April 30, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Thom Poole, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 1:15 a.m. ET, May 1, 2023
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5:49 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Pope says Vatican is involved in effort to end the war in Ukraine

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen

Pope Francis holds a news conference aboard a plane as he returns to the Vatican following his journey to Hungary on April 30.
Pope Francis holds a news conference aboard a plane as he returns to the Vatican following his journey to Hungary on April 30. (Vatican Media/­Reuters)

Pope Francis told journalists Sunday that the Vatican is part of a mission to end the war in Ukraine.

Francis made the remarks during a news conference after a three-day trip to the Hungarian capital.

“The mission is in the course now, but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it," Pope Francis said. 

During his trip to Budapest, the Pope met with a representative from the pro-Kremlin Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion. When the Pope was asked if that meeting and the meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could accelerate peace, he said, “I believe that peace is always made by opening channels; peace can never be made by closure.” 

A reporter asked if the Pope was willing to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia. “The Holy See is willing to act because it is right; it just is,” he said. 

Last week, the Pope met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who requested his help with the kids' return.

5:33 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Zelensky and France's Macron discuss military aid, NATO membership and battlefield developments

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his French counterpart held a phone call Sunday, discussing what Emmanuel Macron’s readout called France’s “commitment to provide all necessary assistance to Ukraine in order to restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” 

The Ukrainian readout said Zelensky shared details about the situation on the conflict's front lines and how it might develop in May and June, as anticipation builds for Kyiv's counteroffensive.

Zelensky also laid out the highest priority aid his military needs to defeat Moscow's forces, according to the readout.

The world leaders discussed the upcoming NATO Summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, where Zelensky said he anticipates members will make security guarantees for his country, and where he also hopes to begin the process of formally inviting Ukraine to join the alliance. The NATO Summit in Lithuania will take place in mid-July.

Zelensky's readout said he thanked “France for its comprehensive and effective support for Ukraine in the face of ongoing full-scale Russian aggression."

4:39 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

At least 1 person killed and 2 hurt by Russian shelling in southern Ukraine, regional leader says

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

At least one person was killed and two were injured when Russian forces shelled the southern city of Nikopol on Sunday, Serhii Lysak, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, wrote on Telegram.

"Over the course of the day, enemy forces deployed heavy artillery twice to shell Nikopol. A 48-year-old resident of the city was killed,” Lysak wrote. “A 46-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man sustained injuries.” 

The governor said Russia's assault damaged six high-rise buildings and the same number of private homes, plus agricultural buildings, two gas pipelines and a power line.

4:27 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Analysis: A chaotic 72 hours show Russia's lacking readiness for Ukraine's counteroffensive

Analysis by CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

The Ukrainian army fires grad shells in the direction of Bakhmut on April 28. Wagner mercenary head Yevgeny Prigozhin said Sunday that his fighters may have to withdraw from Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian army fires grad shells in the direction of Bakhmut on April 28. Wagner mercenary head Yevgeny Prigozhin said Sunday that his fighters may have to withdraw from Bakhmut. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine's much-anticipated counteroffensive appears imminent — and the way each side is preparing speaks volumes about their readiness.

Kyiv’s frontlines are abuzz with vehicle movement and artillery strikes, with regular explosions hitting vital Russian targets in occupied areas.

Its defense minister has said preparations are "coming to an end" and President Volodymyr Zelensky has assured a counteroffensive "will happen," while demurring on any exact start date.

It may have already started; it may be weeks away. We don’t know — and that fact is a strong measure of Ukraine’s success as this begins.

Moscow, on the other hand, is in the closing-time bar brawl stage of their war. After losing Kharkiv and Kherson, they have had at least seven months to ready the next likely target of Ukrainian attack: Zaporizhzhia.

That has happened, with vast trench defense networks that can be seen from space. That recognition of their enormity is not necessarily a compliment in 2023. They are big, yes, but they are also something anyone can peruse on Google. That’s not great in an era of precise rockets and speedy armored advances.

But it's the last 72 hours that have perhaps most betrayed Russia's lacking readiness:

First, the apparent firing of the deputy defense minister in charge of logistics, Mikhail Mizintsev. The Russian Ministry of Defense has not spelled out his dismissal, merely issuing a decree that Aleksey Kuzmenkov now has his job.

The "Butcher of Mariupol," as Mizintsev is known, surely had enough failings over Russia’s disastrous war to merit his firing. But this fails to satisfy the question: Why now?

By removing key ministers in the moments before its army faces Ukraine's counter-assault, Moscow sends a message of disarray.

Yevgeny Prigozhin arrives to pay respects to slain Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky on April 8 in Moscow.
Yevgeny Prigozhin arrives to pay respects to slain Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky on April 8 in Moscow. (AP)

And then there's Yevgeny Prigozhin's new round of criticism. The Wagner mercenary warlord chose Sunday to give another long interview in which he laid bare the sheer extent of the issues his mercenaries face.

According to the Wagner head, his fighters are so low on ammunition that they may have to withdraw from Bakhmut — the strategically unimportant city they have squandered thousands of lives trying to take.

(A caveat: Prigozhin is not the most trustworthy source, and provides little evidence for what he says. But this sort of public spat isn’t something Moscow would encourage at this sensitive moment).

Russia’s eroding ammunition supplies were long known, but to suggest imminent failure just ahead of the counteroffensive smacks of a major bid to shift blame.

Bottom line: The hours before Ukraine moves are shrinking. The amount we know about their emotional state, or target, is almost zero. And the extent of Moscow’s internal indecision, rivalries and disunity only grows.

4:22 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Ukrainian fighters describe close-contact battles and heavy Russian shelling in Bakhmut

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Stephanie Halasz

Smoke rises above Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 26.
Smoke rises above Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 26. (Libkos/AP)

Fighting in the long-contested eastern city of Bakhmut is “very intense," Ukrainian military press officer Mykyta Shandyba said Sunday on national TV.

“The Russian military is trying to take the city by May 9. They are currently failing," Shandyba said. "They are using artillery, mortars and tank shelling to destroy the city. Often, battles with them are close-contact battles. Destroying the enemy with small arms and grenades, not artillery."

The military spokesperson said Russian forces are constantly shelling Ukrainian positions: 

“There are no pauses — the enemy is firing nonstop. First, the enemy artillery works, and then they try to break through our defense. When they fail, they start firing from artillery again.”

CNN cannot independently verify battlefield developments in Bakhmut.

A sprint to capture the city: A Ukrainian fighter in Bakhmut named Yurii Syrotiuk — call-sign “Mamai” — told national TV that Russian fighters seem pressed to conclude the battle quickly. 

“The enemy is in a rush; the enemy is trying to put pressure, trying to attack the areas of high-rise buildings in Bakhmut,” he said.

Syrotiuk claimed Moscow's troops are running out of supplies and faith in their mission, so they have turned more destructive, demolishing homes and buildings.

Russia's fighters cannot attack along the entire width of the front line in Bakhmut, so battles focus on narrow areas, he continued. Syrotiuk claimed his team had managed to advance almost half a mile in one sector.

Ukrainian servicemen run to take cover during shelling near Bakhmut, on April 30.
Ukrainian servicemen run to take cover during shelling near Bakhmut, on April 30. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AAFP/Getty Images)

Perilous supply routes: Ukraine's troops struggle to carry out logistical operations under the cover of dark, hoping to avoid shelling on the roads in and out of town, the military spokesperson Shandyba said.

The most danger comes from a key supply route between the towns of Chasiv Yar and Khromove, where Ukrainian military officials have previously described constant Russian shelling.

“Only armored vehicles can get to Bakhmut. So it is complicated,” Shandyba said.

Wagner's call for supplies: Syrotiuk also addressed a claim from Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private military company that has played a key role in Bakhmut, who says his mercenaries are running out of ammunition.

The Ukrainian fighter said Wagner forces seem to have an "unlimited number" of shells, but "their artillery is firing every minute, every few seconds."

"The do not choose targets, they just cover the squares," he said.

Despite the constant barrage, Syrotiuk claims Prigozhin's fighters are now having a hard time penetrating high-rise buildings occupied by Ukraine's forces.

4:38 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Russia replaces its top logistics commander as Ukrainian counteroffensive looms

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Tim Lister

Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, pictured in 2018, will be replaced by Aleksey Kuzmenkov.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, pictured in 2018, will be replaced by Aleksey Kuzmenkov. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

The Russian Ministry of Defense has replaced its deputy defense minister for logistics, making a change in military leadership just as Russian forces gear up for a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The ministry announced the move in a Telegram post Sunday, saying Aleksey Kuzmenkov — a colonel-general who has held a variety of leadership roles in Russia's military — has been appointed to the position, which was previously held by Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev.

Moscow did not immediately provide a reason for Mizintsev being replaced. The move comes as Ukrainian officials signal their spring counteroffensive could be launched imminently.

More on Mizintsev, "The Butcher of Mariupol": Russia's outgoing logistics commander developed a reputation for brutality and an ominous nickname among Western officials for his role in the siege of Mariupol, the site of some of the invasion's most notorious strikes and alleged atrocities.

Why the logistics role is important: Moscow's logistical chains will likely play a key role in its attempted defense of occupied Ukrainian territory, with Kyiv's forces seeking to disrupt supply lines with long-range fire.

The Russian military has struggled to keep frontline forces consistently supplied with both weapons and other equipment, and recent reports have indicated that officials are bringing older tanks out of storage.

Despite that, and its heavy consumption of shells and rockets, analysts say Russia has so far been able to keep munitions flowing to the front.

More on Kuzmenkov: The incoming logistics chief graduated from the Volsk Higher Military School of Logistics in 1992, according to Russian officials.

Over the years, Kuzmenkov served in Russia's armed forces as head of logistics headquarters, as a commander for logistics in the Southern Military District, and in a deputy director position for the Russian National Guard.

4:38 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Meet the Ukrainian veterinarians risking their lives to care for pets in the war zone

From CNN's Gabriel Kinder

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a flood of refugees. Many of them were pet owners who had to leave their dogs and cats behind, hoping it would only be a matter of days before they were able to return to them.

But as that exodus grew longer for many families, Ukrainian veterinarians Valentina and Leonid Stoyanov soon learned of pets locked in nearby homes.

After one or two weeks, neighbors started to hear "a lot of different animals around them screaming," Valentina told CNN.

At the time, the couple specialized in exotic animal and wildlife rescue. With the invasion came a new mission: caring for these beloved but abandoned pets.

The Stoyanovs began working with local police to access homes to rescue dogs and cats. Within a week of the invasion, Leonid said they were caring for some 400 animals in their Odesa clinic.

“Each animal for us, it’s like members of our family,” Valentina said.

For the last decade, the couple has worked together treating more unusual animals and wildlife. Before the war, their videos of the monkeys, snakes, owls, and other creatures they rescued and cared for found a growing audience on their “Vet Crew” TikTok and Instagram feeds.

Valentina said their “simple life” has changed drastically.

“All our family – mother, father – have to leave Ukraine,” Leonid said. “But we decided we stay here and help animals – a lot of animals.”

Read more about the vets' story here.

3:44 p.m. ET, April 30, 2023

Russia vows retaliation after Poland seizes embassy school

From CNN's Xiaofei Xu and Darya Tarasova

Police and city authorities are seen at the Russian embassy school in Warsaw on Saturday.
Police and city authorities are seen at the Russian embassy school in Warsaw on Saturday. (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Russia's foreign ministry warned it will retaliate after Polish authorities seized a Russian embassy school Saturday, marking a new chapter in diplomatic tensions that have intensified during the war in Ukraine.

Polish police and staff from the Warsaw city hall entered the campus Saturday morning, asking employees to leave the premises, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

Moscow described the action as “controversial, illegal and provocative," in a statement.

A Polish foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters that while Russia had a right to protest the seizure, the government was acting within the law.

“Our opinion, which has been confirmed by the courts, is that this property belongs to the Polish state and was taken by Russia illegally,” Lukasz Jasina said.

The school will continue to operate from a different part of the Russian embassy, RIA Novosti reported, quoting Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergei Andreev.

Some context: Since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Poland has been a staunch ally to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the charge on supplying advanced weaponry to Kyiv.

Warsaw's relationship with Moscow has soured in turn, and the two countries have traded diplomatic slights, including each government expelling 45 diplomats from the other's country shortly after the full-scale invasion in 2022.

Read more about Poland's relationship with Ukraine and Russia here: