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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1:43 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

These people are cold calling Russians to tell them about the war

From CNN's Teele Rebane

Marija Stonyte cold calls people in Russia to tell them about the war in Ukraine.
Marija Stonyte cold calls people in Russia to tell them about the war in Ukraine. (Courtesy of Marija Stonyte)

Marija Stonyte picks up her phone and anxiously dials in a number. After a couple of rings, a woman picks up.

"I'm calling to tell you a very important message. I don't know if you know a lot about what is actually happening right now in Ukraine," Stonyte says in the call last month, her voice trembling as her 1-year-old daughter babbles in the background.

There's silence on the other end of the line.

"The real truth is that it is a terrible invasion."

This is one of dozens of cold calls that Stonyte and her husband make every day to people in Russia from their home in Lithuania as part of a volunteer initiative aimed at penetrating Russia's so-called digital iron curtain.

Russia's ongoing onslaught in Ukraine has seen cities bombarded, civilians killed, and more than 4 million flee the country. But at home, many Russians know little about what is unfolding.

Digital iron curtain: Russia has banned state media from calling Russian President Vladimir Putin's "special military operation" an "invasion" or a "war," and those who criticize the offensive can face severe punishment.

A Moscow court banned Facebook and Instagram for carrying out "extremist activity," and a new censorship law made publishing "fake" information about the invasion punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The pressure has forced independent news outlets to pull out or shut down, leaving a void for state media to fill with propaganda and disinformation.

Desperate to break through, people around the world are trying creative ways to connect with Russians. Online activists Anonymous claim to have hacked Russian TV channels to broadcast footage from Ukraine.

Others, like Stonyte, are trying a more individual approach. They're cold calling or messaging strangers in Russia, hoping their personal pleas will disrupt the Kremlin's propaganda —  and potentially even help put an end to the deadly war.

Read the full story and listen to the calls:

12:36 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's the latest on the war in Ukraine

Further evacuations from besieged Ukrainian cities are scheduled for Saturday, after thousands of people escaped to safety on Friday, according to officials. Meanwhile, Ukraine's President says Russian troops are "slowly but noticeably" moving out of the north of the country.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Evacuations ongoing: More than 6,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday, according to Ukrainian officials, including more than 2,000 from Mariupol. More than 100,000 people remain trapped in the besieged southern city, where local leaders say Russia is not allowing aid in. Evacuations from Mariupol would continue Saturday, a Ukrainian minister said.
  • Zelensky on Russian movements: In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said Russian troops are "slowly but noticeably" moving out of the north of the country but urged Ukrainians to remain cautious as troops withdraw. Zelensky said preparations are underway for more Russian strikes in eastern Ukraine.
  • Attacks on eastern Ukraine: Ukrainian officials reported heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine Friday, particularly in the Luhansk region of the Donbas amid an apparent shift by Russia to redirect military efforts to the region. NATO's chief has warned Russian forces are repositioning rather than withdrawing, while Ukrainian and US officials say Russians may be regrouping in Belarus.
  • Ukraine reclaims key airport ... : Satellite images show Russian forces have withdrawn from the Antonov Airport in Hostomel, 18 miles northwest of Kyiv. The images confirm earlier information from a US official, who told CNN they believed the Russian military had likely left the airport, which was captured on the first day of the war.
  • ... and more territory near Kyiv: Video posted to social media shows bodies laying in the street where they fell in Bucha, a city on the northwestern outskirts of the capital. It's unclear from the video whether the bodies are civilians or the military. It comes after the Bucha mayor said Ukraine had recaptured the city.
  • Extra US aid: The United States will provide another $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine, the Pentagon said Friday. The new package includes drones, anti-drone systems, armored vehicles, night-vision equipment and ammunition — but not some of Ukraine's biggest requests, such as aircraft.
  • Top EU official visits Ukraine: European Parliament President Roberta Metsola traveled to Ukraine and met with Zelensky — the first leader of an EU institution to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Zelensky labeled her visit "heroic."
  • Fuel depot blaze: A huge fire broke out at a fuel depot in Belgorod, a Russian city near the Ukrainian border, and Russia says an air strike from Ukrainian helicopters is to blame. CNN is so far unable to verify this claim and the Ukrainian Defense Ministry told CNN it has no information about the incident. 

Here's the state of the conflict:

12:09 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Zelensky: Sanctions against Russia are working but should be strengthened

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke in a taped interview with Fox News on Friday April 1.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke in a taped interview with Fox News on Friday April 1. (From Fox News)

Sanctions against Russia are working but need to be strengthened, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a taped interview with Fox News on Friday.

“Sanctions definitely work, and Russia is definitely afraid of sanctions. It puts them out of comfort. It drops down their economy. But there’s a question of how sanctions are working. We are showing and telling the United States and European leaders, everybody must work together quickly,” Zelensky said.
“They must have an impact on the oligarchs, on the President of Russia and on all the parties and on the country in general. The United States should continue working on this if the US would like to have successful negotiations.”

Alleged helicopter attack: During the interview, Zelensky responded to Russian accusations that Ukraine mounted a helicopter attack on a fuel depot inside Russian territory Friday.

"I’m sorry I do not discuss any of my orders as commander in chief, the leader of this state. There are things which I only share with military armed forces of Ukraine and when they talk with me,” Zelensky said, when asked if he had ordered such an attack.
“You need to understand that on that territory that you mentioned they were placing their shooting systems and were firing missiles themselves.”

Some context: A huge fire broke out Friday at a fuel depot in Belgorod, a Russian city near the Ukrainian border — which Russia said was caused by an air strike from Ukrainian helicopters. CNN is so far unable to verify this claim and the Ukrainian Defense Ministry told CNN it has no information about the incident. 

No land-for-peace deal: Zelensky also said he would not be willing to trade Ukrainian territory in exchange for a peace deal with Russia.

“We do not trade our territory. So the question of territorial integrity and sovereignty is out of discussion,” Zelensky said.

10:11 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

US to provide $300 million more in security assistance to Ukraine. Here's what it includes

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Barbara Starr

A US Marine launches a Switchblade 300 10C system during a training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California on Sept. 24, 2021.
A US Marine launches a Switchblade 300 10C system during a training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California on Sept. 24, 2021. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexis Moradian)

The United States will provide another $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The new package means the US has now committed more than $2.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration, according to the statement from Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

The new package includes:

  • Switchblade suicide drones
  • Anti-drone systems
  • Armored vehicles
  • Night-vision equipment
  • Ammunition
  • And more

Not all requests fulfilled: Unlike presidential drawdowns, which pull from Defense Department stocks to provide to Ukraine, this package falls under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which means the weaponry and equipment will be procured from industry.

The new package comes as Ukraine has pushed for more advanced weaponry from the US and European nations. Much of the equipment provided to Ukraine fulfills those requests, but the US has not acquiesced to some of the biggest requests, such as aircraft.

The statement on security assistance is an unusual departure from past practice, in which the Pentagon and the administration have been discrete about the equipment provided. This time, the Pentagon laid out in some detail the systems and equipment that Ukraine will receive.

8:58 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Zelensky: Russian forces are "slowly but noticeably" moving out of northern Ukraine

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video address on Friday April 1.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video address on Friday April 1. (Ukrainian Government/Facebook)

Russian troops are “slowly but noticeably” moving out of the north of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Friday.

“The occupiers are withdrawing forces in the north of our country. The withdrawal is slow but noticeable. Somewhere they are expelled with battles. Somewhere they leave positions on their own,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky also urged Ukrainians to remain cautious in the north as troops withdraw.

“We are moving forward. Moving carefully. And everyone who returns to this area must also be very careful. It is still impossible to return to normal life as it was. Even in the areas we return after the fighting. You will have to wait. Wait for our land to be cleared. Wait until you can be assured that new shelling is impossible,” he said.

In eastern Ukraine, Zelensky said preparations are underway for more Russian strikes in the Donbas region and the country's second-largest city, Kharkiv.

“In the east of our country, the situation remains extremely difficult. The Russian militaries are being accumulated in Donbas, in the Kharkiv direction. They are preparing for new powerful blows. We are preparing for even more active defense,” Zelensky said.

"Humanitarian catastrophe": Zelensky added that 6,266 people were rescued through evacuation corridors in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia on Friday.

Zelensky also commented on a conversation he had with French President Emmanuel Macron, in which they discussed the humanitarian situation in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

“Europe has no right to react in silence to what is happening in our Mariupol. The whole world must react to this humanitarian catastrophe,” Zelensky said.
9:20 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Bodies seen on street in Bucha, where Ukrainians have retaken territory from retreating Russians

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Volunteers inspect a body left on a street in Bucha, Ukraine on April 1.
Volunteers inspect a body left on a street in Bucha, Ukraine on April 1. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

Bodies are seen laying in the street where they fell in Bucha, a city on the northwestern outskirts of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, in new video posted to social media.

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the video, which was taken on Friday.

In the video, a number of bodies are seen in the street. It's unclear from the video whether the bodies are civilians or the military.

However, it’s clear from the video one of them was killed while riding a bicycle.

There's been roughly five weeks of near constant, intense firefights taking place in Bucha, which is just south of Hostomel, the site of the Antonov Airport. Russian forces stormed the airfield on the first day of the war and have recently abandoned it in their retreat from the greater Kyiv area.

12:08 a.m. ET, April 2, 2022

Russian forces have withdrawn from Antonov Airport, outside of Kyiv, satellite images confirm

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A satellite image shows empty revetments at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, Ukraine on March 31.
A satellite image shows empty revetments at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, Ukraine on March 31. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

New satellite images show Russian forces have withdrawn from the Antonov Airport in Hostomel, 18 miles (about 29 kilometers) northwest of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

The images, taken Thursday by Maxar Technologies, confirm earlier information from an official with the US Department of Defense, who told CNN they believed the Russian military had likely left the airport.

A satellite overview show's the abandoned Antonov airfield.
A satellite overview show's the abandoned Antonov airfield. (Maxar Technologies)

Previous satellite images showed the Russians had constructed protective earthen berms around military vehicles and artillery positions after weeks of digging in at the airport. Now, just the berms remain. 

First Russian victory: The capture of the Antonov airfield was the first major victory notched by the Russians on the first day of the war — Feb. 24. A number of transport and attack helicopters ambushed the base, and the Ukrainian soldiers stationed there; CNN witnessed some of the intense firefight at the base.

Since then, Ukrainian forces held strong against the Russian advance; they never made it closer to western Kyiv. Intense firefights took place along the Irpin River and the cities of Irpin and Bucha, just south of the air base and Hostomel. 

A satellite image shows an area where artillery batteries were seen previously.
A satellite image shows an area where artillery batteries were seen previously. (Maxar Technologies)

Russia's Defense Ministry released a number of videos praising the ease at which they claimed to have taken the air base. Russian state media echoed those claims, even traveling with troops around the airport as evidence of how safe the area was.

Now, the abandonment is another example of Russia’s waning military success around the Ukrainian capital.

More empty revetments are seen near the airport.
More empty revetments are seen near the airport. (Maxar Technologies)

Russian repositioning: At this time, it's unclear where the military and artillery vehicles went. Russia has previously claimed it would decrease its military activity around Kyiv. All of the military forces and vehicles that were positioned west of Kyiv came from Belarus.

The Russians aren't saying if they returned to Belarus, and thick cloud cover is currently preventing any satellite imagery from tracking Russian troop movements in the area.

8:33 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

More than 6,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday, official says

From CNN's Julia Presniakova and Nathan Hodge

Evacuees arrive on a bus at the registration center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1.
Evacuees arrive on a bus at the registration center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on April 1. (Emre Caylak/AFP/Getty Images)

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's minister of reintegration of temporarily occupied territories, said 6,266 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday.

The update came via a statement, in which Vereshchuk noted the figure includes 1,431 people who moved from the southern cities of Berdiansk and Melitopol — in their own vehicles — to the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, via evacuation corridors.

Of that number, she said, 771 people originally came from the besieged city of Mariupol.

Meanwhile, said Vereshchuk, a separate convoy of 42 buses from the city of Berdiansk — carrying Mariupol residents — had passed a key Russian checkpoint and was en route to Zaporizhzhia. Including additional buses from Melitopol, those convoys were carrying more than 2,500 people.

Additionally, the official said 10 buses had arrived from Zaporizhzhia to Berdiansk delivering 80 tons of humanitarian aid.

"Tomorrow morning they will continue the evacuation of Mariupol residents," she added. 
8:04 p.m. ET, April 1, 2022

Russia accuses Ukraine of helicopter strikes on fuel depot in Russian territory

From CNN's Jake Kwon, Masha Angelova, Nathan Hodge and Uliana Pavlova

Russia accused Ukraine of mounting a helicopter attack on a fuel depot inside Russian territory Friday, as footage surfaced of the facility engulfed in flames.

In a statement, Russia's Ministry of Defense said that the helicopters "entered the airspace of the Russian Federation at extremely low altitude," at 5 a.m. Moscow time and "launched a missile attack on a civilian oil storage facility located on the outskirts of Belgorod."

As a result, "individual tanks were damaged and caught fire," spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the depot "has nothing to do with Russian armed forces."

CNN could not verify the Russian claims.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has neither confirmed nor denied the attack. Russia has hit fuel storage facilities around Ukraine in recent days.

"I would like to emphasize that Ukraine is performing a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine," Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for Ukraine's defense ministry, 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."

CNN geolocated and verified social media videos showing two helicopters flying over the Russian city of Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border, but cannot confirm the helicopters are Ukrainian.

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