Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Moscow targets arms supply routes

Ukraine news from April 25: Russia says it attacked facilities powering railways used to deliver weapons to Ukraine.

Ukraine
The debris from a Russian missile used to attack a Ukrainian railway facility lies on the ground in the Lviv region of Ukraine [Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters]
  • The US Department of State says it supported the approval of a possible sale of $165m worth of ammunition to Ukraine.
  • Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin promise Ukraine $322m in US military aid, after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
  • They also say US diplomats will start returning to the western city of Lviv in the coming week.
  • Russian top diplomat to Washington warns that the delivery of more military aid would be like “pouring oil on the flames”.
  • Several locations in central and western Ukraine have been hit by Russian shelling, including five railway stations and two towns in Vinnytsia region, local authorities have said.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 61

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

These were the updates on April 25:

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

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

Speaking to Russian news agencies, he 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.”


More sanctions against Russia likely, White House says

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

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

INTERACTIVE - Sanctions on Russia SWIFT payment network


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.


White House says request for supplemental Ukraine aid likely to be 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 military assistance last week.


Poland has delivered tanks to Ukraine, says Polish PM

Poland has sent tanks to Ukraine, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said without giving any further details.

“Yes,” Morawiecki said when asked if Poland had or would send tanks to Ukraine. He declined to reveal any further details including the number of tanks sent.

In March, Poland said it was ready to deploy all its MiG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and put them at the disposal of the United States, but Washington rejected a surprise offer.

“There is no such necessity, there are no such demands, there are no such requests,” Morawiecki said when asked if sending planes to Ukraine was still being considered.


Biden, Macron agree to ‘rapidly’ hold detailed discussion on Ukraine war

French President Emmanuel Macron and his US counterpart Joe Biden agreed in a phone call to “rapidly” hold more detailed discussions on global issues, including the war in Ukraine, the Elysee Palace has said.

According to a readout after the call, Macron and Biden agreed to intensify their dialogue on “major global issues… And in particular on global issues related to the war in Ukraine such as food security”.

“Biden conveyed his readiness to continue working closely with President Macron on our shared global priorities,” the White House said in a separate statement following the French president’s April 24 re-election.


One dead after five railway stations come under fire in Ukraine

The head of Ukraine’s state rail company has said that one railway worker had been killed and four injured by Russian missile strikes on five Ukrainian railway stations.

“Throughout the whole war, this was one of the heaviest enemy strikes. It is a systematic strike on five stations. All the strikes came within an hour,” Ukrainian Railways head Oleksandr Kamyshin told national television.


Russia says its missiles target railway supplies of weapons to Ukraine

Russia’s defence ministry has said its high-precision missiles destroyed six facilities powering the railways that were used to supply Ukrainian forces with foreign weapons.


Ukraine says Russia is targeting railways to cut arms supply routes

Ukraine’s military command has said that Russia was trying to bomb Ukraine’s rail infrastructure in order to disrupt arms supplies from foreign countries.

“They are trying to destroy the supply routes of military-technical assistance from partner states. To do this, they focus strikes on railway junctions,” the armed forces command wrote in a post on Facebook.


ICC prosecutor to join EU team probing war crimes in Ukraine

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor will join a European Union investigations team to probe possible crimes committed in Ukraine, the EU’s judicial cooperation agency has said.

Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan has signed an agreement with prosecutors general of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine to take part in a joint investigative team to look into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since Russia’s invasion on February 24.

Read more here.


Britain to send Stormer armoured vehicles to Ukraine

Britain will send a small number of Stormer armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for anti-air missiles to Ukraine, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Wallace added that British assessments showed that around 15,000 Russian personnel had been killed in the conflict while 2,000 armoured vehicles including some 530 tanks had been destroyed, along with 60 helicopters and fighter jets.

“I can now announce to the House that we will be gifting a small number of armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for those anti-air missiles,” he said.


Finland, Sweden to begin NATO application in May, local media reports

Finland and Sweden will together express their will to join NATO in May, tabloid newspapers Iltalehti in Finland and Expressen in Sweden have reported, citing sources close to the matter.

Despite tightening cooperation with the military alliance since Russia annexed Crimea, the Nordic countries have both opted to stay out, but Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has led to a sharp U-turn in both countries’ attitudes towards NATO.

Finland and Sweden are planning to have their country leaders meet in the week of May 16 and after that publicly announce their plans to bid to join the alliance, Iltalehti wrote.


Russia fired two missiles over large nuclear station, officials say

Russia deliberately fired two cruise missiles over a large nuclear station in central Ukraine as an act of “nuclear terrorism,” energy officials have said.

The missiles flew over the Khmelnitsky nuclear power station in the Vinnytsia region, Energoatom, the state-run agency that controls Ukraine’s nuclear generation, said in a statement on the messaging app, Telegram.

“This is the latest act of nuclear terrorism,” it said, adding that the missiles flew “maximally close” to the power station.


Russia’s expulsion of German diplomats not ‘justified’: Berlin

Germany reacted with defiance to Russia’s announcement that it would expel 40 German diplomats in response to a similar move by Berlin over the conflict in Ukraine.

“We expected today’s step, but it is in no way justified,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement.

She added that the 40 Russian diplomats expelled by Berlin “did not serve diplomacy for a single day” while those expelled by Russia had “not done anything wrong”.


Russian diplomat says no point in ceasefire at the moment

Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations has said Moscow sees no point in establishing a ceasefire in Ukraine at this stage, fearing Kyiv may use it to stage “provocations”, RIA reported.

RIA cited Dmitry Polyanskiy as saying that Russia had not struck any residential areas in Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa. Ukraine’s southern air command on Saturday said that two missiles struck a military facility and two residential buildings in Odesa.


Russia deployed 8 warships off Ukraine’s coast: official

Moscow has deployed eight warships near Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, Defence Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk has said.

He said in televised remarks the ships are capable of launching a total of 58 missiles at a time, and their presence would “endanger” Ukrainian civilians.

The Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship, capsized and sank on April 14, becoming Russia’s largest loss since its invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

Ukrainian officials claimed it was hit by two Neptune missiles, but Russia insisted that it sank while being towed after a munitions explosion.


Germany to borrow extra 39.2 bn euros this year due to Ukraine war

Germany will take on an additional 39.2 billion euros ($42.1bn) of debt in 2022 to counter the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, sources in the finance ministry have said.

The additional debt package, set to be put to the cabinet on Wednesday, will raise the total of new borrowing for the year to 138.9 billion euros ($148.8bn).


Russia says deputy FM discussed bilateral issues with US envoy to Moscow

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Washington’s Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan discussed bilateral issues at a meeting on Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry has said.


Russia expels 40 German diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Moscow has said it was expelling 40 German diplomats in response to the “unfriendly decision” by Berlin to kick out Russian diplomats over the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it summoned Germany’s ambassador in Moscow and handed him a note “declaring persona non grata forty employees of German diplomatic institutions in Russia”.


Russia claims Ukraine hired “Nazis” to kill pro-Kremlin journalist

Russia’s main intelligence service reportedly said that Ukraine hired “neo-Nazis” to “assassinate” outspoken pro-Kremlin television anchor Vladimir Solovyev.

The Federal Security Service claimed in a statement published by the RIA Novosti news agency that Russian members of the outlawed National Socialism/ white power neo-Nazi group were hired by Ukraine’s intelligence service to kill Solovyev.

The newsman is one of the most popular anchors on the Kremlin-controlled Rossiya 1 television network. He called critics of Putin “imbeciles” and said that Crimea’s 2014 annexation was an “act of justice”.

Jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation claimed in 2019 that Solovyov owned two luxurious villas in Italy.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.


US State Department backs ammunition sale for Ukraine

The US Department of State supports the approval of a possible sale of $165m worth of ammunition to Ukraine, it said in a statement.

The Ukrainian government has asked to buy various rounds of so-called non-standard ammunition, which are those that do not adhere to NATO standards.


Ukraine claims to have rebuffed attack in the east

Ukraine’s defence ministry said Russia was continuing to attack in eastern Ukraine, but was being pushed back.

Defence Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Russian forces had attempted to break through the defences of towns including Rubizhne, Popasna, Sievierodonetsk, Maryinka and Avdiivka, and were attempting to advance from the town of Izyum towards Barvinkove and Sloviansk.


No agreement on Mariupol corridor

Ukraine has not reached any agreement with Russia on establishing a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the southern city of Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshschuk said.

“It is important to understand that a humanitarian corridor opens by the agreement of both sides. A corridor announced unilaterally does not provide security, and therefore is not a humanitarian corridor,” Vereshchuk said, referring to a previous announcement by Russia that a safe route had been opened.

A boy stands next to a wrecked vehicle in front of an apartment building damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine
A boy stands next to a wrecked vehicle in front of an apartment building damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Biden names Brink as US ambassador to Ukraine

United States President Joe Biden named Bridget Brink, who currently represents the US in Slovakia, as the new US ambassador to Ukraine, the White House said in a statement. The position must be confirmed by the US Senate.


Russian shelling kills five in Donetsk: local authority

Five civilians, including two children, have died in a Russian attack in the southeastern Donetsk region, an official has said.

The children were aged five and 14 and lived in the village of Krasnohorivka, Donetsk defense chief Pavlo Kirilenko said late Sunday.

The three other victims were from the towns of Novoselivtsy and Novomikhailivtsy, he added.


Foreign services behind plot to murder Russian journalist: Putin

Russian President Putin said that Moscow’s security forces thwarted an assassination attempt against a Russian journalist. He also pointed at foreign special services, including the CIA, working in conjunction with Ukrainian forces to murder Russian journalists.

Putin also said that provocations against the Russian military using foreign media must be stopped.

He suggested that Western military support to Ukraine was a “strange diplomacy”.


Russia to open Azovstal humanitarian corridor: ministry

The Russian defense ministry said a humanitarian corridor will open at 2pm (11:00 GMT) for all civilians to leave the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. It said Russian troops will cease fire to allow civilians to safely exit the plant.

The mammoth steel plant, which has a sprawling maze of underground channels, has remained the last bulwark of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic Sea of Azov port city.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Mariupol DAY 61


Russia investigates large oil depot fire in region near Ukraine

Russia said it would investigate the cause of a large fire that erupted in the early hours of the morning at an oil storage facility in the city of Bryansk, 154km (96 miles) northeast of the border with Ukraine.

Unverified social media footage showed what sounded like two explosions followed by a tower of flames, with one unverified video showing a fire raging around a giant fuel reservoir.

Russia’s ministry of emergency situations said nobody had been hurt in the incident.


Floating mines hit Danube traffic: APK-Inform

Ukrainian border guards last week closed several shipping lanes at the mouth of the Danube river due to drifting mines in the Black Sea, analyst APK-Inform has said.

Ukrainian Danube ports of Izmail and Reni last week remained the only sea routes for Ukrainian grain exports after seaports were blocked due to the Russian invasion. APK-Inform said that the traffic along the Danube was significantly limited “because of the danger of blowing up ships on laid in the Black Sea by Russian troops”.

INTERACTIVE - WHEAT PRODUCTION UKRAINE


Germany to decide on fighting vehicle deliveries to Ukraine ‘soon’

The German government will make a decision on the delivery of 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine “soon”, said a German government spokesperson.

German defence company Rheinmetall has requested approval to export the vehicles to Ukraine, a defence source told Reuters, in what would be the first heavy weapons shipment from Germany to Ukraine.


Soldier downs three Russian helicopters: Ukraine military

Ukraine has claimed that a new recruit shot down three Russian helicopters in the southern Zaporizhzhia region on April 21, using a portable Igla (Needle) infrared homing surface-to-air missile.

Ukraine’s general staff of armed forces posted a video on Facebook showing the debris of a Ka-52 helicopter that Moscow hails as “the pride and joy of Russia’s air forces”.

There were no reports of lost helicopters from the Russian side.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Russians shell towns in central Ukraine: governor

Russian cruise missiles hit two towns in the southwestern Ukrainian region of Vinnytsia, its governor said, adding that “sites of critical infrastructure” were hit in the towns of Zhmerynka and Kozyatin.

There are “dead and wounded”, Serhiy Borzov said on Telegram without providing further details.


Five railway stations hit

Five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were hit by Russian forces early morning, the country’s railway service’s chief Oleksandr Kamyshin has said.

“There are victims, we are finding out the details,” he said in an online post, adding that at least 16 trains have been delayed.


Where are people flying to?

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 61 April 25 6GMT


Rescue operations ongoing in Luhansk

Following Russian shelling in the east of Luhansk region, rescuers are working to extinguish fires in Lysychansk and pulling bodies from the rubble in Severodonetsk, the country’s emergency service has said on its Telegram channel.

“Rescuers are constantly performing their professional duties, eliminating fires despite the high risk of shelling,” it added.

A new cemetery near a local church is pictured in the town of Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine
A recent cemetery near a local church in the town of Severodonetsk, Luhansk region [Marko Djurica/Reuters]

Heavy shelling in Lyman: Al Jazeera correspondent

As Russian forces are pressing into the eastern city of Slovyansk, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford said that the nearby town of Lyman was already under heavy attack.

“The shelling was too heavy,” Stratford said as he tried to access the city. Families are sheltering in bunkers and a crater was seen in the center of the town, Stratford reported, citing people fleeing Lyman.

But there are also those trying to enter the town despite Russian attacks: “We have no choice, our home is there and we can’t afford to live in Dnipro,” a family told Stratford, highlighting the amount of challenges displaced people are facing.


Azovstal under fire: Ukraine’s military

Russian forces hit the Azovstal steel plant, Ukraine’s military says.

The steelworks is the last remaining pocket of resistance in southern Mariupol, and hundreds of Ukrainian fighters and some 1,000 civilians are estimated to be hiding in underground tunnels there.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Russia storms eastern town of Popasna

Russian forces stormed Popasna, a town of 20,000 in the southeastern Luhansk region, Ukraine’s General Staff of Armed Forces has said.

Its takeover could ease the encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk as the city sits on a hill near a key transport hub.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Ukraine can win with ‘right equipment’: Austin

The US defence chief says Ukrainians can win against Russia with the right equipment and support.

“The first step in winning is believing that you can win. And so they believe that [they] can win,” Austin said in a news briefing on the Polish-Ukraine border.

“We believe that they can win. They can win if they have the right equipment, the right support. And we’re going to do everything we can, continue to do everything we had to ensure that they get it.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speak with reporters after returning from their trip to Kyiv
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speak with reporters after returning from their trip to Kyiv [Alex Brandon/Pool via Reuters]

Russia ‘failing’ in its Ukraine war aims: Blinken

After a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv, the US Secretary of State has said that Russia is failing in its war aims in Ukraine.

“We’re seeing that when it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed,” Blinken told reporters in Poland.

“It sought to assert the power of its military and its economy. We, of course, are seeing just the opposite. The military that is dramatically under-performing, an economy as a result of sanctions, as a result of a mass exodus from Russia, that is in shambles. And it sought to divide the West and NATO. Of course, we’re seeing exactly the opposite.”


German company seeks approval to send military vehicles to Ukraine

The German defence company Rheinmetall has requested approval to export 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, a defence source told Reuters on Monday, confirming an earlier report by Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The company is seeking an export licence for the vehicles in their current state for now, aiming to restore them over the coming months before shipping them to Ukraine, the source said.

The deal will have to be approved by Germany’s national security council, a committee chaired by Chancellor Olaf Scholz that meets in secret session.


Russia downs two Ukrainian drones in Kursk: Governor

Russian air defence systems shot down two Ukrainian drones in Russia’s Kursk region which borders Ukraine, regional Governor Roman Starovoyt wrote on his Telegram channel on Monday.

He said there were no casualties.


US aid taking Ukraine’s defence to ‘new level’: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president says the $3.4bn in military assistance from the US is “already” helping bring Ukraine’s defence capabilities to a “qualitatively new level”, according to a statement from his office.

“We appreciate the unprecedented assistance of the United States to Ukraine,” he said following Blinken and Austin visits to Kyiv.

“I would like to thank President Biden personally and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people for his leadership in supporting Ukraine, for his personal clear position. To thank all the American people, as well as the Congress for their bicameral and bipartisan support. We see it. We feel it,” he said.

The statement noted the president’s discussions with the US delegation included “current priorities for the belligerent state”, strengthening sanctions on Russia, financial support for Ukraine and security guarantees.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, April 24, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

One dead and seven injured in Kremenchuk: Governor

One person has died and seven have been injured in missile attacks in the city of Kremenchuk, governor of the Poltava region, Dmytro Lunin, confirmed on Telegram on Monday morning.

On Sunday night, Lunin had written of attacks on infrastructure but said details were being clarified.

“Nine enemy missiles the day before hit the Kremenchuk thermal power plant and the Kremenchuk oil refinery,” Lunin said in a post, adding the hit to the power plant meant most of the city’s districts were without hot water.

He also said that the shelling on Sunday evening was the largest in the Poltava region since Russia’s invasion began.


Explosions reported in Lviv as air raid sirens blare across Ukraine

Several explosions have been reported in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, with a large plume of smoke cited in an unknown location. Reports are being confirmed.

Air sirens were activated across Ukraine overnight, including in the Chernihiv, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk regions.

Explosions were also reported in Vinnytsia.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in a warehouse amid Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in a warehouse amid Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 23, 2022 [Felipe Dana/AP Photo]

Russia trying to hide true death toll in Ukraine: UK

Russia’s defence ministry has proposed that compensation for families of deceased military personnel will be overseen by military rather than civilian officials, the latest briefing of the United Kingdom defence ministry says.

“This likely reflects a desire to hide the true scale of Russia’s losses from the domestic population,” the ministry adds.

It also noted that Russia had made only “minor advances” in some areas since it shifted its focus to occupying the eastern region of the Donbas.

“Without sufficient logistical and combat support enablers in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough,” it said.


Russia warns US against sending Ukraine more weapons

Moscow has sent a note to Washington demanding it stop supplying weapons to Kyiv, Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said in an interview with the Russia-24 TV channel, state news agency TASS reported.

“$800 million, for this [amount of] weapons will be supplied to Kyiv from Washington. This is a huge figure, it does not contribute to finding a diplomatic solution, resolving the situation,” Antonov said.

“Did we pass a note – yes, we emphasised the unacceptability of the situation when the United States are stuffing Ukraine with weapons, we demanded an end to this practice,” he said.

Antonov added that the US was “trying to raise the stakes even more and aggravate the situation”.


Entire region under heavy shelling: Luhansk governor

The entire Luhansk region is under “heavy shelling” on Easter Sunday, the region’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, said in a post on Telegram, adding that three high-rise buildings and four houses had burned down as a result.

He said several vehicles, including trucks, were involved in accidents. “Therefore, people were saved not only by sorting out the rubble, but also from under beaten vehicles.

“The Russian army has hit the oil refinery in Lisichansk for the third time,” he added without mentioning any casualties.


Russia attempting to save parts of sunken Moskva: Reports

Russia is using a special rescue ship to lift its sunken warship Moskva from the seabed, Ukraine’s news channel Espreso reported, citing the German newspaper Bild.

“Due to the size of the Moskva [187 metres in length], the 110-year-old Kommuna is unlikely to be able to lift the sunken cruiser from the depths completely, but there will be attempts to save the ship’s anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as secret documents and military equipment,” the Bild reportedly noted.

Other publications such as Forbes said the Kommuna is attempting to rescue only sensitive materials from the ship.

Kommuna, a submarine-salvage ship, was placed into active service in July 1915. It has served in the Russian Imperial, Soviet and Russian Federation navies, through the Russian Revolution and both world wars.


Pentagon chief headed to Germany for talks with NATO ministers

After his trip to Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy, Austin, the Pentagon chief, will head to Ramstein, Germany, for a meeting of NATO defence ministers and other donor countries, The Associated Press news agency reported.

The discussion on Tuesday will look at battlefield updates from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine and longer-term defence needs in Europe, including how to step up military production to fill gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials told the AP.

More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.


Blinken and Austin pledge more aid, return of US diplomats

The US has announced new military aid for Ukraine and promised that its diplomats will return to Lviv in the coming week, as its top diplomat and defence chief completed a secretive trip to the Ukrainian capital.

Blinken and Austin told Zelenskyy and his advisers that the US would provide more than $300m in foreign military financing and had approved a $165m sale of ammunition.

They also said US President Joe Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that US diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week.

The US embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane for departure, at Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, U.S., April 23, 2022.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane for departure, at Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, US, April 23, 2022 [Alex Brandon/Pool via Reuters]

Russia may be preparing for renewed assaults on Azovstal: Think-tank

Russian forces have continued to bombard the remaining Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant and may be preparing for renewed assaults on the facility, according to a US-based think-tank.

The Institute for the Study of War said its latest analysis showed that the storming of the vast steelworks would likely lead to high Russian casualties.

The institute also noted that Russian forces had secured limited gains northwest of the city of Severodonetsk, which is in the Luhansk region, but remained “unlikely to be able to launch massive offensive operations”.

It added Russia was deploying additional forces to “reinforce unsuccessful attacks on the Izyum front”.


Zelenskyy praises Ukraine’s resistance, thanks US for support

Ukraine’s president has praised his people for two months of bravely resisting Russian forces since Moscow’s invasion on February 24, and thanked the US for its support.

“Two months of heroic nationwide resistance of Ukraine to the Russian aggression have passed. I am grateful to @POTUS and the people of the US for leadership in supporting Ukraine,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

He was responding to Biden’s tweet which honoured Ukraine’s resolve.

“Two months after [Russian President Vladimir] Putin launched an unprovoked and justified attack on Ukraine, Kyiv still stands,” Biden wrote, promising to continue to support Ukraine “in their right to defend their homeland”.


Kyiv and Hamburg now ‘strategic partners’

Ukraine’s Kyiv and Germany’s Hamburg have become strategic partner cities through a pact stipulating support in times of crisis.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his Hamburg counterpart, Peter Tschentscher, signed the agreement on Sunday.

It lays down “effective cooperation between our cities” including “the provision of assistance by Hamburg for the restoration of Kyiv”, Klitschko wrote on Telegram. He added Hamburg will increase its humanitarian assistance efforts.

Tschentscher said Kyiv “is of particular importance in the fight against Russian aggression, as well as in the fight for peace and freedom in Europe”, Interfax reported.


Sanctions won’t ‘strangle’ economy: Russian senator

A Russian senator says Western sanctions against Moscow will not “strangle” its economy and that the European Union has revealed its inability to function without Russia’s fossil fuels.

Aleksey Pushkov told state newspaper Izvestia that the EU’s plan to phase out Russian fossil fuels by 2027 “is a recognition of the impossibility of ensuring the functioning of the economy of Germany and a number of other European countries without supplies from Russia”.

He said there were two reasons why Western sanctions will not work.

“The first is rise of hydrocarbon prices which will provide Russia with a record budget surplus. The second is the long-term nature of restrictions, which gives Russia enough time to adapt to new conditions. All this makes it impossible for the Russian economy to collapse.”


US House to vote on Ukraine lend-lease act

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 “this week”, according to Congressman Charlie Christ.

The Act would expedite the transfer of critical military equipment and other critical supplies to Ukraine by cutting bureaucratic red tape. The lend-lease programme was created during World War II to allow Washington to quickly resupply allies without procedural hurdles.


Russian missiles hit infrastructure in Poltava: Governor

Nine Russian missiles have hit infrastructure facilities in the city of Kremenchuk in the eastern Poltava region, according to its governor.

Dmytro Lunin said the attacks took place on Sunday evening.

“We are clarifying the information about the victims and the destruction,” he wrote on Telegram.


Russia blocking locals from leaving occupied territories: Military

Ukraine’s military says Russian forces are restricting “the rights and freedoms of civilians” in temporarily occupied territories, “in particular freedom of movement”.

It said in a Facebook post that the “settlements that are preparing for holding pseudo-referendums are closed for entry and exit”.

Ukrainian officials have warned of Russian plans to hold referendums for independence in the occupied southern city of Kherson, similar to the one held in annexed Crimea in 2014.

Olga Zhovtobrukh, 55, cries during an Easter religious service at a church in Bucha.
Olga Zhovtobrukh, 55, cries during an Easter religious service at a church in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, April 24, 2022 [Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo]

Russia reports fire at oil depot in Bryansk

Russia’s TASS news agency has reported a fire at an oil depot in Bryansk, a city that lies 400km (248 miles) southwest of Moscow and borders Ukraine’s Chernihiv and Sumy regions.

“Tanks caught fire at an oil depot in Bryansk,” TASS said, citing city authorities as well as the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Earlier in the night, residents had reported hearing explosions and posted videos of a fire on the outskirts of Bryansk.

Russia has previously accused Ukraine of shelling the town of Klimovo in the Bryansk region and causing casualties.


EU readying ‘some form of an oil embargo’ on Russia

The EU is preparing “smart sanctions” against Russian oil imports, The Times has reported, quoting the European Commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis.

“We are working on a sixth sanctions package and one of the issues we are considering is some form of an oil embargo,” Dombrovskis told the London-based newspaper.

“When we are imposing sanctions, we need to do so in a way that maximises pressure on Russia while minimising collateral damage on ourselves.”


Putin’s actions in Ukraine ‘nauseating’: Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described Putin’s actions in Ukraine as “nauseating” during a phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Johnson told Guterres on Sunday afternoon that the actions were a “blatant aggression, which is having devastating consequences for Ukraine’s people”, according to a statement from his office.

“They discussed their shared concerns on attacks in areas besieged by Russian forces, such as Mariupol and Kherson, and the need to secure a ceasefire, facilitate humanitarian efforts and allow civilians to leave,” the statement added.


Current Russia sanctions ‘insufficient’: Ukrainian official

Andriy Yermak, an aide to Ukraine’s president, has said the continuation of the war and the killing of civilians and children “make it clear that the current sanctions policy is insufficient”.

“It needs to be strengthened. It needs to be updated, new sanctions need to be developed constantly,” he said on French TV.

Yermak touted a sanctions action plan developed by an international group of experts that he and former US diplomat Michael McFaul led. The plan lays out further steps countries should take to pressure Russia, including a full EU embargo on Russian gas and oil and “recognising Russia as a country that sponsors terrorism”.


Ukraine to try to establish Mariupol humanitarian route

Ukraine will try to establish a humanitarian evacuation corridor out of Mariupol on Monday after attempts failed on Sunday, Ukraine’s Deputy PM Vereshchuk has said, blaming Russian forces for not holding their fire.


Russia plans ‘staged referendum’ in Kherson: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Russia is “planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation”.

Russian forces seized the strategically important city in southern Ukraine in early March.

“The city is key to Russia’s objective of establishing a land bridge to Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine,” the defence ministry wrote on Twitter.


Civilians in Mariupol steelworks beg for aid

Ukraine’s Azov Battalion has released a new video showing Ukrainian children in an underground bunker receiving Easter presents.

One of the women in the video begs for help from world leaders. “We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these bombings, constant air strikes on our land. How much longer will this continue?” she says.

Another woman says there are 600 civilians sheltering under the plant, without food and water.

Sviatoslav Palamar, the Azov Battalion’s deputy commander, said the video was shot on Sunday at the plant. Members of the militia are among hundreds of Ukrainian forces holed up at the Azovstal plant, the last remaining pocket of resistance in Mariupol.

Al Jazeera could not verify the authenticity of the video.

Ukrainian soldier from Azov Battalion and civilians gather on Orthodox Easter Sunday at Azovstal steel plant.
Ukrainian soldier from Azov Battalion and civilians on Orthodox Easter Sunday at Azovstal steel plant, where soldiers are holding out and civilians sheltering, amid Russia’s siege of Mariupol. April 24, 2022. Azov/Handout via Reuters

Zelenskyy welcomes Macron’s election victory

Ukraine’s president has congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his victory in Sunday’s presidential runoff.

Writing on Twitter, Zelenskyy described Macron as a “true friend of Ukraine” and said he was convinced that they are “moving forward together towards new common victories. Towards a strong and united Europe!”


OSCE calls for release of members in separatist-held Ukraine

The OSCE has called for the “immediate release” of four of its Ukrainian members detained in pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, whose country currently chairs the OSCE, said the detention of four members “for engaging in administrative activities that fall within their official functions as OSCE staff” was “unacceptable”.

“We call for their immediate release,” he said. “They have been held without charge for a period of time now and the OSCE and their families have not been sufficiently informed of the situation.”

Earlier, the OSCE wrote on Twitter it was “extremely concerned” that several members had been “deprived of their liberty”, following Russian media reports they had been arrested.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Donbas DAY 60


Zelenskyy meets Blinken and Austin in Kyiv: Official

An adviser to Zelenskyy says the US secretaries of state and defence were meeting with the Ukrainian leader, in the highest-level visit to Kyiv by a US delegation since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Oleksiy Arestovych said in an interview on Ukrainian TV that the talks with Blinken and Austin were taking place late on Sunday. There was no immediate comment from the US.

Prior to the meeting, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the US to bolster its arms shipments to Kyiv.


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

These were the updates on April 24.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies