Russia preventing Ukraine resupply by Black Sea: UK military intelligence
Russian naval forces continue to blockade the Ukrainian coast on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, preventing resupply by sea, British military intelligence said on Sunday. Russia retains the capability to attempt an amphibious landing, but such an operation is likely to be increasingly high risk due to the time Ukrainian forces have had to prepare, the Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin. "Mines within the Black Sea pose a serious risk to maritime activity," it said. The report said the origin of the mines was unclear and disputed but that they were almost certainly the result of Russian naval activity in the area, demonstrating how its invasion of Ukraine is affecting neutral and civilian interests. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
US educational institutes to offer honorary degrees to Ukrainian President
At least 17 colleges and universities in several U.S. states will jointly offer honorary degrees to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their commencement ceremonies this spring. Alfred University President Mark Zupan said the idea grew from his request to have Zelenskyy speak virtually to a combination of graduating classes. When an official at the Ukrainian embassy declined the western New York university's request, the institutions agreed to award honorary degrees in absentia to honour Zelenskyy's leadership during Russia's war in Ukraine. The gesture was motivated by the inspiring example provided by President Zelenskyy to his people and the broader world in defence of freedom and democracy, Zupan said in a news release Friday.
Ukraine forces retake areas north of Kyiv
Ukrainian forces were advancing into areas north of Kyiv littered with debris and destroyed Russian tanks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused departing Russian soldiers of leaving behind mines. Ukrainian presidential adviser Okeksiy Arestovych said Ukrainian troops had retaken more than 30 towns and villages in the region since Russia announced this week it would scale down operations around the capital to focus on battles in the east. British military intelligence said Russian troops had abandoned Hostomel airport in a northwestern suburb of the capital, where there had been fighting since the first day of the invasion. Russia has depicted its drawdown of forces near Kyiv as goodwill in peace negotiations. Ukraine and its allies say Russian forces have been forced to regroup after heavy losses.
Kremlin says peace talks should continue, lashes "hostile" Ukraine
Russia's talks with a "hostile" Ukraine have not been easy, but the main thing is that they are continuing, RIA news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Saturday. "Ukraine is a very difficult country, very difficult for us. In its current state, it is hostile towards us," the agency cited him as telling Belarus television. Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of negotiations, both in Turkey and by video conference.
Lithuania says it has stopped importing gas from Russia: Report
Lithuania has stopped importing natural gas from Russia as of April and will be able to rely instead on deliveries from other countries to meet its energy needs, the country’s president announced, saying the move was an example for other European Union members. (NYT)
Red Cross still trying to get people out of Mariupol, Russia says it failed
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the operation to help people leave the besieged city of Mariupol was continuing, hours after Russia said it had failed and blamed the organisation. Russia's defence ministry said aid convoys had not been able to reach Mariupol on Friday or Saturday and blamed "destructive actions" by the ICRC, Interfax news agency said. A Red Cross convoy travelling to the Ukrainian port turned around on Friday because it had become impossible to proceed with its mission to begin evacuating civilians, the ICRC said. (Reuters)
Explosions in Ukraine's southern port city of Odesa
A series of explosions were heard and smoke was seen in Ukraine's southern port city of Odesa in the early hours of Sunday, a Reuters witness said. Missiles struck Ukraine's southern port city of Odesa in the early hours of Sunday, the city council said in an online post. One of the city's "critical infrastructure facilities" was hit, regional administration spokesperson Sergey Bratchuk told Ukraine's public broadcaster. "We hope there will be no casualties," Bratchuk said.
Good morning, readers! We are back with the latest on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Track live coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war here.
Below are the updates from April 2:
Ex-ICC prosecutor urges global arrest warrant for Putin
The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has called for an international arrest warrant to be issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin is a war criminal, Carla Del Ponte told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps in an interview published Saturday. In interviews given to Swiss media to mark the release of her latest book, the Swiss lawyer who oversaw ICC war crimes investigations in Rwanda, Syria and the former Yugoslavia said there were clear war crimes being committed in Ukraine. She said she was particularly shocked by the use of mass graves in Russia's war on Ukraine, which recalls the worst of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
"I hoped never to see mass graves again," she told the newspaper Blick. "These dead people have loved ones who don't even know what's become of them. That is unacceptable. Other war crimes she identified in Ukraine included attacks on civilians, the destruction of civilian buildings and even the demolishing of entire towns."
She said it would be possible to bring even Putin to account. You mustn't let go, continue to investigation. When the investigation into Slobodan Milosevic began, he was still president of Serbia. Who would have thought then that he would one day be judged? Nobody," she told Blick.
Russia-Ukraine War: Kremlin’s cyberwar is underway, say experts 19:17:05 IST
More than 50 cultural sites in Ukraine have been damaged in the war, UNESCO says.
Churches, historic buildings and public squares across the country are being reduced to rubble by Russian rockets, missiles, bombs and gunfire, according to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. It has identified at least 53 Ukrainian historical sites, religious buildings and museums that have suffered damage during Russia’s invasion, and says the damage is probably far more extensive given the continued assault.
At least 35 killed in strike on govt building in Mykolaiv
The death toll following a strike on a government building has resulted in at least 35 people being killed, in the southern Ukrainian city Mykolaiv, according to the governor Vitaliy Kim.
In an online post, Kim said that rescue workers have continued to dismantle the rubble and search for victims after the strike blasted a hole through the side of the building in central Mykolaiv.
Journalist killed in Ukraine
Maksim Levin, a photographer and videographer who was working for a Ukrainian news website and a long-time contributor to Reuters, was killed while covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to Reuters, his body was found in a village north of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on 1 April, the news website LB.ua where he worked said on Saturday. Levin, born in 1981, was a documentary film maker who had contributed to Reuters’ coverage of the country since 2013.
He had been working in the village of Huta Mezhyhirska. There had been heavy shelling in that area. The prosecutor general’s office in Ukraine said Levin was “killed by servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces with two shots from small arms”. He leaves behind his wife and four children.
Russian troops disperse pro-Ukraine rally in occupied town, local authorities say
Local authorities in the occupied Ukrainian town of Enerhodar said Russian forces had violently dispersed a pro-Ukrainian rally on Saturday and detained some participants. Residents had gathered in the centre of the town in the south of the country to talk and sing the Ukrainian national anthem, when Russian soldiers arrived and bundled some into detention vans, the local administration said in an online post.
"The occupiers are dispersing the protesters with explosions," it said in a separate post on Telegram, sharing a video of what appeared to be multiple stun grenades landing in a square and letting off bangs and clouds of white smoke next to the town's main cultural centre.
Pope Francis for the first time implicitly criticises Putin over Ukraine
Pope Francis came the closest he has yet to implicitly criticising President Vladimir Putin over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying on Saturday a "potentate" was fomenting conflicts for nationalist interests.
Moscow says the action it launched on Feb. 24 is a "special military operation" designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarise and "denazify" its neighbour. Francis has already rejected that terminology, calling it a war.
Ukraine expects good news over weekend regarding Mariupol evacuations: Presidential adviser
Ukraine expects good news over the weekend regarding evacuations of people from the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelesnskyy said on Saturday.
"Our delegation has reached an agreement in Istanbul (during Ukraine-Russia peace talks) to provide evacuations," Oleksiy Arestovych told Ukraine's television. "I think that today or maybe tomorrow we will hear good news regarding the evacuation of the inhabitants of Mariupol."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent a team on Friday to lead a convoy of about 54 Ukrainian buses and other private vehicles out of the city, but they turned back, saying conditions made it impossible to proceed. They were due to try again on Saturday. Encircled since the early days of Russia's five-week-old invasion, Mariupol has been Moscow's main target in the southeastern region of Donbas. Tens of thousands of people are trapped in the city with scant access to food and water.
Ukraine says seven humanitarian corridors planned for evacuations on Saturday
Seven humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from Ukraine's besieged regions are planned for Saturday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. The planned corridors include one for people evacuating by private transport from the city of Mariupol and by buses for Mariupol residents out of the city of Berdyansk, Vereshchuk said.
Ukraine recaptures city of Brovary near Kyiv
Ukrainian officials say their forces have recaptured the city of Brovary, 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the capital Kyiv. Brovary's mayor said during a televised address on Friday evening that Russian occupants have now left practically all of the Brovary district. He added that the Ukrainian forces would begin working to clear the region of remaining Russian soldiers there as well as "military hardware, and possibly from mines. The mayor said that many Brovary residents had already returned to the city, and that shops and businesses were reopening.
Earlier on Friday, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that satellite towns northwest of Kyiv were being targeted after Ukrainian fighters pushed back Russian troops, and that fighting had also taken place in Brovary.
UK prevents use of private jet linked to Russian oligarchs: Minister
British transport minister Grant Shapps said on Saturday he has prevented the use of another private jet that has links to Russian oligarchs. "This morning I've prevented the use of another jet that has links to Russian oligarchs," he said on Twitter. "We won’t stand by and watch those who’ve made millions through Putin’s patronage live their lives in peace as innocent blood is shed."
EU says it eyes further Russia sanctions that will not affect energy sector
The European Union is working on further sanctions on Russia but any additional measures will not affect the energy sector, the EU's Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said in Cernobbio on Saturday. The 27-nation bloc will be faced with a growth slowdown caused by the war in Ukraine but not a recession, he added, saying the 4 percent growth forecast was too optimistic and the EU would not reach it.
Russia says cooperation in space only possible once sanctions are lifted
Russia's space director said on Saturday that the restoration of normal ties between partners at the International Space Station (ISS) and other joint space projects would be possible only once Western sanctions against Moscow are lifted.
Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said in a social media post that the aim of the sanctions is to "kill Russian economy and plunge our people into despair and hunger, to get our country on its knees". He added, "they won't succeed in it, but the intentions are clear".
"That's why I believe that the restoration of normal relations between the partners at the International Space Station (ISS) and other projects is possible only with full and unconditional removal of illegal sanctions," Rogozin said.
Chinese diplomat suggests moves to end war
A Chinese diplomat has a suggestion for resolving the Ukraine conflict: U.S. President Joe Biden should call Russian President Vladimir Putin and promise there will be no further NATO expansion, no deployment of strategic weapons in Ukraine and that the country will remain neutral. Then maybe the issue will get sorted, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministrys Department of European Affairs Wang Lutong told reporters in Beijing on Saturday.
"What is the purpose of the Americans? Are they going to see a cease fire in Ukraine or they would like to weaken Russia? Or some people are talking about a change in the government," Wang said, in an apparent reference to Bidens remark that Putin cannot be allowed to remain in office.
"If they are intent about a cease fire, I think this issue could be sorted very easily," Wang said. His remarks followed talks between Chinese and EU leaders at which Beijing reiterated its opposition to punishing economic sanctions against Russia.
Zelenskyy won't discuss fuel depot attack
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declined to comment on whether he ordered an attack on a Russian fuel depot. In an interview with FOX News, Zelenskyy said he does not discuss any orders he issues as commander in chief.
Earlier, the secretary of Ukraine's national security council denied allegations from Moscow that two Ukrainian helicopter gunships had struck the facility in the city of Belgorod north of the border at around dawn Friday. The regional governor in Belgorod said two workers at the depot were injured, but Russian media cited a statement from state oil company Rosneft that denied anyone was hurt.
But if Moscow's claim is confirmed, it would be the war's first known attack in which Ukrainian aircraft penetrated Russian airspace.
Ukraine continues to advance against Russian forces near Kyiv, UK says
Ukrainian forces continue to advance against withdrawing Russian forces in the vicinity of Kyiv, British military intelligence said on Saturday. Russian forces are also reported to have withdrawn from Hostomel airport near the capital, which has been subject to fighting since the first day of the conflict, Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a regular bulletin. "In the east of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkiv after heavy fighting," the ministry added. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
Russian missiles strike two central Ukraine cities: Official
Russian missiles hit two cities in central Ukraine early on Saturday, damaging infrastructure and residential buildings, the head of the Poltava region said. "Poltava. A missile struck one of the infrastructure facilities overnight," Dmitry Lunin wrote in an online post. "Kremenchuk. Many attacks on the city in the morning." Poltava city is the capital of the Poltava region, east of Kyiv, and Kremenchuk one of the area's major cities. There was no immediate information about possible casualties, Lunin said. Reuters could not immediately verify the report. Russia denies targeting civilians in the war that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched on Feb. 24, calling the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two "special military operation".
Russians create 'complete disaster' with mines: Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned his people early Saturday that retreating Russian forces were creating a complete disaster outside the capital as they leave mines across the whole territory, including around homes and corpses. He issued the warning as the humanitarian crisis in the encircled city of Mariupol deepened, with Russian forces blocking evacuation operations for the second day in a row.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin accused the Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil. Ukraine denied responsibility for the fiery blast, but if Moscows claim is confirmed, it would be the wars first known attack in which Ukrainian aircraft penetrated Russian airspace.
Ukraine denies attacking fuel depot inside Russia
Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out an air strike against a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod on Friday, an incident the Kremlin said could affect peace talks, but a top Kyiv security official denied responsibility. Russia's defence ministry said two Ukrainian helicopters struck the facility in Belgorod, some 35 km (22 miles) from the border with Ukraine, after entering Russia at extremely low altitude at around 5 a.m. Moscow time (0200 GMT). The resulting blaze forced the evacuation of some people but late in the day Belgorod mayor Anton Ivanov said fire services were extinguishing the last remnants.
Russia will strengthen western border to deter attack: Kremlin
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday said Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the military to strengthen the country's western borders so that no one would ever think of launching an attack. Peskov told the main television network in neighbouring Belarus that unnamed nations were strengthening their military potential near Russia's western borders. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was working on a security plan, he said. "Of course this will be done in a way to make us secure and ensure we reach the required level of parity so that it wouldn't cross anyone's mind ... to attack us," he said.
US investigators find evidence Russian oligarchs trying to evade sanctions: Official
US prosecutors have found evidence that Russian oligarchs are trying to evade sanctions put in place to pressure Moscow to stop its invasion of Ukraine, the head of a new Justice Department task force said on Friday. Andrew Adams, a veteran prosecutor tapped to lead the "KleptoCapture" task force established last month, told Reuters in an interview that in some cases, even oligarchs who have not yet had sanctions imposed on them are trying to move assets ahead of potential future sanctions. But even as they try to hide yachts, planes or other mobile property in countries they believe to be secretive, Adams warned that oligarchs trying to evade sanctions are facing an "all-time high" level of international cooperation to track the ill-gotten gains of Russian elites.