Ukraine says it has so far held off an assault by thousands of Russian troops attempting to advance in what Kiev calls the "Battle of the Donbass," as fierce fighting rages on the 57th day of the conflict.

Emergency management specialists carry the body of a person killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol on April 21, 2022.
Emergency management specialists carry the body of a person killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol on April 21, 2022. (Reuters)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Ukraine: Up to 9,000 bodies in mass grave

As many as 9,000 civilians could be buried in a mass grave in the village of Manhush outside Mariupol, the city's mayor Vadym Boychenko has said, adding, "the greatest war crime of the 21st Century has been committed in Mariupol. This is the new Babi Yar."

He was referring to the site of multiple Nazi massacres in which nearly 34,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed in 1941. "Then Hitler killed Jews, Roma and Slavs. And now Putin is destroying Ukrainians. He has already killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol. This requires a strong reaction from the entire world. We need to stop the genocide by any means possible."

In a separate statement earlier, Boychenko alleged the Russians had dug huge trenches near Manhush, 20 kilometres west of Mariupol, and were "hiding their war crimes" by dumping bodies there.

US understands Ukrainian forces still holding ground in Mariupol – State Department

The United States understands that Ukrainian forces still hold ground in Mariupol and Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim to have liberated the city is disinformation, the US State Department has said. 

"We understand that Ukraine's forces continue to hold their ground and there is every reason to believe that President Putin and his defence minister's show for the media that we saw in recent hours is even yet more disinformation from their well-worn playbook," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told a news briefing.

Ukraine official: Russia captured 42 villages in Donetsk region on Thursday

Russian forces have captured 42 villages in the eastern Donetsk region, but Ukraine might take them back, an aide to the chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told national television.

“Today 42 villages were added to the list of those that have been occupied. This is at the expense of the Donetsk region,” said the aide, Olena Symonenko.

“This happened today and might be that our forces will win them back tomorrow.”

Zelenskyy: Ukraine needs $7B a month to make up for economic losses

Ukraine needs $7 billion a month to function amid the devastating "economic losses" inflicted by Russia, President Zelenskyy has said.

That is an increase from Kiev's previous estimate of $5 billion in monthly needs, and Zelenskyy told the leaders of the IMF and World Bank via video link, the "Russian military are aimed at destroying all objects in Ukraine that can serve as an economic base for life. That includes railroad stations, food warehouses, oil, refineries."

Russia can still win in Ukraine despite setbacks – Western officials 

Putin could still win in Ukraine despite failing in his pre-assault objectives, Western officials have said, adding that Russia has addressed some of the issues that had hindered it earlier on in the offensive.

"Putin has clearly failed in meeting his initial pre-war objectives, but is still in a position to win," one official said, on condition of anonymity.

The official said that success for Russia might be the consolidation of Russian control over the Donbass and the creation a land bridge with Crimea, and in what he termed a worst-case scenario, there could be a renewed attack on Kiev.

Russia releases 19 Ukrainian prisoners

19 Ukrainians have been released from Russian captivity in a second prisoner swap to take place this week, Ukraine’s deputy PM Iryna Vereschuk has said in a Facebook post.

“Another prisoner exchange has taken place. This time, there are wounded people among those released, which is very important. Now they will be able to receive full treatment and undergo a course of rehabilitation,” Vereshchuk wrote.

Zelenskyy urges world to send more heavy weapons

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has said his war-ravaged country needed more heavy weapons to defend itself from Russia's offensive that threatened Ukraine's very survival, and he asked Western nations to impose further sanctions.

Zelenskyy told Portugal's parliament in a video address that the Portuguese, who next week celebrate 48 years since an almost bloodless revolution ended decades of fascist dictatorship, knew all too well what it meant to fight for democracy.

He said the Russian army had committed atrocities, including in the port city of Mariupol, which has faced heavy bombardment.

Maxar: Satellite images show mass grave near Ukraine's Mariupol 

Satellite imagery from near the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol shows a mass grave site that has expanded in recent weeks to contain more than 200 new graves, a private US company has said. 

Maxar Technologies said a review of images from mid-March through mid-April indicates the expansion began between March 23 and 26. 

The site lies adjacent to an existing cemetery in the village of Manhush, 20 kilometres west of Mariupol, Maxar said. 

Russia sanctions 61 Canadian officials, journalists, military experts

Russia's foreign ministry has announced sanctions against 61 Canadian officials, journalists and military experts for supporting what it called the "Russophobic" stance of the Canadian administration.

The list includes Special Operations Forces Commander Major-General Steve Boivin, Central Bank Governor Tiff Macklem as well as John Tory and Jim Watson, the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa.

The ministry said the 61 individuals were barred from entering Russia indefinitely.

Biden announces $800M military aid package for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden says he is sending another $800 million in weapons and ammunition to Ukraine in the coming days, calling it the “frontlines of freedom” as it defends itself against a Russian offensive.

This $800 million arms package raises to $3.4 billion the amount of US security assistance to Ukraine since the Russians began their offensive on February 24.

Biden also announced that Russia-affiliated ships would be banned from US ports.

Countries with Ukraine refugees want extra EU funds

Prague has said that nine Central and Eastern European countries will ask the EU this month for financial aid to offset their costs of hosting Ukrainian refugees.

"The current crisis is exceptional and we cannot predict its ultimate impact on our economies," Czech deputy prime minister Ivan Bartos said in a statement. "We therefore have to ask for additional funds for the EU members hosting a large number of Ukrainian refugees."

The countries in question, all EU members, are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Baltic trio of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Russia slaps travel ban on Kamala Harris, Zuckerberg

Russia has imposed a travel ban on US Vice President Kamala Harris, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and 27 other prominent Americans in retaliation for sanctions imposed over the Kremlin's military campaign in Ukraine. 

The Russian foreign ministry said the travel ban, which also includes top Pentagon officials, US business leaders and journalists, would remain in effect "in perpetuity".

Bulgaria to stop supporting Ukrainian refugees on May 30

Bulgaria has announced that it will stop humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian refugees in the country by May 30, insisting that they should earn a living and pay rent and other living expenses like other citizens.

"We have accommodated and cared for them for three months. Now they must enter the labour market, find housing, pay rent, and live like everyone else," Bulgarian Tourism Minister Hristo Prodanov told a public broadcaster.

Three buses with Mariupol evacuees arrive in Zaporizhzhia: AFP

Three school buses filled with evacuees from the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol have arrived in Zaporizhzhia after crossing through territory held by Russian forces, AFP journalists saw.

Zelenskyy: Thousands of civilians blocked from leaving Mariupol

Around 120,000 civilians are blocked from leaving the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said. 

Responding to remarks by Russia's Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu that its forces control most of Mariupol, Zelensky said that Russia controls most of the city, but Ukrainian troops remain in a part of it. 

The remainder of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol are now holed up in the Azovstal steel plant from where they are resisting the Russian siege. 

Over 7.7M internally displaced in Ukraine - UN

More than 7.7 million people are estimated to have been internally displaced by Russia's assault in Ukraine, having fled their homes but stayed within the country, the United Nations has said.

The figure issued by the UN's International Organization for Migration is up from the 7.1 million estimates that it gave on April 5 of the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

US announces $500M economic aid package for Ukraine

The United States will provide Ukraine with a new $500 million infusion of aid to help the government in Kiev continue paying salaries and pensions and providing services, a Treasury official said.

The aid, which the official said is necessary to prevent the humanitarian situation in the country from growing more severe as Russia presses on with its offensive, will be announced by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during her meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Finance Minister Sergiy Marchenko.

Spanish PM blasts Russian 'atrocities' during Ukraine visit

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has condemned the "atrocities" allegedly committed by Russian forces in the town of Borodyanka outside Kiev during a visit to Ukraine with his Danish counterpart.

"Shocked to witness the horror and atrocities of Putin's war on the streets of Borodyanka," Sanchez tweeted along with a video of his visit to the conflict-ravaged town.

"We will not leave the Ukrainian people alone," he added.

Over 30,000 Ukrainians forcibly taken to Russia: official 

At least 30,000 Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly taken to Russia from the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol by the Russian army since the start of the conflict.

"The stories about what happened in Mariupol, about the people who defended their homeland, will be written in educational books for 100 years, maybe 1,000 years," Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.

Gerashchenko said the bodies of nearly 1,000 civilians were found in the Kiev region, where the Ukrainian army has regained control, adding that hundreds of people are still missing.

Russia urged to let civilians, wounded soldiers leave Azovstal plant

Ukraine's deputy prime minister has called on Russia to establish an "urgent" humanitarian corridor for civilians and wounded soldiers to leave Mariupol's besieged Azovstal plant.

"We demand from the Russians an urgent humanitarian corridor from the Mariupol plant 'Azovstal'!" Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.

Noting that there are about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers in the Azovstal plant, Vereshchuk said: "They all need to be pulled out of Azovstal today!"

I call on world leaders and the international community to focus their efforts on Azovstal now. Now this is a key point and a key moment for the humanitarian effort.

Ukraine's Deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk

Türkiye sends more humanitarian aid to Ukraine

Türkiye has sent two more trucks of humanitarian aid to the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine, authorities have said.

According to Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), the trucks were sent to Lviv, a city near the border with Poland in western Ukraine.

Under the coordination of AFAD, Türkiye has sent 82 trucks of humanitarian aid and a mobile food truck for the people of Ukraine, it said.

Putin orders forces not to storm Mariupol stronghold

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his forces not to storm the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged city of Mariupol but to block it “so that not even a fly comes through.”

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that the sprawling Azovstal steel plant where Ukrainian forces were holed up was “securely blocked” while the rest of the city was "liberated," which Putin hailed as "success."

Leaving the plant in Ukrainian hands, however, robs the Russians of the ability to declare complete victory in Mariupol. The city’s capture has both strategic and symbolic importance.

Russia continues its offensive in Donbass region: Ukraine

Ukraine’s General Staff has said that the Russian forces continue the offensive in the east of the country with the goal of establishing full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The Ukrainian forces in the two regions have repelled nine Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, destroying one tank, 10 armoured units and two vehicles, one artillery system, two special engineering units, an anti-aircraft missile system and an ammunition depot, according to the update posted on the General Staff’s Facebook page.

The Russian military also continue “to launch missile and bomb strikes on military and civilian infrastructure throughout Ukraine,” the General Staff said.

Kiev police find nine civilian bodies with torture marks 

Kiev regional police has said two graves with nine bodies were discovered the day before in the city of Borodyanka northwest of the Ukrainian capital.

Head of the Keiv regional police Andriy Nebytov said two women and a teenager were among the “civilians killed by the Russian occupants.”

“I want to stress that these people are civilians. The Russian military deliberately shot civilians that didn’t put up any resistance and didn’t pose any threat,” Nebytov said, adding that some of the victims were apparently tortured.

Spanish, Danish leaders in Kiev

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen have arrived in Kiev to meet with the Ukrainian president, Sanchez’s office has announced.

The three leaders will be holding a press conference later on Thursday in the Ukrainian capital, it said in a statement.

“I look forward to the meeting with Zelenskyy, where my message will be that Denmark will continue to help Ukraine,” Frederiksen said in a statement announcing her arrival in Kyiv Thursday. “The West stands together to support the Ukrainian people.”

Biden set to announce new military assistance for Ukraine 

President Joe Biden is set to announce plans to send additional military aid to help Ukraine, according to a US official.

The official, who was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Biden will deliver a Thursday morning address at the White House detailing his plans to build on the roughly $2.6 billion in military assistance the administration has already approved for Ukraine.

The new package is expected to be similar in size to the $800 million package Biden announced last week.

Ukraine recaptures over 900 settlements 

Ukraine has recaptured 934 settlements from the Russian army so far, and life in these areas is gradually returning to normal, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

In a video address to nation, Zelenskyy said that "934 settlements have already been liberated. Police resumed work in 435 settlements. Local self-government started working in 431 communities.

The work of humanitarian headquarters was launched in 361 settlements." The Ukrainian government is gradually restoring people's access to medical and educational services and social protection bodies, he added.

ICRC denies Kiev's accusation 

A senior Kiev official has accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of working "in concert" with Russia in Ukraine, a charge the organisation denied. 

Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova decried ICRC's announcement last month that it was planning to open a branch in Russia's southern Rostov region to help Ukrainian refugees, who, Kiev says, have been forcibly deported to Russia.

"The ICRC does not ever help organise or carry out forced evacuations. We would not support any operation that would go against people's will and international law," the organisation said in a statement.

Ukraine: Russia now controls 80% of Luhansk region

The Luhansk governor has said Russian forces now control 80 percent of the region, which is one of two regions that make up the Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

One of Russia's stated goals is to expand the territory in the Donbass under the control of Moscow-backed separatists. Before Russia's assault on February 24, Kiev controlled 60 percent of the Luhansk region.

Governor Serhiy Haidai said the Russians, who renewed their offensive this week in eastern and southern Ukraine, have strengthened their attacks in the Luhansk region.

After seizing Kreminna, Haidai said the Russians now are threatening the cities of Rubizhne and Popasna and he has urged all residents to evacuate immediately.

Leading Putin ally predicts Mariupol victory on Thursday

Russian forces have said they will seize the Mariupol steel plant which is the last main stronghold of resistance in the besieged city on Thursday after Ukraine proposed talks on evacuating troops and civilians there.

Mariupol would be the biggest city to be seized by Russia since its offensive on Ukraine eight weeks ago which has taken longer than some military analysts expected, seen over five million people flee abroad and turned towns and cities to rubble.

"Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation," Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia's republic of Chechnya, whose forces have been fighting in Ukraine, said of the steel plant.

Türkiye: Some NATO members want conflict to continue

Some NATO member states want the conflict between Ukraine and Russia to continue, Türkiye’s foreign minister has said in a televised interview with private news channel CNN Turk

Mevlut Cavusoglu said Türkiye did not think that the Russia-Ukraine conflict would last that long after the peace talks in Istanbul.

"But following the NATO foreign ministers' meeting, it was the impression that...there are those within the NATO member states that want the war to continue, let the war continue and Russia get weaker," Cavusoglu said.

He also noted that a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine could happen at any time.

"If you look at the text they've sent each other, that depends on the two leaders. It could happen at any time," he said.

Red Cross denies Ukraine's 'in concert' with Russia accusation

A senior Kiev official has accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of working "in concert" with Russia in Ukraine, a charge the organisation denied.

"The ICRC does not ever help organise or carry out forced evacuations. We would not support any operation that would go against people's will and international law," the organisation said in a statement to AFP news agency.

It added: "Building and maintaining a dialogue with parties to a conflict is essential to get access to all people affected and obtain necessary security guarantees for our teams to deliver life-saving aid."

For live updates from Wednesday (April 20), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies