Ukraine war: Kyiv says ‘no agreement’ with Russia on Mariupol evacuation

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Footage released by Mariupol City Council on April 19, 2022 shows clouds of smoke billowing above Azovstal steel plant and the destroyed gates of Azov Shipyard, in Mariupol.

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Russian forces have now shifted their focus to the offensive in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.

Heavy shelling and fighting have continued in the east and south as Russia’s army attempts to establish control over the region.

See our live blog below for the latest updates on the war and related events.

11:24

Monday’s key points:

    Ukraine has poured cold water on Russia’s announcement of a ‘unilateral’ ceasefire at the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol to allow civilians to leave. Deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk says no agreement has been reached.Ukrainian officials say the Russian military has unleashed a series of strikes on the country’s railways.The Russian military has struck a Ukrainian oil refinery along with scores of other targets, the Russian Defence Ministry said Monday.A fire has erupted at a Russian oil depot near the border with Ukraine, Russia’s TASS news agency reports.Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy met with the US secretaries of state and defence on Sunday night in the highest-level visit to the country’s capital by an American delegation since the start of the war.US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Russia is failing in its war aims and Ukraine is succeeding. The US is giving Ukraine new military assistance.Kyiv has reacted angrily to comments by Austria’s foreign minister questioning full EU membership for Ukraine.A newly released video shows Ukrainian children in an underground bunker in Mariupol receiving Easter presents.More than 5.2 million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to UNHCR figures. 

15:33

Renowned architect Norman Foster offers to help rebuild Kharkiv

British architect Sir Norman Foster, known for restoring the Reichstag Palace in Germany and for designing the Millennium Bridge in London, has offered to help rebuild the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, partly destroyed after the Russian invasion.

The 86-year-old architect’s Foundation said that Foster spoke via videoconference on Monday with Igor Terekhov, the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Sir Norman presented him with a plan to rebuild the city, known for its architecture in the Art Nouveau style, where a quarter of the buildings have been destroyed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Located near the border with Russia, the city of Kharkiv was the scene of bitter fighting at the start of the Russian offensive but remained under Ukrainian control.

Sir Norman Mr Foster said he wanted to “assemble the best minds with the best planning, architectural, design, and engineering skills in the world to bear on the rebirth of the city of Kharkiv.”

He said the first step would be to draw up a plan for a “city of the future now and to plan for its life decades ahead.”

(Euronews / AP)

15:14

Report: Five killed in Russian strikes

Authorities in Ukraine say at least five people have been killed by Russian strikes on Vynnytsia region in the centre of the country. 

The local prosecutor’s office said another 18 people were wounded in Monday’s Russian missile strikes on the towns of Zhmerynka and Koziatyn.

Vinnytsia regional Governor Serhiy Borzov said earlier that the Russian missiles targeted “critical infrastructure,” but didn’t elaborate.

The Vynnytsia region is fully controlled by Ukraine and is far behind the front lines.

(AP)

14:23

UN should oversee civilian evacuation route out of Mariupol, says Ukraine

Ukraine has said the United Nations should step in to oversee an evacuation route for civilians from the besieged steel mill in Mariupol, which is the last stronghold for Ukrainian troops in the port city.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that a Russian announcement of a “humanitarian corridor” out of the Azovstal plant to operate later Monday was not agreed with Ukraine. Vereshchuk added that Ukraine does not consider the route safe for that reason and said Russia had breached agreements on similar evacuation routes before.

Ukrainian officials have said that up to 1,000 civilians have sheltered at the sprawling steel plant.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to visit Russia and Ukraine this week. Vereshchuk called on Guterres to be the “initiator and guarantor” of a humanitarian route out of Azovstal and for UN and International Committee of the Red Cross personnel to accompany any evacuees.

(AP)

14:08

Evidence women were raped before being killed by Russian forces, The Guardian

Forensic doctors carrying out postmortem examinations on bodies in mass graves north of Kyiv say they have found evidence some women were raped before being killed by Russian forces, according to a report from The Guardian.

“We already have a few cases which suggest that these women had been raped before being shot to death,” Vladyslav Pirovskyi, a Ukrainian forensic doctor who with a team of coroners has carried out dozens of autopsies on residents from Bucha, Irpin and Borodianka who died during Russia’s month-long occupation of the area, told the British newspaper.

Pirovskyi’s team has been examining about 15 bodies a day, many of them mutilated. “There are many burned bodies, and heavily disfigured bodies that are just impossible to identify,” he said. “The face could be smashed into pieces, you can’t put it back together, sometimes there’s no head at all.”

Pirovskyi said the bodies of some women they had examined showed signs that the victims had been killed by automatic gunfire, with upwards of six bullet holes in their backs.

Oleh Tkalenko, a senior prosecutor for the Kyiv region, said details of alleged rapes had been forwarded to his office, which is investigating circumstances such as locations and the ages of victims.

Read the full report here.

13:38

“We want to see Russia weakened,” says US defence secretary

Speaking to reporters near the Poland-Ukrainian border on Monday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated the US government’s support for Ukraine and opposition to Russia’s invasion of the country.

“We want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory,” he told journalists. “We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”

“The first step in winning is believing that you can win,” Austin added. “We believe that they [Ukraine] can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can … to ensure that gets to them.”

Hours earlier, Austin and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, where they told Zelenskyy and his advisers that the US would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition to the country.

13:11

Number of Ukrainian refugees continues to grow 

Figures released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday show that the number of Ukrainian refugees continues to grow, with 5.2 million now having fled the violence in the country. 

According to the UNHCR, 5,232,014 Ukrainians have left their country since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. 

This figure marks an increase of 45,270 refugees on the number published on Sunday. 

However, the flow of refugees pouring out of Ukraine slowed has slowed in recent weeks. 

Since the beginning of April, under 1,197,000 Ukrainians have fled, much less than the 3.4 million who decided to leave in March.

Non-Ukrainians, particularly migrant workers and students, have also been affected by Russia’s invasion. More than 218,000 have had to leave Ukraine for neighbouring countries, says the UN subsidiary, the International Organisation for Migration. 

12:23

Moscow announces ceasefire for civilians in Azovstal

Russia has announced that it will allow civilians trapped in Mariupol’s Azovastal steel mill to evacuate on Monday. 

The Russian army and their allied pro-Russian Ukrainian proxy forces would “unilaterally cease hostilities at 2:00 p.m. Moscow time (11:00 GMT), withdraw units to a safe distance and ensure the departure of ‘civilians’ in a direction of their choosing,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement

Some 1,000 civilians have been holed up with Ukrainian fighters in the Azovstal mill in southeastern Ukraine for weeks, as Russia’s forces have laid siege to it.

It is one of the last remaining pockets of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol.

Ukrainian and international authorities have repeatedly urged Russia to grant civilians a safe passge out of the mill. 

(AFP/AP)

12:14

Ukraine ‘disappointed’, as Austrian FM says country should not join EU

Ukraine has been left disappointed after what it calls “strategically shortsighted” comments from Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. 

Speaking on 24 April, Schallenberg said the EU should offer Kyiv “another path” in its relationship with the 27-member bloc, calling for other models than full membership and more flexibility.

He justified this position by saying there are “enlargement countries” in the Western Balkans, which have come a long way without full membership.

“We consider [his remarks] strategically short-sighted and not in the interests of a united Europe,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry responded in a statement.

A majority of countries inside the EU back Ukrainian membership.

12:00

Ukrainian railways under attack

The Russian military has unleashed a series of strikes on the country’s railways, according to Ukrainian officials.

On Monday, a Russian missile hit a railway facility in Krasne, about 40 kilometres east of Lviv, said Lviv region Governor Maksym Kozytskyy, sparking a fire.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said a total of five rail facilities in central and western Ukraine have been hit by the Russian strikes. He said the attacks have delayed at least passenger 16 trains.

There was no immediate information about the damage from the strikes.

(AP)

For a summary of Sunday’s developments, click here.

Additional sources • Reuters

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