Explosions rock Odesa as Ukraine claims control of Kyiv region

  • Ukraine says it has regained control of “the whole Kyiv region” after Russian forces retreated from key towns near the Ukrainian capital.
  • The mayor of Bucha, near Kyiv, says 300 people have been buried in a mass grave in the town and streets remain littered with bodies of people killed by Russian forces.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says retreating Russian troops are leaving behind land mines, creating a “catastrophic” situation.
  • Ukraine’s top negotiator in peace talks said Russia had “verbally” agreed to key Ukrainian proposals.

Here are all the latest updates:

Greek foreign minister to lead humanitarian aid mission in Odesa

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is expected to land in Odesa to lead a humanitarian aid mission into the southern port city of Ukraine, the foreign ministry has said.

Dendias also plans to set up a continuous mechanism of distributing aid from Greece and to reopen the Greek consulate in the city, the foreign ministry added.


Evacuation efforts from Mariupol to continue: Official

Evacuation efforts from the besieged port city of Mariupol will continue on Sunday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.

“Seven buses will try to get closer to Mariupol, accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross,” Vereshchuk said in an online video posting.

Seventeen buses in total were preparing to evacuate people from Mariupol and Berdyansk, she added.

A man walks near a building damaged in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol.
Evacuations are ongoing as Russia continues its siege of the southern port city of Mariupol. [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Ukraine: Bodies, destroyed tanks line streets as Russia retreats

About 300 residents have been killed on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital during a monthlong occupation by the Russian army, authorities have said, with the streets littered with corpses.

Locals said the dead in Bucha were civilians killed by departing Russian soldiers without provocation. Anti-tank mines were scattered across a bridge in Bucha.

See the pictures here.

A boy looks at a destroyed Russian tank after recent battles in Bucha
A boy looks at a destroyed Russian tank after recent battles in Bucha, close to Kyiv. [Oleksandr Ratushniak/AP]

Russian lawmakers seek to retaliate after sanctions

Russian lawmakers will propose measures seeking punishment for the implementation of sanctions on Russia’s territory, a senior lawmaker has said.

“My colleagues from the State Duma and I have finished the work and on Monday we will introduce amendments to the Criminal Code for the implementation of restrictive measures (sanctions) imposed by foreign states on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Andrei Klishas wrote on his Telegram channel.

“We look forward to prompt consideration of the amendments by the State Duma,” Klishas added, without specifying how Russia will identify or punish those who implemented sanctions.


Russia says draft agreement not ready for leaders’ meeting

Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky has said peace talks have not progressed enough for a leaders’ meeting, adding that work on a draft agreement would resume on Monday.

“The draft agreement is not ready for submission to a meeting at the top,” Medinsky said on Telegram, dismissing Ukrainian negotiator David Arahamiya’s “optimism.”

The chief negotiator added that a number of issues had been agreed upon during talks in Istanbul, including non-aligned and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, but that Crimea remained a contentious issue.

“Russia’s position on Crimea and Donbas remains UNCHANGED,” he said.


Missiles hit critical infrastructure facilities in Odesa: Official

Missiles have hit “critical infrastructure facilities” in Odesa, the regional administration spokesperson has said.

“We hope there will be no casualties,” Sergey Bratchuk told Ukraine’s public broadcaster.

A man stands with his dog as smoke rises after an attack by Russian army in Odesa.
Air strikes rocked Ukraine’s strategic Black Sea port Odesa early Sunday morning. [Bulent Kilic/AFP] (AFP)

Russia preventing Ukraine resupply by Black Sea: UK

The British Ministry of Defence has said Russian naval forces continue to blockade the Ukrainian coast on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, preventing resupply by sea.

Russia retains the capability to attempt an amphibious landing, but such an operation is likely to be increasingly risky due to the time Ukrainian forces have had to prepare, the ministry said on Twitter.

It added that the presence of mines within the Black Sea was “almost certainly the result of Russian naval activity in the area, demonstrating how its invasion of Ukraine is affecting neutral and civilian interests.”


Fires reported in Odesa after air raids

Air raids have rocked the strategic Black Sea port city of Odesa, with officials and journalists reporting fires in some areas.

“Odesa was attacked from the air,” Anton Herashchenko, adviser to the interior minister, wrote on his Telegram account. “Fires were reported in some areas. Some of the missiles were shot down by air defence.”

An AFP reporter heard explosions in the southwestern city at around 6:00 am (0300 GMT).

The blasts sent up at least three columns of black smoke with flames visible apparently in an industrial area.

A soldier near the site of one of the strikes said it was likely a rocket or a missile.


Explosions heard in Odesa: Reuters

The Reuters news agency says a series of explosions were heard and smoke was seen in Ukraine’s southern port city of Odesa in the early hours of Sunday.

There was no official information about the attack.


Lithuanian film director killed in Mariupol: Reports

Lithuanian film director Mantas Kvedaravicius has been killed in Ukraine’s Mariupol, where he had long documented the besieged port city, according to his colleague.

He died on Saturday, according to the Russian film director Vitaly Mansky, the founder of a festival of documentary movies Artdocfest.

In a Facebook post, Mansky wrote: “Our friend Artdocfest participant, Lithuanian documentary writer Mantas Kvedaravicius, was murdered today in Mariupol, with a camera in his hands, in this s****y war of evil, against the whole world.”


Zelenskyy slams Orban’s ‘lack of moral leadership’

Ukraine’s president has criticised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for what he called a lack of initiative or effort to end the Russian invasion of his country.

Orban is “virtually the only one in Europe to openly support” Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“We did not ask for anything special from Budapest. We didn’t even get what everyone else is doing! Doing for the sake of peace. We did not receive the vital transit of defence aid, we did not see moral leadership. We saw no effort to stop the war” he said.


Ukraine accuses Russia of killing several women and burning their bodies

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence says it found the naked bodies of “four to five” women on a highway 20km (12 miles) outside of Kyiv.

In a Twitter update, it posted a picture of a blanket-covered mound and said the Russian “barbarians” had tried to burn the bodies on the side of the road.

Al Jazeera could not verify the claim independently.


Intensity of Russian missile attacks has decreased: Ukraine army

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces says the intensity of Russian air and missile strikes “has decreased” as Moscow continues to withdraw units through the north of Ukraine.

In a Facebook post, the general staff also said retreating Russian forces were deploying mines on roads and in some settlements.


Russia aiming to seize southeastern Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president says Russian forces are aiming to seize regions in the east and south of the country.

“We are strengthening our defences in the eastern direction and in Donbas. We are aware that the enemy has reserves to increase pressure in the east,” Zelenskyy said in his late-night video address.

“What is the goal of Russian troops? They want to capture both Donbas and the south of Ukraine. What is our goal? Protect us, our freedom, our land and our people.”

The Ukrainian president went on to complain that Western nations had not provided Kyiv with enough anti-missile systems, and also praised forces defending besieged Mariupol, saying their resistance was allowing other cities to gain valuable time.

People hold portraits of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, during an anti-war rally in front of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw
People hold portraits of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, during an anti-war rally in front of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, April 2, 2022. [Czarek Sokolowski/ AP]

Russia increasing air activity in southeastern Ukraine: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says there has been a “concentration of Russian air activity in southeastern Ukraine” over the past week.

This is likely a result of Russia focusing its military operations in that area, the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

It added that Ukraine continues to provide a significant challenge to Russian air and missile operations despite Russian efforts to diminish Ukrainian air defence capabilities.

“Russia’s inability to find and destroy air defence systems has seriously hampered their efforts to gain broad control of the air, which in turn has significantly affected their ability to support the advance of their ground forces on a number of fronts.”


UK could build up to seven nuclear plants

The United Kingdom could build up to seven new nuclear power stations as part of a radical expansion of homegrown energy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told The Sunday Telegraph.

“There is a world where we have six or seven sites in the UK” by 2050, Kwarteng told the newspaper.

The Sunday Telegraph said ministers have agreed to set up a new development vehicle, called Great British Nuclear, to identify sites, cut through red tape to speed up the planning process, and bring together private firms to run each site.

It said Britain’s new energy security strategy, set to be unveiled on Thursday, is expected to commit the government to supporting the construction of at least two new large-scale nuclear plants by 2030 in addition to small modular reactors.


765 people evacuate Mariupol: Official

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, says 765 residents managed to make it out of Mariupol in private vehicles on Saturday while a team of humanitarian workers has yet to reach the hard-hit city.

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


Poland issues 625,000 IDs to Ukrainian refugees

Poland’s government has issued more than 625,000 national identification numbers to Ukrainian refugees since Russia launched its invasion, according to deputy interior minister Pawel Szefernaker.

The ID number, known as a PESEL, gives people the right to access healthcare, schooling or other state services.

Poland, the country that has accepted the largest numbers of Ukrainian refugees, decided recently to extend those rights to Ukrainians fleeing war.

More than four million Ukrainians have so far fled, and more than 2.4 million of them have crossed into Poland. Others have fled into Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary.


UK collecting evidence of Russian war crimes

The United Kingdom is working with others to collect evidence of Russian war crimes, British foreign secretary Liz Truss wrote on Twitter.

Truss said she was “appalled by atrocities in Bucha and other towns in Ukraine. Reports of Russian forces targeting innocent civilians are abhorrent.”


Red Cross says efforts to evacuate people from Mariupol are continuing

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said its efforts to evacuate people from the besieged city of Mariupol are continuing, hours after Russia said it had failed and blamed the organisation.

“The humanitarian operation to facilitate the safe passage of civilians out of Mariupol is ongoing. The situation on the ground is volatile and subject to rapid changes,” an ICRC spokesperson told Reuters news agency by email.

Russia’s defence ministry said aid convoys had not been able to reach Mariupol on Friday or Saturday due to “destructive actions” by the ICRC such as unplanned stops, Interfax news agency said.


Baltic states stop Russian gas imports

The head of Latvia’s natural gas storage operator has said Baltic states are no longer importing Russian natural gas.

“If there were still any doubts about whether there may be any trust in deliveries from Russia, current events clearly show us that there is no more trust,” said Uldis Bariss, CEO of Conexus Baltic Grid.

“Since April 1 Russian natural gas is no longer flowing to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania,” he told Latvian radio. He added that the Baltic market was currently being served by gas reserves stored underground in Latvia.


Russia uses war crimes as ‘method of warfare’: Lawyer

Russia is committing “systematic” war crimes in Ukraine, including by deliberating targeting civilian populations and infrastructure, a Ukrainian human rights lawyer has told Al Jazeera.

Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Centre for Civil Liberties, said her organisation is working with hundreds of volunteers who are gathering testimonies from witnesses of war crimes that can be presented to the International Criminal Court, as well as to other international bodies and states who want to use universal jurisdiction to charge perpetrators.

“We can see that these war crimes have a systematic and large-scale character, and Russian troops do not make a distinction between military and civilian populations,” she said, speaking from Kyiv. “Russia uses war crimes as a method of warfare.”


Russian group says 208 anti-war protesters arrested

A Russian group that monitors political arrests says 208 people have been arrested in demonstrations across the country on Saturday protesting against Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The OVD-Info group said demonstrations took place in 17 Russian cities, from Siberia to the more densely populated west.

More than 70 people were were detained in Moscow and a similar number in Saint Petersburg, the organisation said.


Russia ‘verbally’ agreed to Ukraine proposals: Negotiator

Ukraine’s top negotiator in peace talks with Russia said that Moscow had “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 President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President 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.

Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of negotiations, both in Turkey and by video conference.


Almost 300 buried in mass grave in Bucha, near Kyiv: Mayor

Almost 300 people have been buried in a mass grave in Bucha, discovered after the Ukrainian army retook control of the key town close to Kyiv.

Anatoly Fedoruk told Al Jazeera that the town’s streets remain littered with the bodies of at least 22 people killed by Russian forces. He said it had not been possible to collect the bodies yet, amid fears that Russian forces had booby-trapped the corpses.

“According to the mayor, [the dead people] were trying to escape to Ukrainian-held territory when, according to him, they were simply gunned down,” said Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Lviv in western Ukraine.

Read more here.


Ukraine says regained control of ‘whole Kyiv region’

Ukraine has regained control of “the whole Kyiv region” after Russian forces retreated from key towns near the Ukrainian capital, Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Maliar said.

“Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” Maliar said on Facebook.

All three towns lie northwest of Kyiv and have suffered heavy destruction since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Ukraine presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said its troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages since Russia pulled back from the area this week.


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

Read all the updates from Saturday, April 2 here.

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