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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4:35 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

At least 53 historic and religious sites damaged in Ukraine since Russian invasion began, UNESCO says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

A satellite image shows the aftermath of an airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theater in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 19.
A satellite image shows the aftermath of an airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theater in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 19. (Maxar Technologies/AP)

At least 53 historic and religious sites in Ukraine have been damaged since the Russian invasion began, according to UNESCO. 

UNESCO alongside its sister agency UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) has set up "a system to monitor the state of conservation of the main Ukrainian sites and monuments via satellite imagery," according to a UNESCO spokesperson. 

"To date, we have been able to verify damage to at least 53 cultural sites," the spokesperson continued. This encompasses 29 religious' sites, 16 historic buildings, 4 museums and 4 monuments, according to the organization.

The Kharkiv Art Museum is seen damaged by shelling on March 8.
The Kharkiv Art Museum is seen damaged by shelling on March 8. (Oleksandr Lapshyn/Reuters)

The northeastern city of Kharkiv has suffered the most damage with 18 damaged sites including the Kharkiv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, the Kharkiv Art Museum and the Drobytskyi Yar Holocaust Memorial. 

Also on the list are the Drama Theater in the besieged port city of Mariupol which was devastated by Russian bombing on March. In the northern city of Chernihiv, St. Catherine's Church, an elaborate gold domed church is also among the damaged sites. 

So far key landmarks in the capital Kyiv have escaped largely unscathed, with one notable exception being the church, Voznesens'ka Tserkva, Church of Ascension. 

None of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites located in Ukraine have been damaged by hostilities, according to the UNESCO list. The agency is "working with the Ukrainian authorities to list the priority sites and define the terms of this deployment," the spokesperson added. 

As an additional safeguard, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay sent a formal letter to the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov "reminding him of the obligations of the Russian Federation and providing him with the location data of Ukrainian World Heritage sites so that they can be protected from any bombing," the spokesperson said. 

3:07 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Russia-Ukraine talks enabled a prisoner swap, Ukrainian negotiator says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul earlier this week led to a prisoner swap between the two sides of Friday, said David Arakhamia, a member of the Ukrainian delegation. 

"Thanks to the agreements reached in Turkey, today, we've accomplished a successful exchange of prisoners of war," Arakhamia said on Telegram. "We've managed to bring back 86 of our servicemen, 15 of them — women. The state will fight to the end for each of our citizens!"

4:41 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Citizens in Mariupol are hiding in bomb shelters and rationing small amounts of food, deputy mayor says

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Lyudmila, 71, and Viktor, 63, cook food at the entrance to the basement of an apartment building in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine on March 30.
Lyudmila, 71, and Viktor, 63, cook food at the entrance to the basement of an apartment building in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine on March 30. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Sergei Orlov, the deputy mayor of Mariupol, detailed the scene in the besieged port city as Ukrainian officials try to help those still inside and evacuate citizens who have fled to surrounding areas.

“The city is totally destroyed. City is like ruins … we’re upset, not because of infrastructure, but because of people. So we do not know how to help our citizens who are suffering inside the city,” he said during an interview with CNN's Ana Cabrera. “Russia does not allow to solve any humanitarian issue, to transfer any humanitarian help and to make evacuation of our citizens for many days.”

The official explained where things stand in evacuation efforts and the most recent mission to evacuate Mariupol citizens who are in nearby areas.

"Once again, I want to clarify, there is no solution to reach Mariupol, either humanitarian help, either evacuate citizens," Orlov noted. "We are talking about evacuating Mariupol citizens who are in Berdyansk, who are near Mariupol, nearest villages...who reached Berdyansk themselves either by walking, either on private cars. A lot of Mariupol citizens made evacuation themselves and it's about 30-50,000 Mariupol citizens that are in Berdyansk and nearest villages at the moment."

"So this mission helps us and made possible to evacuate Mariupol citizens from Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia. It's very good. It's absolutely necessary," he said, noting that 45 buses were evacuated with more than 2,000 citizens, including 710 children.

With regards to those still in Mariupol, among the most pressing concerns is nutrition, said Orlov, as aid groups including the Red Cross have struggled to reach the city with food and supplies.

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team traveling to Mariupol said Friday that they were unable to reach the besieged city to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians. The team is planning on trying to make the trip to the besieged city again on Saturday.

“I cannot even describe in words how life looks like in Mariupol,” he said. Citizens “cannot eat … [it’s] common for us to have three dishes, but three dishes per week. So we eat on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. So we cannot even eat a lot.”

Mariupol estimates that more than 100,000 citizens are still in the city, all hiding in hopes of staying safe. The official said citizens are living "as mouses."

“All of them are living underground in shelters, bomb shelter in some spaces below, so just to have possibility to survive, not to be killed by airstrikes, by missiles, by shelling,” said Orlov. “They are sharing some food with each other, so it's typical food for a day is glass of water with … one or two cakes, one glass of soup in afternoon and also one glass of water and one cake in the evening.”

Orlov said reports of Russians forcibly taking residents, including children, are true.

“In the Mariupol territory, I mean mostly outskirts which Russia temporarily occupies. They force people to evacuate from here and even make deportation,” he said.

In a local hospital, meanwhile, Orlov says there are as many as 2,000 children without parents, a reality that wouldn’t have existed prior to the invasion.

“Before the war, before 24 of February, we evacuated all children without parents to Ukrainian-controlled territory … in Mariupol, we did not have children without parents. So if they find somehow 2,000 children without parents, how it's possible? So it's either their parents were killed by Russian, [or] they separated them,” he added.

Watch the interview:

2:35 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Missiles strike Odesa region, regional military head says

From CNN's Julia Presniakova in Lviv

Three Iskander missiles launched from the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea had struck a settlement in the Odesa region, said Maksym Marchenko, the head of the region's military administration.

"There are casualties," he added.

2:31 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

International Red Cross team was unable to reach Mariupol and will try again tomorrow

From CNN’s Richard Roth and Artemis Moshtaghian

A man walks past a destroyed vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 1.
A man walks past a destroyed vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 1. (Reuters)

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team traveling to Mariupol said that they were unable to reach the besieged city to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians.

The update comes Friday via a statement, as nine ICRC team members — traveling in three vehicles — had to return to Zaporizhzhia due to conditions that “made it impossible to proceed” to Mariupol.

The team is planning on trying to make the trip to the besieged city again on Saturday.

“For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees,” the ICRC said.

The ICRC says it acts as a “neutral intermediary” with plans “to accompany the convoy out from Mariupol to another city in Ukraine.”

“Our presence will put a humanitarian marker on this planned movement of people, giving the convoy additional protection and reminding all sides of the civilian, humanitarian nature of the operation."

Additionally, the military governor of Ukraine's Donetsk region on Friday said Russian forces were not allowing humanitarian aid to reach the encircled city of Mariupol. 

Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks that the city remains blockaded and that Russian forces "don't fulfill their promises" to allow the delivery of aid. 

CNN staff in Lviv contributed reporting to this post.

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.