Ukraine latest updates: Zelenskyy says Russia laying land mines

Russia-Ukraine news from April 2: Ukraine’s president says retreating Russian forces creating a ‘catastrophic’ situation by leaving mines.

A Ukranian serviceman stands on top of a Russian tank captured after fighting with Russian troops
A Ukranian serviceman stands on top of a Russian tank captured after fighting with Russian troops in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv [File: Marko Djurica/Reuters]
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says retreating Russian troops are leaving behind land mines creating a “catastrophic” situation.
  • Zelenskyy has said there are “noticeable” signs of a Russian withdrawal from the north of Ukraine, but says more battles are ahead in the east.
  • The Red Cross is to make a new attempt to evacuate Ukrainian civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, after a convoy was forced to turn back on Friday.
  • The United Nations’ humanitarian chief will travel to Moscow on Sunday and then to Kyiv to discuss ceasefire efforts, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.
  • The United States says it is providing Ukraine with additional security assistance, as well as supplies to respond to a potential Russian chemical attack.
  • Dozens of Ukrainian cultural sites have been damaged in the war, UNESCO says.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 38

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These were the updates for April 2:

Russia ‘verbally’ agreed to key proposals: Ukrainian negotiator

Ukraine’s top negotiator in peace talks with Russia has said Moscow “verbally” agreed to key Ukrainian proposals, raising hopes that talks to end fighting are moving forward.

Negotiator David Arakhamia told Ukrainian television channels that any meeting between Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian leader Vladimir Putin would “with a high probability” take place in Turkey.

“The Russian Federation has given an official answer to all positions, which is that they accept the (Ukrainian) position, except for the issue of Crimea (annexed by Russia in 2014),” Arakhamia said.

Ukrainian service members walk on the front line near Kyiv [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Lithuania halts imports of Russian gas: Energy ministry

Lithuania has stopped importing natural gas from Russia, the energy ministry has announced.

The ministry said the country’s gas network has been running without Russian gas imports since the beginning of the month.

“We are the first EU country among Gazprom’s supply countries to gain independence from Russian gas supplies, and this is the result of a multi-year coherent energy policy and timely infrastructure decisions,” energy minister Dainius Kreivys said in the statement.

Counting the Cost: Can Africa fill Europe’s gas gap?

As Europe is threatened with gas shortages, it looks for alternatives to supplies from Russia.

The war in Ukraine is squeezing Russian gas supplies to Europe.

European Union countries want to reduce their dependence on Moscow and are pulling out all the stops to find alternative supplies. Africa has a wealth of natural gas reserves and could fill the gap.

Watch here.

Ukraine minister says regained control of ‘whole Kyiv region’

Ukraine has regained control of “the whole Kyiv region” after invading Russian forces retreated from some key towns near the Ukrainian capital, deputy defence minister Ganna Maliar has said.

“Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” Maliar said on Facebook, referring to towns that have been heavily destroyed by fighting.

Ukrainian servicemen pose for a picture near a destroyed bridge as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv
Ukrainian servicemen pose for a picture near a destroyed bridge as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv on April 1, 2022 [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Ukraine says 765 evacuate besieged Mariupol

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says 765 residents managed to make it out of Mariupol in private vehicles.

Iryna Vereshchuk said the residents reached Zaporizhzhia, a city 140 miles (226 kilometres) to the northwest.

Talks with Ukraine not easy, important that they continue: Kremlin

Russia’s talks with Ukraine have not been easy, but the main thing is that they are continuing, RIA news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

The spokesman added Russia would like to continue talks with Ukraine in neighbouring Belarus but Kyiv opposed the idea.

Russia and Ukraine held several rounds of talks in Belarus last month before their delegation met in Istanbul last week.

RIA said Peskov had been speaking in an interview with Belarus television which is due to be shown later on Saturday.

The Bykovets family members, Olga, 42, Ilya, 13, and Yegor, 5, who seek refuge in abandoned apartments of a residential building damaged in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, gather in a courtyard in the southern port city of Mariupol
The Bykovets family members, Olga, 42, Ilya, 13, and Yegor, 5, who seek refuge in abandoned apartments of a residential building damaged in the course of the war, gather in a courtyard in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 1, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Some 250,000 refugees take refuges near Slovakia: AJ Correspondent

Around a quarter of a million people are taking refuge in the Transcarpathian mountain range in western Ukraine near the Slovakian border to escape Russia’s invasion, Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reported.

“We’re in the centre for the internally displaced. These are people who cannot afford to stay anywhere else … because the main city of Uzhgorod is packed, the hotels are packed apartments are packed. There is nowhere to stay. So now this centre really does tell the story of the entirety of this conflict,” she added.

“People we’ve been speaking to coming from Mariupol, coming from Kharkiv, coming from the Donbas region … coming from the areas around the capital like Bucha and Irpin – which have been heavily attacked by Russian forces.”

Air strike damages airfield and fuel depot in Ukraine’s Poltava region: Governor

A Russian air raids damaged an airfield runway and fuel depot near the city of Myrhorod in Ukraine’s central-eastern Poltava, Governor Dmytro Lunin said in an online post.

Nearly 300 buried in ‘mass grave’ in Bucha: Mayor

Almost 300 people have been buried in a mass grave in Bucha, its mayor has told the AFP news agency.

“In Bucha, we have already buried 280 people in mass graves,” mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told AFP by phone. He said the heavily destroyed town’s streets are littered with corpses.

Breakaway area in Moldova denies Russian troops massing

Authorities in the tiny breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova denied “absolutely untrue” claims by Ukraine that Russian troops based there are massing to conduct “provocations” along Ukraine’s border.

Earlier, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russian troops already in Transnistria were preparing for “a demonstration of readiness for the offensive and, possibly, hostilities against Ukraine.”

“The information disseminated by the General Staff of Ukraine is absolutely untrue,” Transnistria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that leaders have repeatedly “declared the absence of any threat to Ukraine”.

‘Nightmarish’ images coming from Bucha: AJ correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reporting from Kyiv said “nightmarish” video’s were coming out from the nearby town of Bucha, with dead bodies “strewn across the streets”.

“We’ve been speaking to the mayor of Bucha, who has been telling us that he is aware of these videos and he has seen some of them. He’s saying that when he went into the town itself, he saw 22 bodies lying on the streets,” Khan added.

Thousands march in Switzerland against Ukraine war

Thousands of people have gathered in the Swiss capital Bern to demand an end to Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine.

In a sea of blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, with a rainbow-coloured sprinkling of PEACE banners, around 10,000 demonstrators marched through the city, according to organisers.

“We are all Ukrainian civilians,” read one banner, held by a woman bundled up in a winter coat and wool hat marching towards the Federal Palace, which houses the Swiss government and Parliament.

Women hold placards in front of the Swiss House of Parliament during a national demonstration for peace and against the war in Ukraine
Women hold placards in front of the Swiss House of Parliament during a national demonstration for peace and against the war in Ukraine that gathered around 10’000 participants in Swiss capital Bern, on April 2, 2022  [Fabrice Coffrini/AFP]

Mines in wake of Russian retreat keep Kyiv unsafe: Zelenskyy

Retreating Russian troops are creating a “catastrophic” situation for civilians by leaving mines around homes, abandoned equipment and “even the bodies of those killed”, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned.

Ukraine and its Western allies reported mounting evidence of Russia withdrawing its forces from around Kyiv and building up troop strength in eastern Ukraine.

The visible shift did not mean the country faced a reprieve from more than five weeks of war or that the more than four million refugees who have fled Ukraine will return soon.

“It’s still not possible to return to normal life, as it used to be, even at the territories that we are taking back after the fighting,” the president told his nation in a nightly video message.

“We need wait until our land is demined, wait till we are able to assure you that there won’t be new shelling.”

Blasts near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant: Nuclear agency

A series of blasts has torn through the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar nearby the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukraine’s state nuclear agency reported about Saturday’s attacks on its official Telegram channel.

Both the city and the plant, which generates more than a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity and is one of the largest nuclear facilities in Europe, have been under Russian control since March 4, according to Interfax Ukraine.

A video clip accompanying the Telegram post by Ukraine’s Energoatom appeared to feature loud blasts and flying debris.

A second post on the state enterprise’s channel claimed that explosions and mortar bursts could be heard in the vicinity of the Sovremennik cultural centre, where residents held a rally in support of Ukraine.

Six power units generate 40-42 billion kWh of electricity making the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant the largest nuclear power plant not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe
Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant [File: Dmytro Smolyenko/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

More than 170 detained in Ukraine protests across Russia: Monitor

Russian police have detained 176 people at protests against Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, an NGO said.

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during protests, said police had detained at least 176 people during demonstrations in 14 cities in Russia.

An AFP news agency journalist in Moscow witnessed more than 20 people detained by riot police under heavy snowfall in the capital’s central park Zaryadye, a short distance from the Kremlin.

Pope says visit to Kyiv still ‘on the table’

Pope Francis has said he was still considering a visit to Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv following invitations from the mayor and the president.

On board the papal plane en route to Malta for an official two-day visit, Francis was asked by a reporter whether a visit to the city was still possible.

“Yes, it’s on the table,” replied the 85-year-old.

In a March 8 letter to the pope written in English, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Francis’s presence in the capital “is key for saving lives and paving the path to peace in our city, country and beyond”.

Putin is ‘a war criminal’: Ex-ICC prosecutor

The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has called for an international arrest warrant to be issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin is a war criminal,” Carla Del Ponte told Swiss newspaper Le Temps in an interview.

In interviews given to Swiss media to mark the release of her latest book, the Swiss lawyer who oversaw ICC war crimes investigations in Rwanda, Syria and the former Yugoslavia, said there were clear war crimes being committed in Ukraine.

Death toll from Mykolaiv strike on government building rises to 35

At least 35 people have been confirmed killed as a result of Tuesday’s rocket attack on the regional administration building in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mykolaiv, Governor Vitaliy Kim said in an online post.

Rescue workers have continued to dismantle the rubble and search for victims after the attack blasted a hole through the side of the building in central Mykolaiv.

Ukraine faces big battles in eastern and southern regions: official

Heavy battles are coming up in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions and for the besieged city of Mariupol in particular,  Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.

Speaking on national television, Arestovych said Ukrainian troops around Kyiv had retaken more than 30 towns or villages in the region and were holding the front line against Russian forces in the east.

“Let us have no illusions – there are still heavy battles ahead for the south, for Mariupol, for the east of Ukraine,” he said.

People who flee Mariupol and Melitopol as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, wait inside an evacuee bus at a collecting point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine April 1, 2022
People who flee Mariupol and Melitopol as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, wait inside an evacuee bus at a collecting point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine [Reuters]

Nearly 160 children died since war started

At least 158 children have been killed and more than 254 have been wounded since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Interfax news agency reported, citing figures from the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s Office.

Russia, Kazakhstan urge deal for neutral, nuclear-free Ukraine

Russian President Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev agreed during a phone call that it was vital for an agreement to be reached for a neutral, non-aligned and nuclear-free Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s presidential office said.

In a readout of the call, Putin had briefed Tokayev on the progress of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

Radio Ukrajina helps refugees to adjust to new life

A team of Ukrainians has come together to launch a radio station in Prague to help refugees fleeing war to adjust to their new life in the Czech Republic.

Many of the 22 employees at Radio Ukrajina are also refugees who entered the country along with 300,000 other people since the conflict began.

Overall, the UN estimated that more than 4.1 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 38 April 2 9GMT

Russian forces violently disperse protesters in occupied Enerhodar

Local authorities in the occupied Ukrainian town of Enerhodar said Russian forces had violently dispersed a pro-Ukrainian rally and detained some participants.

Residents had gathered in the centre of the town in the south of the country to talk and sing the Ukrainian national anthem, when Russian soldiers arrived and bundled some into detention vans, the local administration said in an online post.

“The occupiers are dispersing the protesters with explosions,” it said in a separate post on Telegram, sharing a video of what appeared to be multiple stun grenades landing in a square and letting off bangs and clouds of white smoke next to the town’s main cultural centre.

It also accused Russian forces of shelling another part of the town on Saturday and said as a result four people had been wounded and were being treated in hospital.

Ukrainian journalist found dead near Kyiv: presidential aide

Ukrainian photographer and documentary maker Maks Levin has been found dead near the capital Kyiv after going missing more than two weeks ago, presidential aide Andriy Yermak said on Saturday.

“He went missing in the conflict area on March 13 in the Kyiv region. His body was found near the village of Guta Mezhyhirska on April 1,” he said on Telegram.

Pope Francis for the first time implicitly slams Putin

Pope Francis came the closest he has yet to implicitly criticising Putin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying a “potentate” was fomenting conflicts for nationalist interests.

“From the east of Europe, from the land of the sunrise, the dark shadows of war have now spread,” the pope said in an address to Maltese officials after arriving on the Mediterranean island nation for a two-day visit.

“Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either shared, or not be at all,” he said.

Pope Francis speaks in the “Ambassadors' Chamber” of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, Malta
Pope Francis speaks in the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, Malta [Remo Casilli/Reuters]

Russia declares top journalist and video blogger ‘foreign agents’

Russia has declared a prominent journalist, a video blogger and six other media figures “foreign agents”, the latest in a series of such moves that critics say are designed to stifle dissent.

The expanded list, published by the Justice Ministry late on Friday, included Elizaveta Osetinskaya, former editor-in-chief of several Russian business newspapers that published disclosures about the commercial interests of people close to Putin.

The term “foreign agent” subjects those listed to stringent financial reporting requirements. It also obliges them to preface anything they publish with a disclaimer stating they are foreign agents.

The list also included Maria Borzunova, a reporter from the independent TV Rain (Dozhd) channel, which was itself declared a “foreign agent” last August and Evgeny Ponasenkov, a writer and video blogger, known for witty off-the-cuff remarks taking aim at the government on state-run TV channels.

Russian forces in ‘rapid retreat’ from northern areas: Ukraine

Russian forces are making a “rapid retreat” from areas around the capital Kyiv and the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said.

“With the rapid retreat of the Russians from the Kyiv and Chernigiv regions … it is completely clear that Russia is prioritising a different tactic: falling back on the east and south,” he said on social media.

Ukrainian servicemen pose for a picture near a destroyed bridge as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv
Ukrainian servicemen pose for a picture near a destroyed bridge as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Ukraine’s gold and forex reserves stand at $29bn: Adviser

Ukraine’s gold and foreign currency reserves stand at $29bn, the same level as before Russia’s invasion thanks to external financial support, the president’s economic adviser Oleh Ustenko said on national television.

“Before the war it was $29bn, then it dropped to $27.5bn, then there was a currency injection and we are again at the level of $29bn,” he said, expressing confidence that the hryvnia currency rate could be kept stable.

‘Too dangerous’ to return to Irpin due to Russian mines: AJ correspondent

Residents of Irpin, a town in Kyiv’s suburb where Russian forces have been pushed back by Ukrainian forces, are not allowed to return yet because it is “simply too dangerous,” said Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan.

“The Russians in their retreat placed booby traps and, as Ukrainians are telling us, they put explosives into people’s devices like laptops, mobile phones and just threw them around places,” Khan said reporting from a nearly fully destroyed village one kilometre outside Irpin. Khan also said that a demining team is “slowly and methodically” working on clearing the town.

The seizure of Irpin, Khan added, would have been crucial for Russian advancement as it would have paved the way towards Kyiv which lies about 25km (15 miles) away.

Сars burnt out from the shelling are seen on the destroyed bridge in Irpin town, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outside of Kyiv
Сars burned out from the shelling are seen on the destroyed bridge in Irpin town, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Russia says cooperation in space only possible once sanctions are lifted

Russia’s space director said that the restoration of normal ties between partners at the International Space Station (ISS) and other joint space projects would be possible only with the with the “full and unconditional removal” of Western sanctions against Moscow.

In a post on social media, head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin also said that the agency’s prosposals on when to end cooperation over the ISS with other space agencies of US, Canada, the EU and Japan will soon be reported to Russian authorities.

He has previously said that the sanctions could “destroy” the US-Russian partnership on the ISS.

Good news expected over Mariupol evacuations: presidential adviser

Ukraine expects good news over the weekend regarding evacuations of people from the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, an adviser to Zelenskyy said.

“Our delegation has reached an agreement in Istanbul [during Ukraine-Russia peace talks] to provide evacuations,” Oleksiy Arestovych told Ukraine’s television. “I think that today or maybe tomorrow we will hear good news regarding the evacuation of the inhabitants of Mariupol.”

No use of jet linked to Russian oligarchs: UK minister

British Transport Minister Grant Shapps says he has “prevented” the use of a jet that “has links to Russian oligarchs”.

EU says it eyes further Russia sanctions that will not affect energy sector

The European Union is working on further sanctions on Russia but any additional measures will not affect the energy sector, the EU’s Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said.

The 27-nation bloc will be faced with a growth slowdown caused by the war in Ukraine but not a recession, he added, saying the 4 percent growth forecast was too optimistic and the EU would not reach it.

INTERACTIVE - Which countries directly import the most Russian gas_

Ukraine’s economy could contract 40 percent

Ukraine’s economy could shrink by 40 percent this year as a result of Russia’s military invasion, the country’s economy ministry said in a statement, citing preliminary estimates.

“Areas in which remote work is impossible have suffered the most,” it said.

‘Problematic’ evacuation: AJ correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Robert Mcbride said efforts to allow civilians to evacuate from Mariupol are proving “problematic”.

“The IRC [International Red Cross] is continuing this process that has been on for days now that is problematic to say the least,” Mcbride said, reporting from Lviv in Western Ukraine.

“It is only three vehicles from the IRC and nine members of staff but hugely important, because they would lead a convoy of more than 50 buses provided by the Ukrainians,” he said. Mcbride added that around 3,000 people fled the port city on Friday by their own means despite the lack of a ceasefire.

Seven corridors agreed from besieged southern areas: deputy PM

Seven humanitarian corridors are planned to evacuate civilians from the besieged cities of Mariupol and Berdyansk, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said on her official Telegram channel.

The move comes a day after a convoy led my the Red Cross was forced to return as it said conditions to proceed were “impossible”.

A video later posted on social media by Mariupol’s city council shows a convoy of buses on the move. “A new evacuation convoy of 10 buses led by the SES and the Red Cross left Zaporizhzhia for Berdyansk,” read the post referring to the country’s State Emergency Service.

‘They are mining the whole territory’

Speaking to the nation in his nighttime video address, President Zelenskyy warned residents to be aware of land mines as Russian forces were leaving behind “a complete disaster” while retreating from the north.

“They are mining the whole territory, they are mining homes, mining equipment, even the bodies of people who were killed,” he said.

He urged residents to wait to resume their normal lives until they are assured that the mines have been cleared and the danger of shelling has passed.

Zelenskyy refuses to comment on fuel depot attack

Zelenskyy has declined to comment on whether Ukraine was behind an attack on a Russian fuel depot which triggered a huge fire.

“I’m sorry, I do not discuss any of my orders as commander in chief,” the Ukrainian leader told US network Fox News.

The air raid hit on Friday energy giant Rosneft’s fuel storage facility in Belgorod, which is around 40km (25 miles) from the border with Ukraine and is a logistics hub for Moscow’s war effort.

A view shows a fuel depot on fire in the city of Belgorod, Russia April 1, 2022
A view shows a fuel depot on fire in the city of Belgorod, Russia on Friday [Pavel Kolyadin/BelPressa/Handout via Reuters]

Ukraine continues to advance against Russian forces near Kyiv: UK

Ukrainian forces continue to advance against withdrawing Russian forces in the vicinity of Kyiv, British military intelligence has said.

Russian forces are also reported to have withdrawn from Hostomel airport near the capital, which has been subject to fighting since the first day of the conflict, The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said in a regular bulletin.

“In the east of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkiv after heavy fighting,” the ministry added.

Russian missiles strike several Ukrainian cities: local official

Russian missiles hit two cities in central Ukraine, Poltava and Kremenchuk, damaging infrastructure and residential buildings, a local authority has said.

“Poltava. A missile struck one of the infrastructure facilities overnight,” Dmitry Lunin, head of the Poltava region, wrote in an online post. “Kremenchuk. Many attacks on the city in the morning,” he added.

Lunin later said at least four missiles hit two infrastructure objects in Poltava while, according to preliminary information, three enemy planes attacked the industrial facilities of Kremenchuk.

There was no immediate information about possible casualties, Lunin said.

US think-tank says Russia focus now on Mariupol, Donetsk, Luhansk

The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think-tank, has given its assessment of what Russia’s apparent pullback from Ukraine’s north suggests about Moscow’s military strategy.

Echoing the Ukrainian president, the IOW, says Russia’s “main effort is now focused on eastern Ukraine” with the goal of capturing Mariupol as well as the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Its analysts expect Russia to take Mariupol “in the coming days” but will continue to suffer heavy casualties.

“The Kremlin will continue to funnel reinforcements [including both low-quality individual replacements from Russia and damaged units redeployed from northeastern Ukraine] into operations in eastern Ukraine, but these degraded forces are unlikely to enable Russia to conduct successful large-scale offensive operations,” IOW said in its update.

Zelenskyy says Russian withdrawal ‘slow but noticeable’; warns on east

In his latest video address, President Zelenskyy told Ukrainians that Russia’s withdrawal from northern areas of the country was “slow but noticeable” and that Russian forces were pulling back after battles or of their own volition.

“We are moving forward, moving carefully,” he said, adding that buildings, vehicles and even bodies were a risk for mines.

Zelenskyy warned again that the situation in the east was “extremely difficult” with Russia gathering its forces and “preparing for new powerful blows”. Ukraine was preparing an “active” defence, he added.

“I emphasise again, hard battles lie ahead. We cannot think we have already passed all the tests.”

An armored vehicle sits destroyed in a field among bare trees near the village of Malaya Rohan
A Russian armoured vehicle sits destroyed in a field near the village of Malaya Rohan in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region [Andrew Marienko/AP Photo]
A Ukrainian soldier checks a destroyed Russian tank in front of pink-coloured houses, in Irpin, close to Kyiv,
A Ukrainian soldier checks a destroyed Russian tank on a residential street in Irpin, close to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv [Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

US to provide extra $300m in security assistance for Ukraine

The US has announced additional security assistance for Ukraine of up to $300m.

“This decision underscores the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in support of its heroic efforts to repel Russia’s war of choice,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

The latest assistance brings the total spending since the Russian invasion to more than $1.6bn.

US announces new export curbs targeting Russia, Belarus companies

The US has announced more export restrictions against Russia and Belarus, mostly companies with links to the military.

The action aims to “degrade Russian and Belarusian defence, aerospace, maritime, and other strategic sectors in response to Russia’s brutal assault on the sovereignty of Ukraine”, the Commerce Department said.

You can read more details here (PDF).

Russian troops in northern Ukraine withdrawing slowly but noticeably: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said Russian troops in the north of the country are pulling back slowly but noticeably.

In a video address, he said the military situation in Ukraine’s east remained extremely difficult and warned that Russia was preparing for new attacks in the Donbas region and on the city of Kharkiv.

Brittney Griner’s teammates break silence amid Russia detention

Brittney Griner’s teammates have broken their silence amid the US basketball player’s continued detention in Russia, saying they are hopeful that everything is being done to get her home safely.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, has been detained in Russia since mid-February on charges of carrying vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in her luggage.

“We’re not talking about BG the basketball player, we’re talking about BG the wife, the daughter, the sister, the human being,” A’ja Wilson, the 2020 WNBA most valuable player and Griner’s teammate on the US national team, said.

Read more here.

Brittney Griner
Griner has been detained in Russia since mid-February on charges of carrying vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in her luggage [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Buses carrying Mariupol residents arrive in Zaporizhzhia

A column of buses carrying escaped residents of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol has arrived in Zaporizhzhia to the northwest, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.

The buses carried people who had been able to flee Mariupol to Russian-occupied Berdiansk and from there were bussed to Zaporizhzhia, more than 200km (120 miles) northwest of the besieged city, the evacuees and officials said.

“I am just crying. I just saw my granddaughter,” said Olga, who was waiting for family members at a registration centre for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia. “Her mother’s family are still in Mariupol and we don’t know if they are alive,” she added.

Damage in Belgorod likely to strain Russian logistics chains, UK says

British military intelligence has said the destruction of several oil tanks at a depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border, will likely add short-term strain to Russia’s already stretched logistics chains.

“The probable loss of fuel and ammunition supplies from these depots will likely add additional short-term strain to Russia’s already stretched logistic chains,” the UK’s Ministry of Defence said on Twitter. “Supplies to Russian forces encircling Kharkhiv [60km or 37 miles from Belgorod] may be particularly affected.”

Ukraine says it carried out prisoner exchange with Russia

Ukraine and Russia have carried out a prisoner exchange, leading to the release of 86 Ukrainian servicemembers, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, has said.

In an online post, Tymoshenko did not reveal how many Russian soldiers were swapped, but he said the deal was a result of continuing peace negotiations.

UN sending top official to Moscow to seek ‘humanitarian ceasefire’

A top UN official will visit Moscow this weekend to try to secure a “humanitarian ceasefire” in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.

Martin Griffiths, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, will fly to Moscow on Sunday and then on to Kyiv.

Guterres said that the visit shows “that we don’t give up on the perspective of stopping the fighting, in Yemen, in Ukraine, everywhere in the world”.

White House declines to say whether US would back Ukrainian attacks on Russia

The White House has declined to say whether the US would back Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil after Moscow accused Kyiv of being behind an air raid on a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod. Ukraine has denied responsibility for the attack.

Asked by reporters whether the US would support such attacks in the future, the White House’s Psaki said, “I’m not going to get into a future hypothetical. What I would just reiterate again is that this is a war of aggression by the Russian leadership, by President Putin.”

US providing Ukraine with supplies to respond to possible chemical attack

The US is providing Ukraine with a “range of materials and equipment” to respond to a possible Russian chemical weapons attack, the White House has said.

“In an effort to assist our Ukrainian partners, the US government is providing the government of Ukraine life-saving equipment and supplies that could be deployed in the event of Russian use of a chemical and biological weapon,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

US officials have previously warned Russia against using chemical weapons in Ukraine, dismissing Moscow’s allegations that Kyiv was developing a biological weapons programme with US assistance.

Situation in besieged city of Mariupol ‘dire’: AJE correspondent

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians trapped in the besieged port city of Mariupol are facing a “dire” situation as fighting rages, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan has said, with many living underground to escape the shelling.

A Red Cross convoy travelling to Mariupol turned around because it had become impossible to proceed with its mission to begin evacuating civilians on Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said. The convoy will try again on Saturday, it said.

The port city has been under bombardment by Russian forces for weeks, and the mayor says up to 170,000 people are trapped without power and with limited access to food and other supplies.

“The situation is absolutely dire,” said Khan.

Efforts afoot to evade sanctions on Russian assets, US official says

The head of a US task force working to enforce sanctions against wealthy Russians and other targets has said he has seen evidence of efforts to evade those curbs.

Andrew Adams, who heads the US Department of Justice’s so-called “KleptoCapture” team, told the Reuters news agency that international cooperation on investigations into Russian assets had reached an “all-time high” amid the war in Ukraine.

However, he said, “There are efforts afoot – some of them publicly reported – to move, for example, moveable property in the forms of yachts, aeroplanes … into jurisdictions where, I think, people have the perception that it would be more difficult to investigate and more difficult to freeze.”

More than 6,200 people evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday: Official

A senior Ukrainian official has said 6,266 people were evacuated from cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 3,071 of those evacuees had left the besieged city of Mariupol, which has been under Russian bombardment for weeks.

Russia recruiting Syrians to fight in Ukraine: Analysts

Analysts say Moscow has been recruiting Syrian fighters to join its offensive in Ukraine, using its mercenary network and local groups.

Thousands across the war-torn country have reportedly expressed an interest in signing up.

Read more here about Russia’s effort.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Friday, April 1 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies