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Russia invades Ukraine

Analyst says Ukraine's alleged move is one of Biden's worst nightmares
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What we covered

  • As Ukrainian forces retake the greater Kyiv area, more horrors of Russia’s occupation become clear. Civilian bodies were found littering the streets in Bucha, northwest of the capital, following the withdrawal of Russian forces, according to images released by AFP on Saturday.
  • In light of fierce Ukrainian resistance, US intelligence suggests Russia has revised its invasion strategy to focus on taking control of the Donbas and other regions in eastern Ukraine, with a target date of early May. A Ukrainian presidential adviser warned that fighting in those regions in the days ahead “will not be easy.”
  • More than 4,200 Ukrainian civilians were able to flee through multiple evacuation corridors along key routes on Saturday. A Red Cross mission is underway to reach the besieged city of Mariupol, where 100,000 residents remain trapped and local leaders say Russia is not admitting aid.
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Russian assault on Donetsk and Luhansk regions continues: Ukrainian Armed Forces

A view of damage after shelling in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk on March 30. 

The Joint Forces Operation (JFO) of Ukraine’s military said fighting in the southeastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk continued Saturday.

In a press statement, the JFO said six Russian attacks in the region had been successfully thwarted and Ukrainian forces destroyed four Russian tanks, six armored combat vehicles and seven motor vehicles. CNN cannot independently verify the claims. 

“Ukrainian defenders continue defending our land,” the statement read.

Some context: Ukrainian forces are bracing for intensified fighting in the east of the country, as the Russian military – facing stiff resistance – has claimed it is “de-escalating” around Kyiv and shifting focus eastward. US intelligence also suggests Russia has revised its invasion strategy to focus on taking control of the Donbas and other regions in eastern Ukraine, with a target date of early May. 

Civilian bodies found littering streets of Ukrainian town following withdrawal of Russian forces

A man walks with bags of food given to him by the Ukrainian Army in Bucha, Ukraine on April 2.

The bodies of at least 20 civilian men have been found lying strewn across the street in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area in shocking images released by AFP on Saturday. 

The dead, all in civilian clothing, are found in a variety of awkward poses, some face down against the pavement, others facing upwards with mouths open.  

“Three of them are tangled up in bicycles after taking their final ride, while others, with waxy skin, have fallen next to bullet-ridden and crushed cars,” according to AFP journalists who accessed the town after it had been cut off for nearly a month.

One corpse can be seen with his hands tied behind his back with a white cloth.

The Mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, said the dead civilians had received inhumane treatment at the hands of Russian forces.  

“Corpses of executed people still line the Yabluska street in Bucha. Their hands are tied behind their backs with white ‘civilian’ rags, they were shot in the back of their heads. So you can imagine what kind of lawlessness they perpetrated here,” Fedoruk told Reuters on Saturday.  

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the bodies of the men found with hands tied, “were shot dead by Russian soldiers,” in a tweet on Saturday. 

Podolyak added, “these people were not in the military. They had no weapons. They posed no threat. How many more such cases are happening right now in the occupied territories?”

CNN has not been able to independently confirm the details around the men’s deaths.

Russian forces withdrew from several towns near Kyiv in recent days after Moscow’s bid to encircle the capital failed, with Ukraine declaring that Bucha had been “liberated.”

Russian aircraft "still vulnerable" to Ukrainian air defense: British military intelligence

British military intelligence said on Saturday that Ukraine’s air defense capability continues to pose significant challenges to Russian aircraft, despite the invading forces’ continued effort to diminish Ukraine’s air defenses.

“Ukraine continues to provide a significant challenge to Russia Air and Missile operations. As a result, Russian aircraft are still vulnerable to short and medium range air defense systems,” the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) said in an Intelligence Update.

Russia has not been able to obtain control of the air due its inability to find and destroy Ukrainian air defense systems, the ministry said. Thus, this inability has significantly affected Russia’s, “ability to support the advance of their ground forces on a number of fronts,” according to the MOD.

The ministry also reported that there has been significant Russian air activity towards southeastern Ukraine, “likely a result of Russia focusing its military operations in this area.” 

Number of Ukrainians at US-Mexico border seeking US asylum grows

An improvised camp of Ukrainians seeking asylum in the United States is seen on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Mexico on April 2.

Hundreds of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country have arrived at the Mexican border city of Tijuana to seek US asylum and more are expected, a Tijuana city official and a volunteer told CNN on Saturday.

Enrique Lucero, director of migrant affairs for the city of Tijuana, said there were around 1,500 Ukrainians in the city currently and he expected the number to increase to 2,000 by the day’s end.

 “We had a surprising influx in the past four days, mainly because after the conflict we started seeing arrivals as of March 11, and those were arrivals of 30 people, not the large amounts we are seeing today.”

Lucero said he expects all the migrants to enter the United States, but said American authorities have been slow to process them. The city was working to convert a sports facility into a temporary shelter to house all the incoming arrivals, Lucero told CNN.

Inna Levien, an Orange County, California resident who belongs to a group that is spearheading a volunteer effort to assist Ukrainians gathered near the border, told CNN that the number of Ukrainians has quadrupled in the past three days.

A Ukrainian child seeking asylum in the United States is seen inside a bus station on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Mexico on April 2.

Once the migrants arrive at the border, Levien’s group puts them on a list and assigns them a number, that way they don’t have to wait in line the entire time for entry. She said the wait to get across can take more than 24 hours.

The city of Tijuana has been instrumental in providing relief, Levien said. A bus stop was recently converted by the city into a temporary shelter while a network of churches has sprung to help house families as they wait for their turn to be processed, Levien added.

CNN has reached out to the State Department and US Customs and Border Protection but did not receive a response Saturday.

Some context: The Department of Homeland Security is allowing Ukrainians, on a case-by-case basis, to be exempted from Trump-era pandemic restrictions on the US-Mexico border. Those restrictions will end on May 23, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. The US will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others fleeing Russia’s aggression, the Biden administration announced last month.

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.

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

A man walks in the rubble of a destroyed building in the eastern Ukraine city of Kharkiv on April 2.

In the early morning hours on Sunday in Ukraine, these are the latest developments in the war:

Russia shifting focus to victory by early May in eastern Ukraine, US officials say: Russia has revised its Ukraine war strategy to focus on taking control of the Donbas and other regions in eastern Ukraine with a target date of early May, according to several US officials familiar with the latest US intelligence assessments. 

More than a month into the war, Russian ground forces have been unable to keep control of areas where they have been fighting. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is under pressure to demonstrate he can show a victory, and eastern Ukraine is where he is most likely to achieve that, officials say. US intelligence intercepts suggest Putin is focused on May 9, Russia’s “Victory Day,” according to a US official.

May 9 is a prominent holiday on the Russian calendar, a day on which the country marks the Nazi surrender in World War II with a huge parade of troops and weaponry across Red Square in front of the Kremlin. The officials say Putin wants to celebrate a victory of some kind in his war that day. 

Ukrainian negotiator claims advances in talks with Russia, possibility of ‘direct consultations’ between Zelensky, Putin in future: David Arakhamia, a member of the Ukrainian negotiating team in talks with Russia, said the Russian side has responded positively to Ukrainian positions on several issues.

Arakhamia said there is a possibility of “direct consultations” between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, something he said had been facilitated in part by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

The status of Crimea – annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 – has been a sticking point in potential negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine and most of the international community consider the peninsula to be illegally occupied. The Kremlin consistently says the status of Crimea is settled. 

The Ukrainian side said there had been agreement to suspend negotiations on the status of Crimea for 15 years, but the Russian side has not confirmed, and the Kremlin has publicly reiterated its position Crimea is part of Russia.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said there was no official confirmation of those positions in writing, according to Arakhamia.

However, Arakhamia added: “Orally, as of yesterday, in a video conference, we heard that the Russian side does not object to such [Ukrainian] positions.”

Ukrainian negotiator claims advances in talks with Russia, possibility of 'direct consultations' between Zelensky, Putin in future

David Arakhamia, left, Mykhailo Podolyak, center and Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev speak with the media after their meeting with Russian negotiators in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29.

David Arakhamia, a member of the Ukrainian negotiating team in talks with Russia, said the Russian side has responded positively to Ukrainian positions on several issues and there is a possibility of “direct consultations” between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, something he said had been facilitated in part by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Ukrainian officials have outlined their vision of a roadmap to a potential truce, which would include possible neutral status for Ukraine backed by a broad alliance of security guarantors.

The status of Crimea – annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 – has been a sticking point in potential negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine and most of the international community consider the peninsula to be illegally occupied. The Kremlin consistently says the status of Crimea is settled. 

The Ukrainian side said there had been agreement to suspend negotiations on the status of Crimea for 15 years, but the Russian side has not confirmed, and the Kremlin has publicly reiterated its position Crimea is part of Russia.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said there was no official confirmation of those positions in writing, according to Arakhamia.

However, Arakhamia added: “Orally, as of yesterday, in a video conference, we heard that the Russian side does not object to such [Ukrainian] positions.”

Arakhamia held out the possibility of a meeting between Putin and Zelensky, saying, “The drafts of the documents were sufficiently developed to hold direct consultations between the two leaders, the presidents of Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Therefore, our task now is to quickly prepare the final stage not of the document itself, but of the issues we have already touched upon, and to prepare for a possible meeting of the presidents.”
Arakhamia added: “Yesterday, Mr. Erdogan called both us and Vladimir Putin. He also allegedly confirmed for his part they are ready to organize a meeting in the near future. Neither the date nor the place is known. But we believe that with a high probability it will be in Istanbul or Ankara, that is, in Turkey.”

The possibility of a role for China as a potential security guarantor for Ukraine appears to be credible, according to Arakhamia. 

Asked about the status of talks with China on the matter, Arakhamia said: “We are negotiating through diplomatic channels. The state of negotiations with China is probably the least ready compared to the countries that are now actively helping us, and we keep in touch twice a day. With China, it’s getting a little harder.”

Russia shifting focus to victory by early May in eastern Ukraine, US officials say

A column of tanks marked with the Z symbol stretches into the distance as they proceed northwards along the Mariupol-Donetsk highway on March 23.

Russia has revised its Ukraine war strategy to focus on taking control of the Donbas and other regions in eastern Ukraine with a target date of early May, according to several US officials familiar with the latest US intelligence assessments. 

More than a month into the war, Russian ground forces have been unable to keep control of areas where they have been fighting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is under pressure to demonstrate he can show a victory, and eastern Ukraine is where he is most likely to achieve that, officials say. US intelligence intercepts suggest Putin is focused on May 9, Russia’s “Victory Day,” according to a US official.

May 9 is a prominent holiday on the Russian calendar, a day on which the country marks the Nazi surrender in World War II with a huge parade of troops and weaponry across Red Square in front of the Kremlin. The officials say Putin wants to celebrate a victory of some kind in his war that day. 

But other officials note even if there is a Russian celebration, an actual victory may be further off. 

Still, US and European officials say any deadlines Moscow may set rhetorically don’t change the reality on the ground that Russia appears to be preparing for the prospect of an extended conflict.

A European diplomat said while the Kremlin is talking optimistically, Putin is preparing for a “Chechnya-style long, drawn-out war, because he, to a certain extent, has nowhere else to go on this.”

There are several reasons behind the May timeframe, the officials say. As the winter freeze ends and the ground softens, it will be harder for heavy Russian ground units to maneuver, meaning it’s vital for those forces to get into place as soon as possible, US intelligence assesses. 

Russian-backed fighters have also already been in that region for years. The Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine is where Russian separatist forces took control of territory in 2014.

Ukrainian officials have publicly pointed to the date as well. “Ahead of May 9, Putin set the goal of a victory parade for this war,” Ukrainian Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on Thursday.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Friday the Ukrainians believe they are facing a “very complex and difficult month” as Putin tries meet a deadline.

“His ultimate goal is, was, and will be to take over Ukraine, but he failed. He failed due to a very strong resolve of Ukrainian military and very strong unity of Ukraine and the Western world, and the sanctions that have been imposed by the United States and G7 and the European Union,” Yatsenyuk said. “So now, as far as I see, Putin switched to Plan B. My take is that this Plan B has a, kind of, deadline.”

The US also assesses Putin is now preparing, for the first time, to name an overall commander of the war to achieve greater Russian successes, two US officials said. The US believes Putin will likely name a general who has been in the southern part of Ukraine because that is a place where Russians have succeeded in their objectives.

It's 11 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

A humanitarian convoy of 42 buses from Mariupol arrives at a refugee center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1.

As Sunday approaches in Ukraine, catch up on the latest developments here.

Russians move out of Kyiv region as officials look to the east: Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said Saturday the Kyiv region had been “liberated” from Russian forces. Meanwhile, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said heavy fighting is still expected in the east of Ukraine, near Mariupol, and in the country’s south. He warned that the military effort “will not be easy” in those regions. 

Further evacuations: More than 4,000 civilians were evacuated through corridors in Ukraine on Saturday, according to the country’s deputy prime minister, including over 2,000 people for the besieged port city of Mariupol.

The International Committee for the Red Cross team that departed Zaporizhzhia on Saturday morning as part of renewed attempt to reach Mariupol have yet to reach the city, an ICRC spokesperson told CNN.

US to facilitate tanks transfer: The US is expected to help facilitate the transfer of Soviet-era tanks “within days” to Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the plan.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak earlier on Saturday called on the US and its allies to deliver heavier weaponry to Ukraine as the Russian military shifts its campaign focus

Gas keeps flowing: Russian gas continues to enter Germany despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimatum on Thursday for “unfriendly” nations to pay for their energy in rubles starting Friday or risk being cut off from vital supplies. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russia would not turn off gas supplies to Europe immediately.

“Deliveries are incoming. Supply security is still guaranteed,” a German government spokesperson told CNN.

Kyiv region "liberated" from Russian forces, senior Ukrainian defense official says

Civilians cheer along with a Ukrainian serviceman as a convoy of military and aid vehicles arrives in the formerly Russian-occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha, Ukraine on Saturday, April 2.

Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, said Saturday that the Kyiv region had been “liberated” from Russian forces.

She said in a post on Facebook that Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel and “the whole Kyiv region was liberated from the invader.”

CNN could not immediately verify that the entire Kyiv region had been cleared of Russian troops by Ukrainian forces, but the Ukrainian military has in recent days regained control of suburbs around the capital, which has remained under government control. The Russian military has said it is “de-escalating” around Kyiv.

US will facilitate transfer of Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine, source says

The US is expected to help facilitate the transfer of Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the plan.

The tanks the US is transferring to Ukraine will be Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which Ukrainian military personnel have experience operating, a senior US official tells CNN.

Those tanks will be delivered “within days, not weeks,” the official said, and will be delivered from NATO partner countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked countries for more tanks.

The New York Times first reported on the transfer.

Over 4,000 civilians evacuated on Saturday, Ukrainian minister says, including more than 1,200 from Mariupol

Evacuees from Mariupol arrive at a refugee hub in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1.

A total of 4,217 civilians evacuated through corridors in Ukraine on Saturday, according to the country’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk.

In a statement on Telegram, Vereshchuk said 1,263 people from the besieged city of Mariupol and the Russian-held city of Berdiansk reached the Ukrainian government-held city of Zaporizhzhia using their own vehicles. 

An evacuation convoy of 10 buses from the city of Berdiansk with more than 300 Mariupol residents also passed Vasylivka en route to Zaporizhzhia, she said. 

Evacuations also continued in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, with a total of 2,650 people leaving the cities of Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Lysychansk, Kreminna, Popasna and Nyzhne, Vereshchuk said. 

Vereshchuk said 17 buses reached the city of Berdiansk from Zaporizhzhia and were expected Sunday morning to continue the evacuation of Mariupol residents. Some of the buses will try to reach closer to Mariupol, she added.

Mariupol, which is ringed by Russian checkpoints, has been under weeks of intense bombardment. Ukrainian officials have described the situation there for the remaining residents as a major humanitarian emergency. 

Red Cross team en route to Mariupol has yet to reach besieged city, spokesperson says

The International Committee for the Red Cross team that departed Zaporizhzhia on Saturday morning as part of renewed attempt to reach Mariupol, have yet to reach the besieged city, an ICRC spokesperson told CNN.

The team is “spending the night en route to Mariupol and are yet to reach the city,” the ICRC spokesperson said.

On Friday evening, the ICRC announced in a statement that its team of three vehicles and nine personnel was unable to reach the city “after arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed.”

What life is like in Odesa right now, as witnessed by a CNN reporter

CNN's Ed Lavandera reports from Odesa, Ukraine.

Residents of Odesa are trying to find pockets of normalcy as the threat of a Russian attack from the Black Sea looms over the southern Ukrainian city.

“It’s home. And we can, like, live a normal life. But that’s for now. We don’t know what’s going to be tomorrow or in a week,” law student Taimur Kravchenko told CNN’s Ed Lavandera while enjoying coffee with his friends at a market.

But the center of the city is full of anti-tank barricades to fortify itself against an invasion, and displaced Ukrainians from areas that have seen the worst fighting have escaped to the city to find food and shelter.

Olga Petkovich, her husband and their six children fled their village through a forest to escape shelling. Russian soldiers broke into their home and took everything, according to her husband.

“When we came here, the volunteers told us say what we need, but I’m ashamed. I’ve worked all my life and never asked anyone for anything. Now I have to ask,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Her young daughter wiped away her tears and asked “Mother, why are you crying?”

“Because they were shelling us a lot,” Petkovich responded.

Watch the report:

Odesa Bike Lavandera pkg
video

CNN reporter: A poignant moment in the midst of a surreal world

Russian gas continues to flow into Germany, government spokesperson says

Russian gas continues to flow into Germany despite Germany’s refusal to adhere to a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin requiring payments for gas contracts to be made in rubles.

“Gas is flowing to Germany. Deliveries are incoming. Supply security is still guaranteed,” a German government spokesperson told CNN on Saturday.

The German government is “in close contact” with its European partners and will “monitor the situation closely,” the spokesperson added.

German transmission system operator Gascade, which manages the German section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline, told CNN Saturday that it couldn’t confirm any cutting off of gas supplies to Germany.

The Russian president delivered an ultimatum Thursday to “unfriendly” nations to pay for their energy in rubles starting Friday or risk being cut off from vital supplies. But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted that German companies will continue to make payments for Russian gas only in euros.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russia would not turn off gas supplies to Europe immediately.

Russian strikes in Dnipropetrovsk region interrupt rail traffic, regional military governor says

The head of the regional military administration of Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region said Russian strikes had interrupted rail traffic and caused a fire.

Valentyn Reznichenko said a rocket hit the railway in Pavlohrad district, forcing suspension of train traffic.

“One rocket hit the railway,” he said. “Tracks and electric lines are badly damaged. Train wagons exploded. Train traffic is suspended. Rescuers are putting out the fire.”

Reznichenko said no one was killed, according to preliminary information, but a second round hit an open area, causing a fire. One person was injured, he said.

The office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said a criminal investigation has been opened into the attack.

“According to the investigation, on the afternoon of April 2, 2022, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, ignoring the norms of international humanitarian law, carried out a rocket attack on a civilian transport railway hub and an open area of the city of Pavlohrad,” according to a statement on Telegram from the office. “As a result of the airstrike of the Russian invaders, guided missiles damaged railway tracks and freight cars.”

There were no military facilities on the territory of the railway hub, the statement added.

Death toll from Russian strike on regional administrative building in Mykolaiv rises to 36, official says

Firefighters carry a body from the rubble of a government building hit by a Russian strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine on March 29.

A total of 36 people were killed in a Russian strike on the office of the regional military governor of Ukraine’s southwestern Mykolaiv region on Tuesday, regional military governor Vitalii Kim said Saturday on Telegram.

Kim said his secretary was among the dead. 

Watch footage of the strike here:

mykolaiv missile strike
video

Video shows Russian missile strike on Ukrainian government building

It's 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up here

As the sun sets on Saturday in Ukraine, here’s what you need to know.

Evacuation efforts continue: Seven evacuation corridors were scheduled in Ukraine on Saturday, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, including the route from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol to the Ukrainian government-held city of Zaporizhzhia. In addition, an International Committee of the Red Cross team left for Mariupol on Saturday.

Turkey has also offered to evacuate people trapped in Mariupol.

More than 6,200 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday, Vereshchuk said.

Attacks reported in eastern and central Ukraine: Russian forces targeted a major Ukrainian oil refinery in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk in a series of strikes Saturday morning, according to a spokesperson for the country’s military.

At least four people were injured by explosions amid protests against Russian occupation in the central Ukrainian town of Enerhodar, the country’s state nuclear power company Energoatom said. 

Additionally, a Luhansk regional official said Russian forces had shelled people evacuating from towns that have seen heavy fighting. And the head of the regional military administration of Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region said Russian strikes had interrupted rail traffic and caused a fire.

Weapons delivery: Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom Andrei Kelin told Russian state news agency TASS that if Britain delivers long-range artillery weapons and anti-ship systems to Ukraine, they would be “legitimate targets” for Russian forces.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Saturday called on the US and its allies to deliver heavier weaponry to Ukraine as the Russian military shifts its campaign to focus on the east and south of Ukraine. 

Photojournalist found dead: Ukrainian photojournalist Maksym “Maks” Levin, who worked for a number of major Western news outlets including Reuters and the BBC, was found dead with two gunshot wounds near Kyiv, the office of Ukraine’s attorney general said Saturday. 

Ukrainian presidential adviser warns days ahead "will not be easy"

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said heavy fighting is still expected in the east of Ukraine, near Mariupol, and in the country’s south.

He warned that the military effort “will not be easy” in those regions. 

“I think we will take back Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, and the south,” he said. “But — listen carefully — it will not be easy there.”

Arestovych and other senior Ukrainian officials have stepped up calls in recent days for the US and its allies to deliver more heavy weaponry. Speaking during his daily briefing, Arestovych said the main directions of the military over the past day were the Kyiv region, where Ukrainian troops reclaimed more than 30 settlements from Russian control. 

“We seize a lot of equipment that is empty, without fuel, and transfer it to the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” he said. “That is, the offensive is going well.”

Arestovych — who gives regular briefings on Ukrainian television — also urged people to return to normal life, saying, “In those areas that are liberated from the enemy, that do not pose an immediate threat, and even more so in the cities of Central and Western Ukraine or in the East and Center of Ukraine, where there is no immediate threat, economic recovery is critical to restoring normal social and political life, even psychological life.”

Ukrainian photojournalist killed by Russian forces, according to Ukraine attorney general's office 

Ukrainian photojournalist Maksym Levin in Donetsk region, Ukraine on January 25.

A Ukrainian photojournalist who worked for a number of major Western news outlets including Reuters and the BBC has been killed by Russian forces near Kyiv, the office of Ukraine’s attorney general said Saturday. 

The body of Maksym (Maks) Levin – who had been capturing the ongoing conflict – was found with two gunshot wounds in the Vyshgorod district which sits just north of the capital, the attorney general’s office said in a Facebook post, citing preliminary reports. 

“According to the preliminary information, the soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces killed the unarmed Maksym Levin with two gunshots,” it claimed. His next of kin have been informed, the office told CNN. 

A residential building destroyed by shelling is seen in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on March 3.

Photographer Markiian Lyseiko told CNN that he was last in touch with his friend, known as Maks, on March 12, the day before he went missing in a district north of Kyiv, where he had been reporting on the fighting and fleeing civilians.

In their final conversations, Lyseiko said that Levin had asked him to come to the Ukrainian capital so they could cover the war together.  

Lyseiko, who worked alongside Levin since 2014 documenting the war in Donbas, where they embedded with Ukrainian soldiers for weeks at a time, described his friend in an interview with CNN on March 24 as an energetic and tenacious reporter, who often looked like he “had no fear.”

A Ukrainian soldier hides from a helicopter airstrike near Demydiv, Ukraine on March 10.

Since the war broke out eight years ago, Levin wanted to show the world what was happening in Ukraine, especially to Russia, Lyseiko said. 

A criminal investigation is being carried out by the Vyshgorod District prosecutor’s office into alleged violations of “laws and customs of war,” the attorney general’s office said, adding that “measures are being taken to establish all circumstances of the crime.”

Levin began working as a photojournalist in 2006, according to his bio on LensCulture, a photography resources website. He worked for Ukrainian news outlet LB.ua and was “well-known” in his field, having collaborated with Reuters, BBC, TRT World and Associated Press, according to the attorney general’s office.

In a statement online, LB.ua said Levin is survived by four sons, a civil partner and elderly parents. LB.ua said that in addition to journalism, Levin worked on dozens of photo and video projects for humanitarian organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UN Women.

In his bio, Levin described himself as a “documentary photographer/videographer, father, human being.”

Ukrainian service members take position at the Vasylkiv Air Base near Kyiv on February 27.

The Reuters news agency on Saturday said it is “deeply saddened” over Levin’s death.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Maksym Levin, a long-time contributor to Reuters, in Ukraine,” John Pullman, Reuters’ global managing editor for visuals, said in a statement to CNN.

“Maks has provided compelling photos and video from Ukraine to Reuters since 2013. His death is a huge loss to the world of journalism. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time,” Pullman said.

Russians shelling evacuation convoys in Luhansk, according to regional official

The head of the Luhansk region military administration said 2,700 civilians had evacuated from the region on Saturday, but Russian forces had shelled people evacuating from towns that have seen heavy fighting. 

“It is impossible to negotiate with the ‘Orcs,’” Serhiy Haidai said. “The Russians are deliberately hitting during the evacuations. There were incoming shells near the meeting places. Fortunately, everybody is alive.”

A number of Ukrainian officials have been referring to Russian forces as “orcs” — the evil, monstrous army in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

Haidai added that several tons of humanitarian aid were delivered for those remaining behind, and police officers had already begun transporting it to bomb shelters.

“Let me remind you that evacuation continues,” Haidai said. “Buses are waiting for you every morning.”

Turkey offers to evacuate people from besieged city of Mariupol by boat 

Turkey has offered to evacuate people trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol by boat, the country’s defense minister announced on Saturday.

“We can provide vessel support for evacuations from Mariupol, especially regarding civilians, injured people and Turkish citizens and citizens from other nations,” Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters. 

The port city, which lies along the Sea of Azov on Ukraine’s southern coastline, has incurred widespread damage from Russian attacks and had its plans to operate safe evacuation routes thwarted until Saturday, according to previous CNN reporting.

The Turkish Defense Ministry conveyed its “request to support the evacuations” to the Russian military attaché in Ankara and the Turkish military attaché in Moscow who passed the message onto the Russian authorities. The Ukrainian military attaché in Ankara also passed the message onto the Ukrainian authorities, according to Akar. 

Turkey hosted the negotiation teams from Russia and Ukraine for talks in Istanbul earlier this week. 

Ukrainian presidential adviser calls for heavier weaponry from the West as Russia shifts military focus

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak speaks to the press in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Saturday called on the US and its allies to deliver heavier weaponry to Ukraine as the Russian military shifts its campaign to focus on the east and south of Ukraine

“After the rapid retreat of the Russians from Kyiv and Chernihiv, it is clear that Russia has prioritized another tactic — to move east/south, to control large occupied territories (not only in Donetsk and Luhansk regions) and to gain a strong foothold there,” he said. 

The Russian military said the “first stage” of its invasion of Ukraine was complete and that it would withdraw forces from around Kyiv and Chernihiv to concentrate on the Donbas region in the country’s east. Russia’s announcement of that new phase in part may provide political cover for the Russian military, explaining heavy setbacks in the battles around Kyiv, but Ukrainian officials have also reported a ramping up of military activity and shelling in the Donbas by Russian forces.

Podolyak alluded to the expectation from US and Western officials that Ukraine might need to prepare for partisan warfare in the event of Russian invasion and the fall of the Ukrainian capital. 

“Our partners must finally understand that the ‘Afghanization’ they want and the long-lasting exhausting conflict for Russia will not happen,” Podolyak said. “Russia will leave all Ukrainian territories except the south and east. And will try to dig in there, put in air defense and sharply reduce the loss of its equipment and personnel.”

The US, the UK and other NATO allies provided anti-tank weapons and man-portable air defenses. Podolyak said Ukraine needed heavier weaponry. 

“‘Afghanization’ is when there is a strong guerrilla resistance across the country that inflicts heavy losses on the aggressor for many months or even years and thus significantly weakens the power of the occupier’s army,” he said. “Such actions took place during the Soviet Union’s attempt to control Afghanistan: Afghan guerrillas destroyed and weakened the Soviet occupiers for years. As a result, weakened Russia as a whole.”

Podolyak continued, “Some of our partners believed that something similar could happen in today’s Ukraine. The Russians think otherwise. They have established in the east and south and are dictating harsh conditions. So we definitely can’t do without heavy weapons if we want to unblock the east and Kherson and send [back] the Russians as far as possible.”