Ukraine war: Putin ‘showed middle finger’ with Kyiv airstrike during UN chief’s visit, says mayor

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Clean-up crews prepare to work at the site of an explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine on Friday, April 29, 2022.

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There’s been widespread condemnation of Russian airstrikes on Kyiv during the UN Secretary General’s visit, as the extent of the damage and casualties became clearer on Friday.

The Ukrainian presidency, meanwhile, says it hopes to evacuate civilians trapped in a vast steel works in Mariupol, along with the last fighters defending the southern port city. But the local governor has said Russia is preventing wounded Ukrainian soldiers from leaving.

Read about Friday’s events as they unfold in our blog below, and watch TV coverage in the video player above.

06:18

    Russian airstrikes on Kyiv on Thursday night were meant to humiliate the UN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. The city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said Vladimir Putin was ‘showing his middle finger’.

    One woman died in the missile attacks, which came shortly after Zelenskyy held a news conference with the UN Secretary-General. António Guterres said Ukraine has become “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain.”

    The UK is sending war crimes experts to Ukraine to assist in gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes.

    Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians from Mariupol steel facility on Friday. However, Russia is preventing wounded Ukrainian fighters from being evacuated from Mariupol because it wants to capture them, according to the local governor.

    US President Joe Biden has signed a request to Congress for $33 billion in security, economic, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

    The OSCE is being forced to leave eastern Ukraine after Russia vetoed an extension of its mission there.

14:15

Training exercises will see tens of thousands of NATO troops in eastern Europe in coming weeks

Tens of thousands of troops from NATO and other north Atlantic nations will take part in a series of military exercises across Europe in the coming weeks as Western countries seek to deter Russian aggression.

The exercises, backed by aircraft, tanks, artillery and armoured assault vehicles, will take place in Finland, Poland, North Macedonia and along the Estonian-Latvian border. They will include troops from NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes non-NATO members Finland and Sweden.

The deployments will begin this week in Finland, where troops from the US, Britain, Estonia and Latvia will participate in Exercise Arrow to improve their ability to work alongside Finnish forces.

Also this week, some 4,500 troops will take part in Exercise Swift Response, which will include parachute drops and helicopter-borne assaults in North Macedonia. The operation will include forces from the US, Britain, Albania, France and Italy.

Next month, 18,000 NATO troops, including forces from Britain, France and Denmark, will take part in Exercise Hedgehog along the Estonia-Latvia border, and in late May about 1,000 British soldiers will join troops from 11 other nations for Exercise Defender in Poland.

(AP)

14:08

5.4 million refugees have now fled Ukraine, says UNHCR

Almost 57,000 Ukrainians have fled their country in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of refugees to over 5.4 million, according to figures published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday.

While the overall flow of refugees has slowed markedly since the end of March, numbers have picked up slightly in recent days. An estimated 8.3 million people could flee the country by the end of this year, according to UN estimates released earlier this week.

As of April 28th, 5,429,739 Ukrainians had left their country since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24th, according to the UNHCR, with women and children representing 90% of these. For the most part, men aged 18 to 60 have not been allowed to leave.

In addition, more than 7.7 million Ukrainians have left their homes but are still in the country, according to estimated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Ukraine had a pre-war population of 37 million, excluding areas outside the government’s control; Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and the eastern regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

13:46

Germany condemns missile strike on Kyiv

The German government has strongly criticised the Russian missile strike on Kyiv during the UN secretary-general’s visit to the Ukrainian capital Thursday.

Germany “condemns the Russian missile attack on Kyiv, while Secretary-General (Antonio) Guterres was there simultaneously for talks, in the sharpest possible manner,” government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters in Berlin on Friday.

The attack “reveals before the eyes of the world community once more that Putin and his regime have no respect whatsoever for international law,” he added.

(AP)

13:33

Norway closes ports to Russian ships

Norway has announced that it will follow in the footsteps of the European Union and close its ports to Russian shipping, with the exception of trawlers, the Norwegian government announced on Friday.

While Norway is not part of the EU, it has closely followed moved made by Brussels when it comes to pushing back on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The ban on boats flying the Russian flag from stopping in Norwegian ports will come into force on May 7 and will not affect fishing boats, the government said. 

“Sanctions are our main means of pressure against the Russian regime,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement.

“It is crucial here that we stand with the EU and other countries to continue to weaken Russia’s ability to finance the war in Ukraine,” she added.

12:09

11:48

Journalist killed in Kyiv airstrike

A producer for Ukraine’s Radio Liberty was killed in a Russian airstrike on Kyiv on Thursday, her organisation said in a statement. 

“Vira Ghyrych died as a result of a Russian missile hit on the building where she lived,” the US-funded radio station said on its website.

It added that the first and second floors of the 25-storey residential building had been partially destroyed, and a fire had broken out. Ghyrych’s body was found in the wreckage this morning.

In the statement, the editorial staff of the station expressed its condolences to the family, adding that she would be remembered as a “bright and kind person, a true professional”.

Gyrych had worked for Radio Liberty since February 2018. Before that she worked for Ukrainian television.

11:28

Ukraine mortgaging itself to the US, says Russian MP 

Russia’s most senior lawmaker said on Friday that Ukraine was effectively mortgaging itself to the United States by seeking to tap billions of dollars of weapons loans proposed by US President Joe Biden.

Biden on Thursday asked Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine – a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for the war with Russia – and the Ukrainian president pleaded with lawmakers to give the request a swift approval.

Vyacheslav Volodin, who as the speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament often voices the Kremlin’s views, accused the United States of seeking to profit from the war while indebting future generations of Ukrainians.

“Lend-Lease is a commodity loan, and not cheap: many future generations of Ukrainian citizens will pay for all the ammunition, equipment and food that the United States will supply,” Volodin said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is driving the country into a debt pit,” he added.

Biden’s funding request includes over $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance, as well as $8.5 billion in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government and $3 billion in humanitarian aid.

(Reuters)

10:55

UK to send war crimes experts to Ukraine 

Britain said on Friday that it was sending experts to help Ukraine with gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes, with a team due to arrive in Poland in early May, according to Reuters.

This comes as Ukraine says it is investigating some 7,600 potential war crimes, and at least 500 suspects, following Russia’s invasion, and as British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss travels to The Hague to meet with International Criminal Court President Piotr Hofmanski.

“Russia has brought barbarity to Ukraine and committed vile atrocities, including against women. British expertise will help uncover the truth and hold Putin’s regime to account for its actions,” Truss said.

According to a foreign office statement, the specialist team will assist the Ukrainian government as they gather evidence and prosecute war crimes and will include experts in conflict-related sexual violence.

10:48

We will not give up on efforts to seek peace in Ukraine, says UN chief

In a statement in Kyiv last night, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the international community would not give up on efforts to seek peace in Ukraine.

“Many leaders have made many good efforts to stop the fighting, but these efforts so far have not succeeded,” he said. “We will not give up.”

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