April 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Joe Ruiz, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes, Simone McCarthy, Amy Woodyatt, Amir Vera, Helen Regan and Andrew Raine, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022
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2:37 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

It’s 7 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)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he will be meeting with top US officials on Sunday in Kyiv, as heavy fighting continues in the east and south of the country over Ukraine’s Easter weekend. 

The White House has yet to confirm the visit, which Zelensky said would include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

As a new day breaks in the capital, here’s what you need to know.

Expected visit: Zelensky said he was “expecting specific things and specific weapons” from world leaders who visit the country, after announcing that he would meet with Blinken and Austin in Kyiv on Sunday. The potential visit would be the first from top US officials since the war broke out. The White House declined to comment on the potential trip.

Odesa toll: At least eight people are dead, including a three-month-old baby, following Russian missile strikes on the southwestern port city of Odesa, Zelensky said Saturday, condemning the attack which took place a day ahead of when many Ukrainians celebrate the Easter holiday.

Humanitarian crisis: An evacuation corridor from the besieged southern city of Mariupol was "thwarted" by Russian forces on Saturday, according to a Ukrainian official. Ukrainian officials have said more than 100,000 people still remain in the bombarded city, which the Russian government claims to control. Ukrainian fighters continue to hold out in the city's massive Azovstal steelworks, where civilians have sheltered for weeks and supplies are running low.

Moscow’s plan: Russia revealed the goal of its invasion is to take "full control" of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region and to establish a land corridor connecting Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed in 2014. A British Ministry of Defense briefing on Saturday said Russian forces had made no major gains in the past 24 hours, in the face of Ukrainian counterattacks.  

Forced deportations: Ukraine officials claimed on Saturday Russia was forcibly deporting some Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia's Far East region, some 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) from Ukraine. In early April, Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereschuk estimated some 45,000 Ukrainian citizens had been forcibly deported to Russia since the war began.

Civilian conscription: Ukrainian intelligence has also 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 be in violation of international law, the UK Ministry of Defense statement said.

12:30 a.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Ukrainian military says it hit 17 air targets on Saturday

From CNN's Hira Humayun and Josh Pennington

Ukraine’s military said it hit 17 air targets on Saturday, according to a Telegram statement from the country's Ministry of Defense (MoD).

The targets included three Russian aircraft, five cruise missiles and nine unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to the statement.

“Air Force and Land Forces anti-aircraft missiles struck nine operational-tactical drones, three aircraft and five cruise missiles,” the MoD statement read.

Earlier on Saturday, the MoD said on Telegram that at 10pm local time, soldiers in the Odesa region shot down two Russian cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea by a Russian ship heading towards the South Port.

12:40 a.m. ET, April 24, 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.

12:41 a.m. ET, April 24, 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.

12:30 a.m. ET, April 24, 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. 

12:44 a.m. ET, April 24, 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."  

12:45 a.m. ET, April 24, 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.

12:29 a.m. ET, April 24, 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.