Ukraine on Saturday said Russian forces were making a "rapid retreat" from northern areas around the capital Kyiv and the city of Chernihiv to focus attacks in the east and south. Police arrested more than 170 people protesting Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 14 cities in Russia. Read our live blog to follow the latest events. All times are Paris time [GMT+2].
7:11 pm: Almost 300 buried in mass grave in Bucha, near Kyiv, says mayor
Almost 300 people have been buried in a mass grave in Bucha, a commuter town outside Ukraine's capital Kyiv, its mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, said Saturday after the Ukrainian army retook control of the key town from Russia.
"In Bucha, we have already buried 280 people in mass graves," Fedoruk told AFP by phone. He said the heavily destroyed town's streets are littered with corpses.
6:30 pm: Pope blasts ‘infantile’ war unleashed by ‘some potentate’
In his most pointed denunciation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis on Saturday blasted the leader who launched a “savage” war.
The pope did not cite President Vladimir Putin by name, but the reference was clear when he said “some potentate” had unleashed the threat of nuclear war on the world in an “infantile and destructive” display of aggression.
“We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past,” Francis told Maltese officials on the Mediterranean island nation at the start of a weekend visit.
Francis has to date avoided referring to Russia or Putin by name, in keeping with the Vatican's tradition of not calling out aggressors to keep open options for dialogue. But the latest criticism of the powerful figure responsible for the war marked a new level of outrage for the pope.
“Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interest, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that will either be shared or not be at all,” he said.
Earlier Saturday, Francis told reporters en route to Malta that a possible visit to Kyiv was “on the table,” but no dates have been set and the trip has not been confirmed.
4:55 pm: Russian troops withdraw from Irpin near Kyiv, but it lies in ruins
Ukrainian forces have retaken control of Irpin, a suburb to the northwest of Kyiv. But after weeks of intense Russian bombardment, the once-leafy residential area now lies in ruins. While most of Irpin's 70,000 residents fled the fighting, around 3,500 – mostly the elderly and frail – remain in a suburb that has no drinking water, gas or electricity.
4:13 pm: Ukrainian authorities wary of Russian forces’ mining of areas near Kyiv
Ukrainian authorities say they don't know when they will allow civilians back into areas near Kyiv after Russian forces retreated, due to reports of mines and tripwires being left behind. FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reports.
4:03 pm: Protesters in Russian-held Ukrainian town violently dispersed, say local authorities
Local authorities in the occupied southern Ukrainian town of Enerhodar said Russian forces had violently dispersed a pro-Ukrainian rally on Saturday and detained some participants.
Residents had gathered in downtown Enerhodar, where they were singing 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.
The reports could not be immediately verified. Moscow denies targeting civilians and describes its invasion of Ukraine as a "special military operation". Ukraine and the West say it is an unprovoked war of aggression.
New: Russian forces fired what look / sound like like grenades and mortars on a pro-Ukrainian demonstration in Enerhodar earlier today. Reports of casualties. Enerhodar is the town serving Ukraine, and Euro’e’s largest nuclear power station, currently occupied by Russia. pic.twitter.com/7aInT9Mt9x
— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) April 2, 2022
3:28 pm: Russian police detain more than 150 at protests against invasion
Russian police detained at least 176 people Saturday at protests against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, NGO OVD-Info said.
The NGO, which monitors arrests during protests, said police had detained people during demonstrations in 14 cities in Russia.
An AFP 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.
2:40 pm: Tributes to Ukrainian journalist killed near Kyiv pouring in
Tributes to Maksim Levin, a Ukrainian photographer and videographer, are coming in from journalists who have worked with the 40-year-old over the years.
Levin’s body was found near the village of Guta Mezhygirska near Kyiv on April 1 after going missing for more than two weeks, presidential aide Andriy Yermak said on Saturday.
Friends and former colleagues are expressing shock and sadness over the loss of a gifted photographer and documentary filmmaker.
Ukrainian photojournalist Max Levin, our friend and colleague, was found dead April 1, killed by Russian forces near Kyiv. I knew Max, a father of 4, since we began covering the war in 2014. He was brave, talented, and dedicated to covering this story. I can’t believe he’s gone. pic.twitter.com/YelibinC7v
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) April 2, 2022
The prosecutor general's office in Ukraine said Levin was "killed by servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces with two shots from small arms". This could not be independently verified.
Levin had been working with Ukrainian and international media.
During fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014, he managed to escape encirclement in a town where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers were killed.
12:54 pm: Body of missing Ukrainian journalist found near Kyiv
Ukrainian photographer and documentary maker Maks Levin has been found dead near Kyiv after going missing more than two weeks ago, Ukrainian 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 Mezhygirska on April 1," he said on Telegram.
12:25 pm: Russian forces in ‘rapid retreat’ from northern Ukraine, Kyiv says
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 on Saturday.
“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.
11:40 am: Pope says he is considering visit to Kyiv
Pope Francis said on Saturday that he was considering a trip to Ukraine's capital. Asked by a reporter on the plane taking him from Rome to Malta if he was considering an invitation made by Ukrainian political and religious authorities, Francis answered: “Yes, it is on the table”. He gave no further details.
Francis has been invited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Ukraine's Byzantine-rite Catholic Church and Ukraine's ambassador to the Vatican, Andriy Yurash.
He has spoken on the phone with Zelensky and Shevchuk. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the pope has strongly condemned what he has called an “unjustified aggression” and denounced "atrocities".
11:14 am: NGOs provide humanitarian aid in Polish-Ukrainian border town
The Polish town of Medyka, situated on the border with Ukraine, has become the main crossing point for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. Here, NGOs are providing humanitarian aid, as FRANCE 24's Ellen Gainsford, Pauline Godart and Raïd Abu report.
11:01 am: Seven evacuation corridors planned for Saturday, Ukraine says
Seven humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from Ukraine’s besieged regions are planned for Saturday, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
The planned corridors include one for people evacuating by private transport from the city of Mariupol and by buses for Mariupol residents out of the city of Berdyansk, Vereshchuk said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also said its team would try to reach Mariupol again on Saturday to help evacuate people.
9:16 am Ukraine reclaims towns north of Kyiv
Taking advantage of the partial Russian withdrawal from the north of Kyiv, Ukrainian forces have taken the towns of Bucha and Ivankiv. FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports:
8:52 am Russian missiles hit two Ukrainian cities
Russian missiles hit two cities in central Ukraine early on Saturday, damaging infrastructure and residential buildings, the head of the Poltava region said.
"Poltava. A missile struck one of the infrastructure facilities overnight," Dmitry Lunin wrote in an online post. "Kremenchuk. Many attacks on the city in the morning."
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.
8:04 am: China denies working ‘to circumvent’ sanctions imposed on Russia
China said Saturday it was not doing anything “to circumvent” sanctions imposed on Russia, following warnings from EU officials that any attempt to aid Moscow's war in Ukraine could damage economic ties.
In the clearest indication yet of Beijing's position on the matter, a foreign ministry official told reporters: "We are not doing anything deliberately to circumvent sanctions imposed on Russia by Americans and Europeans."
But the statement, delivered after virtual talks between top EU and Chinese leaders on Friday, comes as Beijing holds to its stance of refusing to condemn the invasion by its ally Russia.
7:24 am: Pentagon to allot extra $300 million in 'security assistance' to Ukraine
The US defence department announced Friday it is allotting $300 million in "security assistance" to Ukraine to bolster the country's defence capabilities, adding to the $1.6 billion Washington has committed since Russia invaded in late February.
The package includes laser-guided rocket systems, drones, ammunition, night-vision devices, tactical secure communications systems, medical supplies and armoured vehicles.
"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 spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
7:04 am: Red Cross prepares fresh evacuation effort in Mariupol
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would try to reach Mariupol again Saturday after its team that intended to conduct an evacuation effort Friday was forced to turn back after "arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed".
Mariupol has faced weeks of ferocious Russian shelling, with at least 5,000 residents killed, according to local authorities, and the estimated 160,000 who remain face shortages of food, water and electricity.
“We have managed to rescue 6,266 people, including 3,071 people from Mariupol," Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said in a video address early Saturday.
Giving details of Friday's evacuation efforts along humanitarian corridors, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 42 buses carrying Mariupol residents had departed from the city of Berdyansk, 70 kilometres (44 miles) southwest, while another 12 buses had left Melitopol with local residents on board.
Dozens of buses carrying Mariupol residents arrived Friday in Zaporizhzhia, about 200 kilometres to the northwest, AFP reported.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)