to be ready for this. The war continues. And it should be said that the enemy is not slowing down. Rocket attacks, their intensity is all the same as it was, sometimes even increasing."

Some context: NATO's chief warned that Russian forces are not withdrawing, but are repositioning as they maintain pressure on Kyiv and other cities. Ukrainian and US officials have also said Russians may be regrouping in Belarus.

1:01 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Analysis: Western spy agencies weaponize intelligence in attempt to undermine Putin

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

Western intelligence agencies are waging a psychological war over Ukraine directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an expert at the genre, who is now effectively taking a dose of his own medicine.

The United States and its allies are painting a picture of a bogged down, demoralized and dysfunctional Russian military taking disastrous losses on the battlefield, and are simultaneously conjuring a vision of growing political tension inside the Kremlin.

They claim the Russian leader is isolated, poorly advised and lacking real intelligence on just how badly the war is going.

Western governments are preventing Putin from defining the narrative of the war.

It is a tough position for a Russian leader who has often deployed information warfare himself, notably while meddling in US and European elections.

The remarkable detail of the declassified intelligence assessments must also be especially galling to Putin, a former KGB officer and intelligence chief. And they leave open the possibility that Western intelligence agencies have the capacity to see deep into the Kremlin's war effort and internal politics, which is likely to infuriate the Russian leader and could open further cracks in his regime.

Read the full analysis here:

12:33 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Russia's Sergey Lavrov set to meet India's Narendra Modi in New Delhi

From CNN's Esha Mitra and Vedika Sud

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in New Delhi, India, on Thursday March 3.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in New Delhi, India, on Thursday March 3. Eypress Images/Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — who arrived in New Delhi on Thursday — is set to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

A senior Indian government official familiar with preparations for the talks said Modi will reiterate and stress the need for a cessation of hostilities and sovereignty as inviolable.

Lavrov will also meet Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar.

View from the US: Ahead of Lavrov’s visit to India, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that every country has its own relationship with Russia.

The US was not seeking to change that, but was looking for countries to speak “loudly against (Russia’s) unjustified, unprovoked, premeditated aggression, calling for an end to the violence, using the leverage that countries, including India, have to those ends,” Price said.
“There are countries that by dent of their long-standing relationships with the Russian Federation are going to have in some ways even more leverage than countries closer to us will."

UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss also met with Jaishankar on Thursday, repeatedly pointing out how countries across the world have stepped up in denouncing Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Some context: India has declined to take a stance on the conflict in Ukraine and has abstained from multiple United Nations votes. India has welcomed several foreign leaders to the country this week with various discussions on Ukraine.

Read more about Lavrov's visits to China and India here:

12:29 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

PM Scott Morrison: Australia will send armored vehicles to Ukraine after Zelensky’s request

From CNN’s Angus Watson and Sophie Jeong

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers an address to the Federal Budget Lunch in Sydney, Friday, April.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers an address to the Federal Budget Lunch in Sydney, Friday, April. (Flavio Brancaleone/AAP Image/Reuters)

Australia will send locally produced armored vehicles to Ukraine after a request from President Volodymyr Zelensky, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

Morrison did not say when or how many vehicles — known as Bushmasters — would be sent to Ukraine.

“We're not just sending our prayers, we're sending our guns, we're sending our munitions, we're sending our humanitarian aid, we're sending all of this and body armor,” Morrison said.
“We're going to be sending our armored vehicles, our Bushmasters as well. And we’re flying them over there on our C-17s.”

Zelensky appealed for the armored vehicles while speaking to Australia’s parliament via video link on Thursday, saying “we have to keep those who are fighting against this evil armed.”

“You have very good armed personnel vehicle, Bushmaster, that could help Ukraine substantially, and other pieces of equipment that could strengthen our position in terms of armament,” Zelensky said. “If you have an opportunity to share this with us we would be very grateful."

Zelensky also called for further sanctions on Russia.

Some context: Australia has previously provided military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and also announced a ban on exports of alumina and aluminum ore to Russia. Russia relies on Australia for nearly 20% of its alumina needs, according to the Australian government.

12:00 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Fourteen tons of food and medicine were confiscated by Russian forces along a humanitarian corridor on Thursday, a Ukrainian minister said, as focus remains on efforts to get aid in -- and Ukrainians out -- of bombarded areas.

Here are the latest developments in the war on Ukraine:

  • Confiscated aid: Iryna Vereshchuk, the Ukrainian minister of reintegration of temporarily occupied territories said some evacuation buses en route to Mariupol were held at a Russian checkpoint and 14 tons of humanitarian aid bound for Melitopol was confiscated by Russian troops on Thursday.
  • Evacuation corridors: Russian forces said they will reopen the evacuation corridor from besieged Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday at the request of French and German leaders. More than 100,000 civilians are trapped in the southern city, Ukrainian officials say, which has suffered weeks of Russian bombardment.
  • Shift to the east: Ukrainian officials reported heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, particularly in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of the Donbas and around the northeastern city of Kharkiv, amid an apparent shift by Russia to redirect military efforts to the Donbas region. NATO's chief warned that Russian forces are not withdrawing, but are repositioning as they maintain pressure on Kyiv and other cities. Ukrainian and US officials say Russians may be regrouping in Belarus.
  • Troops from Georgia: Russia is redeploying some of its forces from the country of Georgia to reinforce its invasion of Ukraine, British military intelligence said. Russian troops have been stationed in Georgia following Russia's 2008 invasion of the former Soviet republic on its southwestern border. 
  • Talks to resume Friday: Ukraine's next round of negotiations with Russia will resume online on April 1, the head of the Ukrainian delegation said. But Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told CNN he has a “very, very small portion of optimism” following diplomatic negotiations in Istanbul earlier this week.
  • EU-China Summit: Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang will meet with European Union leaders in an online summit on Friday, as China faces pressure to condemn the Russian invasion. The war in Ukraine will be a "main focus" of the summit, the European Council said.
  • Rubles for Russian gas: According to a newly signed decree, gas buyers from "unfriendly countries" will need to open and pay from ruble accounts in Russian banks, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday. France, Germany and the UK said they will not pay for Russian gas in rubles.

8:30 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Ukrainian officials say humanitarian convoys were stopped and raided by Russian forces. Here's what we know

Russian forces said they will reopen the evacuation corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday. According to Ukrainian officials, the convoys ran into several issues on Thursday, including Russian troops confiscating aid and blocking buses.

Here's what we know:

  • The Russian Defense Ministry said the military will reopen the humanitarian corridor from the southern city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on April 1 at the request of the leaders of France and Germany.
  • The corridor will open from 10 a.m. Moscow time and Russian troops will set up an intermediate point in the southern city of Berdiansk, the ministry said.
  • France said the evacuation corridor on Thursday was “insufficient” to allow rescue from Mariupol.
  • Ukrainian minister Iryna Vereshchuk said about 100,000 civilians remained trapped in the city, which has suffered weeks of bombardment from Russian forces.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is preparing to facilitate the safe passage of civilians from Mariupol.
"It is desperately important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it," the ICRC said.

Aid confiscated, buses stopped:

  • Russian forces on Thursday confiscated 14 tons of humanitarian aid from buses bound for Melitopol in southern Ukraine, according to Vereshchuk, the Ukrainian minister of reintegration of temporarily occupied territories.
  • Vereshchuk said the food and medication was loaded on 12 buses.
  • Russian forces also blocked 45 buses going to Berdiansk on Thursday en route to Mariupol, she added.
"We are negotiating for the buses to be returned and for the Melitopol residents tomorrow to evacuate using these buses," she said.

Evacuations:

  • 1,458 people reached Zaporizhzhia in their own cars on Thursday, Vereshchuk said.
  • 631 of them escaped from Mariupol.
  • 827 were from Berdiansk, Enerhodar, Melitopol, Polohy, Huliapole and Vasylivka in the Zaporizhzhia region.

12:07 a.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Zelensky removes two top Ukrainian generals, says he does not have "time to deal with all the traitors"

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Hira Humayun

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/YouTube)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/YouTube)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he removed two top Ukrainian generals, calling them "antiheroes" in his nightly address posted to social media on Thursday night.

"Today another decision was made regarding antiheroes. Now I do not have time to deal with all the traitors. But gradually they will all be punished," he said.

The generals — former chief of the Main Department of Internal Security of the Security Service of Ukraine, Naumov Andriy Olehovych, and the former head of the Office of the Security Service of Ukraine in the Kherson region, Kryvoruchko Serhiy Oleksandrovych — have been stripped of their rank.

“Those servicemen among senior officers who have not decided where their homeland is, who violate the military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people as regards (to) the protection of our state, its freedom and independence, will inevitably be deprived of senior military ranks. Random generals don't belong here!” Zelensky said.
9:21 p.m. ET, March 31, 2022

Ukrainian minister: Russian forces took 14 tons of humanitarian aid

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Hira Humayun

Russian forces on Thursday confiscated 14 tons of humanitarian aid from buses bound for Melitopol in southern Ukraine, according to Iryna Vereshchuk, the Ukrainian minister of reintegration of temporarily occupied territories.

Vereshchuk said the food and medication was loaded on 12 buses.

"This is the price for the agreed corridors and for the Red Cross' guarantees that the corridors will be provided and working," Vereshchuk said. "We are negotiating for the buses to be returned and for the Melitopol residents tomorrow to evacuate using these buses."

Vereshchuk said 1,458 people reached Zaporizhzhia in their own cars on Thursday, with 631 of them escaping the besieged city of Mariupol and 827 coming from Berdiansk, Enerhodar, Melitopol, Polohy, Huliapole and Vasylivka in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Russian forces also blocked 45 buses going to Berdiansk on Thursday en route to Mariupol, she added.

Russia will reopen the evacuation corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday at the request of French and German leaders, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday.