April 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Rhea Mogul, Andrew Raine, Jack Guy, Ben Morse and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Updated 12:11 a.m. ET, April 26, 2022
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11:23 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022

What we know about the situation in Mariupol

A woman walks out of the Svyato-Troitsky church during the Orthodox Easter service, amid Ukraine-Russia conflict, in Mariupol, on April 24.
A woman walks out of the Svyato-Troitsky church during the Orthodox Easter service, amid Ukraine-Russia conflict, in Mariupol, on April 24. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were "continuously attacking" the encircled Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol on Orthodox Easter Sunday. The site has become one of the last significant holdouts of Ukrainian forces in the city, and is sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians.

Here's what we know about the situation:

  • Sunday bombardment: Russian forces continued to attack the city on Sunday, Ukrainian Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar said in an Easter message. "The enemy continues to drop aerial bombs, ships fire artillery, cannons fire, enemy tanks continue to hit, infantry tries to assault," he said.
  • Who is still fighting there: Troops of Azov — originally formed as a nationalist volunteer battalion but subsequently folded into the Ukrainian military — continue to hold out in the besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces. The situation at the plant is “close to a catastrophe," Yuriy Ryzhenkov, the CEO of the company that owns the plant, told CNN on Thursday
  • What about civilians: Ukrainian officials estimate that 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the devastated city. In the plant civilians have sheltered for weeks and supplies are running low. On Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there were "about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded servicemen there."
  • "I want to see the sun": For women and children stuck in the bunker of the Azovstal steelworks, daylight is a rarity. "I want to get out of here and see the sun. We’ve been here for two months now and I want to see the sun," said one boy.
  • Red Cross: The International Committee of the Red Cross said that "immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access" to Mariupol is "urgently needed." The ICRC said on Sunday it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.” The ICRC has made several attempts to evacuate civilians from the city, saying "each hour that passes has a terrible human cost."
  • Forcible deportation: Russia has forcibly deported Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia's Far East region, according to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. Lyudmyla Denisova said 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.
  • Who controls Mariupol? Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russian forces had achieved the "liberation" of Mariupol, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that the city is in Russian control, saying Ukrainian defenders continue to resist there.
  • Zelensky warns Putin: Zelensky said Saturday that if Ukrainians in the besieged city of Mariupol are killed by Russian forces, and if Russia organizes "pseudo" referendums in occupied territories, Ukraine will stop negotiations with the Russian side. 
11:23 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Russian forces forming for "offensive" in Kherson region, Kryvyi Rih military chief says

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

The military head of the south-central city of Kryvyi Rih said Sunday that Ukraine had observed preparations for a possible offensive by Russian forces from the Kherson region, adding defenses were being bolstered in the area.

In televised remarks, Oleksandr Vilkul said Russian forces were "forming an offensive strike formation in our direction in the Kherson region. We are waiting for their possible transition to the offensive in the coming days. But we know more about them than they think; we understand all their plans; and we are fully prepared for any development in the situation."

Vilkul said the Krivyi Rih garrison was in a state of readiness and had defenses prepared.

"A lot of work continues to help in evacuating people from the frontline zone," he said. "Kryvyi Rih is providing buses and ambulances. We have provided medical assistance and social workers. But people are going out on bicycles and taking old people and children out in wheelbarrows."

Earlier this week, a top Russian general said Moscow plans to establish "full control" over southern Ukraine in the second phase of its invasion of Ukraine.

8:44 a.m. ET, April 25, 2022

Kremenchuk hit by 9 missiles, Ukrainian regional military governor says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Dmytro Lunin, head of the Poltava Regional Military Administration, said Sunday nine Russian missiles struck the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk. 

"Already nine Russian missiles have hit Kremenchuk's infrastructure this evening," Lunin said. "The enemy has no regard, even on such a holy day."

Most Ukrainians observed Easter celebrations on Sunday. Lunin gave no further details about the consequences of the strikes.

11:23 p.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.

11:23 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022

Russian forces continuing attack on Mariupol, Ukrainian commander says in Easter message

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Olga Voitovych

In an Easter message Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of Ukraine's Azov Regiment, said Sunday that Russian forces were continuing to bombard the city of Mariupol, underscoring the need for evacuation of civilians and encircled Ukrainian forces.  

Christ is Risen, dear Ukraine," he said. "Today is a big day but even so, the enemy continues to drop aerial bombs, ships fire artillery, cannons fire, enemy tanks continue to hit, infantry tries to assault."

Palamar added: "We would like to thank those who are trying to help the civilians of Mariupol to evacuate from this dangerous area, with actions, not just words. I thank those who are making every effort to withdraw our military from the encirclement, who were left alone with the overwhelming forces of the enemy."

The Azov Regiment, sometimes referred to as the Azov Battalion, is a unit that began as an ultra-nationalist volunteer battalion but has since integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces.

Azov troops have been holding out in Mariupol's besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said earlier that Russian forces were "continuously attacking" the encircled Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Easter Sunday.

Ukrainian officials have said around 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the city, which has been ruined by weeks of Russian bombardment.