April 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Simone McCarthy, Steve George, Sana Noor Haq, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 1812 GMT (0212 HKT) April 4, 2022
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3:12 p.m. ET, April 3, 2022

Here's what a CNN team on the scene of a mass grave in the Ukrainian town of Bucha saw 

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen, Vasco Cotovio, Daria Markina and Byron Blunt in Bucha

People stand near a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine on April 3.
People stand near a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine on April 3. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

A mass grave has been discovered in the town of Bucha, in the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, a CNN team found. 

Bodies were first buried in the grave, on the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints, in the first days of the war, residents told CNN.

CNN saw at least a dozen bodies in body bags pilled inside the grave. Some were already partially covered. 

According to residents, more bodies are already buried on site. They said they belong mostly to civilians killed in the fighting around Bucha.

Residents told CNN that around 150 people are buried there. 

The mayor of Bucha said in public remarks on Saturday that there could be up to 300 victims buried on site.

CNN was unable to independently verify those numbers or the identities and nationalities of those buried in the grave.

The earth on the church grounds appeared to have been recently moved so it is feasible that a larger number of bodies is buried there. 

Bucha has seen some of the heaviest fighting since the war started. 

Destroyed Russian vehicles line the streets and most houses have been damaged in some way, with a large portion of the buildings there completely destroyed.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen, producer Vasco Cotovio, producer Daria Markina and photojournalist Byron Blunt also saw people at the site of the mass grave crying and looking for the bodies of lost loved ones.

Listen to CNN's eyewitness account:

12:09 p.m. ET, April 3, 2022

Ukrainian city of Chernihiv mostly destroyed, mayor says

From CNN staff

A man rides his bicycle near damaged residential buildings in Chernihiv, Ukraine on March 4.
A man rides his bicycle near damaged residential buildings in Chernihiv, Ukraine on March 4. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv is about 70% destroyed following an assault by Russian troops, Vladyslav Atroshenko, the city’s mayor, said Sunday.

The “consequences” of the attack by Russia in Chernihiv are “severe,” similar to the aftermath in other badly damaged cities and towns like Bucha, where bodies of civilians were found in the streets, as well as in Kharkiv and Mariupol, he said. 

The most urgent issues facing residents is a “concentration of Russian troops on the Belarusian border,” and concerns the city will be hit with more missiles and air bombs, Atroshenko added.

“Russians move around Ukraine like at home. And the fact that they left does not mean that they will not come back tomorrow. It takes about an hour and a half for them to get to us ... Today we can say it is quiet, there is cleaning, there is demining," he said.

A city market is damaged in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 30.
A city market is damaged in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 30. (AP)

1:20 p.m. ET, April 3, 2022

Ukrainian president reacts to images from Bucha: "This is genocide" 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Anastasia Graham Yooll in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 2.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 2. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

"This is genocide," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, speaking after images emerged of civilian bodies strewn across the streets of Bucha, northwest of the capital of Kyiv, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area.

When asked during an appearance on CBS News' "Face the Nation" program if Russia is carrying out genocide in Ukraine, Zelensky replied: "Indeed. This is genocide."

 "The elimination of the whole nation, and the people. We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities," he continued. 

Ukraine doesn't want to be "subdued to the policy of the Russian Federation," Zelensky said, adding that this "is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated."

"This is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So, this is the torture of the whole nation," the president stressed to viewers. 

The alleged atrocities in Bucha have drawn international outrage, with Western leaders calling for war crimes investigations and fresh sanctions on Russia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the State Department would help document any atrocities the Russian military committed against Ukrainian civilians. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the deaths of civilians in Bucha a “brutality" and said “I strongly welcome” an investigation by International Criminal Court, which has opened an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine.

Russia's response: The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed the extensive footage was "fake," saying "not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions," during Russia's occupation of Bucha. "In the settlements of the Kiev region, Russian military personnel delivered and issued 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians," it said in a statement.

A separate statement claimed the footage was staged. "Stories about Bucha appeared in several foreign media outlets at once, which looks like a planned media campaign," the statement said. "Taking into account that the troops left the city on March 30, where was the footage for four days? Their absence only confirms the fake."

The Russian government has consistently responded to allegations of civilian casualties inflicted by Russian forces with blanket denials. After the Russian air force bombed a maternity hospital on March 9, Russian officials attempted to cast doubt on widespread media reports, with one Russian diplomat accusing a victim of the bombing — a woman who escaped from the bombing, bloodied and still pregnant — of being an actor and not a real victim.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm the details around the men's deaths. CNN had requested comment from the Russian defense ministry regarding allegations of the execution of civilians in the Kyiv region and other parts of Ukraine.

CNN's Nathan Hodge, Chandelis Duster and Jeremy Herb contributed reporting to this post.

11:30 a.m. ET, April 3, 2022

State Department spokesperson suggests US will take additional actions against Russia "very soon"

From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference on March 10, in Washington, DC.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference on March 10, in Washington, DC. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

State Department spokesperson Ned Price hinted at additional US action against Russia coming “very soon” when asked about Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky's request for greater G7 sanctions in response to the latest atrocities in Bucha.  

"When it comes to our sanctions, we've always said that we will continue applying pressure on President Putin, on the Kremlin, on all of those around him including oligarchs and cronies who are empowering this war of choice against Ukraine, until and unless the Kremlin deescalates, until and unless the violence diminishes, and until and unless these kinds of atrocities come to an end. So I suspect you will very soon see additional pressure applied,” Price told MSNBC Sunday. 

"When it comes to these images out of Bucha, we have already assessed that Russia's forces have committed war crimes. What we're doing, we are collecting information. One, to shine a spotlight on precisely what they're doing, but two, to ensure that all of those who have perpetrated these atrocities and all of those who ordered these atrocities are held to account. That's our mission," he continued.

Shocking images came to light from Bucha, Ukraine Saturday by Agence France-Presse of at least 20 civilian men dead and lining a single street. The photos were released the same day Ukraine declared the town liberated from Russian troops. Accounts of alleged Russian atrocities are emerging as its forces retreat from areas near Kyiv following a failed bid to encircle the capital.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm the details around the men's deaths and has requested comment from the Russian defense ministry regarding allegations of the execution of civilians in the Kyiv region and other parts of Ukraine.

Asked about peace talks, Price said, "We have not seen any indication yet that the Russians are truly serious about deescalating this war." 

Price also dismissed reports that the Russian ruble is recovering from the sanctions, saying, "This is almost entirely artificial. The ruble is on life support with draconian measures that the Kremlin has been forced to take to artificially prop up the value of the ruble.”

Price noted that the government is preventing Russians and others from selling rubles “precisely to establish this floor and ensuring that the value we see reflected on the market isn't actually the actual worth of the ruble today.”

“When it comes to the Russian economy, 30 years of economic integration have been undone in the past five weeks alone,” Price said.

11:21 a.m. ET, April 3, 2022

US will provide $50 million to Moldova to assist with Ukrainian refugees

From CNN's Richard Roth

Ukrainian refugees cross the border into Moldova on March 30.
Ukrainian refugees cross the border into Moldova on March 30. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)

The US will provide $50 million to help Moldova assist with the impacts of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, including supporting programs training and equipment for border management, and efforts to counter human trafficking, according to a news release.

The US mission said the funding will also provide assistance “to improve accountability and transparency in the justice sector, and combat corruption and cybercrime,” the release said.

“Today, I was able to see firsthand the way your government and the Moldovan people have come together to embrace Ukrainian refugees — most of them women and children — who have been forced to leave behind everything they have and people they love to flee to safety,” UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at a joint news conference with the Moldovan prime minister.

“You have welcomed them with open arms. And for this, your hospitality and generosity are now known around the world. I want you to know that, in all your efforts, you have a committed partner in the United States. We know that this assistance will go far in your hands,” she continued.

The US funding will also support “key lines of effort of the Moldova Support Conference, taking place April 5 in Berlin, to advance international support for Moldova's resilience and reform agenda,” the US mission said. 

According to the US mission, more than $178 million has been provided inside Ukraine, and over $123 million has been given to neighboring countries and the EU to support humanitarian efforts and the host of millions of refugees.

10:30 a.m. ET, April 3, 2022

NATO chief warns attacks in Ukraine will continue: This is not a "real withdrawal of Russian forces"

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with CNN on Sunday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with CNN on Sunday. (CNN)

This is not a "real withdrawal of Russian forces," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, warning that attacks in Ukraine will continue.  

"What we see is not a real withdrawal. But we see that Russia is repositioning its troops and they are taking some of them back to rearm them, to reinforce them, to resupply them. We should not in a way be too optimistic because the attacks will continue," Stoltenberg told CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash on Sunday. 

Stoltenberg was speaking in the wake of reports from the Ukrainian government Saturday that the entire Kyiv region had been "liberated" from Russian forces. "Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region was liberated from the invader," Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a Facebook post. 

CNN has not confirmed that the entire Kyiv region has been cleared of Russian troops by Ukrainian forces, but the Ukrainian military has in recent days regained control of suburbs around the capital, which has remained under government control. The Russian military has said it is "de-escalating" around Kyiv. 

NATO is also "also concerned about potential increased attacks especially in the in the south and in the east," the alliance's chief said. 

"So, this is not a real withdrawal but more a shift in the in the in strategy. Focusing more on the on the south and east," he added. 

CNN's Nathan Hodge contributed reporting to this post.

10:54 a.m. ET, April 3, 2022

White House chief of staff says the war in Ukraine is "far from over"

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Ron Klain speaks during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, in 2020.
Ron Klain speaks during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, in 2020. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden's White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the war in Ukraine is “far from over” this morning in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“I think the Ukrainians are winning the war around Kyiv and in the northern part of the country. And that's tremendous credit to the fighting they've done and to the support that the United States and our NATO allies have provided them. We send weapons into Ukraine almost every single day,” Klain told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Klain continued: “But I think we have to be very clear. I think there's a lot of evidence that Putin is simply taking his troops out of the northern part of the country to redeploy them to the eastern part of the country to relaunch a battle there. So I think there have been victories for the Ukrainians so far, but this war, sadly, is far from over.”

3:11 p.m. ET, April 3, 2022

NATO secretary general calls civilian deaths in Bucha a "brutality"

From CNN's Chandelis Duster

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday called the deaths of civilians in a town northwest of Kyiv a “brutality” after allegations they were executed by Russian forces in the area.

“It is a brutality against civilians we haven't seen in Europe for decades. And it's horrific and it's absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed. And it just underlines the importance that this war must end,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” when asked if the act was genocide.

The bodies of at least 20 civilian men were found strewn across a street in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area in disturbing images released by AFP on Saturday. CNN has requested comment from the Russian Ministry of Defense regarding allegations of the execution of civilians in the Kyiv region and other parts of Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said, “I strongly welcome” an investigation by International Criminal Court, which has opened an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine.

3:09 p.m. ET, April 3, 2022

US secretary of state: Images of dead Ukrainians in Bucha "a punch to the gut"

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting on April 1 in Washington, DC.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting on April 1 in Washington, DC. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the State Department would help document any atrocities the Russian military committed against Ukrainian civilians, following new images from AFP out of the town of Bucha northwest of Kyiv showing the bodies of at least 20 civilian men found lying strewn across the street.

“You can’t help but see these images as a punch to the gut,” Blinken told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday. “Since the aggression, we’ve come out and said that we believe that Russian forces have committed war crimes, and we’ve been working to document that, to provide the information we have to the relevant instructions and organizations that will put all of this together. And there needs to be accountability for it," he said.

Last month, the US State Department formally accused Russian forces of war crimes in Ukraine. Asked Sunday whether Russian troops were committed genocide, Blinken said, “We will look hard and document everything that we see, put it all together, make sure that the relevant institutions and organizations that are looking at this, including the State Department, have everything they need to assess exactly what took place in Ukraine, who’s responsible and what it amounts to.”

“I think the most important thing is we can’t become numb to this, we can’t normalize this,” Blinken added. “This is the reality that’s going on every day as long as Russia’s brutality against Ukraine continues. That’s why it needs to come to an end.”

Blinken declined to confirm reporting from CNN and others that the US was helping facilitate the transfer of Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine, which was one of the weapons systems Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been seeking.

But Blinken said the US and NATO countries were helping to get Ukraine the weapons it needed, adding there would soon be 10 anti-tank weapons systems in Ukraine for every one Russian tank that’s in Ukrainian territory.

“Across the board, what we’re trying to do is make sure the Ukrainians have the systems they need that they can use and they can use right away,” Blinken said.

Asked about the prospect of Ukraine maintain neutrality between the West and Russian as part of a negotiated end to the war, Blinken said the Biden administration would support what the Ukrainians want to maintain their sovereignty.

“When it comes to the future, we and allies and partners are going to want to make sure to do everything we can to ensure that this can’t happen again and that Ukraine has the means to defend itself, to deter further Russian aggression,” he said. “So we will look at anything we can do back up that kind of outcome.”

Watch the interview: