We've wrapped up our live coverage for the day. You can read more about Russia's invasion of Ukraine here, or scroll through the updates below.
April 1, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news
By Amarachi Orie, Adrienne Vogt and Tori B. Powell, CNN
Church leader with ties to Moscow put under house arrest after investigation
From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Dennis Lapin
A church leader from the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery was ordered to remain under 24-hour house arrest and to wear an electronic bracelet by a Ukrainian court Saturday, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).
The UOC said the court refused to grant a request from the official — Metropolitan Pavlo, Petro Lebid — to attend services in the monastery.
He will remain under house arrest for 60 days, Ukraine's national news agency Ukrinform reported.
Some background: Metropolitan Pavlo is the abbot of the 980-year-old monastery in Kyiv and a notable leader in the UOC, a branch of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine that has been traditionally loyal to the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and associated with pro-Moscow sentiments.
The church leader is under investigation for "inciting religious hatred," and "justifying and denying Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine," the Security Service of Ukraine said in a statement Saturday.
The metropolitan attended a court hearing Monday but felt unwell and had to go to a hospital, the UOC said.
Read more about the crackdown by Ukraine's government on the church here.
Zelensky calls Russia’s UN Security Council presidency “absurd and destructive”
From CNN's Mariya Knight
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky slammed Russia’s United Nations Security Council presidency, which took effect today, in his nightly address Saturday.
“Unfortunately, we also have news that is obviously absurd and destructive,” Zelensky said. “Today, the terrorist state began to chair the UN Security Council.”
“Yesterday, the Russian army killed another Ukrainian child – a five-month-old boy named Danylo from Avdiivka, in Donbas," Zelensky continued. “His parents were injured. Russian artillery ... One of the hundreds of artillery strikes that the terrorist state launches every day. And at the same time, Russia chairs the UN Security Council.”
Zelensky said such instances “prove the complete bankruptcy” of global institutions, and he argued reform is "clearly overdue" for the Security Council.
Some key context: The presidency of the Security Council is held by each member in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the member states' names. It's Russia's turn in the order, so it is assuming this position of power despite facing fierce criticism from many of the alliance's members over its invasion of Ukraine.
The council requires consensus to adopt most decisions, regardless of which country sits at the head of its meetings. While Ukraine's leaders have condemned the symbolism of Russia's presidency, they have downplayed Moscow's ability to bend the group to its will. You can read more about how the council functions here.
New sanctions: Zelensky also said he implemented sanctions against more than 650 people Saturday. “These are officials of the aggressor state, its defense industry – hundreds of companies – and collaborators,” he said, referring to Russia.
Zelensky also marked the importance of Switzerland joining the tenth sanctions package of the European Union.
“It is important when the states that are neutral in the military-political sense nevertheless take a clear moral position towards Russian terror,” he said.
Ukrainian kickboxing champion dies from wounds sustained on the battlefield, mayor says
From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Radina Gigova
Vitalii Merinov, a four-time world kickboxing champion who fought on the front lines in Ukraine, died Friday night from wounds sustained on the battlefield, the mayor of the city of Ivano-Frankivsk said Saturday.
Mayor Ruslan Martsynkiv called Merinov's death "an irreparable loss for the Ivano-Frankivsk community" in a Facebook post. Merinov also had served as a member of the city council executive committee, according to Martsynkiv.
"Vitalii Merinov left for the war on the first day of the full-scale invasion," Martsynkiv said. "He suffered a gunshot shrapnel wound to his leg during one of the battles. Merinov recovered and returned to the front and defended Ukraine until his last breath."
The mayor did not say in which battle Merinov sustained his latest wounds. He is survived by his wife and two-year-old daughter, Martsynkiv added.
Ukraine's Security Service says church leader with ties to Moscow is under investigation
From CNN's Radina Gigova
An orthodox church leader at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery is under investigation, according to a statement Saturday from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), who accuse him of "inciting religious hatred" and "justifying and denying Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine."
As part of the investigation, the SBU said it found that Metropolitan Pavlo, Petro Lebid, "in his public speeches repeatedly insulted the religious feelings of Ukrainians, humiliated the views of believers of other faiths and tried to create hostile attitudes towards them, and made statements justifying or denying the actions of the aggressor country."
"Investigative actions" were taken at the metropolitan's places of residence, the SBU said. The operation was conducted under the supervision of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office, according to the SBU.
"The enemy is trying to use the church environment to promote its propaganda and split Ukrainian society. But we will not give him (the enemy) a single chance! The SBU systematically blocks all attempts by Russian special services to use their agents to harm the interests and security of Ukraine," SBU head Vasyl Malyuk said in the statement.
Here's what led up to the investigation: Metropolitan Pavlo is the abbot of the 980-year-old monastery, home of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), a branch of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine that has been traditionally loyal to the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
Kirill is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a supporter of his war on Ukraine.
Tensions over the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra have risen after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and an agreement that allowed the UOC to occupy the historic complex was terminated on March 10. The UOC was instructed to leave the premises by March 29.
In May 2022, the UOC cut ties with Moscow and declared “full independence," but some members have maintained their loyalty.
The metropolitan attended a court hearing Monday but felt unwell and had to go to a hospital, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said.
Some more background: Since the start of Russia's invasion in 2022, Ukraine's Security Service said it has launched more than 40 "comprehensive counterintelligence and security measures" in the church environment of the UOC, "which were aimed at stopping the destructive activities of pro-Russian clergy."
As a result of the measures taken by the SBU, 61 criminal proceedings were initiated against 61 clergymen, the agency said. "In total, the courts have already passed 7 sentences against individual clerics who sided with the enemy, including 2 who were used in the exchange for our servicemen," it said.
Based on SBU investigations, 17 UOC officials have been subject to sanctions by Kyiv and almost 250 clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church have been banned from entering Ukraine, the agency said.
Ukraine has also terminated the citizenship of 19 UOC clergymen who were dual Ukrainian-Russian citizens, forcing them to leave the country, the SBU said.
Sister of Paul Whelan thinks he may be hidden away while Russia recruits more convicts
Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of an American who the US says is wrongfully detained in Russia, believes Moscow may have temporarily moved her brother to shield his knowledge of a potential prison recruiting scheme.
Paul Whelan's family told CNN Friday they were concerned for the former Marine's well-being after he didn't make his usual daily call to his parents.
"First the Wagner group and now the (Russian) Ministry of Defense are recruiting in the prisons to get people to send to the front line on their war on Ukraine," Elizabeth Whelan said in an interview on "CNN Newsroom" Saturday. "I believe that Paul may have been sent off to the side to a hospital — as he has the last couple of times the recruiters came around to the prison camp — so that he can't see what's going on and report out about that."
She said her family is "hoping to hear from him soon" because "it's always worrying when we lose contact with him like this."
Some context on prison recruitment: The Wagner mercenary group said it would no longer recruit convicts to its ranks in February. However, it appears the recruitment drive in prisons has continued under the Russian Ministry of Defense. CNN has spoken to several fighters this year who said they were directly employed by the ministry.
On the detention of another American: Elizabeth said what will happen next in the case of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained this week by Russian authorities on spying accusations, "is uncertain."
The newspaper has "vehemently" denied the accusations and is working toward his release. The US State Department is in contact with Moscow over the detention.
"It will be a couple of months, I understand, before he has his first hearing," Elizabeth Whelan said.
A district court in Moscow said Thursday that Gershkovich would be detained until May 29.
Whelan said the cases of Gershkovich and her brother have some similarities, but "each case is very different."
Paul Whelan was convicted and sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years in a Russian prison on accusations that he was involved in an intelligence operation — claims rejected by the US.
"When I heard about the news about Evan, I mean, you know, we had two reactions: First, of course, great sympathy for him and for his family to have to go through this ordeal. We know all too well how this can go," Elizabeth Whelan told CNN. She said the family was also "shocked that Russia would show itself to be so weak as to resort to trying to pull off another hostage-taking like this. I don't know what they expect to accomplish, but it doesn't look good for them on the world stage."
Russia's defense minister says weapons production has increased, but doesn't provide specific numbers
From CNN staff and Radina Gigova
Weapons production for the military has increased "significantly," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Saturday in a statement, without providing specific numbers.
"Steps to expand production capacities and improve productivity have made it possible to significantly increase the production of weapons for the troops, including conventional and high-precision weapons," Shoigu is quoted as saying during a meeting on weapon supplies with the Joint Group of Forces.
"All this allows us to achieve the goals set by the supreme commander-in-chief based on the plan of the special military operation," he added, using Russia's euphemism for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Shoigu also said "necessary measures are being taken" to increase the most in-demand ammunition.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a large-scale effort to build up capacities in order to produce more weapons for his war in Ukraine, saying, "we need it urgently now."
The Ministry of Defense and Shoigu himself have come under criticism in recent months from Wagner private military company chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has accused them of failing to supply his fighters at the front line with ammunition.
Ukraine’s Zelensky and France's Macron discuss defense cooperation
From CNN's Mariya Knight
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron held a telephone conversation Saturday discussing “defense interaction" and steps to implement Ukraine's peace plan, according to a tweet from Zelensky.
For background: In November 2022, Zelensky presented Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
The steps include a path to nuclear safety, food security, a special tribunal for alleged Russian war crimes and a final peace treaty with Moscow. He also urged G20 leaders to use all their power to “make Russia abandon nuclear threats” and implement a price cap on energy imported from Moscow.
Geolocated video shows black Wagner flag near center of embattled Bakhmut
From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin
Wagner fighters appear to have planted their group’s flag on the top of a high-rise building near the center of the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, video shows.
A video posted to a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel Friday and geolocated by CNN shows a black flag, a hallmark of leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private mercenary company, flying atop the building in the snow-covered city, west of the river that flows down the middle of Bakhmut.
Key context: The bloody battle for the eastern city has been raging for months and has seen heavy losses on both sides. In that time, Russian forces have made only slow, incremental gains. The building with the flag sits just a couple of blocks north of central neighborhoods already believed to be in Russian hands.