Russia's war in Ukraine

By Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Amy Woodyatt, Sana Noor Haq, Emma Tucker, Angela Dewan, Adrienne Vogt and Joe Ruiz, CNN

Updated 12:36 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022
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9:50 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Zelensky decries Russian attack during Easter holiday for Ukraine’s Christians

A Ukrainian priest blesses traditional cakes and painted eggs prepared for an Easter celebration in the in Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 23.
A Ukrainian priest blesses traditional cakes and painted eggs prepared for an Easter celebration in the in Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 23. (Mykola Tys/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of being a “sponsor of terrorism” in his nightly address Saturday, decrying a deadly attack on the southern port of Odesa that coincided with the observance of Holy Saturday before the Easter holiday celebrated on April 24 by many Christians in Ukraine.

"Today was Holy Saturday for Christians of the Eastern Rite. The day between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. It seems that Russia is stuck on such a day," Zelensky said. "But there will be a Resurrection. Life will defeat death. The truth will defeat any lies, and evil will be punished."

At least eight people, including a three-month-old baby, were killed in Russian missile strikes in Odesa on Saturday, Zelensky said. A Ukrainian official earlier said at least six cruise missiles were launched at the port city, as Russia continues its brutal offensive in south and east of the country.

In his remarks Saturday evening, Zelensky thanked the country's defenders "who ensure our security this night before Easter and every day," and vowed justice for Ukraine.

"It is only a matter of time before all Russian murderers feel what a fair response to their crimes is. It is only a matter of time before we can bring all the deported Ukrainians home. It is only a matter of time before all our people all over Ukraine feel what a strong peace is," he said. 

Many Ukrainians celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, with Easter Sunday falling this year on April 24.

9:00 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Zelensky says Blinken and Austin will visit Ukraine on Sunday, as diplomacy returns to Kyiv

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Kyiv on Sunday, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in what would be the first visit of high-level US officials to the embattled country since the war broke out. 

The potential visit, which has not been confirmed by Washington, would come on the heels of several high-profile visits from European leaders to the capital and moves to reopen evacuated embassies.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson toured parts of the capital on foot alongside Zelensky on April 9, and European Union leaders visited the previous day.

The British government is expected to re-open its embassy next week, “dependent on the security situation,” its government confirmed, following an announcement from Johnson Friday. The European Union earlier this month said it too was restoring its diplomatic presence in the capital. 

"I'm heading back. Looking forward to working in Kyiv #Ukraine️ again," UK Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons wrote on Twitter on Friday.

The shift comes after Moscow rerouted its focus away from the capital and to Ukraine's south and east, following intense Ukrainian defense in the areas surrounding Kyiv and Russian supply issues. Kyiv had for weeks braced for an attack of Russian forces, pushing embassies to close their operations there.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, speaking at a press conference in Washington on Friday, also called on ambassadors from all countries, including the United States, to return to their embassies in Kyiv.

The White House and State Department declined to comment Saturday potential visit from top US officials Blinken and Austin. CNN has reached out to the US Department of Defense for comment.

Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that if an administration official were to visit Ukraine, the White House would not publicly disclose that information ahead of the time, citing security concerns.

8:10 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

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

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on a warehouse amid Russian bombardments in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 23.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on a warehouse amid Russian bombardments in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 23. (Felipe Dana/AP)

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

Ukraine claims Mariupol citizens forcibly deported to Far East region of Russia: Ukraine officials claimed on Saturday that Russia has forcibly deported Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia's Far East region. 

"Russia sent forcibly deported citizens of Ukraine from Mariupol to the Primorsky Krai - 8,000 kilometers from the homeland," said Lyudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, in a Telegram post.

According to Denisova, volunteers told her a train arrived in the city of Nakhodka on April 21 with 308 Ukrainians from Mariupol, including mothers with young children, people with disabilities and students.

8 dead in Russian missile strikes in Southern Ukraine, Odesa mayor says: Odesa Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said in a statement on Telegram a total of eight people were killed in the port city after Russian missile strikes. 

"Behind my back is what Russians call a military target," he said. "A residential building that they for some reason call a military object. Eight people died. A three-month-old child is among them. She hadn't seen life yet. You [Russians] are monsters, burn in hell."

In a separate statement, local authorities said rescue work was still underway in a damaged residential building. A total of 86 people were been evacuated, and rubble was still being dismantled.

Leaders who plan to visit Ukraine "should not come with empty hands," Zelensky says: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that leaders who plan to visit Ukraine "should not come here with empty hands."

Zelensky made the comments when asked about what he expects from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's visit to Kyiv on Sunday.

"Why is it important for leaders to come to us? I will give you a pragmatic answer; because they should not come here with empty hands. We are waiting not just for presents or cakes; we are expecting specific things and specific weapons," Zelensky said during a presser in Kyiv.

Ukrainian intelligence says Russia plans to conscript Ukrainian civilians from occupied regions: Ukrainian intelligence has accused Russia of planning to conscript Ukrainian civilians from the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, according to a Saturday UK military intelligence update. 

“This would follow similar prior conscription practices in the Russian-occupied Donbas and Crimea,” the statement read.

5:29 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Ukrainian intelligence: Russia plans to conscript Ukrainian civilians from occupied regions

From CNN's Hira Humayun

Ukrainian intelligence has accused Russia of planning to conscript Ukrainian civilians from the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, according to a Saturday UK military intelligence update. 

“This would follow similar prior conscription practices in the Russian-occupied Donbas and Crimea,” the statement read.

The statement said under Article 51 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, occupying powers cannot compel “protected persons" -- which, in this context, includes civilians in occupied territories -- to serve in its “armed or auxiliary forces." Additionally, pressure or propaganda aiming to secure volunteers to enlist is not allowed. 

“Any enlistment of Ukrainian civilians into the Russian armed forces, even if presented by Russia as being voluntary or military service in accordance with Russian law, would constitute a violation of Article 51 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the UK Ministry of Defense statement said. 

5:28 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Leaders who plan to visit Ukraine "should not come with empty hands," Zelensky says 

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Atlanta 

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, holds a press conference at the Independence Square metro station in Kyiv, on Saturday, April 23.
Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, holds a press conference at the Independence Square metro station in Kyiv, on Saturday, April 23. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that leaders who plan to visit Ukraine "should not come here with empty hands." Zelensky made the comments when asked about what he expects from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's visit to Kyiv on Sunday.

"Why is it important for leaders to come to us? I will give you a pragmatic answer; because they should not come here with empty hands. We are waiting not just for presents or cakes; we are expecting specific things and specific weapons," Zelensky said during a presser in Kyiv.
"That's why we will be able to get an agreement with the United States or some part of the package of armament which we agreed before. This is why I believe this is a positive signal," he added.

"The same about the leaders of other countries; they know we discussed these things in quietness, as our diplomats say, it's quiet diplomacy. I don't like very much, but it exists," Zelensky said.  

"We will be happy to see you, but please bring to us the assistance which we discussed, which you have or which you have the opportunity to bring," Zelensky said. He added, "that's why the visit from the US is very important."  

5:21 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

8 dead in Russian missile strikes in Southern Ukraine, Odesa mayor says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

People react as they leave a multi-store building in Odesa after Russian troops strike, on Saturday, April 23.
People react as they leave a multi-store building in Odesa after Russian troops strike, on Saturday, April 23. (Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Odesa Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said in a statement on Telegram a total of eight people were killed in the port city after Russian missile strikes. 

"Behind my back is what Russians call a military target," he said. "A residential building that they for some reason call a military object. Eight people died. A three-month-old child is among them. She hadn't seen life yet. You [Russians] are monsters, burn in hell."

In a separate statement, local authorities said rescue work was still underway in a damaged residential building. A total of 86 people were been evacuated, and rubble was still being dismantled.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a news conference 18 or 20 people had been injured in the strike.

4:33 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

Ukraine claims Mariupol citizens forcibly deported to Far East region of Russia

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam and Nathan Hodge

Ukraine officials claimed on Saturday that Russia has forcibly deported Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia's Far East region. 

"Russia sent forcibly deported citizens of Ukraine from Mariupol to the Primorsky Krai - 8,000 kilometers from the homeland," said Lyudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, in a Telegram post.

According to Denisova, volunteers told her a train arrived in the city of Nakhodka on April 21 with 308 Ukrainians from Mariupol, including mothers with young children, people with disabilities and students.

Denisova also included photos showing the Ukrainian citizens' arrival at the train station in her Telegram post.

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol's mayor, also claimed on April 21, "the Russians brought 308 deported Mariupol residents to Vladivostok."

The Mariopul mayor's official telegram post said 90 out of 308 deported residents were children.

"People were accommodated in schools and dormitories. Later it is planned to send them to different settlements of the Primorsky Krai," the mayor's Telegram post reads.

Photo and videos published on a Russian local news portal in Vladivostok, vl.com, also showed evacuees from Mariupol arriving by train. 

Denisova also claimed Mariupol residents were sent by bus to temporary accommodation in the city of Wrangel and were expected to receive new documents that will allow them to work in Russia.

"The occupying country of Russia grossly violates the provisions of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which prohibits the forced relocation or deportation of persons from the occupied territories," Denisova added in her Telegram post.
4:00 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

It's 11 p.m. in Ukraine. Catch up on today's developments here

Worshippers attend a service marking Orthodox Easter at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church, in Lviv, on Saturday, April 23. Ukrainian authorities urged those celebrating Orthodox Easter to follow religious services online and to respect curfews amid fighting with Russian troops despite a holiday that usually attracts crowds.
Worshippers attend a service marking Orthodox Easter at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church, in Lviv, on Saturday, April 23. Ukrainian authorities urged those celebrating Orthodox Easter to follow religious services online and to respect curfews amid fighting with Russian troops despite a holiday that usually attracts crowds. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia's military has shown no signs of stopping during the Orthodox Easter weekend in Ukraine. Here's what you need to know.

Odesa strikes: Five civilians died — including an infant — and 18 were wounded as Russian missile strikes hit the southwestern port city of Odesa, according to a senior Ukrainian official. A city council deputy called the strikes "Easter gifts from Putin."

Mariupol evacuations: The evacuation of civilians from the besieged southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been "thwarted" by the Russian military, an adviser to the city's mayor said.

"About 200 Mariupol residents were going to leave, but when they arrived at the assembly point, the [Russian] military told them to disperse because 'there will be shelling now'," according to the Ukrainian parliament's Twitter account.

Easter warnings: The Ukrainian government announced new curfews for Easter weekend as authorities cautioned residents about the potential for increased Russian military activity during holiday celebrations. Officials in some regions urged people to attend virtual services.

Top US officials to Kyiv: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv tomorrow. Zelensky made the remarks during a press conference in a Kyiv subway station, where he also reiterated his willingness to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

More sanctions?: Europe is discussing a sixth round of sanctions on Russia, including a hit on Russia's energy market, officials say. European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said one of the issues under consideration concerns an oil embargo.

3:43 p.m. ET, April 23, 2022

What's it like being the family of Alexey Navalny?

From CNN's Foren Clark

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny (R), his daughter Dasha (2R), son Zakhar (2L) and wife Yulia (L) arrive at a polling station during to the Moscow city Duma elections in Moscow on September 8, 2019.
Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny (R), his daughter Dasha (2R), son Zakhar (2L) and wife Yulia (L) arrive at a polling station during to the Moscow city Duma elections in Moscow on September 8, 2019. (Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)

The family of Russian dissident Alexey Navalny has always supported his efforts to combat Russian President Vladimir Putin’s corrupt leadership. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and their children, Dasha and Zakhar, have had to watch Navalny face arrests, violence, and even an attack on his own life.  

In August 2020, Navalny’s family got the call that he had taken ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow and was undergoing treatment. 

“To have your dad, an opposition leader, being poisoned by we don’t know what, we don’t know how, we don’t know when, and just be in a random hospital, it was just … it was surreal, it was literally like a book,” Dasha said.  

Yulia Navalnaya quickly made her way to the hospital where Navalny was being treated and began putting public and international pressure on the Russian government to allow him to be medically evacuated to Germany. 

She described the fear she had when she first arrived at the hospital and was physically barred from seeing her husband. “I thought since he was all alone, the [Federal Security Service] and Putin would make the most of the situation and try to make sure he’s dead.” 

Her efforts to secure his release, which included sending a personal letter to Putin himself, eventually paid off – and may have saved Navalny’s life. His sudden illness was later tied to exposure to the nerve agent Novichok. 

After a long recovery in Germany, Navalny announced that he would return to Russia in January 2020. His family once again faced the possibility of losing him, this time to arrest and detainment, but they understood that Navalny’s mission was more important than their worry. 

“There was a point a year ago, where my dad was almost not there for my high school graduation. He was in jail once again and, like, the whole day I was just thinking about how [he] would’ve been proud to see me walk on the stage and get my certificate. And he wouldn’t get that option, because he was in jail for doing the right thing,” Dasha said before her father made his return to Russia. “I know that my dad misses Russia, even though it’s scary to go back. And if he didn’t go back, I would say you need to go back and fight. It’s something worth fighting for.”

Navalny was immediately arrested after his plane landed in Moscow, and he has been a prisoner ever since. In March, he was sentenced to another nine years in jail after being convicted on fraud charges, according to the Russian-owned state news agency TASS.

The director of the CNN film “Navalny," Daniel Roher, who spent time with the entire family while following Navalny’s story for the film, described how their support allows Navalny to continue with his mission. 

“It is like the entire family has this iron spine, their character is extraordinary, and I think … the foundation for his strength is the strength of his extraordinary wife Yulia and their children,” Roher said. “Everyone believes in what he’s doing, and everyone supports the sacrifice that he’s making. 

Although they have faced violence and harassment of their own, Navalny’s family continues to support his anti-corruption message, and they express their pride in his accomplishments. 

Dasha wrote on Instagram: “I am very proud of my dad, and I am glad that his incredible story of the last few years will be told.”

 

 

Tune in tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET to watch the CNN Film “Navalny” on CNN.