Latest Russia-Ukraine updates: Mariupol evacuation attempt fails

Ukraine news for April 20: ‘Occupiers unable to ensure a proper ceasefire’ for a humanitarian corridor, deputy PM says.

A local resident walks past a building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine.
A local resident walks past a destroyed building in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • Ukraine accuses Russian forces of failing to observe a local ceasefire agreement to allow women, children and elderly people to flee the besieged city of Mariupol.
  • President Vladimir Putin says Russia is seeking to “help our people living in Donbas” as it presses ahead with its offensive in eastern Ukraine.
  • The United Nations estimates five million people have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion.
  • Moscow claims to have test-launched its new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • The latest Russian ultimatum for Ukrainian troops in Mariupol to surrender passes unmet.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 56

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for  Wednesday, April 20:

Ukraine president on new Russian push, Western aid

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the situation in the country’s east and south remain difficult as Russian troops pushed on with renewed attacks.

In a video address to the nation, Zelenskyy said “the occupiers aren’t abandoning their attempts to score at least some victory by launching a new, large-scale offensive”.

He noted Ukraine’s Western allies had “come to understand our needs better”, adding Ukraine was receiving new shipments of Western weapons.

US targets Transkapitalbank, Malofeyev in latest sanctions

The United States has rolled out new sanctions against more than 40 individuals and entities, including the commercial bank Transkapitalbank, a Russian privately-owned commercial bank.

The US says Transkapitalbank has helped sanctioned clients process dollar payments by providing an alternative communication channel to SWIFT — the dominant system for global financial transactions.

The Treasury also pinpointed people and companies led by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, who was also designated for sanctions in December 2014. Treasury said he was one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea.

NATO allies want longer Ukraine war to weaken Moscow: Turkey

Turkey has accused some of its NATO allies of wanting the war in Ukraine to last longer in order to weaken Russia.

“There are countries within NATO who want the war to continue,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk in an interview. “They want Russia to become weaker.”

He did not name any country directly.

Ukraine ready to hold special talks with Russia in Mariupol: Negotiator

Ukraine is ready to hold a “special round of negotiations” with Russia in the besieged city of Mariupol without any conditions, negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has tweeted.

He said the talks could be “one on one. Two on two. To save our guys, [the far right] Azov [battalion], military, civilians, children, the living and the wounded”.

France’s Le Pen says Europe should not stop importing Russian gas and oil

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has said in an election debate with President Emmanuel Macron that Europe should not stop importing Russian gas and oil.

She said that she agreed with the sanctions against Russian oligarchs and the financial system but not with energy-related measures.

“The only sanction I disagree with is blocking the import of Russian gas and oil. That is not the right method,” she said.

Macron accused Le Pen of being “dependent” on Russia.

Russian armed forces will start taking delivery of new missile this year: Tass

Russia’s nuclear forces will start taking delivery of the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile this year once testing is complete, the Tass state-owned news agency quoted the head of the Roscosmos space agency as saying.

Dmitry Rogozin said deliveries would start “in the autumn of this year,” it reported.

Blinken: Eventual retreat from Mariupol will reveal ‘far worse’ atrocities

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the eventual retreat of Russian forces from Mariupol would reveal “far worse” atrocities than the “death, destruction and atrocities” left in Bucha.

Speaking from Panama after a meeting to discuss migration issues with 20 other representatives of Latin American countries, Blinken said the attacks in Mariupol are worse than the previous advances.

“The conditions there, the situation there, as a result of this Russian aggression, are truly horrific,” he said.

Local residents walk past buildings destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine
Local residents walk past destroyed buildings in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

WTA says ‘very disappointed’ with Wimbledon decision, evaluating next steps

The Women’s Tennis Association has said it is “very disappointed” with the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s Wimbledon tournament.

In a statement, the organisation said it was now “evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions”.

The ATP, which runs the men’s tour, has also criticised the decision from tournament organisers, the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Zelenskyy denies Russian claim of having offered negotiated peace

Zelenskyy has denied receiving a proposal for a negotiated peace from Russia.

“I have heard nothing, I have seen nothing. I am convinced that they have handed us nothing,” Zelenskyy said at a press conference.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said a “clear and elaborate” proposal for a negotiated peace had been submitted to Ukraine.

“It seems to me that he is playing football with himself,” Zelenskyy said regarding Peskov’s comment.

Russia finance minister urges G20 not to politicise dialogue between members: RIA

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has urged the Group of 20 not to politicise dialogue between member states and warned them of the risk of undermining confidence in the global monetary and financial system, the RIA state news agency has reported.

Top finance officials from the United Kingdom, the US and Canada walked out of a meeting when Russian representatives spoke, UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said earlier.

EU’s Michel tells Ukrainians: ‘History will not forget’

European Council President Charles Michel has pledged European solidarity with Ukraine during a surprise visit to Kyiv.

Ukraine suspects that Russian troops carried out atrocities in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv and Bucha, another town near the capital. Moscow denies targeting civilians and has described the allegations as fabricated by Kyiv to justify more sanctions against it.

“There are no words … to explain what I feel. These are atrocities, these are war crimes. It must be punished. It will be punished,” Michel told a joint news conference with Zelenskyy.

He said separately on Twitter: “History will not forget the war crimes that have been committed here. … There can be no peace without justice.”

West warns of Russian cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

Western governments have jointly warned about a potential threat of increased malicious cyberactivity by Russia against critical infrastructure.

The cybersecurity agencies of the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – which together form the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance – said the war could expose organisations everywhere to cybercrime.

“This activity may occur as a response to the unprecedented economic costs imposed on Russia as well as materiel support provided by the United States and US allies and partners,” the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency said in a statement on its website.

Timeline: Week eight of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Click here to read Al Jazeera’s recap of key events during week eight of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mariupol evacuation corridor didn’t work as planned, Ukraine’s deputy PM says

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said that an agreed humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol had not worked as planned, blaming Russian forces for not holding their ceasefire.

Iryna Vereshchuk also said Russian-organised buses failed to deliver evacuees on time to the point where Ukrainian buses and ambulances were waiting.

Ukrainian officials estimated that about 1,000 civilians were sheltering underneath the vast Azovstal steel plant, which is the last Ukrainian stronghold in the southeastern port city of Mariupol.

US imposes new Russia-related sanctions

The US has imposed sanctions on a Russian commercial bank, an oligarch and dozens of individuals, according to the Treasury Department website.

The targets include Russia-based units of virtual currency mining firm Bitriver, the website said.

US starts training some Ukrainian troops on howitzer artillery

The US military has started training a small number of Ukrainian troops on using howitzer artillery, a senior US defence official has said, adding the training was being conducted outside of Ukraine and would take about a week.

“It’s a smallish number of Ukrainians, a little bit more than 50,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Zelenskyy praises ‘warmer’ relations with West over weapon supplies

Relations between the West and Ukraine over weapon supplies have “become warmer,” Zelenskyy has said in a press conference.

Timelines for the arrival of military equipment for Ukraine have “become clearer,” Zelenskyy said, speaking alongside European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv.

“The West has a warmer attitude to Ukraine,” he added, but urged European Union member states to avoid delay and sanction imports of Russian oil and gas.

Germany is not ready to sanction Russian energy imports, Zelenskyy said, criticising the delay.

Ukraine has not received whole aircraft from allies, only parts: Pentagon

The US Defense Department has said that Ukraine has received parts for their aircraft from allies but not complete warplanes, correcting its earlier statement that built-up aircraft had been delivered.

While fixed-wing aircraft have been offered by an unidentified country to bolster Kyiv’s fight against Russia, “they have not received whole aircraft from another nation,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said.

Fewer people evacuated than planned from Ukraine’s Mariupol: Regional governor

Fewer buses than planned were able to reach civilians in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and not many people were evacuated, the regional governor has said.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko was speaking after Mariupol’s mayor said on Wednesday morning that he hoped 90 buses would be able to enter the city and take out about 6,000 trapped women, children and elderly people.

“People of course gathered at the agreed meeting points, but few of them got onto the buses,” he said, providing no figures.

Sherman tells NATO of US concerns about China’s support for Russian aggression

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke of US concerns about China’s support for Russia’s aggression “including through its amplification of Russian disinformation about NATO and Russia’s war in Ukraine” in a meeting with NATO permanent representatives, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price has said in a statement.

Zelenskyy thanks EU’s Michel for showing solidarity in Kyiv visit

European Council President Charles Michel has won praise from Zelenskyy for visiting Kyiv in a show of solidarity.

Michel, the head of the European Council that represents the EU’s 27 member states, outlined EU support for Ukraine at a joint news conference following talks with Zelenskyy and said Brussels had so far provided Kyiv with 1.5 billion euros ($1.63bn) in military aid.

Russia says talks hinge on Kyiv’s readiness to take into account Moscow’s demands

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone call that the outcome of talks with Ukraine completely depended on Kyiv’s readiness to take into account Russia’s demands.

Russian foreign ministry also said Lavrov and Cavusoglu discussed the situation in Mariupol and possible measures aimed at providing safety to civilians, including from foreign countries.

EU to hold donors conference to ensure ‘victory of Ukraine’

The EU will hold an international donors conference on May 5 to ensure “the victory of Ukraine,” European Council President Charles Michel has said in Kyiv.

“We are determined to do everything we can in order to support Ukraine because we want the victory of Ukraine,” Michel said during a press conference alongside Zelenskyy.

Michel said the conference is to be organised with the support of the European Commission, all 27 EU member states and the support of other international actors.

Russian ICBM test ‘routine’ and ‘not a threat’: Pentagon

Russia’s test of a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile is not seen as threatening to the US and its allies, the Pentagon has said.

Moscow “properly notified” Washington of the test under its nuclear treaty obligations and “it was not a surprise,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said.

The Pentagon “has not deemed the test to be a threat to the United States or its allies,” he told reporters.

UN chief requests meetings with Putin and Zelenskyy

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked to meet with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine in their respective capitals, a UN spokesman has said.

As the war in Ukraine rages, Guterres made the request in letters that were sent Tuesday to Putin and Zelenskyy, spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Ukraine’s membership in EU a ‘priority’: Zelenskyy

European Union membership is a “priority” for Ukraine, Zelenskyy has said during a joint press conference with visiting EU chief Charles Michel.

“Regarding our future membership in the EU, it is a priority for our state, for the strength of our people, those who are ready to defend our land against Russian invaders even without arms,” Zelenskyy said.

Putin ‘will not succeed’ in dividing EU on response: Michel

Putin will not succeed in dividing the EU in its response to the war in Ukraine, EU chief Charles Michel has said on a visit to Kyiv.

“The Kremlin’s goal is to destroy the sovereignty of Ukraine, it’s also to divide the European Union, and he will not succeed,” Michel said at a press conference with Zelenskyy.

“In recent weeks we have demonstrated even in difficult circumstances that the 27 member states, we were systematically able to take decisions all together by unanimity,” he said.

Zelenskyy says he has not seen document Kremlin says it sent Kyiv

Zelenskyy says he had not seen or heard about a document that the Kremlin said it had sent to Ukraine in connection with peace talks.

Earlier, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was waiting for a response after it had handed a document to the Ukrainian side.

Germany commits to ending oil imports from Russia by the end of 2022

Germany will stop importing oil from Russia by the end of the year, the country’s foreign minister has said.

“We will halve oil by the summer and will be at zero by the end of the year, and then gas will follow, in a joint European road map, because our joint exit, the complete exit of the European Union, is our common strength,” Annalena Baerbock said after a meeting with her Baltic counterparts.

Europe must further cut Russia trade, Latvia says

Europe must further reduce its trade with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, including energy imports, Latvia’s foreign minister has said.

“We must be aware that Russia will not calm down for some time, even after the military aggression in Ukraine they will continue to act hostile,” Edgars Rinkevics told a joint news conference in Riga alongside his German counterpart Baerbock.

“We must rethink our cooperation with Ukraine and we need to downsize trade ties with Russia as much as possible. This also concerns the energy sector,” he added.

Beijing tells US not to use Ukraine conflict to ‘smear or pressure’ China

China’s defence minister has told his United States counterpart that Washington should not “use the Ukraine issue to smear, frame, threaten or pressure China”, following criticism of its perceived backing of Russia’s invasion.

Wei Fenghe spoke by phone with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday, according to a statement by China’s defence ministry.

China has not publically condemned Moscow’s offensive and has refrained from hitting Russia with any sanctions over its actions. The US has warned Beijing’s unwillingness to roll out any such measures could affect its relations with other economies.

Russia tests new intercontinental ballistic missile

Russia says it has test-launched its new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.

Putin was shown on Russian television being told by the country’s military that the missile had been launched from Plesetsk in its northwest and hit targets in the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east.

The Russian leader said the weapon had “the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence”.

He added it had “no analogues in the world and won’t have for a long time to come”.

“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country,” Putin said.

Russian, Belarusian players banned from Wimbledon

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to compete at this year’s Wimbledon championship due to Moscow’s “unjustified and unprecedented military aggression”, the Grand Slam’s organisers have said.

“We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), said in a statement.

Moscow reacted angrily to the move, calling it “unacceptable” and accusing the tournament’s organisers of turning athletes “into hostages to political prejudice”.

Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is the highest-ranked player to be affected by the Wimbledon ruling [File: Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

Putin says Russia seeking to ‘help our people living in Donbas’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow aims to “help our people living in Donbas” with its offensive in the eastern Ukrainian region.

“The tragedy that was happening in Donbas, including the Luhansk People’s Republic, forced Russia to start this military operation everyone knows about now,” Putin said at a meeting with members of a state-funded non-profit group, citing one of two breakaway republics in the area.

He added Russia will “act consistently” to make sure that life in the region “normalises and will change for the better”.

Russia-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces in Donbas since the separatists seized a swathe of territory there in early 2014.

Zelenskyy welcomes European Council chief to Kyiv

Ukraine’s president has posted footage on Twitter showing himself welcoming European Council chief Charles Michel to Kyiv.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the pair had discussed sanctions against Russia, defence and financial support for Ukraine and Kyiv’s bid to join the European Union during Michel’s visit.

Kremlin critic Navalny accuses France’s Le Pen of ‘selling influence to Putin’

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has called on French voters to support incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the country’s presidential election this weekend, accusing his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen’s party of links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a series of Twitter posts, Navalny alleged that Le Pen’s National Rally party had received a nine million euro ($9.75m) loan from the First Czech-Russian Bank, which he described as “Putin’s notorious money-laundering outfit”.

“This is corruption. This is selling political influence to Putin,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction from Le Pen, who was due to face off with Macron in a televised debate later on Wednesday.

Authorities in Odesa limit Danube River access

Local authorities in the Ukrainian region of Odesa have banned ships, including fishing boats, from parts of the Danube River’s delta in the country’s southwest due to the presence of Russian mines there.

According to a document posted on Facebook by authorities in the town of Vylkove, the move means vessels have been barred from taking to the water in ten locations along the Danube, which drains into the Black Sea.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.

UK PM urges Russia to treat captured Briton with compassion

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Russia to treat a British fighter who was captured in Ukraine with compassion, adding that he had served in the Ukrainian army for some time and was not a mercenary.

Asked about a video of Aiden Aslin, a captured Briton who had joined the Ukrainian marines, Johnson urged the Russian state to treat him “humanely and compassionately”.

Aslin and Shaun Pinner, another British fighter captured in Ukraine by Russian forces, appeared in footage aired on Russian state television on Monday and called for Johnson to help orchestrate their release in exchange for the freeing of pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk by Kyiv.

Kyiv: Ukrainian forces have stopped the Russian advance towards Slovyansk

Ukrainian troops have held up an attempted advance by Russian forces from Ukraine’s northeastern town of Izyum towards the nearby city of Slovyansk, an adviser to Zelenskyy says.

“They have focused their forces there, that is where they are trying to advance, but so far they are not succeeding,” Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video address.

Arestovych also said Ukrainian forces in Mariupol have been holding out despite persistent Russian attacks on the Azovstal steel plant.

Moscow rolls out new visa rules for foreign journalists

Russia is tightening its visa rules for foreign journalists from “unfriendly countries”, an official has said.

Deputy foreign minister Yevgeny Ivanov told Russia’s parliament that Moscow’s move was a response to the European Union and other countries taking action to make it harder for the Russian business community to obtain visas.

“We have responded by making it harder for journalists from unfriendly countries to obtain visas. They will now get a single-entry visa and pay a higher visa fee,” he said.

Moscow’s Mariupol surrender deadline passes unmet

Russia’s deadline for Ukrainian forces holding out in Mariupol to surrender has passed.

In its latest ultimatum, Moscow called on the troops residing in the city’s enormous Azovstal steel plant to lay down their arms by 11:00 GMT. There was no sign that the Ukrainian forces had done so.

Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians have taken shelter beneath the site alongside the troops.

Germany has not disclosed all weapons sent to Ukraine, minister says

Germany has chosen not to make public the extent of the weaponry it has sent to Ukraine, the country’s foreign minister says.

“We have delivered anti-tank missiles, Stingers and other things that we have never spoken about publicly so these deliveries could happen quickly,” Baerbock said at a joint news conference in Riga with her Latvian counterpart.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock
German politics has been consumed by what kind of weaponry to give Ukraine, and how fast to deliver it [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

US weapons supply ‘could make a lot of difference’ in war: Analyst

Harry Nedelcu, a policy director at global political consultancy firm Rasmussen Global, says Washington’s latest package of military support for Ukraine is “very significant”.

“Western support for Ukraine … is focused now on delivering heavy weaponry and not only defensive systems like anti-tank rockets,” Nedelcu told Al Jazeera from the Canadian city of Montreal.

He added he thought the arms “could make a lot of difference” as the focus of the war shifts to Ukraine’s Donbas region.

“This is flat land which requires heavy weaponry, such as howitzers and tanks, and this is what this package is tailored towards,” Nedelcu said.

More than five million people have fled Ukraine: UN

The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says that more than five million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion.

More than half of those who have left, about 2.8 million, fled to Poland.

An estimated seven million people have also been displaced within Ukraine amid Moscow’s offensive.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 56 April 20 1030GMT

Malcolm Nance, former MSNBC analyst, says he is fighting in Ukraine

US Navy veteran and former MSNBC defence analyst Malcolm Nance has confirmed that he is fighting in Ukraine as part of the country’s international legion.

Read more here.

Moscow believes US trying to drag out war for ‘as long as possible’: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says Russia sees the delivery of more weapons to Ukraine by the US and its European allies as serving only Washington’s interests.

“Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu … says the US wants to drag out this conflict for as long as possible and as long as they continue to supply Ukraine with weapons that is exactly what is going to happen,” Jabbari said.

“The US has so far given nearly $2.5bn worth of aid and military equipment to the government in Kyiv and the Russians are saying that this is only making the situation much worse.”

Moscow accuses Kyiv of undermining talks

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of reneging on commitments it made during talks between delegations from Moscow and Kyiv over ending the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the moves were undermining the negotiations and the current pace of discussion is unsatisfactory. He added that Moscow was awaiting a response from Kyiv after handing a document to the Ukrainian side.

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday 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.

Russian forces attacking ‘right the way along’ the front line: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from the city of Kostiantynivka in the Donetsk region, says Russian forces launched attacks “right the way along” the front line in Ukraine’s east overnight.

In Donetsk, Moscow’s troops appeared to be attempting a “pincer movement” aimed at surrounding the “strategically important” city of Slovyansk, he said.

“But analysts and the Ukrainians are saying that, as of yet, the Russians have not managed to get the kind of momentum they need to make serious territorial gains,” Stratford added.

Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov slams ‘crazy war’ in Ukraine

A Russian billionaire sanctioned by the West over the Ukraine war has denounced Moscow’s “massacre” in its neighbouring country and called on Western leaders to help end the “crazy” conflict.

Oleg Tinkov, 54, said in an Instagram post on Tuesday that 90 percent of Russians were against President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and described Moscow’s army as “s***”.

Read more here.

Ukraine says preliminary agreement reached on Mariupol evacuations

Ukraine has reached a preliminary agreement with Russia on establishing a humanitarian corridor to evacuate women, children and the elderly from Mariupol on Wednesday, the country’s deputy prime minister says.

“Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today,” Iryna Vereshchuk said in a post on Facebook.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Mariupol DAY 56

European Council chief arrives in Kyiv

Michel has arrived in the Ukrainian capital on a surprise visit.

“In Kyiv today. In the heart of a free and democratic Europe,” the European Council chief wrote on his Twitter account, accompanied by a photo taken at a railway station.

Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, welcomed Michel upon arrival.

Ukraine aims to evacuate 6,000 from Mariupol

Ukraine is hoping to send 90 buses to Mariupol to evacuate about 6,000 women, children and elderly people, the city’s mayor has announced on national television.

Mayor Vadym Boichenko, who has left Mariupol, said he hoped a preliminary agreement with Russia on establishing a safe corridor would be firmed up and hold.

He said about 100,000 civilians remained in Mariupol and that tens of thousands had been killed in the Russian siege of the city on the Sea of Azov.

Ukraine army says Russia’s attempts to storm eastern towns unsuccessful

Russia has staged unsuccessful attempts to storm the towns of Rubizhne and Sievierodonetsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, the Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces has said.

“After the storming attempts by the Russian occupiers in Rubizhne and Sievierodonetsk, 130 injured soldiers of the enemy were admitted to the local hospital in Novoaidar,” the general staff said in its situation report.

In addition, the Ukrainian military leadership reported Russian attacks near the small town of Izyum in the Kharkiv region and heavy fighting around several other areas, including the town of Kreminna, which Moscow’s forces reportedly captured on Tuesday.

Russian military vehicles
Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol [File: Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo]

Growing majority of Swedes back joining NATO

A growing majority of Swedes are in favour of joining NATO, a poll has shown, as policymakers in Sweden and Finland weigh up whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should lead to an end to decades of military neutrality.

The poll by Demoskop and commissioned by the Aftonbladet newspaper showed 57 percent of Swedes now favoured NATO membership, up from 51 percent in March. Those opposed to joining fell to 21 percent from 24 percent, while those who were undecided dipped to 22 percent from 25 percent.

The March poll was the first to show a majority of Swedes in favour of joining NATO.

Finland’s Parliament to discuss joining NATO

Finland’s Parliament is set to hold discussions on the country joining NATO.

An overwhelming majority of Parliament’s 200 members must vote in favour to initiate the process of joining the alliance.

According to Finnish media, about 100 members are currently ready to vote in favour of joining, while 12 parliamentarians are against it. The rest are waiting for the start of the debate to decide on a position.

Norway donates missiles, air defence system to Ukraine

Norway says it has sent its Mistral air defence system and 100 missiles to Ukraine.

Bjørn Arild Gram, the Norwegian defence minister, said the system “is an effective weapon that has been used in the Navy, and which will be of great benefit to Ukraine”.

Mistral is a short-range air defence missile system that can be used from vehicles, surface ships, and helicopters. Norway says it had already planned to phase out the Mistral and move to modern equipment, so this donation will not affect its military supply.

Shelling in Luhansk damages gas pipeline: Official

Russian shelling has damaged a gas pipeline in the city of Novodruzhesk in the Luhansk region, its governor says.

Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces had also opened fire on two residential buildings in two central areas of the city overnight.

Fighting in the Donbas intensifying: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says fighting is intensifying in Ukraine’s Donbas region “as Russian forces seek to break through Ukrainian defences”.

“Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine show their intent to try and disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weaponry to the east of the country,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.

It added that Russia’s air activity is likely to remain low in northern Ukraine, but that “there is still a risk of precision strikes on priority targets” throughout the country.

Ukraine says fighting continues in Donbas, Russia focused on capturing Mariupol

Ukraine’s military says fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces is continuing in Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, and the village of Zelena Dolyna in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Alexander Stupun, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces, said shelling also continues in northeastern Kharkiv, which is partially blocked by Russian troops.

However, Russia is focusing its efforts on capturing the city of Mariupol, and taking full control of the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Stupun said. He added Ukraine’s military repelled 10 attacks in the past few days in the two regions.

Local civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol.
Local civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, April 19, 2022 [Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo]

Russia ‘finds Ukraine military stronghold in Kherson’

The Russian defence ministry says its troops have found the headquarters of a Ukrainian territorial defence unit in the port city of Kherson, according to the RIA state news agency.

The ministry was quoted as saying that the facility was located in a school and that it was a regional “stronghold” for the Ukrainian military.

The building was filled with boxes of ammunition, weapons and medicines, RIA said.

It added that Russian soldiers examined the school for mines and explosives and removed all weapons and ammunition.

Kherson was the first big Ukrainian city that Russian forces captured following their invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The Pentagon in late March said Ukrainian forces fought back and that Russia was no longer in full control of the city.

IAEA says Chernobyl nuclear plant has restored ties with state regulator

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the Ukrainian atomic power regulator has reported restoring direct communications with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after Russian troops left the facility.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told Reuters the development was “very good news”, adding he would lead a team of experts to the plant later this month to carry out a series of assessments.

Russian forces had occupied the defunct power station soon after invading Ukraine but left on March 31.

A Ukrainian soldier stands near a state-run nuclear waste department near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
A Ukrainian soldier stands near a state-run nuclear waste department near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, April 16 [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

Marine says Mariupol troops ‘may be facing our last days, if not hours’

A commander for Ukrainian marines fighting in Mariupol has appealed for extraction from their last stronghold in the Azovstal steel factory, saying his forces were “may be facing our last days, if not hours”.

In a Facebook post, Serhiy Voluna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade said “the enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one”.

“We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us,” he added. “We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state.”

Conflicting reports of attack on hospital near Mariupol steel plant

A Ukrainian legislator and a soldier have claimed Russian forces have attacked a hospital in Mariupol during their assault on the Azovstal steel plant, but an adviser to the city’s mayor has denied the report.

Serhiy Taruta, a Ukrainian legislator, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday that the hospital had been hit by a “heavy bomb” and that 300 people were trapped under the rubble.

But Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, denied that statement.

The deputy commander of the Azov Regiment later suggested in an interview that the “makeshift hospital” was inside the steelworks.

A journalist at the Economist said he had spoken with Palamar, who confirmed “an air strike on the hospital inside the plant today, with ‘may dead’ and ‘many under rubble’”.

“No exact numbers,” Oliver Carrol wrote on Twitter.

Al Jazeera could not confirm the reports.

Burned vehicles at the destroyed part of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, as smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal during heavy fighting, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol
Burned vehicles at the destroyed part of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, as smoke rises during heavy fighting in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 18, 2022 [Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo]

Ukrainian officials allege chemical attack in Izyum

An adviser to Ukraine’s president has alleged that Ukrainian soldiers in the eastern city of Izyum were attacked with a chemical substance, according to the Ostrov news agency.

Oleksiy Arestovych made the claim while discussing reports that 12 Ukrainian soldiers had developed breathing problems and redness of the eyes after a Russian attack in Izyum, which is in the Kharkiv region.

“The type cannot be determined, because there are no laboratories there that can quickly come running and check. There are no deaths either. But some chemical substance is said to have been applied. All this requires clarification,” Arestovych said in an interview with the former Russian lawyer and politician Mark Feygin on YouTube.

UK to revoke Moscow Stock Exchange’s recognised status

The UK’s tax authority has announced it intends to revoke the Moscow Stock Exchange’s (MOEX) status as a recognised stock exchange in the UK.

This would make investors unable to access certain UK tax benefits in the future when trading securities on MOEX, a government statement said.

It added the move is in response to restrictions the Bank of Russia has placed on foreign investors.

“On 28 February 2022, MOEX banned brokers from selling assets at the instruction of non-residents of Russia, which means that it is no longer operating in line with the normal commercial standards expected of a recognised exchange,” the statement said.

Air raid sirens, more explosions reported in Mykolaiv region

Air raid sirens have been activated in the Mykolaiv region in the last hour, with a local official reporting explosions in the southern area.

“Again explosions in Mykolaiv. Friends, stay away from windows,” Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych wrote on Facebook.

The Mykolaiv region was reportedly under bombardment on Tuesday, with an official saying Russian forces had attacked a hospital in the city of Bashtanka.

“The dialysis department, the emergency department, the operating room without double-glazed windows were destroyed … there are victims,” head of the regional council Anna Zamazeeva wrote on Facebook.

She added there were no deaths and no children had been injured.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify these claims.

West has ‘moral duty’ to send Ukraine more weapons: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president says the war in Ukraine would already be over if its army had all the weapons it needed.

“If we had access to all the weapons we need, which our partners have and which are comparable to the weapons used by the Russian Federation, we would have already ended this war,” Zelenskyy said in his night-time address.

He added it was “unfair” his country was still forced to ask for “what its partners have been storing somewhere for years”.

“If they have the ammunition that we need here and now, it is their moral duty first of all to help protect freedom,” he said.

‘Stench of burning bodies’ during Ukraine trip: Irish diplomat

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has told the UN Security Council that the “stench of burning buildings and bodies” hung in the air during his trip to Ukraine last week.

Simon Coveney said what he saw in the Ukrainian town of Bucha was “profoundly shocking”.

“It now lies in ruins, with the stench of burning buildings and bodies in the air. Hundreds of family homes, shops and other civilian infrastructure: blackened, burned, looted, damaged, destroyed,” he said.

“I’ve been around long enough to know the truth from staged propaganda when I see it. There was nothing fabricated about what I witnessed,” he added.

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, speaks during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney speaks during a UNSC meeting, April 19 [John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Ukraine and Russia’s UN envoys weigh in on ceasefire

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, has called on Russia to heed Guterres’s appeal for a four-day “pause” in fighting to allow humanitarian aid and evacuations.

But Russia’s Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said he was “a bit sceptical” about the idea.

“I really don’t know what’s the point of entering in the game with Ukrainians on such issues,” Polyanskiy said, maintaining that Russia has offered to create humanitarian corridors but Ukraine did not use them or misused them.

UN refugee envoy urges end to ‘senseless war’ in Ukraine

Kelly Clements, the UN’s deputy high commissioner for refugees, has urged members of the Security Council to help put an end to Russia’s offensive.

Clements said while the UN has helped more than 2.5 million people in Ukraine so far, including some who were displaced from other parts of the country, “no pile of blankets, no sum of cash, no amount of medicine, is going to halt the death and destruction” in Ukraine.

“So while we will continue our job to deliver aid, we need this council to do its job, too,” she told the Security Council, calling on members “to put aside your differences and find a way to end this horrific and senseless war”.

Russia orders 31 more European diplomats to leave

Russia has said it was expelling 31 diplomats from three European countries in a tit-for-tat move.

The Russian foreign ministry declared 15 diplomats from the Netherlands “persona non grata” and gave them two weeks to leave. Moscow gave the same deadline to Belgian embassy staff over the country’s decision to expel 21 Russian envoys last month.

Belgium’s foreign ministry told the AFP news agency that the measure pinpointed 12 diplomats. Moscow also gave four Austrian diplomats until Sunday to leave.

Western nations to stage walkouts at G20 meeting: Officials

Western nations are preparing to stage coordinated walkouts and other diplomatic snubs to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington, DC, officials have said.

Moscow confirmed that Finance Minister Anton Siluanov would lead Russia’s delegation at the talks despite repeated protestations by Western diplomats that they could not go ahead as usual during the war.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to avoid some sessions joined by Russia, an official said, while a French finance ministry official told the Reuters news agency they expected some ministers from G7 countries to leave their seats when their Russian peer was due to speak.

Sappers collecting explosives
Interior ministry sappers collect explosives to detonate them near a minefield, after recent battles at the village of Moshchun close to Kyiv, Ukraine [Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

Brazil minister condemns war in Ukraine

Brazil’s Economy Minister Paulo Guedes has said his country clearly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but is against economic sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Speaking at an online event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, Guedes said Brazil is a key energy and food security player.

He said the timing is perfect for the country’s accession to the OECD and for the trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU to be signed, or else the country will increase exports to Asia and the Middle East.

Biden says he does not know if he will visit Ukraine

Biden has said that he does not know if he will travel to Kyiv.

“The answer is, I don’t know,” Biden said when asked by reporters at an event in New Hampshire whether he would visit the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine’s president said in a CNN interview aired on Sunday that he wanted Biden to visit and expected that he would.

Canada sanctions Putin daughters, sends guns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will send heavy artillery to Ukraine.

Trudeau added that he has been in close contact with Zelenskyy and said Canada is very responsive to what Ukraine needs.

He said there will be more details on the pledge in the days to come and described Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s offensive as heroic.

Biden to announce another large military aid package for Ukraine: Sources

US President Joe Biden is expected to announce within the coming days another military aid package for Ukraine about the same size as the $800m one announced last week, multiple sources familiar with the decision told Reuters.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a new package was expected in the coming days that would be roughly the size of the previous package, but details were still being worked out.

EU chief says world leaders to ‘tighten’ Russia sanctions

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, says world leaders have agreed to “tighten [their] sanctions against Russia and step up financial and security assistance for Ukraine”.

She was speaking after a call was convened by US President Joe Biden to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine.

Biden consulted with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, among others.

Russia demands Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol lay down arms

Russia’s defence ministry has issued a new proposal to Ukrainian troops holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, again demanding that they lay down their weapons.

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

Earlier, Moscow called on Ukrainian forces to “immediately” lay down arms and issued a new ultimatum for them to give up. “We once again call on the Kyiv authorities to show reason and give the corresponding orders to fighters to cease their senseless resistance,” the ministry said.

Ukraine’s military gets more aircraft and parts to repair others: Pentagon

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 said during a news briefing, adding that Washington had not provided aircraft to Kyiv.

Russia has lost 25 percent of its combat power: US official

The US estimates that the Russian military has lost about 25 percent of the combat power it sent into Ukraine at the start of the war, a senior US defence official has said.

“When people say the offensive has begun, that’s what they’re referring to, and we’re not pushing back on that notion,” a senior US defence official said.

The official said the Russians are taking actions to improve their ability to sustain combat operations in the Donbas and to “prepare for what we believe will be larger offensives in the future”.

PEN America to honour imprisoned Ukrainian journalist

Vladyslav Yesypenko, a Ukrainian journalist imprisoned in Crimea, has been named this year’s recipient of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.

Yesypenko, a 53-year-old freelance correspondent for Krym.Realii Project, a Crimean radio programme and news source run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was arrested last year and sentenced to six years in a Russian labour camp for alleged possession and transport of explosives.

He has denied the allegations and has said he confessed after being tortured and threatened with death.

“Indomitable reporters like Vladyslav Yesypenko have provided a portal to enable the world to see Russian occupation for what it is, an exercise of force aimed to stifle the will of free people,” Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive officer of PEN America, said in a statement.

Russia eyes construction of oil storage, exporting outlets

Russia is working on a plan to construct oil storage facilities and new exporting outlets, which would help it offset sanctions that have hampered its oil sales, officials have said.

“Some companies have been engaged in such projects and have been implementing it,” Russian Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin told reporters.

Russia has struggled with sales of its crude oil and oil products as sanctions over Ukraine have complicated financing of trade deals and hire vessels, while the US introduced its ban on oil imports from Russia last month.

Russian shelling increasing in Donbas: UK

Russian shelling and attacks on the Donbas line of control continued to increase, but Ukrainian forces managed to repel numerous attempted advances, a UK 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.”

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

Read all the updates from Tuesday, April 19 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies