Ukraine latest updates: ‘Putin agrees to UN role in evacuations’

Ukraine news from April 26: UN says Putin agrees ‘in principle’ for UN to help with evacuations from Mariupol.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, Russia, on April 26, 2022 [Sputnik/Vladimir Astapkovich/Kremlin via Reuters]
  • The United Nations says Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed “in principle” to UN involvement in evacuating civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol.
  • Russia’s Gazprom will halt gas supplies to Poland via the Yamal pipeline from Wednesday, Poland’s PGNiG gas firm says.
  • United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls for a ceasefire agreement “as soon as possible” during talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.
  • Russia warns the conflict in Ukraine could escalate into World War III, says Western weapons sent to its neighbour “will be a legitimate target”.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 62

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 Tuesday, April 26:

Russia’s Gazprom to halt shipments to Bulgaria: Ministry

Russia’s Gazprom has told Bulgaria that, similar to steps taken against Poland, it will halt its shipments of gas to the country from Wednesday.

“Bulgargaz received a notification today, April 26, that natural gas supplies from Gazprom Export will be suspended starting April 27,” Bulgaria’s economy ministry said late Tuesday in a statement.

“The Bulgarian side has fully met its obligations and has made all payments required under its current contract in a timely manner, strictly and in accordance with its terms,” it added.

Guterres concerned by Transnistria reports

The UN says Secretary-General Guterres has expressed concerns about reports of attacks in Transnistria “and urges all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions that could escalate tensions”.

UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said that Guterres has called for efforts to lower tensions throughout the region.

UK’s Johnson does not want war escalating beyond Ukraine

British PM Boris Johnson says the United Kingdom does not want war “to escalate beyond Ukraine’s borders,” rejecting an allegation by Moscow that the West is fighting a proxy conflict with Russia.

But Johnson said Ukrainians “are being attacked from within Russian territory” and “have a right to protect and defend themselves” by striking inside Russia.

The UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson [File: Frank Augstein/AP Photo]

Canada to alter sanctions law to allow paying compensation from sanctioned assets

The Canadian government will change its sanctions law to allow for seized and sanctioned foreign assets to be redistributed as compensation to victims or to help rebuild a foreign state from war, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said.

“Today, we are seeking the capacity to not only seize but to allow for the forfeiture of the assets of sanctioned individuals and entities and to allow us to compensate victims with the proceeds,” Joly said in a statement on Tuesday. “These changes would make Canada’s sanctions regime the first in the G7 to allow these actions.”

US calls talk of nuclear escalation by Russia irresponsible

The US Department of State has criticised Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments about the potential of a nuclear war, saying loose talk about nuclear escalation was the “height of irresponsibility”.

Slovakia leader calls on Russian soldiers to stop war in Ukraine

President Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia in a video has addressed invading Russian forces urging them to stop the war in Ukraine.

In the three-minute video in Russian with the subtitles in Slovak, Caputova condemned war crimes against women, children and civilians.

“You justify your invasion by talking about ‘liberation,’” Caputova told them. “How were you intending to ‘liberate’ Tatiana from Irpin, killed by a Russian grenade together with her two children? Or Olena from Hostomel, raped by one of you in a car?” she asked in the video.

Putin agrees in principle to help evacuate civilians in Mariupol steel plant: AJ correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, said a statement from the UN addressing the meeting between Putin and UN chief Guterres noted that the Russian president in principle agreed to allow the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – together with the UN, the International Red Cross, Russia’s defense ministry and Ukrainian officials.

Moreover, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “Follow-on discussions will be had with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry.”

Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works
Smoke rises above a plant in the Azovstal steelworks during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on April 25, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

France backs Moldova amid attacks

France says it fully backed the territorial integrity of Moldova after a series of blasts in a Russian-backed separatist region raised fears of a spillover from the war in Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Moldovan counterpart Nicu Popescu that France was “worried” about the reports of explosions in the  over the last two days, the foreign ministry said.

“He reaffirmed France’s full support for the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova in the face of the destabilisation risks to which it may be exposed,” it added.

Gazprom informs Poland PGNiG it will halt gas supplies: Statement

Russia’s Gazprom has informed Poland’s PGNiG that it will halt gas supplies along the Yamal pipeline at 08:00 CET (06:00 GMT) on Wednesday, PGNiG said in a statement published on Tuesday.

PGNiG added it will take steps to reinstate the flow of gas according to the Yamal contract and the halt of supplies was a breach of that contract.

It said it has the right to pursue damages over the breach of contract.

In meeting with Guterres, Putin hopes talks with Ukraine will yield positive result

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country and Ukraine were continuing talks in an online format.

At the start of his meeting with UN Secretary-General Guterres in Moscow, Putin also said he hopes that the talks would yield a positive result.

Netherlands to provide howitzers to Ukraine: Local media

The Dutch government will provide a “limited number” of armoured howitzers to Ukraine to support its war effort, ANP news agency has reported, citing the Dutch defence minister.

