Russia-Ukraine war latest: Russia says Moskva warship has sunk after reported missile strike – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Russia-Ukraine war latest: Russia says Moskva warship has sunk after reported missile strike – live” was written by Samantha Lock (now); Maanvi Singh, Joanna Walters, Léonie Chao-Fong, Martin Belam and Samantha Lock (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 15th April 2022 03.53 UTC

In somewhat ironic timing, the sinking of Russian warship Moskva in the Black Sea comes days after Ukraine issued a stamp immortalising the famous exchange on Snake Island between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine’s postal service announced on Tuesday it had issued a postage stamp showing a Ukrainian solider standing defiant in the foreground of a Russian warship.

Roman Hrybov — the Ukrainian soldier who uttered the phrase “Russian warship, go fuck yourself” — was invited to the ceremony unveiling the stamp, the service said in a statement.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser confirmed on Thursday the Moskva was one of the vessels involved in the exchange between Russian troops and defenders of Snake Island in February during the first few days of the war.

CEO of the Ukrainian post Ihor Smilianskyi demonstrates postal stamps showing Ukrainian service member and Russian warship Moskva.
CEO of the Ukrainian post Ihor Smilianskyi demonstrates postal stamps showing Ukrainian service member and Russian warship Moskva.
Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters
Postal stamps showing a Ukrainian service member and the Russian warship Moskva.
Postal stamps showing a Ukrainian service member and the Russian warship Moskva.
Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Updated

An inside view of a residential building in Kharkiv, damaged and partially destroyed after shelling.
An inside view of a residential building in Kharkiv, damaged and partially destroyed after shelling.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Firefighters try to extinguish the fire at a damaged factory following a Russian bombing in Kramatorsk, Ukraine on Thursday.
Firefighters try to extinguish the fire at a damaged factory following a Russian bombing in Kramatorsk, Ukraine on Thursday.
Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP
A cemetery worker carries a cross for the tomb of Tetyana Gramushnyak, 75, who was killed by shelling while cooking food outside her home in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine.
A cemetery worker carries a cross for the tomb of Tetyana Gramushnyak, 75, who was killed by shelling while cooking food outside her home in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine.
Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Ukraine’s possibly demonstrated ability to target warships in the Black Sea may change Russian operating patterns, forcing them to deploy additional air and point-defence assets to the Black Sea or withdraw vessels from near the coast, the institute for the study of war has said in its latest report.

The loss of the Moskva – regardless if from a Ukrainian strike or an accident – is a “major propaganda victory for Ukraine” and a “boon to Ukrainian morale” the institute claims.

The Kremlin will conversely struggle to explain away the loss of one of the most important vessels in the Russian fleet. The Kremlin’s current story of losing the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet due to an accidental fire and ammunition explosion will, at minimum, likely hurt Russian morale and cannot be hidden from the Russian domestic audience.

Both explanations for the sinking of the Moskva indicate possible Russian deficiencies—either poor air defences or incredibly lax safety procedures and damage control on the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship.”

The institute added that the loss of the warship will reduce Russia’s ability to conduct cruise missile strikes but is “unlikely to deal a decisive blow to Russian operations on the whole”.

The Moskva’s main role was likely conducting precision strikes with Kalibr cruise missiles on targets in Ukrainian rear areas, including logistics centres and airfields, the report added. These Russian strikes have been effective but limited in number compared to airstrikes and ground-launched cruise missiles throughout the invasion, and the loss of the Moskva is unlikely to be a decisive blow.

Ukraine’s possibly demonstrated ability to target Russian warships in the Black Sea may change Russian operating patterns, however, forcing them to either deploy additional air and point-defence assets to the Black Sea battlegroup or withdraw vessels from positions near the Ukrainian coast.”

Japan will attend a G20 finance ministers’ meeting next week, finance minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Friday, as western nations called for expulsion of Russia from the forum and boycotting sessions where Moscow is represented.

“The Japanese government is not in the position to respond to each country’s participation,” Suzuki told a press conference when asked about Russia’s plans to join the forum online, which current G20 president Indonesia announced on Thursday.

Last week, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States will boycott some G20 meetings if Russian officials show up.

German finance minister Christian Lindner has called for rejection of any form of cooperation with Russia at the G20.

The upcoming G20 meeting “is a very important conference to discuss various issues of the global economy, including rising food and energy prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…where participation of each country’s finance minister and central bank governor is basically expected,” Suzuki said.

Meanwhile, Japan “will take appropriate steps in close cooperation with G7 allies and the host country Indonesia” based on a March G7 leaders’ statement that said international platforms should not continue relations with Russia in a business as usual manner, Suzuki said.

Slovakia’s defence minister Jaroslav Nad called Russian President Vladimir Putin as “equal to Hitler” for his invasion of Ukraine, in an interview with The New York Times.

Nad told the Times that Putin “is equal to Hitler” and he must be stopped in Ukraine before he can make moves towards the west.

“Ukraine is literally fighting for our future,” he added.

Slovakia shares a border with Ukraine and has been been vocal in its criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Updated

‘They didn’t know us’ Zelenskiy praises Ukraine’s bravery on 50th day of war

Ukraine President Zelenskiy has marked the 50th day of war, calling Russia’s invasion “absurd” and “suicidal” in his latest national address.

“We have withstood 50 days already. 50 days of Russian invasion, although the occupiers gave us a maximum of five,” he began.

I remember the first day of the invasion of the Russian Federation. I remember what I was told on February 24 … To put it mildly, no one was sure that we would withstand it. Everyone sympathised. Many of them advised me to flee the country. Advised to actually surrender to tyranny.

But they didn’t know us either. And they did not know how brave Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom. Our opportunity to live the way we want. Not the people who rule in such a way that their army sees toilets for the first time in their lives in the occupied territories and steals even ordinary household appliances.

Zelenskiy said Russian troops “are already repeating on our land what Europe saw only during World War II” while criticising the west’s severity of sanctions.

“50 days of our defence is an achievement. Achievement of millions of Ukrainians,” he added.

During the 50 days of this war, Ukraine became a hero for the whole free world. For those who have the courage to call a spade a spade. For those who are not poisoned by propaganda.

You have all become heroes. All Ukrainian men and women who withstood and do not give up. And who will win. Who will return peace to Ukraine. I’m sure of it.”

Here are some of the latest images to come out of Ukraine today.

A residential building destroyed in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrain.
A residential building destroyed in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrain.
Photograph: Pavel Klimov/Reuters
Firefighters stand in smoke after Russian artillery shelling on the outskirts of Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine.
Firefighters stand in smoke after Russian artillery shelling on the outskirts of Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine.
Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA
A woman shares a tender moment with a man before she boards a train heading to the west of Ukraine, at the railway station in Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine.
A woman shares a tender moment with a man before she boards a train heading to the west of Ukraine, at the railway station in Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine.
Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA
People walk past the destroyed lyceum of food technologies and trade in Kharkiv.
People walk past the destroyed lyceum of food technologies and trade in Kharkiv.
Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA
A cemetery worker takes a rest from working on the graves of civilians killed in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv.
A cemetery worker takes a rest from working on the graves of civilians killed in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Rainy weather in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region could favour the Ukrainian military ahead of a planned Russian offensive, a senior Pentagon official has said.

For several days, rain has battered Donbas and is expected to continue in the coming days, AFP reports.

“The fact that the ground is softer will make it harder for them to do anything off of paved highways,” said the official, who spoke under condition of anonymity.

The weather already played an important role in Ukraine’s north at the beginning of the invasion, when the fact that the ground was not sufficiently frozen forced Russian tanks to circulate in long convoys on paved roads, making them vulnerable to the Ukrainian forces’ Javelin anti-tank systems.

The Donbas region, which is geographically situated on a large plane, is more favourable to armed vehicles.

“The weather will certainly be a factor in war,” the official added.

Canada will send up to 150 troops on a humanitarian mission to Poland to support its massive influx of Ukrainian refugees, defence minister Anita Anand announced Thursday.

With more than half of Ukraine’s over 4.7 million asylum seekers having gone to neighbouring Poland, the Nato ally is facing a refugee crisis and has asked for assistance.

Only 100 of the total number of troops assigned to the mission will be deployed immediately, Anand told a news conference at Trenton Air Force Base in Ontario, adding that they would “assist Poland’s efforts to support and care for Ukrainians fleeing violence.”

The soldiers, who are fluent in Ukrainian, are to be sent to frontline reception centres across Poland to “provide general support, spiritual services and limited medical care,” she said.

They will also support a Poland-led humanitarian task force, and help resettle Ukrainians in Canada.

Russia asks Brazil for support to help counter western sanctions: reports

Russia has asked Brazil for support in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20 group of top economies to help it counter crippling sanctions imposed by the west since it invaded Ukraine, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov wrote to economy minister Paulo Guedes asking for Brazil’s “support to prevent political accusations and discrimination attempts in international financial institutions and multilateral fora.”

“Behind the scenes work is underway in the IMF and World Bank to limit or even expel Russia from the decision-making process,” Siluanov wrote. He did not elaborate on obstacles to Russian participation in those institutions, and his allegations could not be independently verified.

The letter was dated 30 March and relayed to the Brazilian minister by Russia’s ambassador in Brasilia on Wednesday.

“As you know, Russia is going through a challenging period of economic and financial turbulence caused by sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies,” the Russian minister said.

Asked about the letter, Erivaldo Gomes, the Brazilian economy ministry’s secretary of international economic affairs, indicated that Brazil would like Russia to remain part of discussions at multilateral organisations.

“From Brazil’s point of view … keeping open dialogue is essential,” he said. “Our bridges are the international bodies and our assessment is that these bridges have to be preserved.”

At least 503 civilians have been killed in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region since Russia launched its invasion on 24 February, the region’s local governor has said.

“This is an innocent civilian population, we will not forgive them for any life!” Oleg Synegubov wrote on Telegram, adding that the dead included 24 children.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city with a pre-war population of some 1.5 million, is located some 40km (25 miles) from the Russian border.

It has been a key target for Moscow’s invading forces, which have battered it with bombardments but failed to capture the city.

Updated

A Russian legislator and two aides pushed a covert propaganda campaign aimed at winning US government support for Russia’s foreign policy agenda, including moves against Ukraine, according to a Justice Department indictment seen by the Associated Press.

The effort was part of what American officials describe as a broader Russian government objective to sway public opinion in its favour, to sow discord in American institutions and to drive wedges between the US and European allies.

In this case, prosecutors say, the legislators sought to co-opt American and European political officials — including members of the US Congress — and also sought to enter the US under false pretences to participate in meetings.

The legislator, Aleksandr Babakov, 59, is identified in the indictment as a high-ranking Russian government official from the same political party as Russian President Vladimir Putin who currently serves as deputy chairman of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature. Two of his staff members — Aleksandr Nikolayevich Vorobev, 52, and Mikhail Alekseyevich Plisyuk, 58 — were also charged in Manhattan’s federal court.

All three men named are based in Russia and remain at large, authorities said. They are accused of conspiring to have a US citizen act as a foreign agent for Russia and Russian officials without notifying the Justice Department; with conspiring to evade US sanctions; and with visa fraud conspiracy.

Today’s indictment demonstrates that Russia’s illegitimate actions against Ukraine extend beyond the battlefield, as political influencers under Russia’s control allegedly plotted to steer geopolitical change in Russia’s favour through surreptitious and illegal means in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West,” Manhattan US attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Such malign foreign interference will be exposed, and we will pursue justice against its perpetrators.”

The United States is preparing new efforts to crack down on sanctions evasion by Russia, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser said on Thursday.

“Where our focus will be over the course of the coming days is on evasion,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview at the Economic Club of Washington, Reuters reports.

“I think we’ll have some announcements in the next week or two that identify targets that are trying to facilitate that evasion both inside Russia and beyond,” he said, without giving details on the coming plans.

But Sullivan did say that Washington has no desire to give back yachts and other assets seized from people they see as oligarchs with ties to Putin.

“The president is actively looking at how we can deal with the fact that as we seize these assets, our goal is not to give them back,” he said.

“Our goal is to put them to a better use than that. But I’ll be careful in what I say today because there’s an ongoing – kind of – policy process around how we end up dealing with that question. But rest assured that the goal is not just to sit on them for a while and then pass them all back.”

A total of 2,557 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Thursday, deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Of that, 289 people evacuated from the besieged southern port of Mariupol by their own transport, Vereshchuk said in an update over the Telegram messaging app.

The head of the UN World Food Program (WFP) said people are being “starved to death” in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and predicted the country’s humanitarian crisis is likely to worsen in the coming weeks.

WFP executive director David Beasley said the war is “devastating the people in Ukraine” and lamented the lack of access faced by the agency and other aid organisations in trying to give food supplies to areas caught up in fighting.

“I don’t see any of that easing up. I just don’t see it happening right now,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

A lack of access is part of the problem, he said, but so is a shortage of manpower and fuel as resources are diverted to the war effort.

“It’s not just going to be the next few days — but the next few weeks and few months could even get more complicated than it is now,” he said.

“In fact, it’s getting worse and worse, concentrated in certain areas, and the front lines are going to be moving.”

Beasley expressed particular concern about the port city of Mariupol, where a dwindling number of Ukrainian defenders is holding out against a Russian siege that has trapped well over 100,000 civilians in desperate need of food, water and heating.

Russian forces that control access to the city have not allowed in aid, even though the WFP has demanded access.

“We will not give up on the people of Mariupol and other people that we cannot reach. But it’s a devastating situation: the people being starved to death,” he said.

Meanwhile, former CIA Director David Petraeus has described Russia’s admission that its flagship has sunk as a “rare moment of truth”.

“I’m surprised that they admitted it,” he told the BBC, adding that the facts would have “come out” eventually.

CIA director, William Burns, also acknowledged the US is sharing intelligence with Ukraine.

“We have been committed to rapid and effective intelligence sharing with our Ukrainian partners, throughout the fighting and for months beforehand.”

Burns said it was important to publicly disclose intelligence before the 24 February invasion because “we had clear evidence of [Putin] trying to pin the blame on Ukrainians, wrongly, for provoking a conflict.”

Burns said a protracted war is a strong possibility and Putin has developed an almost “mystical belief” that it’s his destiny to restore Russia’s stature in the world.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon in light of military setbacks in the invasion of Ukraine, CIA director William Burns has said.

During a speech at Georgia Tech university in Atlanta, Burns said:

Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.”

The Kremlin said it placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the assault began on 24 February, but the United States has not seen “a lot of practical evidence” of actual deployments that would cause more worry, Burns added.

We’re obviously very concerned. I know President Biden is deeply concerned about avoiding a third world war, about avoiding a threshold in which, you know, nuclear conflict becomes possible.”

We are seeing reports of explosions in Kyiv.

The Guardian has yet to verify accounts, and it is unclear what damage has been caused.

Catch up

  • The Russian flagship cruiser Moskva has sunk in the Black Sea off southern Ukraine, according to Russia’s defence ministry. It is still unclear whether the ship was hit by Ukrainian weaponry. Ukraine claims it was – whereas Russia maintains a fire on board and then “stormy sea conditions” while it was being towed were to blame. Russia only has three of this flagship class of warship, which have crews of almost 500 sailors – and the loss of Moskva is a big blow.
  • The lives of some 2.7m people with disabilities are at risk in Ukraine, a UN committee has warned, citing reports that many are trapped or abandoned in their homes, care centres and orphanages without basic supplies or medicines. The Committee said it was “deeply disturbed” that the fate of people with disabilities in Ukraine is “largely unknown”.
  • Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, said Moscow will take “security and defence measures that we will deem necessary” if Sweden and Finland join Nato. In an interview with the Russian state-owned news agency Tass, the minister said the membership in the military alliance would “seriously worsen the military situation” and lead to “the most undesirable consequences”.
  • Russia’s investigative committee said Ukrainian forces carried out at least six helicopter airstrikes on the village of Klimovo in the Russian region of Bryansk, injuring seven people. The Bryansk region governor said earlier that two residential buildings in the village had been hit by shelling, which is north of the Ukrainian region of Chernihiv. Additionally, a village in Russia’s Belgorod region had come under fire from Ukraine, the region’s governor said.
  • Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia. In a statement, the ministry said Russia had “engaged in state-organised kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation”.
  • France is planning to return its embassy to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. It had moved to the western city of Lviv in March as Russia invaded. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged allies to resume normal diplomatic presence in Ukraine. US president Joe Biden also signalled on Thursday that his administration is in the process of deciding whether to send a high-ranking US official to Ukraine.
  • Zelenskiy has issued a video compiled by his government that further urges European countries to give up Russian oil that provides “blood” money to Moscow, and appeals for more weapons to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion. It begins with ominous music and text on screen saying: “Fifty days of evil in Europe.” Then, over images of consumers filling up their gas tanks, and of oil wells, captions read: “We ask you to stop feeding evil”.
  • Moody’s Investors Service has said that Russia “may be considered in default” if it fails to pay bonds in US dollars by 4 May. Russia paid two bonds in rubles this month after sanctions cut the country off from global financial systems and the US banned Moscow from making debt payments using dollars held in American banks.But the payment sin rubles “represents a change in payment terms” and may be considered a default, according to Moody’s. S&P Global Ratings has also declared Russia in default due to its inability to pay bonds in US dollars.

– Léonie Chao-Fong, Joanna Walters, Maanvi Singh

Guardian staff and agencies report:

A criminal case has been opened against a Siberian journalist whose news website published content critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian media reported on Thursday.

Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor of Novy Fokus in the Russian region of Khakassia, was arrested by security forces on Wednesday over the website’s reporting on 11 riot police who allegedly refused deployment to Ukraine.

Afanasyev was accused Thursday of disseminating “deliberately false information” about the Russian armed forces, an offence which carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence under a law passed last month.

The charges come amid an unprecedented crackdown on independent media and anti-war dissent. Last month, the Russian parliament passed a law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military.

Afanasyev has published numerous investigations into sensitive issues in Khakassia, such as organised crime and alleged abuses of power by local officials.

In 2009, he was accused of libel after publishing stories that criticised the Russian government’s response to an explosion at the country’s largest hydroelectric plant that year. And in 2016, he reportedly faced death threats from a criminal gang active in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia, after he detailed the group’s illegal activities and suspected ties to local police.

Another Siberia-based journalist was also arrested Wednesday on suspicion of breaching Russia’s new laws on media coverage of the situation in Ukraine. Sergei Mikhailov, founder of the LIStok weekly newspaper based in the Republic of Altay, was reportedly placed in pre-trial detention over the outlet’s alleged “calls for sanctions against Russia.”

Read more:

’Collect my parents or collect my son’s body’: a Kyiv family’s tragic plight

The day Russian troops invaded Ukraine, 18-year-old Oleksandr Ivanov was shot in the forehead and 10 times in the chest while in the passenger seat of his grandmother’s car. They had been driving to Hostomel, outside Kyiv, to pick up his grandfather and bring him to the capital.

Oleksandr, known as Sasha, did not have the life of an ordinary 18-year-old. His mother, Sveta, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when Sasha was three. Sasha had spent his life taking care of her, helping her dress, wash and go to the toilet.

Sasha had a natural love of learning, according to his family. From when he started to talk, he loved reciting poetry. At the age of seven he asked if he could learn to play the piano. Despite finishing music school with honours, he decided to study medicine. He attained full marks in Ukraine’s national high school exams for chemistry and biology and was given a scholarship to Ukraine’s best medical school, in Kyiv. Another top university, Taras Shevchenko University, also in Kyiv, rang his mother to complain when they heard he would not be coming to them.

Read more:

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the way the Moskva saga “has unfolded is a big blow to Russia”.

US officials have said it is still unclear what caused a blast onboard. But Sullivan said it has forced Moscow to choose between two stories. “One story is that it was just incompetence, and the other is that they came under attack. And neither is a particularly good outcome for them,” Sullivan said at the Economic Club of Washington, DC.

“Only the loss of a ballistic missile submarine or the Kutznetsov [Russia’s lone aircraft carrier] would inflict a more serious blow to Russian morale and the navy’s reputation with the Russian public,” said Carl Schuster, the former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.

Russia’s Moskva missile cruiser sank in a “stormy sea” while being towed, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

“The cruiser ship Moskva lost its stability when it was towed to the port because of the damage to the ship’s hull that it received during the fire from the detonation of ammunition. In stormy sea conditions, the ship sank”

Russia and Ukraine have conflicting accounts of what happened to the cruiser, with Ukraine claiming it began to sink after it was hit by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles, and Russia saying a fire on board caused munitions to explode.

Moody’s Investors Service has said that Russia “may be considered in default” if it fails to pay bonds in US dollars by 4 May.

Russia paid two bonds in rubles this month after sanctions cut the country off from global financial systems and the US banned Moscow from making debt payments using dollars held in American banks.

But the payment sin rubles “represents a change in payment terms” and may be considered a default, according to Moody’s. S&P Global Ratings has also declared Russia in default due to its inability to pay bonds in US dollars.

Russia is now moving closer and closer to its first failure to repay debts since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Damaged Russian warship Moskva has sunk – Russian ministry

Russia’s defence ministry has put out a statement to say its Moskva missile cruiser has sunk in the Black Sea off southern Ukraine. It is still unclear whether the ship was hit by Ukrainian weaponry.

The ship is believed to have experienced significant damage and was thought to be heading to Sevastopol, Crimea, before it succumbed.

Russia earlier claimed it had experienced damage as a result of an ammunition fire on board. The crew were evacuated. Ukraine claimed the ship has sunk, Russia denied it, then came reports that Russia was towing its ships further out to sea, perhaps to take them out of Ukrainian missile range.

The Moskva was apparently under tow when it sank.

Russia only has three of this flagship class of warship, which have crews of almost 500 sailors.

Updated

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has issued another video compiled by his government that further urges European countries to give up Russian oil that provides “blood” money to Moscow, and appeals for more weapons to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion.

The Ukrainian president tweeted out a video, in similar fashion to ones issued before, and an example of which was particularly arresting when he played it in the middle of his video address to the US Congress last month.

A man walks next to a turret of a destroyed tank near Zalissya, northeast of Kyiv, April 14, 2022.
A man walks next to a turret of a destroyed tank near Zalissya, northeast of Kyiv, April 14, 2022.
Photograph: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

The video shows very graphic images of the effects of the violence perpetrated on Ukrainians by Russian forces and weapons and we won’t embed it here, intentionally, as it quickly becomes upsetting with little warning. Here is a link to the tweet.

Zelenskiy tweeted the following text to go with the video:

They’ve been trying to destroy us for 50 days, but the people are heroically resisting. We fear nothing, we know what we’re fighting for. We are brave enough to put an end to evil. Stop feeding the military machine. Help with weapons. Then peace & good will win faster.

It begins with ominous music and text on screen saying: “Fifty days of evil in Europe. Is there anything else that Russia hasn’t done yet in Ukraine?”

The video is only just over a minute and a half long but uses images of wounded and dead children, blood-soaked toys and streets, huge structural damage and the wailing of Ukraine’s bereaved. Beneath such images, the captions read, in answer to the rhetorical question posed above: “Murdering children, destroying entire cities, mining playgrounds, missile strikes on refugees, mass murder, stealing…[Russia] telling bald-faced lies to the whole world.”

Then, showing images of consumers filling up their cars with gasoline, and oil wells, the captions said: “We don’t ask you to resist evil instead of us, we ask you to stop feeding evil, and provide us with weapons,” with images of weapons such as fighter jets that the west has declined to supply to Zelenskiy, judging it too provocative to Russian president Vladimir Putin and risking NATO and Russia going to war.

Then, against a backdrop of the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, the caption says that Ukrainians have enough bravery to defeat evil and images show patriotic countrymen, both military and civilian, fighting back against the invasion.

France to move its Ukrainian embassy back to Kyiv

France said on Thursday its embassy in Ukraine would return to the capital Kyiv from the western city of Lviv, where it had been relocated in early March after the Russian invasion, Agence France-Presse reports.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, left, and his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney (right), lay flowers at a memorial wall to those Ukrainians killed Russia’s war on the country, in Kyiv on Thursday.
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, left, and his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney (right), lay flowers at a memorial wall to those Ukrainians killed Russia’s war on the country, in Kyiv on Thursday.
Photograph: Department of Foreign Affairs/PA

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made the announcement during a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.

This redeployment will happen very soon and will allow France to deepen its backing for Ukraine even further in all spheres to face the war unleashed by Russia on February 24,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

France, however, continues to advise its nationals against returning to Ukraine, including to Kyiv.

We consider returning remains unthinkable for those French people who lived in Ukraine. The return of French compatriots today remains formally prohibited,” the French government noted on Tuesday, stressing that “the whole of Ukraine remains a war zone”.

France is providing support to Ukraine through military equipment, humanitarian aid and assistance for investigations into abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians, in addition to humanitarian supports for Poland and Moldova, which are hosting many Ukrainian refugees.

In recent days a number of other nations have said they will reopen their embassies in Kyiv, following the withdrawal of Russian forces that had been advancing on the sprawling capital before their efforts were thwarted, including the Czech, Italian, Portuguese and Turkish embassies and the European Union office.

Joe Biden signalled on Thursday that his administration is in the process of deciding whether to send a high-ranking US official to Ukraine.

The US president noted that he would be ready to go himself, but talk in Washington circles is that any such move would be more likely to involve US secretary of state Antony Blinken or defence secretary Lloyd Austin.

Biden spoke to gathered reporters as he was boarding Air Force One on the outskirts of the capital, on his way to North Carolina on a trip related to his domestic agenda.

When Biden was in Poland last month, he gave all the signs that he wanted to visit Ukraine and hinted he might go, but it did not happen and it appeared that it was too dangerous at that time.

That was before Russian forces withdrew from their advance on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Since the withdrawal, a number of European leaders have visiting Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv including, last weekend, British prime minister Boris Johnson, with images whirling around the world of him walking the streets with Zelenskiy after a meeting and press conference.

Blinken briefly crossed onto Ukrainian soil in early March, while visiting the Polish border, but it was essentially an entirely symbolic gesture of solidarity.

Updated

Summary

It’s 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • The lives of some 2.7m people with disabilities are at risk in Ukraine, a UN committee has warned, citing reports that many are trapped or abandoned in their homes, care centres and orphanages without basic supplies or medicines. The Committee said it was “deeply disturbed” that the fate of people with disabilities in Ukraine is “largely unknown”.
  • Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, said Moscow will take “security and defence measures that we will deem necessary” if Sweden and Finland join Nato. In an interview with the Russian state-owned news agency Tass, the minister said the membership in the military alliance would “seriously worsen the military situation” and lead to “the most undesirable consequences”.
  • Russia’s investigative committee said Ukrainian forces carried out at least six helicopter airstrikes on the village of Klimovo in the Russian region of Bryansk, injuring seven people. The Bryansk region governor said earlier that two residential buildings in the village had been hit by shelling, which is north of the Ukrainian region of Chernihiv. Additionally, a village in Russia’s Belgorod region had come under fire from Ukraine, the region’s governor said.
  • Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia. In a statement, the ministry said Russia had “engaged in state-organised kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation”.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, today. I’m handing the blog to my US colleague, Joanna Walters. Thank you for reading.

Fate of millions of people with disabilities in Ukraine ‘unknown’, UN says

The lives of around 2.7 million people with disabilities are at risk in Ukraine, a UN committee has warned, Reuters reports.

Citing reports that many are trapped or abandoned in their homes, care centres and orphanages without basic supplies or medicines, the Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published a statement that read:

The committee is deeply disturbed that the fate of people with disabilities in Ukraine is largely unknown.

People with disabilities have limited or no access to emergency information, shelters and safe havens, and many have been separated from their support networks, leaving them unable to respond to the situation and navigate their surroundings.

A soldier assisting a refugee from Ukraine in Przemysl, Poland.
A soldier assisting a refugee from Ukraine in Przemysl, Poland.
Photograph: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

It noted that few people with disabilities were among those internally displaced or who had reached Ukraine’s borders as refugees, “indicating that many of them have not been able to flee to safety”.

Updated

Turkey is still working on organising a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said.

Speaking to the Turkish news channel NTV, Cavusoglu said Turkey continues to approach talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents with “cautious optimism”, adding:

We know critical topics will be decided at leader level, so we will try to bring leaders together.

He acknowledged that recent events of alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian towns of Bucha and Irpin have “created a negative atmosphere on the Ukrainian side”.

Despite all those challenges, President Zelensky said talks may continue… But it takes two leaders to say yes. Especially President Putin.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has accused European countries that continue to buy Russian oil of “earning their money in other people’s blood”.

In an interview with the BBC, Zelenskiy singled out Germany and Hungary, accusing them of blocking efforts to embargo energy sales, from which Russia stands to make up to £250bn this year.

Zelenskiy also urged western countries to send more weapons to Ukraine:

The United States, the United Kingdom, some European countries – they are trying to help and are helping. But still we need it sooner; sooner and faster.

The key word is now.

Updated

Alexei Navalny has called for an “information front” against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the jailed opposition leader asserted that poll results showing 75% of Russians support the conflict were a “Kremlin lie”.

In an extended series of tweets, Navalny called on western leaders to support a massive social media ad campaign in order to break through Kremlin propaganda regarding the invasion.

“We need ads. Lots of ads,” wrote Navalny. “A huge national anti-war campaign will start with an advertising campaign. Two hundred million impressions a day to reach every Russian internet user twice. Stories, posts and prerolls. Across Russia, in cities and villages. On every tablet and every phone.”

In the statement, he called on Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, the head of Google owner Alphabet, to “urgently find a solution to crush [Vladimir] Putin’s propaganda using the advertising power of social media”.

The advertising campaign would be a way around the Kremlin’s efforts to shut down independent media in Russia. Along with most independent websites and newspapers, the Russian censor has also blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It also marks the opposition leader’s biggest foray yet into the complicated question of how widely the Russian public supports the war in Ukraine. Polling results, including from the independent Levada Centre, have shown majority support among Russians for the war.

A view shows Illich Iron and Steel Works factory behind a street in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 14, 2022.
A view shows Illich Iron and Steel Works factory behind a street in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 14, 2022.
Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A torn flag of Ukraine hung on a wire in front of a destroyed apartment building in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 14, 2022.
A torn flag of Ukraine hung on a wire in front of a destroyed apartment building in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 14, 2022.
Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Germany’s chancellor is under growing pressure to authorise the delivery of heavy weaponry to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s looming eastern offensive, with Olaf Scholz’s coalition partners accusing him of failing to live up to his promises.

The centre-left leader had surprised even close partners in his three-party coalition when on 27 February he announced an “epochal change” in Germany’s foreign policy to boost defence spending and relax its restrictive stance on exporting weapons to conflict zones.

Six weeks on, prominent politicians from allied parties urged the Social Democrat to follow up words with actions after Germany was accused of stalling on delivering heavy weaponry to Ukraine and blocking a wholesale ban on Russian oil and gas.

Scholz has to “not just purse his lips but start to whistle”, said the Free Democratic party’s Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who chairs the Bundestag’s defence committee.

With a view to the apparent failure of economic sanctions in stopping Vladimir Putin’s military campaign, she said there had to be a renewed focus on hard power.

“There is only one answer that Russia understands: to continue to try to end the war through talks – but with one hand visibly on the holster,” said Strack-Zimmermann. “That means that Germany has to also supply Ukraine with heavy weapons to help it defend itself, as long as they can be handled by the Ukrainian army.”

Ukrainian strike on Russian ship is ‘credible’, western official says

Western officials have said the intelligence picture about the state of the Moskva warship is not yet clear but that there are doubts about the Russian version of events.

“I am not aware previously of a fire onboard a capital warship which had led to the ammunition magazine exploding as a consequence,” one official said, calling it “remarkably inept” if true.

Officials said it was credible that the Ukrainian forces had damaged the ship with a Ukrainian missile system they had developed.

“The fact that it’s been damaged to a point where it is either inoperable or under tow is a significant blow,” the official said, adding that there would have been “enormous determination, ingenuity and initiative of Ukrainian forces in order to be able to strike at Russian forces where perhaps they previously thought they were invulnerable, and a significant impact on Russian maritime operations”.

Western officials said it was unlikely British anti-ship missiles were involved in the apparent attack. Johnson promised on his recent trip to Kyiv that those would be made available, but the official said that had not happened yet. “It would appear that it’s not a UK capability,” the official said.

The UK has trained the Ukrainian navy in the past as part of Operation Orbital but the official said it was “difficult to draw a causal link” between the British training and the operation.

Western officials also warned that the weather in the east of Ukraine was having a major impact on the redirected Russian offensive, with no new major successes for Russia in the Donbas.

Updated

Summary

It’s 7.15pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, said Moscow will take “security and defence measures that we will deem necessary” if Sweden and Finland join Nato. In an interview with the Russian state-owned news agency Tass, the minister said their membership of the military alliance would “seriously worsen the military situation” and lead to “the most undesirable consequences”.
  • Russia’s investigative committee said Ukrainian forces carried out at least six helicopter airstrikes on the village of Klimovo in the Russian region of Bryansk, injuring seven people. The Bryansk region governor said earlier that two residential buildings in the village, which is north of the Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, had been hit by shelling. Additionally, a village in Russia’s Belgorod region had come under fire from Ukraine, the region’s governor said.
  • Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia. In a statement, the ministry said Russia had “engaged in state-organised kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation”.
  • The UK has announced sanctions against two Russian oligarchs: Chelsea football club director, Eugene Tenenbaum, and another associate of Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich, David Davidovich. Tenenbaum will be subject to an asset freeze as well as transport sanctions. Davidovich will be also subject to an asset freeze and travel ban as well as transport sanctions.

Hello, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong here to bring you all the latest news from the war in Ukraine. I’m on Twitter or you can email me.

Updated

Damaged Russian warship still ‘battling fire’, US defence official says

The United States believes the Russian warship Moskva is still dealing with a fire, Reuters cites a senior US defence official as saying.

The ship is believed to have experienced significant damage and is thought to be heading to Sevastopol, Crimea, the official said:

Our assessment is that she still appears to be battling a fire on board.

Russia’s defence ministry said the crew had been evacuated and measures were being taken to tow the ship back to port, after an explosion of ammunition on board that Ukraine said was caused by a missile strike.

The US official said the US cannot confirm what caused the fire on the Moskva.

It very well could have been from an external source like a missile. That range is not out of range for a Neptune. Sixty miles is well within the Neptune’s effective range.

But it also could have been something else. So again, … we’re just being careful here.”

Updated

UK sanctions two close associates of Roman Abramovich

The UK government has announced sanctions against two Russian oligarchs: Chelsea football club director, Eugene Tenenbaum, and another associate of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, David Davidovich.

Tenenbaum will be subject to an asset freeze as well as transport sanctions meaning that any ship or aircraft owned, chartered, controlled or operated by him could be detained if it enters Britain.

Davidovich, described as Abramovich’s “much lower profile right-hand man”, will be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban as well as transport sanctions.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (R) and director Eugene Tenenbaum (L)
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (R) and director Eugene Tenenbaum (L)
Photograph: Jed Leicester/Action Images/Reuters

Both men have been sanctioned for their close association with Abramovich, the government said. In a statement, the UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said:

We are tightening the ratchet on Putin’s war machine and targeting the circle of people closest to the Kremlin.

We will keep going with sanctions until Putin fails in Ukraine. Nothing and no one is off the table.

Updated

Germany has seized the world’s largest superyacht after “extensive investigations” determined that it is owned by the sister of the sanctioned the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

The German federal police said on Thursday it had seized the $600m (£458m) Dilbar after weeks of painstaking financial investigative work exposed the yacht’s true ownership despite a complex web of “offshore concealment”.

The vessel is flagged in the Cayman Islands and registered to a holding company in Malta – both tax havens favoured by the global ultra-rich to park their wealth.

German authorities said they had determined the yacht was ultimately owned by Usmanov’s sister Gulbakhor Ismailova.

The luxury yacht Dilbar lies completely covered in the Blohm+Voss dock Elbe 17 in Hamburg, Germany.
The luxury yacht Dilbar lies completely covered in the Blohm+Voss dock Elbe 17 in Hamburg, Germany.
Photograph: Jonas Walzberg/AP

Usmanov, a telecoms magnate who owns the £48m mansion Beechwood House in Highgate, London and the 16th-century Sutton Place estate in Surrey, was sanctioned by the UK last month. The billionaire, who has had significant interests in the English football clubs Arsenal and Everton, had already been sanctioned by the EU and the US.

Ismailova and another of Usmanov’s sisters, Saodat Narzieva, have also been subjected to UK and EU sanctions. The UK government said Usmanov “indirectly transferred assets to Ismailova, including leaving his sister as the only beneficial owner of the yacht Dilbar”.

German authorities said they had determined the yacht was ultimately owned by Usmanov’s sister Gulbakhor Ismailova.
German authorities said they had determined the yacht was ultimately owned by Usmanov’s sister, Gulbakhor Ismailova.
Photograph: Yoruk Isik/Reuters

Updated

Russia will be ‘forced to take defensive measures’ if Sweden and Finland join Nato

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, said Moscow will take “security and defence measures that we will deem necessary” if Sweden and Finland join Nato.

In an interview with the Russian state-owned news agency Tass, the minister said the membership of Sweden and Finland in the military alliance would “seriously worsen the military situation” and lead to “the most undesirable consequences”.

Grushko said:

It is clear that our border with Finland is 1,300 km long. This will mean a radical change in the military and political situation and it is understandable that we will be forced to take security and defence measures that we will deem necessary.

He added:

Otherwise, this will seriously worsen the military situation and bring about the most undesirable consequences that need to be avoided.

Although diplomatic contacts between the countries are “maintained”, Grushko said:

Sweden and Finland have joined the sanctions and are participating in the anti-Russia campaign unleashed in the West.

This is today’s reality.

The Russian minister’s comments came after Sweden and Finland took a major step towards joining Nato on Wednesday, after their prime ministers said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” and “dramatically shaped mindsets” in the Nordic countries.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson walks with Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Stockholm, Sweden, April 13, 2022.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson walks with Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Stockholm, Sweden, April 13, 2022.
Photograph: Tt News Agency/Reuters

The Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, said her country would decide whether to apply to join the alliance “quite fast, in weeks not months”, despite the risk of infuriating Moscow.

Her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, said there was “no point” in delaying analysis of whether it was right for Sweden to apply for Nato membership:

This is a very important time in history. The security landscape has completely changed. We have to analyse the situation to see what is best for Sweden’s security, for the Swedish people, in this new situation.

Russia’s defence ministry said it was investigating what happened to its flagship cruiser Moskva after Ukraine said it had hit the vessel with an anti-ship missile, forcing its crew to abandon ship, Luke Harding, Peter Beaumont and Pjotr Sauer report.

The ministry denied reports the warship had sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea. It said the Moskva had “retained buoyancy”, with fires extinguished and the crew transferred to another vessel.

Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesperson, was unable to give the cause of the explosion on the warship, saying: “I can’t tell you anything. This is a topic for the ministry of defence.”

Ship

Ukraine’s southern military command said on Thursday it struck the Moskva with a Neptune missile and that the ship had started sinking. Fire had erupted after the missile exploded, it said on Facebook.

It added that four Russian ships that went to the Moskva’s rescue were hampered by stormy weather and by ammunition blowing up onboard. Unconfirmed reports suggested the missile cruiser had turned upside down and had started to sink.

Commissioned in 1983, the ship was armed with 16 anti-ship Vulkan cruise missiles with a range of at least 440 miles (700km). According to reports, it also carried S-300 anti-air missiles, which are crucial to Russia’s air superiority over Crimea and Ukraine’s Kherson province, now occupied by Russian troops.

Russia has said it will be forced to strengthen its defences in the Baltic if Finland and Sweden join Nato, including by deploying nuclear weapons, as the war in Ukraine entered its seventh week.

Here is a map showing how Nato membership in Europe has grown over the years since it was founded in 1949 by 12 countries including the US and Canada. The most recent new members have been Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020. The total number of countries in the alliance now stands at 30.

A map illustrating Nato membership over time
A map illustrating Nato membership over time in Europe.

Updated

Ireland’s foreign minister in Kyiv: ‘Ireland is militarily neutral’ but ‘we are not neutral on this war’

Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, has been in Kyiv today as the first foreign minister on the UN security council to visit Ukraine since the latest Russian invasion of the country began on 24 February.

After visiting areas in the capital directly affected by the invasion, and meeting Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, and defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, he said the killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces is likely to be a war crime.

Speaking during a press conference with Kuleba, Coveney said it was a privilege to be with him, and said he brought a strong message of solidarity from the Irish government and people. PA Media quote him saying:

We don’t know yet how many citizens have lost their lives due to this Russian aggression but we know it is many, and the brutality and violence, not only against soldiers, but against Ukrainian civilians is something that is likely to be determined as war crimes in the future.

I am also conscious at this time that Ukraine does not want sympathy, it needs action and strong practical support in defending yourselves, and even though Ireland is militarily neutral, let me be clear we are not neutral on this war and conflict and the future of your country.

We know Ukrainians dream of a different type of future, one that is based on democracy, stability and economic opportunity, and we believe those things can be achieved through full EU membership and Ireland will advocate that it happens as rapidly as possible.

We believe that the most powerful countries in the world are accountable to international law and the atrocities against Ukraine citizens need to be part of a process to ensure full accountability.

Updated

Russia’s investigative committee has said that Ukrainian forces carried out at least six helicopter airstrikes on the village of Klimovo in the Russian region of Bryansk, injuring seven people.

The Bryansk region governor said earlier that two residential buildings in the village had been hit by shelling, which is north of the Ukrainian region of Chernihiv.

Additionally, a village in Russia’s Belgorod region had come under fire from Ukraine, the region’s governor said.

“The village of Spodaryushino has been subjected to fire from Ukraine,” the governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said in a post on the Telegram messaging service. He said no one had been injured and that the village and one other settlement had been evacuated.

Reuters reports that Ukraine’s defence ministry and military did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this month, Russia claimed that Ukraine sent attack helicopters across the border to strike an oil storage facility in the Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Kharkiv to the north-east of Ukraine. At the time, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, denied Ukrainian responsibility for the attack.

Updated

Russia: ‘most undesirable consequences’ if Sweden and Finland join Nato

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, is the latest to add his voice to warnings from Russia that it will take security measures if Sweden and Finland opt to join Nato.

Reuters reports that Grushko said their membership of the military alliance would lead to “the most undesirable consequences”.

The UK’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has responded to the rhetoric coming out of Russia today over possible Nato expansion, saying that “Sweden and Finland are free to choose their future without interference – the UK will support whatever they decide.”

Updated

People clean up debris as they return to their destroyed homes after the Ukrainian army regained control of Hostomel city, 15km from the capital, Kyiv, on Thursday.
People clean up debris as they return to their destroyed homes after the Ukrainian army regained control of Hostomel city, 15km from the capital, Kyiv, on Thursday.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A building destroyed in Hostomel.
A building destroyed in Hostomel.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Updated

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said 30 Ukrainian prisoners of war were being returned as part of an exchange with Russia, AFP reports.

In a statement, Vereshchuk said:

Five officers and 17 servicemen were exchanged. Also eight civilians, including one woman, were released.

In total, 30 of our citizens are going home today.

Earlier, the Ukrainian defence ministry said two military pilots, Ivan Pepelyashko and Oleksiy Chyzh, who had been captured in Ukraine’s Chernigiv region and held in Russia, had been released.

It was not immediately clear whether the pilots were part of the exchange announced by Vereshchuk.

The statement by the defence ministry cited Chyzh as saying that both men were subjected to hostile interrogations and denied medical treatment while in captivity.

It quoted him as saying:

We were forced to record propaganda videos. If we refused, they threatened to stop bandaging our comrades’ wounds.

Updated

The Kremlin said the condition for a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy is a document ready for the two leaders to sign.

In his daily press briefing, the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, denied that the Russian president had refused to meet his Ukrainian counterpart.

Peskov said:

The president has never refused such a meeting, but appropriate conditions should be prepared for it, namely the text of the document.

Updated

The US cannot confirm yet what happened to the Russian warship Moskva because it does not have enough information, the Pentagon’s press secretary, John Kirby, said.

In an interview with MSNBC, Kirby said:

We don’t know what caused that explosion. We’ve seen the social media reports that this was maybe a Ukrainian coastal defence missile (that) hit it. We can’t rule that out, we just don’t have enough information right now.

Updated

The Guardian’s Luke Harding visited three ravaged towns close to Kyiv and spoke to residents about the devastation they experienced after Russian forces invaded.

One woman, Natasha, recounted the savage murder of her nephew, who she said was shot in the head by soldiers.

Harding travelled to the “garden towns” of Bucha, Hostomel and Borodianka, where people had lived peaceful, suburban lives until the invasion.

 

Updated

Deported children face ‘threat of illegal adoption’ in Russia, Ukraine says

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia.

In a statement, the ministry said Russia had engaged in the “illegal and forced displacement” of Ukrainian children, “among them orphans, children deprived of parental care, as well as children whose parents died as a result of Russia’s military aggression” across Ukraine’s borders to Russia.

The statement reads:

In violation of international humanitarian law and basic standards of humanness, Russia is engaged in state-organised kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation.

Such actions of the Russian occupiers can be qualified as kidnapping and require a decisive reaction from the international community, primarily from the relevant international organizations.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian forces of forcibly deporting thousands of children from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine since the war began.

Earlier this month, two individuals said they and other women and children were forcibly transported to Russian territory from the besieged city of Mariupol in March. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has denied these accusations, claiming “such reports are lies”.

Updated

Displaced Ukrainian students in Scotland will be given tuition and living cost support, under proposals from the Scottish government subject to parliamentary approval.

The scheme would mean Ukrainians starting a further or higher education course this autumn will be eligible for the support if they have submitted an application through the UK’s homes for Ukraine, Ukraine family or Ukraine extension schemes.
Jamie Hepburn, Scotland’s minister for higher and further education, said:

By extending home fee status and living cost support to students arriving from Ukraine we hope to provide some stability and assurance at this deeply troubling time and ensure those forced to flee their homes can live safely and comfortably in Scotland for as long as they need to.

Eligible university students would be able to receive free tuition and living cost support of up to £8,100 a year in bursaries and loans, and students entering further education for bursary and grants of up to £4,668 a year.

Updated

Russia says Moskva ‘still afloat’ but Ukraine military claims warship started sinking when hit

Russia’s defence ministry has said the fire on board the warship Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, is “under control”.

The ship was reportedly struck by two Ukrainian missiles in the Black Sea late on Wednesday night. It was famously defied by Ukrainian troops on Snake Island at the start of the war.

In a statement, the Russian defence ministry said:

The fire on the cruiser Moskva is under control. There are no flames visible. Ammunition supplies are no longer exploding.

The cruiser Moskva is still afloat. The main missile armoury has not been damaged.

The crew of the cruiser were evacuated to Black Sea Fleet vessels nearby. Measures are being taken to tow the cruiser into port.

The causes of the fire are currently being established.

The Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, pictured in the port of Sevastopol, Crimea November 16, 2021.
The Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, pictured in the port of Sevastopol, Crimea, 16 November 2021.
Photograph: Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters

The ministry had earlier said that the ship had been “seriously damaged as a result of the detonation of ammunition that occurred as a result of a fire”.

However, Ukraine’s southern military command said the Moska had started to sink after it was hit by a Neptune missile.

In a Facebook post, the southern military command said the missile cruiser had received “significant damage” and a fire ignited on board after the strike.

The statement continued:

Other units of the ship’s group tried to help, but a storm and a powerful explosion of ammunition overturned the cruiser and it began to sink.

Hello, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong here. I’ll be bringing you the latest developments from the war in Ukraine. Feel free to drop me a message if you have anything to flag, you can reach me on Twitter or via email.

Updated

Today so far …

  • The Russian defence ministry said the entire crew of the warship Moskva had been evacuated late on Wednesday night after an ammunition explosion and fire on the ship. However, the governor of the Odesa region, Maksym Marchenko, said the Ukrainians had struck the Moskva with two Neptune missiles. The ship was famously defied by Ukrainian troops on Snake Island at the start of the war, and is the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The defence ministry said it would be towed back to port.
  • Russia has warned Nato that if Finland and Sweden were to join the military alliance, then it would take measures in the Baltic. Dmitry Medvedev said: “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored.” Finland and Sweden took a major step towards joining Nato yesterday, after their prime ministers said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” and “dramatically shaped mindsets” in the Nordic countries.
  • Lithuania’s prime minister, Ingrida Simonyte, has dismissed the earlier words of Medvedev threatening as “nothing new”. Lithuania’s defence minister, Arvydas Anusauskas said that Russia had always kept nuclear weapons in its exclave Kaliningrad anyway.
  • Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was opening criminal cases into Ukrainian servicemen’s alleged torture of their Russian counterparts.
  • The governor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region said four civilians had been killed and 10 wounded during Russian shelling of the city of on Thursday.
  • Ukrainian forces claim they sabotaged a bridge as a Russian military convoy was crossing it towards Izyum in the Kharkiv region, destroying the convoy.
  • Iryna Vereshchuk, one of Ukraine’s deputy prime ministers, has announced that today there will be nine humanitarian corridors available. Civilians would need to use private cars to escape from the besieged city of Mariupol. Other evacuation routes are from Berdiansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar, and the ones in the eastern Luhansk region will only operate if occupying Russian forces stop their shelling.
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called for an oil embargo in his nightly address on Wednesday. “First of all, we need an oil embargo. And Europe’s clear readiness to give up all Russian energy. The European Union must stop sponsoring Russia’s military machine.”
  • Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, who has been part of the negotiating team at the peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, has said a stumbling block is that Ukraine wants as many countries as possible to act as security guarantors, but Russia does not want their number to increase.
  • The US president, Joe Biden, earlier announced an additional $800m in military assistance to Ukraine including heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine.
  • The UK’s Ministry of Defence has warned that “The towns of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka are likely to be Russian targets for similar levels of violence” as the urban shelling seen elsewhere as Russian military operations focus to the east.
  • The UK government has announced that about 16,400 people have arrived in the UK from Ukraine under the two visa schemes the Home Office has set up to handle refugees. The UNHCR estimates the number of people who have fled Ukraine for abroad since Russia’s latest invasion began on 24 February is 4,697,964.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be with you again later on today. In the meantime, I am handing over to Léonie Chao-Fong.

Updated

The governor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Oleh Synyegubov, said four civilians had been killed and 10 wounded during Russian shelling of the city on Thursday.

Reuters reports that in a statement, the Kharkiv region governor also urged residents of some towns to evacuate since he said military operations were expected to take place in the area.

The claims have not been independently verified.

Updated

The UK government has announced that about 16,400 people have arrived in the UK from Ukraine under the two visa schemes the Home Office has set up to handle refugees.

The UNHCR estimates the number of people who have fled Ukraine for abroad since Russia’s latest invasion began on 24 February is 4,697,964

Updated

Here is a selection of some of the latest images to be sent to us over the newswires from Ukraine:

Artists produce demining equipment to send to the Ukrainian military at a studio in the city of Perechyn, Zakarpattia region, Ukraine.
Artists produce demining equipment to send to the Ukrainian military at a studio in the city of Perechyn, Zakarpattia region, Ukraine.
Photograph: Reuters
A woman looks out from a bus window as she leaves Severodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region yesterday.
A woman looks out from a bus window as she leaves Severodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region yesterday.
Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
In a picture taken yesterday during a trip organized by the Russian military, Russian soldiers are seen standing guard at the Luhansk power plant in the town of Shchastya.
In a picture taken yesterday during a trip organised by the Russian military, Russian soldiers are seen standing guard at the Luhansk power plant in the town of Shchastya.
Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images
A funeral ceremony for Taras Bobanych at the Lychakiv Cemetery in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
A funeral ceremony for Taras Bobanych at the Lychakiv Cemetery in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
Photograph: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images
A photo shows the production of Molotov cocktails at a garden of a furniture company converted into a war manufacturing centre.
A photo shows the production of Molotov cocktails at a garden of a furniture company converted into a war manufacturing centre.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Updated

Lithuania’s prime minister dismisses Russian warning on Nato as ‘nothing new’

Lithuania’s prime minister, Ingrida Šimonytė, has dismissed the earlier words of Dmitry Medvedev threatening Nato over the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining as “nothing new”. [see 8.42am]

Reuters report she told the media “That Russia threatens, it is nothing new. Kaliningrad is a very militarized zone, has been for many years, and it is in the Baltic region.”

The BNS agency quotes her being strongly supportive of the potential moves for Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, saying:

I believe that the presence of these countries as members of the alliance would, in fact, greatly strengthen both the Alliance and these countries and our security. As soon as such a decision is announced, I hope it will be, I think that the Baltic countries will have a very serious reason to welcome it.

Medvedev said if the two nations were to join Nato, there could be “no more talk” of a nuclear-free Baltic. However, Lithuania’s defence minister, Arvydas Anušauskas, has suggested this is meaningless. In Vilnius he told BNS that nuclear weapons have been deployed in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea since before the current crisis.

The current Russian threats look quite strange, when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100km from Lithuania’s border. Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad. The international community, the countries in the region, are perfectly aware of this. They use it as a threat.

Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, on the shore of the Baltic Sea, is sandwiched between existing Nato members Lithuania and Poland. Šimonytė visited Ukraine on Monday to see the impact of Russian action in the country.

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonyte (L) and Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal visit the town of Borodianka on 11 April.
The Lithuanian prime minister, Ingrida Šimonytė, (L) and Ukrainian counterpart, Denys Shmyhal, visit the town of Borodianka on 11 April.
Photograph: Ukrainian Governmental Press Service/Reuters

Updated

Russia opens criminal cases into alleged torture of its soldiers by Ukraine

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was opening criminal cases into Ukrainian servicemen’s alleged torture of their Russian counterparts.

The committee, which probes major crimes, said some Russian soldiers had been captured by Ukrainian forces in the Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv regions and held illegally by Ukraine’s security service.

“Russians were subjected to physical violence and torture in order to force them to give false explanations about the actual conditions of their illegal detention on the premises of the security service of Ukraine, as well as on (Russia’s) special military operation,” Reuters reports it said in a statement.

Reuters could not independently verify the committee’s allegations. Ukraine has said it checks all information regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and will investigate any violations and take appropriate legal action.

Updated

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon has been appearing on Sky News in the UK. He is considered an expert in chemical and biological weapons and is a visiting fellow at Magdalene College in Cambridge. On the unproven allegations this week that Russia had used a chemical weapon in Mariupol, he said:

There is a strong possibility that actually what happened was a release of toxic industrial chemicals. I know the Ukrainian government were very concerned about the steelworks in Mariupol where the fighting is going on. And stored there is a lot of toxic chemicals like chlorine and ammonia.

If that was attacked, and blew up, that could deliver those toxic chemicals and some of the symptoms we’re seeing would be respiratory symptoms from something like chlorine or ammonia. This stuff is very non-persistent and disappears very quickly.

However, he had a warning about potential future use of more deliberate chemical agents, saying:

Over time, the Russians have used chemical weapons. I’m talking to you from Salisbury, where of course there was the major Russian nerve agent attack four years ago.

And we saw the Syrian regime using chemical weapons frequently in Syria, which are morbidly brilliant weapons. If you have no morals or scruples, you would use them. The four-year siege of Aleppo, which is not dissimilar to Mariupol, was broken with 13 days of chlorine barrel bombs. So that that is a huge concern.

He also said:

With all the forces massing in the Donbas for what looks like to be a massive battle coming up, if the Russians get stuck – which I think they will do – and they in effect have been defeated in the north. If they’re held and defeated in the Donbas, then God knows what sort of weapons that will go to.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in Ukraine. Earlier this week the Russian embassy in the US said that the country had destroyed all of its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2017.

Updated

Russia warns Nato over Sweden and Finland membership moves

Russia has warned Nato that if Finland and Sweden were to join the military alliance, then it would take measures in the Baltic.

Dmitry Medvedev is reported by Reuters saying: “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored. Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to.”

Medvedev has been deputy chairman of the security council of Russia since 2020. He has previously been president and prime minister of Russia, and is a long-term ally of Vladimir Putin.

Finland and Sweden took a major step towards joining Nato yesterday, after their prime ministers said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” and “dramatically shaped mindsets” in the Nordic countries.

The Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, said on Wednesday that her country, which shares a 1,300km (810-mile) border with Russia, would decide whether to apply to join the alliance “quite fast, in weeks not months”, despite the risk of infuriating Moscow.

J Oliver Conroy writes for us this morning about his experience joining four Americans who dropped everything to travel across the world and risk their lives defending Ukraine:

A month earlier Tay was home in Dallas, Texas, watching videos about the Russian invasion, when he saw the president of Ukraine addressing the world. “To all the friends of Ukraine who want to join the defense,” Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, “come. We will give you weapons.”

Tay served with the 82nd Airborne in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. He marched in front of armored vehicles, sweeping for mines, and guarded against enemy motorcyclists. His unit was under constant IED attack.

After he began to have seizures, he was honorably discharged and labeled “disabled”, a classification he accepted out of economic necessity but resented. With prolonged treatment, the seizures mostly went away, but not before he went through a bad spell. His marriage ended; he got in fights and trouble with the law.

He spent years pulling himself out of the hole. He “unchubbied” himself, after so much time spent fat and depressed. He found work as a private investigator and later in underwater construction, building docks for rich people. He had partly succeeded at his project of personal reconstruction when he started to see pictures of Ukrainian civilians making molotov cocktails, and bombed-out maternity hospitals, and Zelenskiy in his olive-green zip-up.

That’s when he contacted his congressman’s office, which agreed to secure him an emergency passport after he found a Ukrainian NGO to vouch for him. He began packing, and bought a one-way flight.

When he broke the decision to his friends and family, “the reaction was terrible”. They were distraught that he would walk away from his civilian life, from his nice high-rise apartment, to fight and possibly die for Ukraine.

They did not understand, he says, that this was a way to be useful in the best way he knew how – that this was a chance to make himself right.

Read more of J Oliver Conroy’s piece here: Among the Americans fighting in Ukraine: ‘I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t come’

The UK’s ministry of defence has issued its latest public assessment of the situation on the ground in Ukraine. In it they warn that as Russian president, Vladimir Putin continues to show interest in the east of Ukraine:

Urban centres have faced repeated indiscriminate attacks from Russia throughout the conflict. The towns of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka are likely to be Russian targets for similar levels of violence.

The UK’s MoD also suggested that the Ukrainian resistence in Mariupol was still tying up significant Russian resources.

Updated

Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, who has been part of the negotiating team at the peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, has spoken on television in Ukraine about one of the stumbling blocks in the way of talks – the number of countries that would act as security guarantors.

Reuters report he said Ukraine wants as many countries as possible to act as security guarantors, but Russia does not want their number to increase.

Russia has previously indicated that Belarus should be one of the countries that guarantees security, while Turkey has repeatedly offered to play a mediating role between its Black Sea neighbours.

Tobias Ellwood is a Conservative MP in the UK, and chair of the Commons defence committee in parliament. He has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “the world has changed beyond recognition” as a result of Russian aggression in Ukraine. PA Media quotes him saying:

We need to craft a fresh 10-year strategy about how to handle Russia and China’s aggression. The world has changed beyond recognition.

We’ve had 30 years of peace, that is now over, and there needs to be this wider, bigger debate to be held, a Casablanca-type conference, as we saw in the Second World War.

The Casablanca conference was held in 1943, and was attended by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the leaders of the Free French Forces Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud among others. Over ten days they determined the Allied strategy for the rest of the second world war, committing to a doctrine of forcing Germany and the Axis powers into “unconditional surrender”.

Here is the latest analysis from our defence and security editor Dan Sabbagh, asking are Russia’s weapons of choice getting worse?:

Moscow’s forces have been repeatedly accused of using indiscriminate weapons in cities throughout the seven-week-long Ukraine war, a disregard for civilian life that has already almost certainly led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

A preliminary war crimes assessment, conducted on behalf of 45 members of the OSCE, concluded that Russia had engaged in “a clear pattern” of war crimes, targeting, for example, hospitals, schools and places of shelter during the seven weeks of fighting.

At its simplest level, Russia is accused of using unguided bombs – heavy artillery, Grad multiple rockets, air dropped bombs – on urban areas by the OSCE monitors. “A majority of Russian attacks in populated areas have been conducted with unguided artillery,” was their grim conclusion in a 99-page report.

It is a war crime to target civilians directly, and to engage in an attack on a military target that is expected to cause a loss of civilian life excessive in relation to the battlefield gain – regardless of the weapons used.

Film shot by the Associated Press in Mariupol last month, for instance, shows a Russian tank shooting at an apartment block from some distance. In that city, scene of the worst urban fighting in the war so far, the office of the UN’s human rights commissioner has already concluded “126 multi-story residential buildings were damaged and 65 were destroyed”.

Read more of Dan Sabbagh’s analysis here: As Russia continues to bomb Ukraine, are its weapons of choice getting worse?

Nine humanitarian corridors agreed for Thursday – deputy PM

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, has announced that today there will be nine humanitarian corridors available to evacuate civilians from areas in Ukraine under attack by Russia.

Reuters reports she said civilians would need to use private cars to escaped from the besieged city of Mariupol. Other evacuation routes are from Berdiansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar, and the ones in the eastern Luhansk region will only operate if occupying Russian forces stop their shelling.

There were no corridors set up yesterday, in part, she had said, because Russia was unable to control its forces on the ground and observe agreed local ceasefires while people were fleeing. The claims were not independently verified.

Updated

The 5 Kanal news service in Ukraine is carrying a little more detail on Ukrainian claims it sabotaged a bridge as a Russian military convoy was crossing it.

They report Ukraine’s armed forces stopped the advance of military equipment towards Izyum, a town that is in the east of Ukraine.

A military statement posted to Facebook has described the ambush, saying:

Having established the route of the enemy column, the SSO operators of Ukraine surveyed the facility that was most suitable for an engineering ambush. It was a bridge on the path of enemy equipment. Then – painstaking professional work: determining the location of charges, calculating the required amount of TNT equivalent. explosives to a designated place, SSO operators of Ukraine were waiting for the enemy, who unsuspectingly went to meet death.

The claims have not been verified independently.

  • This is Martin Belam in London taking over the blog from my colleague Samantha Lock. I will be here for the next few hours, and you can contact me at martin.belam@theguardian.com

Almost 6,500 alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine are under investigation, Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office has said.

A total of 6,492 cases have been reported and 197 children have been confirmed to have been killed, the office added.

Zelenskiy calls for EU to stop ‘sponsoring Russia’s military machine’

Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy called for an oil embargo in his latest national address.

First of all, we need an oil embargo. And Europe’s clear readiness to give up all Russian energy.

The European Union must stop sponsoring Russia’s military machine.”

Zelenskiy added that he discussed western sanctions policy with a group of international and Ukrainian experts who “assessed the sanctions imposed and how Russia is trying to circumvent them”.

The group has prepared concrete proposals on how to remove sanctions loopholes and how to immediately enhance sanctions to make it tangible for Moscow, Zelenskiy added.

Bridge carrying Russian forces blown up in Kharkiv, Ukraine claims

Ukrainian troops have blown up a bridge carrying Russian forces heading to Izyum, a city on the Donets river in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, the military has said.

An entire column of Russian troops was reportedly destroyed in an operation using a UAV drone.

Updated

Russia will seek peace or leave the international arena forever, Zelenskiy says

Russian troops are stepping up activity in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, Zelenskiy said in his latest national address.

They are trying to retaliate for their defeats. Rocket bombings and artillery strikes continue. New columns of equipment are being brought in. They are looking for reserves. They are trying to recruit residents of the south of our country – that is, from these temporarily occupied areas in addition to the so-called mobilisation in certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

However, Zelenskiy noted that the recent “feverish activity” of Russian forces reflects Russia’s insecurity and inability to defeat Ukraine.

Even with significant stocks of Soviet military equipment and a significant number of soldiers, whom the commanders do not spare at all, the Russian troops doubt their ability to break us, to break Ukraine. Well, we do everything to justify their doubts.”

“This war against Ukraine can only end in Russia’s strategic defeat – sooner or later,” he added.

Either the Russian leadership will really seek peace, or as a result of this war, Russia will leave the international arena forever.”

Russia is attempting to mobilise up to 70,000 people in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military claims.

It has been established that the Russian command has assigned the task of mobilising 60-70,000 people in the territory of the so-called ‘DPR’,” the general staff of the armed forces said in its latest morning operational report, adding that the specified figures were completed “by only 20%”.

Russian forces continue to expand units near the eastern border and restore and replenish ammunition, officials added.

Ukrainian troops thwarted eight Russian attacks over the past 24 hours in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the report read.

As many as 300 people were taken by Russian forces as hostages for four weeks in the basement of a school in Yahidne north of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s ministry of defence has claimed.

The hostages allegedly kept track of the days they were held on a wall.

The names of 18 people alleged to have been killed or died in the conditions were also found written on the wall, Ukrainian officials said.

Reuters previously spoke to seven residents of Yahidne who said that, in total, at least 20 people died or were killed during the Russian occupation. No official death toll has been released by Ukrainian authorities.

Negotiations are reportedly underway on the exchange of 169 servicemen of the National Guard of Ukraine who were taken prisoner at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukrainian officials say.

The ministry made the announcement in an update on the Telegram messaging app, citing Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, Denis Monastyrsky.

Chernobyl is a tragic page in our history. Unfortunately, we have to state that 169 servicemen of the National Guard were taken prisoner there.

Today, some of them, according to our information, are in the territory of the Republic of Belarus, some – in Russia. We were at the place where they were kept. This is a dungeon without light, without the ability to communicate properly. They were deprived of all means of communication while they were there. And then they were taken out. Unfortunately, I can’t say what their fate is.

Negotiations are underway to exchange them. But we understand that this will probably be only after the end of the active phase of hostilities.”

Here are some of the latest images to come out of Ukraine today.

A 12-year-old boy holds a cat standing on the debris of his house destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling in the outskirts of Chernihiv, Ukraine.

His mother, Liudmila Koval, had to have her leg amputated and was injured in her abdomen after shelling. She is still waiting for proper medical treatment, the Associated Press reports.

Chernihiv, a northern Ukrainian city, has been besieged by Russian forces.

Shells and bombs that rained down on the city for weeks have reduced its buildings and neighbourhoods to rubble.

Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat standing on the debris of his house destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling in the outskirts of Chernihiv, Ukraine.
Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat standing on the debris of his house destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling in the outskirts of Chernihiv, Ukraine.
Photograph: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
A Ukrainian man stands among the ruins at a residential area damaged by shelling in Lysychansk, Ukraine
A Ukrainian man stands among the ruins at a residential area damaged by shelling in Lysychansk, Ukraine
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Danyk Rak, 12, and his grandmother Nina Vynnyk stand on the debris of their house which was destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling in the outskirts of Chernihiv, Ukraine.
Danyk Rak, 12, and his grandmother Nina Vynnyk stand on the debris of their house which was destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling in the outskirts of Chernihiv, Ukraine.
Photograph: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

US to send $800m in military aid to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden earlier announced an additional $800m in military assistance to Ukraine including heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine.

The package, which brings the total military aid since Russian forces invaded in February to more than $2.5 billion, includes artillery systems, artillery rounds, armoured personnel carriers and unmanned coastal defence boats, Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

This new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine. These new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armoured personnel carriers.”

Biden said he had also approved the transfer of additional helicopters, saying equipment provided to Ukraine “has been critical” as it confronts the invasion.

“We cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelenskiy, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” Biden said.

The new package includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters and 18 155mm howitzers, along with 40,000 artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, 200 armoured personnel carriers and 300 additional Switchblade drones.

It will be the first time howitzers have been provided to Ukraine by the United States.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said some of the systems, like the howitzers and radars, will require additional training for Ukrainian forces not accustomed to using American military equipment.

“We’re aware of the clock and we know time is not our friend,” Kirby said when asked about the speed of deliveries.

Russia says warship ‘seriously damaged’ after ammunition explosion

The Russian defence ministry said the entire crew of the warship Moskva, reported to be struck by two Ukrainian missiles in the Black Sea late on Wednesday night, has been evacuated after an ammunition explosion and fire on the ship.

The ship was famously defied by Ukrainian troops on Snake Island at the start of the war. The Moskva is the flagship of the Black Sea fleet.

“The cruiser ‘Moskva’ of the Black Sea Fleet was seriously damaged as a result of the detonation of ammunition that occurred as a result of a fire, the crew was evacuated,” Russian state media outlet TASS reported, citing the Russian defene ministry.

“As a result of a fire, ammunition detonated on the Moskva missile cruiser. The ship was seriously damaged. The crew was completely evacuated,” the ministry added.

Earlier this evening, Ukraine said it struck and damaged a Russian warship in the Black Sea, according to a Telegram messaged posted by Odesa governor Maksym Marchenko.

The Russian warship Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea fleet, was famously defied by Ukrainian troops on Snake Island at the start of the war.
The Russian warship Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea fleet, was famously defied by Ukrainian troops on Snake Island at the start of the war.
Photograph: Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters

“Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship. Glory to Ukraine!” Marchenko’s message read.

“It has been confirmed that the missile cruiser Moskva today went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!”

On the first day of the invasion, the small garrison refused calls from the ship for it to surrender, telling the ship to “go fuck yourself”.

Ukrainian presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovych said the 12,500 tonne ship could have as many as 510 crew members on board.

Russian news agencies said the Moskva was armed with 16 anti-ship ‘Vulkan’ cruise missiles, which have a range of at least 700km (440 miles).

Last month Ukraine said it had destroyed a large Russian landing support ship, the Orsk, on the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast of the Black Sea.

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows cruiser Moskva in port Sevastopol in Crimea on April 7.
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows cruiser Moskva in port Sevastopol in Crimea on April 7.
Photograph: AP

Updated

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments before my colleague Martin Belam takes the reigns a little later on.

Here is where the situation currently stands:

  • The Russian defence ministry has said the entire crew of the warship Moskva, reported to be struck by Ukraine in the Black Sea late on Wednesday, has been evacuated after an ammunition explosion resulted in a fire on the ship. “The cruiser Moskva of the Black Sea Fleet was seriously damaged as a result of the detonation of ammunition that occurred as a result of a fire, the crew was evacuated,” Russian state media outlet TASS reported, citing the Russian defence ministry. The ship was defied by Ukrainian troops on Snake Island at the start of the war.
  • A Ukrainian official earlier said the Moskva had been hit by two missiles but did not give any evidence. The 12,500-tonne ship has a crew of about 500.
  • Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for an oil embargo in his nightly address on Wednesday. “First of all, we need an oil embargo. And Europe’s clear readiness to give up all Russian energy. The European Union must stop sponsoring Russia’s military machine.”
  • Zelenskiy confirmed forensic experts from the international criminal court visited Bucha on Wednesday to investigate possible war crimes. “Responsibility for the Russian military for war crimes is inevitable. We will drag them all to the tribunal. And not only for what was done in Bucha.” International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, told reporters “Ukraine is a crime scene” after visiting Bucha on Wednesday.
  • US president Joe Biden announced an additional $800m in military assistance to Ukraine including heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine. The package, which brings the total military aid since Russian forces invaded in February to more than $2.5bn, includes artillery systems, artillery rounds, armoured personnel carriers and unmanned coastal defence boats, Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Zelenskiy.
  • The US state department on Wednesday defended Biden’s charge that Russia is carrying out a genocide in Ukraine, saying its forces are trying to destroy the country and its civilian population. Biden levelled the accusation at president Vladimir Putin’s forces for the first time on Tuesday, saying it had “become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be a Ukrainian”. US state department official, Victoria Nuland, told CNN: “I am going to predict that what president Biden called it is what we will ultimately likely find when we are able to gather all of this evidence. Because what is happening on the ground is not an accident.”
  • The French president, Emmanuel Macron, declined to repeat Biden’s accusation that Russia was carrying out “genocide” against Ukrainians, warning that verbal escalations would not help end the war. Zelenskiy responded: “Such things are very painful for us, so I will definitely do my best to discuss this issue with him.”
  • More than 1,000 Ukrainian marines defending the besieged port city of Mariupol have surrendered, Moscow has claimed. In one of the most critical battles of the war, Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, including 162 officers, had “voluntarily laid down their arms” near the city’s Ilyich iron and steelworks. There was no independent confirmation of the claim.
  • The Russian retreat from around Kyiv has led to the discovery of large numbers of apparently massacred civilians, drawing international condemnation and calls for a war crimes investigation. The Kyiv district police chief said the bodies of 765 civilians, including 30 children had been found around the capital.
  • Negotiations are reportedly underway on the exchange of 169 servicemen of the National Guard of Ukraine who were taken prisoner at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs said.
  • The presidents of four countries bordering Russia – Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – travelled to Kyiv in a show of support for their Ukrainian counterpart and his embattled troops. It follows Kyiv’s reported refusal to meet the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who visited Poland on Tuesday and said he had planned to go on to Ukraine but “was not wanted”.
  • Senior US officials are weighing whether to send a top Cabinet level official to Kyiv as a high profile representative in a show of solidarity with Ukraine, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
  • Zelenskiy told Estonian MPs, without providing evidence, that Russia was using phosphorus bombs in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces in Mariupol said a drone had dropped a poisonous substance on the city, but there has been no independent confirmation that Russia used banned chemical weapons.
  • Zelenskiy also warned that the war will become an “endless bloodbath, spreading misery, suffering, and destruction” without additional weaponry.
  • In a speech at the Atlantic Council on Wednesday, US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said that countries on the fence of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine could face global isolation. “The unified coalition of sanctioning countries will not be indifferent to actions that undermine the sanctions we’ve put in place.”
  • Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, said the country would decide on whether to apply for Nato membership “within weeks”. Speaking at a joint news conference with her Swedish counterpart, Marin said that as a Nato partner – but not a member – Finland was not covered under article 5, which states that an attack on one member should be considered an attack on all.
  • The UK government has imposed sanctions on another 206 individuals, including 178 people it said were involved in propping up the self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said the latest sanctions were imposed in a direct response to the “horrific rocket attacks” on a train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, that killed dozens of civilians.
  • Australia has also imposed targeted financial sanctions on 14 Russian state-owned enterprises on Thursday, including defence-related entities such as truckmaker Kamaz, and shipping companies SEVMASH and United Shipbuilding Corp.
  • A Russian court ordered an artist to be held behind bars for allegedly replacing supermarket price labels with messages protesting against Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
  • Russia is imposing sanctions on 398 US House representatives and 87 Canadiana senators, Interfax news agency reported.
  • The European Space Agency said is has ended cooperation with Russia on three missions to the Moon due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, following a previous decision to do the same for a Mars mission.
  • Russia will seek peace or leave the international arena forever, Zelenskiy said in his latest national address. “Either the Russian leadership will really seek peace, or as a result of this war, Russia will leave the international arena forever.”
  • UN chief, Antonio Guterres, said that a ceasefire in Ukraine “doesn’t seem possible,” possibly indicating that the UN is still waiting on a response from Russia on evacuating Ukrainian civilians and providing aid.

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