Explosions in Russia's Belgorod region may be due to fire, says governor
From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv
Explosions in Russia's Belgorod region late Tuesday night may have occurred because of a fire at an ammunition depot, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Wednesday, citing preliminary information.
Blasts were reported late Tuesday near the village of Krasny Oktyabr, not far from the border with Ukraine. Gladkov said there were no casualties from the incident and that there was no damage to residential buildings.
"We are waiting for an official announcement from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation," Gladkov said on Telegram.
10:00 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Chernihiv under "colossal attack" despite Moscow’s claim of scale-back in operations, mayor tells CNN
From CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Lianne Kolirin in London
The mayor of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has dismissed Moscow’s claim of a scale-back in operations, following what he describes as a "colossal attack."
His words came as it emerged that the city was “under fire” from Russian airstrikes while shelling continued through the night, according to Viacheslav Chaus, head of the Chernihiv regional administration.
In an interview with New Day's John Berman, the city's mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko hit out at Russia's claim on Tuesday that it planned to "drastically reduce" its military assault on Chernihiv and the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
This is yet another confirmation that Russia always lies," he told Berman.
Watch the interview:
Russia made the claim on Tuesday following talks it had with Ukrainian representatives in Turkey. The suggestion appeared appeared to show signs of progress towards an off ramp to the conflict.
But according to Atroshenko, hostilities actually increased in Chernihiv since the claim was made.
He said: "They're saying reducing intensity, they actually have increased the intensity of strikes. Today we have a colossal attack on the center of Chernihiv. Twenty-five people have been wounded and are now in hospitals. They're all civilians. So whenever Russia says something, this needs to be checked carefully."
In an interview posted on Telegram on Wednesday, Chaus said the situation in the region had not changed despite claims by Russia.
He said Russian troops had carried out strikes on the city of Nizhyn, destroying “civil infrastructure” as well as “libraries, shopping malls and many residential buildings,” while in Chernihiv there is “no electricity, no water, no heat and no gas.”
Communications are down with “no possibility to restore them,” making it difficult to reach isolated villages, he added.
There are villages where Russian tanks are stationed. We know that there are our people there and the situation is the worst there, because we are not able to get there and bring either medicine or food.”
Ukrainian troops are prepared and are fighting back against Russian troops in the Chernihiv region, he added.
5:58 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
More than 4 million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to UN
From CNN’s Benjamin Brown and Sana Noor Haq in London
More than 4 million people, or almost 10% of Ukraine’s pre-war population, have fled their home country since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said Wednesday.
"I have just arrived in Ukraine. In Lviv I will discuss with the authorities, the UN and other partners ways to increase our support to people affected and displaced by this senseless war," Grandi tweeted on Wednesday.
The refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine include at least 203,000 third-country nationals, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.
More than 2.3 million of the Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland, while hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring countries including Romania, Moldova and Hungary, according to data from the UN.
Grandi has previously called the exodus of refugees from Ukraine "the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."
CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Nadine Schmidt contributed reporting to this post.
5:02 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
It's noon in Kyiv. Here's what to know
Ukrainian officials say there has been no reduction in hostilities overnight despite claims by Russia that it planned to reduce the number of troops and military operations around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv.
If you're just joining us, here's the latest on the war in Ukraine:
Evacuation corridors: Ukraine and Russia have agreed on three evacuation corridors for the day, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Wednesday. Vereshchuk announced one corridor for the evacuation of Mariupol residents and delivery of humanitarian aid to Berdyansk, one route for humanitarian aid delivery to and evacuation from Melitopol, and one for a column of people in personal vehicles from Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia.
Sirens across Ukraine: The morning after Russian officials announced there would be a military de-escalation around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, a senior Ukrainian official said Wednesday there were "no areas without sirens" overnight in Ukraine.
US travel advisories: The US State Department reissued its travel advisories for Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday to warn that "Russian government security officials may single out and detain US citizens" in both countries. The advisories for both countries warn US citizens against traveling to Ukraine and Russia and urge them to depart immediately.
Russian units return to Belarus: Some Russian units have returned to Belarus after suffering heavy battlefield losses in Ukraine, according to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD) in an intelligence update Wednesday. The units will need to reorganize and resupply in Belarus, in what the MoD said was an indication of the logistical difficulties Russia is having in Ukraine.
Russian and Chinese foreign ministers: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Wednesday in Tunxi, China, according to a photo released by Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the photo, the two are seen wearing masks and greeting each other by bumping elbows.
UN nuclear watchdog visit: The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency is in Ukraine for urgent talks with the Ukrainian government about the safety of the country's nuclear facilities. The agency said the talks will center on plans to deliver "urgent technical assistance to ensure the safety and security of the country’s nuclear facilities and help avert the risk of an accident that could endanger people and the environment."
5:08 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Germany issues "early warning" of gas shortages after Russia threatened to cut supplies
From CNN's Chris Stern in Berlin and Mark Thompson in London
Germany has issued an "early warning" of possible natural gas shortages after Russia said it wanted to be paid in rubles and threatened to cut off supplies if its demand was not met.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday, German economy minister Robert Habeck said the warning stage was preventive in nature and would mean an increased monitoring of gas supplies.
Triggering the first of three crisis levels, Wednesday's announcement does not yet provide for government supply restrictions. Habeck called on companies and consumers to use gas sparingly. German gas storage is currently filled to 25% capacity, according to Habeck.
There are currently no supply shortages," Economy Minister Robert Habeck said. "Nevertheless, we must take further precautionary measures to be prepared for any escalation by Russia."
Fears of Russia ending its gas deliveries to Germany arose after Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that "unfriendly" countries start paying for natural gas with rubles rather than US dollars or euros, as agreed in their supply contracts. Germany, Russia's biggest energy customer in Europe, had dismissed Putin's directive as "blackmail."
"A payment with rubles is not acceptable," German economy minister Robert Habeck said Monday, adding that "we will not be divided and the answer of the G7 states is unambiguous: the contracts will be met."
Some background: Russia is central to the global energy system. It is the world's largest exporter of oil, making up about 8% of the global market. And it supplies Europe with 45% of its natural gas, 45% of its coal and 25% of its oil. In 2019, before Covid-19 depressed prices, revenues from oil and natural gas accounted for 40% of the country's federal budget. Oil and gas accounted for almost half of Russia's total goods exports in 2021.
6:47 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Three evacuation corridors announced in Ukraine
From CNN's Olha Voitovych in Lviv
Ukraine and Russia agreed on three evacuation corridors for Wednesday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced.
Vereshchuk said one corridor for the evacuation of Mariupol residents and delivery of humanitarian aid to Berdyansk, one route for humanitarian aid delivery to and evacuation from Melitopol, and one for a column of people in personal vehicles from Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia.
"The convoys of buses and trucks with humanitarian aid have already left Zaporizhzhia," she said in a video message on Wednesday.
We demand that the occupying forces abide by their commitments and allow humanitarian columns through checkpoints," Vereshchuk added.
Vereshchuk said the Russian delegation to talks on Tuesday between Russian and Ukrainian teams in Istanbul received proposals from the Ukrainian side to organize evacuation corridors for some of the regions most heavily affected by fighting, including Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, Chernihiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Mykolaiv oblasts.
At least 14 people are now believed to have been killed and a further 33 injured following a Russian strike on the office of the regional military governor of Ukraine's southwestern Mykolaiv region on Tuesday. A “number of people” remain stuck under the rubble, Mykolaiv Mayor Alexander Sinkevich told CNN.
Some background: Vereshchuk's announcement comes two days after the mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol said evacuation corridors had come largely under the control of Russian forces, after weeks of bombardment left the city in pieces, killed an unknown number of civilians, and forced hundreds of thousands of residents from their homes.
"Not everything is in our power," said Mayor Vadym Boichenko, in a live television interview. "Unfortunately, we are in the hands of the occupiers today."
Boichenko called for a complete evacuation of the remaining population of Mariupol, which was home to more than 400,000 people before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Ukrainian officials have alleged that Russian forces have prevented evacuation convoys from safely approaching or exiting the southern port city.
CNN's Nathan Hodge and Julia Presniakova contributed reporting to this post.
4:01 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
There were "no areas without sirens" overnight, senior Ukrainian official says
From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Nathan Hodge in Lviv
The morning after Russian officials announced there would be a military de-escalation around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, a senior Ukrainian official said Wednesday there were "no areas without sirens" overnight in Ukraine.
"There was an air alarm throughout the country during the night," said Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister. "In fact, there were no areas without sirens. In the morning they were repeated. In particular, in Donbas — Kramatorsk, Bakhmut — the city of Kyiv, Kyiv region, etc. There was shelling of Chernihiv. There was shelling in Khmelnytsky region. In Kyiv, several rockets were shot down over the capital."
Denysenko described the situation in the besieged cities of Chernihiv and Mariupol as "difficult." Around the capital, there were reports of fighting near the western suburb of Irpin overnight, he said.
So there is no need to say so far that the Russians are reducing the intensity of hostilities in Kyiv and Chernihiv directions," he said.
"We can say that, yes, indeed, certain units and equipment are moving to the territory of Belarus. But it seems to be more like rotation and licking of wounds than a real cessation of hostilities," he said.
In Irpin, Ukrainian forces had discovered many mines and booby traps — including booby-trapped bodies — as they cleared the area, Denysenko said. That claim could not be immediately verified.
"Therefore, a huge request to all who want to return to their homes, please wait," Denysenko said. "It will be officially announced when you can enter the city."
3:32 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
US reissues travel advisories for Ukraine and Russia, warns Americans may be singled out by Russian officials
From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler
The US State Department reissued its travel advisories for Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday to warn that "Russian government security officials may single out and detain US citizens" in both countries.
“There are continued reports of US citizens being singled out and detained by the Russian military in Ukraine and when evacuating by land through Russia-occupied territory or to Russia or Belarus,” the updated Ukraine travel advisory said.
The advisories for both countries warn US citizens against traveling to Ukraine and Russia and urge them to depart immediately.
Some background:Among Americans detained shortly before the invasion was basketball star Brittney Griner, who was said by US officials to be "in good condition" after being granted consular access, State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN’s Poppy Harlow last week.
US Ambassador John Sullivan met with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 21 and “demanded that the government of Russia follow international law and basic human decency to allow consular access to all US citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention."
Another American — Tyler Jacob, a native of Minnesota — was taken by Russian forces while trying to leave Ukraine and held for 10 days before being freed from detention in Russia on Friday, the office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. He was teaching English in Ukraine when the invasion began, according to CNN affiliate WCCO.
3:04 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
UK defense ministry: Some Russian units returned to Belarus to reorganize and resupply
From CNN's Angus Watson
Some Russian units have returned to Belarus after suffering heavy battlefield losses in Ukraine, according to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD) in an intelligence update Wednesday.
The units will need to reorganize and resupply in Belarus, in what the MoD said was an indication of the logistical difficulties Russia is having in Ukraine.
“Russia will likely continue to compensate for its reduced ground manoeuvre capability through mass artillery and missile strikes,” the update reads.
CNN has not independently confirmed the units' return to Belarus.
Some background: Russia's Defense Ministry said this week it will "drastically reduce military activity" on two fronts — Kyiv and Chernihiv — following in-person talks between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul. Instead, Russia said it will now focus more of its offensive on the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine’s far east.
The UK said it believes this shift to be a “tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance.”