Ukraine: Putin claims control of Mariupol

Thursday, 21 April 2022 (16:36 IST)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a siege rather than an assault on the the last stronghold for Ukrainian troops in Mariupol. Russia claims to have control of the strategic port city.

Latvian parliament says Russia has committed genocide

Latvia's parliament, the Saemia, has adopted a statement on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, accusing Moscow of genocide.

In the document, the parliament "recognizes that the Russian Federation is currently committing genocide against the Ukrainian people."

The statement expresses "support for the initiative of democracies to join forces in gathering and investigating evidence of war crimes committed by the Russian Federation throughout Ukraine."

The parliament referred to the "extensive testimony and evidence of brutal mass crimes committed by the Russian army."

These incidents cited include murder, torture, sexual abuse and desecration of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol and other places.

It added that Russia was also abducting and deporting Ukrainian citizens to its territory.

After the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from northern Ukrainian areas, hundreds of corpses of civilians were discovered, many of them bound.

Ukraine and the US have accused Russia of genocide, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague has begun investigations. Russia firmly rejects the accusations.

Ukraine police say nine bodies show torture signs

Police in Ukraine have announced that the bodies of nine civilians have been found in the town of Borodianka, near Kyiv, some with "signs of torture."

"These people were killed by the [Russian] occupiers and some of the victims show signs of torture," local police chief Andriy Nebytov said on Facebook.

The Ukrainian government said Borodianka was the scene of "massacres of civilians" in March, when Russian forces occupied the town.

"In one pit, there were two 35-year-old men. And next to them, a 15-year-old teenage girl," Nebytov said.

"In another, law enforcement forces have discovered the bodies of six people: four men and two women" who "could be identified as inhabitants of the city."

"The Russian military have deliberately shot down civilians who did not put up any resistance to them," he said, noting that the bodies of the victims were taken to morgues in the Kyiv region for examination. Forensic doctors and investigators also inspected the two graves.

Since the withdrawal of Russian forces three weeks ago from around the capital, hundreds of civilian bodies have been found by Ukrainian authorities.

Putin cancels storming of steel plant, claims control of Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to cancel plans to storm the Azovstal plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

The Russian leader said he wanted the plant to continue to be securely blockaded instead.

Putin gave the order to his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a televised meeting at the Kremlin.

"I consider the proposed storming of the industrial zone unnecessary," Putin told Shoigu. "I order you to cancel it."

"Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape," Putin said, adding it would be "impractical" to storm the entire plant.

The Russian leader welcomed Shoigu's assertion that Moscow's troops were now in full control of the rest of the city of Mariupol. Ukraine has not commented on the latest claim.

The minister had previously told Putin that more than 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were still holed up at the huge plant and its underground tunnels and chambers.

Spanish and Danish prime minister visit Kyiv

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has arrived in Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for a show of solidarity.

The Spanish government said Sanchez had traveled to the Ukrainian capital with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Sanchez had already indicated on Wednesday that he would be visiting Zelenskyy, although further details were withheld for security reasons.

"In the next few days, I will be meeting with President Zelenskyy and I will convey to him the unequivocal commitment of the European Union and, without doubt, of the government of Spain and Spanish society to peace."

Meanwhile, the Danish prime minister's office said the discussions would discuss further support for the Ukrainians and the prosecution of "war crimes and human rights violations."

Ukraine says some evacuees leave Mariupol

Ukraine says four buses carrying evacuees from Mariupol have left the besieged city.

"Four evacuation buses managed to leave the city yesterday through the humanitarian corridor," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement.

She added that the evacuation of women, children and the elderly would continue Thursday.

"The security situation is difficult. Things may change," she added.

White House to announce more aid

US President Joe Biden is expected to announce plans for additional military aid to Ukraine, a US official told the Associated Press.

It's believed that Biden will make an address at the White House on Thursday morning about his plans for a new package in addition to some $2.6 billion already pledged to the country.

The latest package is expected to be of a similar size to the $800 million announced by the US president last week.

The aid is expected to include heavy artillery and ammunition for Ukrainian forces in the battle for the Donbas region.

UK says Russia seeks gains ahead of May 9 celebration

British military intelligence says Moscow could be pushing harder with its offensive in Donbas in an effort to make gains ahead of Russia's Victory Day, held annually on May 9.

It said the Russian military was advancing from staging areas elsewhere in Donbas to the city of Kramatorsk, an important Ukrainian military hub located in northern Donetsk province. The city with a population of 160,000 is said to be under persistent fire from rockets.

The UK's Defense Ministry said there was a high level of Russian air activity as Moscow sought to provide close air support to its eastern offensive. The aim, it said, was to destroy Ukrainian air defense capabilities.

The UK intelligence report said Russia was seeking to demonstrate successes ahead of Victory Day, celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. The day is marked by military parades, in which Russia shows off its latest weapons.

"This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date," the report said.

China's Xi says sanctions won't work

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday reiterated the country's opposition to unilateral sanctions while speaking at the annual Boao Forum for Asia.

Xi criticized what he referred to as "long-arm jurisdiction," adding that "de-coupling" and pressure exerted by cutting off supply chains wouldn't work.

Beijing has accused the West of adopting a "Cold War mentality" toward Russia and abstained in a UN General Assembly vote on February 25 that condemned the invasion of Ukraine.

In practice, imposing sanctions on Russia through the UN would likely prove impossible given that the Moscow has veto powers on the organization's Security Council.

Red Cross denies Kyiv's accusations of Kremlin collaboration

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has denied charges leveled at it by Ukraine that the organization has been working "in concert" with Russia.

Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova denounced the ICRC's announcement last month that it was planning to open a branch in Russia's southern Rostov region to help Ukrainian refugees. Kyiv claims that Ukrainians in Rostov have been forcibly deported there by Russian forces.

Denisova said she had asked the ICRC, as well as her Russian counterpart Tatyana Moskalkova, for information on these refugees so Kyiv could help them return home. Denisova claims she received no answer from either Moskalkova or the ICRC.

Denisova said in a TV interview that she "strongly [suspected]" that the Red Cross was "working in concert" with Russia.

Responding to the accusations, the ICRC told the AFP news agency that it " does not ever help organize or carry out forced evacuations. We would not support any operation that would go against people's will and international law."

"Building and maintaining a dialogue with parties to a conflict is essential to get access to all people affected and obtain necessary security guarantees for our teams to deliver life-saving aid."

Mariupol plant Azovstal will fall under Russian control — Chechen leader

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he believed Russian troops would have complete control of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Thursday.

"Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation," Kadyrov said.

Kadyrov is the president of the Chechen Republic, an autonomous unit of the Russian Federation located in the northern Caucasus. Russia has made use of Chechen fighters in its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops have been hunkered down in the steelworks in the besieged port city for weeks but have been complaining that they're running low on ammunition and key supplies. One commander said on Wednesday that his marines were "maybe facing [their] last days, if not hours."

Russia had issued another call for the city's defenders to surrender and offered a ceasefire to evacuate civilians on Wednesday, with Ukraine instead calling for a special round of talks with no preconditions in the city.

Russia controls 80% of Luhansk region — regional governor

Regional governor Serhiy Haidai said that 80% of the Luhansk region was now under Russian control.

Luhansk, along with Donetsk, is one of the two regions that make up Donbas, which has been disputed between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Separatist forces have controlled the two regional capitals since the start of the conflict.

Before the Russian Federation launched its invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian government controlled 60% of the Luhansk region, while the rest was in the hands of separatist forces. Moscow recognized the independence of the two self-proclaimed "people's republics" in Donbas in late February, days before it invaded Ukraine.

Haidai said that have seized the town of Kreminna and are threatening Rubizhne and Popasna. He urged all residents to evacuate immediately.

The Donetsk region has also seen heavy fighting, particularly around the port city of Mariupol which has been under siege since the start of Russia's invasion.

Ukraine denies having received Russian offer of peace talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has denied receiving a written offer for a negotiated settlement to the war which the Kremlin claims to have sent to Kyiv on Wednesday.

"I have heard nothing, I have seen nothing. I am convinced that they have handed us nothing," Zelensky said at a press conference in Kyiv during a visit from European Council chief Charles Michel.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had earlier claimed that a draft document that contained "clear and elaborate formulations" had been handed over to Ukraine.

While speaking in Kyiv, Zelenskyy accused Peskov of "playing football with himself."

Summary of Wednesday's events in Russia-Ukraine crisis

Ukrainian presidential advisor and negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv would agree to Russia's proposal to hold a "special round" of negotiations in the besieged city of Mariupol.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen led a multi-nation walkout of a G20 finance meeting in protest of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia said it test-launched its new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile. US officials said they had been aware of the Russian launch and viewed as a routine one.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres officially requested to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to press for peace. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a review of Moscow's position within the World Trade Organization, looking to counter "illegal" sanctions imposed over its military operation in Ukraine.

The All England Club venue confirmed that tennis players from Russia and Belarus will be banned from the Wimbledon tournament in June.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that a draft document of peace proposals had been handed over to Ukraine. Ukraine confirmed it had received the proposals and said it was studying them.

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