Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Western leaders pledge more aid

Ukraine news from April 19: Western leaders pledge to increase military, economic and humanitarian support for Ukraine.

Russian soldiers patrol a street on April 11, 2022, in Volnovakha in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
Moscow has launched new attacks in eastern Ukraine as it moves to try and seize the Donbas region [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appeals for a four-day truce in Ukraine after Russia launches new offensive in the country’s eastern Donbas region.
  • Russian forces seize the city of Kreminna as Moscow eyes “full liberation” of the breakaway, self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
  • Ukraine says 76 prisoners of war have been returned by Russia as part of a swap between the two sides.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 55

This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Follow our continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine here.

These were the updates on April 19:

Ukraine’s army gets more aircraft and parts to repair others, Pentagon says

Ukraine’s partners have provided it with additional military aircraft and parts to repair others in Kyiv’s arsenal that were damaged or inoperable, the Pentagon has said.

“They have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them get more aircraft in the air,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby told a news briefing, adding that Washington had not provided aircraft to Kyiv.

Russia proposes Ukrainian troops at Azovstal lay down weapons on Wednesday

Russia’s defence ministry has issued a new proposal to Ukrainian troops holed up in the Azovstal steel plant to lay down their weapons on Wednesday, adding that not a single Ukrainian soldier had accepted that same offer on Tuesday.

Russian troops will observe a ceasefire in the area of Azovstal while the proposal is in effect starting from 2pm Moscow time (11:00 GMT) on April 20, the ministry added in a statement.

US authorises certain transactions relating to NGO activities in Russia, Ukraine

The United States has authorised transactions necessary for certain activities, including for humanitarian projects in Russia and Ukraine, by non-governmental organisations that are prohibited under US sanctions on Russia.

INTERACTIVE - Sanctions on Russia SWIFT payment network

Russian shelling increasing in Donbas, UK military update says

Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continued to increase but Ukrainian forces managed to repel numerous attempted advances, a United Kingdom military update has said.

“Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continue to increase, with the Ukrainians repelling numerous attempted advances by Russian forces,” it said.

“Russia’s ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly-motivated Ukrainian armed forces”.

US aid package to Ukraine ‘won’t make a significant difference’: Expert

The latest US military aid package to Ukraine – an $800m bundle that includes additional helicopters and, for the first time, 155mm howitzer cannons – are “really no more than barely keeping up with what has been lost by the Ukrainians up to this point,” retired US Army General Mark Kimmitt has said.

“They have lost probably 140,000 rounds of ammunition – that would be good to keep them moving on the ground,” Kimmitt told Al Jazeera.

“There are no magic bullets in that aid package … It won’t make a significant difference on this upcoming battle,” he said, referring to a new offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Biden, allies consult on Ukraine including aid

US President Joe Biden and allied leaders discussed ongoing efforts on Ukraine on Tuesday including the need to provide economic and humanitarian aid, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said.

Psaki, briefing reporters, said Biden and the allies also discussed efforts to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.

Four dead, more wounded in Russian shelling of Kharkiv, officials say

Four people were killed and 14 wounded by Russian rockets in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv, regional prosecutors have said.

“More than 10 residential buildings were damaged, as well as garages and a supermarket,” the regional prosecutor’s office wrote on Facebook.

Earlier on Tuesday, officials said at least three people had been killed and 16 wounded in the shelling of the Nemyshlianskyi district of Kharkiv.

Al Jazeera was unable to verify the claims independently.

Russian media say 120 civilians left besieged steel plant in Mariupol

About 120 civilians living next to the Azovstal steelworks plant in Mariupol have left via humanitarian corridors, the Interfax news agency reported, quoting Russian state TV.

Interfax said a TV correspondent quoted the Russian-backed separatist administration of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine as saying, however, that no Ukrainian fighters had accepted a Russian ultimatum to surrender their arms and leave the factory in return for a promise to spare their lives.

Italy says Western leaders agreed to step up pressure on Moscow

Western leaders agreed on the need to put more pressure on Russia and to increase Moscow’s international isolation, an Italian government statement has said.

The leaders – including Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, US President Joe Biden and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson – shared “deep concern” for the prolonged hostilities in Ukraine and said a swift ceasefire was needed.

“There was broad consensus on the need to step up pressure on the Kremlin, including by adopting further sanctions, and to increase Moscow’s international isolation,” Rome’s statement said after a video call among the leaders.

It added that they reiterated a commitment to diversify energy supplies in order to decrease dependence on Russia.

INTERACTIVE - Which countries directly import the most Russian gas_

Putin bears responsibility for ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine: Scholz

Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for war crimes in Ukraine that have already left thousands of civilians dead, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine remains a blatant breach of international law. The killing of thousands of civilians as we have seen is a war crime for which the Russian president bears responsibility,” Scholz told reporters following talks with Western leaders on the conflict.

UK to send more artillery weapons to Ukraine

The United Kingdom will give more artillery weapons to Ukraine as the conflict with Russia moves into a new phase, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

“This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery, that is what we will be giving them … in addition to many other forms of support,” Johnson told legislators.

World Bank, IMF leaders to meet with Ukraine ministers to discuss further aid

World Bank President David Malpass will host a meeting on Thursday with Ukraine’s prime minister and finance minister to discuss needed assistance beyond the initial funding provided through the bank and the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank has said.

The meeting will include Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Malpass told an event at the IMF meetings.

Malpass said that Ukraine’s debt burden “has to be worked through and reduced substantially” given the pressures from Russia’s invasion.

UN chief calls for four-day truce in Ukraine

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has denounced Russia’s new offensive and called for a four-day truce to coincide with the onset of Orthodox Holy Week.

“Instead of a celebration of new life, this Easter coincides with a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine,” Guterres told reporters at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

“The intense concentration of forces and firepower makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody and destructive,” he added, before calling for a “humanitarian pause” in fighting from Holy Thursday until Sunday, the date of Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated by most Ukrainians and Russians.

Guterres said the UN was submitting detailed plans to all parties in the conflict and was ready to send humanitarian aid convoys to Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.

IMF slashes global growth forecasts amid Ukraine war

The International Monetary Fund has sharply downgraded its forecast for global growth in 2022 to 3.6 percent due to the “seismic” economic impact of the war in Ukraine.

The fallout from the conflict has been felt most acutely in the world’s poorest nations and threatens to erase recent gains as the global economy had begun to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook.

“The economic effects of the war are spreading far and wide – like seismic waves that emanate from the epicentre of an earthquake,” IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said.

In January, prior to Russia’s invasion, the IMF had predicted a 4.4 percent growth rate for the global economy in the 12 months ahead.

Lavrov says Russia not seeking ‘regime change’ in Ukraine

Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow is not seeking “regime change” in Ukraine despite earlier calls from the Kremlin for Ukrainian forces to topple the government in Kyiv.

“We have said it repeatedly … We want the Ukrainians themselves [to] decide how they want to live … We want the people to be free,” Sergey Lavrov told Indian television news channel India Today.

He also confirmed Russia’s offensive in Ukraine had entered a new stage aimed at the “full liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics” and ruled out any use of nuclear weapons, stating that Moscow would only use “conventional” munitions as part of what it calls its “special military operation” in the country.

Canada rolls out new Russia sanctions, targets Putin’s daughters

Canada has announced new sanctions on 14 individuals it says are closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “regime”.

Putin’s two adult daughters are among those targeted by the new measures announced by Canada’s foreign ministry.

Ottowa’s move comes after the United States and United Kingdom both announced sanctions against Putin’s daughters – Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova and Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova – earlier this month.

UN to debate Security Council permanent member veto power

The United Nations is set to debate a proposal that calls for the five permanent members of the body’s Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia – to be required to justify any invocation of their veto powers.

The potential reform has been floated for years but has gained new traction following Russia’s invasion.

Read more here.


EU approves aid for companies hit by Russia sanctions

The European Commission has cleared a 20-billion-euro ($21.6bn) German scheme to help companies affected by sanctions against Russia and also approved 836 million euros ($903m) in Polish state aid for the agricultural sector for the same reason.

The European Union’s executive arm said the German measure will be in the form of direct grants, tax or payment advantages, repayable advances, guarantees, loans, equity and hybrid financing to all companies in all sectors, barring the finance industry.

The Polish scheme, in the form of direct grants, will be open to farmers hit by soaring fertilisers costs.

A man is seen near a board showing currency exchange rates in Russia's Saint Petersburg
Western powers have imposed an array of punishing sanctions on Russia [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

President calls on Moldovans to shun Russian ribbon on May 9

Moldova’s president has called for the country’s citizens and opposition politicians to refrain from using Russian symbols during May 9 celebrations to mark victory in World War II.

“It is impossible to combine in the same symbol the memory of lives given for peace and the current inhumane war,” Maia Sandu told a briefing.

In 2020, the pro-Western Sandu was elected to replace pro-Russian Igor Dodon, but his allies still hold influence in the former Soviet republic.

Dodon has urged people to “go on the Victory March with a St George ribbon” despite possible fines, referring to the black and orange striped ribbon which has become a military symbol of Russian patriotism.

Russia ‘methodically carrying out’ its plan in eastern Ukraine

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu says the country’s forces are “methodically carrying out” plans to “liberate” two breakaway regions in Donbas.

Moscow has backed the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics since they were set up after separatists seized swaths of territory in eastern Ukraine in early 2014.

Shoigu’s remarks came as the Ukrainian defence ministry said the aim of Russia’s new offensive was to seize the entirety of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and establish a land link between those territories and the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

The ministry said Moscow also intended to destroy Ukraine’s armed forces.

Ukraine says it receives 76 prisoners of war in swap with Russia

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says Russia has handed over 60 soldiers and 16 civilians to Kyiv in an exchange of prisoners of war.

“This was the fifth exchange of prisoners of war. A total of 76 people,” Iryna Vereshchuk said in a post on Facebook. The swap included 10 Ukrainian officers, she added.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the alleged exchange.

After Russia declares new phase of war, what next?

Having failed to capture Kyiv and other significant areas, Russia is now focused on attacking eastern towns and cities.

Read more here.

Russia expels Dutch and Belgian diplomats in tit-for-tat moves

Russia says it is expelling 36 diplomats from the Netherlands and Belgium in a tit-for-tat response to measures taken against Moscow’s foreign envoys.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had declared 21 diplomats from Belgium and 15 from the Netherlands “persona non grata” and given them two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow also summoned Luxembourg’s envoy, warning him that the Kremlin may decide to take reciprocal measures for the small European state’s own expulsion of Russia’s ambassador.

In total, European countries have kicked out more than 300 Russian embassy staff since Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine in late February.

As families seek truth, Kremlin refuses to discuss Moskva sinking

Relatives of sailors who were on board Russia’s guided-missile cruiser Moskva have been demanding answers about their missing family members following the sinking of the vessel last week.

Read more here.

The Russian Navy's guided missile cruiser Moskva
The 12,500-tonne Moskva was armed with multiple anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles [File: Yoruk Isik/Reuters]

Russia claims to have opened Mariupol evacuation corridor

Russia says it has opened up an evacuation corridor for Ukrainian forces who want to lay down their arms and safely leave the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.

Moscow had earlier called on Ukrainian forces holed up in the plant to surrender by noon Moscow time (09:00 GMT) if they wanted to live.

It is not clear how many Ukrainian troops remain at the site.

Has the war in Ukraine given NATO new purpose?

The war in Ukraine seems to have galvanised the NATO alliance, with a renewed focus on newer members along its eastern flank.

Al Jazeera’s news and current affairs explainer series, Start Here, travelled to Lithuania to explain what’s happening and why. Take a look below.

Talks ‘complicated’ by Mariupol siege: Ukrainian official

Russia’s siege of Mariupol has “complicated” talks between Moscow and Kyiv over ending the war, a Ukrainian negotiator has said.

Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency that he believed Russia was banking on strengthening its negotiating positions with its new offensive in Donbas ahead of further discussions between the two sides.

He added that it was unclear when direct talks might resume.

Five civilians killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv, regional governor says

Five civilians in Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv have been killed by Russian shelling, according to a local official.

Regional governor Oleg Synyehubov said a further 17 civilians were wounded amid a Russian rocket barrage on the city’s centre and its outskirts. It was not immediately clear when the alleged shelling took place.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify Synyehubov’s claim.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has faced persistent Russian attacks since Moscow began its invasion.

A woman is seen crying in Kharkiv
Kharkiv has faced sustained bombardment from Russian forces [File: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

Russian forces seize Kreminna, in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces have taken control of the city of Kreminna in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, its governor says.

Serhiy Haidai told a news briefing that Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from the city. He added that Russian forces were attacking “on all sides” and said authorities were trying to evacuate civilians.

“It is impossible to calculate the number of dead among the civilian population. We have official statistics – about 200 dead – but in reality there are many more, ” Haidai said, without making clear what period the estimated death toll covered.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Moscow’s capture of Kreminna, which had a population of more than 18,000 before the war, appears to mark its first major seizure of territory since launching the new offensive in Donbas.

Russian finance minister to lead delegation at G20 meeting

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov will lead Russia’s delegation at this week’s meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 major economies, the country’s finance ministry has said.

G20 host Indonesia said last week that Siluanov had confirmed he planned to attend the meeting on April 20 virtually.

The US has called for Russia to be expelled from the G20 and warned it will boycott some meetings if Russian officials show up.

Luhansk governor: Police officer killed by grenade during attempted arrest

One Ukrainian police officer has been killed and two others wounded after they tried to apprehend a suspect armed with a hand grenade in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, its governor has said.

Serhiy Haidai said in a post on Telegram that authorities were attempting to “locate and detain” the individual following the incident in the city of Lysychansk.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify Haidai’s claim.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Russia accuses West of trying to prolong Ukraine conflict

Russia’s defence minister has accused the US and other Western countries of doing everything possible to drag out Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The increasing volume of foreign arms supplies clearly demonstrates their intentions to provoke the Kyiv regime to fight to the last Ukrainian standing,” Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency.

Ukrainian officials: 205 children have been killed, 367 wounded

At least 367 Ukrainian children have been wounded in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office says.

The office said in its latest daily update that the number of children killed was unchanged from Monday, with the death toll standing at 205.

Russian forces have also damaged 1,141 educational buildings, 99 of which were completely destroyed, it added.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Greece announces seizure of Russian oil tanker

Greek authorities say they have seized a Russian tanker in the Aegean Sea as part of European Union sanctions imposed against Russia.

The Greek coast guard said the Russian-flagged Pegas, an oil tanker with 19 Russian crew members on board, was seized on April 15 and is currently anchored in the Bay of Karystos, on the southern coast of the island of Evia. The coast guard said the seizure order concerned the ship itself, and not its cargo.

The EU, of which Greece is a member, has imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow in recent weeks. The measures include import and export bans for a wide variety of goods and ban Russian-flagged ships from accessing EU ports.

INTERACTIVE- Which countries have sanctioned Russia - APRIL 6

Moscow: UN chief hasn’t tried to contact Putin since start of war

Moscow says Guterres, the UN secretary-general, has not tried to get in touch with Putin since the start of Moscow’s offensive.

“No one has been in touch, neither through the permanent mission of Russia to the UN nor directly with the foreign ministry,” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said.

Russia restricts access to HRW’s website: Report

Russia’s communications regulator has restricted domestic access to Human Rights Watch’s website, the TASS news agency reports.

The move came after the US-based rights group published information concerning the conduct of Russian forces in Ukraine that was deemed by Roskomnadzor to be false, TASS reported, citing the regulator.

Russian offensive will fail, Ukrainian official says

Russia’s new offensive in eastern Ukraine is proceeding “very cautiously” and Moscow will not be able to achieve its ambition of seizing the Donbas, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised address that Russian troops were trying to find “sensitive spots” in Ukraine’s defences. But he claimed that Moscow does “not have enough strength” to break through.

“Their offensive will fail – I give you a 99 percent guarantee,” Arestovych said.

Russia calls on Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to surrender

Russia has called on Ukrainian forces holed up in the Azovstal metallurgical plant in the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol to surrender by noon Moscow time (09:00 GMT).

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed to remain alive,” the defence ministry said.

The demand came after Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Moscow-backed separatist forces as saying that they were trying to storm the plant.

INTERACTIVE : Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Mariupol DAY 55

Russia raids include missile attacks on Donbas

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces carried out dozens of air raids in eastern Ukraine overnight, including missile attacks that hit 13 positions in parts of Donbas.

The ministry said other air raids had hit “60 military assets of Ukraine”, including in towns close to the eastern frontline.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the claims.

Russia ‘attacked 1,260 targets in Ukraine overnight’

Russia’s defence ministry says Russian missile and artillery forces struck 1,260 targets in Ukraine overnight.

