Russia invades Ukraine

By Julia Hollingsworth, Joshua Berlinger, Sana Noor Haq, John Sinnott, Adrienne Vogt, Veronica Rocha and Emma Tucker, CNN

Updated 12:17 a.m. ET, April 3, 2022
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8:15 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Ukrainian flag raised over Chernobyl, nuclear operator says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

The Ukrainian flag has been raised over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant following the withdrawal of Russian forces, the state enterprise overseeing nuclear power plants said on Saturday.

"Today, April 2, at 11:00, Ukrainian flag was raised over the Chernobyl NPP and the anthem was sung," Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram.

"The entire staff of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has worked heroically in the harsh conditions of the occupation since February 24 and provided nuclear and radiation safety at the station and nearby facilities, was present at the ceremony," the statement added.

Some background: Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

On April 26 of that year, an explosion ripped through the No.4 reactor at Chernobyl, killing 30 people immediately. Countless others died from radiation symptoms in the years that followed.

In late February, during the first week Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the plant and its surrounding territory fell into the hands of Russian troops.

However, Russian troops since announced their intention to leave and hand over control to Ukrainian personnel, Energoatom said in a statement on Thursday.

"It was confirmed that the occupiers, who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the Exclusion Zone, marched in two columns towards the Ukrainian border with the Republic of Belarus," the statement published on Telegram said.

CNN's Nathan Hodge contributed reporting to this post.

7:32 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Pope Francis tells reporters a trip to Ukraine "is on the table"

Pope Francis speaks to journalists on a plane to Malta on April 2.
Pope Francis speaks to journalists on a plane to Malta on April 2. (Johannes Neudecker/dpa/AP)

Pope Francis said a trip to Ukraine "is on the table," while speaking to journalists on Saturday.

When asked by a reporter if he was considering visiting Kyiv, Pope Francis replied after a long pause and said, “Yes, it is on the table.”

He greeted more than 70 journalists onboard his plane to Malta on Saturday morning, saying, “it will be a nice trip."

Frances also received a photo and a letter from the family of Fox News cameraman, Pierre Zakrzewski, 55, who was killed in Ukraine along with Oleksandra "Sasha" Kuvshynova, a 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist working as a consultant for the network.

Francis’s words as he looked at Pierre’s photo was “lui è la su,” which translates from French as “he is up there."

Some background: While Pope Francis has not yet visited Ukraine amid Russia's invasion, he has shown his support for Ukrainian refugees, and called for an end to the war.

On March 19, Francis visited 19 Ukrainian refugee children at the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in Rome, Italy. They were receiving treatment for oncological and neurological diseases among others, as well as severe injuries from blasts, Vatican Press Director Matteo Bruni said at the time.

"More than a month has passed since the invasion of Ukraine, since the start of this cruel and senseless war, which, like every war, is a defeat for all, for all of us," Francis said at the end of March, during his weekly Angelus address.

"We must repudiate war, a place of death where fathers and mothers bury their children, where men kill their brothers without even seeing them, where the powerful decide and the poor die. War does not only devastate the present but also the future of society.

"Enough. Stop. Let the weapons fall silent. Negotiate seriously for peace," he added. "War cannot be something that is inevitable. We cannot get used to war," Francis added.

8:31 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Pakistan wants "cessation of hostilities" between Russia and Ukraine

From CNN's Sophia Saifi and Wayne Chang

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, attends a military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 23.
Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, attends a military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 23. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Pakistan wants Russia and Ukraine to cease fighting immediately, and is “doing everything it can” to resolve the conflict between the two countries, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, said.

“Russian aggression on Ukraine is very unfortunate; this is a huge tragedy,” Bajwa said during a speech on Saturday. 

Pakistan wants an immediate cessation of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.”

“Pakistan doesn’t believe in camp politics and wants excellent relations with all countries, especially the United States, the European Union, China, Russia and others,” Bajwa added.

The army chief’s remarks are seen as a contradiction of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan’s position, who remained publicly ambivalent about Russia’s invasion towards Ukraine.

In early March, Pakistan, along with China, India and others, abstained from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s action towards Ukraine, stating that it remains “deeply concerned at the recent turn of events” that “reflects a failure of diplomacy.”

Later that month, Pakistan sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine at the request of Kyiv’s embassy in Islamabad. 

8:12 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Russian space agency head threatens to end its cooperation with the International Space Station in tweets

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

The head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, attends a ceremony on December 8, 2021.
The head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, attends a ceremony on December 8, 2021. (Pavel Pavlov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Director of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, published a series of inflammatory tweets on Saturday suggesting Russia might end cooperation at the International Space Station (ISS) due to international sanctions on the country's capital, Moscow.

"I believe that restoration of normal relations between partners at the International Space Station and in other joint projects is possible only after full and unconditional removal of the illegal sanctions," Rogozin said in posts to his verified Twitter account. 

Rogozin warned that Roscosmos would prepare "concrete proposals to our country's leadership" on the possibility of ending cooperation at the ISS with the space agencies of the US, Canada, the European Union and Japan.

Some background: The head of Russia's space agency has a reputation for playing fast and loose on social media, making comments on geopolitical issues and directing criticism at the US.

NASA maintains that it has a close working relationship with Roscosmos that is unaffected by the political situation on earth and the war in Ukraine. 

Rogozin previously posted a heavily edited CGI video that appeared make the threat that Russian cosmonauts would abandon NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei in space. Vande Hei, who launched to the ISS in April 2021, returned to earth on March 30, along with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.

Veteran former astronaut Scott Kelly recently told CNN he would back off his high-profile Twitter war with Rogozin, following a warning from a NASA official that such attacks are “damaging” to the ISS mission. 

Since November 2000, the ISS has functioned as an orbiting laboratory 227 nautical miles (420 kilometers) above our planet, as well as a home to continuously rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts. It has been the site of multiple firsts as astronauts have successfully sequenced DNA and feasted on crops grown in space.

8:14 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Gunfire and explosions disperse crowd of protesters in Russian-held city, nuclear power company says

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Nathan Hodge in Lviv, Ukraine

Gunfire and explosions disperse a crowd in Enerhodar, Ukraine on April 2.
Gunfire and explosions disperse a crowd in Enerhodar, Ukraine on April 2. (From Telegram)

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 in a series of statements Saturday. 

The city, which is close to the Zaporizhia nuclear power station seized by Russian forces in early March, has seen sporadic protests since its occupation. 

Energoatom posted video from the scene that appeared to show crowds being dispersed by automatic weapons fire and flash-bang rounds. 

"The occupiers dispersed the protesters with explosions and shootings," the Energoatom post said.

The post also called the Russian military "bastards."

Energoatom said residents initially gathered for a peaceful rally in support of Ukraine. According to that account, Russian prison buses pulled up and the Russians began detaining locals

"Within minutes, the city was shaken by the sounds of explosions and massive shelling," the statement read. 

According to Energoatom, several citizens were hospitalized with injuries and severe burns due to blasts that hit a line of civilians in the vicinity of a local cultural center.

"Local doctors are doing their best in the difficult conditions of almost complete lack of drugs and materials and trying to save their lives and health," the statement said. "Some of the victims will be released today after the necessary procedures."

7:58 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what we know

From CNN Staff

Evacuees from Berdyansk and Melitopol arrive on buses to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1.
Evacuees from Berdyansk and Melitopol arrive on buses to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1. (Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Evacuations efforts continue in Ukraine, with a total 6,266 people evacuated from cities on Friday, according to the country's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. Of that number, 771 people originally came from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

Meanwhile, Russian forces said they struck a major oil refinery in Ukraine on Saturday morning using high-precision weaponry.

Here's what you need to know:

Evacuations ongoing: Seven evacuation corridors along key routes are expected to open in Ukraine on Saturday, Vereshchuk announced in a Facebook post on Saturday. She said the list includes the route from the besieged southern city of Mariupol to the government-held city of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, as well as routes from Berdiansk, Rubizhne, Nizhny, Severodonetsk, Popasna and Lysychansk.

Russia attacks Ukrainian oil refinery: Russian forces targeted a major Ukrainian oil refinery in a series of strikes Saturday morning, according to a spokesman for the country's military. The refinery, in the central city of Kremenchuk, was hit by "high-precision long-range air and sea-based weapons," Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing. He said Russia's military had destroyed storage facilities holding gasoline and diesel fuels that were supplying Ukrainian troops in the country's eastern and central regions. Russia also struck military airfields in Poltava and Dnipro, cities to the east of Kremenchuk, using high-precision air-based missiles, Konashenkov said.

Moscow's warning for London: Russia would consider British long-range artillery and anti-ship systems "legitimate targets" if they United Kingdom were to deliver those weapons to the Ukrainian military, Russia's ambassador to the UK said.

“Any weapon deliveries are destabilizing," Ambassador Andrei Kelin told Russian state news agency TASS. "They exacerbate the situation and make it bloodier."

Russian officials have long complained about deliveries of advanced military weaponry to Ukraine by the US and the UK. Some of those armaments, particularly anti-tank weapons, have enabled Ukrainian troops to blunt Russian advances

Cold-calling Russia: In an attempt to pierce Russian President Vladimir Putin's digital iron curtain, some people are cold calling or messaging strangers in Russia to counter the Kremlin's propaganda about the war in Ukraine. They hope the truth will better inform Russian citizens and perhaps even help put an end to the conflict.

6:00 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Seven evacuation corridors are expected to open in Ukraine on Saturday

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

Seven evacuation corridors along key routes are expected to open in Ukraine on Saturday, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. 

Announcing the corridors in a Facebook post Saturday, Vereshchuk said the list includes the route from the besieged southern city of Mariupol to the government-held city of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine.

Private transport will travel along the evacuation route, stopping in Mangush, Berdiansk, Tokmak, Vasylivka and Kamyanske, before reaching the final destination of Zaporizhzhia.

Humanitarian caravan of 42 buses from Berdiansk and 5 from Melitopol in an evacuation process organized by the International Red Cross in coordination with the Ukrainian Red Cross arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1.
Humanitarian caravan of 42 buses from Berdiansk and 5 from Melitopol in an evacuation process organized by the International Red Cross in coordination with the Ukrainian Red Cross arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1. (Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Vereshchuk announced in a video message on Friday evening that a convoy of 42 buses traveling from the southern city of Berdiansk -- carrying residents from the besieged city of Mariupol -- had managed to pass a key Russian checkpoint, and was en route to Zaporizhzhia. That convoy arrived in Zaporizhzhia later that night. 

Vereshchuk hailed the arrival as a success, after the Ukrainian government's efforts to try and "open the corridors from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia" since March 5. 

A total of 6,266 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday, including 1,431 people who moved from the southern cities of Berdiansk and Melitopol in their own vehicles to Zaporizhzhia through evacuation corridors, according to Vereshcuk. She added that of that number, 771 people originally came Mariupol.

Residents evacuated from Berdysank and Melitopol arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1.
Residents evacuated from Berdysank and Melitopol arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1. (Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A route for buses and private vehicles from Berdiansk to Zaporizhzia is also expected to operate on Saturday, with stops planned in Tokmak, Vasylivka and Kamyanske. 

Evacuation routes will also open from the city of Rubizhne in the separatist controlled region of Luhansk to Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk, also controlled by Russian-backed separatists. 

The remaining routes will operate from Nizhny to Bakhmut, Severodonetsk to Bakhmut, Popasna to Bakhmut and Lysychansk to Bakhmut.

CNN's Nathan Hodge and Julia Presniakova contributed reporting to this post

4:51 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Russia attacked a major oil refinery in Ukraine, its military says

From CNN’s Radina Gigova, Nathan Hodge and Jake Kwon

Russian forces targeted a major Ukrainian oil refinery in a series of strikes Saturday morning, according to a spokesman for the country's military.

The refinery, in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, was hit by "high-precision long-range air and sea-based weapons," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing on Saturday. 

Konashenkov said Russia's military had destroyed storage facilities holding gasoline and diesel fuels that were supplying Ukrainian troops in the country's eastern and central regions.

Russia also struck military airfields in Poltava and Dnipro, cities to the east of Kremenchuk, using high-precision air-based missiles, Konashenkov said.

What Ukraine is saying: Dmytro Lunin, the governor of the Ukranian region of Poltava where the refinery is located, said three Russian planes carried out the strike at about 6 a.m. local time. Lunin said it is unknown whether anyone was hurt in the attack, but that emergency services were putting out a fire on Saturday morning.

Lunin also said that four Russian missiles hit other targets in Poltava at around 2 a.m. 

Ukraine’s largest oil company Ukrnafta operates an oil refinery in Kremenchuk, according to the company.

Some context: The attack on the oil refinery comes a day after the Kremlin accused Kyiv of mounting a helicopter attack on a civilian fuel depot inside Russian territory. Footage of the facility engulfed in flames has surfaced on social media.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has neither confirmed nor denied the attack, and President Volodymyr Zelensky declined to discuss the assault when asked about it during an interview with Fox News.

CNN is so far unable to verify this claim and the Ukrainian Defense Ministry told CNN it has no information about the incident. 

Russia has targeted fuel storage facilities around Ukraine in recent days.

8:10 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

British high-precision weapons in Ukraine would be "legitimate targets," Russian ambassador to the UK says

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom Andrei Kelin.
Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom Andrei Kelin. (Aaron Chown/PA Images/Getty Images)

If Britain delivers long-range artillery weapons and anti-ship systems to Ukraine, they would be "legitimate targets" for Russian forces, Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom Andrei Kelin told Russian state news agency TASS in an interview published on Saturday. 

“Any weapon deliveries are destabilizing, especially the ones mentioned by (Ben) Wallace (the British Defense Secretary)," said Kelin, according to TASS. "They exacerbate the situation and make it bloodier."

"Apparently, these are new, rather high-precision weapons. Of course, they will be legitimate targets for our armed forces if they cross the border of Ukraine."

“I have a feeling that London’s idea of what is happening in Ukraine militarily is formed on the basis of the bravado reports of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the Ukrainian leadership," Kelin said. 

Some background: Russian officials have long complained about deliveries of advanced military weaponry to Ukraine by the US and the UK. Some of those weapons, particularly anti-tank weapons, have enabled Ukrainian troops to blunt Russian advances

The UK ratcheted up military support to Ukraine ahead of Russia's invasion on February 24. Following an international donor conference for Ukraine, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced on Thursday that Britain and its allies will send "more lethal aid" to Kyiv.  

"There'll be more lethal aid going into Ukraine as a result of today. A number of countries have come forward either with new ideas or pledges for more money," Wallace said, noting that the United States is "being at the forefront" of the aid effort.