Zelensky says Blinken and Austin to visit Ukraine on Sunday
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will travel to Kyiv on Sunday and hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian leader stated.
He told a news conference in Kyiv that he would discuss the kinds of weapons that Ukraine needs to battle Russia’s invasion.
Turkey closes airspace to Russian planes flying to Syria: FM
Turkey has closed its airspace to Russian civilian and military planes flying to Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying Saturday by local media.
“We closed the airspace to Russia’s military planes – and even civilian ones – flying to Syria. They had until April, and we asked in March,” Turkish media quoted Cavusoglu as saying.
Russia says it destroyed Odesa terminal where foreign weapons were stored
Russia used high precision missiles to destroy a logistics terminal in Odesa where a large number of weapons supplied by the United States and European nations were being stored, the defence ministry announced.
In an online post, it also added Russian forces had killed up to 200 Ukrainian troops and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, some of them armoured.
UK confirms supply of vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to confirm London will supply fresh weaponry to support Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s invasion.
“The Prime Minister confirmed that the UK is providing more defensive military aid, including protected mobility vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons,” a readout of the call published by Johnson’s office said.
Russia: US, NATO move to final stage of plotting provocations in Ukraine
According to data by Russia’s Defense Ministry published on Saturday, the US and its NATO partners have moved on to a final stage of plotting provocations in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel.
“Information by the Russian Defense Ministry published today clearly proves: Washington, in close coordination with NATO partners, has moved on to a final stage of plotting provocations in Ukraine which should convince the global community that ‘Russia is using poisonous combat substances and biological agents’,” the diplomat noted.
She stressed that Washington’s initial plan involved economic pressure on Russia to make Moscow “completely reconsider legitimate interests in the security sphere.”
“It didn’t work out. Now the US is moving on to involving the weapons of mass destruction (WMD), practically – to the games beyond the ‘red line’,” the spokeswoman stated.
“If this happens, there will be uncountable victims. And each one of them is on the conscience of American strategists in the offices of the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, and on the conscience, if there is anything left of it, of their puppets in Kiev,” she added.
Ukraine claims strike on command post kills 2 Russian generals
The Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine issued a statement Saturday claiming that a strike on a Russian command post in the southern Kherson region killed two Russia generals.
“On April 22, 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine struck a devastating blow at a forward command post of the 49th Combined Arms Army of Russian occupation troops located a short distance from the battle line in the Kherson region,” the statement said.
“The result: The Field Control Point of the 49th Combined Arms Army was destroyed. Two occupier generals were eliminated, and one was seriously wounded and evacuated in critical condition,” it added.
Europe discussing sixth round of sanctions, including hit on Russian energy: EU Commission official
Europe is discussing a sixth round of sanctions on Russia, including a hit on Russia’s energy market, a top official from the European Commission and Lithuania’s finance minister said.
European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis stated one of the issues under consideration concerns an oil embargo. There have been discussions about “smart sanctions” that might include tariffs rather than a full embargo at first.
“So there may be some nuances, but this work is ongoing,” Dombrovskis told reporters in Washington, DC.
In a separate interview with CNN in the US capital, Lithuanian Finance Minister Gintarė Skaistė noted she discussed a possible next tranche of sanctions with US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.
“We are always offering to include in the sanctions the energy sector, especially oil,” as well as “additional sanctions to the financial sector of Russia,” Skaistė added.
Skaistė said the sanctions must be coordinated for them to have an impact.
“If we won’t agree on the sanctions together, the United States with all Western allies, it won’t work,” she added.
Dombrovskis said that “technically speaking, approval of sanctions can be very quick view, can be done in a matter of one or two days.”
“The question here is basically is that sanctions require unanimity among member states, so those political discussions are ongoing in parallel, so it’s important to reach unanimous political agreement,” he added.
Skaistė said it was too early to say when there will be agreement on that next round of sanctions. She noted that there is both a shorter-term and longer-term goal for the sanctions: to draw Russian President Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table and to weaken Russia’s economy so it is unable to reinforce its military.
“If there will be no possibilities to reinforce their army, we would like to think that there will be no war in Europe,” she added.
Dombrovskis stated it is important that existing sanctions are actually enforced, noting they are working with EU member states as well as the broader international community.
“It’s a fact that not all countries have joined those Western sanctions,” he said, noting that Beijing is “hedging its bets,” and they are trying to nudge China and other nations “to be closer to our approach to Russia.”
Skaistė added they are also focused on helping Ukraine’s government survive in the shorter-term, and in the longer-term how to rebuild Ukraine more efficiently, which she believes “should be closely engaged with the process of Ukraine’s accession to European Union.”
Both Skaistė and Dombrovskis expressed concern about Putin’s future targets if he is not decisively stopped in Ukraine.
Missile strikes kill 5 people in Ukraine’s Odesa region
At least five people were killed and 18 injured in a series of missile strikes on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea port of Odesa.
A Ukraine official said Russian forces fired at least six cruise missiles at the city. Ukraine’s southern air command earlier said two missiles struck a military facility and two residential buildings in Odesa.
“Residents of the city heard explosions in different areas. Residential buildings were hit,” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, added.
Ukraine accuses Russia of thwarting new evacuation push from Mariupol
A new attempt to evacuate Ukrainian civilians from war-torn Mariupol has failed, an aide to the city’s mayor said on his Telegram channel, blaming Russian forces.
Ukrainian government announces curfews for Easter weekend
The Ukrainian government announced new curfews for Easter weekend amid warnings from authorities about the potential for increased Russian military activity during holiday celebrations.
Many Ukrainians celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, with Easter Sunday falling this year on April 24.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, announced the curfews in a statement on Saturday. Curfew hours will be in place from 7 p.m. local time Saturday until 5 a.m. local time Sunday in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, all of which have seen active fighting.
In other regions of Ukraine, including the capital of Kyiv, curfew will run from 11 p.m. local time on Saturday until Sunday at 5 a.m.
Poland sends weapons worth over $1.6bn to Ukraine: Polish secretary of state
According to Secretary of the Polish State Piotr Müller, Poland has already delivered weapons worth more than $1.6 billion to Ukraine.
“Poland has transferred military equipment worth about 7 billion zlotys to Ukraine, which is more than $1.6 billion,” Mueller tweeted, citing the country’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Missile strikes infrastructure of Ukraine’s Odesa: City council
A missile struck infrastructure in the port city of Odesa, the local authorities says in an online statement without giving further details.
“Odesa was hit by a missile strike. Infrastructure has been hit,” the statement said.
Russia dismisses CIA director’s claims on Moscow’s possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine
Igor Kirillov, the head of the radiation, chemical and biological defense of the Russian Armed Forces, slammed the CIA Director William Burns’ statement about Russia’s possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine as absurd.
Kirillov stressed that with the modern level of technical equipment of the international system for nuclear tests monitoring, it would be impossible to conceal the use of such weapons.
“If the CIA director doesn’t understand this, then he is either unprofessional or he is being misled,” Kirillov added.
Russia resumes offensive against Ukrainian forces in Azovstal: Kyiv official
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych stated Russian forces have resumed air strikes on and are trying to storm the Azovstal steel works where Ukraine’s remaining forces in Mariupol are holding out.
“The enemy is trying to strangle the final resistance of the defenders of Mariupol in the Azovstal area,” Arestovych said on national television.
Ukrainian forces repel eight Russian attacks: Ukraine army
Ukraine claims its forces repelled eight Russian attacks in the past 24 hours in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, destroying nine tanks, 18 armoured units and 13 vehicles, a tanker and three artillery systems.
Russian forces continue to partially block and shell Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and are active in the area of Izium, Ukraine’s army announced in a Facebook post.
Europe won’t last week without Russian gas: Moscow
Russian Security Council deputy chairman Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday commented on the recent International Monetary Fund’s estimation that Europe would not be able to sustain itself without Russian gas for longer than six months, saying: “But seriously, they won’t even last a week.”
“The European Commission allowed payment for gas in rubles and believes that the decree of the President of Russia can still be applied by European business. We appreciate the consistency and integrity of our European partners,” Medvedev posted on his Telegram channel, jokingly adding emoticons.
On Thursday, the European Commission noted that it “appears possible” for EU buyers of Russian gas to pay in line with Moscow’s new payment terms without breaching the principles of ongoing EU sanctions against Russia.
Russian MoD: US planning provocations to accuse Russian forces of using WMDs in Ukraine
The US is planning provocations to accuse Russian forces carrying out the special operation to demilitarise and de-nazify Ukraine of using WMDs, said the Russian Ministry of Defence.
The MoD has information that Russia will be blamed for utilizing chemical, biological or tactical nuclear weapons, in line with at least three scenarios already developed as a response to Moscow’s success in conducting its special military operation, stated Igor Kirillov, the chief of the Russian MoD’s radiation, chemical, and biological protection forces.
The western provocation is likely to target chemical and biological facilities in Kharkiv and Kiev, and possibly the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Moreover, the US State Department has already determined the procedure for the subsequent investigation and appointed officials responsible for its conduct, added Kirillov.
One of the scenarios concocted by the West could be the use of weapons of mass destruction in the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, stated the general.
“Open use of WMDs on the battlefield” in case of failure to succeed with conventional weapons… is likely being considered for Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, which have been turned into fortification zones,” Kirillov said, while adding that such a scenario is the least likely.
According to the MoD, another of these western provocations presupposed “covert use of WMDs in small volumes” to suppress the troops’ ability to carry out specific operational tasks. This plan was ostensibly considered for implementation by the Pentagon at the Azovstal steel enterprise.
US doesn’t want peace in Ukraine: Russia
The United States is deliberately spreading disinformation about the state of affairs in Ukraine in an attempt to confuse local residents and disrupt negotiations, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told RT, amid Moscow’s ongoing offensive in Ukraine.
Zakharova was asked to comment on the remarks of her US counterpart, State Department spokesman Ned Price, who called Russian statements about taking control of Mariupol “disinformation” from a “well-worn playbook.”
Continuing a series of mutual accusations of lies, Zakharova claimed that “disinformation is being handled directly by the State Department.”
“For what? There are several reasons. Well, probably, in order to completely disorient the citizens of Ukraine, those people who are now there, to place under question any possibility of any negotiation process and, of course, to make any negotiated settlement simply impossible and meaningless,” Zakharova said, adding that Russia is very familiar with these “US tactics.”
Commenting on the situation regarding the besieged Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Zakharova claimed that if the State Department was at all interested in the fate of the Ukrainians who remain there, it was interested only from one point of view: “How to ensure that these people stay there” without making use of the opportunities provided by Russia to leave the premises.
“Everything the Western world, the Western community is doing is poised to ensure that the situation escalates further and does not get a chance to calm down. Escalation, escalation, escalation,” the spokeswoman claimed, noting that, while making such statements, the West keeps announcing additional assistance to the “so-called Ukrainian armed forces.”
“The United States of America does not need peace in Ukraine, and the more such statements we hear, the more evidence we have to prove this,” she concluded.
UN chief to discuss ways to ‘silence guns’ in Ukraine during Moscow visit: Spokesperson
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres intends to discuss ways “to silence the guns” in Ukraine during his visit to Moscow on April 26, Associate Spokesperson for the UN chief Eri Kaneko stated at a briefing.
“His message will be, as he said in his letter, it’s – he wants to discuss with the [Russian] leadership what steps can be taken right now in order to silence the guns, in order to help the people, in order to allow people who need to get out to get out in safe passage,” she pointed out.
While in Moscow, Guterres will hold a working meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and will also be received by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s armed forces destroy 538 UAVs, 2,471 armored vehicles of Ukrainian army
Since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine, the Russian Armed Forces have destroyed 538 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 2,471 tanks and armored vehicles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as 274 multiple rocket launchers, official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General Igor Konashenkov announced on Saturday.
“In total, since the beginning of the special military operation, the following have been destroyed: 141 aircraft, 110 helicopters, 538 unmanned aerial vehicles, 261 anti-aircraft missile systems, 2,471 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 274 multiple rocket launchers, 1,075 field artillery pieces and mortars, as well as 2,311 special military vehicles,” he noted.
UK: Russian forces make no major gains in the past 24 hours
Russian forces have made no major gains in the past 24 hours as they face Ukrainian counterattacks, the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence briefing on Saturday.
Ukrainian air and sea defense have also been able to stop the progress of Russian air and maritime forces, the ministry added.
“Despite their stated conquest of Mariupol, heavy fighting continues to take place frustrating Russian attempts to capture the city thus further slowing their desired progress in the Donbas,” the ministry added.
Furious Macron reportedly ‘ranted to advisers’ as BoJo’s Kiev trip ruined his plans for secret visit
An irate Emmanuel Macron was was incandescent with fury when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s surprise visit to Ukraine, thereby upstaging his own plans to travel there, the Daily Mail reported citing French media.
The UK PM made the unexpected trip on 9 April to Ukraine, where Russia has been conducting a special operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify the country.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the British leader travelled to Kiev in “a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people” and to present a fresh package of military and financial aid.
The French president, who is in the midst of fighting an election on Sunday in a runoff against right-wing Marine LePen, is said to have “ranted to advisers” about the British PM’s “populist” move.
Macron had been hoping to go to Kiev himself in his capacity as a de facto European Union leader. He was also hoping to drum up additional voter support in a tight national elections where right-wing leader Marine Le Pen has been keeping hot on his heels.
However, Johnson’s swift manoeuvre, which elicited plaudits, “cut the grass from under [Macron’s] feet,” French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine is is quoted as saying.
Weighing in on the UK PM’s efforts to gain credit for his intervention in Ukraine while under fire at home over parties at 10 Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdown, Macron is quoted as fuming: “It’s so annoying to see Johnson still has this capacity to put himself front and centre when he hasn’t actually done very much since the start of this. Johnson just ‘does Johnson’ – it’s populism. He keeps repeating ‘Putin must fail’ but there’s nothing behind the words. He hasn’t actually done very much since the start of this.”
UN refuses to back Ukraine ‘genocide’ claims
The UN has declined to support accusations by Kiev and Washington that Russia’s actions during its military offensive in Ukraine have amounted to genocide.
Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), was addressed on the issue by journalists on Friday.
“No, we have not documented patterns that could amount to [genocide],” she responded.
Shamdasani pointed out there were “a lot of these legal qualifications – crimes against humanity and genocide – at the end of the day would be for a court of law to determine.”
According to the UN’s own definition, ‘genocide’ includes “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of “genocide” after the events in the Kiev suburb of Bucha, where numerous bodies with signs of execution were discovered on April 1, shortly after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the area.
Russia, which insists that it doesn’t target civilian populations in Ukraine and only hits military targets, has rejected the claim and in turn has blamed Kiev of organizing a staged provocation in order to smear its forces.
However, US President Joe Biden has decided to follow Zelensky’s lead and has also accused Moscow of “genocide,” and of “trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian.”
US outlines step may cost Putin an ‘astronomical’ price
Russia will pay an “astronomical” price should its President Vladimir Putin order the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said, amid the ongoing Russian offensive.
In an interview for the Ukrainian outlet European Pravda, Nuland was asked to assess the possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons. She responded that she could not rule out such a “catastrophic scenario.” As Putin “has already ordered” what, she stated, were “brutal war crimes,” the world must be prepared for the worst. At the same time, Nuland stressed, the consequences of such steps would be catastrophic for Russia and for Putin personally.
She refused to provide any details about the potential response from the West, saying instead that use of nuclear weapons would take the situation to a “fundamentally new level” where the price will be “simply astronomical.”
Asked by a journalist if Kiev can rely on its Western partners’ support in a worst-case scenario, Nuland reassured Ukraine that it would not be left alone. The Under Secretary of State added, the US would continue to provide Ukraine with military assistance. She revealed that Washington has begun supplying Kiev with multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and would do its best to keep up with Ukraine’s needs.
Nuland’s strongly-worded warnings came just two days after the Pentagon announced that at this point it does not see a need to change the country’s nuclear posture. The US Department of Defense spokesman’s statement followed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s claims that Moscow could use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
In late February, announcing the launch of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, Putin warned that any nation trying to interfere with it could face consequences unlike anything in their history. Many observers interpreted this as a threat to use nuclear weapons. Russia put its nuclear deterrence on the highest alert level in the early days of the military operation, citing allegedly hostile signals coming from NATO members.
Zelensky: Russia has ambitions beyond Ukraine
President Volodymyr Zelensky has used his nightly address to warn of Russian ambitions beyond Ukraine.
Russians seek to ‘starve out’ Azovstal plant holdouts in Mariupol: ISW
In its latest update on the war in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War says the Russians are seeking “to starve out” civilians and soldiers in the Azovstal steel plant.
The ISW added they were “unlikely” to allow the trapped civilians to leave.
PM: Ukraine looking at weapons, sanctions, financing and joining Europe to win war
Ukraine is looking at weapons, ammunition, sanctions against Russia, financing for Ukraine and “European perspectives” rather than “Soviet” ones to win the war against Russia, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.
Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, DC, Shmyhal thanked the United States for its support.
Ahead of his Blinken meeting, he noted that he had met with US President Joe Biden and finance leaders from across the world while in Washington and that he’s “sure that after this visit during the next day, days, weeks and months, Ukraine will win and will have absolutely perfect recovery plan.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier on Friday that it’s a “realistic possibility” that Russian President Vladimir Putin win the war in Ukraine, calling the situation “unpredictable” at the moment.
Shmyhal added that Ukraine strongly wants to join Europe, “and because of this, many of our young guys and girls pay their lives in this war for this Ukrainian perspectives, European perspective and civilized perspectives.”
Blinken, who spoke ahead of the prime minister, noted that this is the first visit by a Ukrainian senior official since the war began. However, he did not answer a question about the US Embassy in Ukraine.
Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan also met with Shmyhal on Friday afternoon to discuss economic and humanitarian assistance, according to National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson.
“Mr. Sullivan conveyed the United States’ unwavering commitment to supporting the government and people of Ukraine. The two discussed the security, economic, and humanitarian assistance the United States is providing, including the new support announced by President Biden yesterday, and ongoing efforts with international partners to impose further costs on Russia for its unprovoked aggression,” Watson said in a written statement.
Canada says it has provided heavy artillery to Ukraine forces
Canada says it has provided heavy artillery to Ukrainian security forces, following up on a pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week to send more artillery to Ukraine in the face of a Russian assault on the country’s east.
Canada has now delivered a number of M777 howitzers and associated ammunition to Ukrainian forces, the defence ministry said.
It added that it is finalising contracts for commercial pattern armoured vehicles that it will send to Ukraine as soon as possible.
WHO reports 162 attacks on health care in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion
The World Health Organization has reported at least 162 attacks on health care in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, the agency tweeted.
“Attacks on health care violate international law and endanger lives. Health workers, hospitals, and ambulances should NEVER be targets,” the WHO wrote.
The attacks occurred between February 24 and April 16, causing 52 injuries and 73 deaths, according to the WHO. They targeted health facilities, transport, personnel, patients, supplies and warehouses.
Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said the WHO has been working to ensure medical and health supplies reach cities and towns across Ukraine despite the attacks.
“Peace is the only way forward. I again call on the Russian Federation to stop the war,” added WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Ukraine PM: Mariupol is “biggest humanitarian catastrophe” of the century
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called the situation in Mariupol the “biggest humanitarian catastrophe” since Russia’s invasion — and perhaps the worst catastrophe of the century, as the southeastern port city faces constant bombardment from Russian forces.
Speaking at a press conference in Washington, Shmyhal said thousands of people had died in Mariupol, adding: “We will see the terrible atrocities when it will be liberated from Russians.”
He added Russian troops are “absolutely destroying everything,” including shelters where civilians are staying.
An estimated 100,000 people remain trapped in Mariupol since it was surrounded by Russian forces on March 1, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian officials claim that more than 20,000 people in the city have died during the assault.
Russia says one sailor died, 27 missing after missile cruiser sank
One sailor died and 27 more are missing after the Russian missile cruiser Moskva sank last week, while 396 other crew members were rescued, the state-owned RIA news agency cited Russia’s defence ministry.
Moscow announced the Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, sank last week after a fire sparked an ammunition blast. Ukraine claims it hit the vessel with an anti-ship missile.
Russia ‘terrorises’ Ukrainian nuclear station: officials
Ukraine’s energy officials claimed that Russia deliberately fired three cruise missiles over a large nuclear station in Ukraine’s south as an act of “nuclear terrorism”.
Three missiles were presumably shot from Moscow-friendly Belarus to fly over the South Ukrainian nuclear power station in the Mykolaiv region on April 16, according to Energoatom, the state-run agency that controls Ukraine’s nuclear generation.
“This is yet another act of Russia’s nuclear terrorism that endangers the entire world’s security,” Energoatom announced.
On March 4, Russians seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in southeastern Ukraine and deployed a team of engineers to manage Europe’s largest power station.