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March 31, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Adrienne Vogt, Jason Kurtz, Joe Ruiz, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Maureen Chowdhury and Aditi Sangal, CNN
Russian Ambassador to US hits back at sanctions targeting technology sector
Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov decried US sanctions targeting the Russian technology sector as "illegal" on Thursday, after the US Treasury Department announced the move as part of a crackdown on sanctions evasion by Russia.
In response to a question on Facebook, Antonov wrote the Biden administration was showing its “uncompromising attitude" as it expanded its "illegal sanction lists."
"We are talking about purposeful attempts to limit the technological development of our country," Antonov said.
Some context: The US Treasury Department said on Thursday it was sanctioning “21 entities and 13 individuals as part of its crackdown on the Kremlin’s sanctions evasion networks and technology companies, which are instrumental to the Russian Federation’s war machine.”
The agency has also determined “that sanctions apply to the aerospace, marine, and electronics sectors of the Russian Federation,” meaning that the US can “impose sanctions on any individual or entity determined to operate or have operated in any of those sectors.”
The US and its allies have imposed a raft of sanctions on Russian officials and entities since Moscow launched its attack on Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials say humanitarian convoys were stopped and raided by Russian forces. Here's what we know
Russian forces said they will reopen the evacuation corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday. According to Ukrainian authorities, the convoys ran into several issues on Thursday, including Russian troops confiscating aid and blocking buses.
Here's what we know:
- The Russian Defense Ministry said the military will reopen the humanitarian corridor from the southern city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on April 1 at the request of the leaders of France and Germany.
- The corridor will open from 10 a.m. Moscow time and Russian troops will set up an intermediate point in the southern city of Berdiansk, the ministry said.
- France said the evacuation corridor on Thursday was “insufficient” to allow rescue from Mariupol.
- Ukrainian minister Iryna Vereshchuk said about 100,000 civilians remained trapped in the city, which has suffered weeks of bombardment from Russian forces.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is preparing to facilitate the safe passage of civilians from Mariupol.
"It is desperately important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it," the ICRC said.
Aid confiscated, buses stopped:
- Russian forces on Thursday confiscated 14 tons of humanitarian aid from buses bound for Melitopol in southern Ukraine, according to Vereshchuk, the Ukrainian minister of reintegration of temporarily occupied territories.
- Vereshchuk said the food and medication was loaded on 12 buses.
- Russian forces also blocked 45 buses going to Berdiansk on Thursday en route to Mariupol, she added.
"We are negotiating for the buses to be returned and for the Melitopol residents tomorrow to evacuate using these buses," she said.
- 1,458 people reached Zaporizhzhia in their own cars on Thursday, Vereshchuk said.
- 631 of them escaped from Mariupol.
- 827 were from Berdiansk, Enerhodar, Melitopol, Polohy, Huliapole and Vasylivka in the Zaporizhzhia region.
UK Defense Ministry: Russia is redeploying troops from Georgia to join Ukraine invasion
From CNN's Hira Humayun and Niamh Kennedy
Russia is redeploying some of its forces from the country of Georgia to reinforce its invasion of Ukraine, British military intelligence said on Thursday.
"Between 1,200-2,000 of these Russian troops are being reorganized into 3 x Battalion Tactical Groups," the UK’s Ministry of Defence said in its latest intelligence update.
"It is highly unlikely that Russia planned to generate reinforcements in this manner and it is indicative of the unexpected losses it has sustained during the invasion."
Why Georgia? Russian troops have been stationed in Georgia following Russia's 2008 invasion of the former Soviet republic on its southwestern border.
Some context: The British intelligence update comes just days after Moscow said it would scale back its military assault on Kyiv and Chernihiv. In an address Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian troops are concentrating in the eastern Donbas region for new attacks and the Ukrainians are “ready for this.”
Focus on Donbas: In a briefing Thursday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said a “small number” of Russian troops are “beginning to reposition” but it is not exactly clear where they are going. The Russians want to “reprioritize" their operations in the Donbas area, Kirby added.
He said the US does not “see any indication that they are going to be sent home,” adding the best assessment the US has is the troops will probably be repositioned into Belarus to be “refit, resupplied and used elsewhere in Ukraine.”
Zelensky removes two top Ukrainian generals, says he does not have "time to deal with all the traitors"
From CNN's Mariya Knight and Hira Humayun
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he removed two top Ukrainian generals, calling them "antiheroes" in his nightly address posted to social media on Thursday night.
"Today another decision was made regarding antiheroes. Now I do not have time to deal with all the traitors. But gradually they will all be punished," he said.
The generals — former chief of the Main Department of Internal Security of the Security Service of Ukraine, Naumov Andriy Olehovych, and the former head of the Office of the Security Service of Ukraine in the Kherson region, Kryvoruchko Serhiy Oleksandrovych — have been stripped of their rank.
“Those servicemen among senior officers who have not decided where their homeland is, who violate the military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people as regards (to) the protection of our state, its freedom and independence, will inevitably be deprived of senior military ranks. Random generals don't belong here!” Zelensky said.
Situation in southern Ukraine and Donbas "remains extremely difficult," Zelensky says
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London and Mariya Knight in Atlanta
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the situation in southern Ukraine and Donbas "remains extremely difficult" as Russia continues to prioritize military operations in the separatist controlled region.
Speaking in a video posted on social media on Thursday, Zelensky said Russian forces are "trying to figure out how to consolidate their presence there."
In the Donbas region, the besieged southern city of Mariupol and in the direction of northeastern city of Kharkiv, "Russian troops are accumulating the potential for strikes," Zelensky warned.
This echoes the remarks of a senior US defense official on Thursday who said that the Donbas is one of the four areas where Russia is focusing current airstrikes.
On Thursday evening, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said it is "clear the Russians want to reprioritize their operations in the Donbas area."
Russian forces were regrouping in order to "intensify operations in priority areas and, above all, to complete the operation for the complete liberation of Donbas," Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.
Zelensky reiterated Ukraine's commitment to "do everything we can to stop the invaders."
European Parliament president will be first leader of EU institution to travel to Ukraine since invasion began
From CNN's James Frater in Brussels and Niamh Kennedy in London
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola will be the first leader of an EU institution to travel to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.
No details of the trip or the president's agenda in Ukraine have been shared prior to the visit "due to security concerns," a European Parliament official told CNN.
In a speech on Monday, Metsola called it "important for the European Parliament to support Ukraine’s aspiration to be a candidate country for accession."
On Thursday, Metsola posted a photo of herself saying: "On my way to Kyiv."
Ukrainian women recount how they escaped to Poland to give birth in a country free of war
From CNN's Kyung Lah and Sarah Boxer
Khrystyna Pavluchenko strokes the tiny hand of her newborn, Adelina. She had anticipated the profound joy of becoming a mother for the first time — but not the guilt.
“(That’s) because I left,” Pavluchenko says, choking on tears, as her hours-old child sleeps in the crib next to her hospital bed in the Polish capital, Warsaw.
“I didn’t want to leave. I had to.”
On Feb. 24, when the Russian invasion began, Pavluchenko, then eight months pregnant, was jostled awake at 6 a.m. Air raid sirens blared through her hometown of Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine. The first Russian missiles were on the way.
Pavluchenko recounts the manic push to escape over the next 72 hours. Her husband, medically ineligible to serve in the Ukrainian military, was already in Poland.
She was desperate to stay behind with her parents, grandparents and extended family.
But they all insisted, “Go to Poland.”
So, reluctantly, she began to plan her dangerous escape from Ukraine.
“Missiles are flying. Where they might hit next, no one knows,” she recalls.
Pavluchenko raced to pack with that in mind. Anything she could imagine she needed for her unborn child had to fit in a bag that she could wheel across the border on foot, once her bus reached the border.
“I was afraid of delivering prematurely,” she says, as she remembers entering Poland.
That was the same fear Polish customs officers had when they saw her. They quickly called an ambulance.
She was whisked to a nearby hospital and eventually to Inflancka Specialist Hospital in Warsaw, where psychiatrist Magda Dutsch is treating Ukrainian women.
“It’s unimaginable,” says Dutsch. “They’re often evacuating. They’re talking about shelling and about bombardment, about hours, sometimes days, that they spend in a bunker. They’re talking about the escape and how difficult it was to get to the border and out of the warzone. For someone who hasn’t seen the war, I don’t think it’s possible to imagine such pain and such stress.”
At least 197 Ukrainian children have been born in Polish hospitals since the war began, according to Poland’s Ministry of Health. When she fled, Pavluchenko had no idea that so many other Ukrainian women were in a similar situation.
To her, she felt utterly alone.
"A second war": In another section of the hospital sits Tatiana Mikhailuk, 58, is who is also one of Dutsch’s patients.
From her hospital bed, Mikhailuk tells the harrowing story of her escape from a town outside the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. As a missile flew overhead, Mikhailuk fled her home with her granddaughter in her arms.
Explosions had already blown out all the windows of her apartment building. As she and her husband drove with their grandchildren out of Buchad, an hour north of Kyiv, something exploded on the left side of the road.
“We were crying and praying the whole time,” says Mikhailuk.
They made it out just in time.
Two days later, Russian missiles would destroy the bridges into their suburb.
Mikhailuk had survived the attack at home. But once she crossed the Polish border, she began hemorrhaging blood.
Doctors at Inflancka Specialist Hospital diagnosed her with cervical cancer and performed emergency surgery.
“This is like a second war for me,” says Mikhailuk. “They (the hospital) did everything they could to save me. I’m very grateful to them, to all of Poland. I will never forget their kindness and what they’re doing for Ukrainians.”
She adds, “I’m grateful to Dr. Khrystyna,” another Ukrainian refugee, who is sitting in the corner of the room while we speak with her.
Khrystyna isn’t sure how to describe what title we should use to refer to her.
At home in Lviv, Ukraine, she is a licensed gynecologist. But in Poland, her official title is “secretary.”
“I’m helping,” Khrystyna, who asked CNN to not reveal her last name. explains.
On Feb. 24, Khrystyna’s husband sent her a text message saying, “Pack your stuff and leave. The war began.”
Like so many other Ukrainian women at the hospital, she ran, taking her young son with her.
Read more here.
CNN was granted rare access to the retaken Ukrainian city of Irpin. Here's what our reporters saw.
From CNN's Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen and Byron Blunt
A child's doll lies curb side, covered in dirt and debris, in the war-torn Kyiv suburb of Irpin.
There's not a sign of the child who owned it, or of any of the residents of the building next to it, which was shattered to pieces after taking a direct hit from Russian artillery.
This is what Irpin — or what's left of it — looks like, just a couple of days after Ukrainian forces took it back from Russian control.
The area is still extremely dangerous and remains off limits to civilians. As fighting continues in the nearby areas of Bucha and Hostomel, Irpin is still well within range for Russian artillery.
CNN was granted rare access to the city by Ukrainian forces on Thursday.
We snake our way to Irpin through dirt roads in the middle of the forest that separates the suburb from Kyiv at breakneck speed.
"It's safer this way," Andriy, the 29-year-old Ukrainian soldier driving us explains. "It's the best way of avoiding Russian artillery."
Across the Irpin river, the destruction caused by a month of confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian forces is everywhere. There are few unbroken windows, fallen trees in nearly every corner and no shortage of broken down or destroyed military equipment. Most of it is Russian.
The majority of the town's residents have fled, but Ivan Boyko decided to stay. He sent most of his family away, to safety, opting to endure the inferno of the Russian offensive.
"I am 66 years old, I'm not afraid anymore," he says.
Despite staying in Irpin, Boyko has been forced to move out of his house and into a bomb shelter because of all the intense shelling.
"It's impossible to go home," he explains. "Every night and day they shoot. It's scary to go out."
Read the full report here.