By Simone McCarthy, Travis Caldwell and Helen Regan, CNN
Russian forces said they will reopen the evacuation corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday. According to Ukrainian officials, the convoys ran into several issues on Thursday, including Russian troops confiscating aid and blocking buses.
Here’s what we know:
Aid confiscated, buses stopped:
From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Hira Humayun
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he removed two top Ukrainian generals, calling them “antiheroes” in his nightly address posted to social media on Thursday night.
The generals — former chief of the Main Department of Internal Security of the Security Service of Ukraine, Naumov Andriy Olehovych, and the former head of the Office of the Security Service of Ukraine in the Kherson region, Kryvoruchko Serhiy Oleksandrovych — have been stripped of their rank.
From CNN’s Nathan Hodge and Hira Humayun
Russian forces on Thursday confiscated 14 tons of humanitarian aid from buses bound for Melitopol in southern Ukraine, according to Iryna Vereshchuk, the Ukrainian minister of reintegration of temporarily occupied territories.
Vereshchuk said the food and medication was loaded on 12 buses.
Vereshchuk said 1,458 people reached Zaporizhzhia in their own cars on Thursday, with 631 of them escaping the besieged city of Mariupol and 827 coming from Berdiansk, Enerhodar, Melitopol, Polohy, Huliapole and Vasylivka in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Russian forces also blocked 45 buses going to Berdiansk on Thursday en route to Mariupol, she added.
Russia will reopen the evacuation corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday at the request of French and German leaders, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday.
From CNN’s Nathan Hodge
Russian forces have withdrawn from Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, the state enterprise overseeing Ukraine’s nuclear power plants said on Thursday.
On April 26, 1986, an explosion ripped through the No.4 reactor at Chernobyl, killing 30 people immediately. Countless others died from radiation symptoms in the years that followed.
In late February, during the first week of the war, the plant and its surrounding territory fell into the hands of Russian troops.
On Thursday Russian troops announced their intention to leave and hand over control to Ukrainian personnel, said Energoatom.
It also posted the copy of a formal letter purportedly signed by a representative of Russia’s National Guard, a representative of Russia’s state nuclear energy company Rosatom and a Chernobyl plant shift manager, with the heading, “The act of acceptance and transfer of protection of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.”
The letter states that “the administration of the protected facility makes no claims in relation to the troops of the National Guard of the Russian Federation.”
Radiation claims: The Telegram statement from Energoatom said that a small number of “rashists” — a Ukrainian slur for Russians that combines the words “fascist” and “racist” — remained at the station.
CNN was not immediately able to verify those claims.
From CNN’s Mark Thompson and Chris Liakos
Russia has reiterated its threat to cut off natural gas supplies to Western countries that refuse to pay in rubles, raising new concerns about an energy supply crunch and rationing in Europe.
Moscow said last week it wanted to be paid in rubles, rather than US dollars or euros, and senior Russian lawmakers said supplies could be cut if customers refused. Germany, Russia’s biggest energy customer in Europe, had described the plan as “blackmail” and a breach of contract.
President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Thursday that requires buyers of natural gas from “unfriendly countries” to hold accounts at Gazprombank — Russia’s third-largest bank — and settle contracts in rubles. It takes effect on Friday.
Putin had given the Russian central bank and state-owned gas giant Gazprom until Thursday to come up with detailed proposals to switch the payment currency for gas to rubles.
According to the decree, Gazprombank would open accounts on behalf of Western gas buyers, purchase rubles on their behalf and then transfer the cash to Gazprom’s accounts.
Europe’s leading economies rejected any change to the terms of existing supply agreements, and said they were prepared for all scenarios including disruption to flows of natural gas.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said that Berlin will make payments for Russian gas only in euros.