The howitzers, described as among the most powerful the Dutch army has, are to be delivered in cooperation with Germany, the report said.

Ukrainian armed forces self-propelled howitzers fire at positions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Ukrainian armed forces’ self-propelled howitzers fire at positions near the settlement of Makariv, Ukraine [File: Maksim Levin/Reuters]

Cause of Transdniestria attacks not clear: Pentagon chief

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has said the US was “not really sure” the reason for the series of attacks in the Russia-backed Transdniestria region.

“It’s something that we will stay focused on”, he told reporters.

US welcomes German pledge to send anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine

US Secretary of Defense Austin has welcomed Germany’s decision to, for the first time, send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

“I think it’s significant that Germany announced that it is going to provide 50 Cheetah systems,” Austin said after talks at Ramstein base in Germany, calling the Gepard anti-aircraft guns by their English name.

“I think those systems will provide real capability for Ukraine. And in terms of what else Germany will do going forward, again, that’s a sovereign decision, one the German leadership will make, and I don’t want to speculate on that,” he added.

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said Germany had approved the delivery of Gepard tanks equipped with anti-aircraft guns from the stocks of company KMW on Monday.

Recent attacks can be ‘traced’ back to Ukraine: Transnistria leader

The leader of Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselsky has suggested elements in Ukraine were to blame for a series of recent attacks in the region.

“As the first conclusions of urgent operational and investigative measures suggest, these attacks can be traced to Ukraine … I presume that those who plotted these attacks pursue the goal of drawing Transnistria into the conflict. I can say for sure that these attempts will fail,” Tass news agency reported, according to a statement posted by Krasnoselsky’s press office.

Moreover, he called on the Ukrainian government “to investigate the facts of the illegal relocation of particular combat groups and the terror attacks that they committed”, Tass wrote.

Switzerland vetos German request to re-export tank ammunition to Ukraine

Switzerland’s government says it has vetoed the re-export of Swiss-made ammunition used in Gepard anti-aircraft tanks that Germany is sending to Ukraine.

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) confirmed it had received two requests from Berlin to transfer to Ukraine ammunition it had previously received from Switzerland.

One concerned 35mm ammunition for the Gepard tank, the Reuters news agency quoted SECO as saying, and the other concerned 12.7mm ammunition.

“Both inquiries by Germany as to whether the ammunition received from Switzerland may be transferred to Ukraine were answered in the negative with reference to Swiss neutrality and the mandatory rejection criteria of Swiss war material legislation,” SECO said.

Five things to know about Transnistria

Click here for Al Jazeera’s handy explainer on Moldova’s breakaway region and why it matters in the context of the continuing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

A statue of communist leader Lenin is seen in front of the parliament building in Tiraspol, in Moldova's self-proclaimed separatist Transnistria,
While internationally recognised as part of Moldova, the Russia-backed breakaway region of Transnistria has been under the control of separatist authorities since 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

US, allies to meet monthly on arming Ukraine

The United States and its allies will meet once a month to discuss Ukraine’s defence needs to battle invading Russian troops, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has said.

“Today’s gathering will become a monthly Contact Group on Ukraine’s self-defence,” he said following a meeting of officials from more than 40 countries at the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, the headquarters for the US Air Force in Europe.

UN nuclear chief visits Chernobyl nuclear plant

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has warned Russian forces’ seizure of Ukraine’s defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant could have led to an “accident” at the site decades after a reactor exploded there.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), made the remarks while on a visit to the facility to mark the anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

“The situation in 1986 was completely different. [But] In this case, what we had was a nuclear safety situation which was not normal, and could have developed into an accident,” he said.

Russian troops moved into the radiation-contaminated Chernobyl exclusion zone in February on their way toward the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and withdrew late last month as Russia switched its focus to fighting in eastern Ukraine. The site is now back in Ukrainian hands and communications which were disrupted have been restored.

Washington ‘largely aligned’ with Kyiv on what Ukraine needs: Blinken

Washington and Kyiv are “largely aligned” on what Ukraine needs to continue its fight against Russia’s invasion, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he discussed those needs with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his recent trip to Ukraine.

He also said weapons were being delivered more quickly. In the past, Blinken said it “needed weeks” to get military equipment to the Ukrainians who needed it.

Now, he said, it often takes only 72 hours between President Joe Biden deciding to send support and the time it is in the hands of Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine’s long-persecuted Roma minority joins war effort

Members of the historically marginalised Roma community are proudly serving in Ukraine’s army as it battles against Russia’s forces, but some fear further discrimination awaits them when the war ends.

Read more here.

506.jpg: Viktor Ilchak (left), a wounded tank mechanic, says that at the front there are no nationalities;"we are all friends".
Ukraine’s minority Roma population – estimated to number 400,000 people – has contributed enthusiastically to the country’s war effort [Kamila Kielar/Al Jazeera]

Ukraine warns against attempts to drag Transnistria into war

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has voiced concern about the situation in Transnistria and condemned what it said were attempts by Moscow to drag the region into Russia’s war.

The ministry said in an online statement that a series of incidents, which included several explosions, “coincided with the statements of the Russian military command about their plans to occupy the entire south of Ukraine and establish a land corridor to the Transdniestrian region of Moldova.”

“Ukraine strongly supports the territorial integrity of Moldova in its internationally recognised borders, condemns attempts to involve the Transdniestrian region of Moldova in Russia’s … full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and calls for a de-escalation of the situation,” it said.

‘Friendship of Peoples’ monument dismantled in Ukraine’s capital

Kyiv has begun dismantling a Soviet-era statue that was installed to celebrate the ties between the people of Russia and Ukraine.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced the move to pull down the “Friendship of Peoples” monument in a post on Facebook, saying the work had no place in the city following Russia’s launching of its offensive.

“Russia ‘marked’ its attitude to Ukraine with a barbaric desire to destroy our state and peaceful Ukrainians,” he said.

Ukrainian official accuses Moscow of trying to destabilise Transnistria

A Ukrainian presidential adviser has accused Russia of trying to destabilise Moldova’s breakaway region, where Moscow has had troops permanently stationed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Bad news: If Ukraine falls tomorrow Russian troops will be at Chisinau’s gates,” Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter, citing Moldova’s capital city.

“Good news: Ukraine will definitely ensure strategic security of the region. But we need to work as a team,” he added.

Kyiv fears Transnistria could be used as a launchpad for new attacks on Ukraine.

Russian security official claims Ukraine heading for collapse

The secretary of Russia’s Security Council has said that Western and Ukrainian government policy is leading towards the break-up of Ukraine.

Nikolai Patrushev was quoted by government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta as saying that Russia’s neighbour would collapse into several states due to the positions being adopted by Kyiv and its allies.

No humanitarian corridors operating: Ukrainian official

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says no humanitarian corridors are operating on Tuesday due to there being no break in the fighting.

Iryna Vereshchuk’s remarks came after the UN’s Guterres called for the establishment of corridors to evacuate civilians and deliver aid to conflict zones in Ukraine following talks with Russia’s foreign minister in Moscow.

Putin says Ukraine should ‘take responsibility for people in Mariupol steelworks

Putin has told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during talks by phone that Kyiv should “take responsibility” for the people holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant and again called on Ukrainian fighters there to surrender.

“Prisoners of war are guaranteed life, medical care and treatment in accordance with international legal standards”, the Kremlin said in a statement on the call.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Mariupol DAY 62

Moldovan president warns attacks are an attempt to escalate tensions

Moldova’s president has warned that the spate of attacks in Transnistria are an attempt to escalate tensions, blaming “pro-war factions” within the territory.

Speaking at a news conference after an emergency Security Council meeting, Maia Sandu said she did not plan to talk with the Kremlin about the incidents during the past 24 hours.

Read more here.

Lavrov says it is too early to discuss mediation in talks with Ukraine

Lavrov says it is too early to talk about mediation in talks between Russia and Ukraine but adds that Moscow is committed to a diplomatic solution through the discussions with Kyiv.

Speaking alongside Guterres at a joint news conference following the pair’s meeting, the Russian foreign minister also dismissed a proposal by Ukraine to stage face-to-face talks in Mariupol, calling the suggestion “theatrical”.

Guterres says Mariupol is a ‘crisis within a crisis’

Guterres says he has proposed the establishment of a humanitarian contact group bringing together representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the UN to “look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors” to evacuate civilians.

“Simultaneously, we recognise that we face a crisis within a crisis in Mariupol,” he told the joint news conference alongside Lavrov.

“Thousands of civilians are in dire need of life-saving humanitarian assistance and many of evacuation,” Guterres added.

“The United Nations is ready to fully mobilise its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol.”

Guterres proposed coordinated work with the Red Cross to allow people holed up inside the city’s Azovstal steel plant to leave.

‘The sooner we end this war the better’: UN chief

Guterres says he is visiting Moscow as a “messenger of peace” but warns there are competing viewpoints over Russia’s offensive which are complicating efforts to end the war.

“My objective and my agenda is strictly linked to saving lives and reducing suffering,” he told reporters at the joint news conference in Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meet in Moscow
Guterres has repeatedly called for an end to the conflict in Ukraine [Maxim Shipenkov/Pool via Reuters]

“[But] It is clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine. According to the Russian Federation, what is taking place is a special military operation, with the objectives that were announced. According to the UN … Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity,” Guterres added.

“But it is my deep conviction that the sooner we end this war the better – for the people of Ukraine, for the people of the Russian Federation and those far beyond.”

Finland floats possible joint decision with Sweden on NATO membership

Finland’s foreign minister has said his country and Sweden may reach a joint decision on whether to join the US-led NATO transatlantic military alliance.

Pekka Haavisto’s remarks came as Stockholm conducts an ongoing review of security policy, which includes a view on possible NATO membership, with the results due by mid-May.

Meanwhile, Finland has said it is planning to decide on whether to apply to join the alliance “within weeks” as both countries weigh their longstanding military neutrality in the wake of Russia’s invasion.


US official says Russia weakened by war

A Pentagon spokesman has claimed Russia has a weakened military and is already a weakened state two months after it launched its invasion of Ukraine.

“Its economy is in tatters. Its military has been depleted in many ways, not completely, but certainly, they have suffered casualties and they have suffered losses in this invasion of Ukraine,” John Kirby told CNN.

“We want Russia not to be able to threaten their neighbours again in the future,” he added.

Russia expels three Swedish diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Russia is expelling three Swedish diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to the expulsion of its diplomatic staff by Stockholm, the country’s foreign ministry has announced.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde later said Russia had decided to expel four Swedish diplomats – three from the embassy in Moscow and another at the Swedish consulate in Saint Petersburg – and denounced the move as “unmotivated and disproportionate”.

A protester holds a banner in front of the Russian embassy in Stockholm
A protester holds a banner reading ‘Stop Putin’s aggression against Ukraine’ during a protest outside the Russian embassy in Stockholm on February 23 [File: Paul Wennerholm/TT News Agency via Reuters]

Donetsk governor says two people killed by Russian shelling

Two people have been killed and six others wounded by Russian shelling in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk, according to its governor.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post that one person had been killed in the town of Nyu-York, and another in Travneve. Russian shooting was continuing along the entire front line, he added.

Erdogan tells Putin momentum in talks needs to be maintained

Erdogan has told Putin in a phone call that maintaining the “positive momentum” achieved in talks between Ukraine and Russia earlier this month in Istanbul would benefit all sides, the Turkish leader’s office says.

“President Erdogan, who stated the importance of achieving a ceasefire, of working humanitarian corridors effectively, and of carrying out evacuations in a safe way, noted that Turkey would continue doing its utmost to halt this course of events damaging everyone and ensure lasting peace,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

He also repeated an offer to host the Russian and Ukrainian leaders for peace talks, it said. On Sunday, Erdogan also spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Breakaway Moldovan region raises ‘terrorist threat level’

Transnistria has raised its “terrorist threat level” to red and introduced checkpoints after several blasts in the region, according to a report by the country’s official news agency.

The Russia-backed region has been hit by several attacks in the past day, local authorities claim, after a military unit was targeted, blasts took place at Transdniestria’s state security HQ and two explosions damaged old Soviet-era radio antennae.

Ceasefire needed as soon as possible, UN chief tells Russia

Speaking at the start of talks with Lavrov, Guterres has urged for an agreement on a ceasefire in Ukraine to be brokered as soon as possible.

“We are extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialogue, create the conditions for a ceasefire as soon as possible, create the conditions for a peaceful solution,” the UN chief said in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister in Moscow.

UN chief to press for ceasefire agreement: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says Guterres will attempt to persuade Russia to agree to a truce in Ukraine during his visit to Moscow.

“The secretary-general is going to try and convey the urgency of any kind of a ceasefire that can be had, even if it is a very short-lived one, to try and get as much aid and humanitarian assistance to the areas that are most affected in Ukraine,” Jabbari said.

“There is a sense of urgency … and according to the latest figures from the UN, they have now doubled their request for humanitarian aid to Ukraine to $2.25bn,” she added.

Jabbari said Guterres’s ultimate goal was “to try and end the conflict”, but warned such an outcome was “very unlikely at this stage”.

UN expects 8 million Ukrainians to flee as refugees

The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says it now expects some 8.3 million people to flee Ukraine this year, revising up its previous projection.

UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo’s update came after the agency had initially planned for about four million refugees in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion in late February but this figure was surpassed last month.

She said more than 12.7 million people had now fled their homes since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago, including 7.7 million people displaced internally and more than five million who have left to other countries.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 62 April 26 6GMT

Ukraine can win war, US defence secretary says

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has kicked off talks in Germany with officials from more than 40 other countries by expressing confidence that Ukraine can prevail against Russia in the two-month-old conflict.

“Your resistance has brought inspiration to the free world,” Austin said, as he denounced Russia’s invasion as “indefensible”.

“Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here,” he added.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, the headquarters for the US Air Force in Europe, will see Washington attempt to rally support for arming Ukraine to help it fight off Russia’s latest military assault in the country’s east.

US trying to ‘build broad coalition’ on Ukraine support

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen says the US is “clearly trying to give a signal to Europe mainly, but also other countries, to prop up military support for Ukraine” at the meeting of defence ministers in Germany.

“The US is trying to build this broad coalition of more than 40 countries which goes beyond NATO to include countries from Asia, Africa and the Middle East,” Vaessen said.

“They have been invited here to build this broad coalition, not only for immediate military support for Ukraine, which the US says is really needed, but for long-term military assistance to give Ukraine the security guarantees the US says it needs in the future,” she added.

“It is also significant that this meeting is [being held] in Germany, because Germany has been criticised for not doing enough – until a few days ago, it was very reluctant to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, but just on the eve of this meeting the government decided to send tanks after all.”

IMF official warns Asia to be hit by economic fallout from war

Asia faces a “stagflationary” outlook, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official has warned, pointing to the Ukraine war, soaring commodity prices and China’s economic slowdown as risks to the region.

Read more here.

EU official says further sanctions against Russia expected ‘very soon’

Kadri Simson, the European Union’s energy policy chief, says a sixth package of sanctions against Russia is expected to be agreed upon “very soon”.

The bloc has moved to impose sweeping penalties on Moscow over its attack on Ukraine, alongside the US, the United Kingdom and other Western allies.

INTERACTIVE- Which countries have sanctioned Russia - APRIL 6

Minsk announces joint air force drills with Russia

The Belarusian defence ministry has announced that Russia and Belarus will hold joint drills involving their respective air forces and air defence forces.

The exercises will begin in Belarus on Tuesday and run until Friday, the ministry said.

Moldovan president convenes security meeting over Transnistria explosions

Moldova’s president will lead a meeting of the country’s Supreme Security Council later on Tuesday in response to the Transnistria blasts.

“The Supreme Security Council will meet from 13:00 [10:00 GMT] at the Presidency,” the president’s press office said in a statement. It added that Sandu will hold a press briefing following the meeting.

The announcement came after two explosions damaged Soviet-era radio antennae that broadcast Russian radio from a village in Transnistria, according to local authorities.

Norway to back Ukraine weapons procurement plan

Norway will allocate 400 million krones ($43.5m) to a British-led initiative for buying weapons for Ukraine, the country’s prime minister says.

Jonas Gahr Store told the Norwegian parliament his government may also make additional direct shipments of weapons to Ukraine on top of those it has already made.

A Ukrainian service member holds a Javelin missile system at a position on the front line in the north Kyiv region [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]
Kyiv has repeatedly appealed for additional military support from its allies [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Moscow should launch next phase of Ukraine campaign: Separatist leader

The Russian-backed separatist leader of a breakaway statelet in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region has called for Moscow to launch the next stage of its military campaign in the country after reaching the region’s frontiers.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), as making the remark on a Russian talk show broadcast online.

Russia says overnight raids killed 500 Ukrainian soldiers

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces struck more than 90 military targets in Ukraine overnight, killing at least 500 soldiers and destroying dozens of armoured vehicles, artillery and other military equipment.

The ministry also said its troops had hit two ammunition depots in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region.

There was no immediate response to the claims from Kyiv, while Al Jazeera could not independently verify the ministry’s reports.

Blasts knock out two radio antennae in Moldova’s breakaway region

Two radio antennae in the Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria have been damaged by blasts, the country’s interior ministry has said.

“In the early morning of April 26, two explosions occurred in the village of Maiac, Grigoriopol district: the first at 6:40 and the second at 7:05,” the ministry said in a statement.

Germany to supply Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine: Report

Germany will pledge to supply Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung has reported, in what would be a clear switch in Berlin’s cautious policy on military backing for Kyiv.

The paper said German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht was set to offer the weapons at Tuesday’s meeting with allies at the US’s Ramstein Air Base.

UK minister says no imminent threat of escalation in Ukraine conflict

British armed forces minister James Heappey has said he does not believe there is an imminent threat of escalation in the war.

“Lavrov’s trademark over the course of 15 years or so that he has been the Russian foreign secretary has been that sort of bravado. I don’t think that right now there is an imminent threat of escalation,” Heappey told BBC Television.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told the world not to underestimate the considerable risks of nuclear conflict and said NATO’s supply of weapons to Ukraine meant that the Western alliance was engaged in a proxy war with Russia.

Heappey said the wider international community, not NATO, was providing military support to Ukraine.

India ready to step up on global issues: Jaishankar

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar says his country is prepared to take a much bigger role in global affairs and would help the world with more supplies of wheat if trade rules allowed.

“India is prepared to step forward in a much more substantive way on the big global issues, including in the multilateral arena,” Jaishankar told a conference as various ministers from Europe and Asia asked him about New Delhi’s stance on the Ukraine war, China’s rise and other issues.

He said India had already raised exports of wheat to make up for supply disruptions from the Black Sea region and could do more if World Trade Organization rules allow.

Erdogan to speak with Putin: Reports

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The call between the two leaders comes as the UN chief makes a visit to Moscow for talks with Putin.

Russian forces trying to encircle Ukrainian positions in east: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Russian forces are likely attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the east of Ukraine.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said heavy fighting has been reported as “Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and the east”.

The two cities are in the Donetsk region.

It added, “Ukrainian forces have been preparing defences in Zaporizhzhia in preparation for a potential Russian attack from the south.”

Could Asia save Putin from an EU energy ban?

Russia’s president earlier this month delivered a crisp message to leaders of his country’s energy sector: they needed to plan for a decline in Western imports by shifting their focus from Europe to Asia.

But analysts say that may not be so simple.

A cocktail of infrastructure limitations, political pressure and poor economic demand could prevent Asian markets from absorbing energy supplies that would otherwise be headed to Europe if Brussels indeed bans all Russian hydrocarbons.

Find out more in this report from Charu Sudan Kasturi.

UN to vote on Security Council veto reforms

The 193 members of the UN General Assembly are set to vote on a resolution that would require the five permanent members of the Security Council to justify their use of the veto in future.

Discussions of veto reform are rare and controversial, but have been revived by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Directly targeting the US, China, Russia, France and the UK – which are the only holders of the veto right – the measure would “make them pay a higher political price” when they opt to use their veto to strike down a Security Council resolution, said an ambassador from a country that does not have the veto.

The measure was introduced by Liechtenstein. About 60 countries, including the US, have joined in co-sponsoring the reform.

Austin’s comments on weakening Russia about preventing Ukraine takeover: US

The White House says US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was referring to Washington’s determination to prevent Russia from subsuming Ukraine when he said he wanted to see Moscow “weakened”.

“The president’s view and Secretary Austin’s view that we are going to do everything we can to push back on President Putin’s aspirations to subsume Ukraine, to take over their territorial integrity and their sovereignty, and aspirations he had as of two months ago to go beyond that,” said Jen Psaki, the White House spokeswoman.

Moscow accuses Croatia of being ‘anti-Russian’

Russia’s foreign ministry has accused Croatia of carrying out “anti-Russian” policies, saying it failed to provide “humanitarian” passage for 24 Russian diplomats and embassy staff who were expelled from the country over the war in Ukraine.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said on Monday that the government of Croatia is “systematically destroying bilateral relations”, according to the TASS news agency.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic hit back, saying that Zakharova’s claims were Russian propaganda and that the expelled Russians had already left the country, probably via neighbouring Serbia.

Woman says goodbye to relative aboard a train travelling to Poland, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa.
A woman says goodbye to a relative on board a train to Poland, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa, April 25, 2022 [Igor Tkachenko/Reuters]

Russia checking if Wikimedia Foundation falls under foreign media law

TASS says Moscow is checking whether the Wikimedia Foundation falls under the “law on foreign persons’ activities on the internet in Russia”.

It cited a message from Roskomnadzor watchdog, which said it had requested the daily number of Russian users of Wikipedia.

If the company has more than 500,000 daily users, the law stipulates “it must create a branch, open a representative office or establish a Russian legal entity that fully represents the interests of the parent company and is the main channel for its interaction with Russian regulators in the Russian Federation”.

Four dead, nine wounded in Donetsk: Governor

At least four people have been killed and nine injured in Ukraine’s Donetsk as a result of Russian shelling, according to the region’s governor.

Pavel Kirilenko said on Telegram that the victims included two children.

The nine-year-old girl and the 14-year-old boy were killed in the town of Lyman, he said. One person died in the town of Marinka and another in Yampil.

Biden may add global food aid request to Ukraine package: Bloomberg

The Biden administration is weighing swift action to ramp up global food assistance, according to Bloomberg.

Citing people familiar with the discussions, Bloomberg said the White House is considering attaching a global food aid request to the military aid package for Ukraine that US President Joe Biden is preparing to send to Congress as a means to move the relief quickly.

Growing alarm about how to deal with rapidly rising food costs is driving bipartisan support in Congress for providing as much as $5bn in aid, the report added.

Russian aggression in Ukraine is a ‘direct threat’ to Europe: Official

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has described Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as a direct threat to Europe’s security, according to The Associated Press news agency.

“Targeting and killing innocent civilians. Redrawing borders by force. Subjugating the will of a free people. This goes against core principles enshrined in the UN Charter. In Europe, we see Russia’s aggression as a direct threat to our security,” von der Leyen said in a speech at the Raisina Dialogue, a geopolitics conference in India’s New Delhi.

She said Moscow’s “unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine” was bound to be a “strategic failure” and the EU was “doing all we can to help Ukraine fight for its freedom”.

Lift manufacturer reassessing future in Russia

Lift manufacturer Otis Worldwide Corp has announced it is seeking alternatives to business in Russia.

“We have growing concerns about the long-term sustainability of Otis’s operations in Russia, especially with mounting regulations and supply chain disruptions,” Otis Chief Executive Judith Marks said in a conference call with industry analysts on Monday.

More than 300 companies have pulled out of Russia and international supply chains have largely shut down after container company Maersk, UPS, DHL and other transportation firms exited the country.

Two attacks on Kherson prevented: Ukraine army

The Ukrainian army says it has prevented two attacks in the Kherson region over the past two days.

In a statement on Facebook, the General Staff of the Armed Forces said Ukrainian troops also killed 48 personnel and destroyed 13 pieces of enemy equipment, including two tanks.

It added that in the Black Sea, Russia was using its submarines to “terrorise civilian shipping” so it would be free to lift its sunken warship, the Moskva.

NATO warships to train with Finland’s navy

Three NATO warships have arrived in the southwestern Finnish port of Turku to train with Finland’s navy as Helsinki considers the possibility of joining the US-led alliance amid increased tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

Latvian minelayer LVNS Virsaitis and minehunters Estonian ENS Sakala and Dutch HNLMS Schiedam will train with two minehunters from Finland’s coastal fleet, the Finnish defence forces said in a statement.

The two-day exercise, set to commence on April 28, will prepare the Finnish ships to take part in NATO response forces in 2022 and focus on “mine countermeasures and working in a multinational framework”, the statement said.

Three NATO warships in a harbour in the southwestern coastal city of Turku, Finland.
Three NATO warships from the Standing Nato Mine Countermeasures Group 1 – EML Sakala from Estonia, Dutch HNLMS Schiedam and the flagship LVNS Virsaitis from Latvia – arrive in a harbour to train with Finland’s coastal fleet, in the southwestern coastal city of Turku, Finland, April 25, 2022 [Roni Lehti/Lehtikuva via Reuters]

UN chief embarks on Moscow trip amid criticism

UN chief Guterres is set to start a difficult three-day trip to Russia and Ukraine amid criticism for the limited role played by the UN in the management of the crisis.

Three months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, UN agencies are struggling to reach civilians under siege in the east of the country, where humanitarian assistance is sporadic.

Guterres may want to use this trip to revitalise the UN initiative in the humanitarian field, experts said, while staying away from more controversial political questions.

Read more here.

Russia has used more than 1100 missiles in Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president has praised his people for withstanding Russia’s attacks in his nighttime video address.

“In two months, they used more than 1100 missiles against us. Countless bombs and artillery. They tortured, robbed, executed. They mined our land. Peaceful cities and villages were turned into hell,” Zelenskyy said.

“But they did not achieve anything. And they will not achieve,” he added, saying this war had become a “people’s war for Ukraine”.

“At any age, any property status, with any education – Ukrainian men and women equally stood up for the state,” he said.

Ukraine urges UN chief to push Russia for Mariupol evacuation

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has urged the UN chief to press Russia for an evacuation of the besieged port of Mariupol.

He told The Associated Press news agency that Guterres could be vulnerable to falling into a Kremlin “trap” in the war by visiting Moscow before he travels to Kyiv on Tuesday.

Kuleba said Guterres “should focus primarily on one issue: evacuation of Mariupol”.

An estimated 100,000 people are trapped in the seaside city while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters is holding out against Russian forces in a steel mill where hundreds of civilians also are taking shelter.

Retired US general calls for NATO troops in Ukraine

A former US commander in Europe has said that NATO must not be cowed by Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and should send troops to establish a base for military and humanitarian supplies in Ukraine.

Philip Breedlove, Supreme Commander in Europe from 2013 to 2016, told The Times that it was time to stand up to the Russian president by putting boots on the ground in Ukraine.

“We must respect the fact that Putin might use nukes but we shouldn’t be paralysed by it,” Breedlove told the London-based newspaper.

Russian troops fire on Sumy region: Reports

Ukraine’s State Border Service says Russian troops have launched cross-border attacks on Sumy region, according to the Ostrov news agency.

“The Sumy region was shelled four times from Russian territory. In particular, from the side of the Russian village of Tetkino, heavy weapons were used in the direction of the Ukrainian village of Rivne, in the Konotop region,” the report said.

There were no reports of casualties.

A Ukrainian service member inspects a heavily damaged apartment building after Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian service member inspects a heavily damaged apartment building after Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 24, 2022 [Felipe Dana/AP]

UK removing tariffs on Ukraine imports

The UK says it is removing all tariffs covered by the UK-Ukraine trade deal and hitting the Putin government with new sanctions.

In a statement, the British government said all tariffs on goods imported from Ukraine will now be reduced to zero and all quotas removed under the free trade agreement.

“Removing tariffs on key Ukrainian exports including barley, honey, tinned tomatoes and poultry will help Ukrainian businesses and producers when they need it most,” the statement said.

The UK has also announced an export ban on products and technology Russia could use to repress the people of Ukraine, such as interception and monitoring equipment. “This will close any existing loopholes to ensure that Russia is not buying these goods from the UK,” the statement added.

Ukraine’s Kuleba says Russia ‘senses defeat’

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has criticised his Russian counterpart for warning of a “real” danger of World War III, saying Lavrov’s comments indicated that “Moscow senses defeat”.

“Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

“This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security.”

US hosting Ukraine talks in Germany as war enters critical phase

The US will host Ukraine-focused defence talks at an American airbase in Germany, which officials have said are expected to bring together more than 40 countries.

US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a key goal of the event at Ramstein Air Base was to synchronise and coordinate mounting security assistance to Kyiv that includes heavy weaponry, like howitzer artillery, as well as armed drones and ammunition.

“The next several weeks will be very, very critical,” Milley told reporters travelling with him. “They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really the purpose of this conference.”

New mass grave identified north of Mariupol: Officials

Officials in Mariupol say a new mass grave has been identified north of the Ukrainian port city.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities are trying to estimate the number of victims in the grave about 10km (6 miles) north of Mariupol.

Satellite photos released over the past several days have shown what appear to be images of other mass graves.

Western weapons in Ukraine legitimate targets for Russian military: Lavrov

Deliveries of Western weaponry to Ukraine mean that the NATO alliance is “in essence engaged in war with Russia” and Moscow views these weapons as legitimate targets, Lavrov has said.

“These weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia’s military acting within the context of the special operation,” the foreign minister told state television.

“Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once [by Russian forces]. How can it be otherwise?” he said. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”

Zelenskyy says Russia will not win war in Ukraine

The Ukrainian president has said Russia will not be able to win the war against his country and called on residents to do everything to make the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine “unbearable”.

Zelenskyy said Russia will lose the war, but to get there, Ukrainians must think of how to make “the presence of occupiers [in] our land even more unbearable”.

“Ukraine is ready for peace … But in order to make Russia seek peace, every Ukrainian man and woman must fight, must defend freedom. Because every day of the fight will add years and years to the peaceful life after this war, after our victory,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to make it ‘unbearable’ for Russian troops to stay on Ukrainian territory [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP]

Russia seeks to reduce existing ‘serious’ risks of nuclear war: Lavrov

Russia wants to reduce all chances of “artificially” elevating the risk of nuclear conflict, Lavrov has said in a television interview.

“This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable,” Lavrov told Russia’s state television, based on a transcript provided on the ministry’s website.

UK to send ambulances, medical aid to Ukraine

The UK is providing Ukraine with new ambulances, fire engines, medical supplies and funding for health experts to help its emergency services deal with the aftermath of the Russian attacks, the government has said.

“We have all been appalled by the abhorrent images of hospitals deliberately targeted by Russia since the invasion began over two months ago,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

“The new ambulances, fire engines and funding for health experts announced today will better equip the Ukrainian people to deliver vital health care and save lives.”

War has disrupted Ukrainian agricultural production: UK

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has significantly disrupted Ukrainian agricultural production, the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin.

“Ukrainian grain harvest for 2022 is likely to be around 20% lower than 2021 due to reduced sowing areas following invasion,” it said.

The reduced grain supply from Ukraine will generate inflationary pressures, elevating the global price of grain, the UK military intelligence said.

US leader sees fast action on upcoming Ukraine military aid request

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he expected “swift, bipartisan” passage of another bill to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia once President Joe Biden submits a new funding request.

“We must continue helping the people of Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression,” he said, without providing any details on the possible amount of assistance that will be approved.

“I expect swift bipartisan cooperation to get it done,” he added.

Russia’s Lavrov warns of ‘real’ danger of World War III

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has said peace talks with Ukraine would continue while warning there was a “real” danger of World War III.

“The danger is serious, it is real, you can’t underestimate it,” Lavrov told the Interfax news agency.

He also criticised Kyiv’s approach to the talks, adding: “Goodwill has its limits. But if it isn’t reciprocal, that doesn’t help the negotiation process.”

Sergey Lavrov speaking during a news conference.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov speaks during a joint news conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Moscow, Russia April 8, 2022 [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via Reuters]

Russia says two injured in shelling of village bordering Ukraine

Two people were injured in the shelling of a village in Russia’s Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, the region’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, has said in a post on social media.

Officials in southern Russian regions have in the past few weeks reported cases of what they said was cross-border shelling that damaged residential buildings, although reports of civilians sustaining injuries have been rare.

Gladkov said some homes were damaged in the latest shelling without providing further details. He said earlier that four homes and a car had been damaged in the shelling of another village.

More sanctions against Russia likely: White House

The US is likely to impose more economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said, warning that “no one is safe from our sanctions”.

Psaki would not comment specifically on a Wall Street Journal article that the reported mother of three of Putin’s children had so far not been sanctioned to avoid riling the Russian president.

Supplemental US aid for Ukraine likely to be in longer-term package

New aid for Ukraine requested by US President Joe Biden is likely to be part of a longer-term package that will require approval from Congress, the White House has said.

Biden said last week that he would seek approval from Congress soon for more assistance for Ukraine after announcing $800m in additional military assistance last week.

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

Read all the updates from Monday, April 25 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies