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What is Russia's next move?
02:20 - Source: CNN

What we've covered

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • Zelensky said a Russian missile strike on a train station that killed at least 50 people in the eastern city of Kramatorsk was “another war crime.”
  • Officials in towns near Kyiv, including Bucha and Makariv, have found hundreds of civilian bodies as they assess the destruction following the withdrawal of Russian forces.
  • The European Union will resume its diplomatic operations in Kyiv. Italy also intends to reopen its embassy in Kyiv after Easter.
  • Ukraine’s defense intelligence chief said Russian troops are regrouping across the border and plan to advance toward Kharkiv in what could be a major offensive against eastern Ukraine.
  • Having connection issues? Bookmark CNN’s lite site for fast connectivity.
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It's 3 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 9.

In the early morning hours on Sunday in Ukraine, these are the latest developments in the war:

Putin appoints new commander for Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin has named Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov – commander of Russia’s Southern Military District – as theater commander of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

Dvornikov’s appointment comes as Putin’s military shifts plans after a failure to take Kyiv, according to a US official and a European official. 

A new theater commander with extensive combat experience could bring a level of coordination to an assault now expected to focus on the Donbas region, instead of multiple fronts.  

Zelensky thanks UK for sending more lethal aid including anti-ship missiles, armored vehicles: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United Kingdom and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday for providing military support to Ukraine. 

In his nightly address posted to social media, Zelensky said, “Boris was among those who didn’t doubt for a minute whether to support Ukraine. The leadership of Great Britain, in providing our country help in defense and also leadership in the sanctions policy, will always be in history.”
“Ukraine will always be grateful for this to Boris and Britain,” Zelensky said. 

Russia’s departure from northern Ukraine shows evidence of non-combatants being targeted, UK Military Intelligence says: Russia’s departure from northern Ukraine shows evidence of non-combatants being disproportionately targeted, according to a Saturday UK military intelligence update.

The evidence includes mass graves, the fatal use of hostages as human shields and mining of civilian infrastructure, the update said.

Putin appoints new commander for Ukraine 

In this pool photo taken on Thursday, March 17, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, poses with Col. Gen. Alexander Dvornikov during an awarding ceremony in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed a new general to direct the war in Ukraine as his military shifts plans after a failure to take Kyiv, according to a US official and a European official. 

The officials told CNN Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, has been named theater commander of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine   

A new theater commander with extensive combat experience could bring a level of coordination to an assault now expected to focus on the Donbas region, instead of multiple fronts.  

Dvornikov, 60, was the first commander of Russia’s military operations in Syria, after Putin sent troops there in September 2015 to back the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During Dvornikov’s command in Syria from September 2015 to June 2016, Russian aircraft backed the Assad regime and its allies as they laid siege to rebel-held eastern Aleppo, bombarding densely populated neighborhoods and causing major civilian casualties. The city fell to Syrian government forces in December 2016.  

Russian forces have used a similarly heavy-handed approach in parts of Ukraine, striking residential buildings in major cities and demolishing much of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.  

“We will see how effective that proves to be,” the European official said. “The Russian doctrine, the Russian tactics remain pretty much as they’ve been since Afghanistan.” 
“They do things in the same old way,” the official added. 

Military analysts and US officials familiar with intelligence assessments have speculated Russia’s generals have a goal of presenting Putin with some tangible battlefield progress ahead of Victory Day on May 9, when Russia observes the defeat of Nazi Germany and traditionally marks the occasion with a parade in Moscow’s Red Square.   

The European official described it as a “self-imposed deadline,” that could lead the Russians to make additional mistakes. 

But it could also potentially lead Russian forces to commit more atrocities, as allegedly happened in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha while under Russian occupation. “The stench of these war crimes is going to hang over these Russian armed forces for many years,” the official said. 

Former UK ambassador to Russia Sir Roderic Lyne told Sky News on Saturday Moscow has appointed a new general with a “pretty savage track record in Syria to try to at least gain some territory in Donetsk that Putin could present as a victory.”  

Assigning a new overall commander for Russia’s war in Ukraine may be an attempt to create a more cohesive strategy. CNN previously reported that Russia had no theater-wide commander for Ukraine operations, meaning units from different Russian military districts have been operating without coordination and sometimes at cross purposes, according to two US defense officials.  

The US has previously assessed Putin would likely name a general whose forces have been operating in Ukraine’s south because that is where the Russians have taken and held more territory, as opposed to the Russian bid to encircle Kyiv and cities in northern Ukraine, an effort that recently ended with a withdrawal. 

Ukraine’s General Staff said Friday Russian forces had completed their withdrawal from Ukraine’s northern Sumy region, while continuing a buildup of forces in the country’s east.  

Russia’s departure from northern Ukraine shows evidence of non-combatants being targeted, UK Military Intelligence says

Russia’s departure from northern Ukraine shows evidence of non-combatants being disproportionately targeted, according to a Saturday UK military intelligence update.

The evidence includes mass graves, the fatal use of hostages as human shields and mining of civilian infrastructure, the update said.

“Russian forces continue to use IEDs to inflict casualties, lower morale, and restrict Ukrainian freedom of movement,” the update read.

The update added Russian forces “continue to attack infrastructures with high risk of collateral harm to civilians, including a nitrate acid tank at Rubizhne, Ukraine.”

Zelensky thanks UK for sending more lethal aid including anti-ship missiles, armored vehicles

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United Kingdom and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday for providing military support to Ukraine. 

In his nightly address posted to social media, Zelensky said, “Boris was among those who didn’t doubt for a minute whether to support Ukraine. The leadership of Great Britain, in providing our country help in defense and also leadership in the sanctions policy, will always be in history. 

“Ukraine will always be grateful for this to Boris and Britain,” Zelensky said. 

Johnson met with Zelensky in a surprise Saturday visit to Kyiv to outline the UK’s plan to provide further financial and military support. 

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted the UK is sending additional “lethal aid” to Ukraine, including 120 more armored vehicles; new anti-ship missile systems; and $130 million in high-grade military equipment.

“The other democratic Western countries should follow the example of the United Kingdom,” Zelensky said.

Later on Saturday in his nightly address, Zelensky said: “Boris Johnson was today very specific also in his responses to my questions, as always. And we have already established with him what help Great Britain will provide for rebuilding Ukraine after the war. The British are ready to lead the restoration of Kyiv and Kyiv region.” 

It's 11 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest developments in the Russia-Ukraine war

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, walk in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 9.

If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know about where things stand with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign leaders travel to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a visit to the capital on Saturday as a show of “solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” according to Downing Street.
  • Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also met with Zelensky on Saturday.

Some diplomatic operations begin resuming in Kyiv:

The European Union announced Saturday that it would resume diplomacy out of the capital. Italy also announced it would move back its embassy to Kyiv from Lviv, where it had relocated as Russian aggression escalated in the country. Slovenia reopened its embassy in Kyiv on March 28, according to Slovenia’s Foreign Ministry.

Radiation levels in Chernobyl:

Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator Energoatom, visited one of the sections of the so-called Red Forest in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone along with specialists and observed “abnormally high” radiation in areas where the Russian troops dug trenches and tried to build fortifications.

Based on data, a statement said, “all the occupiers who were based in and entrenched in the Red Forest, in almost 30 days, should expect radiation sickness of varying degrees of severity.”

An update on casualties:

All the people injured in the railway station strike on Friday have been evacuated from the city, with most moved to the regional center of Dnipro, and some to Kyiv, a local hospital official in Kramatorsk told CNN. A total of 80 adults and 19 children were injured, with 20 of the injured in serious condition. Ukrainian officials have said 52 people were killed in the strike.

At least 176 children have died and more than 324 have been injured as a result of Russian aggression, the Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, said in a tweet on Saturday. The figures are not final as destruction in hard-hit areas continues to be assessed, it added.

"Abnormally high" radiation where Russians dug trenches in Chernobyl's Red Forest, nuclear power operator says

A dosimetrist measures the level of radiation around trenches dug by the Russian military in an area with high levels of radiation called the Red Forest, in Chernobyl, Ukraine on April 7.

Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator Energoatom, visited one of the sections of the so-called Red Forest in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone along with specialists and observed “abnormally high” radiation in areas where the Russian troops dug trenches and tried to build fortifications.

In a statement on Telegram, Energoatom said, “abnormally high rates of radiation were recorded” in the area.

Indications of external irradiation were 10-15 times higher than normal, and that possible internal radiation received from contact with the soil surface could be 160 times more than the norm, he added.

“Another factor of internal irradiation is Alpha pollution formed as a result of fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel, graphite masonry scattered on this section of the Red Forest” after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster,” the statement read. “These fragments are now located at a depth of 40-80 centimeters, while the occupiers dug deeper. When inside the human body, this type of radiation has an effect tens and hundreds of times more powerful than that from gamma and beta radiation.”

In a separate statement, Energoatom said Russian troops who occupied the territory of the Chernobyl plant “also looted and destroyed the offices and laboratory of the Institute for Nuclear Safety. They took away computers, office equipment, smashed or destroyed laboratory equipment and measuring devices, and looted garages with vehicles used to deliver scientists to research sites.”

Ukraine's Zelensky calls for more pressure on Russia after meeting UK's Boris Johnson in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens, during a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Kyiv, on April 9.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for “even more pressure” on Russia with assistance to Ukrainians in “defense, as well as sanctions.” 

Zelensky made the comments during a joint news conference with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson following their meeting in Kyiv after the latter traveled to Kyiv on a surprise visit.

Other countries should follow the example of the United Kingdom, Zelensky said, adding it is time “to impose a full embargo on Russia’s energy sector, to increase the provision of weapons to Ukraine.”

“We need to further strengthen our anti-war coalition. We hope that London will play a key role in this process,” he said.

Zelensky said the two leaders also talked about rebuilding of Ukraine.

“Together, we will be rebuilding our country and our cities,” he said.

All 99 injured in the Kramatorsk railway strike have been evacuated to other cities, official says

Calcinated cars are pictured outside a train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, that was being used for civilian evacuations, after it was hit by a rocket attack killing dozens, on April 8.

All the people injured in the railway station strike on Friday have been evacuated from the city, most moved to the regional center of Dnipro, and some to Kyiv, a local hospital official in Kramatorsk told CNN.

A total of 80 adults and 19 children were injured. 20 of the injured are in serious condition.

Ukrainian officials have said 52 people were killed in the strike.

More than 10 billion euros raised for people fleeing Russian invasion in global pledging event

A woman waves to say good bye to her husband as she leaves on a bus in Kramatorsk, Ukraine on April 9.

The “Stand Up for Ukraine” global pledging event and campaign aimed to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion has raised more than €10 billion since its launch on March 26, the European Commission said in a statement Saturday. 

From the total funds, €1 billion come from the European Commission and €1 billion in a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to cover the needs of the people displaced by the violence in and outside Ukraine, according to the statement. 

The “Stand Up For Ukraine” online pledging event concludes a broader social media campaign launched by the European Commission and the government in Canada that “answers a call for support launched by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky,” according to the statement. 

“The solidarity of countries, companies and people worldwide offers some light in this dark hour,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement. “We will continue providing support. And once the bombs have stopped falling, we will help the people of Ukraine rebuild their country. We will continue to Stand up for Ukraine.”

“Whether it’s food, water, shelter, or medical aid – we will continue to have your backs and provide the assistance you need at this time. We are standing up for Ukraine,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the statement. 

Ukraine's state railway leaves symbolic seats vacant in memory of Kramatorsk victims

Ukrainian servicemen stand next to a fragment of a Tochka-U missile after Russian shelling at the railway station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on Friday, April 8.

Ukrzaliznytsia, Ukraine’s state railway, will leave seat number 52 vacant on trains across the country in memory of the 52 people killed in in a Russian missile strike on a train station in Kramatorsk, it said in a statement Saturday.

“The brutal murder of 52 Ukrainian civilians by a Russian missile at the Kramatorsk railway station cannot be forgotten,” the statement read. “Today, April 9, Ukrzaliznytsia is leaving seats No. 52 empty in several trains across the country in memory of those killed in Kramatorsk. Instead of passengers, flowers will go in their places today.”

An Ukrzaliznytsia official said earlier Saturday the railway had evacuated 3.5 million people since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

Russian forces strike nitric acid tank amid heavy shelling, says Luhansk regional governor

Russian forces had hit a storage tank holding “remnants” of nitric acid, sending up a plume that he said was not a threat to the local population, Serhii Haidai, the head of Ukraine’s Luhansk regional military administration, said Saturday.

“There were some remnants of nitric acid — around three tons,” he said in televised remarks. “The local population is not under threat, as the impact zone around the acid tank is not more than 550 meters. Thank God, there wasn’t that much acid left.” 

A video posted on Haidai’s official Telegram channel showed an orange plume in the sky from the site of the shelling. 

Haidai also reported heavy Russian shelling of communities of Rubizhne, Popasna and Hirske.

Ukrainian authorities were continuing evacuations of civilians, one day after a Russian missile strike on a train station where Ukrainian civilians had assembled to evacuate from the eastern Donbas region, he added.

“We have changed the railway stations for evacuation, I’m not going to name those, but we have changed them and the evacuation is ongoing,” he said. 

“It’s difficult to say how many people are still staying, because there is constant shelling and people are hiding in the shelters,” Haidai said. “But in total, only 30% of population of all region has stayed.”

Ukrainian military claims to find dead Russian servicemen in common grave

The Ukrainian military’s Office of Strategic Communications posted a photo Saturday that purports to show dead Russian servicemen left behind in a common grave after fighting in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region.

“The myth is that the Russians do not leave their dead,” the statement read. “When clearing the settlement of Vilkhivka, a common grave of the occupiers was discovered by soldiers the 92nd Mechanized Brigade near Kharkiv.” 

CNN could not immediately verify the authenticity of the photo, which shows at least 10 bodies in Russian uniform.

“We don’t leave ours behind” is one of the unofficial slogans of the Russian war in Ukraine. 

The statement claimed that soldiers of the 92nd Mechanized Brigade and volunteer detachments near Kharkiv destroyed two Russian battalion tactical groups on March 30. 

Fighting has continued in the region of the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

It was “being shelled practically all day long” and a Russian offensive was expected in Kharkiv region, from direction of Izium, Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the Interior Minister of Ukraine, had said in remarks on national television Saturday.

“Russians continue to build up the forces on this direction,” he said. “We understand that one of the key tasks of RF [Russian forces] is to reach Donbas, Donetsk region, or to be more specific Slovyansk and Kramatorsk from Izium side. So this is one of the most difficult directions as of today.”

Zelensky to Boris Johnson: 'Welcome to Kyiv, my friend!'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 9.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Saturday, the Press Service of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine said on its official Twitter account Saturday. 

Johnson “is one of the most principled opponents of the Russian invasion, a leader on sanctions pressure on Russia and defense support for Ukraine. Welcome to Kyiv, my friend!,” Zelensky is quoted as saying in the caption. 

The press service also released several photos from the unannounced visit showing the two leaders holding a meeting. 

Johnson also tweeted about the meeting on Saturday, saying the meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv was “a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine.”

“We’re setting out a new package of financial & military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country’s struggle against Russia’s barbaric campaign,” Johnson said in a post that features a photo of the two leaders shaking hands.

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer also traveled to Kyiv and met with Zelensky on Saturday

On Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell also traveled to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky and Ukrainian officials.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 9.

Austria's chancellor calls for war crimes investigation, more sanctions following Zelensky meeting

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks at a press conference on April 9 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer said Saturday his country is military neutral, “but we understand we have to help where injustice and war crimes take place.”

Austria supports European Union sanctions against Russia and the bloc is ready to implement more sanctions, Nehammar said at a joint news conference Saturday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Nehammer will visit the town of Bucha on Saturday, which he called “a place of war crimes.”

“We have to make those war crimes known to the UN and international justice must begin investigating and fight these crimes,” he said. 

Zelensky thanked him for the support Ukraine has received so far and reiterated his call for more sanctions on Russia. 

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak during a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 9.

At least 176 children have died, more than 324 injured due to Russian aggression, Ukrainian Parliament says

At least 176 children have died and more than 324 have been injured as a result of Russian aggression, the Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, said in a tweet on Saturday. 

“These figures are not final, as work is underway to establish them in places of active attacks, in the temporarily occupied and liberated territories,” the Parliament said.

CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

YouTube terminates Russia’s lower house of parliament channel