Russia-Ukraine latest updates: UK’s Johnson meets Zelenskyy

News from April 9: Ukrainian and British leaders discuss a new package of financial and military aid, the UK government says.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet in Kyiv [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]
  • The United Kingdom says British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has travelled to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says Russian forces appear to have committed war crimes by targeting civilians in Ukraine.
  • The deadly attack on a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk draws international condemnation and calls for accountability.
  • Ukrainian officials say at least 52 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the attack, for which Russia has denied responsibility.
  • Ukraine’s southern city of Odesa has imposed a weekend curfew over what it said was a Russian “missile strike threat”.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 45

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for April 9. For the latest news please read here

Five killed in east Ukraine shelling: Donetsk governor

Russian shelling killed five civilians and wounded five others in two east Ukrainian cities Saturday, the local governor has said on Telegram.

“Today, five people were killed after Russian shelling in the region of Donetsk,” the Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko posted on Telegram. Four of them died in the city of Vuhledar, and one in the town of Novomykhailivka, he added.

Czechs should cut energy dependence on Russia: PM

The Czech Republic should cut its dependence on Russian energy resources within five years, Prime Minister Petr Fiala has said, terming the current situation one of the country’s “greatest security risks”.

The European Union member state meets its gas needs almost entirely through shipments directly or indirectly from Russia, and gets roughly half its crude imports from the same source.

Fiala told his Civic Democratic Party convention that the country’s energy sector has to change “completely”.

Zelenskyy braces for ‘hard battle’

Ukraine is ready for a tough battle with Russian forces amassing in the east of the country, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

At a meeting in Kyiv, Johnson told Zelenskyy that Britain would provide armoured vehicles and anti-ship missile systems, along with additional support for World Bank loans.

Britain also will continue to ratchet up its sanctions on Russia and move away from using Russian hydrocarbons, he said.

Italy’s Berlusconi ‘deeply disappointed’ by Putin

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said that he is deeply disappointed and saddened by the behaviour of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The tycoon, who for years enjoyed a close friendship with the Russian leader, said Putin had to take full responsibility in the eyes of the world over the invasion of Ukraine.

“I got to know him 20 years ago and he had always seemed to me a man of democracy and peace … what a pity,” Berlusconi said, addressing a convention of his conservative Forza Italia party in Rome.

Silvio Berlusconi, in front of the Forza Italia banner
Silvio Berlusconi says Putin had always seemed to him, a man of democracy and peace [File: AP]

Ukraine says third prisoner exchange with Russia under way

Ukraine has said 12 Ukrainian soldiers and 14 civilians were returning home following a prisoner exchange with Russia.

“On the order of President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy, the third prisoner exchange took place today. 12 of our servicemen are returning home, including one female officer,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.

Fourteen civilians including nine women were also on their way home, Vereshchuk added.

Bucha killings have ‘permanently polluted’ Putin’s reputation: Johnson

The UK’s Johnson has said that the discovery of civilian bodies in Ukrainian towns has “permanently polluted” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputation.

“What Putin has done in places like Bucha and Irpin is war crimes that have permanently polluted his reputation and the reputation of his government,” Johnson said, standing next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, referring to towns in the Kyiv region where bodies have been discovered.


Johnson meets Zelenskyy
Image of Johnson and Zelenskyy tweeted by the Embassy of Ukraine to the UK [Twitter]

Russia calls for integrating BRICS payment systems

Russia, hit by Western sanctions, has called on the BRICS group of emerging economies to extend the use of national currencies and integrate payment systems, according to the finance ministry.

Sanctions have cut Russia off from the global financial system and from nearly half of its gold and foreign exchange reserves, which stood at $606.5bn in early April.

On Friday, finance minister Anton Siluanov told a ministerial meeting with BRICS, which consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, that the global economic situation had worsened substantially due to the sanctions, the ministry’s statement said.

Global pledging event raises 10.1 billion euros for Ukraine

A global pledging event for Ukrainian refugees called Stand Up for Ukraine has raised 10.1 billion euros ($11bn).

“The ‘Stand Up For Ukraine’ campaign has raised 9.1 billion euros for people fleeing bombs, inside and outside Ukraine, with an additional billion pledged by EBRD (the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development),” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said.

The event convened by the EU and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to raise money for internally displaced people in Ukraine and refugees from the war-ravaged country, organisers said.

European Commission pledges one billion euros to support Ukraine

The European Commission will pledge one billion euros ($1.09bn) to support Ukraine and countries receiving refugees fleeing the war following Russia’s invasion, according to the president of the EU’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen.

“Six hundred million of those [$652m] will go to Ukraine, to the Ukrainian authorities and partially to the United Nations,” von der Leyen said at a fundraising event for Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland.

“And 400 million euros [$435m] will go to the front-line states that are doing such an outstanding job and helping the refugees that are coming,” she said.

UK’s Johnson visits Kyiv, discusses more aid with Ukraine’s Zelenskyy

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has travelled to Kyiv to discuss providing Ukraine with more financial and military aid in a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, according to Johnson’s office.

Johnson met Zelenskyy “in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“They will discuss the UK’s long-term support to Ukraine and the PM will set out a new package of financial and military aid.”

Ukraine ‘still ready’ for talks with Russia: Zelenskyy

Ukraine is “still ready” to continue negotiations with Moscow, which have stalled since the discovery of atrocities in Bucha and other areas near Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Ukraine has always said it is ready for negotiations and looking for any way to stop this war,” Zelenskyy said in a news conference with the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who visited Bucha.

“Sadly, in parallel we see the preparations for important battles, some people say decisive ones, in the east,” he said, referring to an anticipated Russian offensive.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the Ukrainian people, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 29, 2022.
Zelenskyy in an address in Kyiv [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Russia says EU closes borders for some cargo vehicles registered in Russia, Belarus

European Union countries sharing borders with Russia and Belarus have barred some cargo vehicles registered in the two countries from entering since Friday due to sanctions, according to the Russian customs service.

The EU on Friday formally adopted new sanctions against Russia, including bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products, while also preventing many Russian vessels and trucks from accessing the bloc.

Vehicles used as international transport that have Russian and Belarusian number plates will not be able to move goods on EU territory, the Russian customs service said.


Russia stages war games in Kaliningrad enclave: report

Russia has carried out war games in Kaliningrad – an enclave on the Baltic Sea sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania – Interfax news agency cited the Baltic Fleet Command as saying, days after a senior official warned European countries against any potential action against Kaliningrad.

“Up to 1,000 military personnel … and more than 60 military equipment units were involved in the control checks,” Interfax news quoted the Russian Baltic Fleet Command’s press service as saying.

Separately, 20 Su-27 fighters and Su-24 front-line naval aviation bombers conducted planned combat training overnight, simulating attacks on low-speed air and ground targets, command posts and military equipment in Kaliningrad, Interfax said.

Italy intends to reopen embassy in Kyiv immediately after Easter

Italy intends to reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, immediately after Easter, foreign minister Luigi Di Maio said.

“We were the last to leave Kyiv and we will be among the first to go back,” Di Maio said after a meeting at the foreign ministry to discuss the war in Ukraine.

“At the same time we must intensify diplomatic pressure to bring [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to the talks table and reach a ceasefire.”

Von der Leyen: Russia’s actions appear to be war crimes

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says Russian forces appear to have committed war crimes by targeting civilians in Ukraine, adding that lawyers must investigate the alleged incidents.

“My instinct says: if this is not a war crime, what is a war crime? But I am a medical doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully,” von der Leyen told reporters on board a train leaving Ukraine.

“I saw the photos, [Ukrainian prime minister] Denys Shmyhal showed me: killing people as they are walking by. We could also see with our own eyes, that the destruction in the city is targeted into the civilian lives. Residential buildings are no military target,” she said, referring to Bucha.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that allegations that Russian forces had executed civilians in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

Von der Leyen in Bucha, Ukraine
Von der Leyen said she had seen with her own eyes on Friday the destruction in the town of Bucha near Kyiv [Sergei Supinsky/AFP]

Russia says ammunition depot at Ukrainian air base destroyed

Russia’s defence ministry says Russian forces have destroyed an ammunition depot at the Myrhorod Air Base in central Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported.

A Ukrainian air force MiG-29 fighter and a Mi-8 helicopter were also destroyed in the attack on the base in the Poltava region, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Sweden Democrats leader wants party to change on NATO membership if Finland applies to join alliance

The leader of Sweden’s second-biggest opposition party says he will suggest that his party change its stance towards favouring a Swedish membership of NATO, should neighbour Finland apply to join the alliance.

A change of stance by the Sweden Democrats party would mean a swing to a parliamentary majority in favour of long-neutral Sweden joining the alliance.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted the two countries to consider joining, although Sweden is more hesitant than Finland which has a 1,300km (800-mile) border with Russia. The Finnish government has said it would clarify the next steps in the coming weeks regarding a possible decision to seek membership.

“Then [if Finland applies] my ambition is to go to the party council with a request that we change our mind,” Jimmie Akesson told Svenska Dagbladet, a local daily.

“What’s changed now is that Finland is very clearly moving towards a NATO membership and there are many indications this may happen in the near future. That, and the fact Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, is completely alone, has made me turn.”

Poland hosts donor conference for Ukraine refugees

Poland is hosting a donor conference on Saturday to help the more than 11 million people who have been driven out of Ukraine by Russia’s invasion or who have been internally displaced.

The event, which begins at 3pm (13:00 GMT) in Warsaw, was organised by the non-governmental organisation Global Citizen, the European Commission and the Canadian government. The money is largely to go to United Nations programmes and local relief initiatives.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, fresh from her solidarity visit to Kyiv on Friday, is scheduled to appear in person. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will join by video.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has also confirmed his participation. Since the Russian invasion began on February 24, more than 2.5 million Ukrainians have crossed the border into Poland.

US to place one Patriot missile system in Slovakia: Pentagon

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says Washington will put one Patriot missile defence system – along with American troops to operate it – in Slovakia, after Bratislava agreed to donate its S-300 air defence system to Ukraine.

Austin, in a statement, said the system would arrive in the coming days.

“Their deployment length has not yet been fixed, as we continue to consult with the Slovak government about more permanent air defence solutions,” Austin said.

Ukraine: 10 humanitarian corridors agreed

Ukraine says 10 humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from besieged regions have been agreed for Saturday.

The planned corridors include one for people evacuating by private transport from the city of Mariupol, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Ukraine war pushes Germany to strengthen its bunker infrastructure

The Welt am Sonntag newspaper, citing Germany’s interior minister, reports that Berlin has started working on strengthening its basement shelters as well as building up crisis stocks in case of war.

After decades of attrition of Germany’s armed forces, Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to a major policy shift with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledging to increase defence spending and injecting 100 billion euros ($109bn) into the army.

The government is also looking into upgrading its public shelter systems and will increase spending on civil protection, interior minister Nancy Faeser told the newspaper.

“There are currently 599 public shelters in Germany. We will check whether we could upgrade more of such systems. In any case, the dismantling has stopped,” Faeser said.

More evacuations needed from Ukraine’s Luhansk as shelling increases: Governor

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai says more evacuations are needed from the region as shelling has increased in recent days and more Russian forces have been arriving.

He said that some 30 percent of people remain in settlements across the region and have been asked to evacuate.

“They [Russia] are amassing forces for an offensive and we see the number of shelling has increased,” Gaidai told the public television broadcaster.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 45 April 9 6GMT

Russia continues to hit Ukrainian non-combatants: UK intelligence

Russia continues to hit Ukrainian non-combatants, such as the civilians killed in Friday’s rocket attack on Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine, according to British military intelligence.

“Russian operations continue to focus on the Donbas region, Mariupol and Mykolaiv, supported by continued cruise missile launches into Ukraine by Russian naval forces,” the Ministry of Defence says, adding that Russia’s ambitions to establish a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbas continue to be thwarted by Ukrainian resistance.

Ukrainian forces maintaining Mariupol positions: Think-tank

The Institute for the Study of War says Ukrainian forces are continuing to hold out against Russian attacks in eastern and southwestern Mariupol, which has been besieged for weeks.

They are also threatening Russian positions in Kherson, and appear to have taken more territory west of the city, the institute said in its latest assessment of the military situation.

It says Russia is attempting to regroup its forces for an offensive in the east but could be hindered by “poor morale” with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting that 80 percent of personnel in some units are refusing to fight.

A Ukrainian soldier stands on a destroyed Russian tank in the n Chernihiv region,
A Ukrainian serviceman stands on top of a destroyed Russian tank in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo]

Need for ‘clear, unified’ response on Ukraine: Biden to Ramaphosa

The White House has released more details on the call between Biden and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa.

Biden reportedly initiated the call after South Africa abstained in the vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

According to the statement, Biden stressed “the need for a clear, unified international response to Russian aggression in Ukraine” and emphasised the “global challenges” created by the invasion.

Ramaphosa said on Friday he had had a “productive” call with Biden. “We shared views on the conflict in Ukraine and agreed on the need for a ceasefire and dialogue between Russia and Ukraine,’ he wrote on Twitter.

South Africa was one of 58 countries that abstained in the vote on Russia.

Medvedev says sanctions ‘act of international aggression’

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and prime minister and now deputy chairman of the security council, has condemned ever-tougher Western sanctions as an “act of international aggression”.

In a lengthy post on his Telegram channel, Medvedev condemned the sanctions as “illegal” and said they amounted to “a declaration of economic war”.

Zelenskyy set to appear on 60 Minutes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will appear on US television news programme 60 Minutes on Sunday, the show said.

In a clip shared on Twitter, correspondent Scott Pelley interviewed Zelenskyy inside a government building in Kyiv for a two-part report. “We are defending the ability of a person to live in the modern world,” Zelenskyy said.

“They say we’re defending Western values. I always say, what are Western values? Someone who lives in the United States or Europe, do they also not like children? Do they not want their children to go to university, do they not want their grandfather to live for 100 years? We have the same values.”

US celebrities voice support for Ukraine online

Film, TV, sport and music stars in the United States have joined a social media campaign to show support for Ukraine, urging governments, institutions, corporations and individuals to help fund humanitarian efforts in the country and other parts of the world.

The group of celebrities, which includes Bruce Springsteen, Hugh Jackman, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, the Jonas Brothers and Billie Eilish, among others, is being asked to use their social media accounts to publicise the effort, using the hashtag #StandUpForUkraine.

“Refugees in Ukraine and around the world need our help now,” Springsteen said in a video. “Everyone deserves safe and humane living conditions.” Actress and singer Barbra Streisand also tweeted a link to the Global Citizen campaign website, writing, “I supported and hope you will too.”

Zelenskyy condemns missile attack on railway station

Ukraine’s president has strongly condemned the missile attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk, calling it “another war crime committed by Russia”.

“All leading countries of the world have already condemned the Russian strike on Kramatorsk,” Zelenskyy said during his nightly address. “We are anticipating a solid global reaction to this war crime.”

He added, “Everyone responsible for this will be brought to justice.”

Nicaragua blasts UN decision to remove Russia from Human Rights Council

Nicaragua’s foreign ministry has condemned the United Nations General Assembly’s decision to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, calling it a “violation of international law, incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations”.

“Any action aimed at eliminating or suspending” a country from international bodies “constitutes a violation of human rights and is an aggression against its people”, the ministry said in a statement.

Nicaragua was one of 24 nations that voted against removing Russia from the human rights body.

Some Russian forces depleted: US official

A senior US defence official says the Pentagon has determined that some of the Russian combat units that retreated from the Kyiv area in recent days are so heavily damaged and depleted that their combat utility is in question.

The official described these units as “for all intents and purposes eradicated”, with only a small number of functioning troops and weapons remaining.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity, said that the US believes Russia has lost 15 to 20 percent of the combat power it had assembled along Ukraine’s borders before launching its invasion.

Death toll from Kramatorsk station rises to 52: Official

The death toll from Russia’s missile attack on Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine was raised to 52 people, up from 50, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a message on Telegram, adding that at least five children were among those killed.

US curbs Russian access to foreign fertilisers and valves

The US has broadened its export curbs against Russia and Belarus, restricting access to the importation of items such as fertiliser and pipe valves.

The Biden administration also restricted flights of American-made aircraft owned, controlled or leased by Belarusians from flying into Belarus “as part of the US government’s response to Belarus’s actions in support of Russia’s aggressive conduct in Ukraine”.

The US Department of Commerce said it will begin requiring Russians and Belarusians to get a special licence when seeking to obtain a host of goods from US suppliers and pledged to deny those licences. The goods include fertiliser, pipe valves, ball bearings and other parts, materials and chemicals.

White House slams ‘horrific’ attack on Ukraine train station

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said the attack on Kramatorsk was “yet another horrific atrocity committed by Russia,” and the administration would support efforts to hold Russia accountable.

“Well, what we’ve seen over the course of the last six weeks or more than that has been what the president himself has characterised as war crimes, which is the intentional targeting of civilians,” Psaki said during a regular news conference.

“This is yet another horrific atrocity committed by Russia, striking civilians who are trying to evacuate and reach safety,” she said.

‘We will continue to work on Russia,’ HRW says

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has promised to continue documenting Russian rights abuses after Moscow revoked the rights group’s registration for allegedly violating the country’s “current legislation”.

The New York-based organisation said in a series of tweets there is “little doubt” that Russia’s move is in response to the group’s reporting on the war in Ukraine. It is among 15 groups to have their registrations in Russia revoked.

“We will continue to work on Russia, and we will continue to press for the protection of civilians in Russia’s war in #Ukraine,” HRW said.

US believes Russia used short-range ballistic missile: Defence official

The US believes Russia used a short-range ballistic missile to attack the Kramatorsk train station, a senior US defence official has said.

“We are not buying the denial by the Russians that they weren’t responsible,” the official said.

The US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon believes Russian forces used an SS-21 Scarab missile in the attack but that the motivation for the attack was not clear.

US supports investigations into Kramatorsk train station attack: White House

The White House has said the Biden administration will support investigations into the attack on the Kramatorsk train station, which authorities say was packed with women, children and elderly people.

Several US agencies had previously pledged to assist in gathering evidence of war crimes in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian police officer cries at the scene of a bombing in Kramatorsk
Ukrainian police officers react after the rocket attack in Kramatorsk [Fadel Senna/AFP]

EU to resume diplomatic presence in Kyiv

The European Union has said it will resume its diplomatic presence in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, after temporarily moving it to Poland.

Matti Maasikas, head of the EU delegation in Ukraine, joined top EU officials visiting the country on Friday and will remain in Kyiv to reopen the delegation and assess conditions for staff to return, the bloc’s diplomatic service said.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said the move would enhance the EU’s interactions with the Ukrainian government and help support Ukrainian citizens.

Russians bury dead soldiers as nation admits major losses

Russian families have buried relatives killed in Ukraine at ceremonies with automatic gun salutes and military brass bands.

In the southern garrison town of Vladikavkaz, near the Caucasus mountains, relatives gathered for the funeral of Vitaly Dyadyushko, one of two soldiers buried on Friday in the town’s Vostochnoe cemetery. He left behind four sisters and a mother, said local leader Alexander Kusey.

“He was from a large family, and he was the only one who provided for it. I don’t know how the girls will do without him now, he helped a lot,” Kusey said. “He was not married, he did not have a chance, he was young, very young. It’s a shame when the young pass away before their time.”

Ukrainian official says 67 bodies buried in Bucha mass grave

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said approximately 67 bodies were buried in a mass grave near a church in Bucha.

Venediktova said that 18 bodies – 16 with bullet wounds and two with bullet and shrapnel wounds – had been located so far. Two were women and the rest were men, she said.

“This means that they killed civilians, shot them,” said Venediktova, speaking as workers pulled corpses out under spitting rain. Black body bags were laid in rows in the mud.

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

Read all the updates from Friday, April 8 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies