Russia-Ukraine war: Russia rejected proposal for Easter truce; more de…




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Zelenskiy: 120,000 civilians confined from leaving Mariupol

Around 120,000 civilians are confined from leaving the besieged city of Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Responding to remarks by the Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, that Russian forces control most of Mariupol, Zelenskiy said that Russia controls most of the port city, but that Ukrainian troops keep in a part of it.

Mariupol’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, said around 200 people were nevertheless awaiting evacuation from the city but no buses had arrived as of mid-afternoon today.

A small convoy of buses had evacuated people from Mariupol on Wednesday and was now headed for the city of Zaporhizhia, he said.

He said it is impossible to confirm exactly how many civilians are nevertheless inside the Azovstal steel plant, and that it is doubtful there will be evacuations from the site today.

Summary

meaningful developments of the day:

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Russia rejected a hypothesizedv Easter truce, but that he remains hopeful of prospects for peace. Earlier this week Russia rejected the same request from the UN, stating the ask was not “sincere” and would give Ukrainian fighters more time to arm themselves. Russia has been hiding evidence of its “barbaric” war crimes in Mariupol by burying the bodies of civilians killed by shelling in a new mass grave, the city’s mayor said, as a US satellite imagery company released photos that appeared to match the site. US officials have dismissed Vladimir Putin’s claim that his forces have “liberated” the port city of Mariupol as disinformation. The Russian president made the claim despite an admission by his defense minister that Russia’s military was nevertheless battling thousands of Ukrainian troops holed up in Azovstal steelworks. Western officials said Putin is “nevertheless in a position to win” in Ukraine despite failing in his pre-war objectives. Russia had started to address some of the issues that had hindered its army at the start of the invasion, one official said. About 120,000 civilians are confined from leaving Mariupol, Zelenskiy said. Three school buses filled with people from Mariupol arrived in Zaporizhzhia today after crossing by territory held by Russian forces, but Ukraine’s deputy chief minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said the number of evacuees was far smaller than had been hoped for. Russian forces captured dozens of villages in the eastern Donetsk vicinity on Thursday, an aide to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said.
The bodies of 1,020 civilians are being stored in morgues in and around Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from areas around the capital, Ukraine’s deputy chief minister, Olga Stefanishyna, told AFP. Her comments came after police said they discovered the remains of nine civilians in the town of Borodianka, some 54 kilometres (34 miles) from the capital, buried in communal graves and showing signs of torture. The parliaments of Estonia and Latvia have recognised Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide”. In a statement, the Estonian parliament said Russian troops in temporarily occupied territories had committed “acts of genocide” against the civilian population including “murders, enforced disappearances, deportations, imprisonment, torture, rape and desecration of corpses”. The US president, Joe Biden, announced that the US will provide another $800m (£614m) military assistance package to Ukraine to “further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in the east, in the Donbas vicinity”. The new US weapon deliveries will include 72 howitzers and their towing vehicles along with 144,000 artillery rounds and more than 120 drones tailored for Ukraine’s needs. Biden also announced that the US will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees under a new programme. Russian troops have used a number of weapons widely banned across the world, which have killed hundreds of civilians in the Ukrainian vicinity of Kyiv, research by the Guardian indicates. Evidence collected during a visit to Bucha, Hostomel and Borodianka showed that Russian troops had used cluster munitions, cluster bombs and extremely powerful unguided bombs in populated areas, which have destroyed at the minimum eight civilian buildings.

Footage shared by Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya whose forces have been fighting in Ukraine, shows Russia backed troops celebrating in front of burning buildings in Mariupol.

In the video, Adam Delimkhanov, a Chechen politician and close ally of Kadyrov, says they have completed “the special operation to destroy and cleanse Mariupol”.

The Guardian’s Shaun Walker points out that many of the troops in the video have relatives who faced similar destruction in the wars Russia waged in Chechnya.

Kadyrov’s right-hand Delimkhanov literally says “the special operation to destroy and cleanse Mariupol” is completed. “Alllahu Akbar.”

In front of destroyed, burning buildings.

Surrounded by many sons / brothers of people whose homes suffered a similar fate 20 years ago. https://t.co/nWnA60CaiM

— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) April 21, 2022

Putin claims Russia has “liberated” Mariupol, which the US has called disinformation from a “well-worn playbook”.

Updated at 18.04 EDT

Russia rufuses proposal for Easter truce

Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he is nevertheless hopeful for peace already after Moscow rejected a hypothesizedv truce this weekend over the Orthodox Christian Easter period.

Russia had rejected a similar request earlier this week after the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, called for a truce by Easter Sunday to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and safe passage for civilians attempting to flee the war zone. “The four-day Easter period should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the experiencing in Ukraine,” he said.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said the request was not “sincere” and would give Ukrainian fighters more time to arm themselves.

Updated at 17.21 EDT

Senior Ukrainian official says troops confront ‘a very difficult battle’

A top Ukrainian defense official said the country’s military is looking at a challenging conflict against larger and better equipped Russian troops, Reuters reported.

Hanna Malyar, the deputy defense minister, had advised the country to be patient, warning that it takes time to buy and position for the delivery of weapons.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pleaded for allies to send more weapons and impose further economic sanctions on Russia as the country continues its battle to take Ukraine. The president said Ukraine needed $7bn a month to help combat economic losses brought by the invasion.

“This is just the first step (for Russia) to gain control of eastern Europe, to destroy democracy in Ukraine,” he told the Portuguese parliament. “We are fighting not only for our independence, but for our survival, for our people, so that they do not get killed, tortured and raped.”

I’m Dani Anguiano, and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments in Ukraine over the next few hours.

Updated at 16.51 EDT

Julian BorgerJulian Borger

Here’s the Guardian’s Julian Borger with more details of the new US aid package to Ukraine:

Joe Biden has announced $800m (£613m) in new arms supplies to Ukraine and said he will go to Congress to ask for more funding to help fend off the renewed Russian offensive in the east and south.

The new US weapon deliveries will include 72 howitzers and their towing vehicles along with 144,000 artillery rounds and more than 120 drones tailored for Ukraine’s needs.

“We’re in a basic window of time when [the Russians] are going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Biden said. “And the United States and our allies and partners are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine the weapons their forces need to defend their nation.”

Fifty Ukrainian artillery officers are being given a week-long course by US instructors on the use of US 155mm howitzers in an unnamed European country, the Pentagon said.

Biden said the latest arms supplies with the emphasis on heavy artillery reflected the requirements of the different scenery of the Donbas, which is largely flat agricultural land, compared with the forests around Kyiv, providing fewer opportunities for ambushes and guerrilla warfare.

The president said the US had so far given Ukraine 10 anti-tank missiles, including Javelins, for every tank Russia has on the battlefield, along with armored cars, armed drones and other heavy equipment, and was playing the role of facilitator for arms deliveries from other countries.

“We won’t always be able to advertise everything that our partners are doing to sustain Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said, and he paraphrased a famous quote of Theodore Roosevelt: “Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin.”

Read more:

Updated at 16.20 EDT

Russian forces captured dozens of villages in the eastern Donetsk vicinity on Thursday, an aide to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said, according to Reuters.

Olena Symonenko told viewers on Ukraine TV:

Today 42 villages were additional to the list of those that have been occupied. This is at the expense of the Donetsk vicinity.

This happened today and [it] might be that our forces will win them back tomorrow.

Putin’s claim to have ‘liberated’ Mariupol is disinformation, US says

Officials in the US have dismissed as “disinformation” the claim by Russian president Vladimir Putin that his forces have “liberated” the port city of Mariupol, Reuters reports.

At a news briefing Thursday afternoon, Ned Price, spokesperson for the department of state, said:

We understand that Ukraine’s forces continue to keep up their ground and there is every reason to believe that President Putin and his defense minister’s show for the media that we saw in recent hours is already in addition more disinformation from their well-worn playbook.

Putin made the claim despite an admission by his defense minister that Russia’s military was nevertheless battling thousands of Ukrainian troops holed up in Azovstal steelworks.

already so, the situation is “close to catastrophe”, according to Yuriy Ryzhenkov, chief executive of Metinvest Holding that owns the steelworks.

“When the war started we had stocked quite a good stocks of food and water in the bomb shelters and the facilities at the plant so for some period of time the civilians, they were able to use it and basically survive on that,” he told CNN.

“Unfortunately all the things, they tend to run out, especially the food and daily necessities. I think now it’s close to a catastrophe there.”

Read more:

Updated at 15.33 EDT

Protesters gathered outside the European Parliament in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday to mark the 57th day of Russia’s war in Ukraine and light candles for the 205 children recorded as killed so far.

Here are some of the images:

Young protesters at the European Parliament building in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday.Young protesters at the European Parliament building in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday. Photograph: Bianca Otero/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Several hundred people gathered to highlight the deaths of children in the Ukraine conflict:

Protesters at a ‘save the children’ rally in Warsaw.Protesters at a ‘save the children’ rally in Warsaw. Photograph: Aleksander Kalka/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Many families turned up to get their voices heard:

Protesters in Warsaw demanded an end to the killing of children in Ukraine.Protesters in Warsaw demanded an end to the killing of children in Ukraine. Photograph: Aleksander Kalka/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 15.15 EDT

Sean IngleSean Ingle

Wimbledon has been warned it could confront legal action from the Belarusian Tennis Federation after it accused the All England Club of acting illegally by banning Russian and Belarusian players from this summer’s championships.

The BTF said it was consulting international law firms to “protect” its stars, including the two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka and the world No 4, Aryna Sabalenka, as it condemned Wimbledon for inciting hatred with its decision.

“The Belarusian Tennis Federation categorically condemns the decision taken by the organisers of Wimbledon to suspend Belarusian and Russian tennis players,” it said. “Such destructive actions in no way contribute to the resolution of conflicts, but only incite hatred and intolerance on a national basis.

“Throughout the history of tennis, armed conflicts have occurred in the world – in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Yugoslavia and other countries – but never until now have tournament organisers suspended athletes from the United States, Great Britain and other countries,” it additional.

It is understood that Wimbledon took legal advice before making its decision, which will considerably alter the makeup of the tournament given 17 of the Top 100 in the men’s and women’s rankings, including the world No 2, Daniil Medvedev, are from Russia or Belarus.

Read more:

Updated at 14.47 EDT

It’s Richard Luscombe in the US taking over the blog for the next associate of hours.

The tit-for-tat rounds of sanctions between Russia, and the western allies opposing its invasion of Ukraine, continues with the Russian president Vladimir Putin removing the welcome mat for a swathe of Canadian politicians, dignitaries and journalists.

According to CBC, several of whose journalists are affected: “On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry additional 61 Canadians to what it calls its ‘stop list,’ prohibiting them from entering Russia indefinitely.

“All are accused of being ‘involved in the development, substantiation and implementation of the Russophobic course of the ruling regime in Canada,’ said the ministry.”

Canada has been an active part of the western alliance supporting Ukraine’s efforts to repulse the Russian invasion, chief minister Justin Trudeau announcing this week more military sustain and sanctions on certain Russians, including Putin’s adult daughters.

Russia’s move today is presumably an act of revenge.

According to CBC, when he heard he was banned from Russia, Lloyd Axworthy, a cabinet member in the administration of former chief minister Jean Chrétien, and now head of the World Refugee Council, laughed.

“The old saying is that you’re well known by the company you keep and by the company that doesn’t like you. It indicates to me how silly they really are,” he said.

Summary

It’s 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand now:

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has reportedly said it would be “impossible” for him to go to Moscow for direct talks with Russian leaders on ending the war. “Nevertheless, under different circumstances and with different rulers in Moscow, anything would be possible,” he was quoted as saying. About 120,000 civilians are confined from leaving Mariupol, Zelenskiy said. Three school buses filled with people from Mariupol arrived in Zaporizhzhia today after crossing by territory held by Russian forces, but Ukraine’s deputy chief minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said the number of evacuees was far smaller than had been hoped for.
The parliaments of Estonia and Latvia have recognised Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide”. In a statement, the Estonian parliament said Russian troops in temporarily occupied territories had committed “acts of genocide” against the civilian population including “murders, enforced disappearances, deportations, imprisonment, torture, rape and desecration of corpses”. Biden said it was “questionable” whether Putin controls Mariupol and that there was “no evidence in addition” that the port city has completely fallen. The US president described the battle of Kyiv as a “historic victory” for the Ukrainians and said the war was now at a “basic window”.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, today as I hand the blog over to my colleague, Richard Luscombe. I’ll be back tomorrow, thank you.

Updated at 14.34 EDT

Human Rights Watch has proven “a litany of apparent war crimes” by Russian forces in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv formerly occupied by Russian forces.

Researchers who worked in Bucha after Russian troops withdrew from the area found “extensive evidence of summary executions, other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture”, “all of which would constitute war crimes and possible crimes against humanity”, it said.

Richard Weir, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said:

Nearly every corner in Bucha is now a crime scene, and it felt like death was everywhere.

The evidence indicates Russian forces occupying Bucha “showed contempt and disregard for civilian life”, he said.

A street in the town of Bucha, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 1, 2022.A street in the town of Bucha, in Kyiv vicinity, Ukraine April 1, 2022. Photograph: Reuters

The organisation proven the details of 16 seemingly unlawful killings in the town, including nine summary executions and seven indiscriminate killings of civilians – 15 men and a woman.

In one proven case, a nine-year-old girl was shot in the shoulder while trying to run away from Russian forces.

Updated at 14.12 EDT

The situation at the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol is “close to a catastrophe”, the head of the company that owns the steel works told CNN.

Yuriy Ryzhenkov, the CEO of Metinvest Holding, told CNN:

When the war started we had stocked quite a good stocks of food and water in the bomb shelters and the facilities at the plant so for some period of time the civilians, they were able to use it and basically survive on that. Unfortunately all the things, they tend to run out, especially the food and daily necessities.

I think now it’s close to a catastrophe there.

Ryzhenkov said there had originally been enough supplies for two to three weeks but they were almost eight weeks into the blockade.

A hotline has been set up for employees of the Azovstal steel plant and so far 4,500 had been in contact, he said. Around 6,000 are in addition to be accounted for.

Hopefully they are nevertheless alive, hopefully they are ok and hopefully they will get out and we will be able to provide them with all the necessary comfort,

The company has said the plant will not work under Russian occupation, he said.

Updated at 14.10 EDT

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