Russia targets cities and towns along the hundreds of kilometres long boomerang-shaped front and pours more troops into eastern Ukraine's Donbass region, as fighting continues on the 56th day.

More than five million Ukrainians have now fled their country following the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the United Nations says.
More than five million Ukrainians have now fled their country following the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the United Nations says. (AFP)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ukraine proposes negotiations with Russia in besieged Mariupol

Ukraine has proposed to hold a "special round" of negotiations with Russia in the besieged city of Mariupol, a top Kiev official said.

"Yes. Without any conditions. We're ready to hold a 'special round of negotiations' right in Mariupol," top Ukraine negotiator and presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. 

"One on one. Two on two. To save our guys, Azov, military, civilians, children, the living & the wounded. Everyone. Because they are ours. Because they are in my heart. Forever."

Another key Ukrainian negotiator, David Arakhamia, said on Telegram that he and Podolyak "are ready to arrive in Mariupol to hold talks with the Russian side on the evacuation of our military garrison and civilians."

UK: Negotiating with Putin like dealing with a crocodile

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin to dealing with a crocodile as he warned Ukraine it will be hard to negotiate a peace deal with a leader who is so unreliable.

Johnson said Putin has made it clear that he wants to take more Ukrainian territory and could launch another assault on the country's capital Kiev.

"How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it has your leg in its jaws, that is the difficulty that Ukrainians face, "Johnson told reporters on a plane to India for a two-day visit.

Pentagon: Ukraine given parts, not whole aircraft, by allies

The US Defense Department has retracted its claim Ukraine had been supplied with more aircraft, saying only parts had been delivered to enable Kiev to put more jets into the fight against Russia.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby retracted his statement that Ukraine had received fighter jets from an unnamed ally, after weeks of speculation that a neighbouring country might provide Russian-made MiG-29s to add to the Ukrainian air force's capabilities against the Russians.

While fixed-wing aircraft have been offered by an unidentified country to bolster Kiev's defences, "they have not received the whole aircraft from another nation," Kirby told reporters. "I was mistaken. They have not received the whole aircraft from another nation," Kirby said of his Tuesday claim.

Mariupol evacuation corridor did not work as planned -Ukraine's deputy PM

Ukraine's deputy prime minister says that an agreed humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol has not worked as planned, blaming Russian forces for not holding their ceasefire.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk also said Russian-organised buses failed to deliver evacuees on time to the point where Ukrainian buses and ambulances were waiting.

Ukrainian officials estimated that about 1,000 civilians were sheltering underneath the vast Azovstal steel plant, which is the last Ukrainian stronghold in the southeastern port city of Mariupol.

US: Escape from Mariupol fraught with danger

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expressing concerns about a humanitarian corridor Ukraine is trying to set up to evacuate people trapped by Russian forces in Mariupol.

“The conditions there, the situation there, as a result of this Russian aggression, are truly horrific,” Blinken said. “Of course, we want to see people who are in harm’s way, if they are able to, to leave it safely and securely.”

Blinken said the US is trying to help by sharing its assessments, but the decision to risk leaving shelter is ultimately up to the Ukrainian government and the people themselves.

Russian ICBM test routine and not a threat: Pentagon

Russia's test of a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile is not seen as threatening to the US and its allies, the Pentagon has said.

Moscow "properly notified" Washington of the test following its obligations under the 2011 New START treaty, which placed limits on the two countries' nuclear weapons, said Department of Defense Spokesman John Kirby.

"Testing is routine, and it was not a surprise," Kirby told reporters. The Pentagon "has not deemed the test to be a threat to the United States or its allies," he told reporters.

Ukraine, US ministers walk out on Russia

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has led a multi-nation walk out of a meeting of finance officials from the world's richest countries when Russian officials spoke, in protest against Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

Moscow's attack on its neighbour loomed over the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, the first since President Vladimir Putin ordered the military operation in late February.

British, French and Canadian officials joined the boycott, officials confirmed, underscoring the boiling tensions at the gathering.

Russia finmin urged G20 not to politicise dialogue between members -RIA

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has urged the Group of 20 not to politicise dialogue between member states and warned them of the risk of undermining confidence in the global monetary and financial system, RIA news agency has said.

UN chief requests meetings with Putin and Zelenskyy

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked to meet with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine in their respective capitals, a UN spokesman has said.

As the war in Ukraine rages, Guterres made the request in letters sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

US imposes new Russia-related sanctions

The United States has imposed sanctions on a Russian commercial bank, an oligarch and dozens of individuals, according to the Treasury Department website.

The targets include Russia-based units of virtual currency mining firm Bitriver, the website said.

Putin says Sarmat missile will make Russia foes 'think twice'

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia has successfully tested the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, saying the next-generation capable of carrying nuclear charges will make Kremlin's enemies "think twice."

"I congratulate you on the successful launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile," Putin told the army in televised remarks. 

"This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats and make those who, in the heat of aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think twice."

Israel agrees to supply helmets, vests to Ukraine rescue services

Israel's defence minister has authorised the supply of helmets and vests to Ukrainian rescue services after speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart, an official Israeli statement has said, signalling a shift in Israel's position on providing such equipment.

"In the light of the request made by the Ukrainian side, Israel will provide protective gear for the needs of Ukrainian rescuers and emergency services," an English-language statement by the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel said, echoing a statement by an Israeli official.

EU's Michel visits Kiev in show of solidarity with Ukraine

European Council President Charles Michel has met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a surprise visit to Kiev intended to show solidarity with Ukraine over Russia's attack on the country.

Michel's trip followed visits this month to Kiev by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

"We discussed sanctions against Russia, defence and financial support for our state, and answers to the questionnaire for compliance with EU criteria," Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine's president says he has not seen document Kremlin says it sent Kiev

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he has not seen or heard about a document that the Kremlin said it had sent to Ukraine in connection with peace talks.

Earlier Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was waiting for a response after it had handed a document to the Ukrainian side.

Russia closes in on Ukraine's besieged Mariupol

After nearly two months under siege, the southern city of Mariupol could fall into Russian hands within "hours," a Ukrainian official has said, as the two sides agreed to a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to flee the devastated port city.

A commander in the besieged Azovstal steel plant issued a desperate plea for help, saying his marines were "maybe facing our last days, if not hours". "The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one," Serhiy Volyna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade said.

In the latest ultimatum issued in its battle to capture Mariupol, Moscow made another call for the city's defenders to surrender by 1100 GMT (2:00PM Moscow time) and announced the opening of a humanitarian corridor for any Ukrainian troops who agreed to lay down their arms.

Russia: We await Kiev response on peace talks

The Kremlin's spokesman says Russia has presented Ukraine with a draft document outlining its demands as part of peace talks and is now awaiting a response from Kiev.

Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters that Russia has passed on a draft document containing “absolutely clear, elaborate wording” to Ukraine and now “the ball is in their court, we’re waiting for a response.” Peskov didn't give further details.

He blamed Ukraine for the slow progress in negotiations, and claimed that Kiev constantly deviates from previously confirmed agreements. “The dynamic of work on the Ukrainian side leaves much to be desired, the Ukrainians do not show a great inclination to intensify the negotiation process," he said.

'History will not forget war crimes' in Ukraine: EU chief

EU chief Charles Michel has said that there must be justice for war crimes committed in Ukraine as he toured the devastated town of Borodianka on a visit to the country.

"In Borodianka. Like Bucha and too many other towns in Ukraine. History will not forget the war crimes that have been committed here. There can be no peace without justice," European Council head Michel wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian forces stop Russian advance towards Sloviansk - presidential aide

Ukrainian troops have held up an advance by Russian forces from the northeastern city of Izyum towards nearby Sloviansk, Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential advisor has said.

"They have focused their forces there, that is where they are trying to advance, but so far they are not succeeding," he said in a video address.

Arestovych also said that Ukrainian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol have been holding out, despite persistent Russian attacks on the Azovstal steel plant.

Over a million Ukrainians returned since Russian offensive: border force

Over a million Ukrainians have returned to their country since Russia launched its devastating offensive at the end of February, a spokesman for Kiev's border force has said.

"From that period of time, 1.1 million of our citizens entered Ukraine," border official Andriy Demchenko said at a press conference. 

He added that "almost five million people" crossed the Ukrainian border in both directions since war with Moscow erupted.

UN: Over 5M Ukrainians fled country amid Russia’s assault

Over five million Ukrainians have now fled their country following the Russian onslaught, United Nations figures have shown, in Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 5,034,439 Ukrainians had left since Russian attacks began on February 24. 

When the number reached 4 million on March 30, the exodus exceeded the worst-case predictions of the Geneva-based UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Report: Wimbledon to ban Russian, Belarus players

Men's tennis world number two Daniil Medvedev is set to be barred from this year's Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament as The Times reported organisers are to ban Russian and Belarus players.

Russian and Belarusian players have been able to continue to compete in ATP and WTA events under a neutral flag. It was believed this would extend to the three remaining Grand Slam events.

However, The Times says sources have told them that after almost two months of talks Wimbledon organisers prefer to ban the players rather than adhere to a compromise solution offered by the British government.

Kremlin: Wimbledon ban on Russians would be 'unacceptable'

The Kremlin has said banning Russian tennis players from Wimbledon over Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine would be "unacceptable."

"Once again they simply turn athletes into hostages to political prejudice, political intrigues," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "This is unacceptable."

Taking into account that Russia is a very strong tennis country, our athletes are at the top of world rankings, the competition itself will suffer from their removal

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov

Separatists: 145 civilians, troops evacuated from Mariupol

More than 140 civilians and five Ukrainian troops have been evacuated from the besieged port city of Mariupol, separatists have said, as Moscow intensified its offensive in the east.

"Five servicemen of Ukraine's armed forces laid down their arms and voluntarily left the territory of the Azovstal plant," separatist authorities in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic said in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

In a separate post late Tuesday, separatists said more than 140 people had also been evacuated from the devastated city, which provides a crucial land bridge between Russian-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine and the Kremlin-annexed Crimea peninsula.

Norway sends air defence systems to Ukraine

Norway will donate about 100 air defence systems to Ukraine, with the Scandinavian country’s defence minister saying that “the country is depending on international support to resist Russian aggression.”

Bjørn Arild Gram said Norway had donated French-made Mistral short-range missile systems, which currently are being phased out by the Norwegian Armed Forces, “but it is still a modern and effective weapon that will be of great benefit to Ukraine”.

The weapons have already left Norway, which previously has donated 4,000 anti-tank missiles, protective equipment and other military equipment to Ukraine, he added.

Russia claims to have hit 1,053 targets in Ukraine overnight

Russian forces hit 1,053 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, destroying 106 firing positions, the country's Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday.

Ukraine: Evacuation corridor agreed for Mariupol

Ukraine says it has reached a preliminary agreement with Russian forces to open a safe route for "women, children and elderly persons" to flee the besieged port city of Mariupol.

"Taking into account a catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, we'll be concentrating our efforts in this direction today," Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram on Wednesday.

Vereshchuk told civilians to gather at 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) for the evacuations heading to the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia.

But she warned that "with regard to the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor".

Ukraine hopes to evacuate 6,000 from Mariupol

Ukraine hopes to send 90 buses to the besieged southern city of Mariupol to evacuate about 6,000 women, children and elderly people, the city's mayor said on national television.

Mayor Vadym Boichenko, who has left Mariupol, said about 100,000 civilians remained in Mariupol and that tens of thousands had been killed in the Russian siege of the city on the Sea of Azov.

Evacuations from under-fire frontline areas had been suspended for the past three days. Moscow has issued a fresh ultimatum to Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to lay down their arms.

Ukraine set to dominate G20 finance chiefs summit

Finance officials from the world's richest countries will meet to address global challenges such as rising debt and a possible food crisis—if they can overcome boiling tensions over Russia's assault on Ukraine.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will boycott some sessions if Russian officials are present, according to a senior US official, a stance other countries have said they will follow.

The G20, chaired by Indonesia this year, includes major economies like the United States, China, India, Brazil, Japan and several countries in Europe.

UK: Russian military build-up on Ukraine's east continues

Russia's military presence on Ukraine's eastern border continues to build, a British military update has said, adding that fighting in the Donbass region is intensifying.

"Russian air activity in northern Ukraine is likely to remain low since its withdrawal from north of Kiev. However, there is still a risk of precision strikes against priority targets throughout Ukraine," the update, which was tweeted, said.

"Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine show their intent to try and disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weaponry to the east of the country," it added.

Kiev: Russia probing for weak points in Ukraine's east

The Ukrainian General Staff has said in a statement on Facebook that Russia is continuing to mount offensives at various locations in the east as its forces probe for weak points in the Ukrainian lines.

The General Staff added that defeating the last resistance in the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol remains Russia’s top priority.

EU Council's Michel makes surprise visit to Kiev

European Council President Charles Michel has made an unexpected visit to Kiev, following a trip to the Ukrainian capital by the head of the EU's executive earlier this month to show support for the nation fighting a Russian offence.

"In the heart of a free and democratic Europe," Michel, head of the European Council that represents the European Union's 27 member states, said in a tweet with a photograph of him at a train station.

Marine in besieged Mariupol says 'maybe facing our last days, if not hours'

A commander for the Ukrainian marines fighting in the last stronghold of Mariupol has said his forces were "maybe facing our last days, if not hours" and appealed for extraction in a Facebook post.

"The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one," Serhiy Volyna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade said, sheltering at the besieged Azovstal factory, adding: "We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state." 

Zelenskyy: Russia throwing everything it has at Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the Russian military is throwing everything it has at Ukraine, with most of its combat-ready forces now concentrated in Ukraine and just across the border in Russia.

"They have driven almost everyone and everything that is capable of fighting us against Ukraine," he said in his nightly video address to the nation.

And despite Russian claims of hitting only military sites, he said they continue to target residential areas and kill civilians. "The Russian army in this war is writing itself into world history forever as the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world," he said.

He said the situation in Mariupol remains unchanged and is "as tough as possible," with the Russian military blocking all attempts to establish humanitarian corridors out of the city and "save our people." He said the Kremlin has not responded to a proposal to exchange Viktor Medvedchuk, the jailed leader of a pro-Russia party, for the Mariupol defenders.

For live updates from Tuesday (April 19), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies