Russia says it seeks 'full control' of southern Ukraine, access to Moldova's Transnistria region — live updates

Friday, 22 April 2022 (14:26 IST)
A Russian major general has said Moscow is planning to seize Donbas and Ukraine's south and open a route to Moldova's breakaway Transnistria region.

Russian military aims for 'full control' of southern Ukraine, general says

Moscow is planning to seize Ukraine's south and open a route to Moldova’s Transnistria region, as part of the "second phase" of its military operation, Russia's Central Military District (CFD) command said.

In a statement carried by TASS and Interfax, Rustam Minnekayev, acting commander of the CFD, said Russia plans to establish full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine, allowing it access to Transnistria.

"Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there is also evidence of oppression of the Russian-speaking population," Minnekayev said.

Transnistria is a pro-Russian, breakaway province of Moldova.

Mariupol mayor pleads for evacuations but top official says routes too dangerous

The mayor of Mariupol has pleaded for the "full evacuation" of the southern city, but Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there "will be no humanitarian corridors" in the country on Friday.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said "about 100,000 people remain" in the city, which President Vladimir Putin says is now controlled by Russian forces, a claim Ukraine denies.

However, Deputy PM Vereshchuk said it would be too dangerous for civilians to leave on Friday.

"Because of the insecurity along the routes, there will be no humanitarian corridors today, April 22," she wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

UK: Russia wants to free up troops by not storming Mariupol steel plant

In an intelligence update on the Ukraine conflict, the UK suggested "Putin's decision to blockade the Azovstal steel plant likely indicates a desire to contain Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol and free up Russian forces to be deployed elsewhere in eastern Ukraine."

Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said it was unnecessary to storm the industrial zone containing the plant.

"A full ground assault by Russia on the plant would likely incur significant Russian casualties, further decreasing their overall combat effectiveness," the UK Ministry of Defense posted on Twitter.

The statement also said that despite Russia's "renewed focus they are still suffering from losses sustained earlier in the conflict. In order to try and reconstitute their depleted forces, they have resorted to transiting inoperable equipment back to Russia for repair."

Heavy shelling is continuing in the Donbas region as Russia seeks to advance towards settlements, including Krasnyy Lyman, Buhayikva, Barvinkove, Lyman and Popasna, the ministry said in its regular bulletin.

Zelenskyy: Russian planning independence referendum in Ukraine's south

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of planning to "falsify" an independence referendum in parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions that are under Russian control.

Zelenskyy urged residents in these areas not to provide their passport numbers or other personal information to Russian forces.

"This is not to help you... This is aimed to falsify the so-called referendum on your land, if an order comes from Moscow to stage such a show," Zelenskyy said.

Moscow has either orchestrated or supported several similar votes in contested areas of Ukraine in recent years, holding a referendum in Crimea after occupying the territory in 2014 and later supporting independence votes held by pro-Russian separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk. Both these regions later declared themselves independent "people's republics," a status soon supported by Russia.

"Any 'Kherson People's Republics' are not going to fly," Zelenskyy said, alluding to the entities established by pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.

"If someone wants a new annexation, it can only lead to new powerful sanctions strikes on Russia."

Ukraine's Zelenskyy: Mariupol 'continues to resist'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Mariupol "continues to resist" despite Moscow's claim to have captured it.

"In the south and east of our country, the occupiers continue to do everything to have a reason to talk about at least some victories," he said in a video address.

"They can only delay the inevitable — the time when the invaders will have to leave our territory, in particular Mariupol, a city that continues to resist Russia, despite everything the occupiers say."

UN refugee agency: situation around the world worsening amid Ukraine war
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) said on Friday that the situation of refugees has further worsened due to the war in Ukraine.

"The conflict has further worsened the situation of many of the approximately 84 million displaced people on earth, as food has already become scarcer and significantly more expensive worldwide," the acting UNHCR office manager in Germany, Roland Bank, said in remarks published by Germany's Funke media group.

Bank added that millions of people had already lost their incomes due to the pandemic. Soaring food and fuel prices pose new challenges for humanitarian groups, Bank said.

Germany to provide €37 million to Ukraine

German Development Minister Svenja Shulze on Friday told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that Germany would allocate funds for reconstruction in Ukraine.

"Ukraine urgently needs housing for millions of internally displaced people and it needs an intact power grid. This is where German development cooperation can help in the short term," Shulze told Augsburger Allgemeine. "My ministry has reallocated funds for this via an emergency program."

Germany will provide €37 million (€40.1 million) for reconstruction in Ukraine, the paper went on to say citing ministry sources.

Around €22.5 million would go to the reconstruction of Ukraine's power grid, while the remainder would go to the rebuilding of apartments as well as for the acquisition of medical equipment.

Zelenskyy: Russia turned down Easter truce offer

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia rejected a proposal for a cease-fire over the Orthodox Christian Easter period.

"This very well demonstrates how the leaders of this state actually treat the Christian faith, one of the most joyful and important holidays," Zelenskyy said.

"But we keep the hope. Hope for peace, hope that life beats death," he added.

Zelenskyy's remarks came after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had appealed for a cease-fire during Easter.

Ukraine's Orthodox majority celebrate the holiday this weekend, with the Easter service starting late on Saturday into Sunday morning. Eastern Orthodoxy is also Russia's largest religious denomination.

Russia takes 42 villages in Donetsk region — Ukrainian presidential aid

Ukrainian presidential aid Olena Symonenko said that Russian forces had captured 42 villages in the eastern Donetsk region on Thursday, as Moscow continues to gain ground in Ukraine's east.

Symonenko said that Ukrainian forces could retake the villages on Friday.

The statements follows Russia's announcement that it had defeated the Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, also located in the Donetsk region, albeit without clearing out the last holdouts at a steelworks in the city.

Summary of Thursday's events in Russia-Ukraine crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which holds a significant strategic value to Russia, had been "liberated" after nearly two months of siege.

But Ukrainian officials disputed Moscow's claim that Russia was in control of the city.

Hundreds of fighters and civilians were believed to still be inside a huge steel plant in Mariupol, which Putin ordered his forces to blockade "so that not even a fly" could escape.

Meanwhile, Washington said it saw "no evidence" that Russia was in control of Mariupol, and announced another $800 million (around €738 million) in military aid for Ukraine, including heavy artillery.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated calls for Western governments to send more heavy weapons to Ukraine in a plea to Portuguese lawmakers.

In a separate address, Zelenskyy told a World Bank forum that Ukraine needs $7 billion a month to function amid the devastating "economic losses" caused by the Russian invasion.

World Bank chief David Malpass estimated physical damage to Ukraine's buildings and infrastructure had reached roughly $60 billion, saying the figure would rise further as the war continues.

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