April 29, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Steve George, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Jessie Yeung, Sana Noor Haq, Ben Morse, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0417 GMT (1217 HKT) April 30, 2022
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12:34 p.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Ukrainian official: Russians block part of Mariupol ahead of "another attempt to storm Azovstal" steel plant

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova

Azovstal Iron and Steel Works behind buildings damaged during the Russian attack of the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 28.
Azovstal Iron and Steel Works behind buildings damaged during the Russian attack of the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 28. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russian forces have closed off an area in Mariupol, potentially ahead of another attempt to storm the Azovstal steel plant, a Ukrainian official has said.

"For now, the occupiers closed the square of the Left Bank district from Veselka Park again. This may be due to another attempt to storm Azovstal or street fights," said Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol.

Veselka Park is situated to the north of Azovstal.

Andrushchenko also spoke about Russian efforts to take over more government functions in Mariupol.

He said the Russians' allies in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic were trying to "nationalize" Ukrainian property, such as the port.

On Thursday, DPR head Denis Pushilin said the seaport was being cleared and reconstruction begun, and "the port will be fully functional, we plan to make the first shipment in May."

Andrushchenko also said the Russians were also beginning a property census in parts of Mariupol, "despite public objections."

Apartment buildings that have been severely damaged during the Russian attack on Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 28.
Apartment buildings that have been severely damaged during the Russian attack on Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 28. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The census will assess the state of high-rise buildings in the southern port city, as well as surviving apartments and their owners, he said.

"Yesterday in Mariupol the occupiers issued the first birth certificate for the last month. For the first time in Mariupol, a Russian terrorist satellite has officially stolen the citizenship of our Ukrainian child," Andrushchenko added.

Andrushchenko comments came hours after the Ukrainian President's office said renewed efforts would be made to get civilians out of the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

Some background: In recent days Russian forces have stepped up attacks on the sprawling Azovstal industrial complex, as part of their efforts to fully capture Mariupol.

Yuriy Ryzhenkov, CEO of Metinvest Holding which owns the plant, described the scene as "a humanitarian disaster."

"The city's literally under siege for almost two months now. And the Russians, they don't allow us to bring food into the city or water into the city," Ryzhenkov told CNN.

Built in 1933 under Soviet rule, the plant was partially demolished during the Nazi occupation in the 1940s before being rebuilt.

Now it is gone again -- its carcass sheltering Ukrainian soldiers and around 1,000 civilians in a maze of underground chambers, according to Ukrainian officials.

Azovstal has since become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against Russia's unrelenting military assault on Ukraine.

CNN's Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Isa Soares, Madalena Araujo and Oleksandra Ochman contributed reporting to this post.

5:44 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Two volunteers abducted by Russian forces in Ukraine, says UK aid group

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

Two British male volunteers have been abducted by Russian forces in Ukraine as they were evacuating civilians, Dominik Byrne, the co-founder, and chief operating officer of the UK not-for-profit, Presidium Network, told CNN Friday.

The aid workers lost contact with the organization on Monday morning as they were traveling somewhere south of the city of Zaporizhzhia in central Ukraine to help organize a civilian evacuation of the area.

Neither work directly with Presidium Network, but the organization had been offering them support, according to Byrne. 

A family the two men had tried to evacuate from Zaporizhzhia were later taken in and interrogated by Russian soldiers, who asked them whether the volunteers were "British spies," Bryne told CNN. 

The family were eventually released and are now safe in Poland, Bryne added. 

CNN has reached out to the British Foreign Office for comment.

Multiple reports of abductions by Russian forces -- including those of local mayors, children, religious leaders, and journalists -- have surfaced since President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine more than two months ago. 

12:34 p.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Mariupol's vast steel plant is shielding around 1,000 people, and the scene of a last-stand battle

By CNN's Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Isa Soares, Madalena Araujo and Oleksandra Ochman

Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 22.
Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 22. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Few beyond the metals industry had heard of Mariupol's Azovstal Steel and Iron Works before it became the scene of a desperate last stand against Russia's invading forces.

Until recently Azovstal was a major player on the global stage, producing 4 million tons of steel annually and exporting the majority across the globe, according to its owner Metinvest Holding, Ukraine's biggest steelmaker.

From London's Shard skyscraper to Hudson Yards in Manhattan to Genoa's San Giorgio Bridge (which replaced the collapsed Morandi Bridge), steel produced at Azovstal is used in some of the world's most recognizable landmarks.

But for weeks now, the world has been gripped by the battle raging over the steelworks on the coast of the Sea of Azov.

The pocket of Ukrainian fighters entrenched at the plant has become a symbol of the country's unwavering resistance in the face of an enemy that far outnumbers them.

Yuriy Ryzhenkov, CEO of Metinvest Holding which owns the plant, is devastated by what he sees happening to the plant and to Mariupol.

"The city's literally under siege for almost two months now. And the Russians, they don't allow us to bring food into the city or water into the city," Ryzhenkov says.
"They're not allowing us to take the civilians out of the city in a centralized manner. They make the people either move out in their own automobiles or even walk by foot through the minefields. It's a humanitarian disaster there."

Read the full story here:

5:24 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Ukraine says Russians are stealing wheat, "threatening the world’s food security"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva, and Reuters

Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of "robbing" wheat from parts of the country they have occupied, a move which increases the threat to global food security.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement reported by Reuters: “The looting of grain from the Kherson region, as well as the blocking of shipments from Ukrainian ports and the mining of shipping lanes, threaten the world’s food security."

The ministry demanded that Russia stops "the illegal theft of grain, unblock Ukrainian ports, restore freedom of navigation and allow the passage of merchant ships.”

Through its illegal actions, Russia is robbing not only Ukraine but also consumers abroad."

"The United Nations estimates that about 1.7 billion people may face poverty and hunger due to food disruptions as a result of a full-scale war waged by Russia against Ukraine,” the ministry added.

Asked about the allegations by Reuters, the Kremlin said it had no information on the matter.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces also claimed Friday that Russian troops were "robbing" wheat stocks, as heavy fighting continues in the country's eastern and southern regions.

"The Russian occupiers are robbing the villagers," said the General Staff. "Thus, for example, over 60 tons of wheat together with the cargo trucks were stolen from the agricultural cooperative in the town of Kamianka-Dniprovska."

CNN is unable to verify these allegations independently. 

Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the southern city of Melitopol, which has been held by Russian troops for weeks, also spoke about the removal of grain stocks.

"Today it has moved to an industrial scale," he said. "Yesterday we published a video of a convoy of 50+ cars with trailers taking grain out of our occupied territories ... And today we do not know where they sent it."

The area around Melitopol produces substantial cereal crops.

Harvesters in the fields of the Novovodolazhsky district of the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on July 25, 2017
Harvesters in the fields of the Novovodolazhsky district of the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on July 25, 2017 (Pavlo Pakhomenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

The wheat crisis: Ukraine is known as the "breadbasket of Europe," and is a key source of wheat and corn -- especially for countries in the Middle East and North Africa that depend on imports. The likely wholesale disruption of its harvest this year could be a disaster, leaving these countries in short supply -- and driving up prices for important agricultural goods.

4:06 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Shelling and mortar fire hits Russian checkpoint bordering Ukraine, governor says

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie and Teele Rebane in Hong Kong

A checkpoint in the Russian village of Krupets, Kursk, was hit by incoming shelling and mortar fire, said the regional governor in a Telegram post on Friday.  

“This morning in the Rylsky district near the border was not peaceful. Around 8:00 a.m. (local time) a checkpoint in the village of Krupets was shelled with mortar fire. The firing points were suppressed by retaliatory fire from our border guards and the military,” said Gov. Roman Starovoyt.

He added that “there are no casualties or damage.” 

The Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, has been the site of several recent attacks, according to Starovoyt. He also claimed Kursk saw incoming fire on Wednesday, and that two Ukrainian drones were shot down over the village of Borovskoye on Monday. 

Russian officials have repeatedly accused Ukraine of mounting cross-border attacks on fuel depots and military installations, claims which Ukrainian government agencies say are intended to stoke "anti-Ukrainian sentiment."

12:34 p.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Ukraine says operation planned to get civilians out of Mariupol steel plant Friday

From CNN's Tim Lister in Lviv

Civilians sheltering at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 24.
Civilians sheltering at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 24. (Azov/Reuters)

An operation to evacuate civilians from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol is planned for Friday, according to a statement from the Ukrainian president's office on Friday.

The statement gave no further details.

Hundreds of civilians are thought to be trapped in the sprawling complex on the eastern outskirts of Mariupol, which was heavily bombed by Russian aircraft on Wednesday night and has faced relentless shelling for weeks.

United Nations gets involved: On Thursday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged humanitarian corridors be opened in Mariupol.

Guterres said Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed “in principle” for the UN and the Red Cross to be involved in evacuating civilians from the steel plant, and that he had held “intense discussions” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make evacuation from Mariupol a reality.  

“Today the people of Mariupol are in desperate need for such an approach. Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis,” Guterres said in Kyiv, speaking at a press conference alongside Zelensky.

The UN chief met with Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday, following a visit to Moscow where he met Putin on Tuesday.

3:07 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine, as Russians target "entire line of contact"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Fires burn after a shelling near Lyman station in Lyman, eastern Ukraine, on April 28.
Fires burn after a shelling near Lyman station in Lyman, eastern Ukraine, on April 28. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavy shelling by Russian forces is continuing along "the entire line of contact" in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, according to the Ukrainian military.

Russians troops are also trying to inflict air strikes in certain areas, said the General Staff of the Armed Forces on Friday.

The Izium area of eastern Ukraine, located in the Kharkiv region, has become a staging ground for Russian forces as they try to advance through neighboring Donetsk and Luhansk. No offensive operations in that area have been conducted in recent hours, said the Ukrainian military.

"The main effort was focused on reconnaissance, identification of defensive positions of the units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and hitting them with artillery fire," said the General Staff.

Further southeast, "in order to prevent the redeployment of our troops, the enemy is shelling the positions with artillery, mortars and multiple rocket launchers along the entire line of contact," it added.

The General Staff also claimed that Ukrainian troops "repelled nine enemy attacks, destroyed six tanks, one artillery system, twenty armored vehicles" in Donetsk and Luhansk on Thursday.

Cutting off Russian pathways: An important bridge in southern Ukraine, which connects Russian-occupied Crimea with the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, has been destroyed, CNN reported on Thursday. Melitopol has been held by Russian forces since early March.

Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov confirmed on Ukrainian television that Ukrainian special forces were responsible for cutting off the crucial bridge.

"Yesterday our military forces of special operation blew up the bridge, which was of great logistical importance for the occupiers, because with the help of this bridge they transported military equipment to the stations of Melitopol and Novobohdanivka," he said.

Fedorov also accused Russian occupiers of carrying out "mass abduction," saying they were "kidnapping" men of conscription age. This allegation can't be independently confirmed.

2:43 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

Fuel depot on fire in the Russian-held Donetsk region of Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

A fuel depot in part of the eastern Donetsk region controlled by Russian-backed forces was attacked by the Ukrainian military and set on fire during the night, a local official said. 

Several social media videos showed the blaze in the depot in the Kirovsky district.

Alexei Kulemzin, the head of the separatist Donetsk administration, said that "as a result of shelling of Kirovsky district by Ukrainian shells, a tank at the oil depot...was damaged." 

He said four transformer sub-stations had been damaged.

Some background: Ukrainian authorities have not commented on the incident, but the fire is one of several that have taken place recently at Russian-controlled fuel and ammunition depots.

12:44 a.m. ET, April 29, 2022

A new prize for Russian forces: Control of the western banks of the Dnipro River

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

Novovorontsovka, Ukraine: The changing shape of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine can be seen here along the banks of the Dnipro River. 

The eastern side has been controlled for weeks by Russian forces – but now they are pushing to seize the western side. The prize: To control the strategically significant river that winds from Russia through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea.

After the failure of Russia’s fierce first assault, Moscow has shifted to a grinding and more methodical strategy to expand control of the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk while carving out a territory along Ukraine’s southern coast.

The impact is visible in the small town of Novovorontsovka. A handful of Russian tanks are about a kilometer away across the river, pushing and probing – but so far kept at bay by Ukrainian forces.

But the signs of destruction and death are everywhere. A small motorboat sits damaged on the river bank. On April 7, four civilians were killed by Russian fire after more than a dozen got on board to flee the Russian occupation.

And more civilians are fleeing. On Thursday morning, a group of women gathered outside Novovorontsovka, having escaped Russian-controlled territory.

“We ran, ran, early in the morning,” a woman named Luda told CNN. “They didn’t let us out. We’re shields for them.”

The Russians took whatever they needed, including cars, she said. They drew Zs on everything, Luda said, a reference to the pro-war symbol that has been emblazoned on Russian military equipment.

"They say they’ve come to liberate us, these aggressors," Luda added. "They say America is fighting here, but using the hands of Ukrainians to do it."

Nearby, despite the threat of rocket fire, Ludmilla was raking the soil to plant onions. Her children have left, she said, but she’s staying behind with her 80-year-old mother.

Even though the windows of her home have been blown out, Ludmilla said she won’t leave.

"I’m here until victory," she said.