Saturday, April 20

Russia tells Severodonetsk troops to end ‘senseless resistance’

  • Moscow urges Ukrainian fighters to surrender in Severodonetsk, saying they should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down arms”.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges Kyiv’s Western allies to supply his country with more modern anti-missile systems.
  • Nearly two-thirds of children in Ukraine have been uprooted by war, a UN official says, calling the conflict a “child rights crisis”.
  • NATO defence ministers set to meet in Brussels to discuss providing Ukraine with further arms as it confronts Russia’s Donbas offensive.
  • Russia says its forces have destroyed an ammunition warehouse for weapons donated to Kyiv by NATO member states in Ukraine’s western Lviv region.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 112

Here are the latest updates:

NATO allies to keep up arms supply to Ukraine, Stoltenberg says

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says that members of the United-States-led transatlantic military alliance will continue to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons and long-range systems.

Addressing reporters at a news conference in Brussels ahead of a meeting of NATO defence ministers, Stoltenberg said the alliance was “extremely focused on stepping up support” for Kyiv.

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Kremlin says communication with US remains ‘essential’

The Kremlin says communication with the US remains “essential” despite high tensions between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that dialogue could only be conducted on a basis of mutual respect and benefit.

Mariupol residents reduced to living ‘everyday life’ on war-torn streets: Ukrainian official

Civilians in Ukraine’s occupied southeastern port city of Mariupol have been reduced to living almost all aspects of “everyday life” on its war-torn streets due to the destruction inflicted by Moscow’s offensive, a Ukrainian official has claimed.

Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, who is based outside of the city, said in a Telegram post that people were “cooking, looking for firewood, collecting water and making a living” in the open air due to the city’s infrastructure – including swaths of houses and apartment blocks – being largely ruined by Russian shelling.

“They are still trying to find relatives. They bury people in backyards. [And] The [Russian] occupiers have left people to their own devices,” he said.

“The worst thing is that people are getting used to it … They compare [their living conditions] not to what was before the war but to [what happened] in February – April. With their lives in the cold basements under fire,” Andryushchenko added, citing Russia’s weeks-long bombardment of the city in the early stages of the war.

“Sometime in the future, psychologists will describe the ‘Mariupol syndrome’. A separate psychological state that seems impossible in normal life.”

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Mini map showing Mariupol's location within Ukraine

Russia-backed separatist says up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in Severodonetsk plant

Up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in the shelters of the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, according to a Moscow-backed separatist leader in eastern Ukraine’s self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).

“About 1,000 to 1,200 civilians of Sievierodonetsk may still be on the territory of the Azot chemical plant,” Rodion Miroshnik, an official in the LPR’s Russian-backed self-styled separatist administration, said in a Telegram post.

Miroshnik said the civilians are in a part of the plant that is still controlled by Ukrainian forces, which he said numbered up to 2,000 people including Ukrainian and foreign fighters.

Moscow has accused what it described as Ukrainian “militants” of having deliberately led civilians into the Azot plant and using them as human shields.

Ukraine says the number of civilians at the plant is closer to 500 and has denied Russian claims that it uses civilians as human shields.

Romanian president urges EU to grant Ukraine candidate status

Romania’s president has urged the European Union to grant Ukraine candidate status, saying the decision is the correct call.

“In my opinion, the candidate status must be granted as soon as possible, it is a correct solution from a moral, economic and security perspective,” Klaus Iohannis said after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Romania.

He added that a decision on the issue may come by the end of June.

Macron: Zelenskyy will have to negotiate with Russia at some point

France’s president says that Ukraine’s leader will have to hold talks with Russia at some point in order to try and end the war.

“The Ukrainian President and his officials will have to negotiate with Russia,” Macron said while on a visit to Romania and Moldova.

Macron’s visit marks the beginning of a three-day trip to NATO’s southern flank. Two unnamed diplomatic sources told the Reuters news agency he may also head to Kyiv on Thursday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi for talks with Zelenskyy.

Ukraine says 2.4 million hectares of winter crops won’t be harvested because of war

About 2.4 million hectares of winter crops with a total value of $1.4bn will remain unharvested in Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion, the country’s agriculture ministry says.

The minsitry said the agriculture sector had suffered total losses of $4.2bn to date because of Moscow’s offensive.

It estimated that the number of animals killed in areas affected by fighting included 42,000 sheep and goats, 92,000 cows, 258,000 pigs and more than 5.7 million birds.

Russia says it has destroyed warehouse for NATO weapons in western Ukraine

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces have launched missile strikes on an ammunition warehouse for weapons donated to Kyiv by NATO member states in Ukraine’s western Lviv region, destroying the facility.

The ministry said some of the ammunition was to be used for US-produced M777 howitzers, a type of artillery weapon.

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There was no immediate reaction to the ministry’s claims from Kyiv or any NATO member states. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the report.

Russian shelling wounds 19 in Mykolaiv: Regional official

At least 19 people have been wounded in recent days by Russian shelling in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region, according to a regional official.

Regional council head Hamma Zamazeyeva said in a Telegram post that all of the victims had been taken to hospital for treatment.

He added there were 280 people overall currently receiving treatment in hospitals throughout the region due to wounds inflicted by Russian attacks.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Macron toughens tone on Russia before possible Ukraine visit

Macron has voiced a tougher line on Russia after visiting French and allied troops at a NATO base in Romania, seeking to assuage concerns in Ukraine and among some European allies over his previous stance towards Moscow.

French officials have in recent days sought to strengthen the public messaging, while Macron appeared to take a tougher line when he was with his troops.

“We will do everything to stop Russia’s war forces, to help the Ukrainians and their army and continue to negotiate,” he told French and NATO troops at a military base in Romania.

“But for the foreseeable future, we will need to protect, dissuade and be present,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he speaks during a media conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before their meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, January 25, 2022
Macron has been criticised by Ukraine and eastern European allies for what they perceived as his ambiguous backing for Ukraine in the war [File: EPA]

Russia tells Ukrainian forces to down weapons in Severodonetsk battle

Russia has told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant in Severodonetsk to lay down their arms as its troops press for complete control of the key city, in eastern Ukraine.

Fighters should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down arms” from 8 am Moscow time (05:00 GMT), ​Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s national defence management centre, told the Interfax news agency.

Civilians would be let out through a humanitarian corridor, Mizintsev said.

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians are trapped alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical factory where its forces have resisted weeks of Russian bombardment and assaults that have reduced much of Severodonetsk to ruins.

Moscow destroying Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Moscow claims to be protecting the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine, but most of the cities destroyed by the Russian army were largely Russian-speaking, Zelenskyy has said.

“And they are now switching to Ukrainian because they are shocked at how the Russian army could have done that to them,” Zelenskyy told Danish journalists at an online press conference.

Zelenskyy reiterated he would only negotiate with Russia if its forces withdrew from Ukraine.

“If the Russian Federation is ready to end the war, which means to withdraw troops from our territories, I am personally ready for such a format at any moment,” he said.

Ukraine says 313 children killed amid war

The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general says 313 children have been killed and 579 injured amid the war.

Most of the casualties were recorded in the southeastern Donetsk region, northeastern Kharkiv, and in areas around the capital, Kyiv, the office said in a Telegram post.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

More difficult for Ukraine’s army to hold off Russians in Severodonetsk: Governor

It’s becoming more difficult for Ukraine’s forces to hold off Russia’s attacks on Severodonetsk, which are coming from three directions at the same time, the governor of Luhansk has said.

Russian forces again fired on the Azot chemical plant on Tuesday, Haidai said in a Telegram post.

“High-rise buildings located closer to the chemical giant are being destroyed. The enemy is weaker in street battles, so it opens artillery fire, destroying our homes,” he added.

Surrounding towns and villages also saw significant damage with many wounded and dozens of homes destroyed, Haidai said.

‘Extensive collateral damage’ in Severodonetsk due to Russian artillery: UK

Russia’s reliance on heavy artillery has caused “extensive collateral damage” throughout Severodonetsk, which Moscow’s forces largely control after more than a month of heavy fighting, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

Ukraine’s fighters can likely survive in the underground bunkers of the city’s Azot chemical plant, where they are holding out with several hundred civilians, the ministry said, adding that Russian forces will likely be fixed in and around the plant.

“This will likely temporarily prevent Russia from re-tasking these units for missions elsewhere,” it said in an intelligence briefing on Twitter.

“It is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such robust opposition, or such slow, attritional conflict during its original planning for the invasion,” the ministry added.

Europe imports more South African coal as Russian ban looms

European countries, scrambling to secure alternatives to Russian coal, imported 40 percent more coal from South Africa’s main export hub in the first five months of this year than over the whole of 2021, figures obtained by Reuters have shown.

South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) delivered 3,240,752 tonnes of coal to European countries by end-May this year, 15 percent of RBCT’s overall exports, up from 2,321,190 (4 percent) in 2021, the figures showed.

Starting the second week of August, Russian coal imports will be banned in the European Union, part of wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow. RBCT did not immediately reply to a request for comment. RBCT usually provides figures annually, and does not give a comprehensive breakdown of export destinations.

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The Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Germany, and Ukraine have received coal from RBCT so far this year. Some of them only began importing from RBCT after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

China should look to West’s Ukraine response when considering Taiwan: Blinken

China should factor in the world’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as it looks to any future actions with respect to Taiwan, the US secretary of state has said.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the last 10 years is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad, to include actions that it’s taken with regard to Taiwan that are potentially dangerous and destabilising,” Antony Blinken said in an interview on PBS NewsHour on Tuesday.

“One of the things I think that China has to factor into any calculus is the response that we’ve seen to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and so many countries coming together to stand against that aggression, both by making sure that Ukraine had the support that it needed and also making sure that Russia paid a price for the aggression,” he added.

Blinken also said the fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas was “horrific” and has led to “terrible death” and destruction.

Ukraine’s need for more weapons major focus as defence ministers meet

Dozens of defence ministers from NATO and other parts of the world are expected to discuss weapons deliveries to Ukraine on Wednesday in Brussels, the Reuters news agency reports US officials as having said.

“Russia has not given up on the fight, despite its pretty anaemic progress … What we have is this grinding, slow, incremental Russian operation,” a senior US defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

“So the question is what do the Ukrainians need to continue the success they’ve already seen in slowing down and thwarting that Russian objective and that’ll be a major focus for the defence ministers,” the official said about the third such meeting led by United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Ukraine needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones, among other heavy weapons, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday. In addition, Zelenskyy has called for more modern anti-missile systems.

Russia-backed separatist announces road opening from Donbas to Crimea

The route between Ukraine’s Donbas region and the Russian-annexed territory of Crimea via the occupied regions of Mariupol, Melitopol and Kherson is now available for civilian vehicles, the Russian state-owned TASS news agency reports, citing a member of the self-proclaimed Moscow-backed administration of the Zaporizhia region.

“It’s not only for the military,” Vladimir Rogov said. “I myself have already travelled from Kherson through Melitopol to Berdyansk, Mariupol, Novoazovsk. Through Novoazovsk I went to Russia.”

“People take advantage of this, and there are many who want it, there are queues at the border, it was not designed for such an influx. But this corridor exists,” he added.

Last week, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced the opening of the route to Crimea from Russia’s city of Rostov-on-Don – through Ukraine’s occupied cities of Mariupol, Berdyansk and Melitopol.

Nicaragua Congress renews Russian training exercise approval

Nicaragua’s Congress has renewed a decade-long decree allowing Russian forces to train in the Central American country, a decision the US criticised.

Tuesday’s decision allows 230 Russian soldiers to enter Nicaragua between July 1 and December 31 to patrol in Pacific waters with the Nicaraguan Army.

President Daniel Ortega has backed Russian President Vladimir Putin in his attack on Ukraine, and this most recent decision was expected.

Since 2012, Nicaragua’s unicameral Congress has biannually approved the entry of foreign military personnel, including Russians, into the country.

Almost 2 out of 3 Ukraine children uprooted amid war: UN

Nearly two-thirds of children in Ukraine have been uprooted during the war, according to a UN official who visited the country last week.

“The war in Ukraine is a child rights crisis,” Afshan Khan, Europe and Central Asia director for UNICEF, told reporters on Tuesday.

Khan said 277 children in Ukraine have been killed and 456 injured, mostly due to explosives used in urban areas. She said the number of damaged schools is likely in the thousands, and only about 25 percent of schools in Ukraine are even operational.

Children look out the window of an unheated Lviv-bound train, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Children look out the window of an unheated Lviv-bound train in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3, 2022 [Vadim Ghirda/AP]

Russia ‘ready to listen’ should UK appeal on prisoners

Russia would be ready to consider a UK appeal over the fate of two Britons sentenced to death for fighting for Ukraine, the Kremlin has said.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said neither Moscow nor the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who passed the sentence had heard from London on the issue.

“You need to apply, of course, to the authorities of the country whose court passed the verdict, and that is not the Russian Federation,” Peskov said on Tuesday. “But, of course, everything will depend on appeals from London. And I am sure that the Russian side will be ready to listen.”

The two Britons, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, as well as a Moroccan man named Brahim Saadoun, were sentenced to death last week for allegedly fighting as mercenaries by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. The men were given a month to appeal their sentences.

Polish PM says NATO has ‘not done enough to defend Ukraine’

Poland’s prime minister has accused NATO of failing to offer sufficient support to Ukraine, which has repeatedly called for more and heavier weapons from the alliance’s member states.

“We have not done enough to defend Ukraine, to support Ukrainian people to defend their freedom and sovereignty. And this is why I urge you, I asked you to do much more to deliver weapon, artillery to Ukraine,” Mateusz Morawiecki said at an informal meeting of seven European NATO nations at The Hague.

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“Where is our credibility if Ukraine fails? Can we imagine that Ukraine fails and we revert back to business as usual? I hope not,” he added.

European official concerned about Russia flying Western-made airplanes

Europe’s top aviation safety regulator has said he is “very worried” about the safety of Western-made aircraft continuing to fly in Russia without access to spare parts and proper maintenance.

The EU and the US have moved to restrict Russia’s access to spare parts following its invasion of Ukraine.

“This is very unsafe,” Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference, adding that regulators do not have good data on many of the planes flying in Russia.

Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny moved to maximum-security prison

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been abruptly transferred from a prison where he was serving his years-long prison sentence to an undisclosed location, according to his allies.

When his lawyer arrived at Correctional Colony No 2, a prison camp in Pokrov, 119km (74 miles) east of Moscow, he was told, “There is no such convict here,” Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov said on Telegram on Tuesday.

But late in the day, the chairman of a prison monitoring commission said Navalny had been transferred to a maximum-security prison nearby.

Navalny was moved to the IK-6 prison in the village of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region, Russian news agencies reported, citing Sergei Yazhan, chairman of the regional Public Monitoring Commission. Melekhovo is about 250km (155 miles) east of Moscow.

Alexey Navalny appears on a video link from prison at the Moscow City Court, Russia.
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny appears on a video link from prison provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service at Moscow City Court, Tuesday, May 24, 2022 [Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]

Russian troops control 80% of Severodonetsk: Governor

Russian troops control about 80 percent of the fiercely contested eastern city of Severodonetsk, the governor of Luhansk has said.

Ukrainian forces have been pushed to the industrial outskirts of the city because of “the scorched earth method and heavy artillery the Russians are using,” Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press news agency.

He acknowledged that a mass evacuation of civilians from Severodonetsk was “simply not possible” now due to the relentless shelling and fighting. Haidai added that about 500 civilians were still sheltering in the Azot chemical plant.

Ukraine suffering painful losses in Severodonetsk, Kharkiv: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian forces are suffering painful losses in fighting Russian troops in the eastern city of Severodonetsk and the Kharkiv region, Zelenskyy has said.

Ukraine said its forces were still trying to evacuate civilians from Severodonetsk after Russia destroyed the last bridge to the city, the latest stage in a weeks-long battle in the Donbas region that Moscow seeks to capture.

Both sides claim to have inflicted huge casualties in the fighting over the city, Russia’s principal battleground focus.

About 12,000 people remain in Severodonetsk, from a pre-war population of 100,000, according to the regional governor.

NATO must strengthen readiness, chief says

NATO must develop “even higher readiness” and strengthen its weapons capabilities along its eastern border in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the military alliance’s secretary-general has said.

Stoltenberg was speaking after informal talks in the Netherlands with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the leaders of Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Portugal and Belgium ahead of a wider NATO summit in Madrid at the end of the month.

“In Madrid, we will agree a major strengthening of our posture,” he said. “Tonight we discussed the need for more robust and combat-ready forward presence and an even higher readiness and more pre-positioned equipment and supplies.”

Asked about Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the alliance, Stoltenberg said he was seeking “a united way forward” to resolve opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it deems as Swedish support of Kurdish activists.

Ukraine needs more anti-missile systems: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has again called on the West to send his forces “more modern anti-missile systems”.

“Our country does not have it at a sufficient level yet, but it is our country in Europe that needs such weapons most right now,” Zelenskyy said.

Delay with provision of these weapons cannot be justified, he added.

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Anna Malyar, said on Tuesday that Kyiv had received just 10 percent of the weapons it requested. She said Ukraine uses 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day, while Russia uses 10 times more.

Biden: Temporary silo plan to get Ukraine grain out

US President Joe Biden says he is working closely with EU partners to build temporary silos along the Ukraine border and some in Poland to get much-needed grain out of the country.

Biden made the announcement during a speech in Philadelphia.

Russia urges Ukrainian fighters at Azot plant to surrender

Russia’s defence ministry has said it offered Ukrainian fighters sheltering in the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian town of Severodonetsk the chance to surrender on Wednesday.

Russia has also said it will open a humanitarian corridor on Wednesday to allow civilians to leave the plant.

Read more here.

You can read all updates from Tuesday, June 14, here.

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