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The Guardian - AU

Ukraine can develop ‘maximum speed’ in joining the EU, Zelenskiy says – as it happened

Thank you for joining us for today’s coverage of the war in Ukraine.

This live blog is now closed, you can find our latest coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war in our new live blog.

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

Ukrainian forces move through the town of Borodyanka.
Ukrainian forces move through the town of Borodyanka. Photograph: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/REX/Shutterstock
A couple walk in front of a shop covered by sandbags in Dnipro, Ukraine.
A couple walk in front of a shop covered by sandbags in Dnipro, Ukraine. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
A rescue worker walks past a heavily damaged apartment building in Hostomel, Ukraine.
A rescue worker walks past a heavily damaged apartment building in Hostomel, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
A raided apartment seen in Hostomel, Ukraine.
A raided apartment seen in Hostomel, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden is set to announce plans on Thursday to send additional military aid to help Ukraine fight back against the Russian invasion, according to a US official.

The official, who was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, said Biden will deliver a Thursday morning address at the White House detailing his plans to build on the roughly $2.6bn in military assistance the administration has already approved for Ukraine.

The new package is expected to be similar in size to the $800m package Biden announced last week.

It includes much needed heavy artillery and ammunition for Ukrainian forces in the escalating battle for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to Ukraine a number of times before the war ... and I knew they were tough and proud but I tell you what: They’re tougher and more proud than I thought,” Biden told military commanders. “I’m amazed at what they’re doing with your help.”

China reiterates opposition to unilateral sanctions

Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated China’s opposition to unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction,” and said that “de-coupling” and pressure tactics such as cutting off of supply chains will not work.

China has repeatedly criticised western sanctions, including those against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but has also been careful not to provide assistance to Moscow that could lead to sanctions being imposed on Beijing.

During a video speech to the annual Boao Forum for Asia gathering on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, Xi also said that efforts are needed to stabilise global supply chains, but also said China’s economy is resilient and that its long-term trend had not changed.

Today’s Guardian Today in Focus podcast asks: Can Russia succeed as a new chapter of war begins in Ukraine?

Ukraine’s army held off Putin’s forces and stopped a Russian takeover of Kyiv in the first phase of the war. But, as Luke Harding reports, Russia’s approach in this next stage looks very different

Now, Putin’s focus is largely on winning territory in the east of the country.

In terms of military might, Russia appears to hold the advantage. But in the messy, grinding weeks ahead, will its forces be able to sustain the resources and willpower necessary to grasp victory?

A senior Kyiv official accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of working “in concert” with Russia in Ukraine, a charge the organisation has denied.

Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova decried ICRC’s announcement last month that it was planning to open a branch in Russia’s southern Rostov region to help Ukrainian refugees, who, Kyiv says, have been forcibly deported to Russia.

“The International Red Cross is not fulfilling its mandate, I am certain of that,” Denisova said on Ukrainian television Wednesday after meeting with the head of the ICRC’s Ukrainian branch, AFP reports.

Citing data from the United Nations, Denisova said that some 550,000 Ukrainians, including 121,000 children, have been taken to Russia during the course of the war, but Kyiv has no information on who these people are and where they are being kept.

“Where are they? In filtration camps? In temporary facilities?” Denisova asked.

Ukrainians work in a Red Cross volunteer’s centre in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainians work in a Red Cross volunteer’s centre in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Sergey Kozlov/EPA

The official said she had asked both her Russian counterpart Tatyana Moskalkova and the ICRC for help in getting information on these refugees so that Ukraine could facilitate their return home, but had received “zero answer from her or from the Red Cross”.

Asked by the TV anchor whether Denisova suspected that the Red Cross was working “in concert” with Russia, Denisova replied: “Yes, I suspect they are.”

The ICRC strongly rejected Kyiv’s accusations.

“The ICRC does not ever help organise or carry out forced evacuations. We would not support any operation that would go against people’s will and international law,” the organisation said in a statement to AFP.

It added: “Building and maintaining a dialogue with parties to a conflict is essential to get access to all people affected and obtain necessary security guarantees for our teams to deliver life-saving aid.”

The Red Cross said it has been exploring the possibility to open an office in southern Russia.

“Our sole objective is to alleviate the suffering of the people affected by the armed conflict. And the suffering right now is simply immense.”

Here is an inside look at a settlement for displaced people in Lviv, Ukraine.

Houses were provided by the Polish government.

“Here we can be just by ourselves, we have real beds, and it’s warm,” Viktoria, a 39-year-old kindergarten administrator, told AFP.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made a visit to the new settlement on Tuesday, saying it could welcome up to 350 people.

“There will be more of these villages. In Lviv alone, they will accommodate 5,000 people,” he said, adding that plans were afoot to build similar settlements in ravaged towns retaken from the Russians outside the capital Kyiv.

A woman seen with her granddaughter at the settlement for displaced people.
A woman seen with her granddaughter at the settlement for displaced people. Photograph: Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
Ukrainian children seen looking outside of windows.
Ukrainian children seen looking outside of windows. Photograph: Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
Ukrainian refugees enter accomodation in Lviv.
Ukrainian refugees enter accomodation in Lviv. Photograph: Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
A family seen inside a room provided by the Polish government.
A family seen inside a room provided by the Polish government. Photograph: Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Russia controls 80% of territory in Luhansk, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration has said.

Serhiy Gaidai said in an update posted to his official Facebook account:

Yes, 80% of our territories are now controlled by [Russians]. Kremínna under [Russian control], Rubížne and Popasna. The fights are going on.”

Gaidai added that morgues and hospitals in the temporarily occupied territories are crowded.

“Luhansk land is full of corpses of enemies,” he said.

Updated

Germany will phase out Russian oil imports “by the end of the year” foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has said.

Speaking at a news conference in Riga with Baltic foreign ministers, Baerbock reiterated that coal imports would be phased out by the end of the summer. Gas imports would be phased out over a longer timeframe, she added.

I therefore say here clearly and unequivocally yes, Germany is also completely phasing out Russian energy imports.

We will halve oil by the summer and will be at 0 by the end of the year, and then gas will follow, in a joint European roadmap, because our joint exit, the complete exit of the European Union, is our common strength.”

G7 finance ministers said they have provided and pledged together additional support to Ukraine exceeding $24bn for 2022 and beyond, adding that they were prepared to do more as needed.

In a statement seen by Reuters, the ministers said they regretted Russia’s participation in international forums, including G20, International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings this week.

“International organisations and multilateral fora should no longer conduct their activities with Russia in a business-as-usual manner,” the ministers said.

Summary

  • Ukraine is ready to offer unconditional talks on Mariupol and has proposed to hold a “special round” of negotiations with Russia in the besieged city, officials said. “Without any conditions. We’re ready to hold a ‘special round of negotiations’ right in Mariupol,” Ukraine negotiator and presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. Another key Ukrainian negotiator, David Arakhamia, said he and Podolyak “are ready to arrive in Mariupol to hold talks” and “a proposal was put forward to hold direct negotiations, on site, on the evacuation of our military garrison.”
  • Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy said the situation in Mariupol is deteriorating with roughly 1,000 civilians remaining trapped in the city’s Azocstal steel plant, hiding there with the remaining fighters, who are heavily outnumbered. Zelenskiy said 120,000 people were being kept in Mariupol and that “crimes that are happening there are far more scary and large scale than in Borodyanka”, referencing a devastated Ukrainian town.
  • A Ukrainian marine commander fighting in Mariupol has said his forces are “maybe facing our last days, if not hours, as another Russian ultimatum to the remaining Ukrainian troops in the city to surrender or die expired with no mass capitulation. “The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one,” Serhiy Volyna, a commander from the 36th separate marine brigade, said in a video message.
  • Intelligence indicates Russia is poised to launch powerful cyberattacks against rivals supporting Ukraine, members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing network - the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - have warned. “Evolving intelligence indicates that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks,” the group said in a statement.
  • Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov said Russian forces would be in complete control of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol “before lunchtime, or after lunch” on Thursday. The head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya made the claim in an audio message posted online early on Thursday as seen by Reuters.
  • Ukraine is working to convince western allies to shift Russia’s shipments of natural gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Ukraine’s pipeline, increasing Kyiv’s leverage in its conflict with Russia, energy officials told Reuters.
  • Italy has signed a deal with Angola to ramp up gas supplies in a bid to break away from Russian gas. In an interview with the Corriere della Sera, Prime minister Mario Draghi said: “We do not want to depend on Russian gas any longer, because economic dependence must not become political subjection.”
  • The US defence department retracted its claim that Ukraine had been supplied with more aircraft, instead saying only parts had been delivered to enable Kyiv to put more jets into the fight against Russia. A senior US defence official added 14 US howitzers were now being delivered to the region, along with ammunition for them.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US is “working around the clock to provide security assistance to Ukraine” as five flights with military assistance arrived in the region over the last few days, with more than half a dozen flights from the US scheduled to arrive shortly with more equipment.
  • The US also imposed sanctions on dozens of people and entities, including a Russian commercial bank and a virtual currency mining company with the aim “to target Moscow’s evasion of existing sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.
  • Germany has defended itself against criticism that its delay in authorising the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine. Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock agreed to a swap system whereby Germany would help refill the gaps in the arsenal of Nato and G7 states after saying Germany has has run out of military hardware it can dispatch swiftly without undermining its own security commitments.
  • Russia said it had test-launched its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a new addition to its nuclear arsenal. “This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country,” Putin said.
  • Zelenskiy spoke of his “cautious optimism” that Ukraine’s partners now better understand the needs of his country, seemingly in reference to supplying weapons and intensifying sanctions on Russia.
  • Ukraine can develop “maximum speed” in joining the EU, Zelenskiy said in a national address Wednesday evening after meeting with the president of the European council, Charles Michel. “This is the historic moment when we can develop maximum speed in joining the European Union,” he said.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson likened Russian president Vladimir Putin to a crocodile, saying he is not optimistic that the Russian leader can be negotiated with. “How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it has your leg in its jaws, that is the difficulty that Ukrainians face. It is very hard to see how the Ukrainians can negotiate with Putin now given his manifest lack of good faith,” he told journalists.
  • United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has separately asked Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to receive him to discuss steps to bring about peace.
  • Finance ministers from the UK, US, Canada and France walked out of Wednesday’s G20 meeting as Russian representatives spoke, exposing deepening divisions over Russia’s continued presence in the body.
  • A small but growing number of top Kremlin insiders are reportedly questioning President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, according to Bloomberg. Some senior Kremlin insiders believe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “catastrophic mistake that will set the country back for years”, the channel cited multiple sources as saying.
  • More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian troops invaded the country on 24 February, according to figures by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR). Women and children account for 90% of those who have fled. A further 7.1 million people are displaced inside Ukraine.

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has also spoken out against far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s alleged ties to Russia in a long Twitter thread late on Wednesday.

“This bank is a well-known money-laundering agency created at the instigation of Putin,” Navalny tweeted, without citing evidence other than his own investigations into corruption in Russia. “This is selling political influence to Putin.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has accused his far-right rival Marine Le Pen of being in thrall to Russian President Vladimir Putin over a years-old Russian bank loan to her party during a fiery debate ahead of Sunday’s election.

Macron’s strongest lines of attack were on a well-publicised loan to her party for its 2017 campaign contracted through a Russian bank.

“You depend on the Russian power, you depend on Mr. Putin,” Macron told his opponent.

“A lot of your choices can be explained by this dependence,” he said in an attack on Le Pen’s policy positions.

“You cannot defend the interests of France because your interests are linked to Russian powers,” Macron said. “In 2015 you took out a loan with a Russian bank and you still have not paid it back.”

Le Pen dismissed the charge of being compromised politically by the Russian bank loan.

“He knows I am a free woman, I am a patriot. I have always defended France and the French. Always and in all circumstances,” she said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has separately asked Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to receive him to discuss steps to bring about peace.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said separate letters were handed to the permanent missions of Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday afternoon asking Putin to receive Guterres in Moscow and Zelenskiy to receive him in Kyiv, according to a Reuters report.

“The Secretary-General said, at this time of great peril and consequence, he would like to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine and the future of multilateralism based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law,” Dujarric said in a statement.

A senior US defence official said 14 US howitzers that Washington said last week would be provided to Ukraine were now being delivered to the region, along with ammunition for them.

Around 50 Ukrainians are being trained outside of Ukraine to operate them, the official said.

“They will get trained on how to use the howitzers and then they’ll be able to go back in to Ukraine and train their colleagues,” the official said.

The US defence department has retracted its claim that Ukraine had been supplied with more aircraft, instead saying only parts had been delivered to enable Kyiv to put more jets into the fight against Russia.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby retracted his statement from Tuesday that Ukraine had received fighter jets from an unnamed ally.

While fixed-wing aircraft have been offered by an unidentified country to bolster Kyiv’s defences, “they have not received whole aircraft from another nation,” Kirby told reporters.

“I was mistaken. They have not received whole aircraft from another nation,” Kirby said of his Tuesday claim.

“That said, Ukrainians have received through United States coordination and provision enough spare parts and additional equipment such that they have been able to put in operation more fixed-wing aircraft in their fleet than they had even two to three weeks ago,” he said.

Separately, a senior US defence official said the parts supply has enabled Ukraine to add 20 previously inoperable jets to its active fighter fleet.

Intel suggests looming Russian cyberattack, US and allies say

Five allied countries including the United States have warned that “evolving intelligence” indicates Russia is poised to launch powerful cyberattacks against rivals supporting Ukraine.

The members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing network - the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - said Moscow could also involve existing cybercrime groups in launching attacks on governments, institutions and businesses, in a statement released on Wednesday.

“Evolving intelligence indicates that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks,” they said in an official cyber threat alert.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could expose organisations both within and beyond the region to increased malicious cyber activity. This activity may occur as a response to the unprecedented economic costs imposed on Russia as well as materiel support provided by the United States and US allies and partners.

In addition, it said, “some cybercrime groups have recently publicly pledged support for the Russian government. “

“Some groups have also threatened to conduct cyber operations against countries and organisations providing materiel support to Ukraine,” it said.

Wednesday’s alert said Russian state-sponsored cyber actors have the ability to compromise IT networks, to steal large amounts of data from them while remaining hidden, to deploy destructive malware and to lock down networks with “distributed denial of service” attacks.

The alert identified more than a dozen hacking groups, both parts of Russian intelligence and military bodies and privately operated, which present threats.

It warned that infrastructure could be particularly targeted in countries Moscow might want to take action against.

US, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cybersecurity authorities urge critical infrastructure network defenders to prepare for and mitigate potential cyber threats - including destructive malware, ransomware, DDoS attacks, and cyber espionage - by hardening their cyber defences and performing due diligence in identifying indicators of malicious activity,” the alert said.

US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly malicious cyber activity is “part of the Russian playbook”.

We also know that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks against US critical infrastructure.”

“Russia has significant cyber capabilities and a demonstrated history of using them irresponsibly, and state-sponsored malicious cyber activity is a real risk to organisations around the world,” Sami Khoury, Head, Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, added.

Updated

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya, said Russian forces would be in complete control of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Thursday.

“Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,” he said in an audio message posted online early on Thursday as seen by Reuters.

Chechen forces have been fighting in Ukraine as part of Russia’s military operation.

Mariupol would be the biggest city to be seized by Russia since invading Ukraine eight weeks ago.

Ukraine is working to convince western allies to shift Russia’s shipments of natural gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Ukraine’s pipeline, increasing Kyiv’s leverage in its conflict with Russia, energy officials told Reuters.

Doing so, they said, would force Russia to move more of its Europe-bound gas through Ukraine. That would make Moscow pay more transit fees that could help Ukraine’s wartime defence and deter Russia from damaging Ukraine’s gas pipelines in the meantime, they told lawmakers and Biden administration officials in Washington last week.

Representatives from Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator and gas firm Naftogaz spent a week in Washington meeting administration officials and congressional lawmakers to urge them to convince Germany and other European allies to adopt the plan.

Russia “depends on us transporting gas from Russia to Europe. This is something to leverage in our discussions with them and Europe can help,” said Olga Bielkova, director of international affairs for the Gas Transit System Operator of Ukraine, in an interview in Washington.

Italy has signed a deal with the southern African country of Angola to ramp up gas supplies as it scrambles to break away from Russian gas.

A declaration of intent was signed to develop “new” natural gas ventures and to increase exports to Italy, a statement from the Italian foreign minister announced on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports.

Today we have reached another important agreement with Angola to increase gas supplies. Italy’s commitment to differentiate energy supply sources is confirmed.”

Prime minister Mario Draghi wants to add Angola and Congo-Brazzaville to a portfolio of suppliers to substitute Russia, which provides about 45% of Italian gas.

In an interview with the Corriere della Sera daily published on Sunday, Draghi said:

We do not want to depend on Russian gas any longer, because economic dependence must not become political subjection.

Diversification is possible and can be implemented in a relatively short amount of time - quicker than we imagined just a month ago.”

Cingolani described the deal as “an important agreement that gives impetus to the partnership between Italy and Angola in the fields of renewables, biofuels, LNG (liquefied natural gas) and training in technology and environment”.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest guzzlers of gas, which currently represents 42% of its energy consumption, and it imports 95% of the gas it uses.

Ukraine proposes negotiations with Russia in Mariupol

Ukraine is ready to resolve the issue of unblocking Mariupol and evacuating civilians through diplomacy and has proposed to hold a “special round” of negotiations with Russia in the besieged city, officials said.

Ukraine negotiator and presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak responded late on Wednesday:

Yes. Without any conditions. We’re ready to hold a ‘special round of negotiations’ right in Mariupol.

One on one. Two on two. To save our guys, Azov, military, civilians, children, the living & the wounded. Everyone. Because they are ours. Because they are in my heart. Forever,” he tweeted.

Another key Ukrainian negotiator, David Arakhamia, said on Telegram that he and Podolyak “are ready to arrive in Mariupol to hold talks”.

Today, in a conversation with the city defenders, a proposal was put forward to hold direct negotiations, on site, on the evacuation of our military garrison.

For our part, we are ready to arrive for such negotiations at any time as soon as we receive confirmation from the Russian side.”

As yet another desperate attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol failed Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that “the situation in Mariupol is deteriorating” with thousands of troops and civilians stuck in the city.

Zelenskiy said his country is ready to resolve the issues in Mariupol but Russia has “not yet shown readiness to take such a step” during a meeting with media representatives after talks with President of the European Council Charles Michel in Kyiv.

“The situation in Mariupol is deteriorating. Unfortunately, so far we cannot achieve a positive result there. Our warriors have hundreds of wounded. Protecting ordinary civilians with their backs, they lose their lives. Because, as far as I know, there are about a thousand civilians behind our guys in Mariupol, including children and women,” Zelenskiy said.

Updated

Turkey has accused some of its Nato allies of wanting the war in Ukraine to last longer in order to weaken Russia.

“There are countries within Nato who want the war to continue,” Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk in an interview on Wednesday.

“They want Russia to become weaker,” Cavusoglu said, as talks between Ukrainians and Russians appear to have stalled after the last face-to-face meeting in Istanbul last month. They had been due to continue online.

Cavusoglu did not name any country directly.

Internet coverage in Ukraine has received a boost after Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink internet terminals restored connection across the country.

Minister of digital transformation, Mikhail Fedorov, said there are now 10,000 terminals in Ukraine after heavy fighting has destroyed infrastructure and crippled internet access.

Fedorov requested the technology from Musk at the start of the war.

Zelenskiy also spoke of his “cautious optimism” that Ukraine’s partners now better understand the needs of his country, seemingly in reference to supplying weapons and intensifying sanctions on Russia.

I am very pleased to say, with cautious optimism, that our partners started to understand our needs better.

Understand what exactly we need. And when exactly we need all this. Not in weeks, not in a month, but immediately. Right now, as Russia is trying to intensify its attacks.

Updated

Ukraine can develop 'maximum speed' in joining the EU, Zelenskiy says

Ukraine can develop “maximum speed” in joining the EU, the county’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has told his citizens in a national address this evening.

Speaking after meeting with the president of the European council, Charles Michel, Zelenskiy said the pair discussed Ukraine’s movement towards European integration.

This is the historic moment when we can develop maximum speed in joining the European Union.

We have already proved that the Ukrainian state and public institutions are effective enough to withstand even the test of war. We are already doing as much to protect freedom on the European continent as other nations have never done.

And I see from all our friends in the European Union a willingness to help our movement as much as possible.

Updated

Railways have been flooded by the millions of Ukrainians who have fled the country since the start of the Russian invasion and conductors and other workers have risked their lives to aid the escape, NBC News reports.

More than 100 railway workers have been injured and 95 have lost their lives, according to the head of Ukraine’s national rail system, Alexander Kamyshin. Roughly 25% of Ukraine’s 14,000 miles of tracks have been damaged by bombs.

Russian attacks on the railroads have also resulted in the deaths of civilians, including children. But that hasn’t stopped workers from showing up to ensure the trains keep running.

Updated

'How can you negotiate with a crocodile?' Johnson casts doubt on peace talks

UK prime minister Boris Johnson likened Russian president Vladimir Putin to a crocodile, saying he is not optimistic that the Russian leader can be negotiated with.

“How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it has your leg in its jaws, that is the difficulty that Ukrainians face,” Johnson told journalists on a plane heading to India. “It is very hard to see how the Ukrainians can negotiate with Putin now given his manifest lack of good faith.”

Johnson continued that he thinks it’s possible Moscow could “even launch another assault on Kyiv”.

“I really don’t see how the Ukrainians can easily sit down and come to some kind of accommodation,” he added. “How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it’s got your leg in its jaws?”

Instead, Johnson said Nato would “keep going with the strategy” of supplying Ukraine with weapons to defend itself.

Updated

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian negotiator and adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, tweeted that they are ready to hold negotiations in the besieged city of Mariupol “without any conditions”.

“One on one. Two on two,” he said. “To save our guys, Azov, military, civilians, children, the living & the wounded. Everyone. Because they are ours. Because they are in my heart. Forever.”

Russia has not responded to the offer, the Associated Press reports. Earlier, Zelenskiy said roughly 1,000 civilians remain trapped in the city’s Azocstal steel plant, hiding there with the remaining fighters, who are heavily outnumbered. The Ukrainian president added that 120,000 people were being kept in Mariupol and that “crimes that are happening there are far more scary and large scale than in Borodyanka”, referencing a devastated Ukrainian town.

Updated

Summary

Updated

Holocaust survivor, 91, dies in Mariupol

A 91-year-old Holocaust survivor has died in a basement in Mariupol, AP reports:

The Auschwitz Memorial announced the death of Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova.

The Jewish organization Chabad.org reported that her daughter shared the news after arriving with the rest of her family at a safe location, saying she died April 4, pleading for water in a freezing basement.

She was 10 years old when the Nazis occupied Mariupol and killed thousands of Jews in a single day, including her mother. She survived in a basement then, and died in a basement in the same city 81 years later.

The US secretary of state has also expressed concerns about the humanitarian corridor that Ukraine is working to establish for evacuations out of Mariupol, the AP reports. Antony Blinken, currently in Panama City, said today:

Of course, we want to see people who are in harm’s way, if they are able to, to leave it safely and securely ... What gives pause is the fact there have been agreements on humanitarian corridors established before that have fallen apart very, very quickly, if not immediately, principally because the security has been violated by Russian forces. And so people leaving, believing that they could do so safely and securely, were fired on.

Blinken said the US was sharing its assessments, but that the Ukrainian government and its citizens had to weigh the risks. He noted the “death and destruction and atrocities” that the world saw after the Russians retreated from Bucha. He added:

We can only anticipate that when this tide also recedes from Mariupol we’re going to see far worse, if that’s possible to imagine.

Updated

Tatyana Burak, who spent 45 days in Mariupol before escaping to Lviv with her husband, said her home was bombed and destroyed and shared her story with CNN:

It was a horrible dream which thousands of people were dreaming at the same time and it had no end. So, we spent a lot of time in the hospital because we were wounded right at the beginning of this Russian onslaught and we were taken by our military doctors to the hospital and so we felt every single bomb, every single shell which was going to our city.

We understood there is nothing to be expected, that our city was doomed because these people came, as they said, to ‘liberate us’. They didn’t know what they were going to liberate us from, but they said that we were suffering and they came to liberate us. They liberated us from our homes, from our jobs, from the possessions of all our lives, from our family history. They liberated many thousands of people from their lives. They just — I don’t know. They seem to be just crazy and insane.”

Updated

White House: US working 'around the clock' to support Ukraine

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said the US is “working around the clock to provide security assistance to Ukraine”.

At her briefing to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Psaki said five flights with military assistance arrived in the region over the last few days, with more than half a dozen flights from the US scheduled to arrive shortly with even more equipment.

Psaki said:

We made a strategic decision given we’ve seen Russia reposition their troops and their military to the eastern part of Ukraine to fight a different kind of war on the ground, which will be more shooting back and forth through long range.

We have been working with Ukrainians and the Ukrainian military to determine exactly the kind of security assistance they need for this stage of the war. That has included an increase in artillery and ammunition.

Psaki said that president Joe Biden is processing images coming out of Ukraine “with horror, with sadness, with fear for the people of Ukraine, for the families, the children, the innocent civilians at risk”.

Obviously this conflict is consuming a great deal of his time. He is consuming [the images] as many people are, as I am, as you are, as Americans out there watching all of your networks are: it’s emotional.

Watching these images is really raw for people, including the president, because you’re watching people suffering at the hands of a dictator who is brutally targeting civilians.

Updated

Russia’s nuclear forces will start taking delivery of the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile later this year once testing is complete, the country’s news agency Tass said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Dmitry Rogozin (left) and Vladimir Putin.
Dmitry Rogozin (left) and Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Pool/Sputnik/EPA

Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Roscosmos space agency, said deliveries of the missile, each of which can carry up to 10 warheads, would start “in the autumn of this year”, Tass reported.

Earlier in the day Russia said it had conducted a first test launch of the missile.

“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country,” the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday Russia had properly notified it ahead of its test launch, adding it saw the test as routine and not a threat to the United States.

Read more:

Updated

US targets Russian bank, oligarch and virtual currency in new sanctions

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on dozens of people and entities, including a Russian commercial bank and a virtual currency mining company, Reuters is reporting.

The aim of this new round of penalties, the agency says, is “to target Moscow’s evasion of existing sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.

The US treasury department said in a statement it had put sanctions on Russian commercial bank Transkapitalbank, whose representatives it said serve several banks in Asia, including in China, and the Middle East, and have suggested options to evade international sanctions.

Washington also targeted a global network of more than 40 people and entities led by the US-designated Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, including organisations “whose primary mission is to facilitate sanctions evasion for Russian entities”.

The US also imposed sanctions on companies operating in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry, reportedly the third largest in the world. It targeted the holding company of Bitcoin miner BitRiver and 10 of its Russia-based subsidiaries.

Brian Nelson, the US treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said his country was committed to ensuring that no asset became “a mechanism” for Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, to offset the impact of sanctions:

The treasury can and will target those who evade, attempt to evade, or aid the evasion of US sanctions against Russia, as they are helping support Putin’s brutal war of choice.

The United States will work to ensure that the sanctions we have imposed, in close coordination with our international partners, degrade the Kremlin’s ability to project power and fund its invasion.

Updated

The Kyiv symphony orchestra will perform its first concert since the Russian invasion on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland, at the start of a European tour musicians hope “will heal troubled souls and help boost Ukrainian culture.”

Some of the orchestra’s musicians fled the country to the sound of Russian bombs, others remained in Ukraine but had to leave their homes and have been playing only to their families or in bomb shelters, AFP reports.

Members of Kyiv symphony orchestra rehearse in Warsaw on Tuesday for their first concert since the start of Russia’s invasion.
Members of Kyiv symphony orchestra rehearse in Warsaw on Tuesday for their first concert since the start of Russia’s invasion. Photograph: Janek Skarżyński/AFP/Getty Images

Men in the orchestra were granted special dispensation from Ukrainian authorities to leave the country because under emergency war regulations men “of fighting age” are not normally allowed to leave. The arrangement will last until the end of the tour on 1 May.

“Our concerts are truly a cultural mission,” Oleksii Pshenychnikov, a 22-year-old second violin in the orchestra, told AFP during a break in the rehearsals.

“In Ukraine, we say there is a ‘cultural front’, meaning it is not escaping from the war, it is another aspect of the war.”

Nine concerts are scheduled for the Voice of Ukraine tour, including in Dresden, Berlin and Hamburg.

Poland’s ambassador to the US, Marek Magierowski, has been sharing his thoughts on the abortive plan to transfer the country’s MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Addressing the Economic Club of Washington this morning, he said:

I have the impression that in America, there was a perception of these Soviet-made fighter jets today looking like those B52s, the Stratofortresses, which are mothballed somewhere in the middle of the desert in Nevada, covered by dust but usable.

No, our MiGs ... were upgraded a few years ago ... and they account for a third of our fleet of combat aircraft. This leads me to a very obvious conclusion: we can’t rid ourselves of a third of our capability without proper compensation or backfill.

Magierowski said that was why Poland came up with the idea in early March of handing the planes to the US at the Ramstein airbase in Germany and letting Nato decide what to do with them, “and then if all Nato countries choose unanimously to transfer these airplanes to Ukraine, we would be fine by that”.

But, he said:

The American government decided that it was not the brightest idea.

The ambassador, however, said the idea was “still on the table” and was “still a valid proposal,” although Poland was also “trying to understand the American position when they say that it would be too escalatory from the point of view of Russia.”

Read more:

Updated

UK and US lead G20 walkout of finance ministers

Finance ministers from the UK, US, Canada and France walked out of Wednesday’s G20 meeting as Russian representatives spoke, the chancellor Rishi Sunak said, exposing deepening divisions over Russia’s continued presence in the body.

Reuters is reporting that Ukraine officials in attendance also walked out of the meeting in Washington DC of the world’s 20 largest economies.

In a tweet, Sunak said the walkout was a coordinated protest:

Earlier my representatives, along with US & Canadian counterparts, left today’s G20 meeting in Washington as Russian delegates spoke.

We are united in our condemnation of Russia’s war against Ukraine and will push for stronger international coordination to punish Russia.

The US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, told attendees she strongly disapproved of a senior Russian official’s presence at the meeting, two sources told Reuters.

The Russian deputy finance minister, Timur Maksimov, attended the meeting in person, and the country’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, and central bank governor joined virtually, a source said.

Siluanov “urged G20 not to politicise the group’s work”, Reuters reported, because it would “undermine confidence in global monetary and finance systems”.

Yellen was joined in the walkout by the Bank of England governor, Andrew Bailey, and the Canadian finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, among others.

Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, meanwhile, urged Maksimov to convey to Moscow a clear message: end the war in Ukraine.

Yellen plans to boycott two G20 sessions on the international financial architecture and sustainable finance, one of the sources said, although US treasury officials said she would join a discussion of the Ukraine war’s impact on the global economy.

Updated

Summary

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

  • A Ukrainian commander from the 36th separate marine brigade in Mariupol made an urgent plea in a video shared on his Facebook page, saying that his forces were probably facing their “last days, if not hours”. Serhiy Volyna said his troops were outnumbered 10 to one and appealed to world leaders to help 500 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians trapped in the city.
  • The head of Ukraine’s Orthodox church, Metropolitan Epifaniy, has asked people to forgo night Easter services in areas of the country affected by fighting amid fears Russian bombardments will continue during the Orthodox Easter period. In a televised address, he said he had little faith that a pause in shelling by Russian troops, proposed by Ukraine for the duration of the Orthodox Christian Easter festivities, would hold.
  • Western nations prepared to stage coordinated diplomatic snubs in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington. The US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, plans to avoid G20 sessions attended by Russian officials on Wednesday. The UK finance minister, Rishi Sunak, also will not attend certain G20 sessions, a British government source said.

Updated

The head of Ukraine’s Orthodox church, Metropolitan Epifaniy, has asked people to forgo night Easter services in areas of the country affected by fighting, amid fears Russian bombardments will continue during the Orthodox Easter period, Reuters reports.

In a televised address, Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv said he had little faith that a pause in shelling by Russian troops, proposed by Ukraine for the duration of the Orthodox Christian Easter festivities, would hold.

He said:

It is hard to believe this will really happen, because the enemy is trying to completely destroy us.

Metropolitan Epifaniy, head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Metropolitan Epifaniy, head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Epifaniy said the Easter service could be held in the morning or afternoon and that priests should try to avoid crowds in churches.

People could also watch broadcasts of Easter services on television or the internet, he said.

The UN’s secretary general, António Guterres, has also called for a four-day Orthodox Easter humanitarian pause in fighting in Ukraine to allow for the safe passage of civilians to leave areas of conflict and the delivery of humanitarian aid to hard-hit areas.

Updated

Wimbledon has set itself on a potential collision course with the rest of the tennis world after banning Russian and Belarusian players from this summer’s championships due to the scale and severity of the invasion of Ukraine.

The decision was taken after nearly two months of deliberations and legal advice, with the All England Club also concerned about the image it would present if the world No 2, Daniil Medvedev, lifted its famous silver gilt cup on Centre Court.

In an unusually strong statement, Wimbledon expressed “sadness” that individual players would suffer, but stressed it wanted to play its part “to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible”.

“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with the Championships,” it added.

The Lawn Tennis Association, which runs all the other major summer grass court tournaments in Britain, including the prestigious Queen’s Club event, has also announced a ban.

Those set to miss out include the men’s world No 8, Andrey Rublev, who wrote “No war please” on a TV camera lens after a match in Dubai, and the two-times women’s grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka.

Updated

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during a press conference after their talks in Kyiv.
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during a press conference after their talks in Kyiv. Photograph: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images
Charles Michel meeting locals as he is given a tour to Borodianka, Ukraine.
Charles Michel meeting locals as he is given a tour to Borodianka, Ukraine. Photograph: Dario Pignatelli HANDOUT/EPA

Updated

The US was properly notified by Russia ahead of its test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon said it saw the test of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile as routine and not a threat to the US.

The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said:

Such testing is routine, and it was not a surprise.

Updated

Mariupol evacuation did not work as planned, says Ukraine

Donetsk’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said fewer buses than planned were able to reach civilians in the besieged city of Mariupol today, Reuters reports.

As a result, not many people were evacuated from Mariupol as city authorities had hoped, he said.

Ukrainian MP, Inna Sovsun, shared a video reportedly showing a convoy of stationary buses hours after the humanitarian corridor from the port city was meant to be open.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, blamed Russia’s “lack of control over their own military on the ground”, AP’s Philip Crowther said.

Mariupol’s mayor earlier said he hoped 90 buses would be able to enter the city and take out about 6,000 women, children and elderly people.

Kyrylenko said:

People of course gathered at the agreed meeting points, but few of them got onto the buses.

Local media reported that the meeting points had been hit by artillery, according to NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.

Updated

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he remains ready to swap Russian prisoners of war in exchange for safe passage for civilians and Ukrainian troops in Mariupol.

Speaking after a visit from the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, Zelenskiy said there were an estimated 1,000 civilians sheltering in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant.

The situation in the besieged Ukrainian city is worsening, he said, with hundreds of wounded without access to medical care.

The Ukrainian leader went on to say that he had not seen or heard about a document that the Kremlin said it had sent to Ukraine in connection with peace talks.

Earlier Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was waiting for a response after it had handed a document to the Ukrainian side.

Updated

Germany’s foreign minister has insisted there is “no taboo” in Berlin over sending armoured vehicles to Ukraine, as her government defends itself against criticism that its delay in authorising the delivery of heavy weapons is undermining the west’s unified stance.

Berlin has not ruled out shipping tanks to Ukraine, “even if it may sound like that in the German debate”, said Annalena Baerbock at a joint press conference in Riga with the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs.

However, as the German army has run out of military hardware it can dispatch swiftly without undermining its own security commitments, the Green politician said her government had agreed instead a swap system whereby it would help refill the gaps in the arsenal of Nato and G7 states that are in a position to help Ukraine more quickly.

“We support partners that can deliver weapons quickly and guarantee replacements,” said Baerbock at the start of her three-day tour of the Baltic states.

The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, was speaking at a press conference in Riga, Latvia.
The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, was speaking at a press conference in Riga, Latvia. Photograph: Toms Kalniņš/EPA

At a press conference on Tuesday evening, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, confirmed that his government was planning to support Kyiv with cash rather than by sending tanks or armoured vehicles from its own stocks.

“We have asked the German arms industry to tell us which material it can deliver in the short term,” Scholz said. “Ukraine has now made a selection from this list and we will provide it with the required money for the purchase.” The list of materials included anti-tank weapons, anti-airplane systems and munition “that could be used in artillery battle”, he said.

The Ukrainian government has complained that Scholz’s list does not include the kind of heavy weapons that would allow its forces to mount a counter-offensive against Russian troops in the Donbas region, such as the Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery system.

Ukraine’s ambassador in Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, said on Tuesday night that Scholz’s lack of direct material support had been received in Kyiv “with great disappointment and bitterness”.

Putin: new intercontinental ballistic missile will make Russia's enemies 'think twice'

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said Russia has successfully conducted a test launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, AFP reports.

The Sarmat, dubbed Satan 2 by western analysts, is among Russia’s next-generation missiles that Putin has called “invincible”. It is designed to replace the Soviet-era Voevoda ICBM, known by the Nato designation SS-18 Satan.

Designed to elude anti-missile defence systems with a short initial boost phase, giving enemy surveillance systems a tiny window to track, the superheavy intercontinental ballistic missile can carry multiple warheads.

Addressing the Russian army in televised remarks, Putin said:

I congratulate you on the successful launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.

This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats and make those who, in the heat of aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think twice.

According to the Russian defence ministry, the test “successfully” took place at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia.

The ministry said:

Sarmat is the most powerful missile with the longest range of destruction of targets in the world, which will significantly increase the combat power of our country’s strategic nuclear forces.

Updated

Vladimir Putin has ordered a review of Russia’s position within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to counter “illegal” sanctions imposed by western states, AFP reports.

Speaking at a televised government meeting, the Russian president said western governments broke WTO rules by imposing politically-motivated import restrictions on Russian products such as steel and other metals.

Putin said:

These measures (sanctions) run counter to WTO principles, to which European colleagues have constantly reiterated their adherence.

He told his government to update Russia’s strategy in the WTO:

I instruct the government to conduct a comprehensive review of the legitimacy of the actions taken by our western trading partners, and to prepare an updated strategy for our actions within the World Trade Organization.

He said the review must be completed by 1 June but did not provide any details about what it might entail.

Updated

Russia says it has tested new intercontinental ballistic missile

Russia’s defence ministry said it has test-launched its new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, Reuters reports.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was shown on TV being briefed by the military that the missile had been launched from Plesetsk in the country’s north-west and hit targets in the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east.

Video footage released by the Russian Defence Ministry shows the launching of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile at Plesetsk testing field, Russia.
Video footage released by the Russian defence ministry shows the launching of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile at Plesetsk testing field. Photograph: Russian Defence Ministry/AFP/Getty Images

The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile has “the highest tactical and technical characteristics”, Putin is quoted as saying.

He said the missile has no analogues elsewhere and would provide food for thought for those who try to threaten Russia.

Updated

A child holds a dog as evacuees wait before boarding a bus to leave the city in the southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine April 20, 2022.
A child holds a dog as evacuees wait before boarding a bus to leave the city in the southern port of Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
Evacuees wait before boarding a bus to leave the city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 20, 2022.
Evacuees wait before boarding a bus to leave the city of Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Updated

Summary

It is 6pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand now:

  • A Ukrainian commander from the 36th separate marine brigade in Mariupol made an urgent plea in a video shared on his Facebook page, saying that his forces were probably facing their “last days, if not hours”. Serhiy Volyna said his troops were outnumbered 10 to one and appealed to world leaders to help 500 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians trapped in the city.
  • Western nations prepared to stage coordinated diplomatic snubs in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington. The US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, plans to avoid G20 sessions attended by Russian officials on Wednesday. The UK finance minister, Rishi Sunak, also will not attend certain G20 sessions, a British government source said.

Hello, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong with you still to bring you all the latest news from Ukraine. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

Updated

Small convoy of civilians leave Mariupol - reports

A small convoy of buses carrying dozens of civilians in the besieged city of Mariupol has departed from a planned evacuation point, Reuters has cited two witnesses as saying.

The buses were headed to Ukraine-controlled territory, according to reports.

Mariupol city authorities had earlier said they were hoping to evacuate around 6,000 people under a preliminary agreement with Russia – the first in weeks – on establishing a safe corridor.

The city’s mayor said evacuation corridors would be open between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia from 2pm local time (11am GMT).

Updated

Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said Berlin has chosen not to reveal details about the weapons it has sent to Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference in Riga today, Baerbock said:

We have delivered anti-tank missiles, Stingers and other things that we have never spoken about publicly so these deliveries could happen quickly.

She was asked whether Berlin would be sending its Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery system – which some experts say Ukraine needs to mount a counterattack against Russian forces in the Donbas region, Reuters reports.

In response, Baerbock said Germany would train Ukrainian soldiers on using and maintaining advanced weapons systems which it has received from other allied countries.

If partners deliver artillery that we can no longer deliver, we will help with training and maintenance.

Updated

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has just posted video of himself with President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who is visiting Kyiv today. He accompanied the tweet by saying that “sanctions against Russia, defence and financial support of our state, and answers to the questionnaire on compliance with EU criteria were discussed. Thank you for a meaningful meeting and solidarity with the people of Ukraine”.

Updated

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has been giving a lunchtime briefing. Picking through the simultaneous translation, the key points she was making include:

  • Allegations that Russian-speaking civilians in the Donbas are being taken hostage by “those who’ve been trained in Nato countries. Now those people are torturing those who are suspected of sympathising with Russia. By Nato personnel, I mean everyone who has been trained in Nato countries or under the leadership of Nato military.”
  • Russia is collecting evidence of what it says are crimes committed by Ukrainian forces. Zakharova said “all materials will be carefully studied, attached to criminal cases, and presented to the court. Not a single Ukrainian nationalist involved in crimes against the civil population and Russian military personnel will escape fair retribution.”
  • Since the beginning of what she termed the “special military operation”, 15,500 tonnes of humanitarian cargo have been delivered to territories in Ukraine by Russia.
  • She claimed Ukrainian negotiators were trying to delay the negotiation process by “refusing to take a constructive approach on priority issues.”
  • She went into great lengths explaining that the assistance for Ukraine announced by New Zealand included $5m for weapons and $2m for commercial mapping services, and therefore none of the money was actually going to Ukraine. She alleged “this money is coming to the pockets of the collective west”, and that “so-called assistance always comes back to the same accounts in the same banks where it came from”.

Updated

A court in Moscow has rejected an appeal by the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy against Russia’s move to take it off air over its coverage of the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Ekho Moskvy, one of Russia’s leading current affairs channels, stopped broadcasting last month after the prosecutor general’s office demanded that access to the station be restricted.

Authorities also ordered that the station’s website be blocked for spreading what it called “deliberately false information” about Russia’s military operation. The station, which has rejected the charges, later shut down under pressure from the authorities.

Ekho Moskvy’s editor-in-chief, Alexander Venediktov, wrote on Telegram:

The court has rejected Ekho’s request to have the radio station and website restored. We will appeal.

Updated

500,000 people deported ‘without agreement’ to Russia, says Ukraine lawmaker

Mykyta Poturayev, the head of the Ukrainian parliament’s humanitarian committee, told members of the European parliament by video link:

Half a million of Ukrainian citizens were deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation without agreement from their side.

He said there was “no opportunity” to make contact with these people and called on the Red Cross to establish contact with those missing.

Reuters could not independently verify the figure given by Poturayev, who did not give details or supporting evidence.

Poturayev said he was concerned about the fate of those Ukrainians he says were sent to Russia, telling European lawmakers:

We know about so-called filtration camps for Ukrainian citizens. That’s one of the possible directions of Red Cross activity, at least to find these deported people and to understand what is going (on) with them on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Alexandra Boivin, a Red Cross official, said her organisation was talking to the Russian authorities about possibilities to help these people, adding:

The question about whether we can confirm that people were forcibly displaced at this moment is one that I cannot answer … but it’s certainly an issue of concern.

Updated

Vova, 10, looks as the body of his mother, Maryna, is taken from the morgue before her funeral in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Vova’s mother died while they sheltered in a cold basement for more than a month during the Russian military’s occupation.
Vova, 10, looks as the body of his mother, Maryna, is taken from the morgue before her funeral in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Vova’s mother died while they sheltered in a cold basement for more than a month during the Russian military’s occupation. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP

Updated

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has been speaking about Aiden Aslin, the British fighter captured by Russian forces in Mariupol.

Asked by Aslin’s MP, Robert Jenrick, whether footage showing him being interviewed under duress “for propaganda purposes” would constitute a “flagrant” breach of the Geneva conventions, Johnson replied:

I think everybody will want to urge the Russian state to treat his constituent humanly and compassionately because in my view, although we do not encourage people, in fact, we actively dissuade people from going to that theatre of conflict, I understand that he had been serving in the Ukrainian forces for some time and his situation was very different from that (of) a mercenary.

I hope that he is treated with care and compassion. I thoroughly echo the sentiments of my right honourable friend has expressed about those who broadcast propaganda messages.

Footage aired on Russian state TV on Monday showed Aslin and another captured British fighter, Shaun Pinner, calling on the PM to help free them in exchange for Ukraine releasing the pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk.

Aslin’s family said he had been a legitimate combatant with the Ukrainian armed forces and was speaking under duress during an interview.

A still image taken from Russian state TV footage that it said shows Aiden Aslin, a British fighter captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol by Russian forces.
A still image taken from Russian state TV footage that it said shows Aiden Aslin, a British fighter captured in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol by Russian forces. Photograph: Russian state TV channel Rossiya1/Reuters

Updated

Finland’s parliament opens debate on joining Nato

Finland’s parliament has opened the debate on whether to seek Nato membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a surge in political and public support for joining the military alliance, AFP reports.

Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, said her country would decide “quite fast, within weeks” whether to apply for membership.

Lawmakers in Finland’s Eduskunta last week received a government-commissioned “white paper” that assessed the implications of Nato membership.

The report did not make recommendations but stressed that without Nato membership, Finland enjoys no security guarantees despite currently being a partner to the alliance.

The “deterrent effect” on Finland’s defence would be “considerably greater” as a Nato member, the report said.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson with Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin prior to a meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, April 13, 2022.
Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, with Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin prior to a meeting in Stockholm earlier this month. Photograph: Tt News Agency/Reuters

Finnish media report around half of Finland’s 200 MPs support Nato membership, while about 12 oppose it.

Sweden is also discussing whether to submit a membership bid.

Updated

A Ukrainian commander from the 36th separate marine brigade in the besieged city of Mariupol has made an urgent plea in a video shared on his Facebook page, saying that his forces were probably facing their “last days, if not hours”.

Serhiy Volyna said his troops were outnumbered 10 to one and appealed to world leaders to help 500 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians trapped in the city.

Updated

President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said “history will not forget the war crimes” committed in Ukraine during a visit to Borodianka, near Kyiv, today.

Earlier today, Michel shared a picture of his arrival at a train station in Kyiv, writing:

In the heart of a free and democratic Europe.

A small but growing number of top Kremlin insiders are reportedly questioning President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

Senior Kremlin insiders in high-level posts in government and business believe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “catastrophic mistake that will set the country back for years”, ten sources told Bloomberg.

These people see “no chance” Putin will change course and no prospect of any challenge to his position inside Russia, the sources said.

The Russian president has become increasingly reliant on a narrowing circle of hardline advisers, they said, while Putin has reportedly dismissed warnings of the crippling economic and political cost of the war in Ukraine.

Some Kremlin insiders increasingly fear that Putin could resort to using nuclear weapons if faced with failure, the sources said.

Russia's deadline for Mariupol surrender passes

An ultimatum by Russia to Ukrainian fighters holding out in the besieged port city of Mariupol to surrender has passed its deadline.

In a statement issued early this morning, the Russian defence ministry said its forces opened a humanitarian corridor from the Azovstal plant “for the withdrawal of Ukrainian servicemen and militants of nationalist formations” to “voluntarily lay down their arms” as well as to evacuate civilians.

“As of 22:00 (Moscow time) on April 19, 2022, no one used the specified corridor,” the ministry added.

Russia said it would “once again” offer Ukraine the option “to stop fighting and lay down their weapons” from 2pm Moscow time (1100 GMT) on Wednesday.

The Azovstal steel plant, the last main Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, has been hit with bunker-buster bombs, Kyiv said. Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians are sheltering beneath the factory.

The head of Ukraine’s negotiating team, Mykhailo Podolyak, a key adviser to President Zelenskiy, accused world leaders yesterday of having “blood on their hands” while “the world watches the murder of children online and remains silent”.

Updated

More than 5 million have fled Ukraine since invasion, says UN

Figures by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) show the number of people who have fled abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February is now 5,010,971.

Kelly T Clements, deputy UNHCR chief, addressed the UN security council yesterday:

Eight weeks into the conflict, we are at 5 million and counting, with 5 million unique stories of loss and trauma.

More than 218,000 third-country nationals, largely students and migrant workers, have also fled to neighbouring countries, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Women and children account for 90% of those who have fled.

A further 7.1 million people are displaced inside Ukraine, according to the latest assessment by IOM.

This means that more than a quarter of Ukraine’s prewar population of 44 million has either fled the country or been internally displaced in under two months.

Clement urged members not to “lose sight of what these figures mean”:

Women, children, and the aged, have left their homes, their lives, their sons, their fathers and husbands.

Each one of the millions of displaced are forced to make impossible, heartbreaking decisions and have left everything, almost everything, they hold dear.

Also addressing the UN security council yesterday, the IOM chief, António Vitorino, warned that more than half of Ukraine’s children displaced.

Many are vulnerable to trafficking, “violence, exploitation, and abuse” by criminal networks taking advantage of the crisis, Vitorino warned.

Hello, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong with you today to bring you all 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

“Russia’s idea is to eliminate Ukraine – and to eliminate Ukrainian culture. If it has no culture, Ukraine does not exist.”

That was the sentiment that compelled Pavlo Makov, the official Ukrainian artist at the 59th Venice Biennale, to head to Italy to install his exhibition.

Makov and his team, including the curator Maria Lanko, were determined, said Pavlov, “to show that we are here, and we exist. I am not quoting Churchill directly, but he talked about the things that we are fighting for – and we are fighting for our culture, our way of seeing the world.”

Makov’s work is called Fountain of Exhaustion – a pyramid of 78 bronze funnels set in tiers, through which water flows. The original idea came in 1995, when, owing to serious floods, the city of Kharkiv lost its water supply for several weeks.

Ukrainian artist Pavlo Makov poses by his piece ‘Fountain of Exhaustion’ at Ukraine’s pavilion during a press day at the 59th Venice Art Biennale in Venice
Ukrainian artist Pavlo Makov poses by his piece ‘Fountain of Exhaustion’ at Ukraine’s pavilion during a press day at the 59th Venice Art Biennale in Venice. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

When the invasion began on 24 February, Lanko took to her car, with the bronze funnels in her boot. Six days later – the highways having been shelled and the back roads jammed – she made it to the border. In Milan, she found a fabricator who could recreate the parts of the artwork that she hadn’t been able to take with her.

Makov described how he and his family had initially been reluctant to leave Kharkiv, despite a terrifying period in February when “life was like a pendulum swinging first this way then that – will the war start? Yes, or no.”

After a week sleeping in a bomb shelter beneath Kharkiv University’s arts centre, he, his wife, some close friends and his mother (and their cats) took to the road. Having got his mother safely installed in Vienna, he set off for Venice. “I felt I’m not so much an artist, or an individual, so much as a citizen of Ukraine. I felt that Ukraine has to be represented,” he said.

Read more of Charlotte’s article: ‘We are fighting for our culture’: Ukrainian artists head to Venice Biennale

Updated

Tanya Los (L), 57, and her husband Valery, stand in their house near damage caused by a rocket, in the village of Mala Tomachka, near the southern front of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, south of Zaporizhzhia, on April 19, 2022.
Tanya Los (left), 57, and her husband Valery, stand in their house near damage caused by a rocket, in the village of Mala Tomachka, near the southern front of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, south of Zaporizhzhia. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Today so far …

  • Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has announced that a humanitarian corridor has been agreed to evacuate women, children and the elderly from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol. Ukraine is aiming to evacuate 6,000 civilians in 90 buses on a route to Zaporizhzhia via Berdyansk.
  • Russia has given the besieged port city a fresh ultimatum to surrender by 2pm today.
  • A commander for the Ukrainian marines fighting in the last stronghold of Mariupol said his forces were “maybe facing our last days, if not hours” and appealed for extraction in video message published to his Facebook account early on Wednesday morning.
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has issued a stark message to western leaders, claiming if Ukraine had access to all the weapons it needs, the war would have “already ended” during his latest national address
  • The Russian ministry of defence says its forces hit 1,053 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, destroying 106 firing positions.
  • Russian forces have seized Kreminna in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor said. Kreminna, a city of more than 18,000 people about 350 miles (560km) south-east of Kyiv, appears to be the first city captured in a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
  • Norway will donate 100 mistral air defence missiles to Ukraine, its defence ministry said in a statement.
  • Finland’s parliament will start debating whether to seek Nato membership today.
  • Western nations are preparing to stage coordinated walkouts and other diplomatic snubs in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington. The US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, plans to avoid G20 sessions attended by Russian officials. The UK finance minister, Rishi Sunak, also will not attend certain sessions.
  • European Council president Charles Michel has travelled to Kyiv this morning. He arrived by train and was welcomed by Ukrainian deputy prime minister for European affairs and Euro-Atlantic integration Olga Stefanishyna. Michel is expected to meet Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy later today.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be back later. Léonie Chao-Fong will be with you for the next few hours.

A Ukrainian man has been able to follow the redeployment of the Russian soldiers who looted his hometown – by tracking his Airpods as they move around Ukraine.

Vitaliy Semenets shared a screenshot of his stolen headphones on Instagram, showing that they had settled in Russia, on the other side of the country’s border with Ukraine, about 90 miles east of Kharkiv, where Russian forces are thought to be regrouping in preparation for a renewed assault on eastern Ukraine. “Thanks to technology, I know where my headphones from my home in Gostomel went,” he said.

The tracking, possible thanks to Apple’s Find My service, is another example of consumer technology companies accidentally providing actionable military intelligence in the course of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the early days of the war, columns of Russian armour showed up on Google Maps as traffic jams, allowing open source investigators to follow the progress of the invasion.

Updated

Ukrinform is carrying some quotes from Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for Ukraine’s ministry of defence, given in an interview with RBC-Ukraine. He said that Russia was massing troops in a bid to overpower Ukrainian forces by sheer weight of numbers. He is quoted as saying:

According to all the rules of offensive operations, the attacking side must have at least three times as many troops. But given the current fighting, the current level of weapons, equipment, aviation capabilities, this advantage should be at least 4-5 times greater. This is what Russia is trying to do now.

G20 delegates to stage protests against Russia over Ukraine war

Western nations are preparing to stage coordinated walkouts and other diplomatic snubs in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington.

The US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, plans to avoid G20 sessions attended by Russian officials on the sidelines of International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings on Wednesday. The UK finance minister, Rishi Sunak, also will not attend certain G20 sessions, a British government source said.

However, Yellen will attend an opening session on the Ukraine war regardless of Russian participation, a US treasury official said.

Reuters reports Moscow confirmed yesterday that Russia’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, would lead its delegation at the talks despite repeated protestations by western diplomats that they could not go ahead as usual during a war in which thousands of civilians have died in bombardments by Russian troops.

“During and after the meeting we will be certain to send a strong message and we will not be alone in doing so,” a German government source said, accusing Russia of starting a conflict that has also sent world food and energy prices spiraling.

Read more here: G20 delegates to stage protests against Russia over Ukraine war

European Council president Charles Michel has travelled to Kyiv this morning. He arrived by train and was welcomed by Ukrainian deputy prime minister for European affairs and Euro-Atlantic integration Olga Stefanishyna. Michel is expected to meet Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy later today.

European Council President Charles Michel (C) is welcomed by Olga Stefanishyna (L) in Kyiv.
European Council president Charles Michel (centre) is welcomed by Olga Stefanishyna (left) in Kyiv. Photograph: Dario Pignatelli HANDOUT/EPA

Updated

Overnight the New York Times has been carrying the story that the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London is planning to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing. Christopher Clarey writes:

Wimbledon officials were set to announce they would bar Russian and Belarusian players from playing in this year’s tournament because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ support of the war.

The ban, which would make Wimbledon the first tennis event to restrict individual Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing, was confirmed by a highly placed international tennis official on Tuesday who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on behalf of the All England Club, which organises and hosts the tournament.

The decision would exclude a number of highly ranked players. Four Russian men are ranked in the top 30 on the ATP Tour, including No 2 Daniil Medvedev, who is the reigning US Open men’s singles champion.

Read more here: New York Times – Wimbledon plans to bar Russian and Belarusian players

The US interim ambassador to the UK, Philip T Reeker, has been appearing on Sky News in the UK. He spoke about how the actions of Russia in Ukraine had demonstrated the strength of the Nato alliance. He told viewers:

Vladimir Putin thought that he would find a divided west, divided alliances, that he would be able to drive wedges. He was sorely mistaken.

On the support, both military and humanitarian, being offered to Ukraine, he said:

I think there’s been a constant dialogue and consultation with the Ukrainian leadership on what they need. And I think what we’ve seen is this also remarkable effort by the Ukrainians.

He described Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “an inspiration not only to his own people, which is most important, but to so many of us”.

He clarified again US president Joe Biden’s decision that US troops would not engage directly in Ukraine, saying:

He’s been very clear about we’re not going to war with Russia. We want to support Ukraine. We want to, of course, protect our allies who are under Nato, who do fall under article 5, the sacred bond that has made Nato so successful for these 70-plus years in terms of defending an area of peace.

Nato, a defensive alliance, threatening no one. Not threatening Vladimir Putin. Not threatening Russia. And here you have in fact, Putin attacking Russian speaking cities like Kharkiv. And so we will continue to support the Ukrainian people who again have shown this remarkable resilience, and I think that’s been a surprise to Putin. In his calculus, obviously, a lot of miscalculation on his part.

He also wanted to stress the steps he said Biden had taken to try to work with Putin, saying:

The president was very ready to work with Putin. He made that clear he wanted a more predictable, more stable relationship from the first day of the presidency. Last year, when he came into office, Biden extended the New Start treaty, not for a year or a month, but for five years. He created a strategic stability dialogue, so Putin could raise the issues that seem to concern him.

Updated

Reuters reports the Russian ministry of defence says its forces hit 1,053 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, destroying 106 firing positions. The claims have not been independently verified.

Mariupol’s deputy mayor, Sergei Orlov, appeared on BBC Breakfast in the UK earlier, and this was what he had to say:

It’s very hard to talk to people who are in full blockade for more than 50 days. We cannot even imagine what their life looks like. So you understand, in the city there is about 130,000 citizens, they’re still in Mariupol, and they are living in continuous war conditions, shelling, airstrikes.

Yesterday, Russia started to use very hard bombs. I don’t know what it it, but the sound from them goes for 50 to 60km around Mariupol. And it makes a lot of damage.

The city is in full blockade. Lack of food, water, medicine, help, lack of everything. Lack of life, I would say. That’s why it’s hard. And we people of course, want to be relocated to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

There were reports yesterday that Russia had begun to use so-called “bunker-busting” bombs to try to shift Ukrainian fighters out of the Azovstal metallurgical plant, which remains under Ukrainian control.

Updated

Ukraine is aiming to evacuate 6,000 civilians in 90 buses from Mariupol today, according to the mayor of the city.

Reuters reports Vadym Boychenko said 100,000 civilians remain in the besieged city and that tens of thousands have been killed.

Updated

Lorcan Lovett writes for us this morning about the women who are returning home to Ukraine, despite there being seemingly no let-up in the dangers of war:

Fifty-year-old Ann moved through a crowd of women and children at Przemyśl train station in Poland on a Wednesday afternoon to board her train. “I do not care what will happen to me,” she says. “If something happens to my family, why do I need to live?”

As the war continues, and allegations of Russian war crimes reach the international community, it is hard to understand why anyone would risk returning to Ukraine. But since Russia’s invasion on 24 February, of the more than 2.5 million people who have entered Poland, about 502,000 are estimated to have returned.

Over the course of a week, the Guardian spoke to women at two different train stations, on either side of the Ukraine-Poland border, to find out why they were going home. They gave a range of reasons but many, like Ann, were motivated by a desperate desire to be with loved ones again. They were grateful for the support of their European hosts, but love for their family and home was pulling them back.

Read more of Lorcan Lovett’s report here: ‘All I can do is pray’: the Ukrainian women going home despite the danger

Updated

Humanitarian corridor to evacuate women, children and elderly from Mariupol agreed – Ukraine's deputy PM

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has announced on Telegram that a humanitarian corridor has been agreed to evacuate women, children and the elderly from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol. She posted:

Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, it is in this direction that we will focus our efforts today. We managed to agree in advance on a humanitarian corridor for women, children and the elderly.

Civilians are instructed to gather at 2pm (11am GMT) and the column will then proceed to Zaporizhzhia via Berdyansk. Vereshchuk added:

Due to the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor. So, please follow the relevant official announcements. We will do our best to make everything work properly.

Earlier though, deputy mayor of Mariupol Sergei Orlov spoke to Sky News in the UK, and demonstrated how low trust is between the two sides. He told viewers:

Do not believe in any words from Russia. It would be good if they allowed civilians to leave the Azovstal, but they didn’t allow this for 50 days, why should they allow this now?

Updated

Some of the latest images to come out of Ukraine can be seen in the photo gallery below.

One resident walks along a street past burnt out buses in Mariupol. Another cycles with his child through the debris. Another family carts their belongings in a shopping trolley along a destroyed city street.

A local resident walks along a street past burnt out buses in Mariupol.
A local resident walks along a street past burnt out buses in Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A dog shelters inside a subway carriage in Kharkiv’s Maidan Konstytutsii Metro Station.
A dog shelters inside a subway carriage in Kharkiv’s Maidan Konstytutsii metro station. Photograph: Laurel Chor/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock
A man and a child ride a bicycle past burnt out buses in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine.
A man and a child ride a cycle past burnt out buses in the southern port city of Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A family carts their belongings in a shopping trolley along a destroyed city street in Mariupol.
A family carts their belongings in a shopping trolley along a destroyed city street in Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
Local residents carry belongings past a building destroyed in Mariupol.
Local residents carry belongings past a building destroyed in Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A Ukrainian soldier checks the destruction of the shrapnel in a wall of a village near the front lines of Mykolaiv.
A Ukrainian soldier checks shrapnel in a wall of a village near the front lines of Mykolaiv. Photograph: Celestino Arce Lavin/ZUMA Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock
A damaged playground seen next to the Barvinok kindergarten building west of Kyiv.
A damaged playground next to the Barvinok kindergarten building west of Kyiv. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images

Updated

'We would have already ended this war,' Zelenskiy decries lack of weapons

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has issued a stark message to western leaders, claiming if Ukraine had access to all the weapons it needs, the war would have “already ended” during his latest national address late on Tuesday evening.

If we had access to all the weapons we need, which our partners have and which are comparable to the weapons used by the Russian Federation, we would have already ended this war. We would have already restored peace and liberated our territory from the occupiers. Because the superiority of the Ukrainian military in tactics and wisdom is quite obvious …

It is unfair that Ukraine is still forced to ask for what its partners have been storing somewhere for years. If they have the weapons that Ukraine needs here, needs now, if they have the ammunition that we need here and now, it is their moral duty first of all to help protect freedom. Help save the lives of thousands of Ukrainians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a stark message to western leaders, claiming if Ukraine had access to all the weapons it needs, the war would have “already ended”.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a stark message to western leaders, claiming if Ukraine had access to all the weapons it needs, the war would have ‘already ended’. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

If we had received what we are getting now in the first week of the war, the benefit for Ukraine and for freedom in Europe would be greater, I am sure. And if we get what some partners plan to hand over to Ukraine in the coming weeks right now, it will save the lives of thousands of people.

I hope that the partners will hear this thesis and understand that every day matters. Any delay in helping Ukraine gives the occupiers an opportunity to kill more Ukrainians.”

Updated

'Facing our last days, if not hours', Ukrainian commander in Mariupol pleads

A commander for the Ukrainian marines fighting in the last stronghold of Mariupol said his forces were “maybe facing our last days, if not hours” and appealed for extraction in video message published to his Facebook account early on Wednesday morning.

“The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one,” Serhiy Volyna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade said as he sheltered at the besieged Azovstal factory, a vast plant with underground tunnels where Ukrainian defenders are pinned down by Russian fighters.

We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one.

“We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us,” Volyna said in the video. “We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state.”

Russian forces are believed to have gradually pushed their way into the city while Ukrainian defenders bunker down at the Azovstal plant.

Volyna said the Russians had the “advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment, and in tanks”.

“We are only defending one object – the Azovstal plant – where in addition to military personnel, there are also civilians who have fallen victim to this war,” he added.

Updated

Fighting in Donbas intensifies, UK MoD says

Russia’s military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border continues to build, while fighting in the Donbas is intensifying, according to the latest British intelligence report.

Russian air activity in northern Ukraine is likely to remain low since its withdrawal from north of Kyiv. However, there is still a risk of precision strikes against priority targets throughout Ukraine.

Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine show their intent to try and disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weaponry to the east of the country.”

An earlier report claimed Russia had increased its offensive in the Donbas but its progression has been hampered by environmental, logistical and technical challenges.

The report, published 8pm GMT on Tuesday, read:

Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continue to increase, with the Ukrainians repelling numerous attempted advances by Russian forces.

Russia’s ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly motivated Ukrainian armed forces.

Russia’s inability to stamp out resistance in Mariupol and their indiscriminate attacks, which have harmed the resident civilian populace, are indicative of their continued failure to achieve their aims as quickly as they would like.”

Updated

Norway will donate 100 mistral air defence missiles to Ukraine, its defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The mistral air protection system is “an effective weapon that has been used in the maritime defence, and that will be of great benefit to Ukraine” defence minister Bjørn Arild Gram said in a statement.

The mistral system has been used on deminers and corvettes. It is a type of air defence that the armed forces has planned to replace. It will therefore not have a major impact on the national operational capability to donate the missiles.

The missile will be phased out by the Norwegian armed forces, but it is still a modern and effective weapon that will be of great benefit to Ukraine.”

The weapons have already been sent out of Norway, the ministry added.

Updated

Russia issues new 2pm deadline for Mariupol surrender

Russia has given the besieged port city of Mariupol a fresh ultimatum to surrender by 2pm today.

In a statement issued early on Wednesday morning, the Russian defence ministry said its forces opened a humanitarian corridor from the Azovstal plant “for the withdrawal of Ukrainian servicemen and militants of nationalist formations” to “voluntarily lay down their arms” as well as to evacuate civilians.

“As of 22:00 (Moscow time) on April 19, 2022, no one used the specified corridor,” the ministry added.

Russia said it would “once again” offer Ukraine the option “to stop fighting and lay down their weapons” from 2pm ( Moscow time) on Wednesday, 20 April.

Updated

Finland to start debating on Nato membership

Finland’s parliament will start debating whether to seek Nato membership today, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a surge in political and public support for joining the bloc.

Finland’s prime minister said that her country would now decide quickly on whether to apply for membership despite Russia warning of a nuclear build-up in the Baltic should Finland and neighbouring Sweden join the military alliance.

“I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months,” prime minister Sanna Marin said last week.

Sweden is also discussing whether to submit a membership bid following Russia’s invasion.

The 200 MPs in Finland’s Eduskunta last week received a government-commissioned “white paper” that assessed the implications of Nato membership alongside other security options, such as increased bilateral defence agreements.

The report did not make recommendations but stressed that without Nato membership Finland enjoys no security guarantees, despite currently being a partner to the alliance.

It said the “deterrent effect” on Finland’s defence would be “considerably greater” inside the bloc, while noting that membership also carried obligations for Finland to assist other Nato states.

After two decades of public support for Nato membership remaining steady at 20-30%, the war caused a surge in those in favour to over 60%, according to opinion polls as cited by Agence France-Presse.

Russian forces remain intent on capturing the city of Mariupol while continuing to storm the Azovstal plant, Ukraine’s military has said in its latest operational report as of 6am this morning.

“The main effort of the opponent focuses on the capture of the city of Mariupol, continues storming actions in the area of the plant Azovstal,” the report read.

Ten Russian attacks were reportedly thwarted over the past 24 hours by Ukrainian defenders in the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, officials said.

Additionally, Ukraine claimed to have destroyed 12 Russian tanks, 28 units of armoured vehicles and two units of automobile equipment, one artillery system and nine air targets including one plane, one helicopter, six different types of UAFs and a missile wing.

Ukrainian troops seen in the east of the country.
Ukrainian troops seen in the east of the country. Photograph: Ukrainian Ground Forces/ZUMA Press Wire Service/REX/Shutterstock

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 until my colleague, Martin Belam, takes the reins a little later in the day.

It is just past 7am in Ukraine. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Russia has given Mariupol a fresh ultimatum to surrender for 2pm today. In a statement issued early on Wednesday morning, the Russian defence ministry said its forces opened a humanitarian corridor from the Azovstal plant “for the withdrawal of Ukrainian servicemen” to “voluntarily lay down their arms” as well as to evacuate civilians.
  • A commander for the Ukrainian marines fighting in Mariupol said his forces were “maybe facing our last days, if not hours” and appealed for extraction in video message published to his Facebook account early on Wednesday morning. We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one,” Serhiy Volyna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade said.
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the intensity of fire by Russian troops towards Kharkiv, the Donbas and in Dnipro has “increased significantly”, one day after the Kremlin launched its long-anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine. Russian officials said a total of 1,260 military targets were hit by rockets and artillery along the 300-mile frontline in the Donbas and Kharkiv regions.
  • Zelenskiy said the situation in the besieged city of Mariupol is “as severe as possible”. “The Russian army is blocking any efforts to organise humanitarian corridors and save our people,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly address. “The fate of at least tens of thousands of Mariupol residents who were previously relocated to Russian-controlled territory is unknown.”
  • Russian forces have seized Kreminna in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor said. Kreminna, a city of more than 18,000 people about 350 miles (560km) south-east of Kyiv, appears to be the first city captured in a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russia has increased its offensive in the Donbas but its progress has been hampered by “environmental, logistical and technical challenges”, the UK said. “Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continue to increase, with the Ukrainians repelling numerous attempted advances by Russian forces”, the UK Ministry of Defence said late on Tuesday.
  • Russia has deployed up to 20,000 mercenaries from Syria, Libya and elsewhere in Ukraine’s Donbas region, according to a European official. The official said mercenaries are being sent into battle with no heavy equipment or armoured vehicles.
  • Dozens of young Ethiopian men gathered at the Russian embassy in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday following rumours of soldiers being recruited to fight in the war in Ukraine, multiple reports suggest. Photos circulating on social media purport to show the lone line of hopeful recruits.
  • In his nightly address, Zelenskiy claimed if Ukraine had access to all the weapons it needs, “and which are comparable to the weapons used by the Russian Federation, we would have already ended this war. It is unfair that Ukraine is still forced to ask for what its partners have been storing somewhere for years.”
  • US president, Joe Biden, will announce another military aid package for Ukraine roughly the same size as the $800m one the US president announced last week, which would bring to more than $3bn the total US aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. Biden told reporters he is unsure if he will go to Kyiv.
  • The UK plans to equip Kyiv with anti-ship missiles and armoured missile launchers - including by mounting British Brimstone rockets to vehicles.
  • Germany has also said it will work with private military equipment makers to help Ukraine meet its weapons requirements after exhausting the weapons it can provide itself. “We intend to pay for these deliveries,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a news conference in Berlin on Tuesday.
  • Russia is expelling 31 Dutch, Belgian and Austrian diplomats as Moscow faces increased international isolation. It comes after the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria announced the expulsion of some Russian diplomats.
  • Canada said it will impose targeted sanctions on 14 individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.
  • China has criticised western actions in Ukraine, saying the provision of offensive weapons “will only prolong and escalate the conflict” and some sanctions are “tantamount to weaponising economic interdependence” in remarks made at the latest UN security council briefing.
  • Western nations are preparing to stage coordinated walk-outs and other diplomatic snubs to protest at Wednesday’s meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington, their officials said.
  • Direct communications between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been restored, according to a statement issued late Tuesday from IAEA’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi.
  • Russian businessman, Oleg Tinkov, spoke out against the “crazy” war in Ukraine and described supporters of Moscow’s military actions as “morons”. In an Instagram post, Tinkov, who has been sanctioned by the UK government, said “90% of Russians are against” the war.

As usual, please feel free to reach out to me by email or Twitter for any tips or feedback.