Ukraine war live updates: Putin tells Russian forces not to storm last Ukrainian holdout in Mariupol

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A Ukrainian national flag on a wire on the ground in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, April 18, 2022

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday told Russian forces not to storm Ukraine’s last stronghold in the port city of Mariupol as the city’s Ukrainian defenders said they may only have a few days or hours left.

It comes after Ukrainian officials called for a “special round of negotiations” in Mariupol without conditions as Russia’s offensive intensifies in the east.

Read more about the latest updates from Ukraine as they unfold in our blog below and watch our TV coverage in the video player above.

07:07

Latest updates:

    Ukrainian officials called for a “special round of negotiations” in the besieged port city of Mariupol as the last Ukrainian defenders warned that they may only have days or hours left.

    The Luhansk governor said Russian forces now control 80% of the region, which is one of two regions that make up the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

    Ukraine says a planned evacuation of civilians from Mariupol did not work as planned, blaming Russia for not holding to a ceasefire despite an agreement on a humanitarian corridor. Efforts will resume on Thursday.

    Russia has tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile, which Putin says should make its enemies “think twice”.

    European Council President Charles Michel used a trip to Kyiv to affirm the EU’s support for Ukraine.

10:35

‘Urgent humanitarian corridor’ needed in Mariupol, says Ukraine’s deputy PM

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has made an urgent appeal for a humanitarian corridor in the besieged city of Mariupol. 

Writing on Telegram, she said it was needed to evacuate civilians and wounded soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant, one of the last pockets of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. 

“We demand from the Russians an urgent humanitarian corridor from the Mariupol plant Azovstal,” she said. “There are now about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers.

“They all need to be removed from Azovstal today.”

Vereshchuk ended the message with an appeal to world leaders “to focus their efforts on Azovstal now.

“This is a key point and a key moment for the humanitarian effort,” she added.

09:57

Putin tells Russian forces not to storm Ukrainian holdout in Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian forces to lay siege to the last Ukrainian fighters rather than storming the industrial site where they are holding out.

“The end of the work to liberate Mariupol is a success,” President Vladimir Putin told his defence minister Sergei Shoigu, adding that it was necessary to besiege “the area in such a way that not a single fly would pass”.

Shoigu told Putin on Thursday that the sprawling Azovstal steel plant where Ukrainian forces were holed up was “securely blocked.”

Leaving the plant in Ukrainian hands, however, robs the Russians of the ability to declare complete victory in Mariupol. The city’s capture has both strategic and symbolic importance.

(AP, AFP)

09:53

Spanish and Danish prime ministers arrive in Kyiv

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen were the latest European leaders to arrive in Ukraine.

“I look forward to the meeting with Zelenskyy, where my message will be that Denmark will continue to help Ukraine,” Frederiksen said in a statement announcing her arrival in Kyiv Thursday. “The West stands together to support the Ukrainian people.”

Frederiksen is the first Nordic leader to travel to Kyiv since Russia began its invasion in late February.

Sánchez’s office had announced earlier this week that the prime minister would travel to Ukraine following the visits by several European leaders, but officials had cited security concerns to avoid specifying the visit’s exact date.

(with AP)

09:45

Kyiv police find 2 mass graves with civilians

Kyiv regional police said two mass graves with nine bodies were discovered the day before in the city of Borodyanka northwest of the Ukrainian capital.

Head of the Kyiv regional police Andriy Nebytov said two women and a teenager were among the “civilians killed by the Russian occupants.”

“I want to stress that these people are civilians. The Russian military deliberately shot civilians that didn’t put up any resistance and didn’t pose any threat,” Nebytov said, adding that some of the victims were apparently tortured.

All of the bodies were transported to the morgues of the Kyiv region for further forensic study.

(AP)

09:17

Russian forces make ‘minor advances’ in eastern offensive, think tank says

The US-based Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment of the war in Ukraine that Russian forces “made minor advances in the ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine”.

“Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine secured minor gains in the last 24 hours, taking parts of the key frontline towns of Rubizhne and Popasna,” the institute said overnight.

Their forces made “incremental advances in Mariupol” as they aim to declare victory by 9 May at the latest, the institute added.

08:19

Russia wants ‘significant successes’ before 9 May, UK defence ministry says

In its latest defence intelligence update, the UK defence ministry said Russia “likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of their annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations.”

The UK said this could impact how they attempt to conduct operations ahead of this date, adding that they are advancing from areas in the Donbas towards Kramatorsk.

Russia is using air support to help its offensive in eastern Ukraine and destroy Ukrainian air defence capabilities, the UK defence ministry added.

07:43

Zelenskyy says he discussed EU sanctions with Charles Michel

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had discussed EU sanctions with European Council President Charles Michel who travelled to the country on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian president called for the EU’s sixth round of sanctions to be “truly painful” stating that they must “motivate Russia to seek peace”.

Zelenskyy said the two leaders discussed Ukraine’s “movement towards European integration”.

“This is the historic moment where we can develop maximum speed in joining the EU,” Zelenskyy said.

As part of Michel’s trip to Ukraine, he visited Borodyanka to see alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces. The European Council president said there must be justice for these “war crimes”.

Read more about Charles Michel’s trip to Ukraine here.
 

European Council President Charles Michel, centre, as he is given a tour of the region of Borodyanka, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (Dario Pignatelli/European Council via AP)

07:00

US set to send more military aid to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden is set to announce plans to send more military aid to Ukraine on Thursday, an official told AP.

Biden is expected to deliver an address on Thursday morning to detail his plans to send more military assistance.

Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said his country will send heavy artillery to Ukraine.

And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the Netherlands will send more heavy weapons, including armoured vehicles.

06:52

Russian forces now control 80% of Luhansk in Donbas, governor says

The Luhansk governor said Russian forces now control 80% of the region, which is one of two regions that make up the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

One of Russia’s stated goals is to expand the territory in the Donbas under the control of Moscow-backed separatists.

Before Russia invaded, Ukraine controlled 60% of the Luhansk region.

Serhiy Haidai said the Russians, who renewed their offensive this week in eastern and southern Ukraine, have strengthened their attacks in the Luhansk region.

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