Russian anti-aircraft forces also downed a Ukrainian MiG-29 jet in Donetsk, the ministry said.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the claims.

China-Russia cooperation is resilient: Diplomat

China has told Russia it will continue to increase “strategic coordination” with it regardless of international volatility, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng gave this assurance to the Russian ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, on Monday, the statement said.

Le cited the nearly 30 percent increase in China-Russia trade in the first three months of this year as evidence of the “resilience and endogenous power” of the cooperation between the two countries, according to the statement.

UK unlikely to get involved in prisoner swap

A British minister has said the UK is not interested in helping Russia when asked about the prospect of swapping a pro-Russian politician from Ukraine for two British fighters captured by Russian forces.

The Britons appeared on Russian state TV on Monday and asked to be exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian ally of Putin being held by the Ukrainian authorities.

Asked on Sky News if the government would get involved with a swap, the UK’s Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said: “We’re actually … sanctioning people who are close to the Putin regime, we’re not going to be looking at how we can help Russia.”

Lewis said he did not want to comment on the specific situation of the two men, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin.

“We always have responsibility for British citizens … We’ve got to get the balance right in Ukraine and that’s why I say to anybody: Do not travel illegally to Ukraine,” Lewis said.

US seeks to seize superyacht linked to Russian billionaire in Fiji

The US is seeking to seize a superyacht – suspected of belonging to a Russian oligarch – that is currently docked in Fiji, according to an application for a restraining order filed by the Pacific nation’s public prosecutor.

The luxury vessel, the Amadea, is widely believed to be owned by Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, who is sanctioned by the US and the EU.

It arrived in Fiji a week ago after leaving Mexico 18 days earlier and crossing the Pacific.

The luxury vessel the Amadea at port.
The Amadea is widely believed to be owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov [File: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg]

No civilian evacuations for third day: Official

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says there will be no humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in the country for a third consecutive day.

“Intense shelling continues in the Donbas. In Mariupol, the Russians refuse to provide a corridor for the exit of civilians in the direction of Berdyansk,” Vereshchuk said on Telegram.

“We’re continuing the difficult negotiations for humanitarian corridors in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions”, she added.

Firefighters work to extinguish multiple fires after a Russian attack in Kharkiv
Firefighters work to extinguish multiple fires after a Russian attack in Kharkiv [File: Felipe Dana/AP Photo]

Ukrainian mayor describes ‘hard’ interrogation by Russian captors

The mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol has described undergoing hours of “hard” interrogations when held for almost a week by Russian forces last month, before he was released as part of a prisoner exchange with Kyiv.

“I understood that for Russians my life and the lives of civilians were worth zero,” Ivan Fedorov told Reuters in Rome on Sunday, a month after his release.

“They came to me at night with five or seven soldiers and spoke for about four or five hours, hard dialogue,” Fedorov said. “They wanted to make an example of me about what would happen if we did not agree to what the Russians wanted.”

Japan to send gas masks and hazmat suits to Ukraine

Japan will send gas masks, hazmat suits and drones to Ukraine amid growing concern about the use of chemical weapons by the Russian military.

Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan is sending the anti-chemical-warfare equipment at the request of the Ukrainian government.

Japan last month provided bulletproof vests, helmets and other nonlethal arms equipment to Ukraine as an exception to Tokyo’s ban on arms exports to countries in conflict. The shipment has raised controversy in Japan, whose pacifist constitution renounces war.

IMF, World Bank leaders discuss food crisis

Leaders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are meeting in Washington, DC, to grapple with how Russia’s war on Ukraine is affecting food insecurity and prices.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will convene a Tuesday morning meeting with leaders from the IMF, World Bank, Group of Seven and Group of 20 to “call on international financial institutions to accelerate and deepen their response” to countries affected by food issues exacerbated by Russia’s aggression, the US Department of the Treasury said.

Russia focused on breaking defence lines in Donetsk, Luhansk: Military

Russia continues its offensive in the east “to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk” regions, as well as to maintain a land corridor with the temporarily occupied Crimea, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has said.

“The main efforts of the enemy are focused on breaking through the defence of Ukrainian troops in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, as well as establishing full control over the city of Mariupol,” the military said in a Facebook post.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the military said it repulsed seven enemy attacks, destroyed 10 tanks, 18 armoured units and eight vehicles and one artillery system.

Russia’s Belgorod attacked from Ukraine: Governor

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region says one person has been wounded in shelling originating from “the Ukrainian side”.

“There was shelling from the Ukrainian side of the [Russian] village of Golovchino, Graivoronsky district,” Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram. “There is destruction. I will give more detailed information later.”

Earlier in April, Gladkov had accused Ukraine of attacking and setting fire to an oil depot in the region, which injured eight people.

Ukraine has denied responsibility for the attack.

Fire at an oil depot in Belgorod region, Russia.
Fire at an oil depot in Belgorod region, Russia [File: Photo released by Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service via AP]

Biden to meet ‘allies’ on Ukraine

The US president will convene a meeting of allies to discuss the Ukraine conflict Tuesday, the White House said, after Kyiv announced Russia had launched a new offensive in the east of the country.

An official told the AFP news agency that the meeting “is part of our regular coordination with allies and partners in support of Ukraine”, without naming who would be included on the video call.

The White House said the meeting would also cover “efforts to hold Russia accountable”.

Explosions heard in Mykolaiv

Air raid sirens have been activated in the Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, with several reports of explosions heard.

“All under cover!” Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych wrote on Facebook about an hour ago.

He had posted similar alerts throughout the night.

On Monday afternoon, Sienkevych wrote that Russian missiles had hit three homes.

“Two of them can’t be restored anymore. It’s only a miracle that none of the residents received serious damage. Most people were evacuated before this hit,” he wrote.

Russia has forcibly removed 40,000 civilians from Mariupol: Mayor

Mariupol’s mayor says about 40,000 civilians had been forcibly moved to Russia or Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine.

“Unfortunately I have to declare that as of today they are forcibly deporting” residents, Vadym Boychenko told Ukrainian television. “We have verified through the municipal register that they have already deported over 40,000 people.”

Al Jazeera has not been able to verify this claim. Russia has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine.

Russia unlikely to be more successful in east Ukraine than before: Think tank

Russia’s eastern offensive is unlikely to be “dramatically more successful” than previous campaigns, but “Russian forces may be able to wear down Ukrainian defenders or achieve limited gains”, the Institute for the Study of War has said.

The US-based institute’s latest report noted Russia’s forces did not take the necessary operational pause to reconstitute and properly integrate damaged units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine into its eastern operation.

“Russian forces withdrawn from around Kyiv and going back to fight in Donbas have, at best, been patched up and filled out with soldiers from other damaged units,” the report said. Its military “has few, if any, cohesive units not previously deployed to Ukraine to funnel into new operations”, it added.

‘Whole of Europe less secure’: Moldovan foreign minister

Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu has told his US counterpart that “everyone in Europe feels less secure than just two months ago”.

Popescu made these comments before his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, DC. The foreign ministers discussed Moldova’s democratic reforms and its response to the refugee crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken said Moldova’s humanitarian response to the refugees was “extraordinary”. The UN estimates Moldova has taken more than 400,000 refugees from Ukraine since the start of the invasion. It also estimates refugees now represent close to 4 per cent of Moldova’s population.

Secretary Blinken emphasised the US would continue to assist Moldova in addressing the economic impacts of the crisis and advancing democratic reforms.

Nearly one-third of Ukraine’s infrastructure damaged: Official

Russia’s invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30 per cent of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100bn, a Ukrainian minister has said.

Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov told Reuters the war had affected “20 to 30 per cent of all infrastructure with varying degrees of damage, with different levels of destruction”.

Kubrakov said more than 300 bridges on national roads had been destroyed or damaged, more than 8,000km of roads had to be repaired or rebuilt and dozens of railway bridges had been blown up. He added everything could be rebuilt in two years “if everyone works quickly”.

Firefighter works at a stadium damaged by Russian shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine
A firefighter works at a stadium damaged by Russian shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022 (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Ukraine takes back areas around Izyum in Kharkiv region

Ukraine says its military has taken back several settlements around the strategically positioned city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region, the state news agency Ukrinform reports.

“A number of settlements have been liberated by the Ukrainian military as a result of intense hostilities,” Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzianyk said.

Izyum’s strategic position as a gateway to the Donbas has seen Russian troops concentrating in the area. “They will try to start an offensive on the east, particularly from there,” Motuzianyk said.

President Zelenskyy said Russia’s feared eastern offensive has begun.

EU membership integral part of Ukraine’s future: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s membership in the EU is integral to the “strategic vision” for its post-war reconstruction, Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

He confirmed reports yesterday that Ukraine had completed the questionnaire that is the starting point for the EU to decide on membership for Kyiv.

“Each country that joined the European Union went through the same procedure with the questionnaire. The only difference is that it took them years, and we completed it in a little more than a week,” Zelenskyy said.

“We will provide the second part of the answers shortly. And we hope that Europe’s decision in response will be quick,” he added.

UN confirms 4,890 civilian casualties in Ukraine

The UN human rights body has confirmed 4,890 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

The latest figures from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) show 2,072 people have been killed and 2,818 injured.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the OHCHR statement said, adding the actual casualty figures are “considerably higher”.

Turkey’s Erdogan urges negotiations to end conflict

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged dialogue to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, saying he believes “that a peaceful solution can be found through dialogue based on protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

“We will keep working to bring the negotiations in Istanbul to a successful outcome that will satisfy the parties and the international community,” Erdogan tweeted.

The UN’s aid chief, Martin Griffiths, said earlier that he would travel to Turkey this week to discuss with Erdogan and other officials the prospects of hosting humanitarian talks between Ukraine and Russia.

New images provide clues to fate of Russia’s flagship Moskva

There are still conflicting accounts about what happened to the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, which sank late last week.

Ukraine says its missiles hit the warship, but Russia maintains it sank while being towed away after a fire on board.

Here, Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull examines images that may provide some answers:

Ukraine hit by ‘most intensive’ Russian attacks in weeks: EU official

The EU’s foreign policy chief has said Ukraine is being hit by “the most intensive [Russian] missile attacks” in weeks, notably in the Luhansk region.

Josep Borrell said major cities such as Kharkiv are being attacked “indiscriminately” while shelling in Lviv and other areas in western Ukraine “show that no part of the country is spared from the Kremlin’s onslaught”.

“The EU actively supports the work of the International Criminal Court and measures to ensure accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. There can be no impunity for war crimes,” Borell said in a statement released before Ukraine said Russia’s large offensive in the east had begun.

‘We will defend ourselves’: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president has remained defiant, vowing that Ukrainian troops will fight back against Russia’s offensive in the country’s east.

“No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves,” Zelenskyy said, as he confirmed that Moscow’s push had begun.

Biden has ‘no plans’ to visit Kyiv: White House

US President Joe Biden is not planning to visit Kyiv, despite Ukraine’s Zelenskyy urging him to demonstrate US support by travelling to the capital, the White House has said.

“There [are] no plans for the president to go. Let me just reiterate that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

A string of European leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have made the trip to Kyiv and met with the Ukrainian president.

Russian media narrative shifts to highlight struggle with NATO: Analyst

Donnacha O Beachain, professor at Dublin City University, says Russian state media’s narrative on the war in Ukraine is changing.

“There’s a large amount of discussion now on Russian state media about why this war is taking so long,” said O Beachain, who specialises in Russian history.

What Russian authorities have called a “special military operation” in Ukraine has now dragged on for nearly two months and is being framed as “a proxy war between Russia and NATO” in which “Russia itself is in danger”, he told Al Jazeera.

US treasury secretary to meet Ukraine’s prime minister

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal during this week’s big meetings of global economic leaders in Washington, DC.

The war in Ukraine will take centre stage at the IMF and World Bank meetings. On Tuesday, Yellen will convene a panel of finance ministers, the international development banks and other institutions to talk about how to use resources to address food insecurity.

Experts have raised concerns about global food shortages, as Kyiv and Moscow are important food suppliers.

Situation getting ‘worse and worse’ in Kharkiv: Resident

Denys Ganzha, a member of a youth advisory council to Ukraine’s president, says the situation in the eastern city of Kharkiv is worsening, as residents brace for Russia’s new offensive.

“For today, it was recommended to stay indoors for the whole day,” Ganzha told Al Jazeera from a shelter in the city where he is staying. Very few people were in the streets and businesses were closed, he said.

“But I’m telling you, the people here they [have found] ways to make sure that they continue their lives, that they help the army, that they help other people,” Ganzha said.

Russia ‘confident’ it is close to gaining full control of Mariupol: Correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, says there have been reports of scattered civilian deaths and attacks in the country’s east as the Russian forces’ offensive gets under way.

“Now we’ve had this official announcement from the president himself … saying that the battle of Donbas has started,” said Stratford, adding that “we have seen what can only be described as an escalation” in Kharkiv and other areas.

“There have been increasing claims over the last few days or so by the Russians that the Ukrainians have no chance left in Mariupol … There is fighting going on there, but we understand that the Russians are pretty confident that they are close to full control of that city.”

Mariupol’s city council said earlier that at least 1,000 civilians – mostly women, children and the elderly – were hiding in underground shelters beneath the vast Azovstal steel plant in the besieged port city.

A view of graves in Mariupol
A view shows graves of civilians killed in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 18, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Top US official travelling to Brussels will discuss Ukraine with EU allies

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to the Belgian capital this week for joint US-EU meetings on China and the Indo-Pacific region, the State Department has said.

Sherman will also meet with Washington’s NATO and EU allies in Brussels “to discuss our continued close coordination on Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine and other global issues”, the department said in a statement.

France’s Macron says talks with Putin stalled after atrocities discovered

French President Emmanuel Macron says dialogue with his Russian counterpart Putin has stalled after mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.

“Since the massacres we have discovered in Bucha and in other towns, the war has taken a different turn, so I did not speak to him again directly since, but I don’t rule out doing so in the future,” Macron told France 5 television.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine, but images of bodies lining the streets of Bucha and other towns near the capital Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from the region drew global condemnation.

vladimir putin
Putin has denied targeting civilians [Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters]

Zelenskyy speaks to leaders of Croatia, Bulgaria

Ukraine’s president says he discussed “problems of navigation in the Black Sea” in talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.

“Thanked for supporting Ukraine, in particular our accession to the #EU, as well as for a strong position regarding sanctions on Russia,” Zelenskyy tweeted.

He said in a separate tweet that he also spoke to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, thanking him for “important defensive assistance” to Ukraine.

Fifth shipment of US military aid expected to arrive in Ukraine

The White House says four planes have delivered US military assistance to Ukraine over the course of the weekend, and a fifth was due to arrive.

“Another one is supposed to arrive today, if it hasn’t already, from the $800m package” of additional American aid to Kyiv announced last week, said Psaki, the White House spokeswoman.

Read more about what’s in that US military package here.

Members of Ukrainian volunteer corps sit next to a howitzer
Members of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps sit next to a howitzer on March 27, 2022 [Stanislav Yurchenko/Reuters]

US considering additional sanctions on Russia

The Biden administration is continuing “to review and consider additional sanctions” against Russia.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said existing US measures have led to a “squeeze” on the Russian economy that Biden and senior administration officials had intended.

“We are continuing to review and I expect we’ll have more in the coming days,” she told reporters.

Several dead in shelling in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk regions: Officials

Russian shelling in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region has killed four people, Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on his Telegram channel.

Four other people also died as they tried to escape the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, the governor, said on Telegram. Russian forces had earlier captured Kreminna.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports.

‘Battle of the Donbas’ has started, says Ukraine’s Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president says Russian forces have launched their assault on the eastern Donbas region.

“We can now say that Russian forces have started the battle of the Donbas, for which they have long prepared,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Earlier, the chief of staff to Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram that the “second phase of the war has started” and assured Ukrainians that the country’s forces could hold off the Russians.

“Believe in our army, it is very strong,” Andriy Yermak wrote.

US to begin training Ukrainians on howitzer cannons

The United States plans to begin training Ukrainians on how to operate howitzer artillery systems in the coming days, according to a senior defence official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the howitzer training would take place outside Ukraine.

The Biden administration recently announced a new $800m weapons package for Ukraine to help the country bolster its defences against an expected Russian offensive in the east. Read more here.

Ukraine says it has seen signs Russian offensive in east has begun

Ukraine’s armed forces command says it believes Russia started a new push for control of the east on Monday, increasing the intensity of attacks.

“This morning [Monday], along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defences,” Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments.

That was echoed by the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai. “It’s hell. The offensive has begun, the one we’ve been talking about for weeks. There’s constant fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, fighting in other peaceful cities,” he said on Facebook.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Monday, April 18 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies