Russia-Ukraine live news: US diplomats to return to Lviv | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and defence chief Lloyd Austin meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, says presidential adviser.
  • Ukraine will try to establish humanitarian routes out of the besieged port city Mariupol on Monday, says Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
  • The OSCE has called for the release of members detained in separatist-held Ukraine.
  • The UK’s defence ministry says Russia planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson to justify invasion.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 60

Here are the latest updates:

Blinken and Austin pledge more aid, return of US diplomats

The US has announced new military aid for Ukraine and promised that its diplomats will return to the western city of Lviv in the coming week, as its top diplomat and defence chief completed a secretive trip to the Ukrainian capital.

Blinken and Austin told Ukraine’s president and his advisers that the US would provide more than $300m in foreign military financing and had approved a $165m sale of ammunition.

They also said Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week.

The US Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane for departure, at Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, U.S., April 23, 2022.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane for departure, at Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, US, April 23, 2022 [Alex Brandon/Pool via Reuters]

Russia may be preparing for renewed assaults on Azovstal: Think-tank

Russian forces have continued to bombard the remaining Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant and may be preparing for renewed assaults on the facility, according to a US-based think tank.

The Institute for the Study of War said its its latest analysis that the storming of the vast steel works would likely lead to high Russian casualties.

The institute also noted that Russian forces had secured limited gains northwest of the city of Severodonetsk, which is in the Luhansk region, but remained “unlikely to be able to launch massive offensive operations”.

It added Russia was deploying additional forces to “reinforce unsuccessful attacks on the Izyum front.”

Zelenskyy praises Ukraine’s resistance, thanks US for support

Ukraine’s president has praised his people for two months of bravely resisting Russian forces since Moscow’s invasion on February 24, and thanked the US for its support.

“Two months of heroic nationwide resistance of Ukraine to the Russian aggression have passed. I am grateful to @POTUS and the people of the US for leadership in supporting Ukraine”, Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

He was responding to Biden’s tweet which honoured Ukraine’s resolve.

“Two months after Putin launched an unprovoked and justified attack on Ukraine, Kyiv still stands,” Biden wrote, promising to continue to support Ukraine “in their right to defend their homeland.”

Kyiv and Hamburg now ‘strategic partners’

Ukraine’s Kyiv and Germany’s Hamburg have become strategic partner cities through a pact stipulating support in times of crisis.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his Hamburg counterpart Peter Tschentscher signed the agreement on Sunday.

It lays down “effective cooperation between our cities” including “the provision of assistance by Hamburg for the restoration of Kyiv,” Klitschko wrote on Telegram. He added Hamburg will increase its humanitarian assistance efforts.

Tschentscher said Kyiv “is of particular importance in the fight against Russian aggression, as well as in the fight for peace and freedom in Europe,” Interfax reported.

Sanctions won’t ‘strangle’ economy: Russian senator

A Russian senator says Western sanctions against Moscow will not “strangle” its economy and that the European Union has revealed its inability to function without Russia’s fossil fuels.

Aleksey Pushkov told state newspaper Izvestia that the EU’s plan to phase out Russian fossil fuels by 2027 “is a recognition of the impossibility of ensuring the functioning of the economy of Germany and a number of other European countries without supplies from Russia”.

He said there were two reasons as to why Western sanctions will not work.

“The first is rise of hydrocarbon prices which will provide Russia with a record budget surplus. The second is the long-term nature of restrictions, which gives Russia enough time to adapt to new conditions. All this makes it impossible for the Russian economy to collapse.”

US house to vote on Ukraine lend-lease act

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 “this week”, according to congressman Charlie Christ.

The Act would expedite the transfer of critical military equipment and other critical supplies to Ukraine by cutting bureaucratic red tape. The lend-lease programme was created during World War II to allow Washington to quickly resupply allies without procedural hurdles.

Russian missiles hit infrastructure in Poltava: Governor

Nine Russian missiles have hit infrastructure facilities in the city of Kremenchuk in the eastern Poltava region, according to its governor.

Dmytro Lunin said the attacks took place on Sunday evening.

“We are clarifying the information about the victims and the destruction”, he wrote on Telegram.

Russia blocking locals from leaving occupied territories: Military

Ukraine’s military says Russian forces are restricting “the rights and freedoms of civilians” in temporarily occupied territories, “in particular freedom of movement”.

It said in a Facebook post that the “settlements that are preparing for holding pseudo-referendums are closed for entry and exit”.

Ukrainian officials have warned of Russian plans to hold referendums for independence in the occupied southern city of Kherson, similar to the one held in annexed-Crimea in 2014.

Olga Zhovtobrukh, 55, cries during an Easter religious service at a church in Bucha.
Olga Zhovtobrukh, 55, cries during an Easter religious service at a church in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Sunday, April 24, 2022. [Emilio Morenatti/AP]

Russia reports fire at oil depot in Bryansk

Russia’s TASS news agency has reported a fire at an oil depot in Bryansk, a city that lies 400km southwest of Moscow and borders Ukraine’s Chernihiv and Sumy regions.

“Tanks caught fire at an oil depot in Bryansk,” TASS said, citing city authorities as well as the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Earlier in the night, residents had reported hearing explosions and posted videos of a fire on the outskirts of Bryansk.

Russia has previously accused Ukraine of shelling the town of Klimovo in the Bryansk region and causing casualties.

EU readying ‘some form of an oil embargo’ on Russia

The European Union is preparing “smart sanctions” against Russian oil imports, The Times has reported, quoting the European Commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis.

“We are working on a sixth sanctions package and one of the issues we are considering is some form of an oil embargo,” Dombrovskis told the London-based newspaper.

“When we are imposing sanctions, we need to do so in a way that maximises pressure on Russia while minimising collateral damage on ourselves.”

Putin’s actions in Ukraine ‘nauseating’: Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described Putin’s actions in Ukraine as “nauseating” during a phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Johnson told Guterres on Sunday afternoon that the actions were a “blatant aggression, which is having devastating consequences for Ukraine’s people,” according to a statement from his office.

“They discussed their shared concerns on attacks in areas besieged by Russian forces, such as Mariupol and Kherson, and the need to secure a ceasefire, facilitate humanitarian efforts and allow civilians to leave,” the statement added.

Current Russia sanctions ‘insufficient”: Ukrainian official

Andriy Yermak, an aide to Ukraine’s president, has said that the continuation of the war in Ukraine and the killing of civilians and children “make it clear that the current sanctions policy is insufficient”.

“It needs to be strengthened. It needs to be updated, new sanctions need to be developed constantly,” he said on French TV.

Yermak touted a sanctions action plan developed by an international group of experts that he and former US diplomat Michael McFaul led. The plan lays out further steps countries should take to pressure Russia, including a full EU embargo on Russian gas and oil and “recognising Russia as a country that sponsors terrorism”.

Ukraine to try to establish Mariupol humanitarian route

Ukraine will try to establish a humanitarian evacuation corridor out of Mariupol on Monday after attempts failed on Sunday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said, blaming Russian forces for not holding their fire.

Russia plans ‘staged referendum’ in Kherson: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Russia is “planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation”.

Russian forces seized the strategically important city in southern Ukraine in early March.

“The city is key to Russia’s objective of establishing a land bridge to Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine,” the defence ministry wrote on Twitter.

Civilians in Mariupol steelworks beg for aid

Ukraine’s Azov Battalion has released a new video showing Ukrainian children in an underground bunker receiving Easter presents.

One of the women in the video begs for help from world leaders.

“We want to live in our city, in our country. We are tired of these bombings, constant airstrikes on our land. How much longer will this continue?” she says.

Another woman says there are 600 civilians sheltering under the plant, without food and water.

Sviatoslav Palamar, the Azov Battalion’s deputy commander, said the video was shot on Sunday at the plant. Members of the militia are among hundreds of Ukrainian forces holed up at the Azovstal plant, the last remaining pocket of resistance in Mariupol.

Al Jazeera could not verify the authenticity of the video.

Ukrainian soldier from Azov Battalion and civilians gather on Orthodox Easter Sunday at Azovstal steel plant.
Ukrainian soldier from Azov Battalion and civilians on Orthodox Easter Sunday at Azovstal steel plant, where soldiers are holding out and civilians sheltering, amid Russia’s siege of Mariupol. April 24, 2022. Azov/Handout via REUTERS

Zelenskyy welcomes Macron’s election victory

Ukraine’s president has congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his victory in Sunday’s presidential runoff.

Writing on Twitter, Zelenskyy described Macron as a “true friend of Ukraine” and said he was convinced that they are “moving forward together towards new common victories. Towards a strong and united Europe!”

OSCE calls for release of members in separatist-held Ukraine

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has called for the “immediate release” of four of its Ukrainian members detained in pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, whose country currently chairs the OSCE, said the detention of four members “for engaging in administrative activities that fall within their official functions as OSCE staff” was “unacceptable”.

“We call for their immediate release,” he said. “They have been held without charge for a period of time now and the OSCE and their families have not been sufficiently informed of the situation.”

Earlier, the OSCE wrote on Twitter it was “extremely concerned” that several members had been “deprived of their liberty”, following Russian media reports they had been arrested.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Donbas DAY 60

Zelenskyy meets Blinken and Austin in Kyiv: Official

An adviser to Zelenskyy says the US secretaries of state and defence were meeting with the Ukrainian leader, in the highest-level visit to Kyiv by a US delegation since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Oleksiy Arestovych said in an interview on Ukrainian TV that the talks with Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin were taking place late on Sunday. There was no immediate comment from the US.

Prior to the meeting, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the US to bolster its arms shipments to Kyiv.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

These were the updates on April 24.


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