As Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the effort to capture Mariupol from Ukraine a “success” and ordered his forces to halt outside the city’s besieged Azovstal steel factory, US President Joe Biden said Thursday it was “questionable” whether the city had fallen. Meanwhile, an estimated tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol remain trapped by air and ground attacks with little opportunity to evacuate safely, and satellite images point to evidence of mass graves outside the city.
Siege of Mariupol a “terrorist operation,” Zelensky says: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that “thousands” of civilians remain blockaded inside Mariupol as he likened the Russian siege to a “terrorist operation.” Ukrainian officials on Tuesday also identified the location of apparent mass graves outside the city, claims bolstered by the publication of satellite images collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies.
Mariupol evacuations are moving slowly, deputy PM says: The evacuation of civilians is going “very slowly,” according to Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, amid intense attacks from Russian forces. “On the Russian side, everything is very complicated, chaotic, slow and, of course, dishonest,” Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram. Ukrainian commanders on the ground have said Russian forces have not honored agreements to open evacuation corridors or enforce ceasefires.
Ukraine alleges Russian orders were given to kill POWs: Ukraine’s military intelligence on Wednesday released a purported communications intercept of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk, which is bearing the brunt of Russia’s renewed attack. It appears to feature Russian soldiers saying: “Keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever. Let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.”
Neighboring nations say Russia committed genocide: The Estonian and Latvian parliaments adopted statements on Thursday saying Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine, citing mass graves and atrocities discovered in areas since vacated by Russian forces.
Annexations will cripple Russia, Zelensky says: Zelensky warned Russia on Thursday that any attempts at annexation — similar to Crimea or the so-called breakaway republics in the nation’s east — will lead to sanctions that will leave Russia as poor as it was after its civil war in 1917. “I want to say straight away: any ‘Kherson People’s Republics’ are not going to fly,” he said.
US sends more aid to Ukraine: Saying there was a “critical window” as Russian forces build up in the east of Ukraine, Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine. The new package would include heavy artillery and drones, he said Thursday, along with ammunition.
Zelenskiy says Russia has rejected a proposed Easter truce, but remains hopeful of prospects for peace, as Moscow faces accusations of war crimes in Mariupol
- Russia has been hiding evidence of its “barbaric” war crimes in Mariupol by burying the bodies of civilians killed by shelling in a new mass grave, the city’s mayor said, as a US satellite imagery company released photos that appeared to match the site.
- US officials have dismissed Vladimir Putin’s claim that his forces have “liberated” the port city of Mariupol as disinformation. The Russian president made the claim despite an admission by his defence minister that Russia’s military was still battling thousands of Ukrainian troops holed up in Azovstal steelworks.
- Western officials said Putin is “still in a position to win” in Ukraine despite failing in his pre-war objectives. Russia had started to address some of the issues that had hindered its army at the start of the invasion, one official said.
- Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said Russia rejected a proposed Easter truce, but that he remains hopeful of prospects for peace. Earlier this week Russia rejected the same request from the UN, claiming it was not “sincere” and would give Ukrainian fighters more time to arm themselves.
- Zelenskiy also told leaders of the World Bank and IMF that Ukraine will need “hundreds of billions of dollars” to recover from war. Ukraine needs $7bn each month to keep its economy afloat amid the “economic losses” inflicted by Russia, Zelenskiy said via video link. He also proposed a special war tax on Russia. World Bank president David Malpass said the physical damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure has reached $60bn.
- Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, has confirmed war crimes experts are helping Ukraine “to ensure the inevitability of Russia’s responsibility”. The United States said it has also been in contact with Ukraine’s prosecutor and is assisting with the preservation and collection of evidence of war crimes committed by Russia, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
- Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has apologised to residents of Mariupol for failed evacuation efforts from the besieged port city. She added that authorities will not give up. Officials estimate that 100,000 people are currently trapped in the city.
- The US defence secretary will host Ukraine-focused defence talks with allies in Germany next week, the Pentagon has confirmed. Lloyd Austin will meet allies on 26 April at the Ramstein Air Base in south-western Germany, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. The pentagon also confirmed newly disclosed ‘Ghost’ drones are part of America’s latest arms package for Ukraine.
- Russia has slapped “indefinite’ travel bans on US vice president Kamala Harris and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg as well as dozens of prominent Americans and Canadians in retaliation for sanctions imposed over Ukraine. The Russian foreign ministry said the travel restrictions on 29 Americans and 61 Canadians – which also includes defence officials, business leaders and journalists from both countries – would remain in effect indefinitely.
- UK prime minister Boris Johnson has revealed that dozens of Ukrainian soldiers are training in the UK, learning how to use 120 British armoured vehicles before returning with them to fight in the war against Russia. British forces are also training Ukrainian counterparts in Poland on how to use anti-aircraft missiles, the prime minister said.
- About 120,000 civilians are blocked from leaving Mariupol, Zelenskiy said. Three school buses filled with people from Mariupol arrived in Zaporizhzhia today after crossing through territory held by Russian forces, butUkraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said the number of evacuees was far smaller than had been hoped for.
- Russian forces captured dozens of villages in the eastern Donetsk region on Thursday, an aide to Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said.
- The bodies of 1,020 civilians are being stored in morgues in and around Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Olga Stefanishyna, told Agence France-Presse. Her comments came after police said they discovered the remains of nine civilians in the town of Borodianka, 54km (34 miles) from the capital, buried in communal graves and showing signs of torture.
- The parliaments of Estonia and Latvia have recognised Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide”. In a statement, the Estonian parliament said Russian troops in temporarily occupied territories had committed “acts of genocide” against the civilian population including “murders, enforced disappearances, deportations, imprisonment, torture, rape and desecration of corpses”.
- Joe Biden announced that the US will provide another $800m (£614m) military assistance package to Ukraine to “further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in the east, in the Donbas region”. The new US weapon deliveries will include 72 howitzers and their towing vehicles along with 144,000 artillery rounds and more than 120 drones tailored for Ukraine’s needs. Biden also announced that the US will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees under a new programme.
- Russian troops have used a number of weapons widely banned across the world, which have killed hundreds of civilians in the Ukrainian region of Kyiv, research by the Guardian suggests. Evidence collected during a visit to Bucha, Hostomel and Borodianka showed that Russian troops had used cluster munitions, cluster bombs and extremely powerful unguided bombs in populated areas, which have destroyed at least eight civilian buildings.