Russia invades Ukraine

By Julia Hollingsworth, Joshua Berlinger, Sana Noor Haq, John Sinnott, Adrienne Vogt, Veronica Rocha and Emma Tucker, CNN

Updated 12:17 a.m. ET, April 3, 2022
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9:56 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Russians shelling evacuation convoys in Luhansk, according to regional official

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

The head of the Luhansk region military administration said 2,700 civilians had evacuated from the region on Saturday, but Russian forces had shelled people evacuating from towns that have seen heavy fighting. 

"It is impossible to negotiate with the 'Orcs,'" Serhiy Haidai said. "The Russians are deliberately hitting during the evacuations. There were incoming shells near the meeting places. Fortunately, everybody is alive."

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."

Haidai added that several tons of humanitarian aid were delivered for those remaining behind, and police officers had already begun transporting it to bomb shelters.

"Let me remind you that evacuation continues," Haidai said. "Buses are waiting for you every morning."

9:50 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Turkey offers to evacuate people from besieged city of Mariupol by boat 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London and Yusuf Gezer in Istanbul

Turkey has offered to evacuate people trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol by boat, the country's defense minister announced on Saturday.

"We can provide vessel support for evacuations from Mariupol, especially regarding civilians, injured people and Turkish citizens and citizens from other nations," Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters. 

The port city, which lies along the Sea of Azov on Ukraine's southern coastline, has incurred widespread damage from Russian attacks and had its plans to operate safe evacuation routes thwarted until Saturday, according to previous CNN reporting.

The Turkish Defense Ministry conveyed its "request to support the evacuations" to the Russian military attaché in Ankara and the Turkish military attaché in Moscow who passed the message onto the Russian authorities. The Ukrainian military attaché in Ankara also passed the message onto the Ukrainian authorities, according to Akar. 

Turkey hosted the negotiation teams from Russia and Ukraine for talks in Istanbul earlier this week. 

10:23 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Ukrainian presidential adviser calls for heavier weaponry from the West as Russia shifts military focus

From CNN staff in Lviv

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak speaks to the press in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak speaks to the press in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29. (Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Saturday called on the US and its allies to deliver heavier weaponry to Ukraine as the Russian military shifts its campaign to focus on the east and south of Ukraine

"After the rapid retreat of the Russians from Kyiv and Chernihiv, it is clear that Russia has prioritized another tactic — to move east/south, to control large occupied territories (not only in Donetsk and Luhansk regions) and to gain a strong foothold there," he said. 

The Russian military said the "first stage" of its invasion of Ukraine was complete and that it would withdraw forces from around Kyiv and Chernihiv to concentrate on the Donbas region in the country's east. Russia's announcement of that new phase in part may provide political cover for the Russian military, explaining heavy setbacks in the battles around Kyiv, but Ukrainian officials have also reported a ramping up of military activity and shelling in the Donbas by Russian forces.

Podolyak alluded to the expectation from US and Western officials that Ukraine might need to prepare for partisan warfare in the event of Russian invasion and the fall of the Ukrainian capital. 

"Our partners must finally understand that the 'Afghanization' they want and the long-lasting exhausting conflict for Russia will not happen," Podolyak said. "Russia will leave all Ukrainian territories except the south and east. And will try to dig in there, put in air defense and sharply reduce the loss of its equipment and personnel."

The US, the UK and other NATO allies provided anti-tank weapons and man-portable air defenses. Podolyak said Ukraine needed heavier weaponry. 

"'Afghanization' is when there is a strong guerrilla resistance across the country that inflicts heavy losses on the aggressor for many months or even years and thus significantly weakens the power of the occupier's army," he said. "Such actions took place during the Soviet Union's attempt to control Afghanistan: Afghan guerrillas destroyed and weakened the Soviet occupiers for years. As a result, weakened Russia as a whole."

Podolyak continued, "Some of our partners believed that something similar could happen in today's Ukraine. The Russians think otherwise. They have established in the east and south and are dictating harsh conditions. So we definitely can't do without heavy weapons if we want to unblock the east and Kherson and send [back] the Russians as far as possible."

8:46 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

International Red Cross team departs Zaporizhzhia for Mariupol as part of renewed attempt to reach city

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

Evacuees from Mariupol and other nearby towns arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1.
Evacuees from Mariupol and other nearby towns arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1. (Felipe Dana/AP)

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team left for Mariupol on Saturday as part of a renewed attempt to facilitate evacuation efforts from the besieged southern city. 

A press officer for the ICRC told CNN Saturday that ICRC team "left Zaporizhzhia earlier this morning for Mariupol."

The ICRC are not able to give further information on the team's current location as it stands, the press officer added. 

On Friday evening, the ICRC announced in a statement that its team of three vehicles and nine personnel failed to reach the city "after arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed."

8:15 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Ukrainian flag raised over Chernobyl, nuclear operator says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Lviv

The Ukrainian flag has been raised over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant following the withdrawal of Russian forces, the state enterprise overseeing nuclear power plants said on Saturday.

"Today, April 2, at 11:00, Ukrainian flag was raised over the Chernobyl NPP and the anthem was sung," Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram.

"The entire staff of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has worked heroically in the harsh conditions of the occupation since February 24 and provided nuclear and radiation safety at the station and nearby facilities, was present at the ceremony," the statement added.

Some background: Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

On April 26 of that year, an explosion ripped through the No.4 reactor at Chernobyl, killing 30 people immediately. Countless others died from radiation symptoms in the years that followed.

In late February, during the first week Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the plant and its surrounding territory fell into the hands of Russian troops.

However, Russian troops since announced their intention to leave and hand over control to Ukrainian personnel, Energoatom said in a statement on Thursday.

"It was confirmed that the occupiers, who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the Exclusion Zone, marched in two columns towards the Ukrainian border with the Republic of Belarus," the statement published on Telegram said.

CNN's Nathan Hodge contributed reporting to this post.

7:32 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Pope Francis tells reporters a trip to Ukraine "is on the table"

Pope Francis speaks to journalists on a plane to Malta on April 2.
Pope Francis speaks to journalists on a plane to Malta on April 2. (Johannes Neudecker/dpa/AP)

Pope Francis said a trip to Ukraine "is on the table," while speaking to journalists on Saturday.

When asked by a reporter if he was considering visiting Kyiv, Pope Francis replied after a long pause and said, “Yes, it is on the table.”

He greeted more than 70 journalists onboard his plane to Malta on Saturday morning, saying, “it will be a nice trip."

Frances also received a photo and a letter from the family of Fox News cameraman, Pierre Zakrzewski, 55, who was killed in Ukraine along with Oleksandra "Sasha" Kuvshynova, a 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist working as a consultant for the network.

Francis’s words as he looked at Pierre’s photo was “lui è la su,” which translates from French as “he is up there."

Some background: While Pope Francis has not yet visited Ukraine amid Russia's invasion, he has shown his support for Ukrainian refugees, and called for an end to the war.

On March 19, Francis visited 19 Ukrainian refugee children at the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in Rome, Italy. They were receiving treatment for oncological and neurological diseases among others, as well as severe injuries from blasts, Vatican Press Director Matteo Bruni said at the time.

"More than a month has passed since the invasion of Ukraine, since the start of this cruel and senseless war, which, like every war, is a defeat for all, for all of us," Francis said at the end of March, during his weekly Angelus address.

"We must repudiate war, a place of death where fathers and mothers bury their children, where men kill their brothers without even seeing them, where the powerful decide and the poor die. War does not only devastate the present but also the future of society.

"Enough. Stop. Let the weapons fall silent. Negotiate seriously for peace," he added. "War cannot be something that is inevitable. We cannot get used to war," Francis added.

8:31 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Pakistan wants "cessation of hostilities" between Russia and Ukraine

From CNN's Sophia Saifi and Wayne Chang

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, attends a military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 23.
Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, attends a military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 23. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Pakistan wants Russia and Ukraine to cease fighting immediately, and is “doing everything it can” to resolve the conflict between the two countries, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, said.

“Russian aggression on Ukraine is very unfortunate; this is a huge tragedy,” Bajwa said during a speech on Saturday. 

Pakistan wants an immediate cessation of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.”

“Pakistan doesn’t believe in camp politics and wants excellent relations with all countries, especially the United States, the European Union, China, Russia and others,” Bajwa added.

The army chief’s remarks are seen as a contradiction of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan’s position, who remained publicly ambivalent about Russia’s invasion towards Ukraine.

In early March, Pakistan, along with China, India and others, abstained from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s action towards Ukraine, stating that it remains “deeply concerned at the recent turn of events” that “reflects a failure of diplomacy.”

Later that month, Pakistan sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine at the request of Kyiv’s embassy in Islamabad. 

8:12 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Russian space agency head threatens to end its cooperation with the International Space Station in tweets

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Lviv and Radina Gigova in Atlanta  

The head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, attends a ceremony on December 8, 2021.
The head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, attends a ceremony on December 8, 2021. (Pavel Pavlov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Director of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, published a series of inflammatory tweets on Saturday suggesting Russia might end cooperation at the International Space Station (ISS) due to international sanctions on the country's capital, Moscow.

"I believe that restoration of normal relations between partners at the International Space Station and in other joint projects is possible only after full and unconditional removal of the illegal sanctions," Rogozin said in posts to his verified Twitter account. 

Rogozin warned that Roscosmos would prepare "concrete proposals to our country's leadership" on the possibility of ending cooperation at the ISS with the space agencies of the US, Canada, the European Union and Japan.

Some background: The head of Russia's space agency has a reputation for playing fast and loose on social media, making comments on geopolitical issues and directing criticism at the US.

NASA maintains that it has a close working relationship with Roscosmos that is unaffected by the political situation on earth and the war in Ukraine. 

Rogozin previously posted a heavily edited CGI video that appeared make the threat that Russian cosmonauts would abandon NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei in space. Vande Hei, who launched to the ISS in April 2021, returned to earth on March 30, along with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.

Veteran former astronaut Scott Kelly recently told CNN he would back off his high-profile Twitter war with Rogozin, following a warning from a NASA official that such attacks are “damaging” to the ISS mission. 

Since November 2000, the ISS has functioned as an orbiting laboratory 227 nautical miles (420 kilometers) above our planet, as well as a home to continuously rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts. It has been the site of multiple firsts as astronauts have successfully sequenced DNA and feasted on crops grown in space.

8:14 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Gunfire and explosions disperse crowd of protesters in Russian-held city, nuclear power company says

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Nathan Hodge in Lviv, Ukraine

Gunfire and explosions disperse a crowd in Enerhodar, Ukraine on April 2.
Gunfire and explosions disperse a crowd in Enerhodar, Ukraine on April 2. (From Telegram)

At least four people were injured by explosions amid protests against Russian occupation in the central Ukrainian town of Enerhodar, the country's state nuclear power company Energoatom said in a series of statements Saturday. 

The city, which is close to the Zaporizhia nuclear power station seized by Russian forces in early March, has seen sporadic protests since its occupation. 

Energoatom posted video from the scene that appeared to show crowds being dispersed by automatic weapons fire and flash-bang rounds. 

"The occupiers dispersed the protesters with explosions and shootings," the Energoatom post said.

The post also called the Russian military "bastards."

Energoatom said residents initially gathered for a peaceful rally in support of Ukraine. According to that account, Russian prison buses pulled up and the Russians began detaining locals

"Within minutes, the city was shaken by the sounds of explosions and massive shelling," the statement read. 

According to Energoatom, several citizens were hospitalized with injuries and severe burns due to blasts that hit a line of civilians in the vicinity of a local cultural center.

"Local doctors are doing their best in the difficult conditions of almost complete lack of drugs and materials and trying to save their lives and health," the statement said. "Some of the victims will be released today after the necessary procedures."