April 1, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Simone McCarthy, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Sana Noor Haq, Sara Spary and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022
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3:06 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Russian forces "not strong enough" to attack Ukraine on all fronts, Ukraine’s top diplomat says

From CNN’s Emmet Lyons and Ken Olshansky

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (CNN)

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN Friday he believes a regrouping of Russian troops is happening as “they cannot sustain the pressure” to continue an assault on Ukraine from three fronts.

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Kuleba said that the decision by Moscow to reduce military activity on the two fronts of Kyiv and Chernihiv came at a time when “Ukrainian forces started to successfully push them back from villages and small towns in the siege of Kyiv. The reason they said it was because they felt they cannot sustain the pressure and they cannot keep the front line around Kyiv.”

Kuleba said that it may be indicative of Russian President Vladimir Putin becoming more realistic about his military strategy. “I believe he already has become more real since I cannot imagine that the withdrawal of Russian forces from the north of Ukraine was not ordered by him,” the minister said. 

“If we translate this recent movement into the human language, it literally means I do not have sufficient power to continue attacking Ukraine from three directions simultaneously. So I have to move part of my military strength to another direction to reinforce my army in that area,” he said.

"Whatever his picture of reality is, from the steps they are making on the ground, I can conclude that he has an understanding that his power, that he is not strong enough to continue attacking Ukraine from all corners and that's clear now," Kubela added.

But the foreign minister also said that he thinks the withdrawal of Russian forces may be an attempt to strategically prepare for an assault on Ukraine’s Donbas region.

“We see that some of their military unions are withdrawing back into the territory of Belarus, but at the same time we hear consistent messages and we also received intelligence that they're still looking at Donbas as a low-hanging fruit,” he told CNN. “They need to regroup resources and to prepare for the battle for Donbas.” 

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Friday that two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters carried out an attack on a fuel storage facility in southern Russia. When asked on whether it was Ukraine who had carried out the attack, Kuleba said that he could not verify it. 

When asked by Amanpour as to whether he is surprised more generally by Ukraine’s military capability in the air, Kuleba said that he has “trust in the people of Ukraine and in our armed forces and as foreign minister in our diplomacy. This is a war. They attacked us to destroy us and they reject our right to exist as a nation so it means that we will be fighting back by all means available to us within existing international laws of warfare." 

“We are not getting tired of fighting for freedom, for independence and for values. So I hope that people in the West will not get tired of supporting us, as well,” he said. 

“The only fatigue they have observed so far is the fatigue in the capitals who try to not to avoid the sanctions on Russia, but we are working with them and I hope I believe we will help them to overcome that fatigue,” Kuleba added. 

2:10 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

German foreign minister: Putin's "so-called peace negotiations" can't be taken seriously while bombing continues

From CNN’s Emmet Lyons and Arnaud Siad

Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock
Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock (CNN)

Moscow cannot be taken seriously on diplomatic talks while Russian forces continue to bomb Ukrainian cities, Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock told CNN Friday. 

“You know how the situation is, for example, in Mariupol. There are still more than 100,000 civilians in the city and even though Putin is saying every other day that he’s having — as he calls it — peace negotiations but at the same moment, he’s bombing Mariupol, he’s bombing so-called humanitarian corridors, he’s not allowing food and medicine inside the cities, which is obviously a violation of humanitarian laws, so it’s war crimes,” Baerbock told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Friday. 

“You can’t say on the one hand that you are having so-called peace negotiations and on the other hand, you are bombing hospitals,” she said. 

Baerbock also said that it was important that Europe ignored Moscow’s insistence that payment for future deliveries of Russian gas be made in rubles. The minister emphasized that the priority is an end to the shelling in Ukraine. 

“It was very important that we gave a strong answer on this ruble question, that we are not being blackmailed and that we are not playing games, but this is only one minor part because the most important thing is that this bombing of civilians ends,” she told Amanpour. 

“His [Putin's] game is not only about rubles or euros being paid for gas, but it’s still a question that we need an end to bombings,” she said.

6:41 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Ukraine recaptures town of Bucha near Kyiv, mayor says

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam and Josh Pennington

Local residents ride bicycles past flattened civilian vehicles on a street in Bucha, Ukraine on April 1.
Local residents ride bicycles past flattened civilian vehicles on a street in Bucha, Ukraine on April 1. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

Ukraine has recaptured the town of Bucha near the capital of Kyiv Thursday, according to Bucha's Mayor Anatolii Fedoruk.

"Today on March 31, our town has been liberated from the Russian orcs, the Russian occupiers by our Ukrainian Armed Forces," Fedoruk said in a video in front of Bucha's city hall that was published on Friday. 

A number of Ukrainian officials have been referring to Russian forces as "orcs" — the evil, monstrous army in J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings."

"This day constitutes a day of joy and victory of our Armed Forces of Ukraine. And we expect such victories throughout all of Ukraine," Fedoruk added.

2:09 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Attack on a nuclear reactor is "not a probable scenario" in Russia-Ukraine conflict, IAEA chief tells CNN

From CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi

Director-General of IAEA Rafael Grossi
Director-General of IAEA Rafael Grossi (CNN)

Beginning next week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will start assisting Ukraine in preserving the safety of nuclear installations, including Chernobyl, Director-General of IAEA Rafael Grossi told CNN.

Returning from a trip to Ukraine and Russia, where he visited the closest nuclear reactors to the war zone, Grossi said the operations continue in a “satisfactory way.”

An attack on a nuclear reactor is “not a probable scenario,” and “nuclear facilities have not been targeted," he said Friday.

The Director-General said there was an occurrence in sight of a nuclear reactor, which was “quite concerning,” adding it was an exchange of fire, probably shelling, that targeted an administrative building. 

“Any attack on a nuclear facility is against international law. I think everybody including Russia is very clear about it. And trust or no trust is something that is, of course, objective. We are going to be [doing] everything possible to prevent that occurrence,” he added.  

On the reports of Russian troops being exposed to radiation at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, Grossi said the agency has contacted its Russian counterparts for more information.

"In general terms, I would say that the radiation levels around the Chernobyl site are low. At the beginning when the Russian troops occupied the site because of the movement of heavy armored vehicles approaching the site, some areas, the moving of the ground released some radiation there, and there was a slight increase in the levels," he said.

“It is probably that the same thing happened when the same vehicles or similar ones were on their way out, that there was dust in the air that contained some radiation that was lying on the ground,” he added.

1:16 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

On the ground: CNN gets firsthand look at destruction in Kyiv suburb

While Ukrainian forces have been able to retake Irpin from the Russians, the city outside Kyiv has been left in ruins.

According to local authorities, around 50% of the critical infrastructure was destroyed.

Officials are now in the process of recovering bodies of those killed in previous weeks.

"Some have been laying in the streets for weeks and can only now be removed," CNN's Fred Pleitgen reported.

Read more about CNN's reporting from Irpin here and watch video from the scene below:

1:17 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

The ruble’s artificial recovery masks the devastation of the Russian economy, US Treasury official says

From CNN's Matt Egan 

Russia’s economy is getting devastated by Western sanctions and the ruble’s swift recovery has only been made possible by Moscow’s efforts to prop the currency up, a senior official of the US Department of the Treasury said Friday.

The comments come after some argued the rapid recovery of the ruble from its initial crash is a sign that Western sanctions have not gone far enough to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

During a call with reporters, the senior Treasury official said Russia’s economy is plunging into recession and getting crushed by crippling inflation.

Although the ruble has bounced back to pre-invasion levels, the Treasury official argued the currency’s purchasing power has been decimated by skyrocketing prices in Russia.

As CNN has previously reported, officials in Russia have sought to prop the ruble up, in part by ordering exporters to swap 80% of their foreign currency revenue for rubles, banning Russian brokers from selling securities, forbidding Russian residents from making bank transfers outside of Russia and other steps. The steps have artificially boosted demand for the ruble.

In a sign of the ruble’s underlying weakness, a black market has emerged in recent weeks for the exchange of the ruble for foreign currency, the senior Treasury official said, adding that the ruble is significantly depreciated in this black market. 

12:53 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Ukrainian defense ministry declines to comment further on Belgorod fuel depot fire

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Chernivtsi and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Smoke billows from a damaged oil refinery in Belgorod, Russia, on April 1.
Smoke billows from a damaged oil refinery in Belgorod, Russia, on April 1. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, declined to comment on Russian allegations of a strike by Ukrainian helicopters on a fuel base in the southern Russian city of Belgorod.  

"I would like to emphasize that Ukraine is performing a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine," he said in a televised statement Friday. "That doesn’t mean Ukraine has to be responsible for every miscalculation or event or catastrophe that occurred on the territory of the Russian Federation. This is not the first time we are witnessing such accusations. Therefore, I will neither confirm nor deny this information." 

A fire broke out at a fuel depot in Belgorod, regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram channel Friday morning. He accused Ukraine of being behind the blaze without providing further evidence.

CNN is unable to verify this claim. 

About 16,000 cubic meters (3.52 million gallons) of fuel are on fire at the depot, Russian state media RIA Novosti reported on Friday, citing the Russian emergency services ministry. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Friday that two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters carried out an attack on a fuel storage facility in southern Russia.

"On April 1, at about 5:00 a.m. Moscow time, two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters entered the airspace of the Russian Federation at extremely low altitude. Ukrainian helicopters launched a missile attack on a civilian oil storage facility located on the outskirts of Belgorod. As a result of the missile hit, individual tanks were damaged and caught fire," Russian MOD spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Konashenkov added that "only civil transport was supplied with fuel from this facility. The tank farm has nothing to do with the Russian armed forces."

1:42 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Russia’s gas giant Gazprom terminates participation in Gazprom Germania

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin

Russian energy giant Gazprom announced Friday it has separated from its German subsidiary Gazprom Germania, the company said in a statement.

“On March 31, the Gazprom Group terminated its participation in the German company GAZPROM Germania GmbH and all its assets, including Gazprom Marketing & Trading Ltd.,” Gazprom said via its telegram channel.

Gazprom Germania will provide a comment on the matter on Monday, an employee told CNN.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Federal Network Agency, which is the country’s utility regulatory office said on its website that “gas supply is stable in Germany" and that “no disturbances of gas deliveries to Germany were recorded. The operators of the gas networks do not report any extraordinary events.”

Filling levels are comparable to those of 2021 and 2017, according to the statement. 

Germany issued an "early warning" of possible natural gas shortages on Wednesday over a payments dispute with Russia that could lead to energy rationing in Europe's biggest economy.

Moscow said last week that it wanted to be paid in rubles, rather than US dollars or euros as per existing gas supply contracts, and threatened to cut off supplies if that didn't happen. The Kremlin's demand has been rejected by Germany and the G7 group of leading developed economies.

The German government said Wednesday that the country had enough gas for now, but it urged all consumers — from companies to hospitals and households — to reduce their use as far as possible with immediate effect.

12:08 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Germany’s top diplomat tells CNN that "it’s in Putin’s hands" to end the war 

From CNN’s Emmet Lyons and Arnaud Siad

(CNN)
(CNN)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told CNN that the responsibility for ending the war in Ukraine lays firmly at the feet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s in Putin’s hands. He’s the one who started the war without any reason. It is now his responsibility to end the war,” Baerbock told CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview. 

“The brutal reality is that Putin himself has chosen … to fight a war against civilians and to fight a war against the European peace order,” she said. 

Germany has approved the delivery of 56 type Pbv 501 combat tanks to Ukraine, according to a German defense ministry spokesperson Friday. Germany’s increased defense spending has marked a historic shift in the country’s foreign policy. 

Baerbock said that Germany is offering increased military assistance to the Ukrainian government as “we are in situation where NATO is standing there in solidarity with Ukraine and on the other hand, there is Russia which has made clear that there is no red lines for themselves.”

“We are supporting from Germany with weapons we haven’t done in the past because the reality has changed so brutally,” she said. 

“We had to change our course in Germany by 180 degrees because Ukraine needed our military support; we tried everything to avoid this war, but it was Putin’s decision to do the opposite and that’s why now we are also delivering weapons to Ukraine,” she said.

The foreign minister said that sanctions have been effective in leaving Putin “totally isolated,” but said that there are still strong energy links between Russia and Europe that needed severing. “The question we are raising about fossil fuels, oil, and energy, Europe is connected with Russia. Therefore we are working every day to phase out our fossil fuel dependency on Russia,” she told CNN. 

When asked by Amanpour as to what Putin is saying in diplomatic talks, Baerbock stated that the Russian president had “entered into this war with a false narrative, with lies. … This wrong narrative he has been telling to the world is obviously also something he believes himself.”

“When my chancellor, when others like the president of France are speaking to Putin, obviously they are telling him that he started this war with lies, that he broke with international law… but he is obviously not listening to my chancellor, and to other international partners,” she said.

“The few people that are left behind him or around him who can actually speak to him do not dare to tell him the truth about the reality in Ukraine, that his troops are not being as successful as they obviously thought in the past,” she added.